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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Few Republicans Condemn Trump's Dinner With White Supremacist; Top Oversight Republican: Plan To Probe "40 Or 50 Different Things"; One-On-One With Retiring Biden Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci; Police: California Family Killed By Virginia Man Who "Catfished" Teen; U.S. Soccer Team Manager Does Not Apologize In Response To Iran's Outrage Over Social Media Flag Controversy; Inflation At Nearly 8 Percent Helping Push Profits Up This Holiday Season. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 28, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Also, Victor, it's like when one beautiful woman begets another. Like when he's engaged to Arianna Grande, it's like, oh, if he's good for Ariana Grande, I can date him. I think that's part of the --

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: There's a curiosity about the personality.



CAMEROTA: It does.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The sound of silence.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Republican officials largely publicly silent after Trump posted and dine with two notorious anti-Semites at Mar-a-Lago. Trump so far has not publicly condemned either man's bigoted views. I'll ask a top House Republican about the actions of the party's de facto leader and more as the GOP readies a host of new investigations.

Plus, mass defiance against the Chinese government. Protests not seen on this scale since 1989's Tiananmen Square. Demonstrations against new COVID restrictions in China. We'll have a report live from Beijing and we'll talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci about China's overly restrictive rules.

And a deadly act of online catfishing involving a former state trooper, a teenage girl who was horribly duped and a deadly ending.


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

Nearly one week after Donald Trump dined at Mar-a-Lago with openly antisemitic Holocaust denier and white nationalist Nick Fuentes, along with another anti-Semite, rapper Kanye West, also known as Ye. Not only has Mr. Trump not publicly condemned Fuentes or his sick ideology or Ye's, the number of Republican officials willing to publicly criticize Fuentes by name or Trump for meeting and helping to mainstream him remains, shall we say, rather small.

I reached out to the offices of a few top Republican congressional leaders today. None, none, offered comment. A few Republicans have publicly condemned Trump's actions, Congress members Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Senators Bill Cassidy and Susan Collins among them.

But Trump is the only declared Republican 2024 presidential candidate. He remains the presidential front runner for his party. Only a couple possible 2024 rivals have criticized Trump's move -- former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and this man, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: We need to avoid those kinds of empowering extremes and when you meet with people, you power. And that's what you have to avoid. You want to diminish their strength, not empower them.


TAPPER: Fuentes is certainly at the extreme and a addition to spewing racist and sexist garbage. He has a history of denying the Holocaust. Once comparing the Jews brutally murdered to cookies and an oven.


NICK FUENTES, WHITE NATIONALIST: It takes one hour to cook a batch of cookies. You have 15 ovens. Probably in four different kitchens, right? During 24 hours a day for five years. How long would it take to make 6 million? I don't know, it certainly wouldn't be five years, right? The math doesn't seem to add up there.


TAPPER: When I reached out to Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel to comment on Trump dining with that man earlier today, McDaniel had an aide send me a boiler plate condemnation which mentions no names.

It says, quote: As I have repeatedly said, white supremacy, neo- Nazism, hate speech, bigotry are not disgusting -- are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party, unquote. Do not have a home in the Republican Party.

Would that it were so, Fuentes had a white nationalist conference earlier this year attended by at least two sitting Republican members of Congress, Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

And at that conference, Fuentes said this.


FUENTES: Now they're going on about Russia, and Vladimir Putin is Hitler. And they say that's not a good thing and -- I shouldn't have said that.


TAPPER: Vladimir Putin is Hitler, and they say that's not a good thing. I shouldn't have said that.

Congresswoman Taylor Greene, we just learned in campaign finance reports, paid more than $37,000 to Gab in the 2022 election cycle. Gab, if you do not know, is the fringe social media platform, very popular with the alt-right and, yes, with neo-Nazis, run by an unrepentant anti-Semite named Andrew Torba.

