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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

. Cassidy Hutchinson: QAnon Conspiracy Discussions And Document Burning In Waning Days Of Trump White House; Biden Says It Is Overdue To Let COVID-Era Restrictions On Migrants Lapse After Supreme Court Allows It To Remain In Place; FlightAware: Southwest Responsible For About 85 Percent Of US Cancelled Flights; FlightAware: Almost Two- Thirds Of All Southwest Flights Canceled Today; Republican Jewish Coalition Condemns "Jew-ish" Rep.-Elect Santos; Two Incoming New York House Republicans Condemn Fellow GOP Congressman-Elect George Santos, For Truth-Challenged Claims; Parents Remember Teen Son Who Died After Accidentally Taking A Fentanyl-Laced Pill; Frostbitten Man Is Recovering In Hospital. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 27, 2022 - 20:00   ET


SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Djokovic was also shut out of the US Open in 2022 due to his vaccination status. He said he was willing to pass up tennis records he might break if it meant remaining unvaccinated.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

AC 360 starts now.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: The former President's Chief-of-Staff setting documents on fire and QAnon being discussed favorably at the highest levels of the White House.

Pamela Brown here, in for Anderson tonight.

Those are just some of the revelations from testimony released today by the January 6 Committee, and in both cases testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, former close aide to then Chief-of-Staff, Mark Meadows.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now with the very latest on this striking, newly revealed testimony. Really just some stunning details coming out of these transcripts -- Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pamela. We've been seeing this throughout the past few days. This one in particular, a lot of new details and that is particularly because one of these is Cassidy Hutchinson's final deposition. It dates from June 2022. Crucially, that was right after Cassidy Hutchinson had fired her Trump World attorney and her new attorney was really letting her correct the record and tell every truth for the Committee.

So first thing, she told the Committee that she saw Mark Meadows burning documents in his office fireplace, she says about a dozen times and that amounted in her estimation to about once or twice a week. That was between December 2020 and January 2021. She says also, at least twice she saw Meadows burning documents after meetings with Republican Congressman Scott Perry, who of course, was subpoenaed by the Committee, but he never complied.

Then in addition, Cassidy Hutchinson told the Committee how these discussions about QAnon conspiracy has really permeated throughout the White House after the election. She said not only did Mark Meadows bring it up, but also Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene. She made mention of what is this far right-wing political movement that spreads these outlandish conspiracy theories.

And then Cassidy Hutchinson said that she had this exchange with White House Trade Adviser, Peter Navarro. Cassidy Hutchinson saying: "At one point, I had sarcastically said, oh, is this from your QAnon friends, Peter,' because Peter would talk to me frequently about his QAnon friends, and he said, 'Have you looked into it yet, Cass? I think they point out a lot of good ideas. You really need to read this, make sure the Chief sees it.'" And Cassidy Hutchinson said, "I did not take this as sarcasm."

Pamela, of course, Peter Navarro has been indicted for not complying with the Committee's subpoenas, but as these transcripts trickle out here, as we're expecting throughout the week, there are a lot of crucial new details in here that we might not have seen before.

BROWN: Yes, and it is just remarkable that a top administration official like Peter Navarro, will be giving credence to QAnon and these ridiculous conspiracy theories.

We're also learning more about what former White House Deputy Press Secretary, Judd Deere told the Committee and rumors that he heard about the former President considering conceding during the week after the 2020 election. What do you know?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, so John Deere, he told the Committee that he really heard this all as gossip from his White House colleagues. But still, it was the week after the 2020 election, he heard from them that Trump, in fact, was considering conceding and even inviting the Biden's to the White House.

So Judd Deere said he was looped in on these conversations, Pamela, because he would have been the one arranging the press access for any sort of visit from the Biden's. So Deere told the Committee this. He said, "In the week after the election, there was gossip around the building that he was seriously considering conceding, even strongly considering inviting the President-elect and the incoming First Lady to the White House."

Of course, though, none of those things happen, Pamela. Trump, you know, refused to concede. He held on to those claims of a stolen election, and none of those rumors actually came to fruition.

BROWN: They didn't. But I know from my reporting at the time that White House officials, they were saying that to reporters that that's what they were hearing. So, really interesting.

Jessica Schneider, stay with us. Thanks so much.

I want to bring in CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, along with CNN legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor Jennifer Rogers.

