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The Lead with Jake Tapper

More Than 100 Feared Dead, 65 Confirmed Killed In Storms In Kentucky; Kentucky Governor Speaks About Deadly Tornadoes; Biden To Travel To Fort Campbell, Mayfield And Dawson Springs KY To Survey Storm Damage On Wednesday; Soon: January 6 Committee To Vote On Holding Meadows In Contempt; U.S. COVID Hospitalizations On The Rise, Deaths Nearing 800K; U.K. Prime Minister On Thin Ice In His Own Party Amid Scandals. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 13, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right. Anderson, thank you for the reporting there. If you'd like to help the tornado victims, we have a list of vetted organizations that are on the ground there. You can find it at


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Kentucky's governor tells us that emergency crews would be going door to door -- only in so many places, there are no doors.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The destruction is shocking. The stories heartbreaking. One town almost entirely demolished after tornadoes ripped through eight states and hundreds of miles as the scope of the destruction is only beginning to emerge.

Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff, now allegedly saying the National Guard would be on standby on January 6th to protect the pro- Trump people. The potential bombshell of an email on the Capitol riot probe.

Plus -- winter is coming. ICUs maxing out again. Hospitalizations among children reaching record highs. Are we in for another long, cold COVID winter?


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start with the national lead today, the heartbreaking, unimaginable loss of life and destruction from tornadoes that tore through eight states Friday night. Officials fear the death toll may reach triple digits but cannot say for sure right now because the damage is just that bad and rescue efforts difficult, and ongoing. The governor of Kentucky today got emotional as he confirmed 65 lives lost so far in the Bluegrass State alone.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: Eighteen are still identified. Of the ones that we know, the age -- the age range is 5 months to 86 years. And six are younger than 18.


TAPPER: Any moment now, we expect to hear from Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky who also told me this may be the worst tornado in Kentucky's history.

Today, the National Weather Service is surveying the damage of at least 50 reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee. One monster tornado may have cut a path of destruction more than 120 miles long with most of that route through Kentucky.

CNN has crews stretched across this devastated region.

We're going to start with Brynn Gingras in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Brynn, how are officials sorting through the scores of people still reported missing nearly three days after the storm?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, Jake, a big thing is the comms in this area, just being able to communicate. So, getting cellular towers up. This is what people are seeing when they come rolling through here for the recovery efforts.

The governor has actually just started speaking. Let's take a listen to him.

BESHEAR: -- more people than that that we've got to identify and find, hopefully safe in Graves County. Again, and because we have multiple of our towns in rubbles, finding -- or the numbers are going to move a little bit. We're going to do the best we can to give you the most accurate information we can.

Yesterday, we received that major declaration from the federal government, the fastest in our history. We are very grateful and we have now asked for additional counties to be added, both for public assistance. These are roads and government buildings and public infrastructure. It's the public assistance program, as well as individual assistance, people who have lost their homes.

The extra counties that we have asked for on public assistance include Boyle, Breckenridge, Bullet, Casey, Christian, Edmondson, Grayson, Green, Harden, Hart, Hickman, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, Merion, Monroe, Ohio, Shelby, Spencer and Todd as the same counties we've asked for the individual assistance as well.

That is how widespread the damage from this event is when what I think will be an F-4 or F-5 tornado touches down and stays on the ground for 200 straight miles in a state with 120 counties, you have this many counties that have damage and this many counties that need help.

Our National Guard, we have augmented our forces that are assisting with recovery. Now, 448 guardsmen in the field.


And of those, at least 95 are doing a fatality search, and working in these communities to look for missing Kentuckians and their search as one where we hope they don't find them. We hope somebody connects to them and they're out there and we just don't know where they are yet. Maybe they don't have cell service.

Fifty-five guardsmen are providing logistics support to the state logistics support area. And three National Guard chaplains are providing spiritual help to soldiers and civilians in the affected communities. The new requests that we're getting or increased requests or MPs, that's needed help on the law enforcement side and on the engineering side as well.

FEMA, just to go over a little bit of their response. Their priorities are to support life-saving and life-sustaining action. They are working with all of us, every level of government in the declared counties.