And, of course, this is the same woman who once suggested wildfires in California were started by space lasers controlled by any number of prominent Jews. Marjorie Taylor Greene also recently hired notorious anti-Semite Milo Yiannopoulos as a summer intern. That was just a few months ago.

But I digress. You know, there's so many anti-Semites accepted in public life these days. It's easy to do that.

Back to the story at hand. Responding to Trump's claim that he did not know Fuentes before their two-hour long dinner. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said yesterday, quote, a good way not to accidentally dine with a vial racist and anti-Semite you don't now is not to dine with a violent, racist, anti-Semite you do know. That is a reference to Ye, of course.

Many of Trump's Jewish supporters seen quite shaken today. Trump's former ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, tweeted yesterday, quote, my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this. Even a social visit from an anti-Semite like Kanye West and humans scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable. I urge you to throw the bums out. Disavow them, relegate them to the dustbin of history when they belong, unquote. Trump has not done that.

Former Trump State Department official Elan Carr tweeted today, quote, no responsible America and certainly no former president should be cavorting with the likes of Nick Fuentes and Kanye West. To placate anti-Semitism is to promote anti-Semitism. President Trump must condemn these dangers men and they're discussing and un-American views, unquote. And, again, Donald Trump has not done that. Nor have we heard any Republican congressional leaders do that publicly, or by name the RNC chair who insist there is no home for this kind of hate in the GOP.

To hear Ye and Fuentes tell it, they feel quite at home. The folks who don't like anti-Semitism, they are the ones who seem uncomfortable.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty starts our coverage with a closer look at how such spreaders of hate ended up dining with the former commander in chief. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Backlash and criticism as only a small handle of Republicans are speaking out on the former presidents actions, while the party's top leaders in Congress stay silent.

HUTCHINSON: I don't think it's a good idea for a leader that's setting an example for the country or the party to meet with avowed racist or anti-Semite.

SERFATY: West's recent antisemitic remarks caused companies that he was affiliated with, including Adidas and Balenciaga, to drop him from their brands. Fuentes is a 24-year-old Holocaust denier who espouses racist rhetoric on his podcast.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO & NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Nick Fuentes is a racist, an anti-Semite, and someone who revels in just saying hateful, bigoted things against Jews and other minorities.

SERFATY: Fuentes was also on the grounds of the Capitol on January 6. Prompting the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack to issue Fuentes a subpoena in January.

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: It's incredibly poor judgment. I think that ever since the election in 2020, I think the presidents descended deeper into the heart of darkness.

SERFATY: And a post on his true social platform Friday, Trump denied knowing Fuentes, writing, West, unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends who I knew nothing about. The dinner was quick and eventful.

KANYE WEST, RAPPER: So, Trump is really impressed with Nick Fuentes. And Nick Fuentes, unlike so many of the lawyers and so many people that he was left with on his 2020 campaign, he's actually a loyalist.

SERFATY: A source told CNN that Trump found Fuentes, quote, very interesting, particularly Fuentes' ability to rattle of statistics and his knowledge of Trump world. At one point during the dinner, Trump declared he liked Fuentes. According to that same source, the dinner grew tense at various times. Including when West who recently launched his own presidential bid asked Trump to join his 2024 campaign ticket as his vice president. President Joe Biden who is still weighing whether he will seek reelection in 2024 responded to the dinner from Nantucket over the weekend.

REPORTER: Mr. President, what do you think of Donald Trump having dinner with a white nationalist? What do you think about it, sir?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don't want to hear what I think.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SERFATY (on camera): And as Republican leaders in Congress remain silent, Democrats are certainly trying to draw attention to this. Just a short time ago, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Trump in his dinner from the floor of the Senate. Schumer saying that it is disgusting, in dangerous, Trump giving an anti-Semite even the smallest platform much less an audience over dinner is pure evil and Schumer, Jake, called on both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to condemn the former president.

