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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Instagram CEO Rejects Data Showing App Is Addictive; New Report Claims Instagram Acts As Drug Pipeline To Kids; Pelosi: GOP Has A Responsibility To Discipline Their Members; AOC & Boebert Trade Jabs Over GOP Lawmaker's Christmas Gun Photo; New Israeli Studies Find Pfizer's Booster Shot Reduces Infections & Deaths By 90 Percent Or More; Democratic Rep. & Sister-In-Law Who Lost Son Push For Congressional Action On Drugs Laced With Fentanyl; Rep. Ted Deutch, (D-FL), Is Interviewed About Drug Overdose. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 08, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FRANCES HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK PRODUCT MANAGER: Facebook's internal research is aware that there are a variety of problems facing children on Instagram that are -- they know that severe harm is happening to children.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mosseri, today, pushing back.
ADAM MOSSERI, HEAD OF INSTAGRAM: I firmly believe that Instagram and the internet, more broadly, can be a positive force in young people's lives.
I also know that sometimes young people can come to Instagram, dealing with difficult things in their lives. I believe that Instagram can help in those critical moments.
O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): The Instagram boss being asked about research released this week that shows teenagers are easily able to find accounts advertising the sale of drugs like Xanax and Adderall, its algorithms even promoting these accounts to some users.
MOSSERI: Accounts, selling drugs or any other regulated goods are not allowed on the platform.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently they are.
MOSSERI: Senator, respectfully, I don't think you can take one or two examples and indicate that that is indicative of what happens on the platform more broadly.
O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Mosseri pledging the company will do more to protect young users, but it's too little too late for people like Ian Russell, who lost his daughter Molly to suicide in 2017.
IAN RUSSELL, LOST DAUGHTER TO SUICIDE: There was no sign of any mental ill health in Molly before her death, and we couldn't work out what could possibly triggered it.
O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Russell says he looked at his daughter's social media and was disturbed by what he saw on platforms including Instagram.
RUSSELL: And having -- had a glimpse of what Molly was exposed to, I think I now understand why she was pushed to do what she did.
O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Adding to the pressures on the social media giant recently, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general launch an investigation into the potential harms of Instagram for children and teens. Meta claiming the allegations are false.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
O'SULLIVAN: And Jake, that hearing just ending on Capitol Hill in the last few seconds. What we heard was a lot of frustration from senators, frustration that Mosseri wasn't being forthcoming enough about data and information about what Facebook, what Instagram, what Meta, whatever you want to call it, knows about the harms it can have on young people.
And finally, an important point, Jake, I think, he was also asked, you know, why is it when parents see stuff on the platform that they take issue with that, they think is dangerous for their kids? Oftentimes, stuff gets reported to Facebook, and Facebook does nothing about it. Mosseri says when that happens, it's a mistake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Donie O'Sullivan, thanks so much.
Let's discuss this with Wall Street Journal Tech Reporter, Deepa Seetharaman and Jim Steyer, who's the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, which focuses on media internet and technology safety for kids.
So, Deepa, let me start with you. Senators, asked the head of Instagram about data, showing that the app is addictive, and he flat out rejected the notion that it's addictive, which I think all of us can probably agree. It's pretty addictive. How does it line up with all of the internal documents that you obtained from Facebook, which owns Instagram, when it comes to young users?
DEEPA SEETHARAMAN, TECHNOLOGY REPORTER, WALL STRRE JOURNAL: Yes. You know, I'm not 100 percent sure how Adam would reconcile those public comments today with the black and white data that we see. I mean, it's not even just this teen research. The teen research shows that, you know, that usage of Instagram tended to yield or for a sizable percentage of them resulted in negative feelings about themselves or bad self-image.
But more broadly, even beyond what the Instagram research about teen show, there are -- there's other research within the company that we've reported on that shows that about one in eight users globally have some kind of problematic use. Meaning they use Facebook to the exclusion of spending time with friends or doing their jobs or spending time with their kids. And so, there is definitely a problem, at least according to these documents, that show that the company has addictive properties, and that they need to do something about it. So I'm not really sure how you reconcile those -- that internal research with what Adam is saying publicly.
