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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Rep. Jordan Texted Conspiracy Theory Then Pushed To Join 1/6 Committee; Prominent Conservative Group Calls For Cheney, Kinzinger To Be Expelled From GOP Conference; Candidates At GOP Min Debate Suggest Biden's Win Wasn't Legitimate; Pelosi Rejects Ban On Stock Trading For Lawmakers; FMR. Defense Secretary" "Cyber Is The Most Dangerous Weapon In The World;" Facebook: 50,000 Users Targeted By Spy Networks; Polls: Most Unvaccinated (Still) Unwilling To Get COVID Shot Despite Omicron Threat; Coronavirus Surge Disrupts Colleges, Broadway & Sports; Most Hurricane-Strength Winds In One Day, First December Tornado Ever In Minnesota; Nevada Super Volcano May Hold Largest Lithium Deposit In The World; Bruce Springsteen Reportedly Sells Music Rights Worth Up To $500M. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 16, 2021 - 17:00   ET



WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jordan is a well-known attack dog for the former president and someone Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wanted to serve on the January 6 committee, but ultimately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked him. Here's why she denied his role on the committee back in July.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I did not accept two of the five people were appointed. They had made statements and taken actions that I think would impact the integrity of the commission -- of the committee

WILD (voice-over): Behind the cameras a long line of witnesses willing to talk. Today, CNN has confirmed officials with the Georgia Secretary of State's office met with the panel for hours. And as the house referred Meadows to the Justice Department, which is now deciding whether to charge him for refusing to testify even about documents he's already turned over. Meadows maintains the committee isn't respecting Trump's executive privilege claim.

MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is designed to silence not just Mark Meadows but every Trump supporter.


WILD: Well, Jake, the news now is that we have learned that Trump ally, Roger Stone, is set to appear in front of the committee tomorrow. He intends to plead the Fifth Amendment. We also learned that today a former Department of Homeland Security Official, Ken Cuccinelli met with the committee for about four and a half hours, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Whitney Wild, thanks so much. Let's discuss. So, Paul, Ohio Republican Jim Jordan forwarded this text from -- sent from a former Pentagon inspector general to then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows the day before the insurrection. It reads in part, Vice President Pence, quote, "should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes as all." What do you make of this? I mean, it is fascinating that Kevin McCarthy wanted Jim Jordan to be on the actual committee.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, Congressman Jordan says there's more context, and we're entitled to that. And he's entitled to that. He should release it. He could give us that kind. It's his text.

My -- I guess is he has access to his own text. So he should tell us this, we should know everything.

He -- I got a big distinction between Fox News personalities, who by the way, were saying the right thing in private. They were saying, please make him stop the violence. And a congressman, Congressman Jordan swore an oath to the Constitution. Right, the cable news talking heads don't swear an oath to the Constitution, we hope they're loyal to it, but Mr. Jordan took an oath to uphold the Constitution.

And it may be -- I really do want to see the context. He might have said, hey, get this, isn't this crazy?

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: So honestly, he's entitled to his full defense, but he is in charge of that defense, he can offer it to us right now. Give us the context, Congressman Jordan, because that's getting pretty close to undermining the constitutional order here. And by the way, not only throwing in electoral votes, but the millions of votes of American citizens who cast them that determined those electoral votes.

TAPPER: Yes. What do you make of all this? Because Jordan is, is probably, if the Republicans take the House back, which is anticipated, he'll probably be the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. And if, and who knows, after that, I've heard speculation that he could even be a speaker after McCarthy.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: I guess in some ways, I'm less surprised, because -- I'd be more surprised if this was a text coming from Senator Mitt Romney to Trump allies. And I am seeing it come from Jim Jordan. Again, we don't know the full context, but he's been vocally an ally of the President. We know those closest to the President spent those days after the election trying to find any way they could, so that their guy could still prevail, despite the fact that that's not what the American people voted for.

