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The Lead with Jake Tapper

January 6 Committee Refers Trump To DOJ For Criminal Prosecution; DOJ Awaits Release Of Committee Evidence, Including Witness Interviews; Officials Scramble To Manage Influx Of Migrants At U.S.-Mexico Border; Biden Administration Finalizing Plans As It Braces For End Of Trump Era Border Policy; Incoming House GOP Chairs Ratchet Up Pressure On Republicans Vowing To Oppose McCarthy As Speaker; New Russian Strikes Damage Critical Ukrainian Infrastructure. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 19, 2022 - 16:00   ET




Congress has referred Trump to the Justice Department on criminal charges.

And THE LEAD starts right now.

The pressure now on the Justice Department which must now decide whether to criminally charge the former president for his actions surrounding the deadly Capitol insurrection. And the evidence handed over today from the January 6th and brand-new witness testimony. A committee member will join me in moments.

Plus, reaction from Republican circles, including former Vice President Mike Pence after the mob tried to hunt him down on January 6th inside the Capitol.

Also, with a deadline quickly approaching, President Biden's growing problem at the border as migrants line up to cross into the U.S.


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

A bombshell January 6th Select House Committee hearing wrapped up two hours ago. The committee members unanimously voted to refer criminal charges against Donald Trump to the Justice Department. These charges including one, obstruction of a criminal proceeding. Two, conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three, conspiracy to make a false statement. And four, aiding or assisting an insurrection.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We propose to the committee advancing referrals where the gravity of the specific offense, the severity of its actual harm and the centrality of the offender to the overall design of the unlawful scheme to overthrow the election compel us to speak. Ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail, and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass.


TAPPER: Theoretically, I guess that's true. We should note these referrals carry no actual legal weight. It's now up to the Department of Justice to decide whether or not to charge Trump.

But the former president was not the only target today. The committee also referred four Republican congressmen to the House Ethics Committee for not complying with the January 6th Committee subpoenas. And level criminal charges against Trump attorney John Eastman. John Eastman's attorneys just issued a statement saying in part, quote, a criminal referral from a congressional committee is not binding on the Department of Justice and carries no more legal weight than a referral from any American citizen. In fact, a referral from the y6 committee should carry a great deal less weight due to the absurdly partisan nature of the process that produced it, unquote.

CNN's Sara Murray is on Capitol Hill where congressional leaders laid out their legal arguments for the criminal charge referrals.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House Select Committee investigating January 6 convening publicly one

last time.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): He lost 2020 election and knew it. In the end, he summoned the mob to Washington and knowingly, they were armed and angry, pointed them to the Capitol and told them to fight like hell.

MURRAY: And laying out its case, the former President Donald Trump was ultimately responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): No man who would behave that way in that moment of time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office.

MURRAY: The committee referring multiple crimes to the Justice Department that they say the former president committed while trying to stay in the White House.

RASKIN: We believe that the evidence described by my colleagues today and assemble throughout our hearings warrants a criminal referral of former President Donald J. Trump.

MURRAY: Including assessing or aiding an instruction, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy to make false statements. It believes there's sufficient evidence for two others -- conspiracy to injure or impede an officer and seditious conspiracy.

The panel also refereeing attorney and Trump ally John Eastman to DOJ, but saying DOJ will have to determine who else should face prosecution. RASKIN: Our understanding of the role of many individuals may be

incomplete, even today, because they refused to answer our questions. We trust that the Department of Justice would be able to form a far more complete picture.

MURRAY: Republican lawmakers who snubs committee subpoenas referred to the House Ethics Committee.

After 17 months of investigating and roughly 1,000 witness interviews, the committee determined that Trump knew the fraud allegations he was pushing referral false, but continue to amplify them anyway.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): The committee has evidence that ex-President Trump planned to declare victory and unlawfully to call for the vote counting to stop, and that he told numerous allies about his intent in the weeks before the election.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Hope, say a couple words.

MURRAY: Even some of Trump's closest allies like Hope Hicks worry the bogus fraud claims were damaging his legacy, Trump persisted.

