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Soon: January 6 Committee Releases Final Report on Capitol Attack; China Coping With Drug Shortages As COVID Infections Rise; Hutchinson Says Trump-Paid Attorney Said: "Contempt Is A Small Risk" As She Felt Pressured Not To Talk To Jan. 6 Committee. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired December 22, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today, the January 6 Committee is expected to release its full and final report on the attack on the Capitol. Yesterday, they released the first set of interview transcripts, including interviews with members of Trump's inner circle like Roger Stone, John Eastman, and Michael Flynn.

Paula Reid is -- has this for us. She's joining us now. Paula, one of the big takeaways from just looking through all these 34 transcripts that have been released so far is just how often so many of these people pleaded the fifth.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. They made very liberal use of their Fifth Amendment. And, Kate, typically when you invoke the Fifth Amendment, you would at least still answer basic biographical questions. But we saw for example, with Roger Stone, he wouldn't even confirm his age.

Then when it comes to, for example, the former president's election Attorney, John Eastman, he authored several memos laying out how he believed that former Vice President Mike Pence could block the election results. He signed these memos. His name was on them, and he would still not confirm that he was the author.

And when it came to Jeffrey Clark. He's a former Justice Department official who former President Trump wanted to install as Attorney General. He sat for two interviews. And in the second one, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right 120 times.

Now, Kate, another thing that really stood out to me is the fact that for example, like Eastman and Mike Flynn, these are two people who are pushing these baseless claims of election fraud, but they didn't even attempt to provide anything to back that up to the committee in any of their answers.


Now, the committee conducted over 1000 interviews. They are expected to release hundreds of transcripts. Based on our sourcing, they're going to keep back some that have sensitive information. We're expecting to get more today. They have just released some transcripts of interviews with Cassidy Hutchinson, our whole team right now, they're poring over those to find any new details. But one of the key things we'll be looking for there in those transcripts is any additional evidence that people told the former president, for example, that there was no election fraud, and also any more information about the pressure campaign by Trump allies to get people to not cooperate or perhaps not be truthful with the committee.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Which has become from CNN's reporting a key, key new element when it comes to Cassidy Hutchinson. It's good to see you, Paula. Thank you.

So new numbers just out this morning offer some good news but still raising more questions about what this all really means for the overall economy. GDP and weekly jobless claims data showing that the Fed's fight against inflation might have so far only have had a limited impact. Let's get some perspective on this.

Matt Egan's looking through it all. He joins us here. Matt, let's start with the GDP. What do we see?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, I mean we know this economy has taken some serious punches this year, right? The war in Ukraine, high inflation, and these monster rate hikes from the Fed. But here we are at the end of the year and by all accounts, this economy is still standing.

And let's look at the GDP report from this morning. It shows that the economy actually grew faster than we realized this summer, Q3 GDP, 3.2 percent. That's pretty solid. That is a significant upward revision from the original estimate of 2.6 percent, and it shows that this economy has bounced back after back-to-back quarters of negative growth to start the year.

Now, let's talk about jobs because you know, you and I have spoken about layoffs, big-time layoffs in tech and in media. But jobless claims are still really low. These new numbers out this morning show that initial claims, they only rose slightly last week staying around a two-month low. They're almost exactly where they were a year ago. This shows that businesses are reluctant to let go of the workers they have which makes sense because there is a worker shortage right now.

BOLDUAN: Correct.

EGAN: Continuing claims, that measures how many people are filing for unemployment benefits on an ongoing basis. Now that dip slowed -- slightly, but it does remain near a 10-month high. This is a sign that it's taking longer for people who are out of work to get a new job. It is a sign that hiring has slowed down which is backed up by the Monthly Jobs reports.

I think at the end of the day, you know, this economy clearly faces some significant risks for next year, right? Inflation is still way too high. The Fed is not done yet. And some economists, they do fear a recession might be on the web. But Kate, there's nothing about today's numbers that screams a recession is here, just yet.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. I mean, again, one set of data does not make a recession, but we continue to follow the trends and you're going to put it all together for us. It's good to see you, Matt.