So I'm less surprised by the idea of them sort of texting around, forwarding around lousy legal theories, and more would be interested in knowing were any members of Congress involved in saying, hey, why don't you send these folks down toward the Capitol. That's what I'm more interested in learning.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is, you know, one more piece of evidence, though, another indicator that it wasn't just certain news anchors and on Fox News or, you know, the CEO of my pillow, but it was actually, you know, members of Congress also that were engaged in trying to overturn the results of the election, right? And, you know, my colleagues today even had a piece about the six members of Congress, all Republicans engaged in pushing out conspiracy theories, trying to, you know, find any way they could at that point to try and try to overturn the integrity of that election, so.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it shows you also Mark Meadows central role.


BORGER: Which is that, who did they feel they had to go through?

TAPPER: Declaring House for that.

BORGER: Yes, he was -- exactly. What do they have to go through?


BORGER: Mark Meadows to get to the president of the United States and Jim Jordan is the one who wanted to be on the committee. What would he do now if he were on the committee? Would he recused himself?

TAPPER: Justifies himself, I suppose.

So, but you know, it's interesting because the Chief of Staff is supposed to be the person that keeps all the crazy out of the president's way, not with -- not just with Donald Trump, but with any president You know this. I mean like there's always a lot of stuff coming in, some of it nutty, some of it extraneous, whatever.


I know John Kelly when the retired general when -- retired general --


TAPPER: -- when he was chief of staff, that was one of his main jobs was getting Breitbart articles not printed out and put it on -- put on the president's desk. It seems like Meadows, it was it was the exact opposite.

BORGER: Right. Because he knew what would please the president.

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: So all they want to do is please the president. Say, oh, here's another cockamamie legal theory we can throw out at you and you'll love it, which is exactly what occurred as we now know.

ANDERSON: Luckily what we do know also --


ANDERSON: -- is that the vice president's team was thinking very different things and behaving in a very different manner.


ANDERSON: And I think credit, still very much due to --


ANDERSON: -- Vice President Pence that even in the face of prominent members of Congress sort of forwarding and lending credence to this theory, if that's in case what -- in the case what happened here --

BORGER: Right.

ANDERSON: -- that he still held for.

TAPPER: They were yelling, hang Mike Pence. I mean, I'm sure that there could have been violence against other members of Congress, other Democrats, but the one they were targeting so vocally was Mike Pence.

I wanted to ask you, Kristen, this, this group of prominent conservatives, including former lawmaker, sending a letter to Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, calling him to expel Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger from the Republican caucus because of their roles on the committee. It reads in part, "We ask that the GOP conference meet immediately to vote on stripping Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger from their membership on the Republican conference." Is that something you think that he's likely to do?

ANDERSON: It's totally counterproductive. And I think McCarthy knows that with him being on the cusp of potentially being the next Speaker of the House, if Republicans prevail in the midterms, that the last thing you want to do is get fully distracted.

I do think it's interesting that many of those same conservatives who are now calling for the expulsion of some members of Congress from their own caucus, were many of those who a decade ago in the Tea Party heydays were the very ones fighting against the overreach of power from the leadership trying to tamp down the rebels within the base. So it's almost as though sort of this rebel group from a decade ago, poof, they're no longer worried about leadership sort of having too much of an iron fist, they would like to see that iron fist deployed in their own interests.

Adam Kinzinger is probably not going to be in the next Congress, right? He said he's not running.

TAPPER: He's retiring, yes.

BORGER: Right.

ANDERSON: Liz Cheney is going to be facing a very difficult primary. So, there's a chance that the voters will be resolving this on their own. TAPPER: And Zolan, I just want to bring it up because you were there when the Capitol was breached, when the violence was going on. Why do you think we haven't heard directly from Mike Pence about his experience? Because we have heard from a number of people, Democrats and Republicans, journalists and others about what a harrowing experience it was, it was obviously a fatal experience for at least five people that day. Why do you think we haven't heard from Pence?

KANNO-YOUNGS: It's a great question. I mean, look, we have seen thus far, when you look at Republicans, especially in the House and how they have tried to separate the party from January 6, they see this as a political liability, the committee, the investigation, and what have you. And you know, when you talk to certain folks, there is still a thought there that Mike Pence's political future is not over yet, that he could have aspirations once again to run again.

So, is there baggage around talking about January 6? But once again, that thing goes to prioritizing or looking at this as a political liability rather than a necessity to have accountability.

BORGER: And what's he supposed to say? I was frightened, I was scared. I'm really pissed off the president did not call me --


BORGER: -- and ask how I was doing.


