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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Border Patrol: El Paso Seeing "Major Surge In Illegal Crossings"; Rep. Veronica Escobar, (D-TX), Is Interviewed About Major Surge In el Paso; Energy Dept. Official No Longer Employed After Alleged Luggage Theft; Congress Facing Friday Deadline To Fund Govt, Avoid Shutdown; Thousands Of Afghans To Enter U.S. Stuck In Bureaucratic Slog; Strom Sweeping U.S. Unleashes Tornadoes, Blizzard Conditions; COVID, RSV, Flu Drive Surge In Hospitalizations Across The U.S. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: But first CNN's Ed Lavandera is at the U.S. Mexico border in El Paso where 1000s of migrants are crossing into the U.S. each day, and authorities are struggling with how to respond.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The city of El Paso, Texas is experiencing a major surge of border crossings as the projected end of a Trump era COVID restriction draws closer. Migrants have been barred from entering the US more than 2 million times since March 2020 when Title 42 was enacted, and in recent days, an average of almost 2,500 migrants a day have been moving across the border between Mexico and the U.S. through El Paso alone.

MARIO D'AGOSTINO, DEPUTY CITY MANAGER, EL PASO, TEXAS: Title 42 is only going to make that situation worse, where they're going to have more apprehensions. And so we're going to see a lot more releases into the community and we're not prepared for it.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Just three weeks ago, according to Customs and Border Protection, the seven day rolling average was fewer than 1700, 1000s of migrants are now coming not just from Central and South America, but Haiti and even Cuba according to U.S. immigration officials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm helping them get food and whatever they need. This is not even about politics, it's about humanity. These people are here and they're cold.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Some have been camping out across the border in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, raising concerns they will cross in mass if Trump era border restrictions end in about a week. Still others have already been boarded onto buses to be processed or turned around under the provisions of Title 42.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We are taking steps to be able to manage the expiration of Title 42 and to put in place a process that will be orderly and humane. And we believe that in doing so we can protect our national security concerns.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arrived in El Paso today and says he's meeting with Customs and Border Protection, local officials and organizations. For now the immediate problem is housing and managing a large influx of migrants.

RUBEN GARCIA, DIRECTOR, ANNUNCIATION HOUSE: If the court cases get resolved, and the courts allow Title 42 to be lifted, we're going to see 1000s of refugees for whom there isn't shelter.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The director of a local El Paso shelter says Border Patrol recently dropped a busload of migrants at his doorstep, and he's worried he'll soon have to turn people away.

JOHN MARTIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OPPORTUNITY CENTER FOR THE HOMELESS: We're going to have to say no, not because we want to, but simply because we don't have space. The reality is there's just too many people.


LAVANDERA: And Jake, the Biden administration is projecting that as many as nine to 14,000 migrants a day could be arriving at the southern border if Title 42 is lifted next week. That's roughly double the numbers we've seen of apprehensions in the last few months. But there is still a chance that Title 42 is kept in place. There are still court challenges playing out. We should have more information on that later this week, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ed Lavandera thanks so much. President Biden is asking Congress for more than $3 billion as it prepares for the end of Title 42 later this month. But will Congress give him that money? CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is back with us.

Phil, what is President Biden planning to do with the $3 billion?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it's a significant requests that underscores the scale of what administration officials are seeing may happen in less than a week. And the reality behind that request is it's part of a broader funding request that is currently very much in the middle of congressional negotiations to try and assist in border management, for technological infrastructure as well. Surging personnel down to the border is something that's been underway all part of an intensive behind the scenes process administration officials have been engaged in over the last several weeks. And frankly, for much of the administration just for this moment.

Ed mentioned that there's still some questions in terms of how the courts are going to end up here. For administration officials, they aren't necessarily paying attention to those questions. They're very much preparing for this to happen on December 21.

TAPPER: How is Congress responding to the request, at least so far, from what you can tell?

