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New Day

Uprising in Kazakhstan; December Jobs Report; Sentencing in Arbery Trial; Legal Accountability for 1/6. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 07, 2022 - 08:30   ET



NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: In Kazakhstan are giving at the moment for the number of casualties and killed just don't add up. The government saying that 26 protesters have been killed. They call them armed bandits. They haven't offered evidence that these are either armed bandits, they also call them terrorists with outside training, and they haven't offered evidence of that. But they say 26 have been killed so far and 18 injured.

Those numbers just don't make sense even if troops are opening fire without warning on crowds. You would expect many more to be injured. They say they've arrested 3,000 protesters. The police are saying that they've had 18 law enforcement officers killed and 748 injured. Again, these injury numbers between the law enforcement and the protesters don't add up.

The president is vowing to go after any opposition elements and that any protesters -- any protest is going to be put down and destroyed. Those are his words. And at the moment, the picture today remains very unclear because the Internet services are down, the phone services are down. The president said that they would be opening up the Internet in some parts of the country and warned people, if the government does that, then there will be punishments for anyone publishing false information there.

It is all very deeply troubling.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Incredibly and stunning pictures.

Nic, we know you'll continue to keep an eye on this. Nic Robertson, thank you.

Breaking moments ago, the December jobs report released, which shows us the first impact of the omicron surge.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Under winter weather alerts across the country. Forecasters warning of a bomb cyclone in the Northeast.



BERMAN: All right, breaking news, the Labor Department just released the December jobs report.

Joining us now, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans and CNN White House correspondent John Harwood.

Romans, some wow and some huh.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, 199,000 net new jobs added in the month of December. And that is the slowest job growth of the year. But the jobless rate fell to 3.9 percent. That's the best of the pandemic. So that number on the right hand of your screen is showing you a labor market that is doing quite well.

The jobs gains, 199,000, was pretty widespread here. When I look within these numbers, also, John, I see kind of a stutter at the end of the year when you compare with just how strong the rest of the year was. I mean, this year, on average, 537,000 jobs a month added back into the labor market. More than 6 million jobs added this year. That is a record-breaking year after a record-breaking year of losses the year before, of course. So, it's always important to show where we have been and where we're going here.

This is less than many economists had estimated but I have not been giving a lot of credence to economist expectations in the past few months, John, because they've been so far off. And, in fact, the government itself here has revised November numbers and October numbers higher to the tune of another 141,000 net new jobs there. So, you know, they're still tweaking these numbers and these tend to undershoot them.

But the big picture for the year, 537,000 on average a month jobs added back. Overall, more than 6 million jobs added in the year. That breaks a record. But for the month, a bit of a disappointment, John.

BERMAN: I've got to say, Romans, when you see unemployed numbers in the 3s, though, as a rate, that is very low.

ROMANS: Yes. It really is. I mean consider that in April 2020, what, we popped to 15 percent for an unemployment rate, which is catastrophic for the United States economy and for working people. And now to be all the way down to 3.9 percent.

I also see in here, wages up 4.7 percent year over year. That is the practical thing here for so many workers. We see these job hoppers who are leaving from one industry to another. We see companies that are doing their best to give -- you know, hiring bonuses, signing bonuses and pay raises to keep and retain workers, and we see workers who have utterly reprioritized their expectations, hopes and dreams about their job, and that has been a real hallmark of this jobs recovery that it is the worker who has the upper hand, no question here. And I think that continues to be the story in 2022.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a revolution, as one of those workers participating in the great resignation said earlier in a piece on this show.


KEILAR: Harwood, I wonder what the takeaway is for the Biden administration here.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they're going to be disappointed because, you know, they keep waiting for a month where you have a big blowout number, but they're also understanding of given the misses month after month that Christine just referred to, you got to take all these numbers with a grain of salt.


HARWOOD: You're likely to get revisions up later, as we've had in previous months. You do have -- remember, there are separate surveys of businesses, that's the establishment survey, and households, which produces that unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is good. Labor participation has held steady this past month. So, the unemployment rate didn't fall for bad reasons.

What we don't know, as Christine alluded to, is, to what extent have these recalibrated expectations, do they mean that people are going to be slow to return to the labor force if they left during the pandemic. That is, have people -- is this because people have retired and we're simply not going to get those jobs back, or they're waiting for higher -- still higher wages?

