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The Situation Room

Jury Says, White Supremacist Rally Organizers Must Pay Millions; Jury Deliberations Under Way In Killing Of Ahmaud Arbery; January 6 Committee Subpoenas Far-Right Extremist Groups, Including Proud Boys And Oath Keepers; Biden To Tap Oil Reserves In Bid To Tame High Gas Prices; COVID Cases Rising As U.S. Heads Into Thanksgiving. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 18:00   ET




BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did, indeed, Jim, finding of libel on several counts and the damages are significant. This comes as nothing short of a crippling financial blow to some of America's most notorious white nationalist.


TODD (voice over): Tonight, the jury awarded the plaintiffs in the Unite the Right trial more than $26 million in compensatory and punitive damages on several claims. Among them, finding five defendants were liable for racial, religious or ethnic harassment or violence under a Virginia State law, and that all the defendants participated in conspiracy.

ROBERTA KAPLAN, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFFS: I think is verdict today is a message that this country does not tolerate violence base on racial and religious hatred in any form.

TODD: In addition, James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the car that plowed into the crowd of counter-protesters killing one and injuring dozens, was found liable for more than $12 million for assault or battery and for inflicting emotional distress.

KAREN DUNN, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFFS: There's going to be accountability for the people who did this.

TODD: More than half of the damages against Fields, the rest spread among various defendants from the white nationalist movement.

JOSHUA SMITH, ATTORNEY FOR MATTHEW PARROT AND MATTHEW HEIMBACH: The defendants in the case are destitute. None of them have any money. I don't know how any of the plaintiffs are going to it get anything for any of this.

TODD: The jury was deadlocked on the first two claims that organizers conspired to commit racial violence or failed to prevent it. The evidence included victim testimony about the injuries they sustained from brawling at the rally and Fields' car that rammed through the crowd and private communications allegedly showing organizers discussing the potential for violence, quote, cracking skulls and even whether it's legal to drive into protesters.

But the defendants said they didn't plan the violence. It wasn't their fault and that what they said before the rally was hyperbole and is protected free speech. The damages awarded by the jury mean a judgment against some of America's most notorious white nationalists, including Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler and Christopher Cantwell.

The damages will go to the plaintiffs, who include some of those most severely injured in the car ramming and the brawling.

JAMES KOLENICH, JASON KESSLER'S ATTORNEY: I think we did a decent job on the defense side cutting the damages down to size, even though it is many millions of dollars.

TODD: This civil trial an effort by activists to financially cripple the white nationalist movement.

PROF. MICAH SCHWARTZMAN, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW: It sets a precedent, which is that if you conspire to commit violent acts, especially on racial grounds, you should expect plaintiffs will file suit against you under these federal and state laws in the future. And so the trial now is a deterrent against future white supremacist conduct of the kind that we saw in Charlottesville in August 2017.


TODD (on camera): Two attorneys for white nationalist told us after the verdict that they are going to try to get those damage assessments against their clients reduced. These and other similar lawsuits have already succeeded and financially crippling some of America's most notorious white supremacists, but it may not be over for them. Regarding those two counts, those federal counts that the jury was not able to reach verdicts on of conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence, the plaintiff attorneys have told us they are going to try to bring those cases again. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, CNN's Brian Todd, an important case there in Charlottesville, thank you very much.

Let's get more on the breaking news with CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He's the author of the Author of True Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Investigation of Donald Trump. Also joining us, is Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti Defamation League, and CNN's Elle Reeve in Charlottesville.

Jonathan, let me start with you. Four years after that deadly rally in Charlottesville, what was going through your mind today learning about this verdict?

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO& NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Well, it's interesting, because four years ago, no one would have imagined you would see this one of the largest white supremacist demonstration we saw in America in decades play out the way that it did. But four years later, make no mistake, the ramifications of this case cannot be understated.

A $25 million judgment is indeed, as Brian said, financially devastating for the white supremacist movement. And this has proven clearly there are consequences for diluted conspiracies. Individuals will be held accountable. Jim, there were no fine people marauding through the crowd in Charlottesville chanting, Jews will not replace us, and this verdict seals it.