So, two FEMA incident management assistance teams have been working with us since Saturday. They are also sending disaster housing experts to work with our teams in the field where we are hit the hardest. Four urban search and rescue teams, including canine detection search teams in towns that -- these are cadaver dogs that we never thought we'd need them in. They're in Mayfield and others to assist in local response. An additional ten-person team is relocating from Frankfurt to Mayfield.

And incident support base was established at Fort Campbell to rapidly deploy personnel and supplies. They include 61 generators, 74,000 meals, 135,000 liters of water, cots, blankets, infant/toddler kits, pandemic shelter kits.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, temporary power and critical public facility staff are helping as well. Mobile emergency response support personnel is in Kentucky, including two mobile emergency operation vehicles, with emergency communication capabilities, staging teams, housing inspectors, damage assessment and volunteer agency liaison staff are staged and ready to deploy.

That means real soon, they're going to be walking around in what were neighborhoods, talking with families, recording the damage and working on processing their claim. I'm giving them their claim number. This is again the fastest we've ever seen.

Eight shelters remain open in Kentucky now. Salvation Army is serving meals and providing emotional support.

I want to talk just a minute about staying safe while you are cleaning up. As you begin cleaning up, take photos. Make a list of your damaged property. This is going to be really important for claiming public assistance. You need to document everything you possibly can.

Survivors who cannot stay in their homes, we are taking in to state parks. I will give the update on that.

Do not touch power lines. These are all things that our people know. Stay safe while you are cleaning up.

A couple additional points for outside donations for things like food, supplies, et cetera, if you are doing that for Graves County, is Graves County Emergency Management, that is 270-727-5114. Volunteer sign-up. Do we have the website? There you go.

This is from the Graves County Emergency Management. Please, if you want to volunteer, go through here. One of the challenges, and it's a wonderful challenge for us to have, is so many people want to help. It's overwhelming many of our first responders who need to be out doing other things.

This will significantly help. Please be patient. There's a lot of people who want to help. Paducah Police Department has volunteered to accept food and supplies as well to help out Graves County. 270-444- 8590. Physical address 1400 Broadway, Paducah, Kentucky, 42003.

Okay. And this one is really important. Again, we are working on verifying the information from the candle factory that right now would only have eight confirmed dead, which is a Christmas miracle we hoped for, but we have to make sure it's accurate.

So all of the employees from the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory, we need them to go and check in at His House Ministries Church at 1250 KY 303 right there in Mayfield. We just want to see you. Make sure you're okay and verify that information.


I believe the phone number we have now which was wrong earlier again, we're just doing the best we can on short notice is 888-880-8620, if your transportation is unavailable.

So if you are an employee of that facility, either go to His House Ministries at 1250 KY 303 there in Mayfield or call 888-880-8620. That number is solely for these folks. Don't call trying to find out information on it. We need to know these people are alive and safe.

Kentucky state police continues doing hundreds of welfare checks along with local law enforcement, and working with the chief medical officer to assist with victim identification.

Update from our cabinet of health and family services. Graves County senior center and Western Kentucky allied service building, the community action building, have been damaged so extensively, there's no way they can prepare meals for seniors. That's how mean this weather event was. But also shows how incredible our people are.

So we sounded the alarm and within 20 minutes, over 2,300 shelf-stable meals were committed. These meals are being transported from senior centers in Breckenridge, Nelson and Fayette Counties to 300 home-bound seniors is Graves County that are fortunate enough to still have a home by way of community action staff. Further work under way to secure additional meals.

And now, in the midst of this pandemic we were able to eliminate our waiting list. Every senior who was hungry, we were getting a meal to and then this comes through and destroys the place that you prepare them. But others have stepped up, are helping us to provide that service.

Kentucky state parks, we're offering minimum two-week stays to those that don't have a place to call their own at the moment. I want to provide room availability as of 1:00 p.m. today. Kentucky Dam Village, they are still 30 rooms available for families.

Ken Lake State Resort Park, 58 rooms available. And we also have hook- up outlets that can be used for washers and dryers and we'll accept donations of those to help people out. And the park will accept donations to help the people that they are helping out. The first lady in just a little bit is going to have some good news with our state parks where we're going to try to lift up the people staying there.

Lake Barkley, we're awaiting electricity to be restored. When that happens we'll open up 56 additional rooms. But even with the lights not going, the park hosted a blood drive today. So thank you.

