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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Speaks With Putin At Russian Leader's Request; Source: FDA To Allow Pfizer Booster For 12-15 Year Olds In Days; Trump Wants Supreme Court To Read Washington Post Interview With Bennie Thompson; 67-Degree Day In Kodiak, Alaska, Sets Statewide Temperature Record; Jordanian Lawmakers Trade Punches In Parliament Amid Heated Discussion On Women's Rights; Tesla Recalls Nearly Half A Million Cars Over Rear Camera Safety Issues. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 30, 2021 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: U.S. intelligence officials say they have yet to see any sign of de-escalation from the Russians at the Ukrainian border. And as CNN Jeremy Diamond reports for us now, global fears of an invasion remain high.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, a critical phone call between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. As the prospect of war hangs over Ukraine, the two leaders speaking for the second time this month.


DIAMOND (voice-over): This time at the Russian leader's request.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Our actions will depend not on the course of the negotiations, but on the unconditional and ensuring of Russia security today and in the future. In this regard, we have made it clear that NATO's further east wood movement is unacceptable. Well, what's not clear here.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The call coming at what one senior administration official called, "A moment of crisis," with more than 100,000 Russian troops masked on the Ukrainian border in a very real threat of invasion on the horizon. U.S. officials don't know exactly why Putin asked for the call, but a senior administration official said the President saw no reason to snub Putin, believing "there is no substitute for direct leader-to-leader dialogue and engagement."

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY AND CIA DIRECTOR: I think it follows a pattern that Putin has used in the past of ratcheting up pressure when he's trying to get his way. And now, he's trying to go directly to President Biden to try to get him to, I'm sure, agree to this security deal, which I do not think President Biden can agree to.

BIDEN: In meeting with Putin, I was very straightforward. There were no mince words. It was polite, but I made it very clear, if in fact, he invades Ukraine, there'll be severe consequences.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The President was set to reiterate that message today, threatening stepped up military support for U.S. allies at Russia's doorstep and economic sanctions more severe than those imposed after Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea. At the same time, a senior Administration official said Biden would make clear there is a diplomatic path to deescalating tensions in the region if President Putin is interested in taking it.


DIAMOND: And Jake, after that 15 minute conversation today between President Biden and President Putin, the diplomatic path that U.S. officials are talking about will continue on January 10, as U.S. and Russian officials are set to sit down together. Those talks expected to be led by the Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on the U.S. side and the deputy Russian foreign minister on the Russian side. Jake.

TAPPER: Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much.

Let's go to CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson in Moscow.

And Nic, Russia has a series of security concerns and demands they want addressed, they say. What are those demands?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Legally binding demands, that's what their asking for for NATO to refuse to take Ukraine as a member for NATO, not to base any NATO troops or NATO military hardware inside Ukraine, and for NATO to roll back what Russia calls as eastward expansion. That's the document that Putin sent to President Biden about a week and a half ago.

You have to look at this as well and see what Putin is trying to do, the pressure we've heard and people speaking about putting that pressure on President Biden, but he's trying to use President Biden, if you will, as a battering ram at NATO for Biden to go into NATO and get the changes that Putin wants. Clearly, that's not something that's on the cards. But this does speak to that long term goal of President Putin, which is dividing NATO.

And he looks at NATO right now and sees that the hasty and messy withdrawal from Afghanistan as a potential opportunity to widen some of those divisions. Get President Biden to try to do his bidding, open up some gaps, bigger gaps among NATO allies, weaken the Transatlantic Alliance.

TAPPER: It does appear Putin is ignoring Biden's warnings and the warnings from European leaders that there would be serious consequences if he does, indeed, go ahead with an invasion of Ukraine. Right now, there are as many as 100,000 Russian troops at the border. What does the Kremlin have to say about it?

ROBERTSON: Yes, the Kremlin is talking about having even more troop, joint troop exercises close to the border with Ukraine in Belarus. So they did that about four months ago, they had 200,000 troops there. So, rather than sort of ratcheting down tensions and withdrawing troops from that sort of Western flank of Russia, Russia's talking about having more troops coming up there soon.