ACOSTA: Yes, we certainly not a fine day for the defendants in all of this, Jeffrey Toobin. Do you think that this is it going to send a chilling enough message to act as a deterrent?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know if it's chilling enough, but it is a significant verdict. You know, it is important to realize, as one of the defense attorneys said, that these defendants don't have millions of dollars and they won't pay millions of dollars. But they will face consequences and they will face the prospect of having wages garnished, property taken.

You know, in the 1980s, the Southern Poverty Law Center won a similar lawsuit against the KKK, and that actually did cripple the KKK.


And so I think people should recognize that there really will be consequences, even if these full verdict amounts will not be pay.

ACOSTA: And, Elle, you covered this rally as it unfolded with those disturbing hate-filled chants, and then as it turned deadly, you saw what happened up close. How big of a blow do you think this verdict is to some of these most notorious white supremacists? I know you have covered them since what happened in Charlottesville. What do you think the effect will be?

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in 2017 there, at the height of their power, and they were happy to let me know how smart they thought they were, but nearly every defendant I talked to have said that the alt-right is essentially dead. White supremacy isn't dead. But the online movement that was very obsessed with Trump is gone.

Almost every group involved in this has quit the movement. Most of the leaders have quit. The only person who is really making a go at it is Chris Cantwell. He's been calling from jail into a podcast to try to gain more followers. But he's called himself a star, that he's winning, but it has an air of desperation to it. The guy is in prison.

ACOSTA: Right. He's not a star. He's scum. And, Jonathan, these far right leaders and groups are now liable for more than $26 million in damages. Picking up on with what Jeffrey was saying just a few moments ago, and I supposed what Elle was saying as well, you know, could that go some distance in hindering their ability to spread hate? And do you share Elle's view that some of these very awful people have been decimated in their effort? GREENBLATT: Yes. Well, here's the reality. You know, in the 1980s, ADL and SDLC helped to bankrupt the white Aryan resistance movement. They lost their compound. They lost earnings, like Jeffrey said. We did that, you know, 30, 40 years ago. And I think today, this will be a deterrent to future groups.

But here's the challenge that we have, Jim, is extremism has been normalized and still amplified in large part because of social media. And if you think this wasn't a problem, I would say to you, there is a through line from Charlottesville to Capitol Hill.

So, now what we need to do is to turn our attention to the social media companies, where the extremists can still amplify their ideas, where they still organize through platforms, like Facebook groups. And as the court that held accountable, these white supremacist, now I think the government should look at regulating the social media platforms where these conspiracies have been able not just to take route, but been planned and implemented by very bad actors.

ACOSTA: And, Jeffrey, there were no large scale trials of these rally organizers by either the Trump or Biden administrations. How important was it to at least have some kind of accountability in this civil trial? Does that go far enough, do you think?

TOOBIN: Well, there is -- you know, there has to be a multipronged attempt. And in this country, you know, civil lawsuits matter a lot. But I think we're deluding ourselves if we think that this verdict and the apparent end of this group is the end of white supremacists and extreme right wing violence.

Just remember the plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Governor Whitmer. Just remember January 6th. I mean, it's not the same group, but there are lots of similarities between them, lots of similarities between their goals, lot of similarities between how they organize and their use of social media. So, yes, this is one important step, but it's just one step. And they're going to need to be a lot more.

ACOSTA: And, Jonathan, how are you reflecting as you watch the country grapple with these issues, these high-profile trials that we have been seeing a recent days, the Rittenhouse trial, the trial that's taking place down in Georgia regarding the killing of Ahmaud Arbery? As Jeffrey was saying, I mean, we do have this problem. It's just staring us in the face right now. And are we as a society tackling it to a sufficient degree?

