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Jury Reaches Verdict in Jussie Smollett Trial; Trump Loses Key Legal Fight to Keep January 6 Documents Secret; Biden Reassures Ukraine of U.S. Help Against Russian Aggression; CDC Greenlights Pfizer Vaccine Boosters For Ages 16 & 17 After FDA Authorization; Jussie Smollett Found Guilty Of Disorderly Conduct. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 09, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, former President Trump just lost a key legal fight to keep his record secret from the January 6th select committee. What does this mean for the investigation as panel members have been meeting with a series of significant witnesses.

Also tonight, President Biden personally reassures Ukraine's president that he can depend on U.S. help against Russian aggression. Tensions still at risk of exploding after Biden's talk about Vladimir Putin this week.

And a verdict has now been reached in the trial of Jussie Smollett, accused of faking a hate crime. We're standing by to learn the jury's decision at any moment.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get straight to the breaking news. A verdict has just been reached in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett, accused of falsely claiming to be the victim of a hate crime he allegedly arranged himself.

Let's go to our Senior National Correspondent Sara Sidner. She is outside the courthouse in Chicago for us. Sara, set the scene for us. What's about to happen?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, we are awaiting Jussie Smollett and his family. They have been coming into court every single day. And, of course, Smollett has to be here in order to hear what the jury has decided in this case, but we do have a verdict.

So, we are waiting to hear exactly what that verdict is on six different counts against him. They're all six charges of disorderly conduct, essentially each of them relating to what prosecutors say was a lie that he made and reported to police after this January 2019 attack that they say was a faked hate crime, that he had perpetrated on himself in order to get more media attention, for whatever reason.

Now, we heard tons of testimony, as you know. It went about seven days, this trial, the jury listening to both closing and opening arguments. They're also listening to lots of evidence throughout the trial, as well as lots of witnesses, including some very significant witnesses, the most significant of the witnesses, perhaps, Jussie Smollett himself and two brothers, the Osundairo brothers. Their nicknames are Ola and Bola Osundairo. We noticed that one of the Onsundairo brothers has come into the courthouse in order to hear this verdict himself. So far, we have not seen the other brother.

But both those brothers took the stand, Wolf, and they went after Jussie Smollett by saying, look, we actually perpetrated this crime, this alleged attack, because we were told to by Jussie Smollett, and not only told to, but we were given money, $3,500 to do so. Jussie Smollett took the stand saying that was not true, that he did not know who attacked him, but there were lots of inconsistencies that the prosecution pointed out. The defense also tried to point out some inconsistencies with the testimony of both the brothers and the police officers who took the stand as well.

As you know, these disorderly conduct charges could land him in jail, but it is very much up to the judge's discretion, if he is convicted, as to what to do here. The max is three years, and a $25,000 fine. This jury is deciding whether or not ultimately Jussie Smollett lied or didn't lie. It is pretty much that simple because all of the charges have to do with false reports to police in an attack that Jussie Smollett has maintained over the past almost three years, that he did not have anything to do with planning. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Sara, I want you to stand by. As soon as we get that verdict, we'll get back to you, we'll have coverage of that. Stand by, Sara.

There's other breaking news right now, including a new blow to former President Trump's efforts to block the January 6th investigation. A federal appeals court has just ruled against Trump and his executive privilege claims.

Let's bring in our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid, who is working the story for us. A very busy day also for the January 6 select committee.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. It has been a big day for the House select committee investigating January 6th. A federal appeals court affirmed their right to obtain Trump's White House records. And this came after they put on a show of force on Capitol Hill with four key witnesses showing up to answer questions about the insurrection.


REID (voice over): A big victory for the House select committee investigating January 6th as a federal appeals court ruled former President Trump cannot stop lawmakers from obtaining his White House records. Committee members welcomed the decision. [18:05:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the judicial rulings leading up to this point has substantiated that these documents are necessary, and that President Trump -- he's the former president. He doesn't have a right over executive privilege over these documents.

REID: The opinion capped off a big day for the committee. Earlier, a parade of key witnesses arrived on Capitol Hill to answer questions about the insurrection.

REPORTER: Did you cooperate today?

REID: Including Kash Patel, a former Trump Department of Defense official, and one of the first witnesses subpoenaed by the committee. And Stop the Steal rally organizer Ali Alexander.

ALI ALEXANDER, STOP THE STEAL RALLY ORGANIZER: We've got tons of evidence for them, like I said, thousands of records, hundreds of pages.