TAPPER: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, among other matters, Republican Congressman James Comer of Kentucky. He's the ranking member and soon will be the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

And, Congressman, I know you want to talk about your investigations. I do want to get to those priorities on the Oversight Committee in a moment. But when asked about Trump's meeting with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, you said yesterday, quote, well, he certainly needs better judgment in who he dines with, unquote. I have to say, that's not the strongest combination of a call a hook us tonight that I've ever heard, Congressman.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Well, obviously, I condemn it. I can shed some light on why Republicans don't immediately respond to many in the media every time they're offended by something Trump does. It is because a lot of Republicans believe there is a double standard in the media.

We've seen things that Ilhan Omar has said. We don't get asked if we condemn that by the mainstream media. So, I believe that's one reason Republicans haven't responded. But, obviously, it was a meeting he should've never had. And I don't know what else you can say about it. That's an issue that I think will probably be something the president will have to talk about as the presidential primaries begin and really get revved up.

TAPPER: Well, I think Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar's comments, they've -- a lot of Democrats were asked about their comments, not Republicans. That was a big kerfuffle at the time. In any case, I don't think you can compare either of those congresswomen to Nick Fuentes.

But let us turn to the subject at hand, which is your priorities for Republicans take over the House. You're going to be the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. You said you're going to investigate 40 to 50 different topics. You've also said your focus will be among other things investigating fraud when it comes to pandemic funding, border security, Ukraine funding, and more, all very worthy subjects for congressional oversight.

How do you as chairman make sure that your hearings will be effective and serious and impactful on the American people at large? And not just opportunities for some of your members to stage performance art for fringes.

COMER: Well, that's a great question and a very fair question,. We get asked that a lot. And that's a challenge for me.

I want to bring credibility back to the House Oversight Committee. We want to go back to our original mission of rooting out waste, fraud and abuse and mismanagement in the federal government. A lot of the work we will do will be conducted in the form of doing depositions and transcribed interviews. And that's a very fair process because the Democrats on the committee whomever the minority leader will be will appoint the makeup of the 20, I would assume, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee. They will be allowed, their staff will be allowed to sit in on the deposition and the interviews.

I think that the most productive part of a lot of our investigations will be made during the deposition and interview process. Now, for a committee hearing, we want our committee hearings to be substantive. We're going to be very active in the subcommittee process.

A lot of the stuff that the media will find less glamorous, but I think the taxpayers will be most impressed with will be done in the subcommittee process.

TAPPER: You mean, the waste, fraud and abuse, the idea of government fans being misused or stolen? Is that what you're talking about?

COMER: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely, because you go back three years, and, Jake, that spans two administrations. Just in the name of COVID, Congress has spent a record amount of money, trillions of dollars, we believe hundreds of billions if not more has been wasted. If you look at the unemployment insurance funds, we believe as much as 25 to 30 percent of that went to fraudulent people, fraudulent accounts, many of it to foreign countries that had hacked into state unemployment systems.

We believe that a lot of the PPP loan money went to fraudulent companies, certainly went to companies that should have never been eligible for PPP loans to begin with. And remember, 99 percent of those loans didn't have to be paid back. So, they called a PPP loan. It's essentially a PPP grant.

TAPPER: Right.

COMER: So, we are concerned about that. We don't believe there's been a lot of oversight, overspending in the last two years. Especially now with Ukraine spending. We have a lot of questions about exactly where that money is going in Ukraine.

So, these are the challenges that we are going to face as a committee. We know that the media is going to be watching it. So, we're going to try to be transparent with what we do and try to be fair.

TAPPER: Just on the matter of the border crisis, and it is a crisis at the border without question.

COMER: Uh-huh. Yeah. TAPPER: Isn't the larger solution, I know this is not your issue as oversight chairman, but as a member of Congress, it's your issue. Isn't a larger solution, the security issues at the border, a comprehensive bill that updates the laws, beefs up security and also is able to get 60 votes in the Senate and President Biden's signature? Meaning, some sort of compromise that includes tougher at the border measures that you want, but a willingness to sit down with Democrats. Is that not the ultimate way to solve this problem?

