January 4, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
01/04/2022 | 56m 43s | Video has closed captioning.
January 4, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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01/04/2022 | 56m 43s | Video has closed captioning.
January 4, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: children and COVID.
With students returning to school amid the surge in Omicron cases, districts are forced once again to choose between in-person and remote learning.
Then: extremism in America.
How the growth of far-right groups contributed to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and continues to threaten our nation's democracy today.
ROBERT PAPE, University of Chicago: What we have is a new type of political movement with violence at its core.
And what's new about the movement is that it's coming heavily from the mainstream.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And guilty.
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes convicted of fraud.
What the verdict means for other tech start-ups that often rely on high-risk investments.
All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: President Biden is trying to ease the national angst over the Omicron surge of COVID-19, as cases keep hitting new records.
He argued today that those fully vaccinated and boosted are very unlikely to get seriously ill. At the same time, he said his administration is working hard to address a nationwide shortage of COVID tests.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: On testing, I know this remains frustrating.
Believe me, it's frustrating to me.
But we're making improvements.
In the last two weeks, we have stood up federal testing sites all over the country.
We're adding more each and every day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In other developments, the CDC approved booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine, five months after the first two doses.
That is down from six months.
And the state of Maryland declared an emergency and activated the National Guard, due to overwhelmed hospitals.
In the day's other news: Party leaders butted heads over the future of the filibuster in the evenly divided U.S. Senate.
Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed again to schedule a vote on a rules change, because Republicans have blocked voting rights legislation.
But Republican Mitch McConnell warned against eliminating the need for 60 votes to end a filibuster.
They spoke at separate news conferences.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the chamber to prevent action on something as critical as protecting our democracy, then the Senate will debate and consider changes to the rules.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This is genuine radicalism.
They want to turn the Senate into the House.
They want to make it easy to fundamentally change the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It would take all 50 Senate Democrats to force a filibuster change, but one of them, West Virginia's Joe Manchin, voiced renewed doubts today about acting without Republican support.
Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush has announced he will retire when this term ends.
The 75-year-old Democrat and former Black Panther has spent nearly 30 years in Congress.
He is the 24th House Democrat to decide not to run for reelection.
Black lawmakers in Michigan, both current and former, are suing to block new district maps for congressional and state legislative seats.
They say the plans illegally dilute Black voting strength by reducing the number of districts with Black majorities.
A new independent commission drew the maps.
The winter storm that socked the Mid-Atlantic on Monday left hundreds of people marooned on an interstate highway in Virginia all night and into today late.
They waited long hours in freezing weather along a 40-mile stretch of I-95 without food, water, or restrooms.
Virginia's Senator Tim Kaine got stuck trying to drive from Richmond to Washington.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): It was nerve-wracking overnight.
And I will tell you, I had two things.
I had a heavy coat and I also had a full tank of gas.
And the problem is, a lot of people, when you're stuck that long between five miles from an interchange and the traffic isn't moving, folks are running out of gas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The storm also played havoc with rail travel.
An Amtrak train heading north from New Orleans was stalled at Lynchburg, Virginia, until late today by downed trees.
A Canadian court has ruled that Iran owes $84 million in damages for mistakenly downing an airliner in 2020.
The Ukrainian jet was hit by two missiles, killing all 176 people on board.
More than 100 of the victims had Canadian citizenship.
The Canadian ruling involved the families of six victims, but it is unclear if Tehran will ever pay the judgment.
In Sudan, a new round of mass protests filled the streets of Khartoum today, as the country's political paralysis deepened.
Pro-democracy demonstrators again denounced the October military coup, and troops fired tear gas to break up the crowds.
It followed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok's resignation on Sunday.
SAMI SALEH, Sudanese Citizen (through translator): Today, after Hamdok's resignation, the people are confirming the need for all parties to move forward despite the repression.
They are facing off against the state and, as you can hear, the gas bombs being fired at those on the front lines who are facing this abuse for the sake of a free, peaceful, and just state.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Security forces have killed nearly 60 protesters and wounded hundreds more since the coup.
Record numbers of migrants braved the English Channel in small boats last year, crossing from France to England.
Reports said today more than 28,000 people made that dangerous journey.
That is triple the previous year's total.
Back in this country, a congressional committee is asking FOX News host Sean Hannity for information related to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
That word came in from a committee statement late today.
It did not say give any specifics.
We will return to January 6 after the news summary.
In economic news, the U.S. Labor Department reports a record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November, mostly to take better jobs.
Meanwhile, manufacturing hit an 11-month low in December, amid supply chain bottlenecks.
Japanese automaker Toyota has dethroned General Motors as the top-selling car company in the U.S. Toyota sold more than 2.3 million vehicles nationwide in 2021.
GM sold 2.2 million.
GM had led U.S. auto sales since 1931.
And on Wall Street today, blue chips were up, tech stocks were down.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 214 points to close near 36800, a record.