HOPE HICKS, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: He said something along the long lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So, that won't matter. The only thing that matters is winning.

MURRAY: Trump work on a scheme to transmit false Electoral College ballots and replace Department of Justice leadership with one that would do his bidding, even pressuring his own vice president.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): President Trump spearheaded an unprecedented campaign to coerce him to do it anyway, ultimately culminating in a dangerous threat to Mr. Pence's life on January 6th.

MURRAY: The committee also highlighting Trump's $250 million fundraising call between the election and January 6th raised primarily off claims of election fraud that did not exist. Questioning whether any of the money was used to pay lawyers who may have tried to obstruct the congressional investigation and evidence from one unnamed witness who was urged to stay loyal to Trump.

LOFGREN: The witness believed this was an effort to affect her testimony and we are concerned that these efforts may have been a strategy to prevent the committee from finding the truth.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, look, DOJ may be interested in evidence that the committee has to provide, if they do believe that there are some kind of Trump obstruction but I think what we are already hearing from witnesses, including that lawyer from John Eastman is that these referrals from the committee are not legally binding, they don't hold any more weight and referral from an American citizen. The attorney from Eastman also said that the committee missed an opportunity to make a real legislative changes by pursuing a pretend criminal case -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.

Let's bring in January 6 committee member, Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria of Virginia.

First, let me just get your response to the attorney from Mr. Eastman saying that these referrals carry more no more weight than any other referral from any other American citizen and basically attacking the committee?

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Well, I think this has been a standard practice over the course of our investigation that people attempt to attack the committee, discredit the committee, rather than focus on the issue here, is that we have a former president of the United States who essentially attempted to stay in office after he lost an election.

TAPPER: There's also a comment that Mike Pence made, he attacked the partisan nature of the committee, blah, blah, blah. But the other thing that I thought was interesting is this is how he spins it. He said today, look, as I wrote in my book, I think the president's actions and words on January 6 were reckless, but I don't know that it's criminal to take bad advice from lawyers.

What do you -- what do you make of that?

LURIA: I'm actually kind of tired of Mike Pence trying to have it both ways. You know, he really either take the limelight and likes to be portrayed as a hero because he did his job and follow the law, but at the same time, then goes back and tries to attack a committee that is bipartisan. Really, it's one of the most bipartisan committees in the House in the way we were together in presented the evidence.

And the facts are the facts. And, you know, he has tried to discredit in the public sphere. Many of try to undermine the nature of the composition of the committee through the courts in the course clearly redacted that.

The truth is, we did our jobs as a congressional committee. As for oversight and legislation, we laid out the facts. We painted a very a clear picture for the American people of what led up to and happened on that day. It's spelled out in our report. The executive summary is out today and later this week, the full comprehensive report will be out along with all of the testimony.

In the executive summary, look at the witnesses we have in there. You know, 99 percent of them are Republicans who served in the Trump administration and many of them were appointed by Trump himself and confirmed by his Republican Senate. And those are the people that had the courage to come forward and talk with facts. So, people who continue to question the committee and turn undermined the committee as a committee that was in Congress Mr. Eastman's lawyer said, you know, it wasn't worth anymore then potentially an assistant say at, you know, it's kind of hot air. It's deflection, I think. And, you know, to get back to the point, is all of this should be focused on the facts. And we laid that out today in our referrals.

It's true that they don't carry the weight of law. It's also true, and I've said this early on, I mean, the attorney general, you know, Mr. Garland, you don't have to wait for us and they haven't. They've been running with this investigation.

And, you know, since we're not coordinating our efforts and their efforts, you know, I look at it like a relay with passing off the baton. The runner receiving the baton is already running, you know, and they've got to keep going with it.

So I think we've, you know, our committee is coming to an end because the end of this Congress. We've issued our report. And, you know, we pass this off to the Department of Justice with the full information we gathered. We recommend that they look at criminal activity of the people starting at the top --


LURIA: -- with former President Trump.

TAPPER: So, I know the committee was -- the select committee was only formed for this one Congress.


