Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

GOP's Santos Grilled Over Resume Fabrication; Jan. 6 Transcript: Trump's Fury At Pence & Meadows Burning Docs; Goldman Sachs Forecasts U.S. More Likely To Avoid 2023 Recession. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 28, 2022 - 11:30   ET



ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is dwarfing some of these two-story houses on the street nearby. So clearly several feet high. In fact, they are no longer dumping snow there because they're concerned that it's getting too high. They moved it to another pile on the other side of those trees.

But we're talking about more than four feet of snow that fell over the course of several days. And now that snow is ended and the cleanup continues, the driving ban remains in effect because authorities want -- their goal is to clear at least one lane on every street in Buffalo by tomorrow morning. And so, they'll reevaluate that driving ban overnight or in the early hours, depending on the progress of snow removal.

But one reason this is so -- one reason this is so important is the number of people who that emergency services could not reach during the height of the storm. We know more than 400 calls to EMS went unanswered. And so that is the main reason for making sure there was at least one lane open on every street so that the city's emergency operations can function properly.

As you mentioned, 34 fatalities now, that's three more than we knew of last night. And at least three of those, two men and one woman, are -- two John -- to John Doe's and one Jane Doe, so other unidentified people. Authorities say that families who are missing a loved one should call the police.

And we know that the National Guard began at 9:30 this morning, going door to door doing wellness checks in neighborhoods that lost power, much of the power has been restored but neighborhoods that lost power, they're going to check on them to make sure that no one's in trouble inside. And authorities are also going door to door checking on the people who had called emergency services and were not able to be reached. So, the goal here a clear this snow and clear as much as possible before the temperatures warm up to the -- to the 50s to try to avoid a flood threat, Amara.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Athena, you mentioned the number of people who call the emergency services and were not able to get the help that includes apparently 22-year-old Anndel Taylor, who was found dead in her car. She sent her sisters this video as she was stuck in snow trying to get home from work. Watch.




WALKER: It's heartbreaking. She'd never made it home. What more do we know about what happened to Anndel Taylor?

JONES: It's just terrible. The details are a little bit spotty here. We know that she was driving home from her job at a senior citizen center and that she was apparently only about six more minutes away from our house by car and that's when she got stranded. She had just moved up to Buffalo or she had moved to Buffalo at some point recently from North Carolina and she was communicating with her -- some of her family down in North Carolina.

There's a group chat with the sisters. That's what she was sending the videos to. And she just wasn't able to be reached. She had called 911 but just they couldn't get to her. And so later on, she was found dead. And it really is just heartbreaking, Amara.

WALKER: Oh, gosh. Athena Jones, thank you.

Well, as Buffalo digs out, a new winter storm is causing power outages across the West. More than 150,000 customers are without power in California, Washington, and Oregon. Most of the outages are in Oregon, where the City of Portland received more than six inches of rain in the last 24 hours. The storm is expected to dump between two and four inches of rain across the West, while higher elevations could see up to three feet of snow. 11 Western States are under winter weather alerts.

CNN's Chad Myers is tracking this new winter storm for us.


WALKER: Chad, it's been quite busy. What do we know?

MYERS: Yes, just one storm after another, and they are lined, up still to come. One more tomorrow and even another one that will be here by Tuesday. One big storm here across parts of Mount Hood, Oregon, that's where the biggest wind was but right now the energy is down into Southern California and into Arizona and a mount to make some very big snows into parts of Colorado.

Here's Mount Hood, Oregon. 107 miles per hour was the wind gusts. I know there's elevation there but that's still a very high wind gust. You can understand what happened to power lines and trees and branches and even power poles and some sleet.

Then out here to the south, Phoenix, you are waking up to a wet one this morning. Very rainy there across parts of the valley. Now, you get up higher elevations there has been some snow, snow flagstaff. You know a lot of snow eventually here into Telluride. Tomorrow morning, Denver, you're going to change over from a little bit of rain today over to snow as the cold air gets behind you here. This could be a difficult commute along I-25.

And there's the next storm for California, one after another. And I'm going to keep pushing this button and you're going to see one storm after another. Now, this is maybe drought helping. Drought -- maybe not drought braking, but pretty darn close. There will be areas in parts of the Sierra that will pick up 10 feet of new snow and that will help it. By the time it's all gone, that will eventually be melting in the spring and that will certainly help the reservoirs and help the people there. A lot of rain coming down, but if you get up above just a little bit of elevation, it's all going to be snow for these next couple of systems, Amara.


WALKER: Yes. And turning back to Buffalo, I mean, there is a risk of major flooding as well and that could hamper recovery efforts, right?

MYERS: There is because you have all of this warm air headed there. Even Buffalo will not be below freezing for the next five days, so that's going to melt a lot of the snow. If you were in this area, and I'm talking about Ontario and parts of Michigan, and you have a sump pump, and you have 30 inches of snow, where that sump pump drain is supposed to be going out into your yard, you need to clear that out so that that water can actually go away from your house and not just back down into your basement and cause more problems, Amara.