The Nasdaq fell 210 points, 1 percent.
The S&P 500 slipped three.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": one year later, police officers reflect on the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol; and I speak to Congressman Peter Meijer about the political fallout from that day; how schools are weighing the risks from the latest COVID surge; and much more.
We return now to our ongoing coverage this week of the first anniversary of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
In the months since the riot, a number of far-right extremist groups have become household names.
And, as Nick Schifrin reports, some of their core beliefs and even their tactics have moved from the fringe to the mainstream.
NICK SCHIFRIN: On January 6, in a sea of thousands of Trump supporters... MAN: Proud Boys.
NICK SCHIFRIN: ... members of the far right group the Proud Boys descended on the National Mall, among them, Matthew Greene, who just a month earlier had joined the central New York chapter.
Law enforcement officials say Greene and other Proud Boys seen wearing earpieces were among the first to barge through the police line.
Last month, Greene became the first Proud Boy to plead guilty to conspiracy, and he's cooperating with federal authorities who are attempting to untangle a complex web of planning and coordination.
MICHAEL GERMAN, Former FBI Special Agent: I think you would have to be naive to fail to understand how organized these groups were.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Michael German is a retired FBI special agent who focused on domestic terrorism.
He sees January 6 as a culmination, years of activity from the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to violent post-election protests in November 2020 that convinced these groups they could act with impunity.
MICHAEL GERMAN: These groups were increasingly emboldened to publicly announce their intention to commit violence at a public rally, commit violence at the public rally, walk away, despite this criminal activity occurring in plain view.
That created an atmosphere where they believed, not just that they were going to get away with engaging in violence, but it was actually encouraged by law enforcement.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Law enforcement has cast a wide net, charging more than 700 rioters, including dozens from right-wing groups the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and 3 Percenters.
But the majority of those are not for violent acts such as assault.
MICHAEL GERMAN: The Justice Department's efforts seem to front-load people who were involved in the least egregious conduct.
There were hundreds, if not thousands of people, engaging in violence against police officers.
That should have been the primary focus, because many of those people still have yet to be charged and are out in the community still able to organize, still able to attend events.
NICK SCHIFRIN: This year, across multiple states, Proud Boys have attended school board meetings to back those opposed to COVID measures and Critical Race Theory, or CRT.
MAN: Any time that there is a contentious issue, such as the mask mandate, or CRT in our schools, or forced vaccinations of our children, you're going to see more Proud Boys.
NICK SCHIFRIN: ProPublica reports at least 10 sitting state lawmakers are members of the militia group the Oath Keepers.
Experts say an insurrectionist mentality is becoming normalized and more popular.
ROBERT PAPE, University of Chicago: What we have is a new type of political movement, with violence at its core.
And what's new about the movement is that it's coming heavily from the mainstream.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Robert Pape is a University of Chicago political science professor and director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats.
His team studied those arrested for January 6 and found more than half are business owners or white-collar workers, including doctors, lawyers, and architects.
Nearly 90 percent are not members of militia groups, and they come from 44 states, half from counties won by President Biden.
Pape's surveys found 21 million Americans, 8 percent, called President Biden illegitimate and supported violence to overthrow the 2020 election.
ROBERT PAPE: We have a tinderbox in front of us.
Think about this as a wildfire scenario, where what I'm describing with the 21 million with these insurrectionist sentiments are the combustible dry wood that could be set off by a lightning strike, or by a spark, or by a match.
And that combustible material is really quite significant at this point in time.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI Director: The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it's not going away anytime soon.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In March, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress the FBI had for years considered domestic terrorism as much of a threat as ISIS.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY: This is a top concern and remains so for the FBI.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In June, the Biden administration released the first national strategy for countering domestic terrorism, more information-sharing inside and outside government, preventing extremist group recruitment, improving prosecution, and tackling endemic problems such as racism.
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. Attorney General: The only way to find sustainable solutions is not only to disrupt and deter, but also to address the root causes of violence.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And following a stand-down to try and reduce extremism in the ranks, the Pentagon released a new strategy, including a ban on liking white nationalist or extremist social media content.
JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: While extremist activity in the force is rare, any instance can have an outsized affect.
ROBERT PAPE: I think it's a good first step, but this is fundamentally a problem for our political leaders, our community leaders, our leaders of faith.
This -- we need to broaden our approach to this, because it is a broader problem.
NICK SCHIFRIN: A broader problem, as more Americans support and are willing to commit insurrectionist violence.
ROBERT PAPE: The political violence we have most to worry about today is them coming rooted in the mainstream.
That is a challenge.
It's a challenge, I believe, that we will be able to meet.
But that's the core test of our democracy today.
NICK SCHIFRIN: So, to explore how radicalization and extremism are testing our democracy, I'm joined by Kathleen Belew, professor of history at the University of Chicago and the author of "Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America," and Michael Jensen, a senior researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
Welcome to the "NewsHour," both of you.