REID: Chris Krebbs, a former top cybersecurity official in the Trump administration, and John Eastman, the attorney who helped former President Trump contest the 2020 election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know there was fraud.

REID: All four men were expected to answer questions from lawmakers, though Eastman has said he intends to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

As the witnesses arrived on the Hill, Committee Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney tweeted, the committee is firing on all cylinders and has already spoken with 300 people.

The show of force comes as the committee is hitting roadblocks with other key witnesses. Some Trump loyalists plan to plead the Fifth and former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sued the committee Wednesday to block enforcement of his subpoena and one for his phone records.

MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: They are doing a fishing expedition.

REID: The suit filed after the committee signaled they would pursue a criminal contempt referral against Meadows because of his refusal to sit for a deposition.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It's a very superficial filing meant to try to obstruct and stall, but it won't be successful. We intend to move forward and hold him in criminal contempt.

REID: An bankrupt reversal for Meadows, who had been cooperating, turning over thousands of documents. CNN has learned those included personal text messages and emails with a wide range of individuals while the attack was underway. A source with knowledge of the communications tells CNN the messages related to what Donald Trump was doing and not doing during the riot, offering a window into what people were texting to Meadows on January 6th, and what he was saying about Trump in real-time. And the committee noting Meadows handed them over without any claim of privilege.

SCHIFF: I think he's really in a compromised legal position because he's provided information to the committee, which he acknowledges is not privileged, and yet he has refused to appear to answer questions about those very documents.


REID: The full House is expected to vote on Tuesday in holding Meadows in criminal contempt and former President Trump's spokeswoman just signaled that he will take today's decision about his presidential records to the Supreme Court. And, Wolf, he has two weeks to appeal the decision.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Paula.

We're going to get back to this subject in just a moment. I want to show our viewers live pictures coming in from Chicago, Jussie Smollett and his family are now arriving at the courthouse in Chicago. A verdict has been reached by the jury, six men, six women. We're standing by to hear that verdict. Of course, we'll have live coverage of that once it happens. But you can see they're going through security over there at the courthouse. We'll watch it all unfold.

He is facing charges -- felony charges, I should point out, six felony charges of disorderly conduct, basically lying to police officers under oath about what happened in Chicago. You can see these live pictures coming in. We're watching all of this unfold very, very closely. There he is with the family, they're walking into the courthouse. They'll be in the courtroom momentarily. And then we'll await the official announcement of the verdict.

Sara Sidner is outside the courthouse for us. Sara, so this is getting closer and closer to the official announcement.

SIDNER: That's right. And you just saw Jussie Smollett and his family members who have been with us the entire time, just walking by us, every single person that has to go into a courthouse in this particular Cook County court, has to go through the lobby where all the cameras are for this Jussie Smollett trial. And so you saw him there. You're seeing him and the people who have been with him, his family now as they have entered court.

He has to be here. The reason why this is significant is, of course, he has to be here in order for them to read the verdict. And so about -- let's see -- it's been about an hour since we heard that the jury had a verdict, and now the last person that needs to be in court has arrived into the courthouse, and that is Jussie Smollett. His attorneys and his family and the prosecutors also here.


We are waiting to hear what this jury decides on those six charges that he is facing six charges. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. The jury will come, the judge will come in, the attorneys will all be there, and we'll have, of course, coverage once that verdict is announced. We'll get back to you, Sara. We'll get back to you once we know guilty or not guilty. We'll find out fairly soon. Stand by.

I want to get back to the January 6th investigation right now, lots going on here in Washington.

I want to bring in CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and Palm Beach County, Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

Dave, this ruling from the federal appeals court here in Washington, D.C., against former President Trump is a clear win for the select committee. But how could this potential play out in the U.S. Supreme Court? We're all assuming the former president's lawyers will try to go to the Supreme Court for another round.

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes, Wolf. So, first, we have to get through a motion for rehearing at the D.C. Circuit Court Appeals level. After that is denied, then there will be a petition to get this case heard before the Supreme Court. There's no guarantee that the Supreme Court will hear this case. And, in fact, the ruling today seemed to be designed to make it favorable to this conservative Supreme Court.

The rule today focused on the separation of powers, saying, hey, the executive branch under Joe Biden has the power to make the decision on executive privilege, and we judges should not interfere. That seems to be the type of argument that would appeal to Justice Kavanaugh and the other conservatives on the 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. So, there is not guarantee they will hear the case. And even if they hear it, I think they're still going to rule the way of the January 6th committee.