MATTINGLY: The complication here, Jake, is when you talk to Republicans, they have made clear their overall assessment and opposition to how the White House has handled the border up to this point has made them reluctant to engage on many of the requests that have been made. However, it is currently a part of funding negotiations that are underway. Right now, when you talk to White House officials, they make clear that Republicans want answers on the border, if they want solutions on the border, they are pushing for bipartisan immigration reform. And they also need this funding and they're, at least based on officials that I've spoken to, willing to have that fight if Republicans vote against the funding that they're trying to do something at the border. Republicans would be the one standing in the way here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly at the White House for us, thanks.

Let's bring in Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, she represents El Paso Texas, where the migrant crossings are currently surging.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us and Merry Christmas. Your lovely background is very enticing. We're seeing these images of crowds at the border crossing into the U.S., what do you seeing and hearing from citizens in your district?


REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Well, Jake thanks so much for having me on to talk about this. I have been warning for a long time now, actually, for years that the situation would continue to get worse and become even more unsustainable if Congress didn't act. And as you know, Congress hasn't passed an immigration bill since 1996. And back then, nearly 30 years ago, what Congress did was essentially limit legal pathways. And Congress and administrations before the Biden administration have chosen to address immigration as a border only issue.

Dealing with immigration as a border only issue has created the humanitarian crisis that we face today. So, here's what I'm hearing on the ground here in my community. And, Jake, it's important for me to say our community and a handful of other communities have consistently shouldered the brunt of this burden for far too long, and we need help. But I'm hearing from agents and their families how incredibly stressful this situation is, the impact, the stress on families, children, who are supporting our federal law enforcement personnel, you know, our personnel are missing birthdays, holidays, etc. I'm hearing from our NGOs how overstressed they are, over capacity. Local governments are doing the best that they can to provide the support, but they need the resources so that we aren't dipping into local funds.

I do also want to say that I'm very grateful to the Biden administration. They're the first administration that is fully reimbursing local communities like my own for expenses, but we need more than money. We need legislation and we need more innovative solutions, which I have provided to the administration and to appropriators.

TAPPER: As you know, El Paso does not have the capacity to absorb all the people crossing into Texas, even with the reimbursements going on. In fact, in El Paso border encounters are up 280 percent in October when compared to the same month last year. And then today, reporters saw a group of migrants who made a makeshift camp in a parking garage as local shelters were completely overwhelmed. That group was later kicked out of the garage.

Would you call what is happening right now in El Paso a crisis? Because it looks like one --


TAPPER: -- from where I'm sitting.

ESCOBAR: Yes, it's absolutely a humanitarian crisis. When we have people sleeping on the streets, that is an unacceptable situation for them, for the community. And there is a solution to this. You know, we have done a great job as a community of essentially helping move folks between what Border Patrol is doing and what the county of El Paso is doing to make sure that migrants are getting to their final destination. Because as you know, Jake, El Paso isn't their destination, they are reuniting with family across the country as they await their asylum hearing.

Where we don't have the help and support is in the emergency shelter area. Most of these folks have purchased either airline tickets once they've gotten here or Greyhound bus tickets, but sometimes they can't get a ticket out the same day. And you know, they'll have to wait one day or two days, and they need a place to sleep, a place to stay. And our NGOs are beyond capacity.

So, I've called -- I had a conversation late last night with Rosa DeLauro, our Appropriations Chairwoman, and I see the omnibus as an opportunity. You know, your reporter just talked about the government funding that we're hoping to get done for the next 12 months and that we're hoping to pass before Christmas Eve. I'm hoping that that omnibus and I've advocated for written a letter, spoken to Rosa, to Chairwoman DeLauro. We also need in addition to robust funding, everything that was laid out in -- by your reporter. We also need a federally run emergency shelter so that we don't have folks sleeping on the street.

And so my hope is that Republicans will see what's happening, will understand that we need the resources to respond immediately to this humanitarian crisis. But over the long term, Jake, Congress has kicked the can for too long. There is a way for us to address this not just in a way that promotes security, in a way that promotes our self- interest, but in a way that also doesn't sacrifice our values. So, I'm hoping that we can work together to get there.

TAPPER: I know the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, was there and has been at the border.