Look, you know, the language that President Putin listens to, his withstood a lot of sanctions is clearly being told the next round could really do some heavy financial damage, but he's not hearing anyone say, you put troops in Ukraine and we'll put troops in Ukraine. That's the sort of language that President Putin understands. It's very hard for him to take for real sanctions that can actually hurt him. He's ready for his country or it has been in the past for his country to take a hit, but if they don't hurt him, they see that that's a pressure point that, you know, he seems to be ready to push through.


TAPPER: Nic Robertson in Moscow. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's discuss this all with the former ambassador, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, CNN Global Affairs Analyst Susan Glasser and former CIA Counterterrorism Official Phil Mudd. Thanks, one and all for being here.

Ambassador Taylor, let's start with you. You've been in the room where many of these types of phone calls and negotiations have transpired, what do you need to hear from Putin to believe he's really going to pull back troops on Ukraine's border and deescalate this military presence?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: So, Jake, he does need to do -- if he's serious about having any kind of conversation with President Biden or with his people in Geneva, where he's got to pull back, he's got to deescalate as your reporter indicates, Nic indicated. This is -- there's no serious negotiation while you've got a gun pointed to your head or 100,000 guns pointed to your head. So that's the precondition for any serious negotiation

And then, President Biden, undoubtedly, reinforced the -- not just the sanctions, which would be coming, but also the additional support to Ukraine in terms of military assistance and a large readjustment, additional troops going to the NATO eastern allies, the NATO allies on the eastern flank. So, this is more than just sanctions that President Putin has to deal with.

TAPPER: And Susan, Putin is the one who requested this one on one call with Biden. There is already a bilateral security discussion scheduled between the U.S. and Russia in just a few weeks. What do you think Putin was trying to accomplish today?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Jake, in the Russian system right now, you know, Vladimir Putin is the only international diplomat who matters. And, you know, he sees the equivalent that this should be a leader-to-leader engagement. And by the way, a superpower-to-superpower engagement, notably, not included in these conversations are Ukraine about whose fate they're discussing. And so, I think that's very typical of Vladimir Putin's approach to international diplomacy.

But you know, Ambassador Taylor's right, you know, this is not diplomacy right now. This is an act of aggression and an a manufactured crisis by Putin. What he's demanding from the United States is not something that Joe Biden can actually give him.

TAPPER: And Phil, Putin wants, among other things, legally binding security guarantees from the U.S. that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO and that NATO will not expand its military capabilities any further east. Are there any concessions, any demands that Putin is making that the U.S. could give Putin without hurting national security?

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Boy, I don't see much room for maneuver here. Let's look at two options that I think Putin potentially wins either way. By the way, I don't think I disagree. I don't think he has to deescalate much. And we could talk about that if you want.

But if he pulls a few 1000 troops away from the border and he still has overwhelming force, Jake, he could say, I deescalated and meanwhile, still pose a tremendous threat. But two quick scenarios, one, Biden refuses to pat down on security guarantees about extending NATO. What is Putin say? I have no choice but to move on Ukraine, this is to a domestic audience in Russia, because the Americans won't make any concessions to me, they're a threat.

Let's take the highly unlikely scenario that Biden moves in the direction of Putin has asked and said -- and says, I will make some guarantees about not moving NATO. What does Putin say then? I have more free rein in my area of influence out here in Eastern Europe. I think Putin's got us over a barrel. Oh, Jake. guess the bottom line.

TAPPER: Mr. Ambassador, Secretary of State Blinken spoke yesterday with the President of Ukraine and officials from Germany, the U.K. and France. How important is it for the U.S. to show united front with not only Ukraine, but other NATO leaders in the region?

TAYLOR: It's crucially important to have that -- had the allies and the alliances with us. You know, I do believe that President Biden has a stronger position than Phil suggests. So, in a larger sense, it's because of allies, it's because of the larger economy. It's the ability of our combined economies to inflict real damage on an already failing Russian economy.

