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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Confirmed Cases Of Omicron Now In 20 Countries; 3 Killed In Michigan School Shooting, Sheriff Believes All Are Students; Mark Meadows Cooperating With January 6 Committee; Biden Visits Minnesota To Tout Infrastructure Benefits; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) Is Interviewed About Democratic Messaging Strategy; Childish GOP Fed Erupts In Wake Of Rep's Anti-Muslim Comments; Overdoses Deaths From Meth Surged During The Pandemic. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Well, this is my point, is that golf for him was more than his livelihood. It was his identity. And so, the emotional impact of change -- of this changing his life, I think, I can imagine that there were some very dark days for him.



THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: The message, be concerned but not too concerned.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Top U.S. public health experts lay out what we do and still do not know about the new coronavirus variant as we learn new details from the very first patients.

First on CNN, Donald Trump's chief of staff is now cooperating with insurrection investigators. What does he know?

Plus, as one recovering addict described it, it actually fries your brain. A close look at the surge of meth in America through the eyes of a man who got hooked at the age of 11.


BASH: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash in for Jake Tapper.

And we start today with the health lead and new confirmed cases of the Omicron COVID variant with U.S. health officials racing to ramp up vaccinations and testing before a case is detected in the United States. Twenty nations have now identified cases of this new strain, and it continues to have an impact on the global economy.

Moments ago, the Dow finished the day's trading down more than 600 points after the Moderna CEO said the vaccines may not have the same amount of protection against the Omicron variant.

But there is so much we don't know about its mysterious mutations like how dangerous is it? How easily can it spread as scientists race to learn more and countries cut off travel from South Africa where the variant was first discovered. A doctor there told CNN's world's response has been an overreaction.

CNN's Nick Watt starts our coverage.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The question is when, not if, the Omicron variant reaches the United States. It could already be here.

Among the first to study Omicron, this guy.

ALEX SIGAL, FACULTY MEMBER, AFRICA HEALTH RESEARCH INSTITUTE: It looks like a problem, but we don't know to what extent it's going to be a problem. I wouldn't at this point say that this is hugely different from stuff we've seen before.

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, COVID-19 TECHNICAL LEAD, W.H.O.: I think we'll get some information on transmissibility and severity in the coming days, maybe a week or two. I do think it will take some time for us to get a better understanding of the impact on vaccines. Our estimate is between two and four weeks.

WATT: Here's what we already know about Omicron's mutations.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: These mutations have been associated with increased transmissibility and immune evasion.

WATT: So, will vaccines work as well as they did against the delta variant? There is no world I think where the effectiveness is the same level, Moderna's CEO told the "Financial Times."

If Omicron does indeed diminish protection from vaccines --

ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: Boosters should reduce dramatically the gap.

WATT: CDC guidance was that all adults may get boosters. Now says the CDC, they should.

REPORTER: Are lockdowns off the table?


REPORTER: Why is that?

BIDEN: Well, because we're able to -- if people are vaccinated and wearing their masks, there's no need for lockdowns.

WATT: This variant was first detected in Southern Africa, now dominant down there.

DR. ANGELIQUE COETZEE, CHAIR, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: What we are presenting to primary health care practitioners are extremely mild cases, mild to moderate. So these patients, they don't need to be hospitalized for now.

FAUCI: Most of those are younger individuals. We believe that it is too soon to tell of what the level of severity is.

WATT: And, remember, this will likely not be the last coronavirus variant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Omicron is like a wake-up call as though we needed another wake-up call to vaccinate the world. One of the best ways to keep Americans safe is actually to vaccinate the world.

WATT: Because the more the virus spreads, the more it mutates. China has promised to send another billion vaccine doses to Africa, Italy calling on wealthy countries to not just dish out doses but actually help getting them into arms.


WATT (on camera): And the CDC is now stepping up surveillance at four of our busiest international airports. JFK, Newark, Atlanta and San Francisco. They'll be testing more people coming from specific areas of the world.

The CDC is also now going to analyze one in seven of all positive tests looking for variants -- Dana.

BASH: Nick Watt, thank you so much for that report.

I want to bring in chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Gupta, thank you so much for joining me.

So, in today's briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci laid out all the things that we don't know about the Omicron variant, including whether it can evade the vaccine. So given that, can you explain to our viewers why it is so important to get the shot?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's pretty clear evidence, I think, if you look at some of the early data from South Africa that the vaccines do present some -- do provide some protection. South Africa is a country about 60 million people, about 16 million people have been vaccinated. And what they are finding is the people showing up positive with this new variant are almost all unvaccinated.