Michael Jensen, let me start with you.
Do you see more radicalization today than in the past?
And is the speed of radicalization increasing?
MICHAEL JENSEN, University of Maryland: Yes, absolutely.
I think, in many ways, January 6 was the culmination of things that have been happening for at least 20 years in this country.
And that really is the mainstreaming of radical political opinion.
Certainly, the events of January 6 were tied to some of the extraordinary circumstances that we all endured during 2020, a pandemic, racial justice protests, and a hotly contested election.
But, for decades, we have seen the surge in especially right-wing extremism in the United States.
And is it moving faster?
All indications are yes.
This is something that primarily happens now online on social media.
And social media is a hyper-mobilizing environment.
It's a 24/7 echo chamber where individuals hear these views and are mobilized to act.
So it absolutely is moving much faster today than in the past.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Kathleen Belew, the mainstreaming of radicalization, how are you seeing that into politics as well?
KATHLEEN BELEW, University of Chicago: I think this is the critical question.
We know that one stream of activism that took us to January 6 was the white power and militant right groups that have been active in our country since the late 1970s.
But the big question is how they're able to recruit and radicalize from the other groups of people who were there that day, things like the Trump base, QAnon groups.
And even within Stop the Steal, there's a large degree of separation between people who came simply to a free speech action and people who came with the intent to do violence.
And in the middle somewhere are people who were instantly radicalized on that day.
So, the question really is how that flow works between the extremist groups that are highly weaponized and highly organized and those mainstream people who are just now finding this ideology.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And, Kathleen Belew, let me stay with you.
Is it not only the flow, but is it also a question of what the goals are of these groups, of these people?
Are the goals political?
Are they policy?
Is it to sow distrust?
KATHLEEN BELEW: I think this is the big question.
And my guess, as a historian, is that we really don't know the full answer here yet, because, earlier in the white power movement, part of the reason that these groups became violent and declared war on the federal government all the way back in 1983, and many of these groups have considered themselves at war on the state since then, is because they never thought mainstream politics could possibly deliver the kinds of reforms that they wanted to see.
Mainstream politics, though, is not a closed door for many of these activists anymore.
And some people are finding entry into our mainstream in all kinds of ways.
This is something that would have been unthinkable to the people in the white power movement in the 1980s.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Michael Jensen, let me take us back to 2020 for a second and a point you were making about what led to January 6.
We had unprecedented isolation, thanks to COVID lockdowns, people spending a lot of time online, then, in the summer of 2020, widespread Black Lives Matter protests, and President Trump painting the election as an existential threat.
DONALD TRUMP, Former President of the United States: We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing.
NICK SCHIFRIN: How did that rhetoric and those variables help lead to January 6?
MICHAEL JENSEN: Well, January 6 was a product of having millions of people that were quite vulnerable to a radicalizing narrative.
As you mentioned, these are people that were sitting at home.
They were isolated.
They were scared.
They were anxious about what was happening around them and in their communities and in their lives.
And they were looking for answers.
And, ultimately, they were spending an awful lot of time online looking for those answers.
And in those spaces, they often encountered disinformation as much as they found truth and evidence.
For mass radicalization like we saw on January 6 to occur, you have to have an (AUDIO GAP) that is politically powerful and whose message carries weight.
And nobody's message carries more weight than the president of the United States.
So, when the president says that the election was stolen, that's going to energize his base.
And that ultimately mobilized thousands of people to act on his behalf on these unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Kathleen Belew, let's fast-forward to today and look at the two strategies that we have seen from the Biden administration.
The Pentagon trying to tackle recruitment of active-duty, but also veterans, by extremist groups, and also the Biden administration with a counter domestic terrorism strategy, the first ever.
What do you think of those efforts so far?
KATHLEEN BELEW: These are both very positive steps in the right direction.
The DOD policy is particularly noteworthy because, since the mid-1980s, the Pentagon has been trying to prohibit what it called active participation in extremist groups.
But it did not define what active participation was or what an extremist group does -- was.
This new policy defines both of them.
And the definition is broad enough that I think it would have limited several of the people who were involved on January 6.
It asks for service members even to take accountability for retweeting and reposting content from hate groups, and also sort of lays out a landscape of how we can begin to think about this problem.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Michael Jensen, you have talked about the need for mass deradicalization.
Are you seeing signs of a policy that can achieve that?
And is it even possible to achieve that?
MICHAEL JENSEN: Yes, when you look at the events of the past year, I actually think the Department of Justice has done quite a good job in terms of the criminal investigations tied to January 6.
It's the largest criminal prosecution history in the United States.
But where we haven't done as good a job is tackling the disinformation that made its way into the mainstream in 2020.
It's still very much front and center in our national political discourse.
An overwhelming majority of Republican voters in particular believe that the 2020 election was rampant with fraud.
