Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Lawmakers Unveil $1.7T Funding Bill To Avert Gov't Shutdown; Incoming GOP Rep Santos Under Scrutiny For Resume Discrepancies; CVS, Walgreens To Limit Of Children's Pain Meds. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 20, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, the good news is they seem to have a deal, a massive deal at that, a $1.7 trillion spending deal that will likely avert a harmful government shutdown. That's good news. The details of which were just released overnight. But if you are asking what is in this thing and what has been left out, and how are lawmakers expected to vote on something this big and consequential in just a matter of days?

Well, if you're asking that, you are not alone. Manu Raju is on the Hill for us. He joins us now. A bit of a reality check on all this. Manu, it goes without saying this is not how the process is supposed to work but I guess it is what it is at this point. What are you learning about the spending deal?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. It is not the way that process is supposed to work. In fact, the way it is, is they are supposed to approve 12 annual appropriations bills to fund all aspects of the federal government.

This was to get that done by September 30. Now, we are just approaching Christmas and they still don't have it done. And they rolled it all into one gigantic proposal of more than 4000 pages that they unveiled at 1:23 a.m. Eastern and they're trying to pass it before the new deadline to avoid a government shutdown by the end of the day on Friday.

Now, this bill is a massive $1.7 trillion, with more than $44 billion in aid for Ukraine, it includes another $38 billion in disaster relief and a $5 billion in aid for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. It would overhaul the 1887 Electoral Count Act.


That is a bill that was been pushed in the aftermath of January 6 to try to prevent another president from trying to force his vice president to overturn the election results as we saw Donald Trump tried to do with Mike Pence. It also would include what's called the Secure Act 2.0. It provisions dealing with retirement security and includes a new measure to ban TikTok from federal devices. Now, there are all sorts of issues that were also not included, including an expansion of the Child Tax Credit. That extension for that expanded tax credit had been pushed by Democrats, but neither corporate nor individual tax base were included in this plan. But lawmakers themselves, Kate, are still learning the details because many of them were not involved in this process, which was cut -- a deal was cut between the senior appropriators in the House and the Senate, the leadership, and that's pretty much about it. But they'll still be forced to vote on it before the end of the week to avoid a shutdown, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Manu, let's get reading. It's good to see you. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it, my friend.

So, we also have new details or learning new details this morning about what could be included in a new round of security aid that the Biden administration is expected to send to Ukraine, kits that convert so-called dumb bombs into something much more precise. Barbara Starr. She's lived at the Pentagon for us with the very latest on this. Barbara, what do you learn about this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. Well, this new package of assistance could really be announced at any time. Sources are telling CNN that not only the Patriot air defense missiles that we've talked about so much but these new bomb kits. So, what are we talking about? Well, a so-called dumb bomb, basically is fired off an airplane, drops to the ground, and hits whatever it hits, no precision, no guidance on it if you will.

These kits that they're going to send are fitted onto those bombs, and they turn them into precision weapons. They are aimed at a target, the weapon flies to that target and headset. That will give the Ukrainians an advantage on the battlefield if they are able to strike with more precision at Russian targets inside Ukraine. They will have -- these weapons will have about a 15-mile range, so that also will help keep Ukrainian fighter jets out of the direct line of fire of Russian anti- air weapons. That's been the big issue right now.

The Ukrainians fly but not a lot because of the possibility of being shut down by the Russians. But if they get this capability, it may help. And especially as winter is coming, and the Russians get more dug in, Ukrainians are looking for those Russian targets to strike.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And I can't believe this is the last time I get the opportunity to say this, Barbara, but thank you for that reporting. Barbara, thank you for all of your reporting, and thank you for everything. Good luck on your next adventure.

STARR: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Seriously, thank you.

All right, let's turn to this right now. A newly elected member of Congress, a new reporting that calls into question the resume that he ran on from where he went to school to where he worked, even to the nonprofit that he claims to have run. The reporter who broke the story next.