[17:10:02] Do you think it would help matters if President Biden came to the border and saw this for himself? And I don't mean that in a gimmicky way of trying to score points because I know Republicans in the House and Senate sometimes it sounds like they're just trying to score points, but you're describing a legitimate humanitarian crisis. It sounds as though it's something that the President would benefit from seeing with his own eyes and maybe he can, you know, kick some butts and get the funding and relief that you need.

ESCOBAR: Jake, I welcome anyone and everyone to the border. And the President has an open invitation that I extended early on in his administration, actually, when he was a candidate, and I worked on his immigration unity task force to craft comprehensive immigration reform for the Congress.

I will say -- so he's absolutely welcome here anytime. And I think it's very eye opening anytime anyone comes to see for themselves the opportunity and the great challenge that comes with immigration at the southern border.

But part of what -- I keep pushing back every time my colleagues or others asked me, you know, do you want the President to go to the border, I want Congress to act. I want Congress to do its job. The President has tried to address and is working on addressing root causes, bringing together western hemispheric countries to find a solution, but that's long term. The President has expedited relief and support for communities like my own, but that doesn't permanently address the challenge. The challenge is legislative.

And, Jake, you all have had stories on CNN about the national labor shortage. We have an opportunity as a --


ESCOBAR: -- country to think about immigration in a way that is strategic that would help us better manage the border and this humanitarian crisis once and for all. Help communities like mine, help Border Patrol agents and law enforcement personnel and raise our GDP. So -- but we need Congress to do that and a presidential visit accomplish that.

TAPPER: Yes, we have former Massachusetts governor Republican Charlie Baker talking about the need for labor in Massachusetts, and how he wants Congress to act. There's an obvious, you know, humanitarian relief for dreamers, etc. step as well as a border security step compromise to be had. It's just very few people seem to want to do it when push comes to shove.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas, thank you so much. Always good to have you on.

ESCOBAR: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Speak out against the government and face a death sentence. Growing concern that a former Iranian soccer player could be executed for merely protesting the regime. Plus, we now know more details about the final January 6 committee meeting. Stick around.



TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead. Today in Iran's capital city, Tehran, a local official says 400 people received prison sentences for participant protests over the Islamic Republic's oppressive regime. So far, Iran's government has officially executed at least two protesters, 11 have been sentenced to death and Amnesty International counts nine more at risk of getting the death penalty.

One of those nine at risk is Amir Nasr-Azadani, a 26 year old professional soccer player. CNN Salma Abdelaziz joins us now live.

And Salma, what is Iran's regime accusing him of?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, activist rights groups fear that Iran is preparing to execute this young man. I just want to start by telling you who he is because it's his story that's being shared by protesters and demonstrators. He's a 26 year old professional soccer player. He's played for Iran's national youth team, he's played for major clubs, and he is now in detention. He was arrested on November 27.

And Iran's authorities accused him, allegedly, of attacking and killing several members of Iran security forces. But again, rights groups activist say these are absolutely false allegations, that he is an innocent man whose only crime is speaking out against the government and that he is the latest victim of these sham trials as rights groups call them where there is no due process, very little that is fair right in these so called trials. Their only intention really is to repress.

And Jake, you'll remember, this is not the first time we've seen soccer in the crosshairs of Iran's crackdown. You'll remember that moment in the World Cup where Iran's team refused to sing the national anthem, and then later we heard their families were threatened by Iran's authorities. Will now we're looking at yet another soccer player possibly facing death by hanging in a matter of days.

TAPPER: Absolutely brutal. And Salma, despite this danger, it's amazing brave Iranians are still out there protesting. Just yesterday, this protester stood in the middle of the street with a noose around his or her neck protesting the latest execution. Is there any sign that these demonstrations are slowing?

ABDELAZIZ: It's a chilling video that when is enough, that's soul woman standing there unscarred holding the noose around her neck. You know, protesters in Iran, Jake, they have a saying, they say for everyone killed, 1000 more will rise up. And in many ways you see that that's true, because the details of every single victim of this crackdown is shared, not just their death, but also their life, their birthday videos, what they love, if they sing. And so, they become rallying cries, they galvanize this movement evermore, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Salma Abdelaziz, thank you so much.