We see anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, QAnon movement, et cetera, are still very much in the mainstream political discourse.
And we haven't had a unified voice that's really come out to counter that disinformation.
And I think really importantly is, we haven't had a collective voice from both sides of the aisle of powerful political leaders condemning that disinformation and what happened on January 6.
And so, unfortunately, if anything, we have moved in the opposite direction because, on top of all that disinformation, we now have this revisionist history around January 6, certain political commentators promoting the idea that it was a peaceful protest, and that the truly aggressive people that day were the police, and that the demonstrators were just protecting themselves and they're true patriots.
And so now we have this disinformation that's making its way into the mainstream, on top of all the other disinformation that was there prior to January 6.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Michael Jensen, Kathleen Belew, thank you very much.
MICHAEL JENSEN: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we know, police officers were on the front lines defending the United States Capitol on January 6.
For many of them, and even for the Capitol Police force as a whole, the year since has been difficult.
Lisa Desjardins begins there.
LISA DESJARDINS: One year later, some officers, like U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, are still recovering from the emotional scars of that day.
Others, like Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, are still recovering from the physical toll.
Gonell recently tweeted out graphic photos showing the gashes, bruises from crushing, and other injuries to his shoulder, to his hands, and to his foot.
Dunn and Gonell co-wrote an op-ed today for The Washington Post, demanding accountability for the Capitol riot.
Officer Harry Dunn and Sergeant Aquilino Gonell join me now.
Thank you both so much for protecting the Capitol, me personally, and thank you for joining us now.
And I want to start first off with that op-ed.
You had strong words in that.
One sentence you wrote was this.
You wrote: "It will not be enough to identify and punish only those who physically attacked the Capitol and tried to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power."
Those are strong words.
Sergeant Gonell, who do you mean there, and what do you want to happen in terms of that accountability?
AQUILINO GONELL, United States Capitol Police Sergeant: Well, it's a lot of people who were involved with what transpired January 6, including some of the elected officials that, even after we put our bodies at risk of injuries and even death, like Officer Sicknick, they continue to downplay this tragic, horrific event of January 6.
And it's mind-boggling that -- what they do, trying to downplay everything.
LISA DESJARDINS: It sounds like you're talking about -- you're talking about politicians, is that right, being held more accountable?
AQUILINO GONELL: Yes, elected officials that, on January 6 and on January 7, they all knew where to put the blame and point the finger at.
They all knew that the president, for almost three hours, did not do his job.
And it pains me that, 16 blocks away, he was watching it on TV, despite the horrific images that were coming live on TV.
I didn't see it on TV, but I'm sure, by then, everybody around the country were watching with all eyes, as I was battling those people in the Lower West Terrace, or, as people know it now, the tunnel.
LISA DESJARDINS: You're talking about the former president.
And former President Trump put out a statement just in the last few weeks calling what happened on January 6 an unarmed protest.
Also, at one point, Officer Dunn, FOX News host Tucker Carlson called you a -- quote - - "angry left-wing activist."
This is the battle now, a battle of words over what happened on January 6.
And, Officer Dunn, I want to ask you, how do you respond to people who say that your accounts and the way people look at it are exaggerated and perhaps it wasn't that bad?
HARRY DUNN, U.S. Capitol Police Officer: Well, thanks for having me on.
Happy new year to you.
Angry left-wing activist, I -- when I heard that, I had to stop and think about it for a little bit.
It's fair to say I am angry.
I'm a registered Democrat, so I guess I'm a left-wing -- and if activist means somebody who's standing for what's right and fighting for what they believe in, then, sure, I will be that.
But, outside of that, I don't have any response to him or anybody over at that network, because it just seems like they like to talk about people and not to people.
So, if they're interested in having an actual conversation about the facts about what happened that day, I would be happy to talk to them.
But until then, I'm just going to keep on talking to people that matter and fighting for accountability and justice for what happened that day.
AQUILINO GONELL: If I may, you're talking about people who never raised a hand who say - - they like don't solemnly swear to protect and defend this country and the Constitution.
They have never done that.
So they are talking from their office in comfort, despite others doing the hard work and protecting and serving, something that they never thought about doing themselves, both as a police officer or as a military person.
LISA DESJARDINS: You wrote in your op-ed that you feel there's an effort to whitewash what happened on January 6.
What do you mean by that, Officer Dunn?
HARRY DUNN: You know, just a simple downplaying.
Just like, recently, I wasn't aware that -- what the former president's statement was that you just quoted.
I wasn't aware of that statement.
But I guess that's the perfect definition to -- the answer to your question about what - - they're trying to whitewash it, and an unarmed demonstration.
I would like to refer to it as a terrorist attack.
I went through it.
And a lot of my co-workers physically hurt still to this day, one year later.
And there's so much that we do not know about what happened that day.