GREENBLATT: Well, I think Jeffrey is raising the right question. I mean Charlottesville brought us Pittsburgh, El Paso, Capitol Hill, and so much more. We need elected officials on both sides of the aisle to call this kind of hate out when it happens. And I think, you know the rise of vigilantism, the normalization of violence, the emergence of armed militias, like every American today knows about the Oath Keepers, and the Proud Boys. These are groups that weren't on the radar just a few years ago.

The problem isn't going to go away. Although today's verdict was a -- will be a deterrent. [18:10:00]

We have got to literally root out the violence and root out the extremism wherever it happens in our political process. It's not part of liberal democracy. It doesn't belong.

TOOBIN: But can we not use the phrase both sides? This has nothing to do with both sides. It's the Republican Party that's been indulging the Proud Boys. It's the Republican Party that's been making excuses for the January 6th rioters. I mean, you know, let's just be honest about where this extremism is coming from.


GREENBLATT: Far right extremism has been the leading cause of more hate related murders than any other over the last decade. We have got lots of data on that. I think there's no doubt about that. But I think, you know, again, extremism needs to be addressed by, again, people on the right need to address it on the right when it happens from there, absolutely.

ACOSTA: Well, it was certainly a bad day for people who spread hate and violence, and we need more days like this or else it's just not going to stop. I suspect one civil trial is not going to come close to being enough.

Elle Reeve, Jeffrey Toobin, Jonathan Greenblatt, thanks so much for all of your perspective. We appreciate it. Good talking to all of you.

Come up, the latest from another trial attracting national attention. The jury started deliberating the fate of three suspects charged with murdering jogger Ahmaud Arbery.

And also ahead, the January 6th committee issues another round of subpoenas targeting right wing extremist groups. We'll go to Capitol Hill for the detail, next.



ACOSTA: There's breaking news in a round of subpoenas in the House select committee's investigation of the January 6th insurrection.

Let's go to CNN's Capitol Hill and Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles.

Ryan, this time, the committee is going after extremist groups and their leaders, some familiar names that people at home will recognize.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no doubt about that, Jim. These right wing extremist groups played a big role in the violence and chaos that took police here on January 6th. And members of two of these groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, many of them have already been subject to investigations by the Department of Justice because of their role on January 6th. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES (voice over): Tonight the web of inquiry for the January 6th select committee continues to spread out. The committee has now issued a total of 45 subpoenas. The latest, a grand new group targeting right wing extremist groups who are involved in the riots, the committee asking for information from two far right groups, the Proud Boys and their former chairman, Henry Enrique Tario, as well as the Oath Keepers and their President, Elmer Stewart Rhodes.

Also subpoena, Robert Patrick Lewis, chairman of the fringe militia group with connections to QAnon, the First Amendment Praetorian, which provided security on that day.

REP. ZOE LOFGEN (D-CA): Expect each of these individuals to show up, tell us the truth and help us uncover all of the facts.

NOBLES: On Monday, the committee handed down five new subpoenas focused on key players in the rallies leading up to January 6th, the two high profile targets, conservative provocateurs Alex Jones and Roger Stone.

The infamous duo has a long standing relationship with Donald Trump and fanned the flames of misinformation about the 2020 election leading up to January 6th.

Jones promising chaos during the certification of the Electoral College results the day before.

ALEX JONES, INFOWARS: I don't know how this is going to end. Whether they want to fight, they better believe they've got one.

NOBLES: Jones and Stone both already forecasting that they won't give the committee what they are looking for.

ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN OPERATIVE: As one who was framed for lying to Congress, I would probably assert my Fifth Amendment right and decline to be interviewed.

NOBLES: While the committee continues its push to get witnesses to hand over documents and provide interviews, it's also battling in the courts to get access to hundreds of documents from the Trump White House.

Trump's legal team continues to contend the information should be kept secret under executive privilege. The committee's lawyers evoking Shakespeare to make their argument, any inquiry that did not insist on examining Trump's documents and communications would be worse than useless, the equivalent of staging a production of Hamlet without the prince of Denmark.

