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Trump Lawyer: Jan. 6 Cmte. Criminal Referrals Are "Worthless"; Top Space Stories Of 2022; Migrants Bused From Texas To VP's Home In Freezing Weather. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 26, 2022 - 12:30   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: Moving on to, you know, January 6th, Seung Min. Obviously, it was predictable. Trump's lawyer, you know, dismissing the criminal referrals from the January 6th Committee as worthless and political noise. Do you have any read on how the Special Counsel will or won't act on those referrals, which we know are symbolic in nature?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's the key point right there that you just said, Amara, that these are more symbolic, more political that carry any actual legal weight. The Special Counsel, Jack Smith, will do what he deems as appropriate with the evidence that's collected. But that's another point here. What the January 6th Committee has done, which could be very valuable for the Special Counsel is their 18 months of collecting thousands upon thousands, actually, I believe, more than a million pages of records of interviews, of evidence that then the Special Counsel could use to inform his decisions on his legal thinking. The other thing is, you know, lawyers of Special Counsel, they may not want to have the perception that they're being led by a political body such as a Congressional Committee. So does that lessen the chances of potential charges against Donald Trump? These are all things that we're watching. But in terms of an actual legal weight, the referrals don't carry much, but symbolically, they surely do.

WALKER: Yes, it seems like the DOJ is in a damned if you, damned if you don't situation, at least politically. Sabrina, you know, another blow for election deniers, right, an Arizona judge flatly rejecting the lawsuit brought by Kari Lake, you know, that's the Republican who lost the Arizona gubernatorial race. She doesn't want to believe that she did. Do you think this ruling, coupled with defeat after defeat for election deniers in those headline contests, is going to convince most Republicans that this is not the way forward, that they should not be focusing on this anymore?

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean this, certainly, coupled with the results we saw on election night, is sending a strong message to the Republican Party to kind of soul search and figure out what they want to do going forward. I mean, for some of these specific candidates, like Kari Lake herself, I mean, this is not serving as a deterrent. We already saw her talking with the judge ruling against her, her saying she's going to appeal it. She's really trying to stay, you know, as the face of election denialism.

So there definitely is still some push from within the party to keep this at the forefront. But for many Republicans, there have been the question about this clearly didn't work for us in the midterms, and how do we navigate it going forward?

WALKER: I mean, what is the state of the Republican Party, Seung Min, when it comes to, I guess, soul searching or finger pointing or finding a new, you know, messaging or a new way forward?

KIM: Well, I think you saw it really in the immediate aftermath of the midterm elections, where so many of former President Trump's chosen candidates lost winnable races. And, you know, of all the controversies that the former President had caused during his presidential campaign, certainly his time in office, you know, what could be the turning point for many in the Republican Party is that he is a proven loser in a lot of these election results.

Obviously, he lost the election in 2020 and he had huge influence in the Republicans doing not as well as they thought they would in 2022. Now, do they want to hang their hats on someone who has had this kind of track record in 2024 and you do see many in the party shifting away from that, looking for new voices. And I think it's not just perhaps the Larry Hogans or the Mitt Romneys of the world who are pushing for a new voice.

And it's others in the party that are looking for perhaps a way -- new way forward in 2024. Obviously, we talk a lot about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but this could be a pretty big field, so a lot to see, a lot of calculations that Republicans will have to make and a lot could change in the coming months.

WALKER: We're going to leave it there. Sabrina Rodriguez and Seung Min Kim, appreciate the both of you joining me this morning. Happy holidays to you both. Thank you.

KIM: Happy holidays.


WALKER: All right, still to come, it's been a big year for the final frontier. NASA takes a step towards getting people back on the moon, and a storyline straight out of the movie Armageddon.


WALKER: 2022 was a history making year for NASA. From the world's first planetary defense mission to a mission designed to get Americans back to the moon. Kristin Fisher has a look at the top ten space stories of 2022.


KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kristin Fisher with the top ten space stories of 2022. Coming in at number ten. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one.

FISHER: The first private mission to the International Space Station.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go Dragon, God speed. Axiom One.

FISHER: Texas based startup Axiom Space, brokered the trip for four private citizens not affiliated with any government space program to launch on top of a SpaceX rocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is looking good on Falcon Nine.