Turning to our politics lead, a Biden administration official is no longer employed by the Biden administration after allegedly getting caught stealing luggage from not one but two different airports. Sam Brinton was responsible for nuclear fuel and radioactive waste at the Department of Energy. Brinton identifies as non-binary and gender fluid.

Let's bring in a CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond.

Jeremy, what a -- it's such a bizarre story. How did this unfold?


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly is, Jake. Until recently, Sam Britton was a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Energy responsible for a multimillion dollar budget to research the disposal of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. Brinton is now out of a job after being charged with stealing luggage at two separate airports in recent months.

Brinton was first charged with stealing a suitcase from a baggage carousel at the Minneapolis St. Paul airport in September. When police called Brinton about the incident, they initially denied taking the luggage. Brinton then call the officer back admitted to taking the bag but claims it was a mistake.

But a second incident came to light earlier this month when police in Nevada charged Britain with grand larceny in a completely separate incident. At this time for allegedly stealing luggage at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas. Brinton has now either quit or been fired. A spokesperson for the Department of Energy would only say that Brinton is no longer a DOE employee, adding that, quote, "By law, the department cannot comment further on personnel matters."

Now, several House Republican lawmakers have jumped on this case to claim this incident, in the case the Biden ministration prioritize, quote, "wokeness over competence" in hiring Brinton in the first place. But we should note that Brinton was not a Biden appointee, they were instead hired as a senior civil service official. A White House spokesperson noted that there are nearly 2 million civil service employees across the federal government and they referred any other questions to the Department of Energy.

TAPPER: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

New reporting just in to CNN, why the Department of Justice is in court trying to get access to the phone belonging to one specific Republican Congressman. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In the politics lead, what may be the last acts of the January 6 Select House Committee. Chairman Bennie Thompson says the panel will hold its final public meeting next Monday where its final report is expected to be approved. The chairman says announcements about criminal referrals will be made on Monday. The committee's final report is due out two days later on Wednesday, December 21.

And this just in to CNN, the Justice Department is now seeking the phone contents of Republican Congressman Scott Perry's phone after the 2020 election. Perry along with other Republican lawmakers were pushing from Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in text messages to pursue wild conspiracy theories and actions regarded -- regarding voting machines among baseless allegations of election fraud. CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins us now live with more on this.

Katelyn, has the Justice Department gotten access to Perry's phone?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, that we don't know just yet. But we are able to report through our sources and also through some public court filings that have been out there, some of our observations of the courthouse that the Justice Department was trying to get access to the data on Scott Perry's phone, and that there was an underseal court proceeding around this. So, what we knew happened publicly was that Perry's phone was seized by agents back in August, he challenged publicly the Justice Department's ability to access the data on his phone. And then, the proceeding went under seal, it went confidential. And in October, we were able to observe lawyers representing Perry and Justice Department prosecutors, now people who are working with Special Counsel Jack Smith on this January 6 investigation, they had a sealed proceeding before Judge Howell that was about this search.

We don't know the result of it. Right now, Grand Jury proceedings are secret as their ongoing. Scott Perry's lawyer declined to comment to us as to the Justice Department. But Jake, Scott Perry is a pretty notable person in this effort after the election for Donald Trump. He was the person introducing Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to Trump. He was pushing for others in the federal government to get involved to be looking into election security to push these baseless fraud claims. And also he was interested in the intelligence community even looking in to voting machines.

TAPPER: And Katelyn, obviously, this revelation, the story that you're breaking right now, it makes many of Perry's past text messages take on new significance.

POLANTZ: Right. So, the House Select Committee and CNN as well were able to get access to some of the Meadows text messages. Not everything Meadows was communicating about around this time, but in them there are messages from Representative Scott Perry directly to Meadows. And what he was saying was he wanted to get a message out to anyone who would be sympathetic. He wanted to pass on information from a cyber-forensics team and he wants Meadows to share with people in states. He's asking him for contacts and he writes things like, Meadows, he's asking him, "Preserve the specific voting machine scanners used at the polling places where the glitch occurred, put them under lock and key, nobody touches them."