The alliance, not just NATO, there are the Asian allies as well. This is a strong position that President Biden has. And he has no reason to go into that second scenario that Phil talks about of backing down. He can stand firm.


TAPPER: Susan, U.S. officials also say the Moscow is engaged in a massive disinformation campaign meant to undermine Ukraine's government ahead of that country's national elections. What's your biggest concern when you hear that? GLASSER: Well, look, I think that that's an important factor that's been driving Putin's Ukraine policy for years, is the idea that one way or the other, he wants to have a weak Ukraine, control over Ukraine, either explicit control as they had in the government before the revolution, you know, topple the corrupt pro-Russian government in 2014 and led to the events of the takeover in Crimea. So, Putin essentially does not believe, Jake, in the independence and the sovereignty of Ukraine. He still holds to the idea that this is -- should be a part of Mother Russia, and is essentially looking 30 years after the break of the Soviet Union to deny the legitimacy of Ukraine one way or the other.

So, I think that's a very important factor, the politics in Ukraine. And by the way, the politics inside Russia too. Putin is also distracting the West and the United States from a major political crackdown inside of Russia, arresting Russia's leading dissidents. Just this week, shutting down Memorial, the leading human rights group, a very important group that was founded in the waning days of the Soviet Union. This sends a major signals, the Russian population, and right now it's being drowned out by the sound of those 100,000 troops on the Ukraine border.

TAPPER: And Phil, just hours before the call, we learned that the US Air Force flew yet another reconnaissance plane over eastern Ukraine to gather intelligence about the military situation on the ground. This is the second time this week that we know of that the U.S. carried out such a mission. You're a former CIA official, what are they looking for? Just troop buildup information?

MUDD: Yes, but also, if you're looking technically at the capabilities of aircraft, that aircraft contract movement, are they moving more people toward the border or more people are away from the border? It's not just, I mean, that aircraft is flying for eight or nine hours. It's not just a static snapshot like a Polaroid of the battlefield, its movements.

So one of the questions you're going to get answered is, despite what Putin says, are more and more people moving in or more people away? The second piece is obvious, and that is telling Putin, I don't care what you say, we're going to fly surveillance aircraft over there whether you like it or not.

TAPPER: Phil Mudd, Ambassador Taylor, Susan Glasser, thanks one and all to each one of you. Happy new year.

Coming up, at New year new COVID records for cases and in some states for hospitalizations. What we know now and where do we go from here. Plus, we're having a heatwave in Alaska by the mercury rising there is cause for concern and how it fits in with the climate crisis. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Some breaking news in our health lead right now, another layer of protection for millions of American kids. A source tells CNN that the FDA is expected to expand booster shot eligibility in just the coming days, allowing kids 12 to 15 to be able to get a third Pfizer dose. The timing here is crucial because as CNN's Alexandra Field reports, not only are hospitals in at least 10 states in the U.S. seeing all-time highs for COVID hospitalizations. Doctors worry New Year's Eve celebrations and to return to offices and schools after the holidays could make the situation even worse.


DR. LEE SAVIO BEERS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: This is probably not the time to have the New Year's celebrations, you know really, really dial things back.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new year bringing in new COVID records.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE & SURGERY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I would absolutely not go into a bar. If you go into a bar now you are very likely to get COVID whether you're vaccinated or not. If you're unvaccinated and you go into a bar, you will come out of it infected.

FIELD (voice-over): As for the big party in New York's Times Square.

REINER: We're in the public health crisis of our lifetimes. Frankly, it should have been canceled.

FIELD (voice-over): But this ball will drop despite the highest numbers of new daily cases the city has ever seen and without LL Cool J who calls off his performance after testing positive for COVID.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, (D) NEW YORK CITY: This event is vaccination only, everyone is going to be -- it's going to be outdoors vaccination only, mask required, socially distance. But we want to show that we're moving forward and we want to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this. It's really important. I tend not give up in the face of this.