And we're starting to find out more and more about what happened that day.
So, I think we just need to continue to sit back and let all the facts come out.
And it will no longer be people's opinions that are valid once all the facts are out on the table, so... LISA DESJARDINS: I'm interested in talking to both of you, first to you, Sergeant Gonell, about why you think January 6 happened.
You saw the faces of your fellow Americans attacking you.
Why do you think -- what was driving them?
What's going on here, Sergeant?
AQUILINO GONELL: During the last almost five years, you have an individual telling other people the system is rigged if I lose, but, if I win, it's OK, everything is OK. And people are susceptible to lies.
And the way that he was amplifying it made it even worse.
Coupling that with the type of charges that some of these insurrectionists are getting.
People can see that as a way to explain it to themselves and say, you know what, it wasn't that bad.
It wasn't as horrific as they're saying.
But it was horrific.
If you were in that entrance of the Lower West Terrace, it was do or die.
It was -- these people were trying to hurt officer in fully clothed police uniform.. LISA DESJARDINS: Officer Dunn, do you think the danger is still here?
Where are we right now in terms of the threat to democracy, from your view?
HARRY DUNN: You know, it's scary to think about where we are.
Like, sure, we succeeded as far as our mission that day.
Democracy went on late into night, January 6, into January 7.
But I think it's very important for everybody now to think, realize how close and fragile democracy is, and that everybody, everybody, even anybody watching, anybody listening, has a job to do in protecting and defending democracy.
That could be us police officers, we police, the legislators, the lawmakers.
They need to do their job and legislate.
The judges judge.
And the American people need to vote about who to put into those positions to -- we need to -- we need accountability.
And we need to make sure the right people are in office that want accountability also.
LISA DESJARDINS: How's the police force doing?
How is the U.S. Capitol Police force doing?
I know there have been improvements.
They announced today more equipment.
But we also know that some 200 officers have left since January 6.
Recruiting is tough.
Officer Dunn, how's the police force?
HARRY DUNN: You know, I like -- I don't really want to speak for everybody else, so I will just speak on things that I know.
We're still hurting.
A lot of people are struggling with what happened.
I'm still upset, but I'm recovering.
I'm starting to heal.
But I don't think total healing can happen until accountability has been had.
So... LISA DESJARDINS: Sergeant Gonell, how are you doing?
AQUILINO GONELL: I'm OK.
I mean, there are days things comes in waves, hit you left and right.
At times, I'm OK for a minute, and then something at work or a sound or a smell will trigger some of the things that happened back at work on that day.
And going back to the question that you posed to Harry, the former president still wields a lot of influence over these people.
And I'm worried that, in the future, he could just tweet something, make a statement, and the same people who were on January 6, 2021, they could end up back at the Capitol.
Yes, we have made a lot of improvement.
Yes, we have a lot of training, but the forces that culminated on January 6, they're still in place.
And that's why we need accountability.
That's why we want to hold those responsible.
LISA DESJARDINS: I know you both were faced - - facing the thick of the fighting.
And we talk a lot about the difficulties of that day, but I also know you found bright spots in the hundreds of letters and tweets of support.
And I just have to thank you all for speaking to us tonight, Officers Harry Dunn and Sergeant Aquilino Gonell.
AQUILINO GONELL: Thank you for having me, and happy new year.
HARRY DUNN: Thanks for having us.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just three days after being sworn in to serve his first term in Congress, Representative Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, was among the lawmakers in the House chamber last January when pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol.
He voted later with nine other House Republicans to impeach then-President Donald Trump.
That decision has resulted in death threats.
And now he is facing a Trump-endorsed primary challenger as he runs for reelection.
Congressman Peter Meijer joins us from Grand Rapids.
Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.
As we said, you were in the House chamber on that day.
What memories does it -- come back to you as you reflect on that?
REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): Thank you for having me tonight.
I would say just feels of anger, of frustration, of feeling something sacred was being trampled on, and that, in the history that was made, a very dark, dark possibility raised of the threat that every four years we would no longer have a peaceful transfer of power, but that we have just chosen to expand what we compete on in a political playing field outside of elections, outside our institutions and, frankly, put everything up for debate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we mentioned, you were one of just a handful of Republicans to vote to impeach President Trump over inciting that riot.
And we also mentioned death threats.
You had a reaction, very negative reaction, from your constituents, even from family members.
Are you able to have a rational discussion about what happened with any of these people?
REP. PETER MEIJER: Certainly on a one-on-one basis.
I think, oftentimes, we will find that the misunderstanding or where we differ is a lot less significant than it may appear from the outside, especially talking about the lack of response in the immediate hours after the Capitol was broken into.
You know, there's obviously people who have very strong beliefs about the November 2020 presidential election.