He also writes to Meadows on November 10, "Preserve all e-mail communications with the officials responsible for the software updates, authorization software updates, deploying software updates to the voting machines." And then also asked Meadows to tell people, "Preserve the technicians, laptops, iPad, phone or any other device used in the official execution of their duties to update voting machines."

So, all of these text messages at that time, Jake, those are about prying into the election administration, getting someone inside the White House close to Donald Trump to help.


TAPPER: Yes, and a reminder that there were several court cases in Pennsylvania, the state that Scott Perry represents, and there were -- there was no evidence provided ever of any elections fraud or glitch or anything like that at all. Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much, appreciate it.

Let's discuss with our panel. Gloria, these text messages between Meadows and dozens of lawmakers, especially with the Scott Perry right there, Congressman Perry, really highlight that there were a lot of people involved in this effort to overturn democracy.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well you have more than 400 texts with Meadows, from members of Congress. Perry in particular, was (INAUDIBLE) is invited, you know, including with Great Britain, Italian satellites, China. And I think what's most disturbing, is if you look at these text messages, and what Katelyn is saying is that he kept quoting intelligence sources.

He wanted to get the director of National Intelligence involved. And if I'm the Department of Justice, one of the reasons I want to look at the contents of his phone is, who in intent in the intelligence community, or formerly of the intelligence community, was he communicating with to get this completely fraudulent information.

TAPPER: And one of the ways that a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans was trying to make sure what happened in the last election doesn't happen, again, was the Electoral Count Act, which would bring clarity to the part of the Constitution that people were trying to exploit to get Pence to overturn the election.

And Senate Majority Chuck Schumer, he wants to include that in the big spending bill, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, he told this conference, he's a hell no, on that bill. So it's just not going to happen?

ALAYNA TREENE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, AXIOS: I think it -- I actually think it's still could. And, of course, they're trying to do this before the end of the year before McCarthy has his speaker fight, has the opportunity potentially, to become House speaker and before Republicans take over a majority.

They're able to do that. We saw Senator Susan Collins today say, we need to neck this, we need to get this in place before the end of the year, before the 2024 presidential cycle really starts to heat up. If they can do that, I do think it has a chance of passing but also simultaneously, you know, trying to get this into the year on spending bill, the omnibus bill will be difficult. We're not even sure it will pass.

I think right now we saw Mitch McConnell today say that if they cannot get an omnibus bill done by the end of the year, by December 22, they're going to go home, senators. And they'll have to do a long term short or longer term continuing resolution, which is a short term funding bill. And so it's really going to depend on whether they can fit all this in and actually get a long term spending bill done before the end of the year.

TAPPER: And Rina, just on that point Mitch McConnell said, what Alayn just said, but McCarthy was saying something different before the midterms. He was saying, I don't want to start the government out in the shutdown, people are going to want us to see us accomplish things on the commitment, but now he has a completely different point of view.

RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, these are the toughest seven weeks of Kevin McCarthy's life, let's be honest. And I think, in general, when you look at the situation, what I take away from it is, that McCarthy is just all wrong. He's got no calculus on this. The guy has no conference of his caucus. He's got junior members who are speaking out against him in a fashion that we have not seen for years.

The unfavorables are so high that I -- having I see him eating this one out. I do. He's got a fantastic whipping operation --

TAPPER: He -- to become the speaker?

SHAH: To become the speaker.


SHAH: Does he deserve the speaker's gavel? That's the other question. There are great many Republicans who just do not believe in him. And what we're seeing right now is this is just constantly the problem with Congress. And it's going to make its way to the American public sooner than later.

And we already see the frustration, the rage against machine politics. But what this is going to do, this doesn't make it better for the Republicans to go back to their base and say, we've been trying to rewrite the rules for you because the rules are all wrong. This makes it harder for them, because they're showing they have no solutions. They have no way and they can't find a way.

TAPPER: You know, it's interesting, and I wonder how you would answer this question, because earlier today, Manu Raju said something to McCarthy about how Matt Gaetz, the MAGA Republican congressman from Florida. Matt Gaetz says he doesn't have the votes -- McCarthy doesn't have the votes --

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. TAPPER: -- to be speaker. McCarthy says, yes, I do. Who do you believe me or Matt Gaetz? And I thought to myself, that's actually really a tough question.