BORGER: Right? Well, yes, you might do that. But he wants to be president of the United States. And he is so worried about that Trump base and about the former president who said, by the way, the other day that Pence was mortally wounded.



BORGER: Remember that? Well, he said, as he stuck the knife in his back.

BEGALA: Said that about a guy who was receiving death threats, right?


BORGER: Exactly.

BEGALA: Poor choice was -- Trump has warped the reality in his party. And not reality, he's fed this big lie, so that at least Pence has stayed true to the Constitution in his point. But there's reporting that Kevin McCarthy during the riot was calling Trump and trying to get him to stand this down.

So when they tried to create an independent commission instead of a congressional committee, 35 Republicans voted yes. Only 35, but still, that's something. You'd have many voted for this select committee, which is I think less desirable, two --

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: -- Kinzinger and Cheney, the two who are on it. So the thing is moved so far toward the denial of 1/6 as a riot.

TAPPER: Yes. Well, not just that, the denial of facts having to do with all sorts of things. So there was a Republican gubernatorial debate in Minnesota. Hugh Hewitt was the moderator. And his first question was basically was Joe Biden -- I mean, it could have been, you know, is the moon made of green cheese or something like that, but I mean, just like some sort of fact or not.

He -- it was a question about whether or not Biden was constitutionally elected, which of course he was. So this isn't really a matter for debate, but here are some of the responses.


DR. SCOTT JENSEN, (R) MINNESOTA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't and I don't know. And I think that we have to take that attitude towards 2020.

MAYOR MIKE MURPHY, (R) MINNESOTA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe there was voter fraud and a massive scale across this country. Can I take more of the other (INAUDIBLE), no absolutely not.


SEN. PAUL GAZELKA (R-MN), MINNESOTA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think the election was fair. But I do think we have the results that we have. And the Electoral College is the way that we determine the election.


TAPPER: I mean, this -- is the earth round, you know, is water wet, but these are the topics now for Republican gubernatorial debates. And by the way, nobody said yes, he was. Yes, he was and we need to move past this.

ANDERSON: Trump's very influential in the party and you continue to see evidence of that in things like this, in a variety of primaries that are happening around the country. You're going to have redistricting happen, there are going to be new districts that are even redder in some places where suddenly there are going to be some very interesting primary contests happening.

I think the thing Republicans have to remember is that the midterm will go best for them if it is not about Trump. And it doesn't have to be about Donald Trump, unless they make it easy for Democrats to make it about Trump.

In Virginia, Glenn Youngkin did not make it easy for Terry McAuliffe to make it a race about Trump. Republicans have that power in their hands to focus on issues like inflation, focus on other things that matter more to voters. But there could be some primary contests where things like this make it easier to make Trump an issue.

TAPPER: Yes. Thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

An outcry from critics after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says lawmakers should be able to trade stocks while in office. Our next guest calls that the opposite of ethics.

Plus, tractor trailers flipped over like toys. Hundreds of flights cancelled because of 100 mile per hour wind gusts ahead the rare and record breaking weather paralyzing part of the United States. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with a conflict of interest watch. Ethics experts sounding the alarm today after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not support a ban on members of Congress and their spouses from trading stocks while in office. Why would that be a problem you might ask? Well, because lawmakers are privy to all sorts of private briefings and secret intelligence that the public is not containing information that could decidedly affect the price of stocks once that information is learned.

Let's go live to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, this was all spurred by a report finding that some members of Congress are actually breaking the rules that were put in place to prevent such insider trading.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's the 2012 STOCK Act that was actually aimed at stopping members of Congress from learning about things privately and then making those decisions to help them financially. But this investigation by Business Insider found that 49 Members of Congress and 182 senior level congressional staffers have violated that law.

Now that came amid questions about what is being done to fear the fact that these laws have been actually violated. But if this investigation show what is well known on Capitol Hill, the House Ethics Committee, Senate Ethics Committee has not done a whole lot to crack down on these violations or inconsistent standards going forward in trying to deal with some of these violations.

So the question was posed to Pelosi yesterday at a press conference, why now ban members of Congress, their spouses from trading stock all together? And she pushed back.