BLITZER: And if they don't hear the case, obviously, the appellate court decision today will stand, and those documents from the Trump White House will be handed over to the select committee. In the meantime, they're not handing over the documents, but they clearly are seen as critically important.

Dana, the former president, as you know, argued it would set a very dangerous precedent to hand over those presidential reports, but, clearly, the court, at least at this level, the appellate level disagreed, didn't they?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely did. And, effectively, what they're saying is that the precedent that would be dangerous would be for a former president's desires to supersede the person who is in the White House, particularly in this situation when the person in the White House is saying yes to an active congressional investigation. Just as we just heard, the notion of separation of powers.

And there's this one sentence that really stuck out to me. Essential to the rule of law is the principle that a former president must meet the same legal standards for obtaining preliminary inductive relief, as everyone else. A former president has failed that task, effectively saying he doesn't -- he doesn't get a right to say that he is claiming executive privilege. There's one president at a time and that president is saying, go ahead, get the documents.

BLITZER: You know, Jamie, it was a very busy say overall for the January 6th committee. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the vice chair, says the investigation is firing on all cylinders right now. You've been reporting extensively on what's going on. Update our viewers on the latest.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, one of the important things we know is Liz Cheney also said that these document that former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has handed over to the committee -- and let's just repeat, he handed them over voluntary, there was no claim of privilege, more than 6,000 pages of documents.

So, what Liz Cheney has also said is, those texts, those emails which were on his personal phone are, quote, extremely interesting. And I spoke to a source very familiar with these, and what they're telling me is that when you look at these text exchanges, these email exchanges, this is what was going on in real-time. This is January 6th, the riot is unfolding and people are emailing Mark Meadows. And what is the important of that? He is with Donald Trump.

So, the committee now has a window into what was Donald Trump doing and what wasn't he doing. And dereliction of duty is something that many of these members have talked about, why didn't he stop the riot. They may think they have a lot of insight into that question just by looking at these texts and emails that Mark Meadows voluntarily handed over.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, everybody stand by. There's a lot more going on. Jamie Gangel, Dana Bash, Dave Aronberg, we'll get back to all of you.

Still ahead, once again, we're going to bring you the verdict in the Jussie Smollett trial as soon as we get it.


He has just arrived at the courthouse. We're standing by. We'll have live coverage as soon as we get that verdict in this trial in Chicago.

Also, President Biden reaches out to the leader of Ukraine about the threat of a Russian military invasion.

And we'll also get reaction to the U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics from NBA player and new U.S. Citizen, Enes Kanter Freedom. He's standing by live.


BLITZER: We're standing by for the verdict to be read in the trial of the actor, Jussie Smollett. We'll bring you that verdict as soon as we get it.


Stand by for that.

Also tonight, the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine remains front and center for President Biden. He spoke with Ukraine's president today following up on the warning he personally delivered to Vladimir Putin earlier this week.

Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has details.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we know is that the aggression here is on the Russian side.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, President Biden moved to reassure American allies as the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine still looms.

PSAKI: Our objective is to make clear the significant and severe economic consequences if Russia were to invade Ukraine, not just from us, but from the global community.

MATTINGLY: Biden seen here in the Oval Office in the middle of his hour and 16-minute call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as more than hundred thousand of Russian troops threaten Zelensky's border on three sides.

PSAKI: The president's intention going to this call was to provide an update for President Zelensky on his call with President Putin and underscore our support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

MATTINGLY: Then a call with leaders of nine eastern-flank NATO allies, direct recognition of the reality, even though Ukraine isn't a NATO ally, those in the region that are, have grown increasingly unsettled by Russia's actions.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they were to attack under Article 5. It's a sacred obligation.

MATTINGLY: The calls parts of a series of efforts this week around Biden's virtual call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an attempt to rally allies around potential consequences for Russian action and reassure those who would bear the brunt of it.

BIDEN: Democracy doesn't happen by accident.

MATTINGLY: A tenuous geopolitical moment coming at the same time Biden was making the direct case for global democracy.

BIDEN I wanted to host this summit, because here in the United States we know, as well as anyone, that renewing our democracy and strengthening our democratic institution requires constant effort.

MATTINGLY: Biden convening world leaders for a two-day democracy summit, all at a moment he noted the idea itself is backsliding across the globe.

BIDEN: This is an urgent matter on all of our parts, in my view, because the data we're seeing is largely pointing in the wrong direction.

MATTINGLY: Including at home, where an attack on the U.S. Capitol, an attempt to overturn an election by former President Trump, have underscored clear chance, a reality seized on by those countries not invited, including China, Russia, Turkey, Egypt and Hungary, even as Biden remained undeterred.