Gloria, is there any parallel in US history that you're aware of, for a White House Chief-of-Staff to be burning documents in a fireplace inside the White House?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, off the top of my head, I cannot think of any. I mean, even Richard Nixon didn't burn the tapes. There was a gap, but he didn't burn the tapes. I mean, this is stunning.

And look at the timing of this: After the election, before January 6. I mean, I think we should point out that we don't know what those documents were. We don't know whether they were required by the Archives because of the Presidential Records Act to be preserved, but I would say that unless this was some kind of a shopping list that he was throwing inside the fireplace for these dozen times that this is a real problem for Mark Meadows.

What was he thinking about when he threw things in the fireplace that he thought needed to be destroyed?


BROWN: Well, and we know according to the testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, two of the times were after meetings with the Republican Congressman Scott Perry, who tried to install Jeffrey Clark, as head of DOJ as the Attorney General who tried to get DNI to investigate some of these conspiracy theories, and as we know, defied the subpoena from the Committee. Jennifer, is there any legal justification you know of that would permit a White House Chief-of-Staff to burn documents like this?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, as Gloria said, Pamela, only if it was something that really has nothing at all to do with the job, and almost everything has to be maintained pursuant to the Presidential Records Act. So, it is likely that whatever was being burned, was being burned in violation of the Act.

The problem is, if you're thinking about criminal law, of course, you know, it's not good enough to say it probably was. You would need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But it just gives prosecutors another reason to dig into Mark Meadows as potentially either a criminal defendant or their crucial insider witness in their investigation.

BROWN: Yes, let's talk a little bit more about that because we know that Cassidy Hutchinson is already cooperating with the Justice Department, how do you think this fits into their investigation? And does it give them leverage against Meadows?

RODGERS: Well, they've long had a lot of leverage against Mark Meadows. I mean, he has been central to all of the different strands of the plot that they've been pursuing for some time. This is just, you know, added to the pile of evidence that they want to confront Mark Meadows about.

You know, they will certainly be looking at Meadows, the question is, is he already talking to them? Are they treating him as a potential defendant or they're going to approach him as a cooperating witness? You know, that'll be for DOJ to decide, but they have all of those options on the table, because there is just so much evidence that Mark Meadows was the center of this conspiracy and knew all about its various parts.

BROWN: Gloria, what do you make of the fact that former Trump aide, Peter Navarro, as well as Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene were pushing QAnon conspiracy theories inside the White House?

BORGER: It is bizarre, it is outrageous, and I never thought I'd say White House and QAnon in the same sentence. And it is remarkable to me that this even went as high as the President, the former President himself.

I mean, Cassidy Hutchinson talks about Marjorie Taylor Greene being at a Trump rally in Georgia before January 6th and this is a quote from Cassidy Hutchinson, she was showing him pictures of them, meaning QAnon traveling to Washington, DC for the rally on the 6th. What did the former President say about that? Oh, that's great. So excited to see QAnon at my rally? I mean, what was that about?

BROWN: Well, and I remember in covering the White House, the President was asked multiple times about QAnon, and he was always reluctant to bash them.

BORGER: Exactly.

BROWN: You know, or criticize them. So this just kind of adds an interesting layer to that. Jessica, Cassidy Hutchinson also testified to the Committee about how Mark Meadows was managing Oval Office meetings during the transition period. What did she tell them?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, so we're talking about Mark Meadows, you know, she saw him burning documents, but it also turns out that he was giving this directive to some of the White House staff during the transition period, to keep what he called a close hold on any of their meetings.

And he basically said, don't worry about what exactly that means. I'll explain it later. But don't give any of this information out. Don't leak it. Don't tell anybody.

And on top of that, Cassidy Hutchinson says that that means that none of these meetings were recorded in the Oval Office Diary, so there is no record of them. She says that she doesn't really remember exactly what was discussed at these meetings, if anything surrounding January 6 was discussed.

But it really adds this other layer to Mark Meadows potentially, you know, on the one hand burning documents, now also making a concerted effort not to create any documents that were supposed to be created as a record of what was going on at the White House. So, that's another concerning element to this. BROWN: Yes, and Gloria, what Cassidy Hutchinson said about this was corroborated by what sources told CNN that the White House diarist told the Committee earlier this year that significantly less information about Trump's calls and visits were being provided in the days leading up to January 6th.

So putting all the pieces together, and knowing what was happening in the months after the election, it begs the question of what Meadows was trying to keep close hold.

