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The Lead with Jake Tapper

CDC Cuts Isolation Time For Asymptomatic COVID Cases; Airline Industry Affected By Omicron; Truck Driver's 110-Year Sentence Asked To Be Reconsidered; Jan. 6 Panel Ramps-Up Efforts To Uncover Funding Behind Capitol Riot; January 6 Panel Seeks To Interview Two GOP Lawmakers; WAPO: Trump Allies Trying To Extend Their Power By Targeting Republicans Deemed Not Loyal To Trump; "Spiderman" Earns $1B At Box Office Worldwide, First Since 2019; Three Additional NHL Games Called Off; 70 Games In Total Postponed. Aired 5-6pm ET

Aired December 27, 2021 - 17:00   ET




ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New York City now running fewer subway trains with too many workers out sick and airlines are at their busiest time of year leaving even more passengers stranded just about everywhere. Domestically, a thousand more flights canceled today, more than 2,500 globally.

UNKNOWN: The reason that our flight was canceled was because of lack of flight attendants. So, yeah, on Delta. So, I guess it's sad. It's just really sad.

FIELD: Four cruise ships with reported cases of COVID were turned away from their ports of call. In all too familiar reminder of when it all started. Sports are not immune either. The Military Bowl and the Fenway Bowl among the latest games canceled. As more holiday plans get scrapped this year, the struggle to get COVID tests just too real. At a busy site in Miami, the wait is more than two hours.


FIELD: The problems with testing, particularly frustrating, of course, during this holiday week when a lot of people are trying to preserve perhaps the plans that they have. So the question now, what to do about those New Year's Eve parties. Well, Dr. Fauci was asked and he said if you're talking about a larger party, 30, 40, even 50 people and you don't know everyone's vaccination status, and he is saying, yet again, that this still is not the year to do that. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Alexandra Field, thanks so much. Let's bring in White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond who is traveling with President Biden in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. So Jeremy, President Biden was asked about shortening the quarantine time for positive tests earlier today before we got this new guidance from the CDC. What did he have to say?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. Just hours before the CDC made this announcement, President Biden was asked about this and he said that he would follow the advice of his medical experts when indeed they would recommend a change to that isolation period.

But it really is remarkable how quickly things have shifted at the White House and within the federal government's federal health response here on this isolation period. The president was also asked about this on Friday and he said that that was not the recommendation of his public health experts at that time.

That was just a day after the CDC had shortened that guidance for health care workers from 10 days to seven days. Now, they're talking about five days of isolation for all Americans.

And, of course, we have to note that even though the CDC is clearly citing medical evidence about the spread of the coronavirus, companies across the country including those airlines that we were just hearing about have been pressuring the federal government to shorten that isolation period, citing the cost on economic activity as this omicron surge takes over the country.

TAPPER: And Jeremy, President Biden earlier today joined a call between his COVID task force and the nation's governors. He was able to speak to all of them, including Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas who is one of more than a dozen Republicans governors currently suing the Biden administration over vaccine mandates. Were they able to find some common ground?

DIAMOND: They certainly were, Jake. Listen, this was not a combative call by all accounts including the portion of the call that was not on camera and accessible to the media. This was really a call for the federal government and the state governments to get on the same page about this omicron variant.

We heard Governor Asa Hutchinson, the chair of the National Governors Association, praising the coordination that he's had with the federal government. He also praised President Biden for remarks he made last week which Hutchinson said were aimed at depoliticizing the response to the pandemic.

An apparent reference to President Biden touting the Trump administration's efforts to get the vaccine. But they were also in agreement on one thing. And that is that there is not enough testing in this country yet and President Biden made very clear that those images of long lines over the weekend showed to him at least, that clearly they have a lot more work to do.

The president saying several times clearly we have not done enough on testing. That was also something that Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged earlier today. And so while they do have that plan to send those 500 million tests to Americans who request them beginning next month, there is a clear acknowledgment of what is an obvious failure to meet that testing demand right now around the holiday season and with omicron cases surging around the country.