BIDEN: In the face of sustained and alarming challenges to democracy, universal human rights, and all around the world, democracy needs champions.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, in a week defined by tensions with Russia, continued tensions with China due to a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Iran is also front and center for this White House. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters today the president has directed his team to prepare for the possibility that an effort to bring the Iran nuclear deal back into place will fail. Those negotiations over the course of the last several months have not led to any breakthroughs. The patience in the White House, at least, seems to be wearing thin, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thanks very much.

And we've got breaking news in the Jussie Smollett trial. A verdict has not only been reached, it has now been announced. Sara Sidner, you have the details.

SIDNER: That's right. Jussie Smollett, a jury has found, that he is guilty of five of six counts of disorderly conduct.

Now, of those five counts, I'm just going to sort of give you a little bit of what the law is there and what he was charged with what he is now convicted of. On count one, it was making a false police report that he was a victim of a hate crime to Officer Baig, one of the officers that took that report. The second count, they found him guilty of making a false police report that he was a victim of a battery to that same officer. The third count, the jury found that he was guilty of making a false police report as the victim of a hate crime to another detective. And then on count four, guilty of making a false police report, that he was a victim of a battery to that same detective, Kimberly Murray. Count five, they found him guilty again, same thing, making a false police report this time that he was a victim of a battery, again, to that same police officer. And then on count six, that is the only count that the jury found him not guilty. And that was for making a false police report that he was a victim of an aggravated battery.

So, what we now know is that the judge will have to decide what his sentence is. We saw Jussie Smollett coming into court, as he has every day of this trial, surrounded by a large group of his family and supporters.


He has now been found guilty by a jury of his peers here in Chicago, again, five of six counts he's been found guilty on. And so a judge will decide what that punishment will be, because there is a range here, and the judge has great discretion to decide what he should face. The range is up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The judge could decide all manner of things. He could decide he just pays a fine, he could decide he doesn't spend any -- another day in jail, this will all be up now to the judge looking at all the factors in this case, whether there are aggravating factors or not.

One of the factors the judge will certainly look at is something that the prosecutors brought up. Not only that the jury has found him guilty of five of six counts of disorderly conduct, but also whether or not he lied on the stand, for example. Because in this case, it is all about a lie, it's about a false report to police. It could also be about one of the potential aggravating factors lying while on the stand as well. And so the judge will weigh all of that and then decide what his punishment may be in this case.

As you know, if you haven't heard of this case, it would be a surprise, because back in January of 2019, everyone around the country, and even the world, was talking about this alleged hate crime that he said was perpetrated on him. A jury decided that turned out to be a lie. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly did, five of six counts guilty as charged.

Stand by. I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Laura Coates and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson.

Laura, let me start with you. What's your reaction?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This case is more than just about the actual counts of this particular trial, it also was about how the city of Chicago felt as though he had exploited these very, very difficult topics of hate crimes, homophobia, racism, and tried to exploit and capitalize, they say for publicity and notoriety. And it seems that the jury actually concluded the same.

And we think about hate crime, if you know, had been on the rise in this country for the past several years. Part of the frustration of the special prosecutor and the jurisdiction was that people are likely to be less believed if they are to report these falsehoods, that there would be some way of a credibility issue for future victims, unfortunately, of hate crimes, that if you provide this information, if you say these hoaxes, that you lessen the credibility of future victims of hate crimes. But, of course, nobody wants to happen, let alone the actual crime occurring.

So, the jury has spoken quite definitively on this issue, to say that they will not tolerate think it was a waste of the resource, of taxpayer dollars, to try to engage in this behavior.

BLITZER: Well, what do you think, Joey? How serious is this conviction on five counts of disorderly conduct?

JOEY JACKSON: Yes. It's problematic for him in a number of ways, the first of which is that, although, as Sara indicated, he faces a maximum of three years, the judge can give him probation. But as she also indicated, what happens is when you testify in a case, the judge now gets a sense of what you said.

Now, what Jussie Smollett set was resoundingly rejected by the jury. The jury did not buy what he was selling. That's not lost upon a judge because what that means is that you came into that judge's courtroom and you fabricated.

Why do I add that in part to what I'm saying? I'm saying that because although the maximum is three years and the judge can give him probation, he now, that is the defendant, Mr. Smollett, now a convicted felon, I do believe has exposed himself to jail time.