But I also know that, you know, midterm elections generally swing the way this once swung and, you know, Kevin McCarthy or whoever the Republican speaker becomes was going to kill the committee even if it had been put in there for more than one term. And when if you felt like you had enough time and resources to investigate everything you wanted to when it came to the insurrection?

LURIA: I think that we did a comprehensive investigation, talking to a thousand, this is roughly hundreds of thousands of documents, including, you know, a huge tranche of information from the Secret Service. This is about the end of this. We look at this as really the beginning, in a sense. You know, as we said, in the hearing today for the Department of Justice to take the information that we have gathered along with what they have gathered. And the end of this is holding people accountable making sure that something like this doesn't happen again.

So, there's more to be done. Then we had time in ultimately resources for.

TAPPER: Do you think the January -- you think the Justice Department would have been as aggressive as they have been. It is all people who think they haven't been aggressive enough. But, I mean, they did get guilty pleas from the Oath Keepers on seditious conspiracy. There have another charges and who knows what's going to come.

Do you think that they would have done as much as they did if it hadn't been for the January 6 committee kind of blazing a trail? And on that subject, why shouldn't the Senate form, now ear that Democrats have 51 votes, and they can form committees and have subpoena power, et cetera, why shouldn't Senate take up this charge now? They were attacked, too.

LURIA: Well, as far as the Department of Justice, I think -- it's a lot of speculation in some regards. I mean, we know the Department of Justice has been investigating. I look with that is concentric circles. You know, they started on the outside. They started with the people who had they direct evidence of trespassing, you know, vandalism, you know, attacking police officers.

And they were -- 900 people have been charged. We kind of sort of started at the center and worked our way out. So, this is I think the point when those two concentric investigations have converged. We're passing it off to the Department of Justice and I would like to see them go the whole way to the top and hold those people -- the highest levels of, you know, trust of the American people as the former president and, you know, others who failed to come speak to the committee under subpoena, to hold those people accountable where applicable.

And, you know, the other thing about the Senate is I certainly think, you know, the Senate having the Democratic majority with the 51 votes has the capability to take recommendations, the legislative recommendations that we've laid out and move forward with those in applicable committees of jurisdiction to make sure that we can actually act on them.

It was always a concern of mine is, you know, we can lay out what our recommendations are legislatively, process-wise, with different agencies and departments in the government to prevent something like this in the future but not holding the majority in the House pass these midterms. We know Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, they want to come in -- the very people who didn't comply with subpoenas of the House want to be the speaker of the House and they want to be the chair of the Judiciary Committee in the House and they want to enforce subpoenas and they wouldn't answer themselves. And that -- how ironic is that?

TAPPER: You weren't re-elected. You lost your reelection campaign.

LURIA: Yeah.

TAPPER: Do you think because of your work on this committee? I know your opponent -- your Republican opponent who's now a congresswoman- elect, made a lot of hay out of that?

LURIA: I would say that, you know, I think it certainly had an impact on my district, people who doesn't like it really didn't like it, a combination of redistricting with new district lines. And you know I went into the work of this committee, getting to the facts, the truth about what happened on January 6th, because we don't ever want to see something like that happen again and certainly don't want to see it be successful.

So, the work I did on the committee, you know, from the outset has been more important to me than Elaine gets re-elected. So, you know, I think that it's all been worth it, this effort. And I think we made a tangible impact on elections around the round.

Look at the midterms, Republicans might have won the House but by the slimmest of margins. And the crazies, the most, you know, emphatic election deniers, they didn't win around the country.


LURIA: And I think that's really a victory for the Democrats and partially by the work of this committee.

TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria of Virginia, thank you. Happy Hanukkah. Good to see you.

LURIA: Yeah. Same to you. Thank you.

TAPPER: Ahead, the next steps for the Justice Department with criminal referrals now on hand.

Plus, lawyers in a Capitol riot trial who said the actions today by the January 6th committee complicate their defense case for the far- right extremists' Proud Boy groups.