But also today, President Biden authorizing the use of Stafford Act to use emergency funds so that HHS can stand up more testing sites in partnership with state and local governments across the country. Jake?

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, it has been a huge failure and not just one that we're experiencing. It's very visible. We see all of this video of these incredibly long testing lines throughout the country. In Miami, Leyla Santiago interviewed somebody who had been waiting in line for three hours for a test. How worried is the White House about this?

DIAMOND: Well, clearly they are worried enough that the president of the United States has now acknowledged not just once but repeatedly over the last week what is an apparent failure on the testing front saying several times that clearly his administration has not been able to meet that demand and that he wishes that he had done more.


He said last week, for example, that he wishes that he had ordered those 500 million tests previously. Now the White House has said that the manufacturing capacity simply wasn't there. But what we also heard President Biden do today was try and thread the needle between acknowledging that failure and also making clear how much progress has been made over the last year.

Citing the fact that for example nine at-home COVID tests have been approved. There were none when President Biden came into office nearly a year ago. So, that was kind of what you heard from the president. Acknowledging on the one hand that they have come up short on the testing front but also that there has been a lot of progress in his time in office. Jake?

TAPPER: Jeremy Diamond traveling with President Biden in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Today, thousands of holiday travelers are scrambling to rebook flights after major U.S. airlines have cancelations have across the board. Let's go straight to CNN's national correspondent Nadia Romero live outside Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. And Nadia, you tell us that flights are getting canceled because staff and crew are out with COVID. What are passengers saying about this?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. When we spoke with plenty of passengers over the last couple of days throughout the holiday week and they tell me that they were frantically checking their phones. Some of them couldn't sleep the night before their flight just hoping that they wouldn't get an alert from the airline that their flight had been canceled or delayed.

But at last check, 1,200 flights have been canceled today alone. You add that to the 1,500 from yesterday. I mean, the numbers just get worse and worse for passengers, many of them who haven't seen their families since December of 2019, so two years ago, pre-pandemic. And so they wanted to take those flights despite all the inconveniences and the travel delays that they knew they were going to expect on a normal holiday year.

Now you add in the omicron variant. We spoke with travelers who were going a little bit further. One woman was leaving Atlanta headed to Hawaii. There was another man who came to Atlanta from Taiwan. Listen to how they tried to navigate the omicron variant and holiday travel over the past couple of days.


ROMERO: This year compared to last year in 2020.

UNKNOWN: So, last year was a lot easier. I came here last year for Christmas as well and it was a lot smoother than it is now. Plus, with everything going on, I'm not sure how traveling is going to be affected so I want to make sure that while we can travel, take, you know, get it out of the way.


ROMERO: Yes. So he was traveling from Taiwan to Atlanta. Now he's headed to Tampa. His flight was canceled but fortunately for him he was able to get on a flight two hours earlier so it didn't disrupt his travel plans altogether. Jake, this has just been a domino effect.

Once you figure out that your flight is on, as soon as you get inside, you're seeing some of the longest lines we've seen since maybe the Thanksgiving holiday, especially at TSA general boarding, taking people a long time to get through the other side to the security checkpoints. Jake?

TAPPER: And Nadia, tell us about these four Ocean cruise ships being turned away because of COVID concern. Tell us more about that. What's happening with those travelers?

ROMERO: Yes, Jake, this reminds us of the very beginning of COVID where we had those cruise ships that were docked and we had all of those troubles. Those four cruise ships were turned away from their ports of call. So one was going to stop in Mexico. The others were going to the Caribbean.

They had different levels of COVID-19 outbreaks on board and so they were turned away. They had to go back to their original port of entry. And Jake, those cruise lines will tell you, they'll proudly say that we tested everyone. You have to have a negative test. You have to be fully vaccinated if you're a traveler which just goes to show how hard it is to limit the spread of this omicron variant. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Nadia Romero in Atlanta. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, we break down your questions about this new CDC guidance. Shortening the time needed to isolate after testing positive with COVID going from 10 days to 5.

Plus, how the power of superheroes is able to lure viewers back into movie theaters. This year's blockbuster is back turning spidey sense into real cash. Don't go anywhere.