And I think this is a case that many said about credibility. I would disagree. I think transcended credibility went more to whether or not your facts make sense, briefly stated, Wolf, the things that he was saying just didn't fit a narrative that was hard to believe.

In the event that police had footage of you being at that particular location prior to that particular day, you have to kind of explain. And it's very difficult to give the indication that you had nothing to do with this when you're kind of seen at that location. It's kind of difficult when there's a $3,500 check that you've allegedly paid these brothers to say it was just nutrition. It's kind of difficult when the police say, sir, give me your phone I want to check it out, and you say, no, to say, well, you know what, I didn't trust the police, so I didn't want any DNA, so I'll stop there.

But I'm just saying the facts were very compelling and the narrative he was telling in terms of this hate crime and, really, factually, it just doesn't make sense with respect to all of the facts that really went against them. And so I think the jury did their job right. We're thankful for a jury system in this country that can listen to facts, evidence and really reach conclusions. That's what they did, he's guilty, and now he'll face sentencing.

BLITZER: And, Laura, he's not only convicted of lying to police officers in the course of the investigation but also, you know, he's now formally charged, but I'm sure the judge will have to consider the fact that he was, at least according to the jury, lying under oath during the course of the trial. [18:30:02]

COATES: And, remember, he took the stand in his own defense. I mean, he was prepared to speak and be contrary to what the prosecution witnesses said, including those two brothers who say that they were the ones paid to commit this hoax in defiance of what we know to be logical and our understanding of hate crimes in this country, in particular, and to have this hoax, that it was some sort of a publicity scam.

And so him taking the stand led to his exposure in the way Joey has spoken about. It leaves the exposure, of course, of a judge now looking at you and taking every single words you say and adding it against and assessing it against the credibility of other witnesses.

And, remember, he also is an actor. I mean, our colleague, Paul Callan, spoke about this issue last week and the notion of, listen, if somebody were to take the stand, the jury is well aware and they're sizing up the person for credibility, wondering about the person's demeanor, their presentation, the way in which they defend themselves. They're going to expect a particularly polished presentation, which cuts against you. Because if they believe you are constructing a narrative in a case that is defined by the construction of a false narrative, it can actually weigh against you.

And so it was probably a very big calculated strategy for them, and now we may see a miscalculation, of course, by the defense team to call him to the stand. But you're talking about a case that, remember, they had initially dismissed these charge, he had forfeited a bail, he had done community service, a special prosecutor was appointed to say, no, we don't agree and look into this notion of somebody having a case dismissed. It was viewed as celebrity privilege going on, going awry.

Here, the jury has responded to all of these factors. And as Joey said, if it doesn't add up, if the prosecution is able to meet their burden, which here they did, in five out of six, well, the jury has spoken and the judge must abide by that in his or her presentation of the sentence.

BLITZER: Sara, you have been covering the trial the whole time over there. First of all, what is the mood like on the ground? Does this verdict, guilty of five of six counts, come as a surprise?

SIDNER: It does not, only in that, when you look at what the evidence was, there were surveillance videos, there were hundreds of hours -- thousands of hours of videos that police went through. Some of those were brought into this case. There was testimony from these two brothers, which I think is very significant, because the brothers, the Osundairo brothers, clearly knew him. There was clearly a relationship. He had -- one of them was his trainer. And to have them take the stand was extremely significant and say, look, we did do this, we were wrong. We did this, but we were told to do this. We were doing this because we were given $3,500, and we were told you're not to hurt him that bad, just rough him up a little bit.

There was also the video with the noose. And that video really came back, I think, in the end to bite Jussie Smollett, and that police came to him, and they had -- and you're seeing it there, they had their body cams on when he was reporting what had happened to him. And you see the noose there. You see it sort of around his neck. It's kind of disheveled. The prosecution pointing out, hey, it's very disheveled there, but when we first saw it, it wasn't disheveled. What happened? Did you take it off and put it down and then put it back on and mess it up so it looked like a worst crime that someone was trying to like pull it and lynch you? And he said, well, yes, I took it off, but it was because I put it back on for police because I was told by a colleague I shouldn't have messed with the evidence, that I shouldn't have tampered with this, so I put it back on. He said the exact opposite during an interview to GMA when he sat down with Robin Roberts. He told everyone in the world on camera that he indeed had never taken it off. So, there were lots of inconsistencies that were pointed out in this case.