FIELD (voice-over): The city insisting it can party safely even while navigating staffing shortages affecting EMS, the Fire Department and the subway.

In Washington D.C., the Smithsonian temporarily shutting down five of its museums. And JetBlue announcing they're canceling nearly 1300 flights through the middle of January.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just going to be a matter of weeks before we have an entire viral blizzard across all of this country.

FIELD (voice-over): The pressure only rising for hospitals across the country. Ten states and Washington D.C. are seeing some of the highest hospitalization numbers of the pandemic. In Georgia, six major health systems report collectively seeing a 100 percent to 200 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Unvaccinated adults remain the most likely to be hospitalized, but pediatric hospitalizations continue to climb.

BEERS: The vast majority of the children who are being admitted are unvaccinated and there's small numbers who are vaccinated, but the vast majority are unvaccinated. And so, being unvaccinated increases your risk for hospitalization significantly.

FIELD (voice-over): Booster shots for younger teens may now be just days away, so is the return of school following the holiday break. Schools are now scrambling to do it safely.


FIELD: And, Jake, as we talked about all these cancellations piling up here, something else to consider, the CDC today advising people against cruise travel despite their vaccination status. The CDC raising the risk level associated with cruising to a level four, that is the highest level. They're citing an increase in cases aboard ships since Omicron was first identified. Jake.

TAPPER: Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Richina Bicette-McCain. She's the Emergency Department Medical Director at the McNair Campus of Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Bicette-McCain, thanks so much for joining us.

How much of a difference could it make in containing this Omicron surge if kids 12 to 15 can get booster shots?


DR. RICHINA BICETTE-MCCAIN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR ST. LUKE'S MCNAIR CAMPUS EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT: I definitely think it's time for us to consider boosters in children, Jake. Twelve to 15 year olds were first approved for vaccines back in May. So for those who are vaccinated early, it's time for their boosters.

As we have heard, pediatric hospitalizations are surging across the country up almost 50 percent from just last week. We're seeing over 300 children per day get admitted to a hospital. So, boosters are going to help protect our children, I'm all for it.

TAPPER: On the other hand, only 51 percent of kids 12 to 15 have even gotten two doses. I mean, that's half of this nation's 12 to 15 year olds unvaccinated. So, how do you convince parents that a third dose is necessary if they haven't even gotten their kids the first one or two?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: And you know what, Jake, that number is even lower when you consider all children who are eligible for vaccines, because only 1/3 of children ages five to 15 have been fully vaccinated.

I think those low numbers are coupled with two things. One is misinformation about the vaccine. And two is misinformation about COVID and how it affects children. For some reason, there's-- this undying school of thought that the vaccines can potentially cause infertility in children despite the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology saying that that is not true. Furthermore, parents think that their children are immune from COVID or they think that their children will only have mild disease. I just went over the numbers for you. Pediatric hospitalizations are climbing and parents you do not want your child to be that one exception to the rule, get them vaccinated.

TAPPER: And almost all of the kids that are being hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated. I've only heard of one who was vaccinated and he had a number of other comorbidity and health issues. It's almost all unvaccinated kids.

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Almost all unvaccinated children that are being admitted to the hospital and the trend is the same for adults. That people that we are seeing getting very ill from this disease don't have their vaccines.

TAPPER: Tomorrow's New Year's Eve, and many people are debating whether they should cancel their plans. Dr. Jonathan Reiner said on CNN earlier today, he would not even advise going to a restaurant for in person dining. Obviously, everyone has to make their own risk analysis. What advice are you giving people when it comes to trying to find a balance between being safe and also living your life?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Risk analysis is the key phrase her. There is no 0 percent risk situation unless you're in a room all by yourself. If you are over the age of 65, immunocompromised or otherwise at risk for developing severe disease, I would suggest that you probably stay home and don't gather with anyone. If you're not at risk for severe disease, there are things you can do to lower your risks.