TAPPER: In our "Health Lead," let's dig in further on our breaking news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommending isolation for those who test positive for COVID for only five days down from 10. Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Megan Rainey. She is a professor of emergency medicine and an associate dean of public health at Brown University. Firs, Dr. Rainey, what is your reaction to this brand-new CDC guidance cutting isolation time by half?

MEGAN RAINEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSUTY: So, this is part good news, part a little bit of stretch of the science. The good news is, is that for folks who are vaccinated, there is increasing evidence that if we are asymptomatic, we are not infectious after five days and we should be allowed to be back in society, back at work, back at school and back at play.

The trouble is for the unvaccinated, the data is not as clear and so they're kind of extrapolating from what we've seen increasingly around the vaccinated to the unvaccinated as well. They do make the caveat that after that five days, if you're out in public, you should still be wearing a mask, but you and I both know how often the unvaccinated are wearing masks out in public right now. So, I'm a little nervous about that part of the recommendation.

That said, overall, I'm glad to see the CDC following the science as we learn more about the virus. We should be changing our recommendations. I just wish this were done in a way that rewarded the vaccinated and didn't put the rest of us at risk.

TAPPER: Why do this now as cases are surging and all the health experts think this is going to get even worse over the next four to six weeks?

RAINEY: I suspect that it is at least partly because of pressure from employers. Listen, I spent the day in the emergency department today. We have six physicians currently among my group, our residents and attendings who are out sick with COVID. None of them are severely ill because we've all, of course, been vaccinated and most of us have been boosted.

Having them out for 10 days versus five days, it's a really big difference for my health care system.


And that's true not just for health care systems but for airlines, as you were just talking about, for restaurants, for schools. So there's a lot of pressure as there are more cases to try to cut down on the isolation period if we can. And again, we can do it safely, particularly for the vaccinated.

TAPPER: And what might this mean for schools? We've been seeing some universities moving back to virtual learning. That has some parents worried that, you know, grade schools, high schools might also go back to that, even though we have the secretary of education and Dr. Fauci and others saying there is no need to go back to virtual learning. What do you think this step might -- might this step play a role in keeping the schools open?

RAINEY: I hope it will encourage us to keep schools open. Listen, I've been a vocal advocate since last summer, since long before we even got vaccinates, about the importance of in-person learning. Masks are, of course, a critical component of that. So are vaccines.

This new policy will allow teachers to stay in the classroom. Will allow kids to get back to in-person learning more quickly. Hopefully will encourage both grade schools and high schools but also colleges and universities to stay in person.

TAPPER: You know, on the matter of following the science, I want to ask your opinion about masking because it seems pretty clear that the N95 masks are much better and more serious than some of the cloth masks. I mean, why -- do you think the CDC should be telling people time to switch to N95 series or, you know, there's no shortage of them now, everybody can get them, because the cloth masks are not as effective? I mean, they're more effective than nothing but they're not as effective as these actual professional masks.

RAINEY: Yes, that's right. I would not be caught in the emergency department with just a cloth mask. I wear an N95 and then wear another mask on top of it to help keep it clean since I sometimes still do reuse them for an entire day.

COVID is an airborne virus and especially this new omicron variant spreads so easily that you really do need an N95, a KN95 or a KF94 to fully prevent its transmission. This would be a great time for the CDC to update its recommendations to make very clear that there is a gradation of masks and those home sewn cloth masks do not cut it against omicron. But I will remind you again that the vaccines, of course, are our very best protection.

TAPPER: Absolutely, of course. And we see cases in South Africa trending down. That's where omicron, we first learned of it. Based on that, what is your prediction for how long this surge might go on in the U.S.?

RAINEY: So I hesitate to extrapolate directly from South Africa to the United States for a couple of reasons. The first is, it's summer in South Africa, its winter here in the U.S. We have very different patterns of living and socializing, right. That would be like comparing July in the U.S. to July in South Africa. Not a fair comparison.

The second thing is that our population make-up is different and our country is different. Now, we saw with delta variant that took India by storm over a couple of months. But it's been about six to nine months it's been slowly making its way through the United States. I worry that the same could be true with omicron.

