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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Kevin McCarthy Makes Threat Against GOP Senators Who Back Spending Deal; GOP Senators Rail On Process Over $1.7T Spending Package; Romney On McCarthy Bill Threat: "The Silliness Is Still Evident"; GOP Reps. Greene, Boebert Trade Barbs Over McCarthy, "Space Lasers"; TikTok Responds To Calls Ban App Over Security Concerns. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 20, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A source tells CNN the trip would be the first time he's left Ukraine since the beginning of Putin's brutal and unprovoked war against his country. CNN's Phil Mattingly is bringing on the story live from the White House.

Phil, what might Zelenskyy hope to accomplish with this visit to Washington?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. Well, you heard what he was telling his troops on the ground earlier today, that is message. It looks like he will be able to deliver directly in person to President Biden. Right now, planning is underway for President Zelenskyy to visit the White House to meet with President Biden face to face, a visit that will coincide with the announcement of a new security assistance package. A package that will include something Zelenskyy has long asked for.

And over the course of the last several weeks, the White House and the Biden administration has moved closer to agreeing to deliver. That's a Patriot -- the Patriot missile systems that White House officials and the Department of Defense have been weighing over the course of the last several weeks and have been moving towards signing off on. Now, this planning is still tentative and no final decision has been made yet, but this is something that has been very closely held and has been something that a very tight circle of administration officials have been working on over the course of the last several days.

We do know that the administration has been moving toward saying yes to the idea of sending Patriot missiles and other advanced weaponry as well, something that underscores the realities that are happening on the ground right now. But I think the significance of the moment is also something worth pointing out. Should Zelenskyy appear at the White House, as you noted, it would be his first trip out of the Ukraine since the invasion back in February. And it would be a trip to a steadfast ally and a president that has made clear unequivocally throughout the course of the nine months of this war that the U.S. will stand behind Ukraine in every way that it can, not just now, not just in the near term, but for as long as it takes. Up to this point, the U.S. has already delivered almost $20 billion in defense assistance over the course of this war, very clearly planning to deliver more in a very much expanded package in terms of the type of weaponry and systems that the U.S. is willing to send to the Ukrainian troops right now, Jake.

TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us.

And Oren, as Phil says, this is part of the expected announcement about the Patriot missile defense system, a story you first broke.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, no better way for President Zelenskyy to say thanks than to be there in person with President Biden if that's how this plays out. Patriots are perhaps the second most significant system that the U.S. has sent Ukraine since the beginning of the war, perhaps only bested by the HIMARS that Ukraine has used so effectively. The Patriot itself is a large system that requires a large crew to operate.

And as Phil pointed out, Ukraine has been asking for this for quite some time to beef up their aerial defenses. It would offer them a long range aerial defense on top of the medium range NASAMS and the shorter range Stingers and those sorts of options that Ukraine already has. And that's why it's such a significant announcement and such a significant moment, even if it will take a matter of time, weeks, perhaps even months for the training, not only on how to operate the system, but for the maintenance and logistics.

Jake, I will add that we're also learning that another part of this package will be what are known as JDAMs, kits that go on, quote unquote, "dumb bombs" to make them precision weapons that will also be included. We've learned from U.S. officials that will add to Ukraine's capability to attack Russian forces, Russian hard points. That also there comes with its own challenges how to fire a U.S. made weapon off a Soviet era fighter. That's a challenge they've already overcome before. But with Zelenskyy here, the expectation he's coming, certainly a momentous occasion in and of itself, because he hasn't left Ukraine since the start of the invasion, but he'll be here for that announcement of Patriots and more.

TAPPER: All right, Oren Liebermann the Pentagon and Phil Mattingly at the White House with the breaking news, thanks to both of you.

Quote, "Russian warship, go f yourself."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Russian warship, go (bleep) yourself.