But one last thing, one of the things that has really upset folks in the Chicago area about this is the amount of time the police -- and money the police spent on trying to solve this crime, that a jury has said is a hoax, when there are so many other crimes and things that are happening in this city that people feel like the police should be concentrating on, i.e., the shootings and murders.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. Joey, the prosecution made a very strong case that Smollett simply lied under oath, lacked credibility when he said he was attacked for homophobic and racist ideas, or whatever. Do you think that argument obviously clearly resonated with the jurors?

JACKSON: I really think it did. And just to piggyback on both Laura's excellent point and Sara's, it's this. There are people out there who were suffering as a result of having been attacked because of the notion of hate. And how does it diminish or devalue some significance to what they have to say when you have someone who fabricates about it.

Furthermore, when you have police resource that are being diverted on issues that are insignificant. Why are they insignificant? Because they didn't happen. Then that's a problem because you have other things that need to be done, investigated, and people brought to justice.


And so at the end of the day, you know, I just think that courts of law are about justice and this jury sat and evaluated this. And his story just did not make sense under any measure. And when you testify, I don't care if you're a well-seasoned actor, how talented you are, you have to answer questions. And if those questions are inconsistent with reality or inconsistent with other things you said, then you know what, the jury doesn't buy it. They didn't buy it here. He faces the sentence of up to three years, as it was noted, and we'll see what a judge does. But the fact that he lied will be taken into consideration by the court upon sentencing.

BLITZER: Yes. And we're going to watch it very, very closely. We're standing by. We're going to about to get reaction from the prosecution and the defense. They're still inside the courtroom, we're told. You're looking at live pictures coming from just outside the courthouse in Chicago.

Our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM will continue, right after this.



BLITZER: The breaking news, a jury in Chicago has just found the actor, Jussie Smollett, guilty on five out of six counts of disorderly conduct. We're staying on top the story throughout the night. Stand by. we're going to get reaction from the prosecution and the defense.

But there's other important news we're following as well. Also tonight, France is dismissing the U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympic, which start nearly February, which has been joined, by the way, by Britain, Canada and Australia. They also are engaged in a diplomatic boycott. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, calls the move, and I'm quoting him, teeny, tiny and symbolic. The White House though is strongly a defending a diplomatic boycott while still allowing American athletes to compete. Listen.


PSAKI: The president made a decision that we cannot continue with business as usual, that not sending a diplomatic delegation was making that clear, not just to China but to the global community.

We cannot leave global diplomacy on the shoulders of athletes who have been training their whole lives to compete in the Olympics.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more from the NBA star, Enes Kanter Freedom, of the Boston Celtics. Enes, thanks so much for joining us.

You're an outspoken critic of China's authoritarianism. We're seeing the shirt you're wearing right now. Does a diplomat boycott of the Olympic Games in China go far enough?

ENES KANTER, NBA PLAYER, BOSTON CELTICS: You know, it is a good first step. More countries are joining, Australia, U.K., Canada, Kosovo, but it is not enough. You know, while we're speaking right now, there's a genocide happening. And shame on the International Olympic Committee, they're sleeping in the same bed with China that are organizing the games, Olympic games in China, where there's pretty much dictatorship happening.

So, I'm telling all these governments, all these countries and athletes to speak up and move the games somewhere else.

BLITZER: But as you know, and you heard Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, say these athletes have been working, training, getting ready their whole lives to compete in these Olympic Games. Would you encourage these athletes, Enes, to consider boycotting the games? Have you spoken to any of these Olympic athletes?

KANTER: First of all, all the gold medals in the world that you can win is not more important than your morals, your principles and your values. And I did, yes, I did have spoken to so many Olympic athletes which are about to go to China. They are really worried because I told them, look what they did to their own tennis player. Are we really going to trust them with our own players?

So, I feel like not just countries and governments, but athletes need to push their governments, and also their companies to stop sponsoring the Olympics.

BLITZER: You have written an article in The Atlantic about becoming a U.S. citizen, congratulations, by the way, after facing very grave persecution from your native country of Turkey. Let me just read a portion of what you write in this article.

You write this, I know what it's like for people to have their freedom stripped away and I know what it's like to have my own freedom stripped away. But this week I'm re-claiming my freedom. I just became an American. And I'm making America and its freedoms a part of my very identity. You added the name, Freedom, to your last name. How meaningful is it, Enes, for you now to call yourself an American citizen?

KANTER: First time I came to America back in 2009, one of my teammate criticized the president, and I was very scared for him because I thought he was going to end up in jail. He turned around and said, don't worry, brother, this is not Turkey. I wanted to make that world a part of me and educate our young generation.