BORGER: And who was he trying to protect? This is the question. If the President's -- the former President's behavior grew more and more bizarre, if there were discussions going on inside the Oval Office about January 6th, for example, or about changes at the Justice Department, et cetera, et cetera, which we've reported. These are important conversations that need to be archived.

And what Mark Meadows was saying is, shh, don't tell the American people about this. Don't let the American people know what was going on in the Oval Office.


BROWN: Gloria Borger, Jennifer Rodgers, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

Still to come tonight, the Supreme Court rules on Title 42, that COVID-era restriction on migrants. We're going to have all the details and we're going to lay them out for you.

And then later, a rise in the death toll from that epic snowstorm that buried the Buffalo region and a look at the travel nightmare that has ensued much of it due to Southwest Airlines. What exactly went wrong there? We're going to take a look.


BROWN: A short time ago, President Biden responded to today's decision by the Supreme Court to allow a controversial COVID-era restriction on migrants to remain in effect while legal challenges play out.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Court is not going to decide until June apparently, and in the meantime, we have to enforce it -- but I think it is overdue.


BROWN: President Biden's comments there that he thinks it is overdue refers to his administration's continued desire to let the Title 42 authority expire.

We want to go now to CNN's Rosa Flores who is in El Paso, Texas tonight where officials say about 1,500 migrants are crossing the border every day. Rosa, what more do we know about the Supreme Court decision and its impact there on the border?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Pamela here on the border and along the US Southern border, all of the back and forth with Title 42 is really fodder for human smugglers and human traffickers.


Let me put it to you like this. I can't tell you how many migrants I've talked to who say that word spread in their communities that this was their chance to come to the United States for their American Dream because the border was open. These individuals have sold everything they own. They trekked their children through dangerous jungles and through multiple countries only to come to the United States border and learn that the border is actually closed, and then they've been caught in this limbo back and forth.

And I know that the Biden administration has said multiple times that they have delivered the message that the border is actually closed, but here is the reality: The message is not being received in a lot of these countries. And so long as this back and forth continues, because, Pamela, as you know, we've been here before.

Back in April and May, we were doing live shots just like this talking about how Title 42 was going to end then, and then through the Court system, the can gets kicked down the road for months and months, and here we are again.

And so all of this back and forth, just is fodder to human smugglers who could then lie to individuals in countries across Central and South America to tell them exactly that, that this is their chance, and of course, they are lying, and they have zero regard for human life -- Pamela.

BROWN: It's really sad. Rosa Flores, thank you.

Joining us now El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us tonight. What is your reaction to the Supreme Court ruling?

MAYOR OSCAR LEESER (D), EL PASO, TEXAS: Well, I think that we've seen as we were talking earlier, this is beyond, this is bigger than just Title 42 as we've seen the big impact that started really back in August. We've had quite a large number of asylum seekers coming through the border, so this is a lot bigger right now than really Title 42.

BROWN: The Executive Director of Hope Border Institute, whose organization helps to run some of the shelters in El Paso said this about the Supreme Court ruling: "The decision of SCOTUS will extend the bottleneck at the border, create unsustainable pressure on border enforcement and lead to more deaths." Do you agree with that statement, and the idea that keeping this border policy in place will increase the pressure on Border Patrol in the future?

LEESER: Well, like I said, it's bigger than Title 42, you know that the city alone has done a lot to make sure that we continue to take care of the asylum seekers. We've opened the County Coliseum. We've actually also opened two schools to make sure that we have plenty of shelter and we will continue to do that.

We have warming centers all over the city because we want to make sure that we don't lose any lives. We want to make sure that people are treated with dignity and respect, and it's not only the City of El Paso, the County, the County Judge, our Congresswoman and everyone that has been involved within the city has been doing that, the State Senator.

And as you see in the picture you're showing there, people out on the street, because these are people that do not want to accept shelter. We actually go three times a day, and we offer them shelter, we offer them protection. And then we need to -- we'll continue to do that.

These are people that are from Venezuela, most likely and would be expelled if they went into the any shelter, but that's not the deal. But we will make sure that we treat them and we take care of them. We want to get everybody off the street to make sure that they don't have any additional risk on themselves or anyone else.

BROWN: Right, because there have been dangerous freezing temperatures for people across the country. What has the effect been on El Paso and the migrant population crossing the border?

LEESER: Well, you know, we were at 20 degrees just a few days ago and will continue to be cold. So we will continue to make sure that we provide shelters and we provide, you know, housing, and they'll continue to provide warming centers.