TAPPER: And Jim, Instagram is trying to point to these new teen safety tools as examples of concrete actions they're taking. There's one function that blocks adults from messaging kids under the age of 18 unless they follow each other. Do you think these new features will do anything to actually protect kids?
JIM STEYER, AUTHOR, "TAKING BACK TO FACEBOOK: Absolutely not. Too -- far too little far too late, Jake.
And actually, Deepa, thank you for your extraordinary reporting on this.
No, I do not think they will do anything. They're just a PR stunt at the last minute because Adam realized he was going to be testifying in front of Congress.
And as you said, look, that Attorney General of the United States came out with an extraordinary plan yesterday about teen mental health. And he specifically referred to the experiences that young people, kids and teens are having on platforms like Instagram and the impact on their social and emotional wellbeing. So, for Adam to get up there and basically do the classic Facebook deny, deflect, distract, oh we'll fix this someday. This is what we've seen from this company, and quite frankly, from the leadership.
So I think it's an extraordinarily important hearing because it just exposes that sort of cynical attitude that I believe Facebook and Instagram have had to these issues that kids and teens experience on their platform. But I also think that, Jake, we're going to see for the first time, and we sure need it bipartisan, serious legislation that reigns in Instagram, Facebook, and some of the other platforms. And the hearing, if it doesn't lead to action, we'll just be an exercise. But I think finally, we're going to get some action out of Congress
TAPPER: And Deepa, given how much time you've spent reporting on how Instagram does harm teenagers, are you surprised by these new claims showing how easy it is for kids to buy drugs on Instagram with just a few clicks? You understand these algorithms work, how these algorithms work more than most Americans.
SEETHARAMAN: I mean, I think this is part of a broader trend we've seen. I mean, Instagram is pretty clear that their policies don't allow drug sales. And you know, it is in black and white, there are those rules.
But the question has never been whether or not Instagram allows this kind of activity, it's how well they enforce their rules. And that's been the issue with Facebook or Meta and all of its different properties for years. It's about enforcement. And so no, it doesn't surprise me that it's possible to find drug sales or any kind of bad content on Instagram, it's a known problem. But you know, the company keeps saying that they're working on it, that they're putting all these kinds of resources into the issue to try to fight it. But -- and yet, it continues to be extremely easy to find some of this content. So, that's just another struggle that they're -- that they continue to have.
Jim, Instagram says that it removed 1.8 million pieces of drug related content in the last few months, and that it will, quote, "continue to improve in this area." Why is it that Instagram, which is worth billions and billions of dollars, why is it that they're always having to take these basic steps and only after their problems are widely exposed?
STEYER: Because fundamentally they don't care, Jake.
TAPPER: Somebody is calling you?
All right. We can't hear you now, Jim, so.
STEYER: Can you hear me?
TAPPER: Now I can. Go ahead. Fundamentally, they don't care you said.
STEYER: Fundamentally, they don't care. Fundamentally, they have a business model that, as you mentioned in your opening, really does addict kids and teens and other people. They don't really care. And so, they come up with PR excuses, but it's the same pattern.
And as Deepa said, the drug issue is real. It's they do not enforce their policies if they happen to have them. And at the end of the day, the big losers, our kids and teens, just like our children. So, this is a moment of reckoning. I really do believe that.
And most serious comments are just typical. But when you see Mark Zuckerberg testify --
STEYER: -- and also give him excuses, and not really addressed the fact that this is happening on their platform.
TAPPER: Deepa --
STEYER: So, hopefully this is a big moment of reckoning for this company and that we will see, finally, major legislation that reigns them in.
TAPPER: Deepa Seetharaman and Jim Steyer, thanks so much to both of you for your time and your insights. Appreciate it. And if you or your loved ones are experiencing any suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- 8255. That's 1-800-273-8255. Or you can text home to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Both services are free and they're confidential and available 24/7.
Coming up next, Christmas cards with a loaded message why Republican members of Congress are being criticized by Democrats for their holiday photos. Plus, breaking right now new study showing how a booster shot can drastically reduce the threat of COVID. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our politics lead today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is offering no hints into how or even if her party will publicly rebuked Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert for her never ending anti- Muslim bigotry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What action was promised, if any, to Congresswoman Omar? And are you expecting to take any action against Congresswoman Boebert?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: When I'm ready to announce that, I'll let you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: In newly surfaced videos, Boebert has smeared Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota as a terrorist.