The fight over access to information comes as dramatic new video of the chaos on January 6th is released. It shows rioters forcibly pushing into the Capitol complex despite Capitol police attempting to shut doors to lock the complex down. The mob tossing trash cans, chairs and other items to force the door open and chasing overwhelmed police out of the way.


NOBLES (on camera): And while many of the members of these organizations are under investigation because of their roles on January 6th, one of these individuals that's now under subpoena by the January 6th committee is already behind bars. Enrique, the leader of the Proud Boys -- Enrique Tario, I should say, the leader of the Proud Boys, he was charged and convicted because of vandalism in the protests after the election was called for Joe Biden. He's serving a five-month prison sentence, Jim. It's unclear how his situation behind bars impacts the committee's ability to get the information they are looking for. Jim?

ACOSTA: That certainly is an obstacle. We'll see how they get through it. All right, Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.

Between the latest indictments from the January 6th committee and the verdicts in the Charlottesville Unite the Right trial, this has not been a fine day for people who pedal hate and violence.

Let's get the insights of former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. He's a CNN Senior Legal Analyst. Preet, thanks so much for doing this. Good to see you.


When you look at these latest subpoenas of these far right groups, I mean, I suppose it makes sense that the January 6th committee was going to have to subpoena these groups at some point and their leaders. What does it tell you about what the committee is trying to drill down on?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Every day that goes by, it becomes more and more clear that the committee wants to be absolutely as thorough as possible. So, a couple things, one, yesterday, we saw, as the report indicated, subpoenas to among other people, Alex Jones and Roger Stone. You've had people called to the committee by the Justice Department, people in the direct and immediate orbit of Donald Trump. They are going to look at everybody who had anything to do with anything in the lead up to January 6th.

And the second thing is I don't know if it's the case back to the new subpoenas issued today whether it's any attempt to get voluntary cooperation from these folks and those broke down so they decide they need to issue subpoenas. I think that's probably less likely than a new mode of operating, which is they are on the clock, people define the subpoenas already. One of those people, Steve Bannon, has been indicted by the Justice Department. And so they are sending subpoenas first and asking questions later, which I think just shows a certain new amount of aggressiveness that I think is warranted here.

ACOSTA: And the committee has now issued dozens of subpoenas, but a lot of these witnesses are loyal Trump allies. I mean, it's hard to imagine cooperating Alex Jones or Roger Stone cooperating, for example. And you really can't believe anything that they say. Are these drawn out legal fights really the best use of the committee's time and resources, or might they get bogged down chasing people who might not be that helpful. Alex Jones, how helpful can he be?

BHARARA: I think that's a fair and interesting point. I think if you're the committee, you need to seek the testimony and documents from absolutely everybody you can. You don't just sort of prejudge their noncooperation because you never know what might happen. Circumstances change. But I agree that some of these folks, including Steve Bannon, has been indicted. I don't believe we're ever going to get testimony from him or documents directed from him, although they can get documents from third parties that implicate him, that involve him in communications between him and the president and others.

So, I think you have got to seek all this information, you have got seek all this testimony. I don't know how much additional time it will take. At this it point, they have a pretty easy process of trying to get information from people. You issue the subpoena. That doesn't take a lot of effort. And then probably it's the case that, with respect to some of them, who are outright defiant and who don't like Roger Stone suggests don't invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self- incrimination.

With respect to that, you can have a quick vote if you think it's appropriate for them to be referred to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress criminal charges. I don't know it wastes a lot of time. And I think there's no way you go through this process without asking for testimony from it all those kinds of people.

ACOSTA: All right, Preet Bharara, great insight, as always. We appreciate it. Thanks so much.

BHARARA: Good to see you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Good to see you.

New tonight, coming up, the jury in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery just wrapped up their first day of deliberations. We'll have a live report from Brunswick, Georgia, right after the break.



ACOSTA: Jurors have just finished their first day of deliberations in the case of the three white men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was jogging through their neighborhood.