But as you see in those pictures, these are -- again, we have -- you know, we've had as many as 2,500 crossings a day, and that will continue, and this is while Title 42 still in place.

So again, this is beyond Title 42 and we've had incredible support from the Federal government. We've gotten about $10 million in front money to be able to provide the service. But again, this is just a Band-Aid on a broken immigration system. The system has to be fixed because we can't continue to go this way.

We can't continue to work, whether it's El Paso all the way up the Texas borders, we can't continue to go in this manner with a broken like I said immigration system that has to be fixed and it is bigger than the United States. We have to work with the UN and countries around us to be able to fix it because, again, it's a Band-Aid that it cannot continue to go in this way.

BROWN: Mayor Leeser, thank you for your time tonight.

Up next, how freezing weather caused a meltdown for Southwest Airlines and a nightmare for Southwest passengers that is far from over. How did the airline get it so wrong? And what does the CEO have to say about it? We're going to have details on that up next.



BROWN: The storm related death toll is now at least 54 nationwide, 31 in the Buffalo area alone, which saw nearly four feet of snow and more than 37 straight hours of blizzard conditions. Right now though, as you can see on your screen the big problem remains air travel, and the specific culprit is Southwest Airlines. According to FlightAware, the more than 3,100 cancellations in the country today, about 85 percent were Southwest flights. In fact, Southwest today was responsible for more than half of all canceled flights on Planet Earth.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called it a meltdown.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, US SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: This is an unacceptable situation. You look at the number of passengers who are stranded, you look at how hard it is even to get somebody on the phone to address it. From what I can tell, Southwest is unable to locate even where their own crews are, let alone their own passengers, let alone baggage.


BROWN: So late today, Southwest CEO put out a video statement apologizing for the mess and offering this explanation.


BOB JORDAN, CEO, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: The tools we use to recover from disruption serve as well, 99 percent of the time, but clearly we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never again face what's happening right now.



BROWN: And he added: "We are optimistic to be back on track before next week."

In a moment, we'll be joined by Southwest Airlines Captain and Vice President of the union representing Southwest pilots. But first let's go to CNN's Gabe Cohen at Baltimore's BWI Airport.

So Gabe, describe what you have seen there today. Are passengers getting any help from Southwest?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, we've seen travelers waiting in this line to rebook for more than three hours, some of them can't get a flight until January. And for those who are calling Customer Service, well, many of them are waiting on hold for even longer. Some people are literally sleeping here at the airport. So you can imagine the level of frustration here.

Now, as you mentioned, Southwest CEO just put out that video statement saying in it that they are going to take care of these stranded customers, as he puts it, go above and beyond offering refunds, and proactively reaching out to those folks who are dealing with really costly reroute and detours. In some cases, they are providing food vouchers to folks, hotels, and transportation.

But look, I've spoken with quite a few travelers today who told me at this point, they're paying their way through this. They are footing the bill because they can't reach Customer Service.

One young woman told me she paid roughly a thousand dollars for a flight home to Syracuse on another airline, because Southwest can't rebook her until New Year's Eve. And a couple trying to get back to Buffalo told me they've spent more than a thousand dollars on their hotel, on food, and on new clothing, because they've been stranded here in Baltimore without their luggage for four days.

Now, Southwest says for customers like that, they can save their receipts and submit them and those are going to be reviewed on a case by case basis. But I have to tell you, there are quite a few travelers who have said to me, they're skeptical, and they're worried that in the end, they're going to eat these costs, even though the Department of Transportation is saying they expect Southwest to take care of these stranded passengers and they're going to hold them accountable, Pam, if they don't.

BROWN: Yes, that's what we heard from Pete Buttigieg today right here on CNN.

All right, Gabe Cohen, thank you so much for that.

Joining us now from Denver, Southwest Captain, Second Vice President of the Southwest Pilots Association, Tom Nekouei.

Captain Nekouei, when you hear Gabe describing what passengers have been telling him and you see the same scene of stranded people in airports across the country with Southwest responsible for the vast majority of these flight cancellations, what is your reaction?

TOM NEKOUEI, SOUTHWEST CAPTAIN, SECOND VICE PRESIDENT OF THE SOUTHWEST PILOTS ASSOCIATION: Thanks for having me on. I can tell you that I am happy to hear that Mr. Jordan is finally coming to terms with the fact that we have internal problems that have kind of perpetuated this and caused this after the snow event that we had just last Wednesday.