But when you start to get down to brass tacks and what actually occurred, clear away some of the fog, some of the deception and the misinformation that's out there, it's very hard to justify how the former president reacted, at the very least in the hours after the Capitol was attacked, when the vice president and the next two individuals in the presidential line of succession were under assault in the Capitol.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to ask how you reconcile those views, because in a poll we have just done, only 10 percent of Republicans said they could call what happened on January 6 an insurrection.
And then, coupled with that, you have the great majority of Republicans who don't believe President Biden won.
How do you explain these views, both of which are clearly not based on facts?
REP. PETER MEIJER: I think you -- whenever you're asking a survey or a polling question, there's a certain defensiveness that can come in.
I think I have seen that plenty of times, where somebody will publicly be very defensive, and then, in a one-on-one conversation, where the guard is let down, where somebody doesn't feel like it's their tribe against another, they're more than willing to accept and acknowledge things.
But when we have a highly polarized context, when it's black or white, when it's all or nothing, when we're dealing with absolutes, it's very tempting to feel like it's us vs. them, when, at the end of the day, we're all Americans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But 10 percent of the Republican Party saying -- members of the Republican Party saying they don't think it was an insurrection.
I also want to ask you, Congressman, about - - you did an interview with NBC News over the weekend.
You were asked about President Trump, whether there was another option for the Republican Party other than to support him.
And you said there's no other option.
I mean, what does it -- what do... (CROSSTALK) REP. PETER MEIJER: Yes, to clarify, when asked about whether -- why there was the reversion back after January 6 to supporting Donald Trump, I said because individuals did not see an alternative, they did not see another path, not that there is no choice, but that we need to be creating the path.
We need to be working on what a party that is reflective of the concerns of conservative Americans, but that also is a party that adheres to the rule of law, what that looks like.
And, to me, that is a charge, that is an opportunity to be defining that, not succumbing to a belief that there is no other option, but that the charge is to create it.
And just to clarify on that poll that only 10 percent of Republicans describe it as an insurrection.
I think the other options were a protest or a riot.
And I think riot was 30 percent, and I think protest was 40 percent, if I'm referencing the same poll.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But I think it's clear that you -- and listening to the police officers we just heard from, there's no doubt in their - - or at least what came across is, they believe this was an attempt to overthrow the results of the election.
Congressman, you didn't vote for this January 6 Committee in the House.
You have said that you want to wait and see what the work product is.
But I did interview yesterday the longtime partner of Brian Sicknick, who was a Capitol Police officer who died the day after the attack on the Capitol.
And she said, unless members of Congress, including Republicans, are able to hold President Trump accountable, there's going to be more violence.
What do you say to Sandra Garza, who -- again, longtime partner of Brian Sicknick?
REP. PETER MEIJER: I say we absolutely have the same fears, that I grieve for the tragedy that struck her and her family in those moments.
I mean, the loss of Officer Sicknick and then the subsequent loss of several other Capitol Police officers and Metropolitan Police officers who took their own lives in the days and weeks and months that followed is an absolute tragedy, and why it is even more frustrating to see people whitewash and downplay the events of January 6.
We have to face it for what it was.
We have to recognize the threat of political violence, and say that we should not be tolerating that.
That was one of the reasons why I voted for impeachment, the fact that we cannot, in our political system, be playing around with such dangerous rhetoric and encouraging, spurring, inciting people to go and try to use force, use threats, use violence in order to achieve a political end.
That cannot be tolerated in our politics.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But... REP. PETER MEIJER: But I would say -- sorry.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I was just -- excuse me.
I was just going to say, but you know the leadership of your party in the House and the majority of Republican members of the House are saying that this committee shouldn't be there, it shouldn't be doing this work, that it's important to look ahead, not to look back.
In other words, it's just the opposite of what these police officers and what Ms. Garza are calling for.
REP. PETER MEIJER: And there were dozens of my Republican colleagues who voted in support of a bipartisan independent commission that was styled after the 9/11 Commission.
And I think -- I'm still deeply disappointed and frustrated that that commission was not formed.
Again, I said that I will look at the work product and the results coming out of the January 6 Select Committee as it continues along.
But, in my mind, the opportunity that was missed -- and I hope that the ultimate work product will be this -- was to have something that could be looked at and viewed objectively by the American people that can be clearing away a lot of, again, the rumors and innuendo and the deception and the misinformation, the whitewashing, the blame-casting that we saw in the days, weeks and months after January 6, and still today trying to make it seem like anything other than it was, which was a violent attempt to interfere with the proceedings of Congress, and specifically the certification of the Electoral College results.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we're hearing your voice, a minority voice in the Republican Party.
Congressman Peter Meijer, thank you very much for joining us.
REP. PETER MEIJER: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, tomorrow, we want to say we will continue our coverage of the January 6 anniversary, including a conversation with the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
COVID surged over the holiday break, but most public schools returned to in person learning this week.
Out of nearly 100,000 public schools in the U.S., more than 90 percent are back with in person classes.