Also on the Hill today, the warnings of five Republicans trying to block Kevin McCarthy from becoming speaker.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are back with our politics lead.

The Justice Department now has the January 6th Committee's criminal referrals, including four criminal referrals against Donald Trump, and additional referrals for his attorney John Eastman.

CNN's Evan Perez joins us now.

Evan, the Justice Department has referrals and they will have the backup information and transcript and such. What next?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, for them, Jake, I think, you know, the important thing for the Justice Department is they already have their investigations ongoing. Obviously, we now have a lot of clarity that Donald Trump is at the center of at least one part of what Jack Smith, special counsel, is looking at, as well as John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark, two people who are big parts of this committee's report.

Those investigations are already pretty far along.

TAPPER: So, the Justice Department is awaiting still the transcripts?

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: And thousands of hours of witness testimony, video witness testimony, they will get that. They've been asking for that for months. What do they hope to learn from the transcripts?

PEREZ: Well, I think importance for them, they want to see what witnesses said to this committee that certainly, the witnesses that have spoken to the FBI, whether there's any difference in that testimony. They also need to see some of this evidence that the committee says shows some potential obstruction, right? Those are things that I think are very important for prosecutors.

As you pointed out, they've been waiting and asking for this for months. And there's a trial getting underway today of members of the Proud Boys. It was delayed a few months ago, in part, because of the work this committee was doing, and concerns about publicity. So that's been a very big concern for prosecutors. They need to see whether there's any witnesses that have an impact on what these defendants are up for trial for.

TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.


Elie, as we heard in Evan's reporting, the transcripts of thousands of hours of committee interviews. They're the real meat and potatoes of the Department of Justice. That's what they're really waiting for. Why do you think the committee waited to turn over the entirety of the contents until now, until this week?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Jake, I think it's an example of politics over prosecution. The fact of the matter is DOJ has been begging for this information for many months. They sent a letter -- DOJ sent a letter eight months ago in April of this year to the committee saying please send us what you have, we need it for the investigation. We know that still hasn't been done because Merrick Garland two weeks ago said we're still waiting on all the information.

And here's why prosecutors need that information. Number one, you want to if there's anything helpful to your case, of course. Anything that could help you build the case. But, number two, you have to know if your witnesses have said anything different, inconsistent, contradictory. You have an absolute obligation to know that as a prosecutor and potentially turn it over to the defense. So, the reasons why the committee hasn't turned over, I can only assume are political but sure as not helping the prosecution here.

TAPPER: So, just to play defense to the committee for a second, I think there's a perspective from the politicians on committee that the Justice Department is too cautious, too weak, too afraid to prosecute. And that's been one of the issues.

I also know there have been people who have been interviewed by both the committee and by the grand jury and the investigators there who were surprised how little the Justice Department seemed to know compared to the January 6th committee.

HONIG: But, Jake, so --

TAPPER: I know you're biased in favor of prosecutors, and that's understandable. But give us -- I mean, that's the politicians' perspective of this.

HONIG: So, first of all, I think there's a bit of tension there on the committee's position that, A, we want you prosecutors to forge ahead quickly and bravely, but, B, we're not going to give you everywhere we have. But to show that I can play it both ways, I do fault DOJ for beat to the punch by the committee on some of this.

That is DOJ's detriment. And, by the way, prosecutors have far greater investigative tools in the committee. The committee actually notes that in the report they issued today. So I think there's blame to go around both ways here. Now prosecutors will have this information and now they can make full use of it.

TAPPER: And now, we're also told that Trump's legal team hopes to also glean new information from these transcripts when they're released. How might Trump's legal team use the full transcripts, use the new information?

HONIG: Lawyers are going to go through every word of this, that is their job, that is their right. They're going to look for any inconsistencies. They're going to look for any basis to attack the potential witnesses against them, preferably in court. That is what defense lawyers do, and all of this material when it becomes public is fair game for prosecutors and potential defendants alike.

TAPPER: And where does this all leave Jack Smith, he's the special counsel newly appointed by the attorney general to lead the two investigations into Donald Trump?