CNN Senior National Correspondent Sara Sidner has the latest from what has been a very emotionally-charged case. Sara, what's the latest?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has. We now know that the jury have gone home for the night, although when the judge asked if they were close, we've heard from the jury's foreman for the first time and she said that we are in the process of working to reach a verdict, and so that for a moment, everyone thought that there might be a much longer deliberation tonight, but they indeed decided to go home.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: When three people chase an unarmed man in two pickup truck with guns in order to violate his personal liberty, who gets to claim, I'm not really responsible for that? Under the law in Georgia, no one gets to say that.

SIDNER (voice over): The prosecution getting the last word in the murder trial of three men for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was jogging in February of 2020 when he was chased down by Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan Jr in their trucks. The men's defense, they thought Arbery had committed burglary and they were planning to make a citizen's arrest. But Travis McMichael ended up shooting Arbery to death.

DUNIKOSKI: Where's the empathy? How about don't bring a shotgun with you? This is really easy. Call the police.

SIDNER: The prosecutor said the men didn't bother to wait for police, only making this 911 call after they were chasing Arbery for an alleged crime they never witnessed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm out here in Satilla Shores. There's a black male running down the street.

DUNIKOSKI: What's your emergency? There's a black man running down the street.

SIDNER: It turned out, Arbery had not committed a burglary.

DUNIKOSKI: They want to get burglary, so that's a felony. So, if you're just seeking (ph) from that felony, that he committed that burglary, they can chase him down.

SIDNER: The burden is on the prosecution to prove the nine charges against each defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, including aggravated assault and murder. The defense interrupted the prosecution's argument several times, each time calling for a mistrial over the prosecutor's interpretation of the law for the jury.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't argue a misstatement of the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion for mistrial is denied.

SIDNER: In closing arguments Monday, the defense went after Arbery's actions and his character. They refer to video taken of Arbery wandering inside a home construction site months before he was killed.


LAURA HOGUE, GREG MCMICHAEL'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He was a recurring nighttime intruder.

SIDNER: One defense attorney went after the dead 25-year-old's appearance. HOGUE: In his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.

SIDNER: Her comments caused gasps in the court and Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, rushed out of court in horror. The prosecution calling out the defense's move to disparage a victim.

DUNIKOKSI: Malign the victim, it's the victim's fault. I know you're not going to buy into that. It's offensive.


SIDNER (on camera): And speaking of offensive, that is exactly how Arbery's mother described it. She said indeed it was rude that they mentioned his toenails but did not mention the huge hole in his chest that was caused by their shotgun.

ACOSTA: All right. Sara Sidner, thank you very much. Standby, if you can.

Joining us now is CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin, our CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, he is back as well. Thanks to all of you.

Areva, let me start with you. The jury has just wrapped up its first day of deliberations after working through the lunch, as Sara was just saying. They are considering some very complicated charges against three men. Might that drag things out since they have to wade through each of these charges and decide the fates of these three men?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANSLYST: Well, not necessarily, Jim. What we heard from Sara is that the jurors told the judge they wanted to work through the night and that they were close to getting a verdict before they actually retired. And it looks like they will be back tomorrow.

So, what we do know is the prosecution put on a very effective case. She made this, what could an otherwise complex case, she made it pretty simple. She walked through the jurors through the jury instructions. She actually them a roadmap on how to even go through the jury instructions and how to apply the evidence that has been presented in the case to those jury instructions.

So, when you think about this case in the simplest terms, you have a young man who is jogging down the street. You have these two defendants, the McMichaels, jump in their car to chase him. They have not witnessed him commit any crime. They have no immediate knowledge that a crime has been committed. They trapped him, as they said, like a rat and then they shoot at point blank this unarmed black man.

So, the case, although the jury instructions may seem complicated, at its core, the case is it's really pretty simple.

ACOSTA: And, Jeffrey, how do you see it playing out? What are you seeing so far?

TOOBIN: I mean, this case from the moment it came to public view has seemed just a grotesque, awful, horrible crime. And the idea that these people may be acquitted is frankly scary it me because I don't see any crime that Mr. Arbery committed except jogging while black.