PELOSI: People aren't reporting, they should be. Because there's this is a free market and people. We are a free market economy that should be able to participate in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Now the Speaker's office argues that sunlight is the best disinfectant. In other words, there should be more reporting so people can see exactly what these transactions entail.

And Jake, this has also become an issue in a number of key campaigns. Recall the Georgia Senate race which David Perdue, the Georgia Senator at the time, traded stock, got criticism over what appeared to be some insider trading heat, which he denied during the early months of the pandemic. But this investigation too, Jake, also found that 75 lawmakers held stocks and vaccines of Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer in the early months of the pandemic.

TAPPER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this with Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics under both Presidents Obama and Trump.

Walter, you are comparing Pelosi's remarks to the infamous Marie Antoinette let them eat cake moment, why?

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Sure. I mean, Nancy Pelosi says it's a free market. In reality, it's not exactly a free market when she has inside access to information from government experts that isn't public that can affect and influence their trading activity that the public doesn't have access to. It's not exactly free when we're locked outside of the kind of information that members of Congress get all the time.

TAPPER: So the STOCK Act that Manu mentioned was signed by President Obama in 2012 in an effort to prevent insider trading. But according to this Business Insider report, that we're alluding to, dozens of lawmakers and dozens of senior staffers are just not abiding by it. So, why is there not an accountability system in place to make sure that these laws are enforced and they do in fact abide by their requirements?

SHAUB: Yes, well, it's good to be the king, and that's exactly the message Congress is sending because they pass this law and left themselves in charge of enforcing it and they simply don't. You don't see anything like this in the Executive Branch where when I was there and continuing after I left, they enforce this with penalties when you're late.

You know, the project on government oversight or I work has been working with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle in both chambers to try to make this practice illegal for two reasons. It's not just insider trading, but also conflicts of interest and both are very serious threat. You have for instance, Joe Manchin wielding inordinate power over the president's initiatives that would affect the environment while he's got massive coal interests. We also had a number of members of Congress during the pandemic trading in stocks that were affected by the pandemic that they knew about before the rest of us did. So mere disclosure isn't going to solve that.

[17:20:23] In fact, even if you did have people complying with the law, we'd have no way to know what kind of insider briefings they got so we would have no way to evaluate whether they were committing insider trading. And I would just add that the mere appearance that they are engaging in insider trading is just as bad as if they actually are because we have a crisis of competence in government right now.


SHAUB: And the public can't just take their word for it.

TAPPER: So, you raise an interesting point when it comes to Senator Joe Manchin, but let me push back and play devil's advocate here. Yes, he has interests in fossil fuel industry. He also represents West Virginia. So even if he didn't have those interests, his constituents as citizens of West Virginia, many of them would want him to take those positions regardless of what financial holdings he has, is that not a point?

SHAUB: Well, and along those same lines, say argued, that's why members of Congress can't recuse, refrain from participating in votes, because it would strip their constituents of the voice. The problem is, though the constituents never have any way to know whether he's acting in their interests or his own financial interest. And even if there's a Venn diagram, where they overlap somewhat, they don't overlap perfectly, and they have no way of knowing the simplest cleanest way would be to force divestiture of these types of assets and then you wouldn't be left wondering.

You also have to remember that to the extent that Nancy Pelosi says, oh, it's a free market, why should they be deprived of the chance to participate in the market? Well, nobody kidnap them and drag them to Washington and said, you must be in Congress and pointed a gun at their head. They are there by choice. They asked us to give them great power over our lives.


SHAUB: They owe us rate transparency and a lack of conflicts of interest.

TAPPER: So, you've gotten some blowback on Twitter per usual from a lot of progressives and Democrats who say, Walter, Trump is trying to undo our democracy. Why are you worried about this? This seems so petty compared to that. What do you say to them?

SHAUB: You know, two things can be true, we can be facing direct threats of authoritarianism and we can have corruption in Congress. They're not mutually exclusive and they are both important.

Look how concerned so many people, including I, are about voter suppression. But you want to talk about voter suppression. Look at the sheer number of Americans who don't vote. Some of them don't vote because we put obstacles in their way, but others don't vote because they've given up. So it's all connected, because when Congress sends a message that ethics don't matter and leave concerns of corruption out there, how are you going to convince these people who aren't voting that they should participate and that it matters who's in Congress when you've got members of Congress just willy-nilly trading stocks and creating the appearance of insider trading and actual conflicts of interest?