Barron River has 30 rooms available. John James, one cottage available. Penny Rile is full. That's right near Dawson. WPA project is where my grandparents met. Then the Rough River Dam State Resort Park, 47 rooms available.

Again, families who are in need of emergency housing should contact their local emergency management office to request lodging but, hey, if you show up there and you need help, they ought to help you call your local emergency management folks from the park. Volunteers are needed at Ken Lake, Kentucky Dam Village, rough river dam and Lake Barkley state parks. I know our folks are watching. It says walk-ins not accepted. That's not okay. If somebody walks in, call emergency management with them and work through it.

Do not turn anybody away at any of our state parks. Let's work to confirm they need our help. Make sure that they are in a warm place and they are fed while it's going on. And we're not going to not accept people that need help.

Many of our agriculture operations reside in Western Kentucky and were impacted by the tornadoes that devastated the area. We're already working with many of them. Dead livestock. Major operations. Helping to remove the carcasses and ultimately provide the support that's necessary.

To do that, I've created an agriculture working group. The working group will work with my office, the executive branch and any other entities deemed necessary. We've been in constant communication with the people in this working group the past 48 hours and we remain dedicated to addressing the needs of so many farmers in that area. With that, I'm going to turn it over to Michael Dossett for his



And then we're going to get -- we're going to get uplifted by the first lady, going to make sure our kids don't miss out on their Christmas.


And again, our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the loved ones lost and those who are still missing.

So, just a brief update. Our power picture improved a bit. We have, at this point, 2,600 -- I'm sorry, 26,500 that are still out of power. Again, managing expectations. Some of the large transmission towers, and these are the ones you saw during the ice storm of 2009, these are the massive metal structures that carry the transmission to the lines have buckled. That will take weeks to months to put back up but that should not impact the large numbers.

So, I'll go over briefly counties with excess over 500 customers outage. Graves, Callaway, Marshall equal about 14,000. Hopkins, 6,500. Christian, 2,000, Hickman, 1,200, Fulton, 900. Todd, 700. Carlisle, about 700. And Caldwell, about the same, 700.

So we're moving forward very quickly. You have obviously seen if you are in the impact area, you've seen many contractors that are over target, assisting in the power restoration. If you don't have power, life is not good and we're doing everything we can.

We have approximately 96 or 95 percent of those lines assessed across the state. Again, 29 transmission lines are down. Those are the large ones. We have --

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

You've been listening to Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear followed by the state's emergency management director. Governor Beshear giving a heartbreaking update after this weekend's tornadoes. He says that at least 74 Kentuckians, 74, are now reported dead with another 109 unaccounted for.

Let's go back to CNN's Brynn Gingras who is in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Brynn, you were mentioning that a reason these unaccounted for numbers are so high is that communications are really spotty in Kentucky right now.

GINGRAS: Yeah, exactly right, Jake. We were on the ground here Saturday night. You know, that's 24 hours after the storm, and there were so many people we were talking to who were just trying to call some of their loved ones around town, particularly in that candle factory where so many people were missing. And they couldn't. They couldn't get an answer. The phones were dead.

And that's continued really for the last couple of days.

So getting comms up and running is a major priority for this state so people can just check in. You heard the governor talk about that candle factory and how those numbers got better. Of course, eight people still died but those numbers improved because they were able to just check in with others, people who made it out safely and those numbers obviously went down.

So that's a big part of this. And also the Kentucky state police. They're doing their part going door to door. We've seen a lot of houses, what's left of houses with a c as confirmed okay. Different sort of letterings on the doors to make sure that everyone is accounted for.

So, it's a massive, massive undertaking as you can see as I was showing you before. These are the scenes all these people who are putting in these efforts are rolling up to. Piles of bricks in some cases. Particularly here in Mayfield, which is one of the hardest places hit by this storm.

And really, Jake, before I let you go, I got to tell you, a lot of this effort is not just from the state. It's really neighbors helping neighbors. We've talked to so many people in this town of Mayfield, and they have just been resilient, trying to help each other. Not only right now as we speak but in minutes, after the storm hit, we talked to so many people who have rescued loved ones who lived down the street, who rescued their neighbor they never met before, just trying to help each other.

And, of course, as you heard the governor speaking, that's continuing as they are fundraising efforts, shelters being opened to strangers. So many people coming together to try to make it through this process which is just, of course, unimaginable right now still for so many -- Jake.