FISHER: And spend 15 days conducting experiments alongside professional NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts, ushering in a new era for commercial spaceflight.


Number 9 may look and sound like basic boot camp for soldiers or sailors, but these are Guardians in the U.S. Space Force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is still the United States Military. This is not Space Camp.

FISHER: 2022 marked the first ever Guardian only basic training, led entirely by Space Force instructors, a major milestone for the first new branch of the armed services in more than 70 years.

Coming in at number eight, the United States becoming the first country to announce a ban on antisatellite weapons tests.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These tests are dangerous, and we will not conduct them.

FISHER: The U.S., China, Russia, and India have all carried out these types of tests in the past, which involves firing a missile from Earth and striking a satellite in space, creating massive debris fields. This year, astronauts aboard the International Space Station repeatedly dodged debris from Russia's most recent test of this type of weapon.

The truth is out there for our 7th space story of the year. And in 2022, Congress pushed for answers. For the first time in more than 50 years, a public hearing on Capitol Hill about UFOs or UAPs.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): UAPs are unexplained, it's true, but they are real. They need to be investigated, and many threats they pose need to be mitigated.

FISHER: Though the hearing did not answer if these UAPs are classified U.S. Technology, the work of a foreign adversary, or extraterrestrial life. The Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence did confirm the authenticity of two videos taken by Navy pilots. And he described the UAPs in them as some kind of real physical object that gets very close to military pilots and bases.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this one of the phenomena that we can't explain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is.

FISHER: At number six, Moscow threatening to pull out of the International Space Station after the U.S. sanctioned Russia for invading Ukraine. Dmitry Rogozin, the now former head of Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, threatening to end its nearly three decades- long partnership with NASA, even going so far as to release a video implying that Moscow might abandon a NASA astronaut that Russia was responsible for bringing back to Earth.

The bluster prompted a bitter Twitter war between Rogozin and one of NASA's most famous former astronauts, Scott Kelly, who later this year celebrated Rogozin's ouster and the space station's ability to survive despite the conflict roughly 250 miles below.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you have a guy like him that, you know, behaves like a child on Twitter and threatens nuclear war, I was really, really happy to see him go.

FISHER: Our fifth space story of the year also came to the aid of Ukraine, SpaceX's Starlink satellite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ignition and lift up, Starlink.

FISHER: When Russia knocked out cellphone and Internet service to much of the country, a Ukrainian government official begged SpaceX's Elon Musk for help. And Musk responded with a tweet that would forever change the battlefield. Starlink service is now active in Ukraine, more terminals en route.

Well, since then, Starlink has become an indispensable tool for both Ukrainian civilians and the Ukrainian military. But after months of providing the lifesaving Internet service for free, documents obtained by CNN showed that SpaceX told the Pentagon that it can no longer continue to fund Starlink terminals in Ukraine indefinitely.

Now, Musk later backtracked, saying that his company will continue to fund Starlink service in Ukraine. The debate lay bare the dangers of an entire country being too dependent one billionaire.

Coming in at number four. Hear that? That is what the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy sounds like. And in 2022, scientists were able to capture an image of it for the very first time. The image, which was captured by the event horizon Telescope, which is a global network of synchronized radio observatories, confirmed the presence of a supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A, some 27,000 light years away from Earth.

Number three is the world's first planetary defense mission. After billions of years of being at the mercy of killer asteroids and comets, in 2022, Earthlings struck back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the first time, our technology allows us to actually do something about it. FISHER: NASA's plan was to try to ram a refrigerator sized spacecraft called DART into an asteroid named dimorphus to see if the impact would push the asteroid slightly off course. Now, dimorphus posed no threat to planet earth, but if the test worked, it would mean that this type of technique could maybe be used to deflect a future killer asteroid that is headed for earth.


After spending six months barreling through space, the bullseye hit was captured by telescopes all over the world, which later confirmed that the tiny dart spacecraft was successful in bumping that asteroid off course.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think the Earthings should sleep better. Definitely, I will.

FISHER: Coming in at number two, the James Webb space telescope, finally delivering on its decades long promise by beaming back its first images to Earth.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, when this image is shared with the world, it'll be a historic moment for science and technology, for astronomy and space exploration, for America and all of humanity.