SHAUB: And it's not like it's me versus all of Congress. A number of people on both sides of the aisle have weighed in. You've got -- even in the Democratic Party led by Nancy Pelosi, you've got Spanberger near the center and AOC near the left, both pushing for members of Congress to stop trading stocks. So this isn't a right left or center issue. This is a right and wrong issue.


SHAUB: And it's objectively clear that Nancy Pelosi is wrong.

TAPPER: Walter Shaub, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, it could impact the entire internet. The new warnings about critical security flaws with hundreds of millions of devices at risk.



TAPPER: In our tech lead, it is, quote, "the most dangerous weapon in the world," unquote. No, I'm not talking about a nuclear bomb or even a bio weapon, it is cyber threats. That's according to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

As a flurry of urgent warnings come from top agencies, including the White House, releasing a letter today to executives and business leaders pleading with them to stay vigilant when it comes to combating malicious cyber threats over the holiday.

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins us now.

Now Alex, this comes on the heels of news of a major software vulnerability flagged by Microsoft and federal officials including the Homeland Security Secretary today. What did he have to say?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, he says, Jake, that he is extraordinarily concerned and that echoes what we've heard from a whole range of officials and cybersecurity experts. The head of the main cyber agency CISA says that this is the most serious flaw that she's ever seen.

Now what is this flaw? It's in a software called Log4j, which the vast majority of our viewers will not have heard of, but it is used extensively across the internet by companies that everybody has heard of, Apple, Microsoft, IBM. This flaw was found --

TAPPER: So we're trying to say -- so is this in my phone? I have an iPhone? Is it in my iPhone?

MARQUARDT: It could potentially get to that point.


MARQUARDT: It's in the very popular game Minecraft, which so many people play. And what's very scary about this is not just its prevalence, but how easy it is to exploit. So it's not even basic hackers who can use this.

The sophisticated hackers are the ones who could be doing the most damage.


It means they could get into your device. It means they could hurt your device, damage it, they could steal information, they could install malware, they could potentially carry out ransomware attacks.

So this is why Secretary Mayorkas today said that he's extraordinarily concerned. Here's a little bit more of what he had to say.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It's uppermost in our minds and quite frankly, uppermost in our action plans. The challenge it presents is its prevalence because they attacked a software that is omnipresent. And then the -- there is a vulnerability that has been exposed, and others can jump in in the exploitation of that vulnerability.


MARQUARDT: Mayorkas went on to say that the government is working very, very quickly to address this. We know from Microsoft and the cybersecurity firm Mandiant that this exploit is already being used by state-back hackers from Iran, Turkey, China, North Korea. And experts believe that this could be with us for years to come.

TAPPER: And Facebook just notified thousands of users that they were hacked. Who are these hackers?

MARQUARDT: Well, a number of groups that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, and CitizenLab, which is the University of Toronto called -- call cyber mercenaries. So they notified 50,000 people that they had been targeted and this -- in more than 100 countries by seven different firms and organizations. These are essentially spies for hire that offer a whole range of spying techniques.

There are a number of companies from Israel, one was called Black Cube, which was used infamously by Harvey Weinstein.

TAPPER: Harvey Weinstein. Yes.

MARQUARDT: And these groups often say that their tools are just used against criminals and terrorists. But what this report says is that they were used indiscriminately against rights activists and opponents of authoritarian regimes. And this does echo another company that got into some trouble, NSO group, another Israeli company, that the Biden administration has accused of their technology targeting journalists and embassy workers. This is a growing, very lucrative industry that, of course, is very dangerous as well.

TAPPER: Well, very quickly if you can, Alex, what are we supposed to do? Turn off our devices?

MARQUARDT: Well, we have to, you know, listen to the experts and shore up our cybersecurity however we can. Patch when we can. Update when we can. And then hope that pressure from governments like the Biden administration on these companies make it so that they're no longer allowed to operate.

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.