Now in a best case scenario, we will follow the same pattern of a quick surge up and then a quick drop down in cases. But even in that best case scenario, Jake, we are in for a heck of a January. I have gotten so many texts from friends today who've caught COVID over the last few days over the holiday weekend. Again, multiple colleagues who are out. We are in for a really tough month ahead even if we do follow the same pattern as South Africa.

TAPPER: There are so many signs of people wanting to get back to normal. People flocked to movie theaters this weekend in a record box office opening for the new "Spider-Man." Some airports saw more travelers before Christmas than pre-pandemic levels.

Obviously to a degree, people who are vaccinated and boosted are just, you know, they're factoring in the risks and they want to go back to their lives. How are you gauging how to live your life? Do you go to the movies? Do you eat out at restaurants? Do you travel? How do you do it?

RAINEY: So at this moment, I cannot afford to get sick. My colleagues cannot afford for me to get sick. So I am not going to the movies or out to restaurants. I am, however, spending time with small groups of people. We all do a rapid test right beforehand. We're all vaccinated. Those of us that are eligible are boosted.

I don't think that those of us who are vaccinated should go back to the life that we were living in 2020 because even as contagious as omicron is, if you are vaccinated, particularly if you are boosted and you're unlucky enough to catch it, you're going to be okay.


This is the thing that I'm telling people. Make sure that you have rapid tests if at all possible. Make sure that you have ibuprofen and Tylenol, chicken soup or Gatorade and have a pulse ox just in case you do get sick to help soothe your own anxiety and nerves to remind you that you're going to be okay.

But for most of us who are vaccinated, omicron in particular is going to be more like a cold. Just take a little bit and be a little careful so you don't overwhelm the system right now.

TAPPER: Dr. Rainey, thank you so much. Good to see you as always.

Coming up next, follow the money. How the January 6th committee is trying to track down some key players behind the insurrection. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "National Lead," almost 5 million people have signed a petition calling for leniency in the case of a truck driver who received a 110-year prison sentence for a deadly Colorado highway crash. The driver killed four people in 2019 after he says the brakes on his semi-truck failed causing a devastating 28-car pile-up.

Prosecutors in Colorado are requesting his sentence be reduced. The original judge in the case said his hands have been tied due to Colorado's mandatory minimum sentencing laws. CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us now live from Denver with more on this story. And Lucy, a hearing in this case just wrapped up a little while ago. Tell us what happened.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. The judge today scheduled a resentencing hearing for January 13th. They discussed how this was an unusual case because it's the prosecution which initiated this request for a lower sentence rather than the defense. Now the district attorney, Alexis King, had asked the court to reconsider that lengthy 110-year prison sentence for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, potentially reducing it down to 20 or 30 years.

She said this was based on the facts in the case and conversations with the victims and their families. She also told reporters today, "This is an exceptional case and requires an exceptional process." Now, when this court reconvenes next month, there will be an in-person hearing but the judge said he does not want the defendant to testify.

More broadly at issue in this case are the Colorado mandatory minimum sentencing laws that require sentences for each count to be served consecutively rather than concurrently. Mederos was convicted on 27 charges, including several counts of vehicular homicide as well as vehicular assault, which is how the now 26-year-old found himself facing more than a century behind bars. His attorney telling CNN earlier today that the state's sentencing laws need reform. Take a look.


JAMES COLGAN, ATTORNEY FOR TRUCK DRIVER ROGEL AGUILERA-MEDEROS: The law doesn't really distinguish between people like Mr. Mederos who is not a danger to society and other people that are sentenced to life that are a danger to society, and I think the law needs to make those kind of exceptions and understand that there is a difference between Mr. Mederos and those other kinds of people.


You know, he was 23-years-old at the time of the crash. Authorities say he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He says his brakes failed, but prosecutors argued he should have used the runaway ramp, the runway ramp -- runway ramp, pardon me, and the new sentence will be determined next month, Jake.

TAPPER: And what's the position of the governor's office on this petition to grant clemency?