And the idea that there could be some excuse for shooting an unarmed black man who obviously had done nothing wrong and for no reason at all is just a chilling thought to me. I mean, we've obviously -- we spent a lot of time on the Kyle Rittenhouse case, and they are related, but, obviously, they are related in terms of time and public interest.

The Rittenhouse case was a complicated case. It was a difficult case for the prosecution. That was an understandable acquittal, in my view. This would not be an understandable acquittal, in my view, given this evidence.

ACOSTA: And. Areva, the prosecutor said this is about the facts of the case, not about whether the defendants are good or bad. What do you think about that strategy? Why do you think the prosecutor chose to put things in those terms?

MARTIN: I think that was important. That's another powerful point that this prosecutor made. As I said to you earlier when we were talking about this case, I think this prosecutor actually gave a master class of how to deliver a closing argument, specifically with respect to a rebuttal. It was just powerful, it was poignant, it was precise and I think it resonated with the jurors, or at least we'll find out if it did.

But (INAUDIBLE) these jurors, we have to remember this is Brunswick, Georgia. This is a community. Some of these jurors may have heard of the McMichaels, they may have relatives that live in this community. So, they wanted -- the prosecutor wanted these jurors to know this isn't about whether you like this person or not like this person or is this person is a good person or not, this is about personal accountability. When a person commits a crime, and in this case, when three people commit a crime, they have to be held accountable. That's the law.

And I think the prosecutor wanted to just drive that point home, particularly given what we saw yesterday with respect to the defense's closing argument and their efforts to try to paint these defendants as some kind of duty-bound, service-oriented individuals, particularly Travis McMichael, who was just serving his community. So, I think the prosecutor wanted to present a different narrative for the jurors.


ACOSTA: And, Sara, you are outside the courthouse. You're seeing what the atmosphere is like, how the community has been to responding to this. Are people talking about -- are you picking up on a reaction to some of these very overt, racist statements we have heard from the defense team, these comments about Ahmaud Arbery's appearance? I mean, just what are you picking up on?

SIDNER: His mother clearly devastated. And the people in the community, there was two dozen or so people who came out and prayed together, a rabbi, some pastors and some of the local residents here came together. And they were all yelling out, and this was poignant, right outside of court. They were all yelling out the things that they were feeling as they were watching this trial. And you heard the word racism. You heard the word prejudice. You heard the word hurt and sorrow and a hope for justice. And those were being yelled out from the crowd as the pastor was talking. And so, yes, again, once again in this country, the court system is on trial and we will see what the verdict is in this case. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. Sara Sidner, we know you're going to be on top of everything that happens outside that courthouse. Areva Martin, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks to all of you. We're all going to be watching. This is becoming such an emotionally-charged case. And as Sara said, the system very much could be on trial at the end of all this. Thanks so much.

And we have more breaking news. Just ahead, the suspect in the ramming of the Christmas parade in Wisconsin just appeared in court and prosecutors revealed a sixth person, a child has died.



ACOSTA: There's more breaking news we're following tonight. We've just learned that a sixth person, a child, has died after being struck by a car that plowed through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is there for us tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are not words to describe the risk that this defendant presents to our community.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After being accused of killing six and injuring over 60 others, 39-year-old Darrell Brooks makes his initial court appearance.

KEVIN COSTELLO, COURT COMMISSIONER: I have not seen anything like this in my very long career.

JIMENEZ: He was charged with five counts of homicide. Prosecutors say a sixth is coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would just notify sadly that today we learned of another death of a child.

JIMENEZ: After driving a vehicle through barricades and into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, these are the moments that police found and arrested the 39-year-old Darrell Brooks on the front porch of 24-year-old Daniel Rider, who had no idea what had just happened at the Waukesha Christmas parade about a mile away.

DANIEL RIDER, ENCOUNTERED DARRELL BROOKS ON PORCH BEFORE HIS ARREST: He, at one point, asked me what was going on downtown. I was like, there was a parade today. And he's like, oh, that must have been what that was.