COMER: Well, it is. I mean, at the end of the day, even though we have a Republican majority of the House, it still going to take a 60 vote to pass a bill to the Senate. And regardless of what happens in Georgia, we're going to need nine or ten Republican votes or, 11 Republican votes in the Senate to be able to pass legislation.

We want to put pressure on this administration to act on day one with respect to securing the border. We believe that the fentanyl crisis in America can be scaled way back if we control our southern border, because that's where most of the fentanyl is coming across. So, we've got very high priority on crime in America.


That's something that we campaigned on and during the midterms. We believe that we need to focus on funding our law enforcement. We need to focus on tougher laws to hold prosecutors accountable. But we also need to focus on securing the southern border. That's going to be one of the investigations Kevin McCarthy put in the hands of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees as far as holding hearings on what Mayorkas has done, or failed to do with respect to border security.

TAPPER: All right. Soon to be Oversight Committee chairman, Republican Congressman James Comer of Kentucky, thanks so much for coming on. I look forward to having you back, sir.

COMER: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to what the Chinese government has said and its strict COVID restrictions that has sparked outrage and protests.

Plus, as holiday shopping kicks into high gear, the warning for more than 400 business groups and what could be a major economic disruption in the coming days.

Plus, the nerve wracking rescue 100 feet in the air. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our health lead, remarkable pictures of the widespread protests across China over the weekend, in city after city, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Chinese citizens took to the streets to defy the government's zero COVID policy of lockdowns to, in their view, prevent the virus from spreading.

[16:20:08] These protests come as China reports its highest number of daily local cases for the sixth consecutive day.

And joining us now to talk about this and much more, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is getting ready to retire after 38 years as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Thanks so much for being here.

We got a lot tot talk about. But I do want to talk about what we're seeing from these images from China. You're called the Chinese government's response to COVID severe and draconian. China's official news agency today published an op-ed asserting that the country's strict COVID measures are scientific and effective.

Are they?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, when you want to shut down in order to interrupt immediately a process that's going on like the spread of infection, there should be a purpose to it. Like you want to make sure you get enough ventilators, or enough PPE, or you want to get your population vaccinated.

The comment that I made about their severe actions that they've taken is that you have to have an endgame. What's the purpose? At the purpose is, lets get all the people vaccinated, particularly elderly, then okay for a temporary period of time to do that.

But they have very, very strict types of lockdown. They're locking people in their homes, which is really, they can't even go out and, from what I hear, shop or walk a dog or something like that. That's going to create a lot of pushback on the part of the population if there's no underlying purpose of what you want to do.

TAPPER: Well, they say they're doing it -- and, obviously, I'm not here to defend the Chinese government. But they say they're doing it to stop the spread, right? But is that even effective? Is there -- in terms of the cost-benefit analysis?

FAUCI: We'll, if you stop the spread but don't put into place something that will protect you when you open up, when you open up, you're going to wind up getting spread. So, again, get to the point that when you're talking about shutting things down, it should always be a temporary phenomenon. Not a long range strategy. But you should do it with a purpose in mind to allow you to open.

And the best purpose is, while you're shutting down, get as many people vaccinated as you possibly can with a good vaccine.

TAPPER: Well, they don't have a good vaccine, right?

FAUCI: That's my point.

TAPPER: That's my next question. They have their own COVID vaccine, it's not effective, it's not as effective. Do you think that Pfizer and other U.S. companies should make Western

vaccines more available for the people of China?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, as far as I know, it is -- it is available. I think it might be the other side of their not wanting to utilize those vaccines. I don't think there's any lack of availability. But, I mean, I can't say for sure, but I don't think that that's the case.

TAPPER: You've been sounding the alarm on the triple threat in the United States. That's COVID. It's obviously seasonal flu time, and also, the respiratory threat from the RSV virus.

What do people out there watching need to do, especially the most vulnerable beyond getting the flu shot and the latest COVID booster, which you will be happy to hear I got last week?