Go to a gathering that you know is going to be small, less than 15 people. If you're going to an event, being outside is obviously lower risk than being indoors. And of course, where your mask.

TAPPER: New Year's Eve sucks anyway. I can't imagine anybody wouldn't want to risk their life for it.

Similarly, many kids will head back to school in just a few days. Washington D.C. just announced all students and staff are going to have to test negative for COVID before returning. But it's an ugly reality, the U.S. does not have the infrastructure or testing in place to ask -- to test every single kid. Now that we know how important it is to keep schools open because of the psychological and academic and emotional damage closing schools did to so many kids last year, what do you recommend for parents? How do you weigh the risks of going to school with the problems we saw when kids were forced to learn from home?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: I don't think that we should close schools but I do, however, think that it would be in our best interest to extend winter break and delay children returning back to in person learning by maybe a couple of weeks. We are in the throes of the highest surge that we have ever seen in this country since we've been dealing with COVID for the last two years. "The New York Times" reported 488,000 cases just yesterday.

Now, with cases spiking and with test availability being low, that is a recipe for disaster. We need to delay children going back to school just a bit.

TAPPER: This week, the CDC announced it is shortening its isolation guidelines from 10 days to five days for people who test positive for COVID but are asymptomatic. Michigan says it was -- it's not going to adopt those new rules until state health officials can look at the evidence themselves. What do you think? Is the evidence there to justify reduction from 10 to five days?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Oh, Jake, how much time do we have to talk about this? I think the new CDC guidelines are problematic and a double-edged sword. On one hand, we know that people who are recently vaccinated or vaccinated and boosted while being asymptomatic pose a very low risk of transmitting COVID-19. So having that group of people isolate for 10 days is a bit egregious. But the CDC guidelines does not differentiate between ending isolation early for those who are vaccinated and boosted and those who are unvaccinated, despite those being two very different risk populations.


There's no difference discussion about testing negative and isolation. There's no discussion about wearing high quality masks such as a KN95 or N95. And the biggest issue that I have with the CDC guidelines is that it is causing divide and discourse amongst physicians and medical professionals who up until now have been the biggest supporters for the CDC. At times where misinformation and mistrust is already high, that is exactly the fire that conspiracy theorists need to ignite their falsities and their rumors.

TAPPER: Yes, I asked Dr. Fauci about that mask issue among other issues earlier this week. Why wear a cloth mask when it does almost nothing compared to an N95?

Dr. Richina Bicette-McCain, thank you so much. Happy New Year to you. Thanks so much for your expertise.

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Happy New Year, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: Former President Trump's latest plea to the U.S. Supreme Court, read "The Washington Post," he says. We'll tell you why, next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, former President Trump and his lawyers want the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States to read the Washington Post specifically, this December 23rd article which features an interview with January 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who said the panel is looking into ordering the Justice Department to open a criminal probe into the former president.

Joining us now, CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles. Ryan, why the Trump's lawyers want the U.S. Supreme Court to read this article so badly?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's based on the premise that the former president and many of his allies have made trying to undercut the credibility of the January 6 Select Committee They argue that the committee does not have at its specific goal, a legislative purpose, meaning that the reason that this committee exists is to draft legislation that would ultimately lead to laws.

But instead, in their mind, it's nothing more than an attempt to try and catch either the former president or his allies in some sort of criminal conspiracy that would ultimately lead to criminal charges.

Now, this is something that committee has soundly rejected. They've said that, indeed, their main goal is a legislative purpose. And at the end of all this, they hope to tell a story as to what happened on January 6, and then offer up some tangible legislative fixes to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Still, the Trump lawyers believe that this is an opportunity for the courts to prevent the National Archives from handing over a whole tranche of documents under the banner of executive privilege. At this point, Jake, it's not clear whether or not the Supreme Court will even take this case up, let alone settle this dispute.

TAPPER: And Ryan, the Justice Department responded to Trump's request.

NOBLES: Yes, that's right. The Justice Department argues that they're citing, of course, with the Biden administration on this. And remember, it is the White House in the current occupant of the White House that gets to determine where executive privilege lies.