JIMENEZ: The man he now knows was Brooks then cordially asked to use his phone and call an Uber.

DARRELL BROOKS, SUSPECT: Hey, I called an Uber and I'm supposed to be waiting for it over here, but I don't know when it's coming. Can you call it for me, please? I'm homeless.

JIMENEZ: Not long after, Rider says he saw police going up and down the street and felt it had to do with Brooks, so he told him to leave. Moments later --

BROOKS: My I.D., my I.D.

RIDER: And so I'm looking for his I.D. And moments later, the police see him and get him in cuffs. I had no idea in my house. The Uber showed up maybe a minute after he was in cuffs. So, I just think about sometimes if he had gotten in the car, what could have happened.

JIMENEZ: Before allegedly driving his car through the parade, police say Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance earlier Sunday. He has a criminal history going back to the '90s. But in July of 2020, he was accused of firing a handgun during an argument. In February of this year, he was released on bail.

Less than nine months later, he allegedly ran over a woman who claimed she's the mother of his child with his car. Nine days later, he was released on just $1,000 bail, less than two weeks before the Christmas parade. Milwaukee District Attorney's Office called that bail amount inappropriately low. Authorities say Brooks also had an outstanding arrest warrant in an unrelated case in Nevada, where he's a registered sex offender.

Meanwhile, a community is trying to heal, mourning the five that were killed and processing loved ones that nearly added to the toll.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And as I mentioned, a sixth person has now died, a child. And there are up to ten others currently still in the ICU at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin continuing to try and recover. As for the suspect, Darrell Brooks, the bail for him was set is at $5 million, which the court commissioner acknowledged was extraordinarily, high, but also said it was warranted in this case after the prosecution went through a criminal history that spanned from Georgia to Arizona and here in Wisconsin. If he's found guilty of these charges, he will face five consecutive life sentences.

ACOSTA: Such a heartbreaking story. Our hearts go out to that community out there. CNN's Omar Jimenez, thanks so much for that report.

Just ahead, President Biden's new attempt to bring gasoline prices down. How quickly will it make a difference?


ACOSTA: Americans are hitting the road this Thanksgiving holiday are paying more at the pump. The cost of gas is at a seven-year high. President Biden is making a rare move tapping into the U.S. oil reserve, but he says the impact won't be immediate.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And while our combined actions will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight, it will make a difference. It will take time, but before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank. And in the longer term, we'll reduce our reliance on oil as we shift to clean energy.


ACOSTA: And joining us to talk about that, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas.

Congressman, thanks for doing this. President Biden is admitting this it will not be a quick fix. What more do you think the White House can do at this point? I'm just curious, are you hearing from constituents a about these high gas prices, about inflation? What are they telling you?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): You always hear grumbling about the high price of gas in Texas and really across the nation. I think the president is right on two fronts first.

Well, first, before he made his announcement, he asked the FTC to investigate any kind of price gouging or any kind of effort by gas suppliers, distributors and others to a artificially keep the price of gas high.


So, I was glad to see he was willing to take on the industry in that way.

But then secondly, tapping into the strategic reserve, he's right that this will probably take a matter of weeks before you really start to see the price go down. But it's also an important, necessary tool that he's using to lower the price of gasoline for Americans. And by the way, it's not just the United States that's experiencing this. It's the same reason that China, India, Japan, South Korea, have made similar moves.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And we're coming out of a pandemic, and so, of course, some gas prices are going to be going up as a result of that.

The White House and Democrats argue that social spending and this climate plan, the Build Back Better plan, will help bring down inflation. But is that bill in a holding pattern now, unless President Biden can convince Senator Joe Manchin to help get this thing through the Senate? What are your thoughts on that? And how much can that bill be cut over in the Senate before, you know, folks on the progressive side of the Democratic caucus in the House start saying, wait a minute, we're going too far here?