CARDONA: That's a very tough question. But I think you talked about what Kevin McCarthy said before the election. He said a lot of things before the election. He also said that Republicans were going to govern, that Republicans were going to focus on bringing solutions to the American people on inflation on crime on everything that they ran on.

What was the first thing that they announced? Investigations, possible impeachment, and now they're obsessed, and they're focused on the speakership. And what is Kevin McCarthy doing? He is selling out to his MAGA constituents in order to be able to get to the number that he needs to get for this.

And what this says to me is that there's going to be a big split and if it can get any bigger between the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans. McConnell is speaking common sense. He wants to get this done, I believe. He wants to get this done because he knows how this is going to look to -- in front of the American people, the Republican Party. Yet again, if they don't get this done and there's a possible shutdown and all of the chaotic rest of it.


This is exactly what happened during the election, right? The House Republicans were focused on election deniers and a lot of them still won. There's still 147 Republicans who did not certify the election in Congress. But the senators, they saw what happened when they actually gave voice to those non-common-sense Republicans to the election deniers. They lost the Senate.

And so I think this is what is going to be looked at in the Republican Party as to who is going to win and there's going to be a big battle still, they have not learned their lesson in terms of the election, at least the House Republicans.

SHAH: That battle still ahead. I --

CARDONA: Exactly.

SHAH: I actually believe the worst is yet to come for the Republican leadership in the House.

TAPPER: Well, they only have what, four or five votes that McCarthy can only lose four votes in it, right?

SHAH: It would have been better to not have won the House, honestly. I mean, this slim of a margin, my gosh, how is he going to corral this clown caucus? Number one. How's he going to get anything done?

BORGER: Well, how's he going to stay speaker? I mean --

CARDONA: Is it possible that he doesn't get the speakership, that there's --

SHAH: Honestly, I --

TAPPER: There's not a strong, alternate candidate. Anything's possible. There's not a strong alternative candidate. But just to explain this to our viewers. So assuming that they don't get this omnibus spending bill through, then it goes to the next Congress, when Kevin McCarthy is in charge, theoretically, he's the Speaker of the House. Let's just assume that happens.

And the fear I think that a lot of moderate Republicans, even some conservative Republicans, and certainly Democrats have is Kevin McCarthy can only lose four votes. Democrats are not going to want to own any of these fights. And you'll have the Marjorie Taylor Greene, so the world hold -- making demands, making big, big demands and having the power to do so, right?

TREENE: Exactly. I mean, having such a narrow majority is a nightmare for McCarthy, and for whoever will control the speakership. I do think, you know, and just going back to what we were discussing before, as well about, one, with the omnibus and spending package, even though he's privately saying we want to be able to handle this, wait until the majority -- Republicans have the majority, he doesn't want that.

He doesn't want this fight to play out at the same time, that he's trying to win this leadership race. And also, I do think, I mean, I know there's a lot of talk about what kind of demands can Kevin McCarthy make or cave on -- excuse me, to some of these far-right figures. People like Scott Perry, like Matt Gaetz.

I think one thing, though, is, even if he does make their demands, the big one right now is on motion to vacate the chair --


TREENE: -- which is a very messy, messy --

TAPPER: But just to explain that -- it doesn't that mean, at any moment, we can like get rid of the speaker?

TREENE: Well, they can -- and Democrats can do it, too.


TREENE: It's not just Republicans.

TAPPER: Right.

TREENE: I mean, they can make a motion to vacate the chair. And so it's like, sure, you can hang on to power, but how long will you have it? And I do think that even if he does cave on this and it's unclear, and I've been talking a lot with his team and others. He knows that this could really jeopardize his position, if he doesn't cave but also recognizes how dangerous it would be. But I don't know if they would even -- some of these members would

even still vote from after this. Like Matt Gaetz and Andy Biggs, it's very personal.


BORGER: Can I just say one thing? In the short term. Nobody wants to be responsible for shutting down the government. It is not a popular thing to do.