FAUCI: I'm glad to hear that. Well, you said the two most important things. You have three diseases that are co-circulating. We have very good vaccines against two of those.

Respiratory syncytial virus, which is predominantly most dangerous to children five years of age and younger and to the elderly, it's common respiratory hygiene and common sense when you are dealing with RSV because we don't have a vaccine yet. Hopefully within a reasonable time, we will have one. But right now, we don't have a vaccine.

So, what you do is that, for example, the kinds of things we've always spoken about with respiratory illnesses. Wash your hands, if you're having a cold or it looks like your sniffing, stay away from children. Or if children are sick like that, try to keep them away from the elderly so you don't get the spread of infection.

TAPPER: So, we have a lot of parents on our staff. And one of them tells us that there is a shortage of Tamiflu, which is needed to treat people who have flu. And also, a shortage of amoxicillin, which treats other seasonal illnesses.

When is that going to be fixed?

FAUCI: Well, I hope soon. I mean, that's one of the things that COVID has contributed to, supply chain difficulties. There are things where you would, under normal circumstances, have easy access to them, that you're out. That is a consequence of the kinds of negative offshoots and collateral damages of COVID that the supply chain is interrupted. And you mentioned, two important drugs, Tamiflu against influenza, and amoxicillin against common bacterial infections.

So, Republicans are taking over the House of Representatives, which means there's going to be a lot of oversight hearings earlier in the program. We heard from the soon to be chairman of the Oversight Committee. And, obviously, they're going to hold hearings on the origins of COVID.


You had said that you think that it is likely that it was a natural development from animal to human. But that your mind is open to it possibly being from a lab leak.

FAUCI: Totally.

TAPPER: And the investigation is going to be about specifically whether there's any connection, if there was a lab leak to U.S. investments in virus research at the Wuhan Lab. It's possible, right? I mean --

FAUCI: Well, well, it's possible that there is a lab leak. If you look at the viruses that the NIH funded, and it was a very small grant, $120,000 a year, $130,000 a year. Granting to study bat viruses in a surveillance way to see what's out there, if you look at those viruses, and you look at the -- what was done with the viruses, it would be essentially molecularly impossible for those viruses to turn into SARS-CoV-2.

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

FAUCI: Because they were so evolutionarily distant that I can't tell you what's going on in all of China and other things.

TAPPER: Right.

FAUCI : But I can tell you for sure that if you look at the viruses that the NIH grant funded to study in a surveillance way, anyone who even has a peripheral understanding of evolutionary virology will tell you these viruses could not possibly turn into SARS-CoV-2.

So, when you talk about a leak, maybe there's a lab leak, it's not with the viruses that the NIH was funding. That's almost certain that that's the case.

TAPPER: So, what lessons have you personally learned about the pandemic response? I asked not to point fingers, because, obviously, it's possible, likely even, that there will be another pandemic. What is something that you wish if you could go back in time you could've done differently? For example, I know you and I talked in 2020 about, you said on this show that the last thing that should be closed is the schools.

FAUCI: Right.

TAPPER: The last thing.

Do you wish that you had made that argument more forcefully behind the scenes? I mean, what are some lessons you learned?

FAUCI: Well, you know, the lessons are that when you're dealing with a moving target, as this was, and, Jake, you've been through this with us you know. What we knew in January was very different than what we knew at the end of January, the beginning of February, and then very different from March as you learned more and more. You know, hopefully we could have been more on top of appreciating the dynamic nature of how things changed. Thinking that it wasn't aerosol spread in the beginning, and then you find out it is aerosols spread. Thinking that, well, symptomatic people spread it. And then you find

out that 50 to 60 percent of the transmissions occurred from someone who has no symptoms. So, it's a moving target. We just need to be much more flexible.

And when we make a statement to the public, even though we try as best as can, make sure you emphasize that it is a moving target because when people hear, and you say something in January, based on data that are clear in January, you come back in March, the data are much different. They make you change your mind.