But concerns over the spread of COVID has led some districts to close for the first two weeks of this new year and move to virtual learning.
About 3,500 schools are not back in person yet.
That includes Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Newark.
We are going to look at what's behind those decisions.
And that gives me a chance to introduce our new chief Washington correspondent, Geoff Bennett.
He has been a White House correspondent.
He has long covered politics and many national stories.
We are very glad to have you join us.
GEOFF BENNETT: Well, Judy, thank you so much.
It's a real privilege to get to work with you and the team and really contribute to the solid storytelling and the reliable reporting for which the "NewsHour" is known.
And, Judy, as you mentioned in the introduction, this current spike in COVID cases is presenting a real challenge, not just for school officials and teachers, but also, as you can imagine, for students and parents.
And to learn more about why one school district decided to return to virtual instruction, I spoke with Newark School Superintendent Roger Leon earlier today.
Take a look.
Superintendent Roger Leon, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thanks for your time.
ROGER LEON, Newark Public Schools Superintendent: Thank you, Geoff.
GEOFF BENNETT: So, in your district, as I understand it, nearly 90 percent of classroom teachers are vaccinated, more than 80 percent of students over the age of 12 are vaccinated.
Given all of that, help us understand your decision to switch back to remote learning, at least temporarily.
ROGER LEON: Yes.
So, we have been monitoring all of the COVID-19 positive numbers on a daily basis.
And an interesting phenomenon occurred after Thanksgiving, three weeks afterwards, a spike in numbers, leading to our winter break.
That became the really deciding factor to activate preparation plans for remote instruction, in case the numbers continued to rise.
We did some mandatory testing during the holidays.
And that is exactly what we decided to do, which was activate remote instruction starting on the 3rd, with an anticipated January 18 in person return date.
GEOFF BENNETT: And what has the reaction been so far from parents who are now -- now entering year three of dealing with this pandemic, those who have to deal with all of these disruptions that their kids face?
ROGER LEON: Yes, absolutely, from scared, to concerned, to anxious.
No one appreciates any type of disruption.
That's one of the reasons why we activated it for a two-week time period.
I didn't want to do it for one week, and then have them have to wait at the end of the week, and then activate it again for another week.
That would be more concerning.
So I share in all of the concerns of our parents.
And getting kids back to school in person is the priority, obviously, over the course of the next two weeks.
GEOFF BENNETT: President Biden said today that school districts across the country have all the tests and tools they need to remain open, even given this resurgence in the pandemic.
The governor of New Jersey has expressed much of the same thing.
Do you feel like you have the guidance and the resources you need from the federal and state level to do that, to keep your schools open?
ROGER LEON: In Newark, the not only guidance and support on ground has been absolutely incredible from the governor, as well as the mayor.
So, our ultimate strategy is to work really hard at getting kids back into school, working hard during these next two weeks with our implementation of all of our curriculum changes during remote instruction to do just that.
So, it's a coupling effect of what we're doing now, not to delay time, and then obviously getting kids back into school, so that we can address not only academic issues, but socioemotional learning needs of students as well.
GEOFF BENNETT: Let's talk about those academic issues, because we now know the many ways that children are negatively impacted by these disruptions to their learning, not just the foundational issues, but also with their mental health.
How are you planning to mitigate all of that and deal with it directly?
ROGER LEON: Yes, so one of the most important pieces is that we in Newark didn't need a global pandemic to let us know the importance of addressing the needs of the students that are in our schools.
So we have, from classroom teachers to our school counselors and social workers, really making both/and propositions as it relates to what are curriculum changes that we need to do to meet students where they are and get them to where we only know that their dreams will, in fact, be realized, as well as addressing a lot of what are some socioemotional learning needs that the students actually have as well.
So, there's been a lot of separation that has occurred over the 15 months of the height of the pandemic.
And we actually don't want anything to revert back to the hard work and undo the work that we started doing last April, and then obviously when everyone was in person this September.
So, a lot of intentional efforts occurred over the winter break, where teaching staff members have provided some really good recommendations to make some adaptive changes as to what I'm calling the January reset for all students and staff starting yesterday.
GEOFF BENNETT: And what's the level of morale among those teachers and staff, I mean, who are called on not just to educate students, but are now asked to be effectively public health officials and armchair epidemiologists?
ROGER LEON: Yes.
GEOFF BENNETT: How are they holding up through all of this?
ROGER LEON: Yes, so I think that your categorization of it is so accurate.
We have asked our teaching staff members to go to that well again and to just draw a lot of energy.
We know that our teachers are working extremely hard, as well as our students and their families, and definitely a lot of pressure on the leadership of our schools and our principals to really shoulder a lot of it.
And we know that teachers are not left behind in that all-too-important work.
So, it's both addressing their own needs in their -- personally and in their families, as well as assisting them in supporting the needs of our students and their families as well.
GEOFF BENNETT: Newark School Superintendent Roger Leon, thanks again for your time.