KAFANOV: Well, this case sparked a lot of national attention. And as you mentioned, nearly 5 million signatures in that petition asking the Colorado governor to reduce the sentence or to grant clemency. We heard Kim Kardashian speaking out asking the governor to also grant clemency.

The governor's office meanwhile telling CNN that it is reviewing the request. Legal experts, however, don't expect him to get ahead of the judicial system. And even some of the victims' families are calling for him to stay out of it. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Lucy Kafanov, thanks so much. The committee investigating the capitol insurrection is trying a new

strategy to get answers about the money behind January 6th. That's next.



TAPPER: We are following the money in our politics lead today. New records show that the House committee investigating the Capitol riot is now demanding bank records in an effort to figure out exactly how two rallies held on January 6 leading up to the insurrection were funded. CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent Whitney Wild joins us now live. Whitney, walk us through exactly what the House Select Committee is demanding and how we learned about it.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well Jake, this was all revealed in a challenge to the committee subpoena for those banking records of a man named Taylor Budowich. He is a former Senior Adviser for the Trump 2020 campaign. He is now former president Donald Trump's spokesman.

Now this challenge suggests that this committee is looking at funding as you'd mentioned the -- for the January 6th rally, sending this subpoena directly to J.P. Morgan Chase who told Budowich if you didn't file a motion to stop the records release, they would hand over this information. Budowich did file a motion arguing that he has already given the committee those records and that the risks here are in releasing private financial information that is not relevant to this investigation, not material to anything that the House Select Committee has jurisdiction over.

Now a previously released subpoena for Budowich says he reportedly solicited a 501(c)(4) organization to conduct a social media and radio advertising campaign, encouraging attendance at the January 6th ellipse rally and advancing unsupported claims about the results of the election. The committee claims Budowich directed around $200,000 from a source or sources to that 501(c)(4) organization that was not disclosed to the organization to pay for the advertising campaign.

So clearly, there are a lot of questions about these finances. Again, Jake, he argues, we already gave you this information, this is over. We'll see what happens now that it has been formally filed with the court. So we'll see what the judge says.

TAPPER: So Whitney what happens next and how quickly will it happen?


WILD: Well we don't have any information on timing and that's because the case is only just assigned to a judge today. So we'll follow this closely. But at this point, it's up in the air. And Jake, he's making a lot of arguments we've already seen, which are that this committee is politically lopsided, and that it has no real legislative purpose.

But these are arguments that two courts now have said are basically without merit. I mean, these are the very same arguments that the Trump team has made to try to block the archives requests and so far, judges are just not buying it. So we'll see what happens here.

TAPPER: All right, Whitney Wild, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this. Let me bring in Stuart Stevens and Bakari Sellers. Bakari, let me start with you because among the many hats you wear, one of them is a lawyer. What's the point of figuring out who paid for the rallies? The rallies themselves are not being investigated. It's what happened at the Capitol.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you can't look at one without the other. I mean, this is why you have things such as racketeering, when you look at who's financing projects, what happens in the middle and the end result. And so, by digging up and going to find out who financed the rallies, who paid for the buses, who paid for the robo calls, who paid for the radio ads, these individuals who actually paid for this rally, which led to an insurrection, they paid for this coup, and it's very important to know who they are.

And we'll see, because I've always said and I think many people, Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, they want accountability for those people who financed this coup, or attempted coup, and they also want accountability for individuals who actually stormed the Capitol. So it's not just the number of people we've seen indicted for storming. It's also those individuals who paid for it and those elected officials who aided and abetted.

TAPPER: Stuart, what's your take? I mean, it is possible that the rallies themselves again, not the attack on the Capitol, but the rallies themselves were funded by the Trump campaign or Trump himself. Does that necessarily mean that the funding was there to create this coup as Bakari describes it?

STUART STEVENS, FORMER ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: Sure, I think it does. They were very clear about what they wanted to do. They wanted to stop the peaceful transference of power. I mean, this is what they wanted Pence to do.