And it is so important, just because I was outspoken, my passport got revoked, my name is (INAUDIBLE), I have ten arrested warranted for me in four years. But, you know, I'm trying to tell people in America we should feel blessed to be in this situation. Obviously, America has its own problems, but definitely we should feel blessed and lucky to be in this situation. So, I'm really happy and excited to be a part of this great nation.

BLITZER: You faced, as you correctly pointed out, incredible backlash from the government and Turkey, the Turkish president speaking out against you, forcing your own parents to disown you, jailing your father. Now that you're officially an American citizen, what is your message right now to the Turkish president, Erdogan?

KANTER: First of all, it's a pure dictatorship. And my one message to him is, please, free all the political prisoners and stop all the human rights violations that are happening.


Because Turkey could be the bridge between Islam and the West. But just because of all the stuff happening right now, it's impossible. And, you know, my problem is not with my country. My problem is with

the current regime right now because it is a cultish regime and it's a pure dictatorship. So, I'm trying to pray for all those people and trying to be the voice of all those innocent people out there who don't have a voice.

BLITZER: You haven't spoken to your parents now, what, since 2015, and I'm sure it's painful for you and very painful for them, but you're afraid if you just speak to them, they could even be further endangered.

Before I let you go, Enes, I want you to give you a chance to comment on a statement you made, a comment that Americans who do criticize our own country should, in your words, keep their mouths shut. But as you write in "The Atlantic", it's uniquely American. It's an American freedom to be able to criticize our own country, to try to make it a better place.

I want you to explain what you meant when you said that you regret making that comment?

FREEDOM: Thank you for asking me that question actually. I want to make it very clear.

And, obviously, America has its own problems. You know, racism is top of the list. And more often, we sit down with my teammates and have a conversation about what can we do to educate our young generation.

What I meant, what I said, you know, people show stuff they criticize and obviously, I do reckon, there are so many problems are happening, but I'm coming from a country where people are getting jailed just because they talk about, they criticize the government, you know? What I meant by is people should very, very lucky and blessed to be in this situation.

And, obviously, when -- two years ago, when the Black Lives Matters protests were happening, I was one of the first one in the whole league went out there and criticize what was happening and join the protests with my teammates.

So it's important to, you know, know what's going on here in America also, but at the same time, people feel very blessed to be in this situation because you have freedom of speech, religion, expression, and there's democracy and there is -- so it is important for me.

BLITZER: Yeah. It's one of great things about our democracy, any democracy, you can love your country, and we all love our country. It's amazing, wonderful country, but you can also criticize government decisions --

FREEDOM: Exactly.

BLITZER: -- and you have the freedom to do so. I know that's what you believe. That's why I wanted you to clarify what you had said the other night. Enes Kanter Freedom, thank you for joining us, love your last name,

and now, congratulations on becoming a U.S. citizen. We'll watch you play with the Celtics, even though I'm a Washington Wizards fan. Thanks very much for joining us.

FREEDOM: Thanks very much. I'm a big fan.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much, Enes Kanter Freedom.

We're awaiting reaction to the Jussie Smollett verdict, guilty on five of six counts. We'll go back to Chicago and get the reaction from the prosecution and the defense. Maybe we'll hear from Jussie Smollett himself. Stand by.



BLITZER: Breaking news we're following, we're looking at live pictures. We're standing by for prosecutors and defense attorneys after a jury in Chicago found the actor Jussie Smollett guilty on five out of six counts of disorderly conduct. We'll have more on that coming up in a few months. Stand by for that.

There's other important news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well. Another segment of the population is eligible to get a COVID-19 booster shot. The CDC giving the final greenlight just a little while ago.

Let's discuss with the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden.

Dr. Frieden, thanks for joining us.

As you know, the CDC just expanding the COVID-19 booster recommendation to encourage every one 16 and older now to get that booster shot. If you're the parent of a 16-year-old or 17-year-old, should you go ahead and immediately get your child a booster dose, at least as soon as possible?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Not only shouldn't you, but I just arranged for my 17- year-old. Absolutely.

It is shaping up to be hard winter, Wolf. We've got a surge from delta with over a thousands deaths a day. Flu season seems to be starting and Omicron is here and it's going to spread. We don't know how severe it is, but it will be spreading. So, we need to confront this pandemic with the best tools we have.

Number one, vaccinate. Every one should get vaccinated fully and boosted when they're eligible. Number two, mask up, especially when you're in spaces, indoor spaces with other people. And number three, decide on what's important to you and make those decisions that you can go about the holiday season being as safe as possible, understanding that a young and healthy person is going to have a different risk-benefit calculation as an older person or someone with immuno compromised.