And when that happens people, say, well, what's going on with the scientists. They are flip-flopping, they are changing their mind. It's that the data are evolving in a very dynamic way.

TAPPER: A very important lesson that we all experience.

Thanks so much for being here, and thanks so much for all your service and everything you've done for our country.

Any hint as to what's next for you?

FAUCI: Not yet, I hope to find out soon. I'm not making any kinds of negotiations until after I stepped down at the end of December.

TAPPER: You are probably next during spring taken at a Yankee game or two I would guess, if I had to guess.


FAUCI: I think you're right on that one, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much. Good to see you.

FAUCI: Thank you. Good to be with you.

TAPPER: Coming up, a disturbing case of online catfishing. A teenage girl sexually exploited and a former state trooper who traveled across the United States to be with her. How the girl's family ended up dead in this gruesome ordeal. That's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, a former Virginia state trooper murdered a teenager's family and then set fire to their home, according to police in Riverside, California.

As CNN's Camila Bernal reports, authorities say this tragic story began when the man first met the girl online and obtained her personal information by deceiving her with a false identity, a process known as catfishing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police say the call came and just after 11:00 Friday morning, asking for a welfare check after a teenage girl appearing to be distressed was seen near a car with a man.

And 911 dispatchers received multiple calls about a fire in the same neighborhood.

OFFICER RYAN RAILSBACK, RIVERSIDE POLICE: They found three people deceased inside the house.

BERNAL: The three victims, the girl's mother and grandparents.

RAILSBACK: We had a grandmother, a grandfather, and a mother of this teen murdered. A suspect who travels from across the country for most likely would be sexual exploitation of this teenager.

BERNAL: According to law enforcement, this is a case of catfishing. A situation where someone pretends to be a different person than they actually are for the purpose of someone exploiting another person.

The suspect, 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards, developed an online relationship with the teen, and then traveled across the country from Virginia to Riverside, California, to find her.

RAILSBACK: We do know there was some direct messaging, some text messaging going on.

BERNAL: The suspect turned out to be in law enforcement, a person who is going to orientation to be a patrol officer with the Washington County sheriff's department just four days before the murders and was a former Virginia state trooper, according to police. More than two hours after Edwards drove off with a teenage girl, police tracked them and said Edwards fired shots at the deputies during a pursuit. When he lost control of the vehicle, the teenager fled the car and Edwards pointed a car at the sheriff's helicopter before deputies shot and killed him.

RAILSBACK: This is just a very tragic example of how dangerous those interactions can be.

BERNAL: The teenager in this case was unharmed and is now in protective custody according to police. Who say they now worry Edwards may have targeted more catfishing victims.

RAILSBACK: It's hard to believe someone is going to travel all the way across the country, kill a grandfather, grandmother, and a mother of the teenager he's trying to sexually exploit. That he hasn't engaged in similar types of behaviors before.


BERNAL (in camera): Now, police say the fire started at the house here behind me was intentional. They also say they don't think the mother and the grandparents died of smoke inhalation. Now, as to why this man was a deputy, the sheriff in Washington county

saying he reached out to former employees including state police and there was nothing that came back negative so they still hired him -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Camila Bernal, in Riverside, California, thanks so much.

First uproar over the flag and then something the U.S. team captain said. Iran hitting back at the World Cup while looking past its much larger problems at home.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: The sports lead. Iran is once again demanding that the U.S. be kicked out of the World Cup tournaments. That's after the U.S. Soccer Federation used an image of an Iranian flag that had been scrubbed of the repressive Islamic regime's emblem on U.S. social media platforms. Pretty brittle for a regime that shots kids in the streets.

CNN's Don Riddell is in Qatar and Kylie Atwood is at the State Department.

Don, today, the manager of the U.S. team stopped short of apologizing.