WALKER: All right, way too many headaches to think about.


WALKER: Chad Myers, I appreciate you. Thank you so much.

MYERS: You're welcome, Amara.

WALKER: And still to come. The backlash for incoming Congressman George Santos has been swift for the most part, but there's deafening silence from Republican leadership when it comes to his lies.



WALKER: Republican Congressman-elect George Santos now admitting to a list of cereal fabrications ranging from his work experience to his education to his religion. A growing number of Democrats calling for his resignation. But on the right, silence from leadership in the GOP as Santos vows to serve his full term and faces tough questions about his misrepresentations.


TULSI GABBARD, GUEST HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: You've apologized, you said you've made mistakes but you've outright lie. A lie is not an embellishment on a resume. You said you worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, but they've said we've got no record.

REP.-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS, (R-NY): We can debate my resume and how I worked with firms such as Goldman and Citigroup all night long, but --

GABBARD: Is it debatable or is it just false?

SANTOS: No, it's very --

GABBARD: Is it debatable or is it just false?

SANTOS: No, it's very debatable. I -- no, it's not false at all. It's debatable.


WALKER: OK. Joining us now to discuss the fallout is CNN national politics reporter Eva McKend. Eva, anything -- are we hearing anything from Republicans after Santos' interview there?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Amara, there are two that have emerged. They haven't even been seated in Congress yet. Congresswoman-elect Nick LaLota fawning Democrats and asking for an ethics investigation, and potentially law enforcement involvement as well, if necessary, while Congressman-elect Anthony D'Esposito also representing parts of Long Island, he's urged Santos to pursue a path of honesty and said that as he has been speaking to his constituents, people are deeply hurt and offended by these lies. Neither of them notably are calling for Santos to step down. Still, no word from Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy or other top House Republicans.

And although Santos has routinely said he embellished his resume, as you heard there, he has his own gap in a robust and clear way to the line. Take a listen to another exchange he had on Fox News last night on this question of his Jewish heritage.


SANTOS: My heritage is Jewish. I've always identified as Jewish. I was raised as a practicing Catholic. I think I've gone through this even though I've not been raised a practicing Jew, I've always joked with friends and circles, even within the campaign I say, guys, I'm Jew- ish, but remember, I was raised Catholic.


MCKEND: So, his position on that has sort of been a moving target there even though the Republican Jewish Coalition says that they feel as though they were duped, Amara. Questions remain about the veracity of his financial disclosures, as well as a host of other claims.

WALKER: Yes. I'm not sure that all these explanations are helping at this point. Eva McKend, thank you.

Today, a new look at the Trump White House in the days around the insurrection. The January 6 committee releasing transcripts last night detailing former President Trump's fury at his vice president for refusing to overturn the 2020 election. And what sounds like a cover- up in progress, the White House Chief of Staff burning documents in an office fireplace. Let's get right to CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, tell us more because Cassidy Hutchison revealing her former boss, Mark Meadows, destroyed papers by incinerating them.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. She testified that she observed Meadows burning papers in the fireplace in his office about once or twice a week from December 2022 midway through January 2021. She testified, "so throughout the day, he would put more logs on the fireplace to keep it burning throughout the day.

And I recall roughly a dozen times when he would throw a few more pieces of paper in it when he put more logs on the fireplace." Now interestingly, at least on two occasions, these burning sessions came after meetings with GOP Representative Scott Perry. He has, of course, been linked to efforts to use the Justice Department to try to overturn the results of the election.

She also testified that Meadows was trying to keep some meetings with staffers "off the books," which means keeping them from the official White House Records, the official oval office diary which is a public record. So, a lot of questions here about what exactly they were burning and why. And again, why they wanted to keep these meetings during this critical time between the election and insurrection, why they wanted to keep these off the books?

WALKER: Yes, so many questions. And, Paula, we also got a transcript of a deposition from a former Trump aide, John Mack -- Macken -- McEntee Excuse me. What do we learn there?

REID: So much again in this. Here, he covers a lot of ground. For starters, he talks about the anger that former President Trump had towards his vice president when he refused to block the certification of the election results.


He recalls conversations before that decision where the former president would tell Pence "he should do the right thing." And when Pence refused to go along with it, Trump turned on him and would say to people "F Pence." He also talks about how Mark Meadows was among a group of White House officials who wanted to pressure the General Services Administration to not certify and begin to transfer power between administrations.

They wanted to delay the transition. He also talks about how the former president floated the idea of blanket pardons for people who participated in the Capitol insurrection, though that idea was rejected by the White House Counsel.