There's no secrets here. It's just a question of whether or not people are going to -- are they going to be held accountable. I mean, what's difficult for some people to wrap their minds around is that every level of the Republican Party was involved in this. White House staff, congressmen, senators, their staffs. The Republican Governors Association was involved, the RNC, major donors.

I mean, you know, if you work for congressman or senator, they don't go out the door without being staffed up. This was not just a sort of impromptu event. It was long in the planning, and people pay for it. And they tried to overthrow the government of the United States.

TAPPER: And Bakari, the committee is also asked to speak to two Republican members of Congress. Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, declined the committee's request. Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, he has not yet responded. Bakari, do you think the committee would be willing to subpoena fellow members of Congress? SELLERS: Yes. I mean, I think they have to if they're going to ultimately get the answers. One thing this committee can't do. I mean, you've already walked this far, you can't turn back now, you can't shortchange the American public. So, yes, they have to drag these members in.

And let's not forget what we're talking about here. People die at this attempted coup. People died in the storming of the Capitol. Law enforcement was assaulted. I mean, this wasn't just some peaceful march on Washington, this was actually a violent attempted insurrection.

And so, when you look at the results of it, I think the individuals who financed this rally have just the same culpability as those individuals who stormed the Capitol. And equally as culpable are the members of Congress who may even be held to a higher standard. I have a feeling we'll be seeing Jim Jordan and many others sitting in front of the committee and having to testify under oath.

TAPPER: Scott, there are no signs either Congressman Jordan or Perry is going to be willing to cooperate. So taking it one step further, do you think there would even be enough votes in the House to potentially refer fellow members of Congress to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress?

STEVENS: I don't think Republicans are going to rise to the challenge at all. This is a straight-up failure of Republicans to hold Basic Law and Order tenets that those of us who worked in the party we always like to think of ourselves as a law and order party. So look, except for a few people here, Liz is leading the charge, Republicans aren't going to help. This is why they were opposed to the creation of a 1/6 committee. They knew what it would uncover.

TAPPER: Congressman Bennie Thompson, the Democrat who chairs the January 6 committee told The Washington Post this about the investigation into former President Trump, "I can assure you that if a criminal referral would be warranted, there would be no reluctance on the part of this committee to do that."


Bakari, do you think it's too soon to be talking potentially about trying to get former President Trump charged? There are still financial records, White House records, testimony the committee has not been able to get hold of yet.

SELLERS: Yes, I mean, if you shoot at the king, you better not miss, right? That's the saying that is oftentimes utilize, especially in a court of law when individuals are seeking indictments. They are doing it the right way.

They are going through following the money. They are following the paper. They are doing it the right way. Congressman Thompson is doing what he's supposed to do as leader of this committee. It's a bipartisan committee. And they're going to make sure that when they send a referral over that it's going to be an actual case that you can win. It's not just one that exceeds the probable cause threshold, they would hope that they can prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. And the best part about this process, and let's not forget, is that the White House is doing what it's supposed to do.

And what White House's have done over the pendency of time, which is stay out of the Department of Justice's business when it comes to these types of prosecutions, et cetera. And so I appreciate what Kamala and Joe Biden are doing by just allowing this committee and allowing the Department of Justice to do their work.

TAPPER: And Stuart, the Washington Post also has some new reporting about how Trump loyalists in Congress are trying to purge Republicans that they feel are not loyal to Trump sufficiently. One of the candidates supporting is a gentleman named Joe Kent. He's challenging Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington State because Herrera Beutler voted to impeach Donald Trump over January 6th.

Kent said if he's elected, he won't fight with Democrats. But instead, "A lot of it will be shaming Republicans. I need to be going after the people in the Republican Party who wants to go back to go-along-to- get-along. It's put up or shut up."

We should note, Kent is out there pushing the lie that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. There, of course, wasn't. He falsely claims government agents were involved in the Capitol riot and on and on and on. Stuart, is this the future of the Republican Party?

STEVENS: Yes, it absolutely is the future of the Republican Party. Look, we have to stop thinking what's happening here in the United States has never happened before elsewhere. There's a pretty predictable pattern here. I mean, a lot of studies have been done on this. A lot of great books written how modern democracies fail.