But I do disagree with him on one thing. The tools that we have to recover from these irregular operations don't work 99 percent of the time. They might have worked 99 percent of the time back in the 80s and the 90s, but the slides that we are right now, if you look at our meltdowns that are increasing in number, and increasing in intensity, and the recovery time from these meltdowns are becoming longer and longer.

By the time we are out of this one, it will be well over nine days, at least what they are planning on doing. So when I hear passengers like that, the external customers, you know, we love our jobs, we love our company, and we love our passengers. So when we hear that, somebody said it earlier today that we're kind of tired of apologizing on behalf of the company because they haven't given us tools, as Mr. Jordan alluded to, as well to do our jobs, to complete the flights or schedule the crews.

This was very much self-perpetuated because of the massive reassignments that the company does. If you look at our competitors right here in Denver, United Airlines, for instance, they went through the exact same weather system as we did, and A., they didn't as many cancels many flights and B., their recovery is extremely -- it is very expeditious versus us, we're still recovering with 50,000 bags at the airport, and now we're over 15,000 cancelled flights.

So those tools that we've identified actually back in 2016, and brought it to the attention of previous CEO, Gary Kelly, this is basically what's happening now, and that is the lack of infrastructure, the crew scheduling system and the software that is not adequate, and the massive reassignments that they do with pilots and flight attendants to get them to the airplane. That there is an execution problem to get pilots and flight attendants to the airplanes to operate once something like a weather event or an air traffic control event happens, this company has a really hard time recovering.

BROWN: So then if the company had listened to you and your colleagues back in 2016 and upgraded the systems then, would this dramatic disruption still be happening? What do you think?


NEKOUEI: We believe so. We believe that it wouldn't be happening, not to deliver severity. We have communication and documents that we sent over to the company that we communicated with the company back in 2016 because we were a very analytical organization swappers, very data driven.

And we showed them exactly what's causing this recovery from these meltdowns, and that is reassignments. Reassignments, meaning pilots that are on a certain trip are supposed to fly a circuit trip, get reassigned right away in massive numbers. We're talking 1,400 percent to 1,500 percent increases in reassignments when a weather event happens.

And the problem that the company had was an infrastructure IT problem to be able to get those pilots to those airplanes. That has been going on since 2016. We identified that problem. And earlier this month, we announced $428 million in dividend payments to shareholders. I am one.


NEKOUEI: It's great. But the proportional amount has not been reinvested in the company infrastructure. IT being the biggest one. And that's why we're seeing these meltdowns that are getting worse and worse, and the recovery is becoming pretty impossible really. BROWN: Yes. And it's interesting, a lot of the context here that according to the Wall Street Journal, Southwest has grown over the past few years, expanding to 18 new cities and becoming profitable again after the pandemic. And I was just reading the CEO's bio, and apparently, he used to be in charge of technology for Southwest.

In fact, that's how he started his job there at Southwest. So there's a lot more questions that all of this raises. But Captain Tom Nekouei, thank you for helping us better understand the thinking from the union and other captains with Southwest. We appreciate it.


BROWN: Up next, fresh condemnation for the truth challenge Congressman-elect George Santos, including from fellow New York Republicans, not to mention a Republican Jewish group that is not amused by the fact he was Jewish and claim only.



BROWN: Two incoming New York House Republicans late today condemned the Congressman-elect, who could be their conference colleague, George Santos. One is calling for an ethics probe. Also today, the Republican Jewish Coalition issued a condemnation of its own. The reason? When he said this to the organization about being Jewish, he was lying.


GEORGE SANTOS (R), CONGRESSMAN-ELECT, NEW YORK: Shabbat shalom to everybody and thank you for being here. Thank you for having me. My name is George Santos. And I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that my good friend Congressman Lee Zeldin really paved the way for all of us in New York.

Lee has served as an inspiration, as a friend and as a leader for the Jewish folks in Congress and for all of us in this room by, at one point, being just two members. So now we're going to be three again.


BROWN: Again, that claim that his election of Congress would make him the third Jewish Republican in the House was a lie. And it wasn't the only lie he told about who he is, where he's worked, his education and more. He is now trying to explain it all away, and how he's going about it doesn't seem to be helping his case.

More now from CNN's Eva McKend.



SANTOS: Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did.

MCKEND (voice-over): And an apology.

SANTOS: And I'm sorry, and it shouldn't be done.

MCKEND (voice-over): After a week of controversy, Congressman-elect George Santos fessing up to lying on the campaign trail about parts of his resume as he seeks to minimize and defend the extent of his tall tales on everything from his education and work history to his philanthropic pursuits and Jewish heritage.