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: That's right. He didn't apologize. The director of communications for the U.S. Soccer Federation said that they wanted to make a gesture that would show they were supportive of the women protesting in Iran. That moment has become a 48 hour kind of diplomatic situation.

The American players have spent the last 24 hours trying to focus on the game. But they have reiterated they are very supportive of women's rights. Whilst at the meantime, they know that the Iranian coach and Iranian media are throwing shade at them, highlighting the state of the United States as a country, talking about the gun violence epidemic, and the culture of racism.

This is what the young American captain Tyler Adams had to say about that. But, first, in the question that he was asked, he was told how to say Iran. Many Americans call it Iran. He was told pretty bluntly it's Iran.


TYLER ADAMS, U.S. TEAM CAPTAIN: My apologies on the mispronunciation of your country. Yeah, that being said. There is discrimination everywhere you go. One thing that I've learned especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in in different cultures and assimilating to different cultures is that in the U.S., we are continuing to make progress every single day. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RIDDELL: The American players finding themselves in a pretty tricky situation. It's nothing compared to what the Iranian players are dealing with. Of course the, protests back home, are they sympathetic? Are they pro regime? A lot of questions being asked about that. The Iranian team really in an impossible situation.

TAPPER: And, Kylie, the State Department which was previously expressing support for protesters and Iran, they're also weighing in on this controversy. Tell us about that.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESONDENT: The State department said that there was no coordination between the U.S. government and U.S. soccer when it came to putting up this altered Iranian flag. They are doubling down on their support for these Iranian protesters, saying that the Biden administration continues to find ways to support these protesters, at the face of these violent crackdowns. They have done that rhetorically with President Biden voicing his support, secretary of state voicing his support. Of course, the sanctions that we have seen on the Iranian reality police and those who have been involved in these violent crackdowns. But for now, they're saying that they're looking forward to a game tomorrow that they hope is peaceful and competitive.

And we shouldn't expect that there are going to be Iranian delegation officials and U.S. diplomats who actually wanted to show that these groups. There isn't going to be an official U.S. delegation games tomorrow. We saw an official delegation at the first U.S. soccer game last weekend rather look at. There is no official delegation at the U.S. and U.K. game last week and there is no official delegation to the U.S. Iran game tomorrow -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood, and Don Riddell, thanks to both of you.

Turning to our money lead. If this year's holiday shopping season is a test for the U.S. economy, the report card is so part looking good. Black Friday sales online alone hit a record $9.1 billion. That's up more than 2 percent from last year. And today's Cyber Monday sales are expected to top $11 billion, a 5 percent from last year, according to Adobe Analytics.

But there is, of course, a caveat. And let's bring in CNN's Marc Stewart for that.

Marc, these holiday shopping numbers are not as impressive as once you factor in inflation.

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Inflation, Jake, indeed. I was messaging one of my sources about this. We are going back and forth today about this.

And, yes, these headlines seem impressive, but really if you look beneath the surface it may not be as rosy as it seems. These sales numbers are elevated because everything indeed cost more. [16:45:02]

And we're not just talking about the products themselves. If you are a retailer, chances are your having to pay more for labor, for people to work at your store. That is a sign of inflation.

In addition, moving products from point A to point B during parts of the year we saw very high fuel prices. That could have an impact as well. So perhaps some caution before celebrating these sales figures.

Something else that I think is important to point out, is that a very large number of Americans this year made purchases using credit cards and through buy now, pay later services. There should be some caution associated with this, especially as interest rates continue to rise.

Depending on what happens next year, if Americans default on these purchases, they don't pay on time, it can have some very severe consequences, Jake, at a time, when the economy is still very fragile.

TAPPER: Yeah. And, Marc, more than 400 business cars are warning Congress that a looming rail strike could not only upend holiday shopping but caused chaos with U.S. economy as early as next week. Tell us more about that.

STEWART: Right, if you look at the rail lines, you could think of them as the arteries, if you will, of the American economy. It's how things get from point A to point B. Depending on what happens, it certainly could impact us and our ability to travel.