TAPPER: Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

CNN's Pamela Brown is a proud daughter of Kentucky and also in Mayfield.

And, Pamela, people in that area know tornado outbreaks all too well. But there has not been anything like this.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. Growing up in Kentucky, very familiar with tornadoes, tornado warnings. Speaking to folks in Mayfield, just a sense of being stunned that when they got the warning that a tornado was coming, they could have never anticipated how violent it was, how much destruction it caused. And, of course, the fact it was in December was highly unusual.

But, you know, I want to pick up on what Brynn just said about neighbors helping neighbors.


And we have seen so much of that. As a Kentuckian, not surprised. There really has been just this heart of generosity everywhere you turn. So, many beautiful stories to be told.

But I spoke to one man who was pulled off to help someone with a flat tire and he told me that while he's trying to help people right now in the immediate aftermath, his big concern is looking ahead months, years here in Mayfield.


COLTEN JONES, TORNADO SURVIVOR: A lot of these places get bulldozed down and flattened and there will just be grass growing near two years.

BROWN: How does that make you feel?

JONES: It's terrible. It's terrible. You know, yeah, the sense of community, everybody is coming together to help, but in a few months, you know, people won't be here. You know, the news crews will be gone and families will be -- there will just be a bunch of condemned houses. And it's rough. It's not easy.

BROWN: What do you want to do as a member of this community to help in the rebuilding?

JONES: I'd like to try to come up with housing for everybody so they don't have to leave.


BROWN: And that is really the key here. But I will say it's been really stunning to see how much has been accomplished just since the tornado came through here with just the cleanup, putting up power poles to help with that communication issue that Brynn just talked about.

I'll note I spoke to one resident yesterday who at that point yesterday had no help. He didn't know where to go. Today I checked in with him. He's already been in touch with FEMA for assistance. He's already gotten the medicine he so desperately needed.

So, you are seeing progress on that front, too -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela, we've seen these homes ripped to shreds. FEMA can't be everywhere. How are people getting essential items such as medication, food, even basic shelter from the elements?

BROWN: Right. That's right. And in order to get in touch with FEMA, you have to fill out an online application which, of course, as we've been talking about, that is not always accessible to people right now.

So people can go to the fairgrounds, the local high school here is offering shelter, offering resources. The Kentucky fund has raised millions of dollars. And in terms of the medication because that's another issue we've been

hearing about from residents who lost their homes. They were concerned about getting the critical medication they need. The Walgreens here is open. The Walmart pharmacy is opening up as well.

And so, you are seeing more support roll in here to Mayfield and beyond to help these residents that need so much help.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown from her home state of Kentucky, Pamela, thank you so much.

Let's bring in the lieutenant governor of Kentucky, Jacqueline Coleman.

Lieutenant Governor Coleman, you were able to get out and tour damage from these tornadoes again today. Tell us what did you see? What are you hearing from your constituents?

LT. GOV. JACQUELINE COLEMAN (D-KY): Well, I will tell you that I saw a level of devastation that was only rivaled by the compassion and love of neighbors. It was just as stunning and heartbreaking as it is to see homes and buildings destroyed with nothing left. What brings you hope is seeing those neighbors helping neighbors that you all were just talking about.

I have to tell you the governor has led with steadfast, swift decision-making and compassion. And thank goodness that he was able to connect with President Biden and the turn around of the federal government is probably one of the quickest at least that we've ever seen. So this is what you want to see when people that you know and love need your help.

TAPPER: Lieutenant Governor Coleman, Governor Beshear just said at least 109 people in Kentucky are still unaccounted for. Are you hoping that people will still be able to be found alive or has this shifted from a rescue to a recovery mission?

COLEMAN: Well, I think part of the Kentucky spirit is just never give up hope. So we're going to keep hoping and keep working until we can make sure that everyone has been found and identified and every family has some peace. And that's what -- that's first and foremost on our list is to wrap our arms around these grieving families and help them to deal with the trauma and the loss of life as we work together to clean and rebuild.

And this is going to be a long process. But I want every Kentuckian to know we are in this for the long haul.

TAPPER: These tornadoes hit just two weeks before Christmas. One restaurant owner told us that he now has about 30 employees who don't have a place to live. Here's what he told CNN.