The former president, according to this testimony, also floated the idea of blanket pardons for White House aides and officials, though, on that, the White House counsel said look, nobody here has done anything wrong. They don't need them. So, a lot of questions based on these new transcripts, and we are expected to get more later today.

WALKER: Thank you for sifting through all of that for us. Paula Reid, thank you.

All right, to Arizona now where Republican Kari Lake is being forced to pay part of her democratic opponent's legal fees. A judge ruled Lake must pay more than $33,000 to incoming Governor Katie Hobbs after challenging last month's election certification. Hobbs wanted Lake sanctioned for her lawsuit alleging voter fraud and was to blame for her loss but the judge denied that saying Lake's claims weren't groundless.

Up next. Is a recession in the future for the U.S. economy? Goldman Sachs says that may not be the case.



WALKER: As we get ready to flip the calendar to 2023, there are a lot of questions about where the economy is headed. Interest rates are up, inflation remains elevated, and some analysts are predicting a recession in the year ahead. So, where exactly is the economy going?

Joining me now to break it all down, Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics. Mark, great to see you. So, look, we've seen some signs recently that inflation may be easing slightly. And in a note to clients earlier this week, Goldman Sachs said our most out-of- consensus forecasts for 2023 is our call that the U.S. will avoid a recession and instead continue progressing toward a soft landing. Is that how you see it, Mark?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Yes. I think -- I guess I'm outside consensus too, Amara. I do think -- you know, obviously, recession risks are high. I mean, when inflation is so high and the reserve is raising interest rates as aggressively as they are, you know, the risks are that we will go into recession. But I do think we have a fighting chance of making our way through without actually going into an economic downturn.

Inflation is coming in pretty quickly with that some really good news on oil prices and supply chains because of the end of the no-COVID policy in China. Rent growth is gone flatline here, which is really good for the cost of housing services down the road. And the labor markets easing up, so that should bring down some of the wage and price pressures that are causing the high inflation. So, it feels like things are moving in the right direction.

Now, having said all of that, Amara, we need a little bit of luck, nothing else can go wrong, and we need the Fed to get it roughly right here. Otherwise, a recession will occur next year.

WALKER: It sounds easy, no delicate balance there, right? You were just speaking of the housing market, I mean, we just got new data on it and it shows that pending home sales fell for the consecutive six months in November, down 4 percent month over month and down nearly 38 percent year over year. So, what did these numbers tell you about the state of the housing market now?

ZANDI: It's weak. I mean, that isn't -- housing is definitely in recession, and not unexpected, as by design. You know, the Federal Reserve is raising rates to try to quell the high inflation, and the most interest-rate-sensitive sector of the economy is housing, right? Most people when they need to buy a home and if they need to get a mortgage, some mortgage rates are really important, and they're up a lot. So, the housing market is taking it on the chin.

And I would expect that to continue, you know. I don't expect housing to kind of find a bottom here, at least not in terms of prices for a while. So, I expect housing to be kind of the weak link in the economy going forward.

WALKER: And the Federal Reserve raised interest rates seven times this year in an effort to slow inflation, so what are you expecting from the Fed in this year ahead? Do you think it'd be necessary for the Fed to continue raising rates?

ZANDI: Well, they've made it pretty clear, they're going to raise rates a couple more times at least. So, the federal funds rate, that's the interest rate they control. It's sitting at four and a half percent the investors out there that think about this for a living are thinking that the Fed will push rates up to 5 percent. So, another half a percentage point over the course of the next couple of three months.

And then I would expect, you know, if we are going into a recession, that that's the end of the story that the Fed will stop raising rates. Take a look around, and figure out that yes, oh, inflation is coming in, and we don't need to raise rates anymore to get inflation back down.

And if that's the case, then I think we'll make our way through next year without a recession. If, however, you know, the Fed takes a look around and it says oh, no, inflation is not coming in, we're going to need to raise rates, even more, then I'm afraid recession seems more likely than not.

WALKER: Oh, boy. And lastly, about consumer spending. MasterCard's spending pulse reported on Monday that U.S. retail sales increased nearly 8 percent from November 1 to December 24 compared to the same time last year. Do these numbers indicate that consumers are doing well in spite of high inflation?


ZANDI: Yes, you're hanging a tough, which is exactly what we need. We -- you know, we don't want consumers out spending with abandon because that means then inflation will remain persistent and the Feds going to have to raise those interest rates to quell that inflation. So, we don't want that. But we want consumers to stay in the game, do their part, continue to spend like they do typically. And those Christmas sales suggest that's exactly what they're doing, so another reason to be optimistic is that we can avoid a recession going into next year.

WALKER: Mark Zandi, appreciate it. Hope you enjoy the 70s while most of us are not there in Florida. Thank you so much for your time.

Still to come. A nightmare continues at airports across the country for thousands of passengers. Now, Congress and the Department of Transportation are looking for answers from Southwest Airlines. We're live next.