So that's a data point that I think they'll pay attention to and another reason that people should get this shot. But I want to show you something else. If you track the trajectory of the pandemic through South Africa since the beginning, starting with the original variant, look what happens here. This country has largely been unvaccinated, Dana. They didn't even start vaccinating until February of this year. They have the surge. They get a lot of infection immunity. It comes down.

But look, about three, four months later, you get another variant and another surge which tells you two things that infection-acquired immunity isn't lasting very long but that the vaccines are providing more protection. This is an interesting snapshot of this big question that people keep asking -- vaccine immunity versus infection-acquired immunity.

South Africa teaches us an important lesson here. Get vaccinated because of the durability and the infection-acquired immunity doesn't last that long.

BASH: That is so fascinating. That graphic really helped explain it.

I want to ask about testing. The CDC director called COVID testing in the U.S. robust. So given that, does it surprise you that none of those tests so far have shown that the variant is here in the U.S. yet?

GUPTA: It does surprise me a bit. I mean, this is one of those things. Our surveillance testing is certainly better than it was and as Nick mentioned about one-seventh of positive tests are then going and getting their genomic sequence done to figure out which variant it is specifically. I think it's, you know, pretty clear that it's here, omicron, and no one should be surprised when we report that, which my guess will be able in the next couple of days.

I think what happened, Dana, is that over the summer, we just kind of stopped testing, right?

BASH: Right.

GUPTA: We had a real lull in testing. We talked a lot about this idea of having plenty of home tests. They are more available now but I think people have not been using them as much as they could.

Antigen tests, Dana, are good for answering the question people are really often trying to ask, which isn't do I have the virus in my body. The question they're asking is, am I contagious? I feel fine, but am I possibly contagious? Because people without symptoms can spread, those antigen tests can do a great job answering that question.

People can buy them in stores. I've been buying them going into the cooler drier months, have them at home. It's a good way to just be sure.

BASH: Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir was the testing czar for Trump's COVID task force. He's really stressing the unknown of this variant that is so concerning. Listen to what he said.


ADM. BRETT GIROIR (RET.), FORMER HHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: We really don't know how Omicron is going to affect the elderly or those who have chronic conditions. So we have no evidence that it's worse but I don't want people to assume it's just mild and we can just blow this off.


BASH: Sanjay, it really feels like public health officials right now are damned if they do and damned if they don't. They're trying to warn people but not freak them out.

GUPTA: Yeah. I mean, we're seeing the scientific process unfold real time. I mean, people as far as hearing this information, they often hear it when we have a lot more of these details nailed down but such as been the nature of this pandemic. We're all learning this together.

I can tell you I've been going deep into the data in South Africa, specifically in Gauteng province which is where Johannesburg is located. I want to show you what's happening with hospitalizations over there. This is something that probably has got the admiral's attention and other people's attention as well.

Over the last three weeks, the numbers have gone up significantly, close to quadrupled in terms of hospitalizations.

Now, Dana, it's sort of late spring over there in terms of climate. It's past flu season. It's getting warmer. Typically, hospitalizations are going down.

They've been going up. Is this related to this new variant, Omicron? We don't know for sure. But this could be the sort of thing that gives people a little concern if hospitalizations are going up. Is there a population of people who are more vulnerable?

And my guess is there is, just like we've seen and that's the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. We should know more within the next couple of weeks on that.

BASH: Yeah, and even looking at that remarkable climb, what you said earlier is important to keep in mind. That most people in South Africa are not vaccinated, which is a reminder, get your shot, get your booster.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always good to talk to you. Thank you.

GUPTA: You, too, Dana. Thank you.

BASH: And two Republican congresswomen are hurling insults at one another, including some coded emojis.


Plus, breaking this afternoon, another school shooting, this one in Michigan. All three of those killed are believed to be students.


BASH: Breaking in our national lead, a high school shooting leaving three dead, all believed to be students. The gunfire erupted this afternoon at a school just north of Detroit in Oxford, Michigan. CNN's Alexandra Field is following the breaking news.

Alexandra, you're getting new details on the suspected shooter.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's believed to have acted alone, and police are saying that he is a 15-year-old sophomore at that high school. The sole suspect who opened fire at Oxford high school this afternoon a few minutes before 1:00. Authorities say they received some 100 911 calls, 25 agencies rushed to respond along with 60 ambulances. They are saying in total nine people were shot, three students killed. Another six people, including possibly a teacher injured.