Now progressives --
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): Bravely hear voices in an open letter earlier today --
TAPPER: Now progressives are pushing a resolution that could strip Boebert of her committee assignments. Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.
And Manu, Omar told me two days ago that Pelosi promised, she heard, that she would take action this week on Boebert. But Pelosi now seems reluctant to even talk about this.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she actually has snapped at reporters multiple times a day who have asked her directly about whether or not they will take action to punish Lauren Boebert. And this because the progressives in the House are pushing for that punishment, pushing that Lauren Boebert should be stripped from her committee assignments in the aftermath of those comments and arguing that she should suffer the same fate as two other Republicans who came under fire from Democrats who lost their committee spots ball, Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene. And that has essentially set a precedent where the majority party can now go after minority members.
Minority party members kick them out of their committee assignments if they have done something that members find offensive. In this case, progressives say there's no reason why Boebert should be removed. But Pelosi, in their leadership team clearly views this fight as a distraction, wanting to instead focus on the Democratic agenda instead.
Now, I asked Pelosi at her press conference, what is the difference here between what happened with those other two Republicans and now Boebert. And why not -- is the action not being taken, if there is any difference?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: What makes the Boebert situation different?
PELOSI: (INAUDIBLE) just intensification of their neglect. It's their responsibility to deal with their people. But how we deal with addressing the fear that they have instilled in their -- with their Islamophobia and the rest is something that hopefully we can do in a bipartisan way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Jake, one big reason that is driving the reluctance of the Speaker to move forward is the fact that there are vulnerable Democratic members I'm told who are concerned about having a vote on this issue, don't believe it is necessary to have a vote on this issue. And that is raising other concerns if they were to move ahead to strip Lauren Boebert of her committee assignments. Perhaps they will not even have the votes to pull that off, given that Democrats can only afford to lose three votes in order to move ahead on anything, assuming this goes down straight along party lines here.
So, you're seeing the Speaker, Jake, facing serious pressure from her left, but willing to move forward on another route. We'll see if she changes her mind here. But at the moment, the Democratic leaders are not willing to embrace this form of punishment. Jake.
TAPPER: Manu Raju, on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.
Let's dive into this with our panel.
So earlier today, CNN's Daniella Diaz asked Pelosi if she supported the resolution from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley to strip Boebert of her committee assignments. Pelosi responded, quote, "It's the responsibility of Republicans to discipline their members."
And then Diaz says Pelosi scolded her for not asking about the legislation that passed through the House last night on the raising the debt ceiling and colossally huge defense funding bill. And Pelosi is taking this this tone all day. She's obviously irritated by this. Lauren Boebert is a bigot. And obviously her comments are reprehensible. But do you think Pelosi is concerned about the fact that this vote doesn't put food on anyone's table, doesn't help bring down inflation, doesn't help provide daycare? I mean, what's going on?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, particularly at a time when the President and Democrats are trying to get his Build Back Better agenda across the finish line before the end of the year, and you have Congress expected to leave town in the next few days, potentially could come back for that debt limit, that debt limit vote. But this is certainly not what they, Democrats. even want to be focused on at this point, Jake.
TAPPER: And Olivier, progressive Congresswoman Ayanna Presley, she's leading this resolution. Here's what she's saying about why she's taking this route.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESSLEY: And action is to be complicit. So, we need accountability. Representative Boebert should be stripped of her committees.
As I said, the world is watching. This is not just about Representative Omar, it is about every Muslim that calls this country home. And I might add also a formidable voting bloc.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Traditionally, would something like this be sent to the Ethics Committee? What's the more normal way to do this?
OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORREPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Sure. That's one of the that's one of the possibilities here. You know, one of the one of the challenges for Democrats is they don't have a lot of arrows in their quiver to respond to this. Not only because doing the right thing might actually get you more of the wrong things, and some of these members of Congress are actually just attention hounds, but also because it's not that significant punishment for some of these folks. I mean, this is like passing a law that that would forbid me from being a member of the American gymnastics team at the Olympics essentially, these are not legislative Titans.