And in this case, they believe that the protection of the former president and his interests are outweighed by the interests of the public, the general public and the American people to get to the bottom of what exactly happened on January 6, and that the collection of this information and the distilling of it is necessary by the January 6 Select Committee. That's their argument, it's going to be of course up to the courts to decide which side is correct. If of course, Jake, the Supreme Court even decides whether or not they're going to deal with this.

TAPPER: Ryan Nobles, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Let's discuss this with our aghast (ph) panels. Seung Min Kim, let me start with you. Trump and his lawyers are arguing that this whole case about submitting White House records poses this unique conflict between a sitting president and a former president. And, you know, he has a point, of course, that doesn't necessarily excuse him from consequences if he broke the law, right?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST : Right. That's certainly correct. And I think what's important to remember too, is that previous courts, and the reason why this issue could make it -- is at the Supreme Court in the first place, is that previous federal courts at a district level, the circuit level, have agreed with President Biden's position that the public and, you know, by virtue, the committee has a right to these records.

Now, President Trump is certainly not the only person being targeted by this Committee that have looked to the courts to try to throw sand in the gears to try to slow down the process. Certainly he is the most prominent one. But you've seen so many others in his orbit. For example, one of his spokesmen go to the court to try to stop the committee from accessing his bank records.

There are a number of people who are being targeted by the January 6 Committee who are looking to the courts to try to impede the work of this committee. Now whether they'll be successful is another question. But obviously, we all know we've talked about it several times before about how this January six committee is probably working on borrowed time. So obviously, time is of the essence here.

TAPPER: And Sabrina just to change topics for a second because COVID is exploding. There is this huge push and pull between federal and state efforts to respond to the pandemic. We had Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas in the last hour saying he was worried that the supply chain was not going to be able to deliver the 500 million at-home test by Brian ordered. And I would also notice, note that 500 million is not enough for a country of more than 300 million people.

How bad will this be for President Biden for Democrats if we're still in this bad place when it comes to COVID testing and COVID in six months?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think it's been a real challenge for the Biden administration because in some ways the lingering pandemic and this surge triggered by the Omicron variant shows in the limitations of the federal government when it comes to actually containing the virus.


And testing, as you point out has been one area where the administration has fallen short with many of the shortages that we've seen with respect to access to at-home rapid tests.

In particular, now, the administration is hoping that some of the demand will go down, as we kind of clear this holiday season where there was a lot more demand for tests and they are trying to use the Defense Production Act to scale supply there also is this plan to distribute about 500 million at home rapid test, but I think what the administration is also trying to do is emphasize that the pandemic is in a different phase and that with vaccinations and boosters.

We're not really in the same place we were before we had vaccines where we have to shut everything down where there needs to be locked down. So I think in some ways, they are actually trying to normalize the virus and to really put more focus on this idea that we'll be living with the virus and learning how to take the precautions we can rather than panicking every time there's a new variant or a new strain.

TAPPER: Interesting. Seung Min, where -- I'm sure you like Sabrina, like me, or look at every time there's a redistricting announcement in every state, you run to see who's getting screwed, like who's getting safer see Republicans, Democrats, how partisan is the state acting Democrats or Republicans?

One such proposed newly drawn congressional map is in North Carolina it puts former Congressman Mark Walker in a bind. Politico reports, Walker, who's trailing in polls, he's running for Senate. They're in North Carolina. He's trailing in the polls for the Republican primary there. The guy in first place is endorsed by Trump.

But the article goes on to state President Donald Trump earlier this month privately offered to endorse Walker to run for a newly drawn House seat instead, also looming as a legal challenge to North Carolina's map, which could result in the new district being abruptly redrawn to become heavily Democratic.

This is just one seat of in one state, the broader impacts of these new maps. Tell us more about it, not just on the makeup of Congress, but on voters.