The suspect was taken into custody without incident, according to authorities. There is a deputy who is permanently stationed at that high school. That deputy was apparently helpful in assisting with the arrest of the student who is the suspected shooter.

The whole thing lasting about five minutes from the time that those shots rang out. Authorities say some 15 to 20 shots were fired. It is not clear at this point what could have motivated the shooter. More details coming this afternoon, Dana.

BASH: Alex, thank you so much for that report. And we will stay on this story as developments come. Thanks again, Alex.

And turning to our politics lead. The story you saw first on CNN. Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with the January 6th committee and is expected to appear for an interview.

CNN's Paula Reid joins me now.

Paula, what do we know about this deal and when he will appear?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: This is a really significant development for the committee, for Meadows to provide some documents and agree to sit for an initial interview. This is a dramatic shift in the relationship between top Trump ally and House investigators. And, of course, for Meadows, this means the committee is not going to pursue criminal contempt proceedings against him, for now.

But that could come around again. As you know, this is delicate and there's a big question about what exactly will happen and any potential interview. Will investigators actually get the answers to the questions they have? Because we've seen Meadows' attorney has said they're trying to negotiate a way for Meadows to cooperate without having to waive executive privilege.

Now we know some members of the panel have said, look, they have plenty of questions for Meadows that have nothing to do with Trump. So there is a possibility they could try to negotiate something here. But we heard Representative Adam Schiff say earlier today that he will assess the level of Meadows' cooperation after he testifies. So, look, even a willingness to engage and to cooperate stands in stark contrast to another Trump adviser. Of course, Steve Bannon, who is now facing criminal contempt charges.

As you know, this is normally the way the process works. We'll see, though, where it actually leads.

BASH: So interesting. Meadows a former member of Congress. Not sure if that has anything to do with it. But all of this is happening, the former president's lawyers, they report today. They went before judges again in order to argue that certain documents should not be allowed to go before the January 6th committee, that they should be kept away. What did the judges say?

REID: The judges today, the three-judge appeal panel, they appeared skeptical of this argument that Trump lawyers have made that the former president should be able to keep some of his records secret, even though the current president, President Biden, said no. He cites the extraordinary circumstances of January 6th and said, this not what executive privilege is meant to protect. The committee should have access. But let's hear what one of the judges said about what's really at stake here.


JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, DC CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: This all boils down to who decides, who decides when it's in the best interest of the United States to disclose presidential records. Is it the current occupant of the White House or the former?


REID: Look, there are a lot of novel questions that are raised in this case. Trump lost at the lower court. Likely whatever happens here at the appellate court, this case is very likely going to be heading to the Supreme Court, whether they take it up, that remains to be scene.

BASH: I mean, beyond the actual substance of whether or not Congress is going to get to see these documents which matters the most, all these precedent-setting decisions that courts are going to make.

Thank you so much. Good to see you, Paula.

REID: Likewise.

BASH: And President Biden today is hoping to remind Americans what he's accomplished. Is it enough? We'll talk to the man in charge of keeping Democrats in control of the House, next.



BASH: We're back with our politics lead.

Any moment, President Biden is set to speak in Minnesota as he continues to tout the new infrastructure law. But here in Washington, there are new roadblocks to the rest of the Biden agenda from a squabble among Democrats to uncertainty around the new COVID variant.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president in Rosemont, Minnesota.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden in Minnesota today, touting the benefits of the new infrastructure law, suddenly overshadowed by the stubborn fight against coronavirus.

The White House waiting to learn more about the new Omicron variant, but bracing for a potential threat to the nation's economic recovery, which Fed Chair Jerome Powell warned Congress of today.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Greater concerns about the virus could reduce people's willingness to work in-person which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply chain disruptions.

ZELENY: The president is urging caution, but not panic, as he travels to cities across the country. Explaining how the $1 trillion infrastructure investment can improve the lives of Americans through new roads, bridges, broadband Internet service and more.

The administration is also intensifying its push for the second piece of the president's economic agenda still stuck in the Senate. At the same time, the White House is balancing a two-tiered crisis, rising COVID cases and inflation. Both global challenges hitting close to home here in the U.S.


FAUCI: This mutational profile is very different from other variants of interest and concern. And although some mutations are also found in delta, this is not delta. It's something different.