TAPPER: Nearly a year after Ukrainian guard on Snake Island uttered that defiant, now famous phrase, the key island in the Black Sea remains firmly in Ukrainian hands. In an exclusive, CNN's Will Ripley and his crew are the first journalists to make the perilous trip to that island littered with landmines and Russian wreckage. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the saying goes, whoever controls Snake Island controls the Black Sea. The safest way to get there, the Ukrainian military's inflatable speedboat with seating for six, it's small enough to stay out of sight.

(on camera): We are really getting tossed around out here, but we need to take a small boat because we need to stay out of the sights of Russian reconnaissance aircraft.

(voice-over): Safer than a helicopter, but no protection from the Black Sea's big waves, bitter cold, and whipping winds, not to mention the lines. By the end of our stomach turning journey, Snake Island's craggy cliffs are a welcome sight. Up close, appear in pieces, previews the destruction we're about to see.


We enter Snake Island by climbing up a pile of half sunken, slippery sea blocks. We're the first journalists to loud here since Ukraine recaptured Snake Island five months ago. Russia blanketed the island with booby traps before bailing out.

(on camera): The soldiers told us we need to follow in their footsteps exactly, and we need to be very careful where we stepped. This whole island is littered with landmines, unexploded ordnance, basically a powder keg.

(voice-over): A powder keg with plenty of cats wandering through the wreckage of 10 brutal months of war, not a snake in sight. On February 24, the first day of Russia's full scale invasion, Russia's Black Sea flagship, the Moskva, aimed its arsenal at Snake Island, demanding dozens of Ukrainian defenders surrender or die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am a Russian military ship, I propose that you lay down your weapons immediately or you will be bombed.

RIPLEY (voice-over): What happened next is how legends are made.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Russian warship, go (bleep) yourself.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Five words seen at the time as a final act of defiance. Everyone on Snake Island presumed dead, Russian bombs raining down, the island's radio went silent. Those five words telling the Russian warship where to go instantly iconic, inspiring t shirts, postage stamps, pop songs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Russian warship, go (bleep) yourself.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Ukraine later learned Snake Island's defenders were alive, prisoners of war, some released in a POW swap earlier this year, others remain in Russian captivity.

(on camera): Is it intimidating to look out and see a giant Russian warship and know that you guys are a small group here?

If anybody tells you it's not intimidating, he's a liar, says Fortuna, a volunteer soldier. It was chaos, the garrison here was small. Russia captured the island quickly. Taking the island back took a long time.

(voice-over): On Snake Island, we find a graveyard of Russian weapons, the result of relentless Ukrainian attacks for several months earlier this year.

(on camera): This is one of Russia's most expensive antiaircraft weapon systems. As you can see, not much use anymore.

(voice-over): In April, Ukraine says its missiles sank the Moskva. Where did it go? The bottom of the Black Sea. A humiliated Kremlin says their flagship caught fire, sinking in stormy weather.

In May, a Ukrainian drone strike on Snake Island turned this helicopter into a fireball.

(on camera): This is what's left of that Russian helicopter pulverized, along with its crew of about eight people.

(voice-over): A twisted relic of Russia's ill-fated plan to transform this remote Black Sea outpost into a permanent aircraft carrier.

(on camera): What's it like to live out here?

(voice-over): We need to be on guard 24/7, Fortuna says, so, we never get bored. We notice his Russian accent. Turns out, Fortuna was born in Russia. He moved to Ukraine and got married before the war. Now, part of a Russian volunteer corps protecting Snake Island for Ukraine.

(on camera): How do you feel about Russia now?

(voice-over): For us, they're enemies, no matter what. Most of the Russian volunteer corps lived in Ukraine before the invasion, he says. We were living life, had families, good jobs, and here comes Russia attacking us. If some other country attacked us, we would fight too.

Life on Snake Island means almost total isolation. Soldiers tell me the simple act of switching on a cell phone brings Russian rockets within 40 minutes. They say Russia attacked the island just last month.

(on camera): We are now out of time. We've been on the island just about an hour, and it's important that we get off before the waves get too big and before the Russians know we're here.