SANTOS: I apologize if anybody feels hurt or betrayed. I will gain everybody's trust back by just delivering results for them and making sure they do not forget why they voted for me in the first place, which was to get stuff done.

MCKEND (voice-over): Santos has boasted of working for investment banks, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. He now admits he did not. The congressman-elect claimed he received degree from both NYU and Baruch College. He now says he did not. But he maintains he's not a criminal and still intends to serve in Congress.

SANTOS: I'm not resigning. I have to leave Congress guy. It's going to be by a pink slip by the voters November of 2024.

MCKEND (voice-over): And then there are the questions surrounding his alleged Jewish heritage.

SANTOS: We're no stranger to persecution. My grandfather fleeing Ukraine in 1920s to Belgium, then fleeing Belgium to Brazil in 1940.

MCKEND (voice-over): Those claims were contradicted by family trees compiled by genealogy websites, records on Jewish refugees, and interviews with multiple genealogists. One professional genealogist who spoke with CNN said there's no sign of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage and no indication of name changes along the way.

Santos now saying he never claimed to be Jewish.

SANTOS: I always joked I'm Catholic, but I'm also Jew-ish, as in ish. And I've made that joke because growing up, I grew up fully aware that my grandparents were Jewish.

MCKEND (voice-over): But CNN learning that Santos described himself as a proud American Jew in a document he shared with prominent Jewish groups.

SANTOS: Shabbat shalom to everybody.

MCKEND (voice-over): Santos now drawing the ire of the Republican Jewish Coalition who says they were deceived. Santos will no longer be welcome at RJC events.

SANTOS: I'm not a fraud. I'm not a cartoon character. I'm not some mythical creature that was invented. I'm no Russian puppet.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Wow. Eva McKend joins us now. So, Eva, I was on the phone tonight with a GOP House member who said, quote, look, nobody wants to be associated with him other than Marjorie, talking about Marjorie Taylor Green, in her tweet defending him. And this source says House Republican Leader McCarthy should speak out and say Santos won't be given any committee assignments at the very least. What else are you hearing from Republican lawmakers about this?


MCKEND: Well, Pam, you know, what we are hearing publicly from these Republicans clearly differs from what they are saying privately, publicly to Long Island. Incoming congressman have come forward with one calling for a House Ethics Committee investigation and potentially a law enforcement probe, too. But for the most part, they're following Kevin McCarthy's lead and staying silent as this whole episode continues to play out.

BROWN: Yes. All right, Eva McKend, thanks so much.

And perspective now from CNN Political Commentator and former Republican -- Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. All right. So, Congressman Dent, as we noted, there is already one Republican calling for an ethics investigation. How do you see this playing out?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, let me just say this, Pamela. I think this gentleman, Mr. Santos, is going to have a lot of problems. He's already become a distraction and an embarrassment for the party. I suspect he will be seated. He will come under tremendous pressure to resign.

You know, last night, I thought most of his problems were more political rather than legal. Although, I'm starting to think that he has some real problems with his financial disclosures. Based on what I read, I think in another news source, it was The Washington Post, you know, he reported that in 2020 that he had earned a $5,000 commission and had no assets.

When he ran into 2022, he filed a financial disclosure suggesting that he was worth millions of dollars. And he even lent, according to the FBC, I think, $580,000 to one of his political committees. So you better be truthful if you are signing those financial disclosures to the House and there are criminal violations for those types of errors.

And, by the way, I want to be very clear. I was chair of the Ethics Committee, and members routinely had incidental errors or omissions on their financial disclosures. And they usually just amended them quickly. But they're usually minor errors or oversights. But if there are serious discrepancies here, that will invite real scrutiny from, I suspect, law enforcement entities.

So I think he's got a lot of problems. And by the way, I served at a time too, Pamela, when members -- and I was chair of the Ethics Committee and served on the committee for eight years -- and I saw a lot of dirty laundry. I remember the kissing congressman forced to resign. Another one for marital infidelity. He resigned.

Remember, Anthony Weiner resigned. At that time, it was not a criminal matter. Another one had tickle fights with his staff. He resigned. I mean, I think we had a long list of members. Another one who had a minor drug infraction, he resigned. And oftentimes they resigned to avoid further embarrassment and shame to themselves and to their families, but also to protect the institution.

And the leaders usually stepped in, the speaker and the Minority Leader, given, depending which party, was affected, would step in and try to force a resignation. And I suspect that's what should happen here.