Stripping them of their committees, it's not exactly going to suddenly undermine their lavish legislative agendas. But so it puts the Democrats in a bind, because on the one hand, yes, this is a -- it's hard, calling it a distraction, because they're trying to respond some really ugly language, but this --
TAPPER: And death threats have come to Ilhan Omar.
KNOX: That's right.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Omar.
KNOX: And again, the context of all of this, of course is if we'd seen this 20 years ago, we might have said, that's terrible. But this is after January 6, this is after the surge in death threats against lawmakers.
KNOX: And that creates a very different context. That's where I think simply referring it to the ethics committee or taking another traditional route. Just might not feel all that satisfying to the people who've been on the receiving end of those threats.
TAPPER: Congressman, how do you think the Democrats should handle this or not all?
CHARLIE DENT, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think Pelosi is playing it very smart. Having been a chairman of the Ethics Committee, I think she's corrected. She should refer this matter to the Ethics Committee. They're 10 members, five Democrat, five Republican, let them sort this out.
This allegation -- this issue of Boebert is one where she didn't make a death threat. It's a bad joke. It was Islamophobic. You know, Greene and Gosar said things that are, frankly, much more incendiary. And I think they dealt with that appropriately.
But at this moment, I think she's got to be starting to think about retaliation. She's probably concerned, not all her members think this is a good idea to vote on this right now. So I think get it to the Ethics Committee, let them make a recommendation. You don't have to bring these things right to the floor. Go through a process and then sort out how you deal with this and other types of incendiary comments.
TAPPER: And Maria, there's this other thing going on with Boebert, she's in a back and forth with progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Boebert for family photo shows her four sons, ages eight to 15, holding a gun. This was in response to a different Christmas card type image that Congressman Tom Massie put out holding guns. Just -- that came out just a couple of days after that horrible shooting in Michigan.
So AOC responded to the post tweeting, quote, "Tell me again, where Christ said," quote," use the commemoration of my birth to flex violent weapons for personal political game." And so that Boebert replied, quote, "AOC uses her position as a congresswoman to attack my boys with their Christmas presents. Not a good look, Sandy."
First of all, I'm not sure what Sandy is exactly. But second of all, like, I mean, a lot of the American people, you know, they're not going to read about the $780 billion defense bill. They're going to look up on Twitter, and they're going to see this back and forth.
MARIA CARDONA, CO-HOST, "HOT MICS FROM LEFT TO RIGHT": Yes. And I think that is what Democrats are afraid of in terms of, and the White House, frankly, taking the focus off of what they're actually trying to do, to your point, to help people in these really tough times. But the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, these things do have to be responded to whether it's the Ethics Committee, or anything else. These things should not go unanswered or unpunished, Jake.
I mean, I, as a mother, when I saw that picture, Boebert's picture, I felt for her children. You know, I don't think AOC was attacking her children. AOC was attacking Republicans hypocrisy in terms of their whole issue of, you know, leftists and progressives going after Christmas. So that's the point that AOC was trying to make.
Might have gone over Boebert's head, it would not surprise me. But the fact of the matter is, when she acts like this one, Boebert acts like this Marjorie Taylor Greene, all of them, it focuses on there, sort of like a lack of the empathy gene there. And there's no humanity there, there's no civility. And even though for a lot of progressives and a lot of Democrats, that is a huge issue in terms of governing --
CARDONA: -- that it shows that Republicans have no interest whatsoever in actually governing. It's tough to make that an election time issue.
TAPPER: Well, I don't know. It certainly shows that some Republicans aren't --
TAPPER: -- interested in governing. In fact, Republican Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw, before a lot of this said something about this, and his colleagues that are provocateurs to use a nice term for what they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): There's two types of members of Congress, there's performance artists, there's legislators. Now the performance artists are the ones that get all the attention, are the ones you think are more conservative, because they know how to say slogans real well, they know how to recite the lines that they know that our voters want to hear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Sounds a little irritated with the Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Lauren Boeberts of the world.