HONIG: Yeah, Jake. I don't think Jack Smith or anyone at DOJ cares this is framed as a criminal referral. I think they see that as political showmanship. But I guarantee you, Jack Smith is reading every word of that report today. And I guarantee you he and his team will read the full report that's coming out on Wednesday because, again, they want to see what evidence they that they may not have and they want to see if they have any problems with witness inconsistency or other problems that may have as a prosecutor. So, this is going to be really important for Jack Smith and now I think there's no really restraints on him using all this evidence.

TAPPER: All right. Elie Honig, thanks so much.

Coming up, reaction to the criminal referrals today from former Vice President Mike Pence after the mob chanting "Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence" tried to hunt down him and his family on January 6th.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Continuing in our politics lead, the link between violent extremists, the insurrection and the threat, these extremists still might pose to our democracy.

Today, the seditious conspiracy trial against leaders of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys begins for their roles in the alleged scheme to stop Joe Biden from assuming the presidency. Federal prosecutors intend to prove for leaders and another member of the group plotted and broadly encouraged violence in the run-up to the attack on the Capitol.

Let's bring in former Republican Congressman David Riggleman of Virginia who also previously served as senior technical adviser to the January 6 Committee, along with former Department of Homeland Security Cyber Security director Chris Krebs.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Denver, let me start with you. Today, the January 6 Committee recommended the Justice Department charge Trump with multiple crimes. What did you think of the referrals? Do you think the panel successfully laid out to the case against Trump and his allies?

DENVER RIGGLEMAN, FORMER SENIOR TECHNICAL ADVISER TO THE JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: You know, regardless of what, people might have critiques of the committee, when you look at the eight hearings before this, when you look at everything that they've done, I think this was probably the natural evolution at this point. And, by the way, I think when you look at the evidence for the way they presented Trump and his attachment to team crazy, his legal state of mind, the incitement, the tweets, everything they wrapped around him I think the DOJ would've done it any way, but I do believe that the committee really proved their point and prove their case on Donald Trump.

I think -- what I did think, though, Jake, is I think there's a lot of crazies that are calling or crawling to Mar-a-Lago begging him to get back on Twitter. And I think what the committee also did, because I think they wanted to be protected, but I think they showed him that he's the GOTUS, right? He's the grifter of the United States, and I think they're able to prove that today.

TAPPER: Yeah, they made a lot of arguments about how what he was doing was to raise hundreds of millions of dollars that he didn't spend on lawsuits, he spent on who knows what.



TAPPER: Chris, one of the criminal statutes that the committee says there is -- there is sufficient evidence to charge Trump, which is a kind of rarely prosecuted one, aiding, assisting or comforting those engaged in an insurrection. That presumably refers to groups like the Proud Boys --


TAPPER: -- or the Oath Keepers who were found guilty of seditious conspiracy, some of them. Donald Trump ultimately told the Proud Boys during that debate, stand back and stand by.

What do you make of that referral specifically?

KREBS: I think it's the evidence itself that's so critical. I think that's what jack smith really want to get their hands on the voluminous transcript, the records. I had the opportunity to review my own transcript in my interview with the committee earlier today. So, it's the evidence that they want to get their hands on to map it to their own interviews to ensure consistency. And they don't have anybody out of line with some of the testimony that they provided to the DOJ.

And that evidence I think will then inform what happens down the road with the Department of Justice. But it's that public record that establishes what Trump did and what his enables, you know, circle, the rings around him, did to further this conspiracy. But this is a significant charge, the fact that they would go on the record and make that criminal referral, establishing that evidence, means that, hey, they've got the goods. There's a lot here. And DOJ needs to pursue.

TAPPER: Denver, former Vice President Mike Pence who continues to sound as if he's going to run for president. He is today again railing against the committee calling it partisan, saying he doesn't think charges against Trump are warranted.

You were a Republican member of the Congress. And you did work for the committee. How do you respond to the allegations from folks like Mike Pence that this is a partisan committee?