KIM: Right. Well, there are a lot of potential impacts from the roughly I believe that we're now up to 26 states that have effectively finalize their maps at this point. But certainly there's a lot of decisions for key members of Congress to take, for example, in Michigan, there are sitting members of Congress who are being redrawn into the same districts. So they have to decide whether they are going to run against a sitting colleagues.

So obviously, I believe Fred Upton is in that camp as well. He has not indicated a decision as of yet one of the most kind of bipartisan members of the Republican Party.

But broadly speaking, you know, what we've seen in general trends is that there are many districts that are certainly becoming more partisan, more conservative, more Republican, more liberal, more democratic, in some respects, and that reflects the kinds of lawmakers who are going to be sent to Congress when you are only really battling a primary within your own party, that there are these fewer swing districts that have these really contested, contested like general elections. There's less than an incentive for politicians to reach across the aisle and, you know, and have that message during their campaigns.

And that certainly translates to Congress and can have long term impacts as well. So certainly, how these maps shakeout in the 50 different states is certainly something that we're watching very closely to see what impact they're going to have on a governing level in future congresses.

TAPPER: The translation of what you just said is things are going to get worse, I think (INAUDIBLE) the Congress, it's going to be an even more hideous place to cover. Sabrina, let me ask you, the AP is reporting that Republican candidates who engage in Trump's big lie about the election. They're running for office in states that could have a key role in the next presidential election.

And this was stark language for the Associated Press quote, while the effort is incomplete and uneven outside experts on democracy, and Democrats are sounding alarms, warning that the United States is witnessing a quote, slow motion insurrection with a better chance of success than Trump's failed power grip -- grab last year.

That certainly is the nightmare scenario that next time Trump tries to undermine an election, he has people in the right places and they are able to actually steal it.

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that's what is really at the heart of the investigation to January 6, right, not just understanding what happened that day, but also understanding the climate we're in where there's a broad sense that democracy is still very much under threat, and that the January 6 instruction was really just the beginning.

You know, you do have as you point out a lot of these election deniers on the Republican side who are now seeking local office in states where they could have a direct hand in determining how the next presidential election is decided whether or not those results are certified in some places how the ballots are counted.


And I think that, you know, if you look at more broadly where the Republican base is, with polls showing that a majority of Republican voters actually do believe that the 2020 election was stolen, even though as we know, is a, you know, all evidence suggests it was a fair and free election. It would make it a lot easier, I think, for Republicans to make the case in 2024 with a lot of these Trump loyalists, these stop the steel supporters in these positions of power.

And so there's a lot of concern among Democrats, I think around election integrity. And really, you know, whether or not the 2024 election could be another real test of democracy and the outcome of the election.

TAPPER: Seung Min Kim, Sabrina Siddiqui, it has been a horrible year. But one of the rare delights is having two brilliant political reporters like yourselves, come on the show and talk to us on a regular basis. So thank you and Happy New Year. And we'll see you in 2022 which I guarantee will be a better year.

KIM: Happy New Year.

SIDDIQUI: Thanks Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up looking for a warmer winter at North with a warning. Why Alaska heating up is not a good thing. Stay with us.


[17:45:50[ TAPPER: In our Earth Matters series this holiday season is bringing unusually warm temperatures for many Americans. Extreme weather is gripping much of the country shattering records, stunning climatologists. One shocking example, an area in southern Alaska hit 67 degrees on Sunday. Alaska, I said, setting a record for the warmest December day ever recorded there.

It was warmer there than in Southern California that same day. CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir joins us now live in Alaska. Experiencing very high temperatures this month higher than many experts thought was even possible for this time of year. What's going on?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: This was so alarming Jake that, you know, scientists, meteorologists, climatologist had to do a double take. But fortunately there were weather balloons going off at the same time -- a thermometer at a title gauge in Kodiak, Alaska, measured 67 degrees. It shattered the all-time record before.

And at the same time, bizarrely, in Nome, Alaska, they were getting dumped on with inches of rain and freezing rain and then 70-mile an hour winds. It's -- you don't even have to leave Alaska to see the dichotomy of a changing climate where it's too much moisture at once in some places not enough and others way too cold and train dysplasia is warmer and others and you're seeing that around the globe.