DENT: Yes, and he should be. And I'm glad he said what he said, because I used to have to deal with this two. Guys like me would be called by the heart right guys. They called me a squish, a rhino, a bed wetter, you know, capitulator. And I was used to it. I didn't care.
But the guys who really were angry about those types of tactics on the hard right were conservative members like Crenshaw, who felt a responsibility to govern. And there are conservative districts. And then when those guys would agitate conservatives in their districts, they took the personally.
And so, some of the more conservative members who were not part of the Freedom Caucus, were particularly resentful. And I think Crenshaw articulated that --
CARDONA: There should be more like him.
CHAMBERS: I was just going to say I was talking to a Republican source today who was saying that, you know, in the past the Freedom Caucus also often stood for things about spending and about economic freedom. But now, it seems like they're turning into more of a maggot caucus, more than anything else. And so there is some frustration within the Republican Party on Capitol Hill with that dynamic that's playing out right now.
TAPPER: And in fact, you just had Matt Gaetz the other day, Congressman, who was part of this performance artists caucus, say that when Republicans take the House, in his view very well, and they certainly have a strong chance of it. He's -- he wants Donald Trump to be the speaker. You don't actually have to be a member of Congress to be the Speaker of the House.
KNOX: Right. Yes, and that's floating around for a little while. And it I think Trump's been asked about it. I can't remember what he said, but he didn't sound super-duper --
TAPPER: It's a lot of work, that job.
KNOX: Well, he could just do -- he could just get the hand off of the gavel from Pelosi and then resign, right?
KNOX: But yes, it is defined, this party is defined by allegiance to Donald Trump, either one of the conversations about when Marjorie Kyla Green says, we're not fringe, we're mainstream. What she's really saying is a different version of we are Donald Trump's party.
KNOX: And that's really -- that's -- right now that's the driving force. And in some ways, 2022 is going to test at every single level of the election. How true it is.
CHAMBERS: But if Republicans do take back Congress, it's 2023 that will also be a test for them. Because while this is a problem right now for Leader McCarthy, this will become a much bigger problem for him if he has to govern and he has to deal with these people. But another Republican was telling me today that one thing that he might be able to do is sort of distract them by giving them certain committee assignments or telling them to have oversight over the Biden administration --
[17:25:20] TAPPER: Yes.
CHAMBERS: -- in order to take the focus of their efforts off of some of the things.
TAPPER: All right.
DENT: Winning is easy, governing is hard.
CARDONA: This is actually playing out in Georgia with Perdue getting into the race as the Donald Trump sort of --
CARDONA: -- candidate versus Kemp who is --
TAPPER: And just today he told Axios he would not have certified the state's 2020 election result --
TAPPER: -- if he'd been governor. Unbelievable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's scary.
TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here.
Breaking booster news, new studies just released show a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the booster reduces the chance of death by 90 percent. That's next. Stay with us.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Here's some breaking news for you now in our health lead. Two new studies from Israel just published in the New England Journal of Medicine find that Pfizer's booster vaccine reduces infections overall tenfold and reduces deaths by 90 percent.
Let's get right to Dr. Megan Ranney. She's professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University.
And Dr. Ranney, infections down tenfold, deaths down by 90 percent. That's really significant. Are you surprised by the success of the booster?
DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: You know, I'm not. This backs up the data that Israel has been providing to date around the booster. But the more important thing to me, Jake, is not about the success of the booster but also the success of that primary vaccine series.
To me, this study is yet another piece of evidence that those folks who are older or immunosuppressed need to get getting the booster a priority. And for the rest of it, it's a really good idea. But the biggest thing that all of us can do is to get those first two shots, whether it's Pfizer or Moderna.
TAPPER: Today, we also saw Pfizer claim that its booster is the best protection against the Omicron variant. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of eligible U.S. adults have gotten their booster shot. I've gotten my booster shot, I should note. Are you concerned about what's going to happen as we head into the colder months?
RANNEY: So I've gotten my booster as well. I think that all of us is, we're facing the Delta surge across the country, and Omicron hitting our shores, it is a good idea. It will protect us from symptomatic infection if we're younger and from that severe disease and hospitalization and, God forbid, death, if you are older or have other high risk conditions.