(voice-over): The Ukrainians say Russia blew up Snake Island's historic lighthouse and museum on the site of ancient Greek temple. Evil spirits are rumored to roam these 46 acres of rock and sand, bearing witness to centuries of bloodshed. Ukraine is not the first nation to control Snake Island, but vows it will be the last. (END VIDEO TAPE)

RIPLEY: Snake Island is strategically crucial to the cargo that comes in and out of this port city of Odessa, which is why Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, visited the island before the war twice by helicopter. Of course, you can't take a helicopter there now because the Russians would try to shoot it down. Although, if we could, it certainly would have been a lot drier and warmer.

That said, Jake, President Zelenskyy due to visit President Biden at the White House tomorrow. He was in Bakhmut today, right on the front lines. He'll be in D.C. tomorrow, just another example of how this media savvy Ukrainian president is seizing the moment, just like he did at the beginning of the war with what happened with the soldiers on Snake Island. He broadcast their message to the nation. It united the nation and may have possibly helped change the course of the conflict early on.


TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley in Odessa, Ukraine, after a visit to Snake Island. Thank you so much for that reporting.

We just learned how the White House responded to the Supreme Court's temporary freeze on the controversial Title 42 border policy. That's next.

Plus, travel could be impossible in parts of the country just in time for the holiday weekend. Why the arctic air is to blame. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Moments ago, the White House filed a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's order to temporarily keep Title 42 in place. Title 42 allows agents at the border to swiftly expel asylum seekers there. CNN's Jessica Schneider is here with us.

Jessica, what does the White House's filing have to say?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so they are saying that the Supreme Court shall reject the bid from Republican led states to keep Title 42 in place. This is what we're expecting. The Supreme Court said the Biden administration and ACLU had to respond by 5:00 p.m., the deadline has come and gone. Now, the clock begins to tick, perhaps for what the Supreme Court will do here.

Right now, of course, Title 42 remains in place. It was expected that it would end at midnight going into Wednesday. That will not happen, of course. It is still in effect.


And what's interesting in particular about what the government is saying here, they're saying that Supreme Court, even if you rule in our favor and allow us to end Title 42, because of all the court maneuverings over the past few days, we're still going to need more time. So it looks like even if the Supreme Court, whether they side with the Republican led states or the government and the ACLU, it looks like Title 42 will likely be in place for another week. So that's extending it several more days here. And that's because the government is saying, hey, look, were looking forward to this ending on Wednesday, but because the court has put a pause on ending this, we've unwound some of our efforts here. Specifically, they're saying it's a complex multi-agency undertaking to actually end Title 42.

And because the Supreme Court has paused things, we need more time to regroup here. So, Jake, the bottom line on this is it is now in the Supreme Court's hands as to what happens with Title 42. But regardless, it looks like it will still be in place for, at this point, another week here. And that could be even how long the Supreme Court might decide on this.

And if they do rule in favor of the Republican led states, that means that Title 42 would be in effect even longer than just a week. So we're going to see what the Supreme Court does. They could rule soon, they could take a while to decide here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

As thousands of migrants stand in line to cross into the U.S. and await the Supreme Court decision out there, their final decision on what to do with Title 42. CNN's Rosa Flores reports from Brownsville, Texas, on the chaos and hardship at the border.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brian (ph) and his mother left their native Venezuela full of dreams three months ago. He made it to South Texas after being processed by immigration authorities. She did not.

(on camera): What happened to your mother?

(voice-over): He says they were traveling through the Darien Gap, a mountainous jungle between Colombia and Panama.

(on camera): He says that he was helping his mother cross and that she grabbed a branch and then she fell down a cliff and into the river. He says that he'll never forget the look in his mother's eyes.

(voice-over): He is one of more than 300 migrants who are processed by Border Patrol and dropped off in Brownsville every day says Migrant Advocate Sergio Cordoba.

SERGIO CORDOBA, TEAM BROWNSVILLE: Our worry is are we going to be able to order the supplies that we need?