CASTRO: Well, as you know, it was a long way coming and getting even to this point. So, the house and the Senate have passed the infrastructure bill that was signed by the president. So, that's one big bill, one important bill for the American people. And then, the second one is the Build Back Better Act, and the House of Representatives, this past week, passed that.

And so, you're right, it goes over to the Senate. It's been like a Rubik's cube to be honest with you, trying to get the right combination so that everybody feels comfortable voting for it and as Democrats, we're operation on small margins here. We only have slim majority in the Senate, slim majority in the House, and have gotten almost no help from Republicans on the Build Back Better Act.

That said, I am optimistic that all the Democrats we need in the Senate -- in other words, everyone basically -- will ultimately be able to get onboard with a bill. That's not to say they may not tinker with it to some degree, but I'm confident that we can reach an agreement and get something that people will be satisfied with, and most importantly, will have a big impact on the American people.

ACOSTA: And do you think it will get passed by the end of the year? What do you -- what do you think?

CASTRO: I'm actually hopeful that we can get it done by the end of the year. Obviously, I can't sit here and guarantee that but base on all the conversations that I've with other members, what I've heard from the senate, I think it's certainly possible.

ACOSTA: All right. We will see if Senator Joe Manchin will play Santa Claus for Democrats here and deliver a Christmas gift to you guys, holiday gift to you guys.

Congressman Joaquin Castro, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

CASTRO: Good to be with you.

ACOSTA: All right. Good to be with you. Just ahead, with coronavirus cases once again on the rise here in the U.S., we'll get a doc -- we'll get some advice from a doctor on how to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday safely.



ACOSTA: The U.S. is just two days away from its second Thanksgiving complicated by COVID-19. Let's get more with CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen. Her book is "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health". Dr. Wen, great to see you. You've written a holiday how-to for "The

Washington Post," I understand. Walk us through your advice for family and friends trying to gather safely this Thanksgiving. Hopefully, they won't be arguing over COVID, but there might be a couple of discussions, I guess.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right. There are three things to consider when deciding when to gather or how to gather safely with -- with our relatives and other loved ones over the holidays. The first is vaccination status of the attendees. It's definitely going to be a lot safer if everybody is fully vaccinated and getting a booster dose, on top of that, further reduces the likelihood that you could get infected and could pass COVID on to others.

The second is the medical circumstances of everybody in your household. If you're fully vaccinated and pretty healthy, I think you can really relax, especially if everybody around you is fully vaccinated.

But, if you have unvaccinated kids in your house, if you are living with immunocompromised family members, you might want to take additional precautions. And that's why -- that brings to third thing, which is the setting of your gathering. Outdoors is going to be much safer than indoors. If you are going to be indoors, make sure to open the windows, have an air purifier, open the doors to increase ventilation.

And also, if you're going to be indoors and especially if they are immunocompromised people around, you might consider taking a rapid test prior to the gathering and that increases the level of safety and provides additional reassurance for all attendees.

ACOSTA: Makes sense. And COVID cases and hospitalizations are taking up heading into the holidays. We don't want to see that but health officials are not issuing the same warnings about gatherings compared to last year. Do you think that's a mistake? Or might it have something to do with the fact that we've got these great vaccines that have made a difference?

WEN: I think people are living in very different realities now. People who are fully vaccinated and, ideally, boosted as well, can pretty much go back to their pre-pandemic lives, especially if they are generally healthy. But those of us who have unvaccinated children, those people who have other medical conditions that make them more likely to become severely ill, they may need to take additional precautions.

And so, I would strongly advise when they're going to crowded, indoor, public settings, where they're surrounded by strangers who may be unvaccinated, continue to wear a mask, especially a high-quality mask if you're going on an airplane or train station or somewhere else where there are a lot of people.

We can take those precautions to protect ourselves and regain a lot of normalcy in our daily lives, too. ACOSTA: Dr. Leana Wen, that's great advice. Hope everybody stays safe

over this Thanksgiving holiday and happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well. We appreciate it very much as always. Great to see you.

WEN: Thank you, Jim. You, too.

All right. And I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now. Have a good night.