FISHER: It's the culmination of more than 30 years' worth of work, carrying the hopes and dreams of astronomers all over the world, seeking answers to some of humanity's most existential questions. Are we alone in the universe? And where did that first light in the cosmos come from, some 13 billion years ago? NASA leadership describing the moment they first saw the kinds of images that Webb was capable of producing from its perch about a million miles away from earth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A sense of awe, and frankly, got emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just moved me as a scientist, as an engineer, and as a human being.

FISHER: And this is it, the first image taken by the telescope released by NASA. It's called Webb's first deep field. And all of these lights, they're not individual stars. Each one is an entire galaxy, and each galaxy is filled with billions of stars. If you zoom in on some of them, you can even see that distinctive spiral shape. Webb also took some spectacular images of planets closer to home. Here's Jupiter and Neptune as you've never seen her.

Finally, the pillars of creation, where baby stars are born, it's part of the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500 light years away. And it was first made famous by Webb's predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, in 1995.

Finally, our number one space story of 2022.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hydrogen burn off, igniters initiate.

FISHER: For the first time in more than 50 years, NASA launching a rocket capable of carrying astronauts back to the moon. The Artemis rocket is NASA's first spacecraft since the space shuttle designed to launch people into orbit, years overdue, billions over budget, it was rolled back from the launch pad to the safety of its hanger to escape hurricane Ian, only to be rolled back out to the launch pad just in time to take a direct hit from Hurricane Nicole. But just five days later, NASA making the gutsy call to give the third launch attempt a go.

The Orion spacecraft then separated from the Artemis, or SLS rocket, beginning a nearly 26 day, 1.4 million mile odyssey to the moon and back. The spacecraft traveled further into space than any spacecraft designed to carry humans had ever flown, while beaming back spectacular images of the moon and our home.

Orion's final test, its heat shield successfully protecting the mannequins on board the Artemis One mission from the blistering temperatures of reentry into the Earth's atmosphere and blazing the way for Artemis Two, when four real astronauts will be on board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Splashdown. The latest chapter of NASA's journey to the moon comes to a close. Orion back on Earth.

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: What a year for exploration and innovation and discovery for all of humanity.

FISHER: Kristin Fisher, CNN, Washington.



WALKER: Still ahead, a miracle on the slopes, nearly a dozen skiers going missing after an avalanche. But this morning, rescuers are able to report some incredible news.


WALKER: Cruel and shameful, that is how the White House is describing the busing of migrants from Texas to the Vice President's residence on Christmas Eve. Some are only wearing t-shirts in 18 degree weather. The Biden administration is now pointing the finger at Texas Governor Greg Abbott. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joining us now from Washington. Hey there, Priscilla, so what more do we know about who sent the migrants and where they are now?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, groups on the ground also pointed the finger at Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and the reason why is because since April, Abbott has been sending buses of migrants to Washington, D.C. And he later expanded that effort to other cities as an affront to the Biden administration's border policies. And as you see there, migrants also arrived on Christmas Eve in what has been freezing temperatures here in D.C. where groups tried to assist them and move them to a respite center before they moved on to their next destination.

Now, earlier today here on CNN, one of the group's managing director said that the majority of them have moved on to their final destination since arriving over the weekend. Now, these are migrants who have already been processed by border authorities, and they are released while they go through their immigration proceedings. And over the course of that time, they are able to move within the United States, which is why some who came here to D.C. have moved on to another destination.


Now, we know that the migrants were from Ecuador, Cuba, Venezuela, and Peru, which is why some who came here to D.C. have moved on to another destination. Now, we know that the migrants were from Ecuador, Cuba, Venezuela and Peru and that the White House is saying, quite bluntly that this is a political game. They said, quote, this is a cruel, dangerous and shameful stunt. They said they're willing to work with Republicans on comprehensive immigration reform, but ultimately, quote, these political games accomplish nothing.

WALKER: These are lives, humans and, of course, difficult to see little children wrapped up as blankets as well. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you very much.

And finally this hour, all 10 people feared missing in an avalanche in Austria have been found alive. The avalanche happened yesterday afternoon on a popular ski trail in the western part of the country. Four people were hurt, a final sweep of the area will be done today, some very good news to end on.

Thanks so much for joining me today. Abby Phillip picks up CNN's coverage after a quick break.