FLORES (voice-over): Late Monday, the Trump era policy, which allows immigration agents to swiftly return migrants to Mexico was paused by the Supreme Court just days before it was scheduled to lift. The decision, easing concerns about the sudden surge of migrants at the border that's expected when the rule ends. JUDGE RICHARD CORTEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS: Quite honestly, we're relieved that the Title 42 has been extended. We were preparing for the worst. You know, we were pretty almost already to capacity in some of our locations.

FLORES (on camera): I'm in Brownsville, Texas, and just across the river in Matamoros, Mexico, there are thousands of migrants, mostly Venezuelans and Haitians, who are living in camps and on the streets. I've been talking to them.

Ola kumusta. What do you think about Title 42 staying in place?

(voice-over): They're happy Title 42 is staying in place. In nearby Mac Allen, Texas, Border Patrol is dropping off about 450 migrants per day at this respite center, says the director Sister Norma Pimentel. Pimentel is monitoring the anxiety that is growing across the river in Reynosa, Mexico, where there's an estimated 800 migrants in packed shelters and open air camps according to advocates.

SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL, CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY: It's not safe to be in Mexico because of the fact that they're exposed to all the elements and exposed to all the dangers.

FLORES (voice-over): The dangers that still haunt Brian after his mother's death.

(on camera): What did you see in her eyes?

Fear, sadness.

(voice-over): Brian says seeing his mother's photos is painful, especially this one, his mom is not in the photo. She took the picture days before she perished.


FLORES: And I've been text messaging with Brian. He is still on his way to New York. But I want to go straight to live drone pictures of where Brian was before he turned himself into immigration authorities. What you're looking at there is a camp in Matamoros, Mexico. Now, this is a camp with thousands of migrants, mostly from Venezuela and Haiti.

And Jake, what I wanted to say is, so long is as Title 42 remains in limbo, so do the lives of these thousands of migrants who are waiting in Mexico. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Rosa Flores at the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas, specifically, thanks so much for that report. Very sad.


What started a very public spat between two of the most vocal MAGA firebrands on Capitol Hill, Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Green? Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our politics lead just days before government funding is set to expire, top congressional leaders unveiled the $1.7 trillion spending bill. Of course, in the middle of the night, the bipartisan bill is the result of lengthy negotiations. Many lawmakers are not happy with the final product as well as the way the bill is being rushed through Congress. Let's go to CNN's. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill as the race to read the more than 4000 page bill is underway.


Manu, what are you hearing from lawmakers about this all?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's a lot of criticism coming, mostly from Republicans, but also from some Democrats too. Remember, Jake, this was a bill that was supposed to be done one at a time. Twelve appropriations bills supposed to be done by September 30, that didn't happen. They had to punt until December 16 for a new deadline, that didn't happen. They extended it to December 23.

And then last night, actually early this morning, 1:23 in the morning, they rolled all twelve appropriations bills into one massive bill, $1.7 trillion worth, more than 4,000 pages and they plan to push it through Congress in just a matter of a few days. It would fund all federal agencies, including more than $44 billion in aid to Ukraine, have a host of key policy measures, including the Reforming the Electoral Count Act to try to prevent another January 6 effort to overturn the electoral results when Congress counts those results. But nevertheless, there is still a lot of criticism from Republicans that this should have been handled differently.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): It's discussion that was put out at 1:28 in the morning. It's three times the size of the Bible. We're expected to read that this week.

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Word sucks, it's awful and it's why I'm going to vote against this package. To do it this way, I just think it erodes what little confidence people have in us.


RAJU: But despite this criticism, the expectation still, Jake, is that this will pass. And it could pass as soon as tomorrow. And one big reason why is that there is a coming snowstorm that could disrupt senators travel plans getting back home ahead of Christmas.

So there is a push to get this all wrapped up out of the Senate by tomorrow and allow for the Senate to essentially adjourn for the year, then House would have to approve it. And that's expected to happen as soon as Thursday. So despite the criticism, this bill expected to become law within days.

TAPPER: And that's just one drama playing out on Capitol Hill. There's another, the House Ways and Means Committee is deciding what to do with Trump's tax returns, which it just obtained. What do we know about those deliberations?