You know, this study around Omicron, it's a test tube study. It's not a real life one. We're still waiting for more data. For now, again, the preliminary data from South Africa suggested those first vaccine doses protect you from what we care most about, which is severe disease.
So, real easy message which is get the vaccine if you haven't. Booster, great idea, if you're six months plus out.
TAPPER: So, the Midwest, United States has become a hotspot for COVID. That's right now. The primarily, the Delta variant as you know in Michigan, there are more people hospitalized with COVID now than at any other point during the pandemic. Minnesota, not far behind Michigan in terms of new cases per capita. What's going on? What's responsible for this?
RANNEY: This is all Delta variant. This is the same surge that we saw this summer in the south, now heading the north as people are going indoors, spending time unmasked, dropping all those other precautions. And in those states, a large percentage of people still unvaccinated.
In my home state of Rhode Island, almost all eligible adults are fully vaccinated. And so although we are seeing a surge in hospitalizations, it's much smaller than what we saw last year, because the only people that are getting admitted for the most part are the unvaccinated. And there aren't as many of them.
TAPPER: And COVID hospitalizations in Maine are also at record highs. The latest surge is far surpassing earlier waves. How do you explain that?
RANNEY: So, same thing again, it's Delta variant hitting people who have not gotten their vaccine. Now, the lack of a booster for those older folks may be part of the surge, but really it is about the unvaccinated for the most part.
Omicron worries me because we're seeing it hit younger folks potentially a little harder. Most of the U.S. right now is not being affected by Omicron in a big way. Although we do think there's some community spread. It is almost all that Delta variant that we've been battling since this summer.
TAPPER: Dr. Ranney, thanks so much as always.
Coming up, the Joe Biden nominee to combat antisemitism globally has been stalled in Congress by a handful of Republicans. What's going on? Stay with us.
TAPPER: In the politics lead, President Biden lags far behind his most recent predecessors when it comes to getting his administration nominees through Congress. He is just past his 300th day in office with only 140 executive branch appointees confirmed. Donald Trump had 158 nominees in place at the same point. Barack Obama had 274, almost double. George W. Bush had 326 confirmations at his 300 day mark.
CNN's Jessica Dean reports for us now.
Senate Republicans blocking Biden administration nominees are now leading to headlines such as this one in the Atlantic, "quote," "Republicans are playing partisan politics with America's top antisemitism post. It's a game that no one is winning, least of all Jews."
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to stand against resurgence of this tied (ph) manage Semitism.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden's push to stop hateful anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions following a rash of attacks earlier this year is stalled in the Senate. Thanks to some Republicans.
BIDEN: There is nobody more qualified than Professor Deborah Lipstadt to special envoy --
DEAN (voice-over): Biden's choice to be the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism has still not had a committee hearing nearly five months after her nomination. Democrats say Deborah Lipstadt, who serves as Emory professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies is being blocked by several Republicans.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: Our Republican colleagues have refused to give her a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
DEAN (voice-over): As Republicans stall, Jewish groups have urged them to act quickly to confirm Lipstadt to the post. A rare joint statement from three key groups released November 4, read In part, quote, "There is no question that Professor Lipstadt has the credentials to deserve a proper hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, and that hearing is now overdue."
YAIR ROSENBERG, THE ATLANTIC REPORTER: To find this level of agreement about someone on such a contentious issue as anti-Semitism is rare.
DEAN (voice-over): Journalist Yair Rosenberg covers anti-Semitism for the Atlantic.
ROSENBERG: I don't even really think for them. This is about anti- Semitism. It's actually about a much broader effort to stall Biden's nominees and prevent their confirmations. In this case, there's Jewish communities abroad that are protected by the anti-Semitism envoy position. And right now that office is short string.
DEAN (voice-over): The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch, told CNN quote, "I wouldn't say we're holding it up," adding, they're waiting on additional materials from Lipstadt and aides that they spoke with her on Tuesday. Risch said some members expressed concerns over some of Lipstadt's tweets. And one from March 14, she called Senator Ron Johnson's comments, quote, "white supremacy, nationalism, pure and simple."