And that's what's happening here. It's a test of whether or not our democracy is going to fail. And one of the inevitable steps are purges where people compete to be more pure. And that's what's happening here.

And it's not going to stop, except for a few people. There's no anti- Trump movement in the Republican Party. This is what the Republican Party wants to be, which, sad as it is to admit, is largely an autocratic movement.

TAPPER: And Bakari, that's a Republican staffer, former Republican consultants saying that. I mean, this -- but it doesn't seem as though the war that so many of these Republicans are waging against facts and reality and democracy is hurting their chances at all when it comes to winning the House and maybe the Senate back in 2022. Does that say something about the weakness of the Democrats?

SELLERS: I think it says something about our failure to communicate the policies and successes that Democrats have actually had. But I think what we're talking about is the fact that whatever margin, I believe that it's very possible that Republicans due to gerrymandering and the momentum of the country are going to take back the House, it's a lot different in the Senate, but take back the House.

That margin won't be as wide as it could be because you'll be having a lot of poor candidates, individuals who are challenging and primaries, individuals who were trying to, as we talked about a minute ago, passed that purity test. I mean, our former colleague, Andre Bauer is talking about running against Nancy Mace, right, just because of her vote early on, and her pushing back on Donald Trump. And so you have these issues popping up all across the country, which is going to give Democrats some chance to win seats we otherwise wouldn't.

TAPPER: All right, Bakari Sellers, Stuart Stevens, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Spinning a web of box office gold. The new "Spider-Man" movie doing something that has not been done since 2019. What is it? Stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, what was your name again?





TAPPER: In our pop culture lead, usually a rapidly spreading pandemic and sitting in enclosed spaces with strangers for a couple hours don't go well together. But Marvel's "Spider-Man: No Way Home" swung in and absolutely smashed the pandemic box office record, raking in more than a billion dollars worldwide. That's the first time a film has done that since 2019 before the pandemic.

Let's bring in Sonny Bunch, Culture Editor at The Bulwark. And Sonny, Spider-Man's surged past other highly anticipated films at the box office this year, "Dune", the newest James Bond movie. Why do you think "Spider-Man" was able to do this where those other films weren't?

SONNY BUNCH, CULTURE EDITOR, THE BULWARK: Well, "Spider-Man" had a big advantage being a MCU movie that stars not only, you know, is not only continuing that whole Marvel Cinematic Universe storyline but has the most beloved character, I think, in comic books more or less in "Spider-Man." But it also had the advantage of -- look, just frankly, being only in theaters, right?

We -- you mentioned "Dune", "Dune" big movie, did well, did OK, made about $400 million at the global box office. But it was hampered a bit because it was in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously in the U.S. and in some other territories, right? "No Time To Die" is done very well at the box office. I mean it's grossed $775 million, something like that.

But it is -- it's a little bit limited here in the United States because older audiences are still a little hesitant to return to theaters and "No Time To Die" is James Bond movie. James Bond has always been a little bit more, it's skewed a little older, right? So it had some drawbacks there.

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" is a huge crowd pleasing movie that very importantly people wanted to see in theaters to avoid getting spoiled. That is like a -- that is a very key thing that we need to keep in mind here.


And one of the reasons why it did such huge numbers on the opening weekend. I don't think anybody was expecting, you know, a $250 million style opening for this movie. And it is -- it's a testament to the character, it's a testament to Marvel, it's a testament to the fact that I think people are starting to get a little more comfortable with going to the movie theaters which is, you know, not great timing given everything going on with Omicron. But it is a -- it's a big hit, big win for Sony and and Marvel alike.

TAPPER: And there is this shift you talked about this about one of the issues with "Dune" is that it what you could see at home and streaming or in the theater. Does what happened with Spider-Man this huge box office smash, solidify not only there will always be some appetite for movie theaters, but perhaps send a signal to Hollywood, you really should not do the release in theaters and at home at the same time. You should try to do the theater release to get these numbers.