ROGER LEON: Thank you, Geoff.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the blood testing company Theranos and a one-time darling of Silicon Valley, has been convicted of fraud.
The verdict came down last night in the closely watched trial that rippled beyond the tech world.
Stephanie Sy has more.
STEPHANIE SY: Judy, Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty on four charges of fraud for lying to investors about the effectiveness of her blood testing device.
She was acquitted on four other counts related to defrauding patients who used the test.
The jury could not reach a verdict on three other fraud charges.
For more on the wider implications, I'm joined by Margaret O'Mara.
She is a history professor at the University of Washington and author of the book "The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America."
Professor O'Mara, thank you for joining the "NewsHour."
I want to remind viewers that Elizabeth Holmes was a media sensation when she first pitched Theranos as a disrupter in the blood testing space.
And then she had this remarkable fall from grace that culminated in the prosecution yesterday, yet this was a mixed verdict.
What was your big takeaway on the jury's decision?
MARGARET O'MARA, University of Washington: Yes, this was Silicon Valley's trial of the century, indeed.
My takeaway was, I was surprised that a guilty verdict came in.
This is unusual to have these white-collar prosecutions of CEOs, much less a Silicon Valley CEO, is rare.
So, that's a first for Elizabeth Holmes.
But I think the counts on which she was -- the verdict ruled guilty were ones where there was the strongest body of evidence that was really tying her to telling investors one thing, and the reality being quite different, and her accountability as a CEO.
That doesn't mean that the other charges weren't substantial.
But in terms of the evidence presented to the jury and what was being shown to them at the trial, that those charges are the ones that seemed most clear-cut.
STEPHANIE SY: Help us put the importance of this case into context.
The plaintiffs were multimillion-dollar investors and companies like Walgreens.
They lost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Was any greater harm done?
MARGARET O'MARA: I think the bigger lesson here is a bigger lesson about finance and investment.
We have so much money flowing into the system, that some people and families have so much money that investing a few million dollars here and there in a start-up like Theranos, particularly one that is promising such huge returns and has such illustrious people associated with it, like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, it was not that much of a stretch.
What is remarkable, that the trial showed, was kind of how little diligence and investigation some of these companies and investors made before they put their money in and formed alliances with Theranos.
STEPHANIE SY: I cannot think of the last time a Silicon Valley executive this high up was found guilty of criminal fraud.
Was this really a one-off?
Or does this case open a window into a wider problem within tech start-ups?
MARGARET O'MARA: Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos were quite different than most tech start-ups.
They weren't tech, really.
It was a medical device company, a highly regulated space.
They were building things, a physical device.
All those things made the value proposition quite different and made the evidence of fraud much easier to accumulate and to prove.
That doesn't mean that there aren't some really important lessons here for the start-up world in terms of the enthusiasm about young college dropouts, relatively inexperienced, giving them a lot of money and power and credibility, when perhaps what they are building is not something that they're going to be able to deliver.
STEPHANIE SY: Do you think that Holmes' prosecution will affect how start-up entrepreneurs behave?
MARGARET O'MARA: I'm doubtful, I think in part because Silicon Valley insiders have fairly enough distanced themselves and shown that Theranos was a quite different sort of company.
What really changes behavior, Silicon Valley is a boom-and-bust economy.
It always has been.
I study its history.
There's always a big up and a big down.
And, really, what changes the status quo is when there is a larger market correction, when there are investors as a class kind of back away from tech.
Right now, tech stocks are going up and up.
I think we shall see what the next year or two brings in that direction.
STEPHANIE SY: Well, Professor, many have observed that Elizabeth Holmes' persona, starting a biotech company, as you said, as a 19-year-old Stanford dropout, made her sort of the ultimate Silicon Valley fairy tale and may have blinded investors to performing due diligence.
As egregious as the jury may have deemed her fraud was, do you have concerns that the first big Silicon Valley prosecution is of a young woman?
MARGARET O'MARA: It is a challenge.
I don't think her gender was why she was on trial.
I think it had to do with the substance of the company and the fact that there was a very clear -- clear evidence presented and aired about what Theranos was not doing.
That being said, I think one of the reasons that Elizabeth Holmes became so prominent was because of her gender.
She's a rising star in 2013-2014, right around the same time that questions are beginning to be raised publicly about the stark gender imbalance in Silicon Valley leadership, and also criticisms about the Valley's focus on apps and social media platforms, instead of important things that were truly going to change the world.
Here was Elizabeth Holmes kind of giving a counterargument to that critique, saying, here's a female Steve Jobs, just as good as any guy.
Here's someone who's truly changing the world with blood testing technology.
It was a really compelling story.
And a lot of people bought into it.
STEPHANIE SY: Margaret O'Mara, author of "The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America," thank you so much for joining us with your insights.
MARGARET O'MARA: Great to be here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.