Now, whether or not the Republican leader that's going to be Kevin McCarthy assuming he becomes a speaker, whether he'll do that or not, I don't know.


DENT: But this is going to be a real problem for members.

BROWN: But it's interesting because you have this added twist of that, that Kevin McCarthy needs his vote, right, to become speaker. As I mentioned to Eva, I was talking to one Republican tonight who said, look, Republicans need to come out hard to this. Now this person I spoke to, hadn't, there's only been two that I've seen from New York that have come out and publicly said something.

But do you expect that to increase? Do you expect to eventually hear from Kevin McCarthy? And do you expect action to be taken?

DENT: Well, I think at some point that Kevin McCarthy will have to respond to the questions. Look, we're a holiday week, but they're going to be coming back into session on January the third for the vote for speaker. I suspect questions are going to be raised at that time and I suspect he will have to answer around that time.

Now, again, I don't think that he is going to -- I think he will be seated. Look, he's not the first congressman to, you know, to lie on his resume. I mean, his very egregious lies, obviously. But -- so he's got to deal with that. But I don't think anything is -- if there's going to happen to him on or before January 3 when they have the speaker vote.

BROWN: All right, we will have to wait and see, but it seems like it gets worse with each passing day. Charlie Dent, thank you so much.

And still ahead --

DENT: Thank you.

BROWN: -- the country struggling to contain the Fentanyl crisis. We're going to introduce you to the parents who lost a teen child to it and they are now working to make sure no one else goes through what they did.



BROWN: In 2021, the CDC says more than 71,000 people in the U.S. died due to overdosing on synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl. A 23 percent jump from the previous year. CNN's Josh Campbell spoke with the parents of one teen who died after taking a fentanyl laced pill and they're trying to sound the alarm for other families.


CHRIS DIDIER, SON DIED OF FENTANYL POISONING: I found Zach asleep at his desk. His head was laying down on his arm. I could feel before I even touched him that something was horribly wrong.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every parent's worst nightmare. 17-year-old Zach Didier found unresponsive in his room two days after Christmas of 2020. Medics arrived and began resuscitation efforts. But it was too late.

C. DIDIER: And I started resuming CPR and they just stood there and I got mad at them and said, guys, help me save my boy. When they didn't, I started trying to talk to Zach and begged him, don't go. Come back. Please come back. Do not go.

LAURA DIDIER, SON DIED OF FENTANYL POISONING: I walked up, and Chris just said, our baby is gone.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): We sat down with Chris and Laura Didier inside Zach's old high school theater classroom, surrounded by memories of their son.

L. DIDIER: He loved school, he loved sports. He starred in the musical. Zach was such a stellar young man, and he always wanted to help other people.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Zach's sudden death initially a mystery to investigators, but the Placer County coroner near Sacramento had two theories on the day of his death, either an undetected medical issue or fentanyl.


C. DIDIER: And that further spiled us into --

L. DIDIER: Into confusion.

C. DIDIER: Yes, debilitating confusion. It's like, why would you say that word? We had no red flags of Zach having struggles with any kind of drug use or addiction or depression.

DR. SCOTT HADLAND, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Nine out of every 10 overdose deaths and teenagers involves opioids and most commonly involves fentanyl.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Dr. Scott Hadland is head of adolescent and young adult medicine at Boston's Mass General for Children Hospital.

HADLAND: Fentanyl is so potent that teens, particularly teens who have never used an opioid before and have no tolerance to them, can die really quickly. We're talking within seconds to minutes.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): New CDC data indicate the most common place for teens to overdose is at home, and experts say there are various reasons they turn to pills.

HADLAND: About two out of every five teens who overdose has a history of struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems. And in many cases, these problems have gone unaddressed.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): In Los Angeles County alone, health officials recently announced accidental fentanyl overdoses skyrocketed over 1,200 percent from 2016 through 2021.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem is very serious, not just in the city of L.A. but nationwide.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): To understand where many teens are obtaining fentanyl, we spoke with an LAPD narcotics detective. We agreed not to name him, as his work involves undercover operations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more personal sites would be Facebook, Marketplace, Instagram, and Snapchat. If you're buying it on a social media account, or you're buying it from somebody on the street or a friend, then most likely it's going to be counterfeit.