DANIEL CARR, BUSINESSES DESTROYED BY TORNADO: I talked to them. A number of them lost their homes, lost their vehicles, lost their Christmas. All kinds of stuff. They don't have shirts on their backs right now. Storage buildings just gone.

So I know of those 30 people, they have -- there's thousands of people in the same boat as them.


TAPPER: So, your team has noted an outpouring of financial assistance already. More than $4 million donated to the Western Kentucky Relief Fund. What's the plan for how that money will be distributed?

COLEMAN: Well, what we can -- let me first say the site that you can go to to donate, which we need as much as anything right now, our communities have been inundated with resources and supplies which we appreciate more than -- more than we can possibly say.

But funds are what we need now to make sure that we can keep boots on the ground. And that website is And every penny of that is going to people on the ground to help with the cleanup and rebuilding of these communities that have been just absolutely flattened.

And I hear that gentleman talking about Christmas and I know I'm on here as lieutenant governor but I'm also a mom. And it breaks my heart to think about the kids who are -- and the families who are going to struggle more than they could have ever anticipated because of something that happened in the blink of an eye. But I know that our communities will continue to come together and these neighbors will continue to help neighbors because that's what we do.

And let me say, Jake, this is not just a Kentucky thing. We're getting help from all across the state. The outpouring of support that we're getting from across this country is absolutely -- it leaves me awestruck. And I just want folks to know that we'll never forget this.

TAPPER: Before your career in politics, we know you taught high school. So you're speaking out as a mom and also as a former teacher when you talk about how difficult Christmas is going to be for so many of these kids.

COLEMAN: You're exactly right. What I'm so grateful for is Kentucky is full of great schools and great people and great schools. And I know -- I know what it means to be a teacher and I know these teachers are knocking on doors to check on their kids. They're already working to help to gather resources that they know that the kids and their classroom need because that's what they do.

I just talked with a superintendent in Muhlenberg County yesterday who in the city limits they have 300 residents. It's a small county. And they -- the county lost 12 lives. And so the impact was massive and the superintendent was talking to me about the decision that they had to make about, do we open the doors to get the kids in the building so we can lay eyes on kids and know that they're safe? Or are we even going to be able to do that?

And I know that every decision that's being made in our communities is being made on what is in the best interest of our fellow Kentuckians and certainly the schools continue to be the heart of our communities.

TAPPER: Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman, thank you so much. Please stay in touch with us and let us know how we can continue to amplify the voices from Kentucky and bring attention to what you need to recover and rebuild.

COLEMAN: And, Jake, that means so much. Thank you for doing that.

TAPPER: Today, the Biden administration vowed to bring in emergency workers, food, medical supplies and temporary shelter to those in need right now.

And as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports for us, President Biden plans to survey the damage in Kentucky on Wednesday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Devastation is just stunning. There's nothing left standing, basically.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden will get a firsthand look at the storm's deadly devastation as he travels to Kentucky on Wednesday.

BIDEN: With each passing day, the human impact, the devastation is just -- the depth of the losses are becoming more and more apparent.

ZELENY: In the oval office today, the president receiving an hour-long briefing from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Deanne Criswell who surveyed damage in Kentucky on Sunday.

BIDEN: I worry, quite frankly, about -- how can I say it? The mental health of these people. You come home and you see that, if you made it. And if you haven't -- if you lost someone in the meantime, you know, thank God it doesn't seem like the numbers are quite as high as were anticipated but they're high.

ZELENY: The federal government racing to provide housing, water, electricity and communication assistance for Kentucky and parts of five neighboring states that bore the brunt of the rare December tornado that cut a long and brutal path.

BIDEN: All these yellow dots along the way are residences. And they've been wiped out. They've been wiped out.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the latest test for the Biden administration. With all presidents judged by how they respond to natural disasters and emergencies. While the White House is not linking this particular storm directly to climate change, the president said he has no doubt that recent severe weather events are related to the climate crisis.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is certain, it is one of the worst tornado disasters we've had in the country and the second thing is certain is that it is unusual. It is unusual how it happened, how many places it touched down and the length of the path.


ZELENY (on camera): Now, the president did overnight sign a disaster declaration for Kentucky. He'll be doing so for Illinois as well and he'll be traveling to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for a briefing on Wednesday followed by getting a firsthand look in Mayfield and Dawson springs in the western part of the commonwealth.

