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At This Hour

Trump Asks Supreme Court To Stop January 6 Committee From Obtaining His White House Records; NASA's Most Powerful Telescope Preps For Christmas Launch; American Girl Releases One Of Its First Biracial Dolls. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 24, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Pushing back on Donald Trump, the January 6th committee now asking the Supreme Court to speed up its decision on whether they'll consider Donald Trump's appeal attempting to keep his White House records out of their hands.

Trump filed the appeal to the high court yesterday, only after he's already lost this fight in two lower courts.

Let's get over to CNN's Katelyn Polantz for more detail on this.

Katelyn, what is the House committee asking for?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Kate, they are trying to get access to documents that are still secret. The committee can't look at these documents right now, they can't ask witnesses about them, and it's more than 700 pages of records. So, these are things the committee believes would be key to their understanding of January 6th, what happened that day, especially around Donald Trump in the West Wing, what his advisers were saying and doing.

Those things are like activity logs, call logs, schedules from the White House. This is what the committee can't see, drafts of speeches, notes on talking points that were being given and discussed by the president, and three pages of handwritten notes from Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

Now, Meadows was talking about the possibility of disrupting the Electoral College certification in Congress. So, those are really key documents they're looking for. But this case is also a clash over timing in court.

This case has moved really, really quickly as far as cases like these go. The House Select Committee wants that to happen because there's about ten months until there's an election where the House could change hands. The committee investigation could shut down. And so far judges have recognized that need to move fast.

Now, at this point in time, Trump has lost but still has control, still has secrecy of the documents, and he's told the court that the documents should stay private while they are weighing bigger issues of the legal questions about the presidency.

So he said in his filing the limited interest the committee may have in immediately obtaining the request of records pales in comparison to President Trump's interest in securing judicial review before he suffering irreparable harm. We don't know if the justices will do that, if they'll take their time in the way that Donald Trump wants them to, but it is in their hands now -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Katelyn, thank you so much for that.

So, speaking of Donald Trump and speaking like Donald Trump, voters in France will soon decide who will be their next president, and one candidate is drawing very clear comparisons to former President Trump.

CNN's Cyril Vanier has more on the right-wing TV personality turned presidential hopeful.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The political force shaking up France's presidential campaign. Eric Zemmour, anti- immigration, anti-Islam ideologue delivering his first official speech as a candidate.

ERIC ZEMMOUR, FRANCE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Obviously, I'm not a racist. You're not a racist. All you want is to defend your country, our homeland, the heritage of our ancestors.

VANIER: He promised zero immigration and singled out French Muslims. This is the reaction we've been getting.

Moments later, his campaign marred by violence. This is how Zemmour's supporters responded to an anti-racism protest.

Convicted twice, found guilty of religious and racial hatred and fined. Zemmour has drawn comparisons to another fire-breathing populace.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

ZEMMOUR (through translator): They're thieves, assassins, rapists. That's all they are.

TRUMP: They can try to steal the election from us.

ZEMMOUR (through translator): Don't let them steal the election from you.

VANIER: Zemmour and Trump, the parallels, however imprecise, are hard to miss. Political outsiders who capitalized on their TV fame to launch an unlikely presidential bid, their promise --

TRUMP: We will make America great again.

VANIER: -- bring the country back to an imagined former glory. The France of Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle, says Zemmour and his

campaign announcement.

He draws inspiration from Donald Trump, explains his biographer. He loved that Trump never backed down. Whenever he was asked, he would respond, build the wall. That's how Zemmour wants to run, he says.


So, Zemmour, the French Trump? Almost. The former TV personality still a long shot candidate is one part Trump, one part Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: How precisely is diversity or strength? He's not from this country in that sense.

VANIER: Zemmour, the now ex-opinion journalist, is a facsimile of the Fox News star, same debating styles, same cable used platform, same enviable ratings, and the same obsession with culture wars.

ZEMMOUR (through translator): We must choose names from the calendar, the names of Christian saints.

Your mother was wrong.

VANIER: And like Carlson, Zemmour never had interest in running for office, until he did.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, Paris.


BOLDUAN: Cyril, thank you for that.