You've also got, of course, concerns about inflation eating into that 4.7 percent wage gain. And that's one of the reasons why President Biden has suffered in his ratings on the economy is that what people feel month to month in their everyday lives is that some of the gains that they've been achieving have been eroded because prices are up.

BERMAN: John Harwood, Christine Romans, thank you both very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: This morning, his mom getting involved.


Novak Djokovic, his mother says he's a prisoner who's being treated inhumanely. But the Australian government disagrees with mom.

KEILAR: And a judge is about to sentence the men who chased down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery. His mother is going to join us live, next.


KEILAR: Here in about an hour, the three men found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery will learn if they will spend the rest of their lives in prison or if they will be eligible for parole after 30 years. Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, were convicted of murder the day before Thanksgiving. Their claim of self-defense was rejected by a nearly all white jury.

And joining us now to talk about this is the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, Wanda Cooper Jones, and her lawyer, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt.


I want to thank both of you for being with us. This is, obviously, a huge day. And you have a country, people around the world who are going to be watching the outcome today.

Wanda, to you first, we know that these men will receive life sentences as I mentioned. The question is are they going to be able to get out of prison potentially after 30 years. Two of the men here are in their 50s or 60s. But Travis McMichael, who pulled the trigger, is in his 30s. I mean he could then be given many years of life that your son certainly did not have. What is your hope of the outcome today?

WANDA COOPER JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: My prayer is -- is that Travis McMichael receive a life sentence with the chance -- without the chance of parole.

I'm cold.

KEILAR: I'm so sorry. I -- I thank you for braving the cold for us there, Wanda.

Can -- can you tell us about? Tell us about why that's important to you.

JONES: You said earlier that Ahmaud lost his life back in February of 2020. Ahmaud didn't get a chance to live. So, with that being said, Travis should not get a chance to live as a free man. Travis should go to prison for life, without parole. And that being said, he should remain in prison forever.

KEILAR: Lee, what is your expectation today?

LEE MERRITT, ATTORNEY FOR WANDA COOPER JONES: Well, we expect a similar outcome. You know, earlier this week, the Department of Justice approached Wanda Cooper Jones and her family and asked whether or not they would consider a plea deal where these men would be sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. She rejected that offer because we believe that today the state will move forward with life sentences without the possibility of parole. And we think that's the appropriate sentence.

KEILAR: So, Wanda, these men, convicted of killing your son, they will have a chance to speak today. I wonder what you want to hear from them, if anything.

JONES: I really don't want to hear anything from Travis. I really don't want to hear anything from either defendants. There's nothing that they can tell me today that would make me feel better. I miss Ahmaud more and more each day.

KEILAR: If they speak, Wanda, you say there's nothing they can say that would make you feel better. If they speak, would it make you feel worse?

JONES: Well, actually, I had a chance to hear Travis speak when he gave his testimony about what happened on the day that he shot Ahmaud. And after he gave his testimony, that actually made me feel worse. So I'm afraid if I hear his voice again, it's going to make me feel even worser. So --

KEILAR: Certainly understand that, Wanda. I -- you know, I wonder, we saw the day where the verdicts were handed down. And the jury delivered these verdicts against these defendants. That was a day, I think, where many people commended the justice system and the outcome in this process. What has it been like for you since then, though?

JONES: The days have been very, very hard. Again, I sat in that courtroom for five weeks. I was shown very, very graphic photos of my son shortly after he was murdered. I relive those days each and every day. My days have been very, very, very, very hard. But since those days, I look forward to today, the day that these days were going to be sentenced.

KEILAR: And so, Lee, the federal hate crimes trial, which you mentioned before, is set to begin in early February. What are you expecting to be different in this trial versus the murder trial?

MERRITT: Well, the discussion of race and the racial motivation behind these men's acts was more or less completely absent from this trial as it was not an element of the crime. But the hate crime charges will really get to the nature of why these men targeted Ahmaud Arbery, and it will get to some of the national concern about the vulnerability of the black community in the face of hate and rising hate -- racial tensions in our country.

KEILAR: You know, Wanda, one of the big questions about the trial that we witnessed, the murder trial, was, could Brunswick, Georgia, provide an impartial jury. And, when we see this federal hate crimes trial, it's also going to be in Brunswick.

What did the murder trial tell you about whether Brunswick could deliver an impartial jury?