Lipstadt was reacting to Johnson's comments that he might have been concerned for his wellbeing during the January 6 attack at the protester has been affiliated with Black Lives Matter instead of being a largely white pro Trump crowd. Johnson, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee told CNN, quote, "I feel like we have so many nominations floating around right now. I really can't comment at this point."
Fellow GOP committee member, Senator Marco Rubio told CNN he couldn't comment.
(on camera): Are you supportive of her nomination?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I'm not sure I've reviewed that nomination to be frank, but doesn't ring an immediate though.
DEAN (voice-over): Democrats insist Lipstadt is an expert in her field, who's worked with Democratic and Republican administrations and should be confirmed.
MENENDEZ: If calling out anti-Semitism in the past is somehow an obstacle to this nomination, then that would be an amazing set of circumstances because that's what we want this person to do.
DEAN (voice-over): Menendez is threatening to bypass the committee process and take the nomination straight to the Senate floor if Republicans keep stalling.
(on camera): What's the line that they would have to cross for you to move to discharge it from the committee?
MENENDEZ: Well, at a certain point, time. You know, if we continue on a process, and all I get a sense is that we are running out the clock by our Republican colleagues, then that may force me to do that.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
DEAN: And if Democrats do move to discharge that nomination and send it to the Senate floor, a couple of things could happen, Jake. It's very possible that Republicans would join with Democrats and confirm Lipstadt. But if Democrats need to move by themselves and vote along party lines, of course, they have 50 senators and then Vice President Kamala Harris would break that tie, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean, thank you so much.
We have some breaking news for you now. Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack. According to the complaint, which was filed late this afternoon, Meadows is asking a federal court to block enforcement of both the subpoena that the committee issued him and the subpoena issued to Verizon for his phone records. The lawsuit comes after the committee chairman today signaled that the committee would pursue a criminal contempt of Congress referral against Meadows because of his refusal to sit for a deposition in the investigation into the Capitol riot.
Coming up next, an issue that hits close to home for too many Americans. Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida will join us to talk about the tragic overdose death of his nephew and what more can be done. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our national lead, America's drugs are opening up today about the nation's worsening drug epidemic. Today, he spoke with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the skyrocketing drug overdose death rate in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RAHUL GUPTA, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: We have to look at this as an unacceptable number. It's unprecedented and we must have a response that matches that historic number in terms of saving lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: From April 2020 to April 2021, more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. And three quarters of those were fentanyl deaths.
Twenty year old, Eli Weinstock, is part of this devastating record in March. He died after taking illegal, unregulated herbal drug that was, though he did not know it, laced with fentanyl. That's what we believe. His mother, Dr. Beth Weinstock, and his uncle Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida join us now and under horrible circumstances.
But I do admire taking a tragedy and trying to turn it into something positive. We have some people on our staff that have lost kids to cancer and are trying to be active in trying to help other future kids. So let me start with you Dr. Weinstock. Your son, Eli, he was a sophomore here in Washington at American University when he died, tell us a little bit about Eli, and what you know of what led to the overdose.
DR. BETH WEINSTOCK, SON, ELI, DIED FROM FENTANYL OVERDOSE IN MARCH: Well, Eli was a sophomore at American and he was doing great. He had a 3.7 GPA. He interned at the Spanish Education Development Center here in Washington. And he was on his way, he had just joined a fraternity.
And the circumstances are rather unclear to us at this point. We know that he had kratom and fentanyl in his body when he died. He died suddenly in the shower one night when he was getting ready to go out with some friends. And he was a kid who would never have taken something intentionally that had fentanyl in it. He did not intend to die just like the 70,000 approximately people who have died from synthetic opioids in the last year.
TAPPER: When you say he had kratom, what is that?
WEINSTOCK: Kratom is an herbal supplement, originally from Southeast Asia, but it can produce some opioid like qualities, it's a calming substance. And I was unaware that Eli would have taken kratom, but it is legal in Washington D.C.
And, Congressman Deutch --
REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL), NEPHEW, ELI, DIED FROM FENTANYL OVERDOSE IN MARCH: Yes.
TAPPER: -- clearly this issue hits close to home, but you're also a member of Congress. So, what are you doing to try to reverse these horrific, terrifying overdose numbers?
DEUTCH: Well, first of all, Jake, we're making sure that people understand that this is an emergency and that it is more likely than not closer to them than they know.