EGAN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

All right, so the question just keep -- the questions just keep mounting for one incoming member of Congress about his life story and his bio that he sold to voters throughout his campaign. Now, even claims that he made about his family and the Holocaust are in question. That is next.



BOLDUAN: There are more questions at this hour about the life story of incoming Republican Congressman George Santos. And it's not just where he said he went to school or where he said he worked. Now, there are real questions about whether or not his grandparents fled the Holocaust, as he has claimed. Jason Carroll has more.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Look, as I always joke, I'm Jew-ish.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Throughout his campaign, Republican Congressman-elect George Santos would refer to himself as half Jewish, or a Latino Jew, often telling his grandparents' story, how he says they survived the Holocaust as Ukrainian Jewish refugees and converted to Catholicism, changing their surname to survive. Here's how Santos explained it just last month in an interview with the Jewish News Syndicate.

SANTOS: I'm very proud of my grandparents' story. My grandfather fleeing Ukraine, he's fleeing Stalin's persecution, going to Belgium finding refuge there, marry my grandmother, and fleeing Hitler going to Brazil. That's a story of perseverance.

CARROLL: It's a story that may not be true. His misrepresentations of his family history, first reported by the Jewish Publication, the Forward, and his story contradicted by numerous sources reviewed by CNN's K file. Records from the Holocaust Museum and the International Center on Nazi persecution, which keeps records on Jewish refugees show no mention of Santos's grandparents. One genealogist who helped research Santos's family tree at CNN's request said, there's no sign of Jewish and or Ukrainian heritage, and no indication of name changes along the way.

SANTOS: I'm so proud to be able to keep our family going forward and showing that not only did we survive, but now I'm able to go advocate and fight for other Jewish people.

CARROLL: Santos has not responded to CNN requests about his family history, and discrepancies with his resume and biography.

SANTOS: People are perplexed. They're asking me, how could somebody possibly tell this scale of lies and get elected

CARROLL: Among the seeming misrepresentations, first detailed by the New York Times and confirmed by CNN, Santos's biography has at times claimed he earned degrees in finance and economics from Baruch College and New York University. CNN found he also said, in at least two separate interviews, he received an MBA from NYU.


SANTOS: Today, I stand very proud with a bachelor's and master's degree, all New York, educated Baruch College, and NYU for my MBA.

CARROLL: A spokesman for NYU telling CNN something different. The university records do not reflect anyone with that name having attended NYU. While a spokesperson for Baruch College could not find anyone with his name or birthday ever attending the school. The record of his work history, also murky. His campaign bio mentioned stints at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Neither Citigroup nor Goldman Sachs have any records of his employment.

Santos listed on his 2022 financial disclosure, a salary of $750,000 and claimed he made the same amount last year. Income he says he earned from the Devolder organization, which he says is his family's firm, a search showed the firm was registered in Florida last year. The state temporarily deemed it inactive for failure to file required annual reports. CNN found Santos filed the required report Tuesday.

Santos's attorney said 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. The Nassau County Republican committee chair called the issues being raised serious adding every person deserves an opportunity to clear his or her name in the face of accusations and I look forward to the Congressman- elect's responses to the news report.

SANTOS: My parents came to this country in search of the American dream. Today, I live that American dream.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


BOLDUAN: Jason, thank you so much for your continued reporting on that.

I'm going to turn now for an update on the COVID pandemic. China is reporting fewer COVID deaths since scrapping its zero-COVID restrictions, but the abrupt policy shift has left the country's health facilities ill-prepared to deal with a huge wave of new infections. Selina Wang is in Beijing, and she has details.

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, there is relief here that after three years of harsh zero-COVID restrictions, China is finally opening up. But the country is not prepared. Hospitals here are coming under pressure. Fever and cold medicine is running out. The local versions of Tylenol and Advil are nearly impossible to get at drugstores. Some local governments are resorting to rationing the amount of medicine for sale down to the exact number of pills in some cases. One city in eastern China, it says customers can only buy six pills per day.