Certainly, this is the latest time that President Biden going to visit a disaster area. So much need there. And his administration certainly will be tested by this. But as of now, they are getting high marks in the early days -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us, thank you so much.

For ways that you can help tornado victims, CNN is pulling together resources. You can find them at,

Coming up -- Donald Trump's chief of staff is asking the Select Committee investigating the insurrection to cut him some slack just hours before a key vote that could result in him potentially going to jail.

Also, new questions about whether a world leader can guide his country through another potentially nasty COVID wave as he's hit with a tidal wave of scandal.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our politics lead, just a few short hours from now, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will almost certainly be one step closer to being held in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to testify. The January 6th Select Committee is meeting tonight to vote on a contempt referral for Trump's former White House chief of staff. This as the committee reveals new evidence about the deadly Capitol attack.

And, CNN's Jamie Gangel joins us live.

And, Jamie, what are your sources telling you about what we can expect tonight?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think this is beyond a vote. That we're going to get significant new information. Mark Meadows was in the room on January 6th and the committee has a lot of the receipts. Jake, a source familiar tells me that among the communications and texts and emails, the committee is going to simply lay out how much was going on in real time, what Meadows knew, who was speaking to him? Republican loyalists, White House officials. And we're going to see those actual texts. Let me give you an example of two that are in the 51-page document,

but they speak to the kind of thing we're going to hear. So this is a former White House employee to meadows on January 6th in real time during the riot. You guys have to say something. Even if the president is not willing to put out a statement, you should go to the cameras and say, we condemn this. Please stand down. If you don't, people are going to die.

Now the committee in the document did not say who that former White House official is. But we actually know who it is. Thanks to "Washington Post" reporters Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker in their book "I Alone Can Fix It", identified that as Alyssa Farah who was a former strategic communications director.

Another example, we're told that we're going to hear about text exchanges from media personalities. That sounds to me like reporters. Maybe some Fox News reporters who were reaching out to Mark Meadows, and I think we will hear tonight about a Trump family member who texts Mark Meadows and here is the quote from the report.

It says indicating that Mr. Meadows is, quote, pushing hard, end quote, for a statement from President Trump to, quote, condemn this shit, end quote, happening at the Capitol.

At the end of tonight, I think it's going to be very clear that no one can pretend this wasn't a big deal because these are Trump loyalists, Republican members of Congress, Trump administration officials.

TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, it was an attempted coup, an attempted overthrow of the government. Why does Meadows seem to be fighting this testimony that they want him to provide so hard given the fact that he initially volunteered much of this information?

GANGEL: Correct. So his lawyer keeps saying it's about executive privilege. It's very hard to argue executive privilege when you're handing these things over. I think there are two things that are pretty clear to the committee. One is that Donald Trump does not want Meadows to testify. It may also be that meadows being in the room may be concerned that instead of saying executive privilege, he may have to take the fifth.

TAPPER: Yeah. Well, he has a book out, right?

GANGEL: Correct.

TAPPER: He's trying to sell a book. He handed over all this information. He's doing interviews on MAGA media. It's hard to argue that he has been respecting executive privilege himself.

GANGEL: Correct. And five people died that day. And he was in the room. And he did nothing.

TAPPER: And there were subsequent suicides by police officers so traumatized by what happened.

Jamie Gangel, thank you so much. GANGEL: Yeah.

TAPPER: New concern for the kids. Why so many children are filling hospitals again in this new COVID surge.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead today, as we head into the winter, coronavirus hospitalizations in the United States are soaring. In the Midwest, hospitalizations among children with COVID have reached record highs, spurring even more new concerns as CNN's Alexandra Field now reports.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, new warnings coming from the U.K. about the Omicron variant.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There is a tidal wave of omicron coming. And I'm afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need.

FIELD: A new preliminary study from Oxford University finds the two- dose regimen is substantially less effective against Omicron than Delta. But those researchers also say that at this time, there is no evidence of omicron would lead to an increase in severe disease or deaths.


So far, the variant has been linked to one death in the U.K. The U.S. now reporting Omicron cases in at least 29 states and D.C.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you look at the data, the more and more it becomes clear that if you want to be optimally protected, you really should get a booster.