RAJU: Yes, in fact that's happening in the room right behind me. They've been meeting for more than 2 hours behind closed doors, the House Ways and Means Committees, Republicans and Democrats, about those several years of Trump tax returns that were turned over to Congress in the aftermath of the battle with -- over legal battle that resulted in the Democratic victory here.

It is still uncertain, Jake, exactly what the Democrats plan to do with the tax returns? Will they release them publicly? Will they summarize them in some way, put out a report? But their time is limited because Congress, of course, turns over.

The House will be turned over to Republicans come January 3. And this is expected to be the last week the House will be in session. So there's decision time for Democrats, and we'll see when they come out what they decide to do.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's discuss with my august panel. Jackie, the House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy desperately trying to get the number of votes he needs to become the speaker of the House in the next Congress. He's actually threatening Republican senator, saying, if they vote for this $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package, that any future legislation they offer will be dead on arrival when it comes to the House. Take a listen to one Republican senator reacting to that.


CRAMER: Well, I don't know if I buy the threat, but I find that Kevin's in a tough spot. Statements like that and statements coming from House Republicans is the very reason that some Senate Republicans feel they probably should spare them from the burden of having to govern.


TAPPER: That's -- I mean, this is the exact irony. The reason that Senate Republicans are coming into this deal with the devil, in their view, is because they look at Kevin McCarthy and his gang of flying monkeys. He's like, they're not going to be able to legislate.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTO BUREAU CIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes. They're saying, yes, it was going to be done on arrival anyway because of the composition of your current caucus, so -- or conference, rather. But yes, I mean, this is the second time McCarthy has kind of tried to flex on Mitch McConnell when he doesn't even have the votes to be speaker. He's having to whip his speaker vote in a way that I've never seen. I mean, I think --


KUCINICH: -- there's an expectation that there's going to be multiple rounds of voting --

TAPPER: Definitely.

KUCINICH: -- for speaker of the House. I just think he's got bigger things to worry about than trying to threaten Senate Republicans. I mean, you saw -- I mean, Senator Cramer is not exactly a squish. He's pretty --

TAPPER: He's going to vote against it.

KUCINICH: Exactly. He's a pretty strong Republican. So the fact that he was like, oh, is all you need to know.

TAPPER: I mean, I just love that quote. The very reason that some Senate Republicans feel they probably should spare them --

KUCINICH: Spare them from governing.

TAPPER: -- from the burden of having to govern. That's --

KUCINICH: I mean --

TAPPER: You weren't even speaker of the House.


TAPPER: That's the burden you're trying to get.


FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: I think that you're right about the fact that a lot of these things were already going to be dead on arrival. And Jake, this is just a preview of what's to come in a Republican --



CHAMBERS: -- run Congress. On the one hand, the Democrats are saying that, well, McCarthy is doing whatever he can to become speaker. OK. But then what happens if he does become speaker? The idea is that this is all going to -- the end and he won't have to satisfy the right anymore. I don't know that's the case. I mean, if he wants to remain speaker, he's still going to have to put up with a lot of these demands.

And so, it's not just fighting between Mitch McConnell and Democrats at this point, you're seeing this inter party fighting. You have folks like Rand Paul who also don't want the defense spending in this. This is definitely what you can expect more.

TAPPER: Democrats are --

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTO BUREAU CIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: But Republican run House run is doing a lot of work. TAPPER: Democrats are definitely popping the popcorn. And Ashley, Senator Mitt Romney slamming McCarthy for this threat as well. He said, "We're enduring the silly season of a campaign. For most of us, that's over after you get elected. But he's running for speaker of the House, so the silliness is still evident."


TAPPER: That's not as strong as Mitt Romney gets by.

ALLISON: Yes, I don't think I've ever agreed with Mitt. But here we are.

TAPPER: That's like cussing for Mitt Romney.

ALLISON: I mean, I think Kevin McCarthy is doing whatever he can right now to be speaker, and he thinks he has to play a part of his caucus, which are MAGA Republicans, that he needs to have their support in order to win. The funny thing about it is, like, all of your bills are dead on arrival. He must have forgotten what happened in this November election, Democrats still have control of the Senate.