BOLDUAN: New York's newly elected Republican Congressman George Santos is facing serious questions over what he told voters about his life story really, following a pretty extraordinary investigation by the New York Times. The bio that he presented at various points during his campaign just not really seeming to add up, including his educational background, his employment history, even a charity that he says he founded. Let's tick through just some of this.

Santos has said that he received degrees from Baruch College and NYU, New York University. CNN has reached out and neither school can find records of that. His campaign bio also mentions working at both Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Neither firm has a record of that. And he claims that he founded a nonprofit animal rescue called Friends of Pets United, but the operation is not found in the IRS's searchable database. And that's just some of it.

Joining me right now is Grace Ashford. She's one of the reporters with the New York Times who broke this story. Grace, thanks for coming on. What got you asking these questions about his background, the kind of led you down this path?

GRACE ASHFORD, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, Kate. Well, thank you so much for having me. Yes. So, this all started shortly after the election, my colleague, Michael Gold, and I were assigned to write what we thought would be a, you know, pretty quick piece on this new congressman from Long Island who was drawing a lot of attention. You know, he not only flipped a -- what had been a pretty blue district red, but he was also sort of this new model of, you know, perhaps with the GOP could be in the future.

You know, he's only 34 years old. You know, he's Latino, and he's gay, which was, you know, all very, very interesting. And so, you know, as we started to look into him, you know, we looked at his bio, and we've looked at, you know, all sorts of different things.

Actually, the pet charity that you mentioned, is one of the things that caught my eye because I've done some reporting into some nonprofits in the past. And so, one of the first things I did was just sort of, you know, look for some of the filings because he was very specific about it being a 501(c)(3). And when we weren't able to find that with the IRS, you know, we started to have some bigger questions.

BOLDUAN: And I want to read -- and I know you've seen this statement, but I do want to read what an attorney for Santos had -- has told CNN in a statement that the times the way he puts it is that the Times was attempting to smear the Congressman-elect with defamatory allegations. And also saying this, that Santos represents the kind of progress that the left is so threatened by a gay Latino immigrant and Republican who won a Biden district in overwhelming fashion by showing everyday voters that there is a better option than the broken promises and failed policies of the Democratic Party. But in that statement, there -- they -- I do not see them in that statement, disputing any of your reporting. And also, not providing any of what would be pretty easy detail to clarify this, right?


ASHFORD: Right. We -- you know we spent a lot of time going back and forth with Mr. Santos, his lawyer, and trying very hard to, you know, initially, just to sort of clear up what we felt were some inconsistencies in his bio. And, you know, one of the kinds of easy things to do is sort of you know call around and talk to people who worked at a place at the same time as -- you know, someone so you can get a sense of them. And you know, what kind of a colleague they were -- an employee. But his -- you know, didn't have those kinds of things.

And so initially, you know, when we were just asking for that kind of -- you know, those types of documents and details and even dates when he was at a place and when they couldn't -- and repeatedly, they couldn't provide that to us. It was very disappointing for us.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, so Robert Zimmerman is the Democrat who lost to Santos and into -- lost to Santos in this congressional race. He was on CNN this morning. And he says that his campaign was aware. He says that the D Triple C was aware that there were questions about his resume and that there was some local reporting about it, but not to the extent of what you have uncovered and what you've been reporting on. And Zimmerman now says that he has -- I want to play for you Zimmerman's take on where the focus he thinks should be now. Let me play this.


ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, NEW YORK: The only finger-pointing should be George Santos. This man is a fraudster. He's -- the allegations of fraud and corruption are well documented in the Times story. And there has to be a House Ethics Committee investigation into. And there has to also be a Department of Justice investigation.


BOLDUAN: From your reporting, Grace, do you -- do you get the sense that his campaign and the D Triple C that they -- that they miss something here?

ASHFORD: Well, you know, we were lucky enough to have several weeks to look into this. And part of it was that as I sort of said, you know, once we started turning up things, we -- you know, more and more things we started to check didn't add up, as you sort of said in your introduction. And then we really just focused on the documents, you know. We looked at his financial disclosure. And, you know, kind of I think one of the biggest questions that our reporting raises is what the source of Mr. Santos's fortune is.