BLITZER: This new booster recommendation, Dr. Frieden, comes as we're seeing some very concerning trends right now here in the United States, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise compared to a month ago.

Why are we seeing a huge surge right now when more than 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated?

FRIEDEN: Well, 200 million fully vaccinated means 100 million aren't fully vaccinated. And this remains a pandemic of the unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. That's why it's so important. Complete your primary series, get your booster when you can. The overwhelming majority of people who are getting hospitalized and dying are still those who haven't been vaccinated.

That's why it's so important that everyone gets vaccinated. It protects you. It protects people around you.

BLITZER: All right.

FRIEDEN: And it allows us to get back to a safer, more productive community.

BLITZER: Dr. Frieden, thanks very much.

I want to go back to Chicago.

Daniel Webb, the prosecutor, is speaking in the Jussie Smollett trial.

DANIEL WEBB, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: That's what I told the jury in my closing argument. With the resounding verdict we've just received from this jury, after one day of deliberations, in which they found Mr. Smollett guilty of virtually all charges of doing exactly what we said he did, of reporting a fake crime to the Chicago police department as a real crime.


That verdict was a resounding message by the jury that, in fact, Mr. Smollett did exactly what we said he did. What I think is important about this verdict is that a lot of you from Chicago know it was a couple years ago when the court system came to me and wanted me to become special prosecutor because there was a feeling that things that had happened in the past that there never was a public trial and that this controversial events that occurred regarding Mr. Smollett and what he did to this city, and what he did to the Chicago Police Department never had a chance to put it in front of a jury and let a jury decide after hearing all the evidence whether what Mr. Smollett was right or wrong because very controversial.

I agreed to do that because I felt it was also important for the Cook County judicial system to get a trial. Whether we won or lost a trial was not the issue. What was the issue is when Mr. Smollett had done in this city should be aired in front of a public trial where all the evidence comes out, all the talk on social media, may or may not be true but the true facts, I thought needed to come out and we did it.

I became special prosecutor and the rest is history. We now won this case. I want to point out that there's enormous effort put in when I agreed to take the special prosecutor role. That meant my law firm became special prosecutors and the men and women around me right now in the last two and a half years have worked so hard to develop the evidence, present it to a grand jury, go through pandemic. Wait to get a trial, which we wanted and finally in the last ten days, these lawyers have had chance to present this evidence to a jury and we come away with the jury agreeing that they should have heard the case and, in fact, he was guilty. Thank you very much.



WEBB: The sixth count -- I'm not going to speculate on why a jury did that, but that sixth count occurred two weeks after the event. The other false statements were made to the police right on the day of January 29th on three different interviews. That counted for five of the six counts which he was found not guilty of those.

The sixth count was two weeks later, on February 13, at a police station, and it may be because it was after the event. I don't know what the reason was. It wasn't that significant to our case and it has no impact on the case whatsoever.

Yet. It was yet. So, the answer is yes. You're right. It was the aggravated battery which means there has to be a mask and we charged that because the police officer testified that that's when Smollett told the police officer he wears (ph) a mask. But whatever the reasons are, this jury -- by the way, this jury worked so hard and for Mr. Smollett to get up in front of them and lie for hours and hours and hours, that really compounded his misconduct.

And quite frankly, when I saw that happened, we don't expect defendants to do that. Defendants have a right to go to trial. Defendants have a right to argue their case has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But defendants do not have the right to go in front of a jury and lie under oath.

Mr. Smollett would not have lost this case as he did today unless the jury found that he lied to them. And so that was something that I was proud this jury came to the conclusion he was guilty and he came up with a completely ridiculous story to explain his misconduct did not apparently have an impact on the jury's verdict.

REPORTER: How does perjury charge be handled at this point?

WEBB: Pardon me, I'm sorry?

REPORTER: How do you handle that? That is perjury. How do you handle that at this point?

WEBB: Well, first of all, I don't -- I don't know the answer to that question. I will say that over the years, if someone is convicted in a court of law by a jury, normally follow up perjury charges do not normally occur. That's just the way it is.

But I'm not going to predict what will happen here. We just got the verdict 30 minutes ago. Let's see what happens.

BLITZER: All right. So, there you have the special prosecutor Daniel Webb concluding his win today. Five of six counts against the actor Jussie Smollett, guilty on five of those six months and potentially could face up to three years in prison right now.

We'll continue to watch the aftermath, the reaction to this trial.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.