Coming up next, growing proof that many Americans are over COVID and what that might mean for you. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, from closing colleges, to cancelling Broadway shows, to postponing major league games, more COVID outbreaks involving the new Omicron variant are leading to a replay of scenes from 2020. But new polling suggests the American public itself is less worried about COVID. And many seen simply over the restrictions.

Let's bring in CNN's Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. So Harry, let me start with the new variant Omicron. Dr. Fauci said today, he's absolutely certain this will become the dominant strain in the United States relatively soon are Americans worried about Omicron. And as they hear this variant, is highly contagious and they're more cases involving at.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, if you look at the polling, what you see is when you ask folks, are they extremely are very concerned about the coronavirus, you do see that concern is up a little bit from where it was a month ago, or even six months ago. But look at this, compared to a year ago, it was 62 percent. Now, it's just 42 percent.

There are far fewer Americans who are extremely concerned about it. And indeed, what we really see is that Americans are just worn out by this entire thing. So if you asked essentially Americans, are you worn out by all the restrictions that have been basically put into place in the changes to your daily life? Look at that, 60 percent say yes.

And what's so unbelievable about that is if you look at the partisan breakdown, we're so used to seeing Republicans being less concerned than Democrats. Here, everyone is basically worn out by what's going on. Everyone I talked to, were just like, oh, come on, man. It's been 20 months, which is also exhausted by all of us.

TAPPER: So it was March 2020, when social distancing became a thing.


TAPPER: And every day --

ENTEN: I recall it.

TAPPER: Then came the masks and the lockdowns, other various restrictions. Fast forward, almost two years. Are Americans still willing to make these changes to their everyday lives?

ENTEN: Now, some of them are. I know, some folks who literally will just stay locked down perhaps for forever. But if you ask Americans, have you socially distance in the last week, what you see is less than a majority say that they are. In fact, in the latest polling is just 45 percent.

And look at that, it's the same basically, as was a month ago, it was the same as it basically was six months ago. And compare it to a year ago when it was 79 percent, 79 percent said they had social distanced in the last week. Now it's just 45 percent.

And if we sort of, you know, bring this out and look at masks, right, because I think masks have been something that is divided a lot of us in U.S., OK. Given the Omicron variant that's out there, how like -- are you very likely to essentially always wear a mask indoors? Look at that, just 42 percent.

Now, here's what's interesting about that. If you look at those who have received at least one COVID dose, look at that, it's 47 percent. The unvaccinated folks, the most dangerous out of all of those are, in fact, the least likely to say that they are very likely to always wear a mask indoors.

So the unvaccinated folks are unvaccinated, and they're probably not wearing a mask. They're -- personally, they're the most responsible for spreading the virus around.

TAPPER: And even as Omicron spreads, the data shows the vaccines can help prevent serious illness. It's very important for people, especially if you've gotten three shots, if you get boosted. At this stage of the pandemic, is that changing minds at all among the unvaccinated?

ENTEN: Not really. I mean, if you look at -- you know and you ask, OK, you very likely or have you gotten a COVID-19 vaccine dose. Look at that. Compared to six months -- compared to three months ago, it's a little bit up 75 percent 78 to one month, and now it's 80 percent. But mostly unvaccinated are, in fact, not getting vaccinated.

But look at -- if we look at boosters, right, because boosters could be the game changer in terms of the Omicron variant.


If you see this, you see look at that, have gotten or very likely to get, it's still at 51 percent now compared to a month ago. Yes more folks have gone, but that is basically come from the people who said they were probably going to get it anyway.

TAPPER: Harry Enten, thank you so much. Good to have you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: And by the way, check out Harry's podcast --

ENTEN: Yes, Margins of Error, you can get it on iTunes or wherever, basically. But it's --

TAPPER: There you go.

ENTEN: -- it's very light. It's not like this.

TAPPER: If you don't get enough Enten in your life.

ENTEN: You know what? You can never get enough Enten in your life.

TAPPER: That's what I say here. Harry, thanks so much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Let's bring in Dr. Megan Ranney, she's a professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University. So Dr. Ranney, you saw the numbers from Harry. Even in light of Omicron, we do not see a strong rise in the number of Americans willing to wear a mask more, to get a booster shot, or even to get vaccinated.