FIELD: Evidence of the need for boosters only mounting with a winter surge driven by delta setting in.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): It's winter. We've been planning for this winter surge since July. We're trying innovative things to flex the bed space and what not within the hospital system. It's really important the health care system is preserved.

FIELD: The toll hitting the young and old. One out of every 100 seniors in the U.S. has died of COVID-19 according to new federal data. While hospitalizations among children now reaching record highs in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest.

FAUCI: This idea that children are not vulnerable at all is not so.

FIELD: Starting tomorrow, children ages 5 to 11 will have to show proof of at least one vaccination to eat indoors in New York City or go to certain venues. A temporary mask mandate for indoor public spaces goes into effect today throughout the state.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: There are certain states like New Hampshire, Massachusetts, where the health care systems are beginning to get stressed and mask mandates are the easiest thing we can do, collective action that puts some downward pressure on spread.

FIELD: The idea of masking up yet again deeply dividing Americans still locked in debate over all kinds of COVID mandates.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We've proven that mandates work and now we're up against a new enemy with this new variant. We've got to have a strategy to fight back.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: To put the mandate in is unprecedented. It's going to cause hardship and it's going to cause division in our country.


FIELD (on camera): As of today, the U.S. has reported about 50 million cases of COVID, about one-third of those coming during last winter's surge. Jake, of course, that was before we had widespread access to vaccines and boosters.

TAPPER: All right. Alex Field, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Did the British prime minister commit an unforgivable party foul? Why he's under attack by his own party.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, backlash against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson due to new COVID restrictions.

As CNN's Nina dos Santos reports, the fallout is coming from Johnson's own political party.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): UK's prime minister once riding high among conservatives, now the target of outrage from all sides. Behind the recent outcry? Festive gatherings and this Christmas quiz hosted by Boris Johnson inside Downing Street which may have broken COVID rules limiting socializing last year.

Downing Street says the prime minister and others attended virtually.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I am certainly breaking no rules. The whole thing will be looked into by the cabinet secretary.

DOS SANTOS: First, the government denied parties ever happened. Until an aide was caught joking about the restrictions on camera in this leaked footage. Now three events are being investigated.

ALLEGRA STRATTON, FORMER DOWNING STREET OFFICIAL: It was a business meeting. This fictional party was a business meeting. And it was not socially distanced.

DOS SANTOS: Aside from the question of parties there were bigger issues at play. Johnson's government has been marked by allegations of sleaze, improper lobbying and how an upgrade to the prime minister's official apartment was financed, which Johnson says he paid for. Trusted lawmakers and advisers have resigned risking once save conservative seats, and the polls have now flipped. The opposition is sensing an opportunity.

SIR KEIR STARMER, U.K. OPPOSITION LEADER: Of course, there's a question what the conditions should be but also this basic question of trust. And that is why he is unfit for office.

JOHNSON: No one should be in any doubt there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming.

DOS SANTOS: Cues the boosters and with the threat of Omicron, Johnson is back to enacting tougher measures once more, harder to sell now to a weary public, and growing frustrations in parliament where a vote to rebel against the new moves could happen this week. With Westminster about to break for the holidays, the PM's tenure isn't quite at breaking point just yet. But it has lost some of its spark.


DOS SANTOS (on camera): Well, with Omicron cases now doubling every two to three days across the UK, getting that public health vote through parliament tomorrow will be crucial for Boris Johnson.

But to do so, Jake, he'll have to rely not on the support of his own party but upon his political rivals. Back to you.

TAPPER: All right. Nina dos Santos in London, thank you so much.

It's one of the hardest hit areas of Kentucky where an estimated 75 percent of the homes are now gone. The mayor of Dawson Springs will join us live, next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, more than 100 people feared dead after tornadoes ripped through the South and Midwestern United States. A pastor whose church collapsed around him will join us live.

Plus, CNN is learning a lawmaker who criticized voting remotely has now been doing so himself as he quietly battles COVID-19.

And leading this hour, a critical move from the January 6th Select Committee in the House of Representatives against Trump's former White House chief of staff. Short time from now, the panel will meet and vote on a criminal contempt of Congress referral for Mark Meadows for refusing to testify.

As CNN's Ryan Nobles report for us now, this critical vote comes as the committee is releasing striking new evidence about what Meadows and others did in the hours leading up to the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the third time, the January 6th Select Committee is preparing to refer a potential witness for criminal contempt.