And so, you're saying that any bipartisan bill is dead on arrival, so you have no intention to actually do anything for the will of the American people who barely gave you a majority. It's like he's missing the mark yet again. And to your point, if this is what we have to live through forever long, if he can even become speaker for his six days or two years of speakership, I don't think it's going to play well for the Republicans yet again.

TAPPER: It's so divisive that even Marjorie Taylor Greene, a MAGA Republican, and Lauren Boebert, a MAGA Republican, who I didn't even know disagreed on anything, they are now openly feuding because Marjorie Taylor Greene is, for some reason aligned with Kevin McCarthy, I guess Trump is, too, and Lauren Boebert is part of this super MAGA caucus flexing. Take a listen to Lauren Boebert.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marjorie Taylor Greene says Kevin McCarthy is going to be a great speaker.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): I've been aligned with Marjorie and accused of believing a lot of the things that she believes in. I don't believe in this, just like I don't believe in Russian space laser -- Jewish space laser.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a hard no?

BOEBERT: I doubt it.


TAPPER: So Boebert not only is against McCarthy, also is not in favor of Jewish space lasers, which is a -- ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS

DIRECTOR: Yes, that was some shade there.


GRIFFIN: Listen, as much as I'd like to pop the popcorn and watch this fight, it's actually an important point that Lauren Boebert is underscoring, which is the right flank wants to hold on to the motion to vacate. They want it in the rules package so that they can make Kevin McCarthy's life, frankly --

TAPPER: Explain what that is, the motion to vacate.

GRIFFIN: So it's essentially a procedural tool that allows any sitting member to issue a vote of no confidence at any point --

TAPPER: To remove a speaker at any moment.

GRIFFIN: To remove a speaker at any moment.


GRIFFIN: So, this is what Kevin McCarthy is living in fear of. If he CNN magically get to 218, which is an open question, he could end up having one of the shortest speakerships in history because this will be held over his head.

Now, how defensive Marjorie Taylor Greene has gotten of McCarthy is fascinating to me. She did a multithread tweet defending him, his conservative credentials. That signals to me she has promised something that is strong.

KUCINICH: Yes, exactly.

GRIFFIN: Committee assignments, but what else? Because I think it would be more than that for her to put herself so far out.

CHAMBERS: But another point that stands out, though, is that the former President Donald Trump is in favor of McCarthy becoming speaker, and yet you still have these Republicans who are very loyal to Trump who are against it. Which also tells you something about where Trump's influence is in the Republican Party at this point, where even he doesn't have the juice necessarily to push McCarthy over the finish line here.

ALLISON: The only thing I can think of what I try to avoid, of thinking about the way Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene do. But the only thing I can think of is that Boebert is thinking that the extreme of the extreme MAGA Republicans are the ones who saved her seat because she was in a really tough contested election.

TAPPER: And she almost lost, yes.

ALLISON: And she almost. And so I think the one -- you would think -- it was so close that you would say, OK, let me kind of teeter --

GRIFFIN: Moderate myself, right.

ALLISON: But for some reason, I think that made -- she was thinking that's the only reason that got her over the finish line.

TAPPER: Well, there is part of the MAGA base that doesn't trust any Republican leaders, certainly not McConnell and also not Kevin McCarthy, who had a flash of rationale after January 6 and criticized Donald Trump and then quickly got back in the fold. But it is interesting how much Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., that whole group is really pushing Kevin McCarthy who is, you know, if you remove the last couple of years, like he's pretty much just a traditional country club Republican, chamber of Congress Republican.

KUCINICH: Who will say what it takes to become --

TAPPER: Right.

KUCINICH: -- speaker of the House at this point.

TAPPER: Right.

KUCINICH: So, the --


TAPPER: But he's not MAGA is one thing.

KUCINICH: Yes, but what --

TAPPER: It is hard.