So might it be time to rethink reinstating protective measures in the name of saving those tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans who refuse to get the shot.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: We can only do so much for those who won't help themselves. And the reality is, as Harry just presented, the folks who have not yet shown up to get a shot are also the ones who are least likely to follow the public health regulations.

For those of us who are fully vaccinated, particularly those of us who have gotten boosted, this is not 2020. And we are right to not be as worried about our own personal health although we do, of course, have to be worried about our ability to go to school or to work or about the possibility of long COVID. But if we've gotten vaccinated and boosted, we're unlikely to end up in the hospital, in the ICU or, God forbid, dead.

Now, the one piece of hope, Jake, is that I am hearing personal stories of folks who had held out against the vaccine, who are now changing their mind, whether in the face of Omicron or in the face of impending January mandates.

TAPPER: So you're a doctor, you took the Hippocratic Oath first do no harm. At this point, if the unvaccinated do not want to get the shot, then what? Does this just prolong the pandemic forever? RANNEY: Tough to know. I mean, there's a possibility that they'll get infected, they'll develop immunity. We're seeing that prior infection with Delta or Alpha variant is not protecting people from Omicron. But it's possible that they'll develop immunity that will protect them from severe future variance.

In the meantime, in the hospital, I'm going to keep taking care of everyone who comes in, regardless of whether they're vaccinated or not. That is my oath. So what I do for everybody, and folks will continue to fill my hospital beds, if they've not gotten their shots.

TAPPER: You're at Brown, what do you make of the decision by Cornell, which saw a huge spike in COVID cases after students came back to campus in Ithaca, New York after Thanksgiving break to basically, you know, shutdown in person learning? Is that something we're going to see more of? Is that even necessary if it's just cases and not hospitalizations, and serious illness?

RANNEY: I think that's a really important distinction to make. I am not someone who is going to play down cases because cases can lead to long COVID. But there is a disconnect with Delta and Omicron between cases and hospitalizations.

I look at my home state of Rhode Island. Our cases are almost as high as they were at this time last year. But our hospitalizations are half of what they were this time last year. That's because of vaccines. And I will say my university has not shut down because everyone here is vaccinated. But we will be requiring boosters and tests before folks come back.

I think there's huge value to in-person contact and we want to preserve that however we can. Vaccines, boosters, masks, ventilation all helped keep us close together rather than on a zoom screen.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you so much. Good to see you as always.

It has been called white gold, but critics say the mining of this key element for electric cars is not actually helping the environment. We'll show you what we're talking about next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, another rare day of unprecedented weather in the United States. And right on the heels of those deadly tornadoes across the Midwest and the Great Plains and Midwest, a one- day record for at least 55 reports of hurricane force, wind gusts.

In Minnesota last night, the first tornado ever reported in December. In Boulder Colorado, could you imagine low clouds like this rolling over the hills? Or how about this scene in Kansas? Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a tornado nearby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was. Say this is like a tornado.


TAPPER: That was on the I-70 in Western Kansas, as a dust storm blew up.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Sater. Tom, how unusual is this kind of incredibly intense weather for December?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Jake, I'd been a meteorologist for 30 years, worked in a lot of TV markets, a lot of states and we saw things in the Nash -- in the CNN Weather Center, we've never seen before. And the list is long when it comes to the oddities.

Let's start with the warmth. Remember when we had our tornado outbreak, Memphis on Friday was at 80 degrees. Of course, eight states 50 tornadoes. We had another 21 yesterday, but nine states had those hurricane force winds. It's like a hurricane overland.

Omaha, 74 degrees, their average high is 38. They shattered their high -- record high. Well, it used to be 61 degrees. But it's not just that. Two areas of concern. On the left, this was a extreme fire risk. Never before seen this time of year in areas of the southern plains.

But where they typically have snow, they haven't had rain in 60 days. The fires were fanned by 100-mile per hour winds. Then our level four out of five in the upper Midwest. Never before in Minnesota in any month of November, December, January and February have they had that.


Tornado watch for Minnesota was placed on top of snow cover, never seen that before. Then their first tornado, the crazies just moving all the way up toward Northern Michigan. We had every county and Iowa with some sort of warning whether a tornado or not. You can see the severe weather threat.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Sater, thanks so much.