RIGGLEMAN: Well, I watched him in action. And it's not. It's just a data and facts-driven committee. You know, it's a long stretch between him saying Trump was getting bad advice from lawyers to "hang Mike Pence".

I find it a bit pathetic. I think when people get into a political state of mind, they have a tough time with facts. I don't think that Pence is challenged. I think he's just willing to do anything to get elected. I think that's a sad day, you know, for conservatives everywhere.

When you look -- Chris is talking about the documents, Chris' testimony itself, there's hundreds of thousands of pages probably of interview and things to the detail records in the map of Lincoln analysis done to command control.

So, again when Pence says something like that, based on the data of January 6, you come across sounding craven and a little desperate.

TAPPER: And, Chris, the mob, of course, did storm the Capitol shouting "hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence", and they said they were inspired by Trump to do so. Trump certainly was putting a target on Pence's back, rhetorically, if not literally. How worried are you about the fact that some of this seems to be

becoming normal and accepted among the MAGA base in this country?

KREBS: I think that's the critical point here, if you do not hold these people accountable if you give them a mulligan, a free shot here, you shift over, the permission structure, it's what's allowed. And I think that's really where the next critical step, holding the people accountable that both activated, that supported, that drove this, and then actually participated in it. Or else, we're going to see it again.

And the problem is, they'll learn from their mistakes the last time. They'll be better, they can be more successful. That's really what I think is the most concerning aspect of all of this right now.

TAPPER: Chris Krebs, and Denver Riggleman, two Republican officials who have been very brave throughout the whole thing. I thank you to both of you for that.

KREBS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, emergency request of the Supreme Court ahead of a policy expiring in a few days, a policy that critics say will open the U.S. to a rush of immigrants at the border.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead right now, cities along the U.S./Mexico border are scrambling to handle thousands of migrants waiting to get into the United States. And with the Trump era pandemic policy known as Title 42 set to expire on Wednesday, the number of migrants seeking asylum is expected to rise rapidly.

Federal official says border authorities in the Rio Grande Valley have already encountered between 900 to 1,200 migrants daily in the past two weeks.

CNN's David Culver is live from the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

David, what are you seeing on your side of the border?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A continuous steady flow, Jake. In fact, they're preparing on both sides of the river to help prep lined up on this side to get across. This is really new in the past few days. We haven't seen this before.

If you look down here, on the side, the U.S. side of the border, you can see there's a long line of migrants who have been really put in that long line by U.S. Border Patrol. We see for the first time, Border Patrol coming down on to that side of the bank, helping to try to keep an orderly line to process it so they come up the hill. The other thing, Jake, that we've noticed, actually, let me show you

over here, this truck here that's moving, they are reinforcing what is a brand-new fence that's gone up in the past few days. That, too, is to keep an orderly fashion for any sort of potential surge that they might be expecting.

Now, this happening at all hours. We can show what you we captured here in the early morning hours. And that's folks coming over, 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. It doesn't matter, 24/7 this is taking place. They're coming as families, shedding a lot of their belong belongings on the riverside and then making their way to be processed, and it's happening in freezing cold conditions.


But one thing, Jake, we should point, is there's a determination from some of these migrants. We've spoken to folks who have made two, three, four attempts to enter the U.S.

TAPPER: And why are we seeing people crossing now, as opposed to waiting to when Title 42 is supposed to end in a couple days?

CULVER: Right. So, that's a question we're putting to some of the migrants as well. What is the timeline they're working on?

For some, it's just a matter of when they happened to show up from their long caravan and trek from places like Venezuela. They just timed it out so this is the day they happened to be going in and going to the U.S. to be processed. Others are seeing it as a more strategic approach. They say, okay, if it's happening on Wednesday and you have really long lines like you're seeing here, and if they know from family members and friends that on the other side, it takes time to get processed, they're saying get in line now, by the time they're processed, it's past the 21st and perhaps then Title 42 is over and we can get in through asylum, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. David Culver in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, thank you so much.

This afternoon, a group of Republican governors made an emergency bid to the U.S. Supreme Court to try and keep Title 42 in place. The states are asking the courts to grant an immediate junction.