DEUTCH: There is -- there are efforts in Congress to focus on fentanyl, the fentanyl that comes from China, comes across the border from Mexico, that's a piece of it. There's a commission that is putting together -- a high level commission with the Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State and others, putting together a strategy that will come out in February. But more than anything else, it's helping people understand --
DEUTCH: -- what's happening. There are kids who by what they believe is prescription Xanax or Adderall, sometimes from their friends, sometimes on Snapchat, sometimes on TikTok that can be laced with and too often is laced with fentanyl, and it's deadly.
The lethal dose of fentanyl can fit on the tip of a pencil. And the DEA administrator announced -- they announced the seizure of 10 million pills, every one of them deadly, that the drug as she put it, the drug dealer is no longer on the corner. It's in your pocket. Social media companies need to do more as well.
TAPPER: And that's one of the things and one of the reasons why you guys are here, to educate people, because there are kids, obviously Eli was one of them, who think they're taking something harmless and it's not.
At one of the bills you're cosponsoring, which is the Stop Fentanyl Act, it only has one Republican co-sponsor right now. Are people not aware of this? I mean, it's not like Republicans are in favor of fentanyl. I mean, what's going on?
DEUTCH: Right. There's a lot that we need to do. That bill is one piece of, a part of it is D stigmatizing opioid, the opioid use addiction and substance abuse disorders, opioid use disorders and substance abuse disorders. But we also need to deal with harm reduction.
We need kids to be educated, which is what --
DEUTCH: -- Beth's doing, so that they're in a position. Yes, we have to pass legislation but we also have to make available. And this is something that we're also doing through legislation to try to make available things like fentanyl test strips so that kids are in a position to take precautions to save their lives.
TAPPER: Tell us about that, because I know that's important to you Dr. Weinstock.
WEINSTOCK: Yes. So about nine months after, I'm sorry, about three months -- six months after Eli died, we started an organization called board Birdielight. And the purpose of the organization is to get in front of kids, because there's a huge knowledge gap here.
Kids from time maternal have tried things. But what they're not realizing now is that the stuff they used to try more than likely has fentanyl in it. And when I get in front of kids, I find out that they don't know this.
So for example, we went to a group of kids at American and back in Ohio where we live and we said, how many of you know that cocaine can have fentanyl in it? And only two out of three knew that information. So 30 percent of kids don't know that cocaine can have fentanyl in it. And it's the same numbers for the pills that Ted mentioned, the fake Xanax, the fake Adderall, the methamphetamine, fake oxy codons. Kids don't know this, and neither do parents.
So when we survey parents, their numbers are even worse. They're completely unaware that these pills that they can get from their friend in the dorm could be laced with fentanyl.
TAPPER: Well hopefully those who are just watching right now are aware of this and they can tell people too. And we will continue to try to help you guys spread the word.
DEUTCH: Jake, I hope they'll go to the Birdielight website.
TAPPER: Where is it? Where is it?
TAPPER: Spell that or so.
TAPPER: Dot org.
WEINSTOCK: And Eli's name is right in the middle of it.
TAPPER: All right. Well, God bless. And hopefully may his memory be a blessing. And hopefully, some good will come from this horrible, horrible experience. Our hearts go out to you. Thank you so much --
WEINSTOCK: Thank you.
TAPPER: -- for being here.
DEUTCH: Thanks, Jake.
WEINSTOCK: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up, James Brown said the CIA was spying on him. So CNN sued the CIA to try to find out if the Godfather of Soul was telling the truth. And we'll bring you the CIA's response, next.
TAPPER: Say it loud, that song from the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, may have led the CIA to put him under surveillance. It's our pop culture lead today. Brown made the claim that he was being spied on multiple times in his life, including in a letter to then President Nixon in 1972, with whom he enjoyed a friendship shortly before his death as well.
Domestic spying is something the CIA is strictly forbidden from doing. Curiously, the CIA recently responded to that accusation from James Brown in a lawsuit brought by CNN saying that the disclosing whether the CIA had records on Brown could quote, "Cause serious damage to U.S. national security." Sure it could. As the old saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.
Our coverage continuous now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."