ZELENY: The president set to deliver a comprehensive COVID strategy on Thursday.

BIDEN: I'll be putting forward a detailed strategy outlining how we're going to fight COVID this winter, not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.

ZELENY: From New Hampshire to Michigan to Minnesota, the White House is working to boost the president's standing, and that of other Democrats as he leads a sales pitch of a major bipartisan accomplishment that has eluded so many presidents before him.

Today's visit is designed to show the job opportunities coming to communities across the country as the law begins to be implemented. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers today there is bright economic news ahead.

JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Our unemployment rate is at its lowest level since the start of the pandemic, and our economy is on pace to reach full employment two years faster than the Congressional Budget Office had estimated.


ZELENY: Now, President Biden is set to focus on that bright news in the economy, trying to push this forward to get his agenda passed in the final month of this year. But, Dana, I'm also told that the president was briefed a few moments ago on that shooting in Michigan, and that is the sad, somber event that he'll be talking about when he begins his comments here in just a few moments.

BASH: Well, that's unfortunate, but expected. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much, traveling with the president in Rosemont, Minnesota.

And here to discuss is Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York who is in charge of getting Democrats elected to the House next year, holding on to majority who told "The Washington Post" that the White House message right now on the Democrats' agenda isn't working.

And I want to start there with you. The president is about to speak as we just heard from Jeff Zeleny trying to sell the bipartisan infrastructure bill, look ahead to the social safety net package he hopes will pass the Senate. So, if the White House came to you and said, here, Mr. Chairman, write this speech that you think delivers the best message to help you keep the majority in the House, what would it be?

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Well, the reason I said free Joe Biden is that I think Joe Biden has the voice of the working and middle class families like the ones so many of us grew up in. He understands what it's like for a family to struggle, what it's like to live the American dream if your country has your back.

So, I want him to be the messenger and so, my plan would be get the president out there. Put him with hard hats. Put him on the factory floor. I love it when he's behind the wheel of a pickup truck or talking to families who are out there making ends meet.

That's the voice of working middle class people that is the heart and soul of the Democratic agenda. You know, we are accomplishing real things that are going to create jobs, grow our economy, end this pandemic and move us forward as one country again. And I want the president out there communicating with the American public.

BASH: Earlier this month, I spoke with Congressman Josh Gottheimer. I went to his New Jersey district. And as you know, he's a vulnerable Democratic member.

I want you to listen to what he told me.


BASH: How much do you hear from your constituents about their desire to get the social safety net and climate provision bill passed? REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): They don't talk about it as a bill. They

talk about the parts of it which I think we need to do, too. And whether you're talking about lower taxes or talking about pre-k or child care, when you talk about it that way, those were all -- it's all bipartisan things that Democrats and Republicans care about. I think we've just gotten a little lost on how we talk about it.


BASH: Is he right? Have you all gotten lost on how you talk about the agenda that you're trying to convince the American people is going to help them?

MALONEY: Yeah, he is right. And the fact is, is that we need to sit down and talk to people like you're at their kitchen table. And tell them what it's going to mean in their lives.

But, you know, the truth is, is it's not like we've been sitting around. We have been achieving these difficult hard objectives. These are important pieces of legislation requiring almost unanimous support among the Democratic Party and we've achieved that. First on the rescue plan which saved our economy millions of small businesses, then on the infrastructure bill which will create millions of jobs. You can get with a high school education.

Ask the building trades what that means. People get that. And we're right on the cusp of passing the most important investments in our families. So, you'll have cheaper child care. So you'll be able to afford prescription drugs like insulin. So, you can keep an elder parent at home longer and more affordably.

Those are real things people get. But we've got to achieve these results. We got to stick together to do that. I'm proud of the president and I'm proud of my party for getting it done, and we're going to go tell people about it.


BASH: So, as -- I don't need to tell you, it's about telling people about it and the goal politically is to get voters to your side and get the base energized. And on that note, some progressives say the party has been too moderate to excite the base.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently told "The New York Times," quote, there is all this focus on Democrats deliver, Democrats deliver, but are they delivering on the things that people are asking for the most right now? In communities like mine, the issues that people are loudest and feel most passionately about are the ones that the party is speaking to the least.

How do you respond to that?

MALONEY: Well, I'm not sure what she's referring to specifically, but I can tell you when every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in America gets to go to school, not day care, school, with universal pre-K, that's going to be popular everywhere. But in my district, talk to carpenters and plumbers, talk to

steamfitters and iron workers, they'll tell you that infrastructure bill means good jobs for as far as the eye can see.