CAMPBELL (on-camera): If you look at these photos, the fake pill looks just like the real pill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They sure do. The dealer's main objective is to get you hooked, and if you don't die from it, then you're a customer for as long as you live.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): In Zach Didier's case, his parents said he met a drug dealer on Snapchat who sold him a deadly fentanyl pill that Zach thought was the pain reliever Percocet.

MORGAN GIRE, PLACER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Zach's case was really the first for our county dealing with whether or not to hold someone who provides drugs to someone else who ultimately dies, whether or not to hold them responsible for their death. And if so, how much? The message to dealers are, we are fed up. We are tired of seeing young people dying in our communities.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Zach's dealer was sentenced to 17 years in prison. But Placer County's district attorney, who has advocated for aggressive charges against dealers, says prosecution alone won't solve the fentanyl crisis.

GIRE: The solution will be education and awareness and talking to parents, talking to teachers.

C. DIDIER: I've had a lot of struggle -- CAMPBELL (voice-over): Warning families about the dangers of fentanyl

has become a life mission for Zach's parents, who now spend countless hours going into schools, telling their shattering story.

L. DIDIER: It's hard as it is to talk about it, and as hard as it is to share the story. I feel him with me when I do it. I feel him helping me find the words, even --

CAMPBELL (on-camera): What is it that goes through your mind before you step out onto the stage?

L. DIDIER: I hope we reach them. I see their faces. I just scan the room and they're listening and absorbing it, and I just think, God, please let us reach them.


CAMPBELL: And Pamela, Zach's family believes that they've already saved lives. And one chilling example, they were contacted by a parent who saw Zach's story and said that they made their child watch this presentation that the family gives as they go about telling their story. The child admitted to their parents that they had just bought a pill on social media.

The parents had that pill tested. Lo and behold, it contained a deadly dose of fentanyl. But for the parents telling their story, that child could have been the next victim. And for parents out there who might be asking how can I talk to my kid about fentanyl? Teen health professionals say that you want to approach the conversation in the spirit of curiosity, ask your teen open-ended questions like, what do you know about fentanyl? What do you know about its deadly effects?

And finally, I just want to say, I know the Didier family is watching tonight, Pamela. Today marks two years since they lost their son. And I just want to say, on behalf of all of us at CNN, thank you for letting us tell his story. Thank you for what you're doing every day to help ensure that other parents out there don't have to experience the pain that you've endured. Pamela?

BROWN: Yes, it's really turned their pain into purpose, saving lives, just like that antidote you shared. Incredible. Josh Campbell, thank you so much. We'll be right back.



BROWN: Tonight, a lighter note to end the broadcast. A woman became a true hero after taking in a man who was stranded in Buffalo, New York's deadly blizzard. A life saved, thanks to the kindness of a stranger. 360's Gary Tuchman has the story.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The worst of Mother Nature bringing out the best of human nature. This is Buffalo resident Sha'Kyra Aughtry on Facebook Live.

SHA'KYRA AUGHTRY, RESCUED MAN WITH FROSTBITE DURING BLIZZARD: I currently have an older 64-year-old white man in my house. I found him yesterday. I heard him screaming for help.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In the midst of western New York's blizzard, Sha'Kyra spotted and heard the man in terrible pain in a frigid cold outside her house on the morning of Christmas Eve. Her boyfriend carried the man inside. That man is Joey White, seeing this picture at a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game.

AUGHTRY: He got away from his home, that he lives in a group home, he told me.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joey's sister says her brother is mentally challenged and does indeed live in a group home. He works at a movie theater. May have gotten scared during the blizzard and tried to walk home from the theater. Getting lost in the heavy snow outside the mother of three's house.

Sha'Kyra did her best to take care of him, to comfort him, feed him, and pleaded for help with phone calls and on Facebook Live.

AUGHTRY: This man is not about to die over here on 111. You all need to get this man some help.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But her neighborhood was virtually impassable. Christmas Eve became Christmas Day. Joey was in immense pain with severe frostbite on his hands.

AUGHTRY: Joe? Listen to Joe. How are you feeling, Joe? Joe ready to go. He ready to go. He needs to go because he needs medical attention. I had to -- he had a ring on his finger. I had to use these to cut the ring off of his finger. I'm not no surgeon.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): With her three children by her side, Sha'Kyra tried to comfort Joey.



AUGHTRY: You're feeling better? You're trying to feel better?


AUGHTRY: Pardon me?

WHITE: I'm going to die.

AUGHTRY: No, you're not going to die. We're not talking about death. We see, this how you know, he needs help.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And that help was about to come.