Let's bring in CNN chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly.

And, Phil, just to remind our viewers, Title 42 expires Wednesday. That's the Trump-era pandemic policy that allows, because of the pandemic, it allows the administration, the U.S. government, to send asylum seekers immediately back.

The Biden administration is pushing back on calls to extend the policy. Why, given that they've been using it all this time?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, when you talk to Biden administration officials, they say two things. One, they are very clear this is what the court has ordered. And they will comply with that court order, and also that they're very much prepared or preparing intensively over the course of the last several weeks, in fact, for the order to be lifted on Wednesday.

While this is certainly problematic, administration officials being candid will acknowledge there will be a surge nearly double the number of migrants over the border that they've been seeing over the course of the last several weeks could be coming starting on Wednesday. And they also acknowledge there's a resource issue. They've been asking Congress for more than $3 billion in additional funding, pressing Republicans to agree to go forward, all as they've surged resources in the form of personnel, technology, infrastructure, down to the critical areas of the border going forward.

We're told as soon as tomorrow, there should be new policy and personnel proposals that will be rolled out. They know this is a significant issue, but they're not prepared for any cause or any potential court action that might push it off in the future. They're preparing for Wednesday. They're expecting that's what's going to happen, Jake.

TAPPER: Phil, is it not a fact that the Biden administration could appeal this court ruling if they wanted to?

MATTINGLY: Yeah, the difficulty here is really two fold. I think on the technical side of things, it was the Biden administration that actually moved to lift Title 42 earlier in the spring. Now, that ran into legal issues as well. This case is separate to some degree.

But why the Biden administration moved forward on that, why the CDC said there was no longer the public health rationale to hold 42 in place is in part the pressure that administration has got friend the immigration saying this is not a humane way to handle border policy. This is not the way to operate when it comes to asylum. They should move back to the right order and both sides will acknowledge they should move legislatively to fix those.

The problem, of course, is there's no legislative action in the near term. The Biden administration has been dealing with this issue for the entirety of the first two years in office while they've held Title 42 up to this point it's clear that's going to end soon as it appears.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly at the White House for us, thank you so much.

And our politics lead, we are just 15 days away from the new Congress being sworn in today, a warning to the five House Republicans who are vowing to block Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, from becoming the speaker of the House. In a letter, 14 Republicans, set to chair house committees in the new Congress are calling out their colleagues, warning them to not squander the party's majority.

Let's get to CNN's Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, private discussions are one thing, but this is an attempt at public pressure by the soon to-be chairmen? JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right,

Jake. That's the differentiator here. This is just the latest example of increasing public pressure campaign that we're seeing as we get ever closer to January 3rd.

Just to set the table for everybody, there are these five House Republicans who say they are absolutely against Kevin McCarthy becoming speaker. That's them on the screen, Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Bob Good, Ralph Norman and Matt Rosendale.

Now, here's a simple math problem for you. McCarthy can afford to lose four, there are five of them. They have said they are going to vote all together, either they're going yes or they're going no. And right now, they appear to be unmoved in the fact that they against Kevin McCarthy.

Now in this letter again released today, let me read you in part what these 14 House Republicans set to chair committees wrote.


They said: We urge our colleagues, let us not squander this majority before we even take back the gavels. Time is of the essence, and the American people want to us get to work now. Majorities are earned, never given. And the American people will remember how we chose to begin ours.

And, again, just the latest indication of this public pressure campaign that we're seeing, Jake, to your point, we know that McCarthy has been talking with these members behind the scenes. But now, in the last few days, and I would suspect in the days to come, we're going to continue to see this play out more publicly as well.

TAPPER: Jessica, what do we know about any private discussions that Leader McCarthy might be having with the five detractors? What do they want? And is McCarthy willing to concede on any of their demands?

DEAN: Right. That's really the crux of this, right, they're really trying to hold out to get these things they want. Chief among them, they want the changes to the rules that will allow a single member to call for a vote to oust the speaker. That would essentially make members stronger. It would also allow one member, as it really kind of indicates to call for the vote to oust the speaker.