You talk to climate activists. I know my Alexandria cares a lot about the climate. I'm a I'm a champion with her on that issue, I like to think, and the fact is, we're doing the most important climate work that's ever been done right now in both the infrastructure bill and in the Build Back Better bill.

What does that mean? It means hundreds of thousands of charging stations built with good union labor for millions of new electric vehicles, an electrified federal fleet. These are just some of the measures in that bill.

Now, I know there's more we need to do. We need to protect the vote. We need to guarantee the right to vote. She may be talking about that. We need to keep fighting for those things. She's right.

But my goodness, give the president some credit, give these Democratic majority some credit. We've done big things and we've done it with no margin to spare. And we're about to do one more big thing and that's all in the first year.

BASH: Right. And as you know, the question is will voters give you credit? I know that is exactly what you were talking about today is making sure that the message is tailored so that people understand that.

Thank you so much, Congressman. I appreciate it.

MALONEY: My pleasure.

BASH: And it's a feud that started between a Republican and a Democrat. Now it's escalated with a Republican congresswoman calling a GOP colleague, quote, trash. We're going to talk about what this means in the big picture, next.



BASH: In our politics lead, a fight between progressive Democrat Ilhan Omar and conservative Republican Lauren Boebert who made inflammatory anti-Muslim comments jumped the aisle and exploded on the right. Republican firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene today butted in, defending Boebert and called her conservative colleague Nancy Mace, quote, trash in the GOP conference after Mace condemned Boebert's hateful comments on CNN Sunday.

That's a lot to talk about. We're going to continue to discuss this. There's so much back-and-forth, it's kind of hard to keep track. But I will keep going.

So, Mace has been hitting back at Greene all day. And I want to show a tweet where she first of all corrected Greene's spelling of "your." without apostrophe R-E. And then Mace wrote, I'm a pro-life fiscal conservative who was attacked by the left all weekend as I often am. As I defied China while in Taiwan, while I'm not as -- I'm not -- what I'm not say religious bigot or racist. You might want to try that over there in your little league.

She also tweeted this. We're going to put this up on the screen and I think you can see what it is up there. I see what it is. A bat and in the middle, I won't say it and then crazy.

And then she went on Fox Business, I should say, this afternoon and said this.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Make no mistake: Marjorie Taylor Greene is a liar. She's crazy. She's insane. She's bad for the party.


BASH: So I want to talk about this, not about the member on member and frankly woman on woman attack here but about what this means about where we are right now in the discourse of politics. I feel like every time we have this conversation we think, this is the bottom of the barrel. And then suddenly, the bottom drops even further.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. To me, the story here is what this says about the Republican Party, not just politics because these are arguments and fights that are happening within the Republican Party. You are seeing this, you know, fringe -- they aren't really fringe anymore because they're becoming mainstream members like Marjorie Taylor Greene, members like Lauren Boebert who either throw out Islamophobic comments, lies about election fraud, you know, you name it and they are not held accountable by Minority Leader McCarthy.

So that's what this is about. And it's a pattern that is repeating and McCarthy still has yet to forcefully weigh in on this latest episode. He is trying to kind of just panel things at the margins and it's because of the fact that he's facing a choice which is, does he choose to just stay quiet and allow these members of the party to continue in this way because he knows that he wants to win the majority in the House? Or does he actually try to tell the Republican base, this is not the direction that we want to go?

BASH: We know the way that he's been answering that question and it's the former, not the latter.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He's afraid. I mean, he's afraid to lead because, if he leads, the way he knows he should, I believe, it leads him away from Donald Trump. These are people who are joined at the hip with Donald Trump.

Donald Trump said, you know, Gosar is a great guy. Marjorie Taylor Greene is absolutely wonderful. And also in the video that CNN revealed today of Boebert, she was speaking before an audience when she made those Islamophobic remarks again or the first time, I'm not sure which it was, and they were laughing and applauding.

They weren't horrified at what she was saying. They were saying you go. You go, girl. So she had a great line and she was going to use it over and over. So she knows who her audience is, too.

And so they want to win. He doesn't want to speak up. The Democrats don't want to get involved in that fight too much because it's not their fight. Democrats fight over child care. They're not calling each other names.

BASH: They're basically fighting over who is the most Trumpy.