BUNCH: Yes. I mean, it's a really difficult balancing act for studios. And I don't, you know, I don't want to second guess any of them. They have a ton of different things they're thinking about. But if you look at the movies that have done the best in the pandemic, the ones that have done the best are the ones that are available exclusively in theaters.

So if you look at "Spider-Man: No Way Home", huge it, exclusively in theaters, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" was a surprise hit. I don't think anybody was expecting that to have the biggest opening weekend of any movie before, you know, "Spider-Man: No Way Home." But it did huge numbers because people were excited to see it. And they could only see it in theaters.

No time that I did very well. I mean, you know, it did very solid, it held well. And it did that because it was available only in theaters. And again, if you -- you can even extend that back a little bit. Look at a movie like "Free Guy." I don't think anybody -- I think people were kind of skeptical, like, oh, they're going to keep "Free Guy" just in theaters.

But by keeping it in theaters, they extended the life of that movie, and they did a pretty good job of getting it into the top 10 on the year. I was a little bit surprised by how that -- how well that one held. But it's a fun movie. People wanted to go see it in theaters. What's especially interesting here is that all of these movies are basically films that appeal to young men. If you're looking at the four quadrants, right, it's the younger male audiences. Those are the movies that are still doing really, really well.

Movies like "West Side Story," which is available only in theaters has -- have not done as well. Movies like "The Last Duel", even "House of Gucci," which has done a little bit better. But those are movies that are skewed towards a little older audiences. In some cases, more female centric audiences and it -- they have not done as well.

The young male audience is the one that has said we are -- we're done with Delta, we're done with Omicron, we're done with COVID. We're going back to movie theaters.

TAPPER: Yes. Sonny Bunch, thanks so much. Good to see you as always.

Turning to our sports lead, a growing wave of postponements and cancelations as the virus sweeps through the country right now again. The NHL, the NBA, the NFL all forced to remake their schedules due to the Omicron surge. And in college football, two more bowl games have been canceled, while two others are now searching for new teams after the University of Miami and Boise State University withdrew from their bowl games.

Joining us now CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan. Christine, these latest announcements bring the total number of college bowl games impacted in just the past week to six. How do you see this playing out as we approach the college football playoff games later this week?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Jake, well, clearly Omicron is not done with us and not done with sports. And the college football -- the big evening, of course, is New Year's Eve with the two semi- finals. And if one team is not able to play, it's just going to be a forfeit, which is quite a shock.

You know, all of this buildup September, October, November and then it's a forfeit. My strong guess is that there will not be a forfeit. At this point, these schools are the ones in charge of their numbers. And it would take quite a president of a university or an athletic director to announce the numbers.

I'm not saying they're cheating, but to be so forthright to knock themselves out of the game that they have been pointing towards for this entire season. And Nick Saban, the Alabama coach has said his team is fine. And my guess is all for the teams will be OK.

But there's no doubt that COVID would be a part of each team, potentially, our coaching staff, whether or not they'll report it or kind of try to ignore it. That's, obviously, an open question.

TAPPER: And Christine, the National Hockey League just announced that they're postponing three more games bringing the total number of post- games -- postponed games to 70. But the NHL also says it still planning to resume its regular season tomorrow. The NBA and NFL have similarly seen a huge uptick in cases. Do you think that these leagues are taking the threat seriously enough?

BRENNAN: I think they're taking it as seriously as they can financially.


Jake, I think they do not want to shut down. And so they're bringing up minor leaguers in the NBA. The NHL, of course, was going to have the Christmas break. Well now, it looks like it could even be a New Year's break. But they're going to keep trying and they will have now the Olympic the February, three weeks in the Olympics that they would have had the Olympic tournament.

Now, they're not going to be at the Olympics. So they'll have those three weeks to kind of pack in any postpone games. So, no, they want to keep playing and they're willing to put on an inferior product on the field. And so far, fans are willing to accept that.

TAPPER: Christine Brennan, good to see you as always. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, more on our breaking news. The CDC shortening the isolation period for some people after they test positive for COVID. Dr. Anthony Fauci will be live on CNN to answer your questions about the changes. Stay with us.