But even as COVID is sweeping through the country, China has only reported less than 10 total COVID deaths for this entire month. And what we're seeing on the ground, it tells a very different story. I visited a crowded crematorium in Beijing this week, and from the video, you can see the long line of cars waiting to get into the cremation area. The parking lot was also completely full. Several people there told me their loved ones had died from COVID and an employee said they'd been swamped with work. I saw these metal containers full of yellow body bags and workers loading more coffins in.

A new study by Hong Kong researchers estimates nearly 1 million people in China could die from COVID if the country doesn't take necessary public health measures like increased vaccinations. The vaccination rate is still lagging for people over 60 and only around 42 percent of those over 80 have received a booster shot. And experts say that getting that third dose is necessary for enough protection since China is using less effective vaccines compared to the mRNA ones used overseas.

And as these crematoriums fill up, the Chinese government now saying it is narrowing the definition of COVID deaths to only include those who died of respiratory failure directly caused by the virus. That means those who died because of another underlying condition will not be counted as a COVID death, even if they were sick with COVID at the time. This goes against the World Health Organization's guidelines, and the WHO says it will severely underestimate the true death toll of COVID in China, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Not sure seems like it. Selina, thank you so much for your that reporting. We'll be right back.


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BOLDUAN: This just in. The January 6 committee has now released the interview transcripts from its star witness. We're talking about Cassidy Hutchinson here who is a close aide to Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows. In these transcripts, Hutchinson describes what she says was a detailed pressure campaign to be loyal to the former president. Kristen Holmes is part of our team going through these pages and pages of transcripts and joins us now. Kristen, when were these interviews and how does Hutchison describe this pressure campaign?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, these are from two different interviews, two days of interviews that were done after we saw that live testimony.


These were behind closed doors in September and after she had switched lawyers from her Trump-back lawyer, Stefan Passantino. And in fact, she actually addresses why it was that she switched lawyers. This is one of the most striking parts of this testimony.

She says that he was urging her no longer to communicate and to cooperate with the January 6 committee. And in fact, said, contempt is a small risk, but running to the right is better for you. And that was the time that she decided she needed to get a new lawyer.

Now, just for a little bit of context here. Earlier this week, the January 6 committee alleged that they had evidence that a Trump-backed lawyer was urging one of their clients not to cooperate with the January 6 committee say that they didn't recall anything. CNN reported that that person was former White House Ethics lawyer Stefan Passantino. Here is what she lays out, Cassidy, as this pressure campaign talking about a number of White House aides -- or excuse me, former White House aides, people in Trump's orbit, Passantino in particular, trying to get her to downplay her testimony indicating to her that if she was loyal to former President Trump, she would "be taken care of."

So, here's what she says about Stefan in particular. Says I want to make this clear to you, Stefan never told me to lie. He specifically told me I don't want you to perjure yourself, but I don't recall isn't perjury. They don't know what you can and can't recall. They don't know what is correct -- what you know. And that's what she went on to say later there.

The other thing she said was that some of what she was experiencing was her own feelings about being watched by Trump. This is what she said. It was almost like, I felt like I had Trump looking over my shoulder. Because I knew in some fashion, it would get back to him if I said anything he would find as disloyal. And the prospect of that genuinely scared me. You know, I'd seen this world ruin people's lives or try to ruin people's careers. I'd seen how vicious they can be.

And we did get a statement earlier in the week when we reported that it was Passantino that the committee had been talking about in terms of this alleged coaching of a client to say that they didn't recall or not give all of the information. This was the statement we got then and we haven't gotten anything since the transcript came out. But he said I believed Ms. Hutchinson was being truthful and cooperative with the committee throughout the several interview sessions in which I represented her.

Now, a couple of other things here that I want to note about this testimony was not just Passantino. There were a number of people in Trump's orbit, including an aide to Mark Meadows who Cassidy said reached out to her saying that Mark is telling me to reach out to you and say that you do not need to cooperate or that you don't -- you can say that you don't recall. But I do want to encourage everyone to read this full transcript because we cannot get to all of it. But this -- again, this is her detailed version of the pressure campaign she faced while she was trying to go through this testimony and through this process.

BOLDUAN: And this is just the beginning as we're still poring through this. Kristen, thank you so much for laying that out, much more to come.

Thanks for being here, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" starts after this.