In our Earth matters series, deep inside in Nevada volcano deposits of what some call white gold or the new oil. There, lithium is plentiful and it's a vital part of flipping this switch towards more Earth- friendly, battery-powered technology.

CNN's Rene Marsh went there to check it out. She found lithium has both a positive and negative side.


RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The temperature is frigid here in the Northern Desert of Nevada and yet we find people camping in tents. Braving these harsh conditions is an act of resistance against proposed mining for lithium in that extinct volcano.

(voice-over): 13 degrees and both the sun and temperature is going down in the Northern Desert of Nevada.

(on-camera): It gets pretty dark, pretty fast around here.

MAX WILBERT, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST CAMPING AT THACKER PASS: It does in the winter and the cold is pretty fierce to.

MARSH (voice-over): This is where self-described radical environmentalist Max Wilbert is spending the night.

(on-camera): What are you doing out here?

WILBERT: Blowing up a mountain for coal mining is wrong. I think blowing up around for lithium mining is just as wrong.

MARSH (voice-over): the Nevada desert, this site known as Thacker Pass could make the United States a player in the fast-growing market for lithium for electric vehicles. Lithium is a metal used to make batteries for electric vehicles and is critical to the clean energy transition. There's currently only one lithium producing mine in the United States located halfway between Reno and Las Vegas.

The majority of the world's lithium is mined in Australia and South America. Protesters have rotated in and out of this encampment for the past 11 months. They say what will become the largest federally approved lithium mining project operating in the U.S., comes at an environmental cost.

WILBERT: Producing one electric car releases something like nine tons of greenhouse gases on average. The whole issue of electric vehicles and lithium mining is tricking us into believing that we can have this modern industrial lifestyle that we all enjoy and also solve global warming.

GLENN MILLER, FORMER ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO: It's not going to solve any climate change problem but it's a major contribution.

MARSH (voice-over): Lithium mining in the state of Nevada has pitted environmentalists against other environmentalists. Glenn Miller, a former professor of Environmental Science at the University of Nevada, Reno supports the mine. He says it will cut carbon emissions from the transportation sector, a major source of greenhouse gases.

MILLER: Radical environmentalists are going to argue that the only way to solve the climate change problem is to drive a whole lot less. I mean, a whole lot less and to not burn gasoline or coal. Well, that's not going to happen.

MARSH (voice-over): He says not transitioning to electric vehicles is far more dangerous to humanity. The CEO for mining company Lithium Americas, acknowledges operations produced some CO2, but it's offset by electric vehicles zero tailpipe emissions.

JONATHAN EVANS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, LITHIUM AMERICAS CORP.: There's an ability here to mitigate and do things as sustainable as possible.

MARSH (voice-over): Back in the desert, Wilbert is willing to risk it all to stop any mining on this site.

(on-camera): You're willing to, if this project moves forward, throw your bodies in between mining machinery to prevent it. Sounds a bit extreme. Do you mean that?

WILBERT: Our laws haven't caught up with the reality of what's happening to our planet. And so people might have to break the law in order to change what's happening.


MARSH (voice-over): The mining company Lithium Americas faces legal challenges from groups who want to block the project, but the company tells CNN they hope to break ground here by early next year. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Rene Marsh in Nevada, thank you so much.

Perhaps only the boss could make $500 billion with one single move. Bruce Springsteen cashing in. That's next



TAPPER: Topping our national lead, justice nearly 70 years in the making. An Alabama judge today finally expunge the juvenile criminal record of civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin. Colvin was arrested in 1955 as a teenager for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama. Her case took place nine months prior to Rosa Parks. The judge ordered Colvin's records to be sealed, destroyed and expunged and called her act of defiance, courageous.


Our pop culture lead, the glory days are here for the boss and Bruce Springsteen could be cashing in in close to $500 billion, billion with a B. The New Jersey native who has 20 Grammys under his belt, a podcast with former President Obama and a one man Broadway show is selling the rights to his music to Sony Music Entertainment, including hits such as "Born to Run", "Born in the USA" and "Dancing in the Dark."

The New York Times says the deal would be the largest transaction ever for one single artist's catalogue. Congratulations, Boss.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues right now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, he's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Stay with us.