JONES: The state trial showed that we were able to pick jurors from our community that was willing to do the right thing.


I do believe that in the federal trial that we will be able to select the same type jurors and we'll be -- we will be successful and have a victory in that trial as well.

KEILAR: Have you had a chance, Wanda, to think about the months and years ahead and Ahmaud's legacy and how, you know, how you're going to get through the days and what you're going to do with the years in light of the outcome of the trial?

JONES: I have. My family and I have started a foundation. And the name is called The Ahmaud Arbery Foundation. And I also want to mention that since we've lost Ahmaud, Ahmaud has implemented change already.

MERRITT: That's right.

JONES: Ahmaud --

MERRITT: Have passed the Georgia hate crime law for the first time.


MERRITT: We also saw a change in the -- the --

JONES: The citizen's arrest law as well was passed here in Georgia. So, since we've lost Ahmaud, we -- we've got change already. And so I'm very proud of that as well.

KEILAR: Well, Wanda, as always, we are so incredibly sorry for your loss, and what you're living every day after this, even as you are looking for justice and hoping for more of it today.

Wanda and Lee, thank you to both of you this morning.

MERRITT: Thank you so much.

JONES: You're welcome. Thank you.


KEILAR: And the Australian government clapping back at claims that it is holding tennis star Novak Djokovic as a prisoner. And just in, Djokovic has responded for the first time.

BERMAN: And a huge winter storm wreaking havoc at airports across the country this morning. Stand by.



BERMAN: One year after the attack on the Capitol, the main players who may have plotted the attempted coup have not been brought to justice.

John Avlon with a "Reality Check."


HARRY DUNN, CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: There really hasn't been an end to January 6th, so once -- once accountability has been had, then you can start to heal.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn. And he's right. Just as truth needs to precede reconciliation, we need to see legal accountability for the coup plotters before we can really heal as a nation. But so far, despite more than 700 pro Trump rioters being charged and about 30 going to prison, there has been little to no legal accountability for the people who plotted this insurrection attempt. But there are signs that the January 6th committee is focusing on just that.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think that there are a number of -- as the chairman said -- potential criminal statutes at issue here. But I think that there is absolutely no question that it was a dereliction of duty.

AVLON: So, what exactly might that mean?

Let's start with potential criminal statutes. It turns out there's a criminal penalty for insurrection already on the books, which states, whoever incites, sets on foot, assists or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States. And note this specifically covers someone who incites or assists an insurrection.

There's also a separate criminal statute that covers seditious conspiracy. Likewise, the attempts to pressure secretaries of state, like Georgia's Brad Raffensperger to find more votes, could constitute election interference.

And it could also be argued that Trump's promotion of the big lie constitutes a conspiracy to defraud the United States. Now, typically this law applies to financial fraud against the U.S. government. But that's only one of its intended applications. In a 1924 opinion, Supreme Court Justice William Howard Taft explained that it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful government functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest. So, an ongoing attempt to defraud our democracy by an ex-president would certainly seem to qualify.

In all these cases, the Justice Department would need to choose to prosecute. And to date, despite a sprawling investigation, there has been no evident effort to prosecute the top tier coup plotters. But while Attorney General Merrick Garland has been busying trying to normalize and depoliticize the Justice Department, he's also pledged this in a speech this week.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators at any level accountable under law. Whether they were present that day, or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.


AVLON: Beyond criminal penalties, there are also constitutional prohibitions on insurrection put in place by the Civil War generation. Specifically, the 14th Amendment Section 3, designed to prohibit people who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and then participated in an insurrection against the United States from holding elected or appointed office. And as University of Maryland law professor Mark Graber, a scholar of the 14th Amendment told me, from a constitutional perspective, there's no difference between trying to overturn an election by fraud, force or violence. All of them fall under insurrection.

While subject to inevitable legal challenges, it could possibly bar Trump from running for president again, given that a majority of Congress voted in favor of his second impeachment on charges of inciting insurrection. It could also apply to any member of Congress who are found to have coordinated with the insurrectionists.

That's true these criminal statutes and constitutional prohibitions are rarely invoked. But then, insurrections rarely happen in the United States. They were put in place to use in moments like this. Doing nothing is by far the most dangerous option.


One year after the attacks of January 6th, we should all know that we cannot take our democracy for granted. Basic guardrails must be strengthened. We need to apply.