BASH: And I know, Alice, you spoke with Marjorie Taylor Greene just before coming on and she told you about the conversation she had about this sort of battle with the former president Donald Trump.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I just spoke with her. She had a conversation with Trump earlier this afternoon. She says former President Trump is 100 percent behind her and he is supportive of what she's doing and the way she is engaging with fellow members of Congress, Democrat and Republican.

And he also says with regard to congresswoman mace, he is frustrated with how she has taken it to Marjorie Taylor Greene and he told Marjorie Taylor Greene that he would be happy to get involved in a primary fight against Congresswoman Mace in South Carolina. That is frustrating.

Here we have two, in my view, very strong conservative Republican women that should be working together instead of working to knock each other out and it's not helpful to the party. Look, Kevin McCarthy has a lot more important things to do than separate the mean girls into their respective corners. But until he does that and puts them in time-out and tells them to stop that, we're going to continue to have these conversations.

This does nothing to further Republicans, the constituents of these congresswomen. All it does is raise their national profile, help their fundraising and hurts the Republican Party.

BASH: And what you just reported there that she claims that Trump said, which is that he would back a primary opponent against Nancy Mace. That's why -- that's one of the main reasons we're having this discussion because it is about the heart and soul of the Republican Party which, to your dismay, Bill Kristol, is still firmly with Donald Trump.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: Yeah, it's even gone as you said at the beginning, worse. It's more than kowtowing to Trump a little bit.

There's a school shooting in Michigan. Neither of them thinks it's inappropriate to have this insane, childish and embarrassing dispute on that day. God forbid they should say something about how you might have gun -- mild -- even mild gun control policies that stops a 15- year-old from taking a gun into a school and shooting his classmates and a teacher.

God forbid they should say anything serious about Omicron variant and about the virus. These are anti-vax -- Marjorie Taylor Greene is an anti-vax Republican. I think Mace has been a little more qualified but she's been no profile in courage either. God forbid they should have anything to say about possible health policies. It's beyond embarrassing at this point.

STEWART: I think one thing that's important with regard to Congresswoman Greene, she says she's tired of what she calls the uni- party, the Republican Party where everyone agrees with the same policies and no one really stands out for the real soiled hard-core conservative issues.

KRISTOL: Like the anti-vaccine?

STEWART: Exactly.


KRISTOL: What hard core issue -- what hard-core issue does Marjorie Taylor Greene stand for? Give me an example.

STEWART: Certainly Donald Trump. She's certainly --

KRISTOL: That's not an issue. That's a person.

STEWART: In terms of the solid core, she talks about family values. She certainly talks about with regard to limited government and with regard to --

BASH: But I want to --


BASH: I understand. No, I understand, Alice, but you are a more traditional conservative. And that really speaks to what we're talking about here that conservatism is low taxes and maybe social conservatism, depending on where you are -- and they're not debating that. They're debating whether or not people are loyal to Donald Trump.

BORGER: Right, because Donald Trump not a conservative. You'd agree with that, correct?

BASH: Exactly.

BORGER: Donald Trump is not a conservative. Spends a lot of money. Doesn't care about conservative issues.

Donald Trump is about Donald Trump. Therefore, the party is now about Donald Trump and not about policy.

BASH: We have to leave it there. We've got to leave it there. Thank you all for that spirited discussion. Appreciate it.

And up next, a look at a drug all over America's streets with some users telling CNN they first tried meth when they were 11 years old.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How many people you know do meth?





BASH: We're back with the latest installment of our series "United States of Addiction" and what one drug user says, quote, actually fries your brain. Today, a look at meth, a highly addictive stimulant that can also cause long-term heart and brain damage, as well as violent behavior. And there's been a massive spike in deadly meth overdoses in the United States over the last year.

CNN's Kyung Lah takes a closer look.



LAH (voice-over): Fresno County sheriff's deputy Todd Burk --

TODD BURK, FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF DEPUTY: Hey, are you okay? Can you get out of the road, please?

LAH: -- on his typical graveyard shift, digging away night after night --

BURK: You're out here doing drugs?

LAH: -- at a deadly national crisis.

BURK: Out of the road. We're trying to help you.

Something is causing her to panic and to be paranoid.

LAH: That something is likely the drug law enforcement most often sees in the central California county.

BURK: Methamphetamine. When is the left time you used?

Very common for meth users that smoke it. This is also a common way to use it is they inject it.

LAH: This needle belongs to this driver.