Still ahead for us, one of NASA's grandest missions in years and it's coming just in time for Christmas. What the James Webb telescope may teach all of us about the origins of the universe. We'll be back.



BOLDUAN: Tomorrow, NASA is getting a Christmas gift decades in the making. They're ready to launch the James Webb telescope into space. It's not just the biggest and most powerful NASA has ever constructed, it could answer some of the biggest questions we have about our universe and how it began.

CNN's Kristin Fisher is here with more on this.

It's like no small feat. Just, you know, answer the questions of the universe. Everything about this is fascinating. What is going to happen tomorrow?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this launch is about as high-stakes as it gets for NASA. If heaven forbid something goes wrong tomorrow, that is more than two decades, $10 billion down the drain just like that. It would be a huge embarrassment for NASA and a massive blow to astronomers all over the world.

But if I would goes well and NASA believes it will, this telescope could truly transform our understanding of the universe and can answer questions like where did that very first light in the cosmos come from and are we alone in the universe?

Here's NASA administrator Bill Nelson on our air just this morning.


BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: It's 100 times more powerful than the Hubble space telescope. It's brought all of this revelation. Yes, it's a time machine, Jim. It looks back and captures the light shortly after the Big Bang, and that's over 13 billion years ago that that light in the formation of the first galaxy has been traveling to us.


FISHER: So you hear senator nelson talking about how the Webb telescope is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope. So this is essentially like going from the camera quality on an old flip phone to an iPhone 13, right? I mean, it's just going to be a massive upgrade in terms of the kinds of images and light that this telescope can see.

But another big difference, and this is where the Webb telescope is at a bit of a disadvantage. Remember, the Hubble telescope had some issues early on and astronauts had to go and repair it. The Webb telescope is going to be so far away that no astronauts can go and fix it. That's why not just the launch tomorrow but the many days afterwards as this telescope sort of unfurls, while NASA and the entire global astronomer community will be watching this really on pins and needles, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thanks, Kristin. Really appreciate it.

OK. So, for more on this, someone who knows more about this than most, one of the people behind this extraordinary effort, NASA's director of sciences and exploration, Mark Clampin.

Thank you for being here.

We heard NASA administrator talking about kind of what the mission is. But how do you describe what the mission of Webb is?

MARK CLAMPIN, NASA DIRECTOR OF SCIENCES & EXPLORATION: So, I would say that Webb is, as you heard, the largest space telescope that NASA has ever flown.

Another key thing to remember is that it's also working in a new part of the electromagnetic spectrum. So Hubble sees in visible, Webb will see in infrared, which is heat radiation. So it will open up with its profound sensitivity a whole new sort of vision or visibility into the universe that we haven't had before. So as you heard, we want to understand how the very first galaxies unfolded in the universe and track how the universe has evolved over time. We also want to be able to understand how stars are born and also, as we've learned more recently in the last two decades, there are now lots of stars that have planets. We really want to start studying in some detail the atmospheres of those planets so we can start to understand what kind of conditions we need to look for in order to understand planets, if they're inhabitable in the future.

BOLDUAN: This is the largest mirror NASA has ever built. We're seeing video of it, and I love the depiction of it in your background as well. You could just reach out and touch it.

Can you explain why it require such an enormous mirror? And how do you ensure that you can keep it safe as it is launching into space?

CLAMPIN: So, the reason we require a big mirror is because we need more collecting area. The bigger the mirror, the more life you collect with the objects that you can see. So, that's the first thing.

How do we keep it safe during launch? Well, on this particular telescope, it's gotten so big now in terms of the requirements astronomers have to do their science that we can't fit these telescopes into a rocket anymore when they're fully unfolded. So for Webb, we've actually gone in a very new direction. We are actually folding up the whole package for launch so it will fit in the rocket faring and then at launch we'll unpack the telescope.

As you can see from that image in my background, the mirror is not one single mirror. It's 18 segments, all hexagonal and we can fold the edge elements around the side of the telescope and the instrument package so that it fits. So that's a very new approach to doing this.

BOLDUAN: Just fascinating. This was first imagined, I was reading, as a successor to Hubble in '89. This took thousands of scientists, technicians, engineers, 14 countries, I think I saw, to build this. What does this launch represent?