TAPPER: Thanks, one and all for being here. Hospitals across the country are running out of beds because of a virus triple threat. That's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, red tape and backlogs are the reality for tens of thousands of Afghans that the United States left behind, whom the United States promised to get out of Afghanistan after they assisted U.S. troops during that 20-year war.

Now, following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal in August 2021 and subsequent Taliban takeover, many of those Afghan allies are in danger. They're forced into hideouts as Taliban hunt them and their families down.

CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us now. And Jim, in addition to reporting on the story, you've been trying to get a family out, an Afghan family out for more than a year. Tell us about the process.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And to be clear, I'm not alone. I know you've helped families.


SCIUTTO: Many of our colleagues have as well. They are one of thousands This is a family I've known for more than 15 years, father worked for the U.S. military in a sufficient capacity to qualify for a special immigrant visa, and has in fact been provisionally approved. The thing is, that does not get you out of the country.

First of all, it took more than a year for that to happen. And he's been in danger all that time separated from his family because of the risk from the Taliban. But even when you get that approval, you just get in the queue, in effect. And let's just for folks at home, look at the numbers right now.

At this very moment, there were 15,000 principal applicants, these are the people who worked for the U.S. military who are ready to fly as the State Department says is about -- as well as about 30,000 immediate family members. That's 50,000 people. The State Department when it's running flights, is getting about 250 out per week. At that rate, that takes four years. They stopped those flights for the World Cup, by the way, because those flights are going to Qatar. Behind them another 100,000.

So you look at that math there. And it shows you that that promise you talk about broken promises. The U.S. made a commitment to these people to get them out of the country. They may say that they're fulfilling that commitment, but actions show they're not because the hurdles are just too great to get them out.

TAPPER: Because these are individuals that are largely being able to come to United States, not enough of them, but under a thing called the Special Immigrant Visa or SIV --


TAPPER: -- program. An extension for more than another year of the SIV program was going to be in the defense spending bill last last week and then it was taken out.


TAPPER: Why was it taken out? What are lawmakers telling you about that?


SCIUTTO: There's not a good answer to that. The simple question is that there's just not enough political support for this. I mean, there's open opposition to it from some Republicans. And there's not -- it's not like you hear Democrats talking about this every day, either with the exception of a few.

I spoke to Seth Moulton today, who, as you know, is an Afghan veteran himself. He's livid. And listen to what he attributes this too because it's drawing to here.


REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's a betrayal, not only of our Afghan allies, but of our own troops, of our troops, like myself, who made that promise that if you come and work for us, if you put your life on the line for America, we will have your back. They're risking lives, not just Afghan lives, but American lives by this antiimmigrant, frankly, outright racist approach to this problem.


SCIUTTO: Antiimmigrant racist approach. That's what he attributes it to there. And as you know, this is of course, a threat to those Afghan civilians. As I said, this family I've been dealing with, they live in fear every day that the husband will be found and killed. And that's not an imaginary thing, because the Taliban is hunting these people down. But you also have U.S. veterans who fought, were wounded and may have lost their fellow soldiers who feel that their sacrifices being betrayed as well. And that's another risk. It's happening every day.

TAPPER: Yes, Seth Moulton is a marine. He's a Democrat from Massachusetts, but the people I hear the most from about are U.S. veterans who are conservatives, who are conservative Republicans --

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

TAPPER: -- and do not understand what is going on.

SCIUTTO: No question. I spoke to an NCO today as well on the air who feels the same way. It's not just folks serving in Congress, vets, by any means. It's vets who are at home watching this play out.

TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

A massive winter storm is burying millions in snow and spawning tornadoes in other parts of the country. Where that storm is heading next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: From blizzard conditions to tornadoes, millions of Americans from coast to coast are bracing for some form of extreme weather. At least one confirmed tornado touchdown and blew apart homes in the city of Wayne, Oklahoma, southeast of Oklahoma City this morning. And there are tornado warnings popping up across Louisiana this evening. East of Denver and across the northern plains, blizzard conditions with wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour and 1 foot of snow are making travel nearly impossible.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is at the CNN's Weather Center. Jennifer, where's the biggest threat right now?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I think the biggest threat is the severe side of things. We have active tornado warnings going on across portions of Louisiana. You can see the tornado watches in effect. These are extended until 10:00 this evening central time. These hot pink boxes, these are tornado warnings. There's one just on the south side of Shreveport. Another one just popped up across Bowser in Webster parishes and you can see including portions of Shreveport, just on the south side I-49 and I-20.