BURK: Your car is expired big time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, I know, I know.

LAH: This man says Deputy Burk can search his car.

BURK: Needles in the car?

LAH: And then talks to us about his addiction. He asked we don't show his face.

Do you use a lot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been using a lot like on and off all the time since, like I said, 13.

LAH: Why did you get started when you were 13?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have an older brother I looked up to and he found like that he wanted to introduce it to me, I guess. Of course, since I'm a kid, I'm going to say yes to my brother, you know? And then from there on, just took control.

LAH: Would you say you're a meth user?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. I'm a drug addict.

LAH: He'd been in and out of prison and just lost his job as a forklift driver that pay $25 an hour. He took meth just yesterday, worried about how he'd take care of his family.

How old are your kids?


LAH: And how old are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-eight. I'm trying to stay straight so I can have my kids straight.

LAH: How many people you know do meth?


BURK: You know, methamphetamine is such an addictive drug. They can't get rid of it. They can't stop it. Even if they want to, they can't. Their body won't allow them.

LAH: Every single stop Deputy Burk makes on this shift involves meth.

BURK: Having a hard time? Need a program?

Methamphetamine would be the number one drug used in Fresno. It's so easy to obtain. It's not difficult. It's all over the streets out here.

LAH: New CDC data shows meth is all over the country's streets, and it's getting worse. More than 1 in 4 overdose deaths this year involved meth and other psycho stimulants. That's up nearly 50 percent from last year.

In California, deaths were up 64 percent year on year. And in Fresno, no other drug -- including fentanyl -- comes even close to the death rate of meth.

BOB PENNELL (ph), FORMER DOJ SPECIAL AGENT: It's not the same dope. It's different.

LAH: Former Department of Justice Special Agent Bob Pennell (ph) says dealers used to cook meth from a patron in super labs.

PENNELL: We'd hit these labs and we'd see nothing but blister packs. You had to have pseudoephedrinal (ph). And the minute we stopped it, death.

LAH: It was over.

So, now, Mexican cartels use common chemical agents in mega labs.

PENNELL: They're like Costco. They're just huge, huge industrial- sized buildings. So, they're basically warehouses.

LAH: And you can just manufacture it now at a much higher quantity.

Smuggled across the border as liquid, difficult to detect means cheap prices.

BURK: Hey, no warrants, right?


LAH: And high supply impacting life across Fresno.

JOHN CHAPMAN, FORMER METH ADDICT: It's not even meth anymore.

LAH: Do you feel different on today's meth than the stuff that you grew up with?

CHAPMAN: More violent.

LAH: More violent.

CHAPMAN: More violent.

LAH: John Chapman lives in the neighborhood Deputy Burk patrols. While he shares a common story --

CHAPMAN: Oh, my God, I think I was 11, 11 1/2 when I started.

LAH: Who introduced it to you when you were 11?

CHAPMAN: I would say my mom did.

LAH: Your mom gave you meth? CHAPMAN: Uh-huh.

LAH: At age 55, he managed to quit.

CHAPMAN: My legs will start spasming and stuff like that from it.

LAH: Because of the meth?


It gave me nerve damage. What it does, it actually fries your brain.

LAH: If you had kept going, what would happen to you?

CHAPMAN: I'd be dead.

LAH: There's no lifesaving antidote for meth overdoses. That's why Deputy Burk keeps pressing, night after night.

BURK: I want to see somebody who is constantly high on methamphetamine to change their life, become a productive citizen. I think they want it as well.

You're all done?


LAH: This is not a problem just in Fresno or in California. Eight states recorded higher meth overdose numbers than California, including Virginia, Massachusetts and Mississippi -- Dana.

BASH: What an incredibly powerful and important piece. Thank you so much, Kyung. Appreciate it.

And THE LEAD's "United States of Addiction" series continues tomorrow with Dr. Sanjay Gupta's look at a key tool to combat overdoses.

Up next, one of the world's greatest golfers reveals his future plans.



BASH: In our sports lead, Tiger Woods says his days of being a full- time golfer are officially over. The 82-time PGA tour winner announcing at a press conference today that he does hope to play in some tournaments in the future but, as of now, he doesn't know how long it will take before he can make his professional return. Woods is still recovering from a horrific accident back in February when his SUV crossed a median, hit a tree and rolled over. The last time Woods played competitively was in December of 2020 with his son Charlie.

I'm Dana Bash in for Jake Tapper. Thank you for watching.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."