CLAMPIN: So I think this launch remits a lot of things. First of all, it's a technological marvel. We didn't get into it, but this telescope, because it's infrared, has the work of very cold temperatures. So we've had to devise new technologies to keep the telescope and the instrument cold for the duration of the mission. The mission is also a testament to, you know, partnerships, NASA's partnerships with European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, our partners.

Finally, it's just a testament to the commitment of all the scientists and engineers and program managers who worked on this program so long to make it a success and have overcome every technical challenge as they've been presented and then worked very hard to diligently test every component of this telescope to make sure it works the way we want it to work when we get on orbit.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, resilience at its best is kind of what the result of the James Webb telescope. CLAMPIN: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Real quickly, when are you going to receive the first images back? This is traveling so far.

CLAMPIN: So, we actually expect to get the first images about six months after launch. And the reason is, as I said, because this is kind of a transformer telescope, so it takes us a while to unpack the telescope or deploy all the pieces, and then we have to do very minute adjustments to each of the mirrors so that they all behave like a single 6 1/2-meter diameter mirror.

So, that takes about six months in total, and then we'll start to get the first science images. Of course the whole package needs to cool down to that very cold minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

BOLDUAN: Remarkable. Thank you so much for coming in. And good luck tomorrow.

CLAMPIN: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, incredible video. The moment a TSA officer springs into action to save the life of a 2-month-old baby. You won't want to miss this.



BOLDUAN: This is video you should stop and see today. The moment when a TSA officer saves the day. Officer Cecelia Morales leaping over a luggage conveyor belt at Newark Airport when a mother finds her 2- month-old baby unresponsive there in a security area.

By lucky coincidence, Morales happens to be a trained EMT. She performed the Heimlich maneuver on the baby, he started breathing again, while we learned she's performed the Heimlich many times before, this was the first time Morales had to use it on the infant. Thank God she did. The baby is doing well. Remarkable people doing remarkable things every day.

Now to a very special gift this holiday season. We want you to meet Evette, she's the newest American Girl doll and is making history as one of the iconic brands first biracial dolls giving many more boys and girls a chance to feel seen.

CNN's Rene Marsh has the story.


MISHA LAUFENBERG, 8 YEARS OLD: I like her eyes and her freckles and her hair.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Misha is an 8-year-old from Wisconsin who loves playing with dolls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me your dolls.

MARSH: Especially this doll, Evette. It's one of the first biracial American girl dolls on the market.

DIONE LAUFENBERG, MOTHER OF TWO: I asked her when she does go to a normal store, what is the majority of the dolls that she sees versus Evette and just kind of explaining to her now that a lot of the brands that she envoys are now having a wider range of dolls that look like everyone.

MARSH: It's representation that Misha's mother didn't have as a kid growing up in the Midwest.

D. LAUFENBERG: You didn't see dolls with brown skin. You didn't see a lot of curly-haired dolls. They all were kind of the typical blondes or brown hair.

MARSH: American Girl approached children's author Sharon Dennis Wyeth with an idea for a story to accompany Evette.

SHARON DENNIS WYETH, AUTHOR, "THE RIVER AND ME": My editor, she emailed me and said we're interested in having -- creating a bi-racial doll.


She will be an environmentalist.

MARSH: Wyeth grew up in an interracial family in Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

WYETH: I wanted to incorporate the theme of racial identity because for me, that was something that I had been exploring I think unconsciously almost from the time I was able to talk.

MARSH: For over three decades, Wyeth made it her mission to feature children of color in her stories.

WYETH: I think all children should be able to read books where they can see themselves reflected in some way in the book and the same with toys, the same with dolls with somebody like Evette.

MARSH: She hopes her books provide a safe space for otherwise difficult conversations.

WYETH: It's a medium for sharing things that trouble us. It's a medium for discussing things with parents perhaps. Parents might look at them and say let's talk about this together.

MARSH: I'm very, very happy that Evette, my darling Evette, is going to make kids happy and make them feel like, hey, there's somebody who has a family like mine, somebody who has a family like mine, an interracial family.

Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, Rene, for bringing us that story.

Coming up for us still, New York has set another new record for COVID infections. Up next, a live report from the epicenter of this new wave.