But we depend on rail lines to bring chlorine to different communities, to make sure they have purified water. We needed to bring fertilizer. There are all of these different factors that real touches our lives. Not to mention food transport.

In fact, in that letter you mentioned, there is concern that these disruptions could impact the transport of 6,300 carloads of food and farm products every day. So, we're not just talking about Christmas and holiday shopping, we're talking about the groceries that we need every day for our pantries.

TAPPER: All right. Marc Stewart, thanks much for that report.

Just in, the urgent warning before a small plane crashed into those power lines. You can hear it for yourself. That's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, moments before a private airplane crashed into power lines in Maryland last night, air traffic controllers urgently warn the pilot that in an interview, he was flying too low. It took rescue crews eight hours to save the pilot and the passenger.

And as CNN's Pete Muntean reports, power was out for tens of thousands of citizens of Maryland, as the delegate mission played out.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Firefighters are calling it a high stakes rescue from high voltage lines. Two people on board this private airplane survived this crash. Only to remain trapped 100 feet up as crews de-energized the wires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is challenging events, like with a car crash, it's up in the air.

MUNTEAN: The crash caused power outages for 120,000 people in the blink of an eye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw like two big flashes. I thought, oh, it's just lightning.

MUNTEAN: But the rescue of pilot and passenger took hour after cold hour. Pepco power crews, along with firefighters from Maryland and D.C. responded to the scene, reassuring the pilot and passengers over the phone.

PETE PIRINGER, MONTGOMERY COUNTY FIRE & RESCUE: They were anxious. They were concerned about the stability of the aircraft, the stability of the aircraft remaining in the tower structure.

MUNTEAN: The pilot and passenger were carefully loaded into a specialized 178-foot cherry picker, then lowered to the ground.

The 65-year-old man and 66-year-old woman were rushed to hospital with hypothermia. The crash took place in the dark. Only a mile from the fights destination, the Montgomery County Airport. The single engine plane apparently aligned for landing on the southeast facing runway.

But moments before the crash, air traffic controllers warned the pilot that he was getting too low.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Lower altitude alert, Baltimore altimeter is 2944.

MUNTEAN: The weather at the time in the crash was reported as low clouds, and bad visibility. Just one of the factors the National Transportation Safety Board will be considering as they start the investigation.

MARC ELRICH, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: So, I'm really happy that this hasn't been a tragedy. Ask yourself what it would be like in a car to hit a rod 100 miles per hour, I'd say pretty lucky.


MUNTEAN (on camera): We're just learning from firefighters, one of the survivors of the crash has now been released from the hospital. Firefighters also played out, one extra piece of luck here, the plane first slice through the power lines, and then hit the transmission tower. They're saying, it's incredible, Jake, that nobody here was electrocuted.

TAPPER: All right. Pete Muntean in Gaithersburg, Maryland, thanks so much for that.

Coming up, what the Biden administration is telling Americans in China as the revolt in the streets there against COVID restrictions play out.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, thousands of college students returned to campus in Idaho with a killer still on the loose. It has been two weeks since four students there were murdered, and still no arrests, no suspect named, no weapon found. What is being done to keep the community safe there?

Plus, voters heading to the polls in Georgia, again. We're just over a week away from the Georgia Senate runoff between Herschel Walker and Senator Raphael Warnock and things are getting nastier than they were.

And leading this hour, a rare uprising in China. Thousands of Chinese citizens defying the government in the most widespread demonstrations seen since Tiananmen Square in 1989, fueled by three years of China's oppressive zero COVID policy, including snapped lockdowns, weeks of forced isolation, a hampered economy and widespread censorship and most recently, a deadly apartment fire in northwest China. Video showing COVID lockdown barricades likely blocked firefighters from reaching the building where ten people burned alive.

CNN's Selina Wang is in Beijing for us where citizens have clearly reached their limit.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They chant, "Xi Jinping, step down," an extraordinary show of defiance in China.