McCarthy, so far, has not wanted to give into that. Has not given into that. That is the one thing they really, really want. And, Jake, it's also important to remember, there are moderates in the House Republican Party. And among House Republican, who don't want to see those sorts of rule changes happen either. And Kevin McCarthy really having to do the splits to appease everyone. It remains to be seen how he will get there with the five members -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's just such a recipe for madness and chaos for any House speaker.

DEAN: Yes. TAPPER: I can't imagine ever ceding that.

Jessica on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Coming up, the glaring omission from Vladimir Putin as the Russian leader met with his closest ally today.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, Russia unleashing a fresh wave of drone strike terror across Ukraine today, damaging that country's power infrastructure and cutting off water supplies, trying to weaponize winter.

This, as Russian president Vladimir Putin meets with one of his closest allies, Belarusian President Lukashenko.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is following all of us.

Nick, Russia's deployed troops into Ukraine from Belarus in the past. Yet, the war seemed at the time to be an afterthought for these leaders today.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: Yeah, not something they mentioned by name but really the kind of spine of every comment they essentially made.

But the first that's getting the most amount of attention is of Vladimir Putin saying that he was not there necessarily as part of absorbing Belarus into part of Russia. Wind the clock back, back in August 2021, Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, lent on Moscow to send forces in to put down protests and then Russia asked for payback allowing Belarus, asking Belarus to allow its territory as part of the invasion.

Now they appear to be using Belarusian territory against Ukraine again, exercises on the Belarusian, Ukrainian border, involving Russian troops, leaving Ukraine concerned as to whether this might be the beginning of another bid to cross over and invade into Ukraine. Ukraine's top brass openly talking about that.

Today's visit a rare one of Putin going to Minsk, going to Belarus to see his geopolitically weaker neighbor, certainly heightened that sense of speculation. There were references, bleak ones, to special kinds of weapons that might be in Belarusian skies and Russian jets. They were accused Belarus of allowing their skies to be part of -- to be used as part of the bombing raids that happened last week inside of Ukraine.

So something, I think, is clearly afoot between those two men. They certainly want the rest of the world to think that. Whether it will lead to a land incursion from Belarus, we'll have to say. It may be bluster, Jake.

TAPPER: And, meanwhile, Ukraine trying to restore power. Some cities experiencing month-long outages because of these Russian attacks.

WALSH: Yeah. Look, this is the most bleak part of the winter. Minus 20, minus 30 in some cities. They've not had power for weeks. It not only affects running water but affects any kind of source of heat as well.

And so, these strikes have continued, some of the worst last week. Although today, 35 Iranian attack drones, loitering drones, essentially pilotless, hover over targets and attack them. Ukraine says they shot 30 out of the skies, but some got through and caused damage to infrastructure. You saw pictures of firefighters putting out the blaze in one Kyiv area.

This is basically the toll of trying to bring down morale amongst the civilian population. People are dying in these strikes and slowly being rubbed away is the sense of safety Ukrainians have and their ability to keep warm in this utterly bleak time of year, Jake.

TAPPER: Brutal, just absolutely brutal.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the big story on Capitol Hill, the January 6th Select House Committee asking the justice department to charge Donald Trump with crimes. How the move leaves the former president's legal team in a bind as they weigh their next move.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, a state of emergency, a humanitarian crisis. El Paso's mayor says that city is about to be overwhelmed when Title 42 is lifted in a few days. The city is preparing for 6,000 migrants to arrive each day.

Plus, the legal mess for Donald Trump extending well beyond the nation's Capitol. We're learning about another investigation winding down that could also result in charges.

And leading this hour, the January 6th committee referring Donald Trump to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution after laying out why they believe the former president is ultimately responsible for the insurrection. The committee members sent four criminal referrals against Donald Trump to the DOJ, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the federal government, conspiracy to make a false statement to the government, and lastly, most significantly perhaps, aiding or assisting in an insurrection.

Now, remember, the Justice Department has no legal obligation to act on these congressional referrals.