BOLDUAN: Right. ASHFORD: He's longed over $700,000 to his campaign, which is, you know, no small sum. And was not a -- we didn't disclose, you know, sort of any of the clients that, you know, perhaps could have contributed to that or answered some of the other questions that we shared with him. And, yes, I don't think -- I think that there's a lot of questions that we love Mr. Santos to answer.

BOLDUAN: When you get at something -- absolutely. And you get at something that is important that this isn't just a wild story about someone kind of juicing up or boosting up their bio. There is a potential of ethical, civil, and criminal liability for someone who files false disclosures to the federal government. Do you have a sense of what Democrats and or Republicans are going to do about this?

ASHFORD: Well, I think -- I think that's a -- that's a million-dollar question. You know, the Republican Party is in sort of a, you know, a tight spot here, Kevin McCarthy in particular. You know, he's really struggling and trying very hard to maintain control of his conference. And George Santos, one of the -- one of the things he did say on Twitter when he was not responding to our questions was that he pledged his support for Mr. McCarthy. And so, you know, in theory, you know, there could be calls for his resignation, but I -- it's difficult to see, you know, how that will happen.


ASHFORD: Perhaps. You know, Democrats are also, you know, calling for investigations. Obviously, you know, falsifying your bio, if in fact, that is -- that is what can be proven, you know, could be an ethical violation, some of the criminal charges that we were able to dig up in Brazil also, potentially. But yes, I think as you said, the campaign disclosures are probably the key thing. If, in fact, it's proved that he willfully and you know, in full knowledge emitted details, that that could be a criminal matter.

BOLDUAN: And, you know, he -- lots of questions as you've laid out. We invited George Santos onto the program to take some of these questions. His team has not yet given us an answer. We do want to say. Grace, thanks so much for coming on. Thanks for your reporting.

ASHFORD: Thank you, Kate. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So, cold and flu season hitting earlier, faster and harder. And now some of the country's biggest drugstores are limiting medications that every family needs. Details next.



BOLDUAN: So, as cold and flu season ramps up, two of the country's big pharmacy chains are limiting some common children's pain medications. Dr. Tara Narula has the details. She's joining me now. Doctor, what are they -- what are they limiting and why at this point?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're talking about children's pain and fever reducers, so things like Tylenol and Motrin. We know we've been talking about the increase in COVID, RSV, and the flu --


NARULA: -- All happening so many parents are opening their medicine cabinet and not able to have these important drugs there. It's very fear-provoking for a lot of parents. So, the issue is that there has been this increased demand coupled with a little bit of a supply issue as well. And so, these companies are doing this to really ensure equitable access to increase the amount available and to avoid people from really hoarding and overstocking at home.

And so, CVS has said that they are limiting in-store and online purchases to two of these products. And Walgreens is going to limit online purchases only to about six products. They are not putting any limits on in-store products. So, you know, hopefully, this helps. Manufacturers are working 24/7 to increase supply as much as they can. And it does appear to be really spot shortages, not a widespread shortage.

So, parents may just have to go to smaller pharmacies or other locations to try to find these drugs and look to other measures to lower fever. Certainly, if the kids are acting normally eating and drinking, you don't have to treat every fever with a drug.


BOLDUAN: Which is a really good reminder that is always very hard when you're in the moment and you see that thermometer and the number that pops up.

NARULA: It is.

BOLDUAN: But still, it is what it is. That's where we are.

NARULA: That's true.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Let's end on this today. Pure joy on the streets -- the streets of Buenos Aires. There -- these are the pictures from Argentina as the soccer team there gets heroes' welcome and deservedly so, the World Cup champions celebrating with fans in a massive parade. It's their first World Cup title since 1986 led by Lionel Messi. Argentina declaring today a national holiday as the entire country is basking in World Cup glory.

Thank you so much for watching today, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" starts after this.