So this is a very dangerous situation. We have had reports of tornadoes in progress all through Texas. And so the situation there is still very dire. We're looking at the possibility of tornadoes, large hail, damaging winds, especially this area highlighted in orange.

And Jake, this is going to get very dangerous as we go throughout the overnight hours when we know that tornado outbreaks can be even more deadly because people are asleep and they're not getting their weather warnings as they should. So make sure you stay weather alert. If you are in this area. These storms are going to continue and be very, very dangerous as we go throughout the overnight hours into tomorrow morning.

We also have the wintry side of this as you were mentioning, ongoing blizzard conditions across portions of say Nebraska, South Dakota, even on into eastern sections of Colorado where I-70 and I-76 were closed down because of the conditions. So we have winds of 40, 50, 60 miles per hour and zero visibility. So you have very heavy snow, gusty winds, that snow is blowing all around. So blizzard conditions there.

You can see some of these areas, we have visibility down to zero. So if we put this into motion, you can see the timing of all of this. The storms continued throughout the overnight tonight into tomorrow. And you can see the threat will remain across the Gulf Coast for that severe weather. The snow should be winding down just a little bit by tomorrow afternoon, but then it should pick back up again for portions of the northeast by the end of the week, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jennifer Gray, thanks so much.

In our health lead now, hospitals across the United States are struggling to keep up with patients sick from a trifecta of respiratory viruses. There's RSV. There's COVID. And then there's the seasonal flu.

Joining me now is CNN's Dr. Tara Narula. Dr. Narula, what's the situation like now for hospitals?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, hospitals were required to report capacity beginning in 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic. And we told you last week that they were up to about 80 percent, which was really an all-time high in the last two years. The only other time we saw those numbers was last January at the height of Omicron.

This week, the numbers are slightly better, but still high. We're about 77 percent capacity. This is why we're seeing stories about patients in hallways that are being treated conference rooms and tents. And it is this triple threat of what you mentioned RSV, COVID, and flu that is contributing in to a large degree.

We know that RSV numbers do seem to have peaked and the hospitalization seemed to be coming down. When you look at the COVID patients and how many are taking up beds, it's about 6 percent of the beds that are COVID patients compared to about 25 percent last January. So that's not the whole story.

And then you add in the flu. And here's where, you know, we really are seeing high numbers. We had the CDC director telling us last week that we have the highest number of hospitalizations for this time of year in the past decade, about 120,000 hospitalizations in total.


A third of hospitalizations and deaths from flu coming just in the patients for this time of year in the past decade, about 120,000 hospitalizations in total, a third of hospitalizations and deaths from flu coming just in the last week alone. So this is definitely a big part of the story, Jake.

Another part is workplace staffing shortages both in the hospital and in places where we discharge patients to like nursing homes and rehabs. And then the backlog of patients who did not get their care for certain other conditions over the past two years.

TAPPER: And I know you're going to tell me that I'm a good boy because I got my flu shot and I got my latest COVID booster and that everybody else should do that too. What else can we do to keep our ourselves and our family members safe, besides the flu shot and the COVID booster?

NARULA: Yes, well, certainly all the basics, hand washing, disinfecting, ventilation, and then masking in areas of high transmission or if you're immunocompromised, elderly or vulnerable and then rapid COVID tests that can be taken before you see your family members. And Jake, there's 12 days on my advent calendar until Christmas. So that's enough time to get those vaccines.

TAPPER: All right. I didn't know you had an advent calendar.

NARULA: We do.

TAPPER: Dr. Narula, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

CNN is going to talk exclusively with a Russian soldier who deserted Vladimir Putin's army after witnessing the horrors that Russia is unleashing on Ukraine, that's coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer.

Until tomorrow, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN and you can download our podcast from whence you get your podcasts. I'll see you tomorrow.