TAPPER: Yes, it's not just Alaska that seeing this extreme weather. California, the Pacific Northwest are seeing record cold temperatures. Is that related the record warm temperatures in Alaska record cold temperatures in California and the Pacific Northwest.

WEIR: Yes, so let's put up this map. There. We've got the big H that's high pressure. That's warm air. That's moist air, and it's coming way up into the Gulf of Alaska. Now normally, the jet stream is supposed to hold that down like a belt around the top of the planet. It keeps the cold air up at the North Pole where it belongs. And everybody else gradually gets warmer towards the equator.

But now we're seeing this wobble. Climatologist is still trying to figure out exactly the cause of this and the correlations, but it wobbles and so you sometimes you get eclipse that actually saw last year, or what you're seeing now what half of Alaska is baked. No, no pun intended.

TAPPER: Right. And Greenland's highest peak got rain instead of snow for the first time ever this year. Parts of Hawaii got snow. So, is extreme weather across the globe because of climate change is this now our new reality?

WEIR: Yes, absolutely. It is. And it's just a question of how bad it gets from here. I actually happened to be in Greenland this summer, and it's melting at such tremendous rates. They're building a billion dollar sea wall around Charleston, for example, to protect against this ever increasing more rapid sea level rise.

I was in Hawaii actually shooting a story when it snowed on the top of the tallest peak in Hawaii there, which is actually higher than the Pollak (ph) ski area in Colorado. So they do have -- do get snow. That's not as bizarre, but they're also getting these rain bombs in the Paradise of Hawaii.

And so again, you're seeing this the Sierras 17 feet of snow in a week, but still not enough to cure the drought that's happening in the Colorado River.

TAPPER: Incredible. But there's still so much inaction at blah, blah, blahs, as Greta puts it. The data shows Alaska is warming faster than any other state in the U.S. clearly no longer a problem just in the future. What's it going to take for governments, for the public, for society to act now to stop this before it gets, you know, in habitable, uninhabitable?

WEIR: Yes. You know, that's the zillion dollar question, Jake. I mean, what is it going to take? There's this new allegory out from Adam McKay called Don't Look Up and it's in which a meteor is smashing towards Earth. Everybody knows it.

And there's a moment in the film where you can actually see it in the sky. But it doesn't change the minds of those who decided to look down. And we're seeing that played out with the pandemic, as it were right now. So it's troubling and even in Alaska, look at the politics. That's a Petro state. They live on that pipeline, which ironically, due to melting permafrost and these big debris fields underground shifting is actually endangering the Alaska's oil pipeline.


TAPPER: Phil, where you've done such important reporting for CNN and for our show this year on this incredibly important subject. Thank you so much. I know we're going to have you on the show a lot more in 2022. I hope there's some good news though.

WEIR: Amen to that, Jake, and thanks for caring about the story.

TAPPER: You think US politics is nasty? You see the brawl broke out among Jordan's lawmakers over women's rights. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our Worldly Today, the fight for equal rights for women turned into an actual fight, a physical fight, a brawl with several lawmakers trading punches and the Jordanian Parliament, Tuesday. The chaotic scenes starting amid a heated debate on expanding the rights of women and took on a violent turn. And there you go. That's what it is.

Turning to our money lead, Tesla, calling nearly half a million cars because of defects that can increase the risks of accidents half a million. The majority of the cars under recall are the Tesla Model 3 because of a cable that can separate over time and block the rear view camera.

[17:55:07] The other affected cars of the Tesla Model S had problems with a latch that can cause the front hood to unexpectedly open. The number of cars affected by these recalls nearly totals Tesla's total global deliveries last year.

The number of children hospitalized because of COVID just reached a record high in the U.S. here live from the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that's ahead.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the U.S. just said another alarming panda record with hospital admissions for children soaring to a new high as cases explode nationwide.