KUCINICH: Really, I don't think he has a lot of moorings right now other than -- but the thing is, I don't know how much power he's -- you're going to have, particularly if he ends up agreeing to the motion to vacate. Then, the speakership is basically a better office than some tchotchkes. And I think Marjorie Taylor Greene said what she wants, subpoena power. She said that in an interview somewhere. So you have to imagine that some --

TAPPER: She wants to be on Oversite, right?

KUCINICH: Yes. And she wants -- and it seems like -- I mean, she is part of the Mayorkas (ph) group. She wants to be able to --

TAPPER: She wants to impeach the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, yes.

KUCINICH: Yes. And so, I think there -- a lot of things have been promised on the investigative. It seems clear, if they're not being nakedly clear about it in realm too, which is another reason for her because it gives her more power to back McCarthy, because that's where the promises.

GRIFFIN: Well, if you can't lose in this moment too, and we're talking about this massive spending bill, which I, as a conservative probably take issues with. But like we've got to fund the government, it's actually a gift to Kevin McCarthy to get this done in the next two days.



GRIFFIN: The last thing -- you know, if he does end up becoming speaker January 3, the last thing, he wants us to be dealing with this in February and punting it to next year. When he's got a slim majority, he's got a right flank that has no business wanting to help him. He's going to have to rely on Democrats to pass it. So he's privately wishing that this bill passes. He just can't publicly say them.

CHAMBERS: Going back to what you said about Trump, but his stated fear was that if you don't have Kevin McCarthy, then you'll get someone who's more like Paul Ryan, and so you could wind up with someone more moderate. Democrats fear that what will actually happen is you'll wind up with someone far more conservative than Kevin McCarthy who won't work on bipartisan legislation with the White House and with the President. And so they're better off with Kevin McCarthy, so that's how he has essentially become the consensus candidate for.

ALLISON: But what's his end game? Like, if you flex your muscle now and then it atrophies in like six days in the new Congress because you have to work on a bipartisan basis like --

GRIFFIN: Nice view in the speakers (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: He is only thinking in terms of getting 218 votes. That's it.

CHAMBERS: No matter how long it lasts.

TAPPER: That's the only thing he's looking at right now. Thanks to one and all.

Congress is on the verge of banning TikTok on all federal government workers phones. Are TikTok's days in the United States numbered? TikTok -- the head of TikTok's public policy response next.



TAPPER: In our tech lead, is the clock running out on TikTok? It could be for federal government employees after Congress included a ban on the app on all U.S. government devices in the latest spending bill joining a wave of U.S. governors who have done the same for their state employees. They're worried about the popular app's ties to the Chinese government. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle concerned. Listen.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): TikTok is an enormous threat.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): This company should be banned. I don't know why they're allowed to operate in the United States.

SEN. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): I think it gives the Chinese communist party an opportunity to spy on all of us.


TAPPER: Today, the company TikTok said it will roll out a new feature to add more context about how the app recommends videos. Users will be able to click on an icon and see if a video was recommended based on data such as your past likes or the region you live in. Joining us now to discuss, Michael Beckerman, TikTok's Head of Public Policy.

Michael, thanks so much for being here. We really appreciate it.

First of all, what's your response to this bipartisan push to ban TikTok, especially on government devices?

MICHAEL BECKERMAN, HEAD OF PUBLIC POLICY, TIKTOK: Look, I mean, obviously this is a very political approach, doesn't have any real impact on national security. But the concerns they're raising are ones that we think are solvable, and we have a really comprehensive solution. And so the better question is, maybe for the administration on enacting a security deal that actually safeguards information for all Americans.

TAPPER: A security deal with TikTok?


TAPPER: Or with the Chinese government?

BECKERMAN: With TikTok. You know, TikTok is not available in China. You know, we think a lot of the concerns are maybe overblown, but we do think these problems can be solved. We have a comprehensive solution that we've been working on for almost two years now with the Biden administration, and we're ready to implement it. And I think that's probably the best place to start this conversation.

TAPPER: So, well, the place that a lot of these national security experts and members of Congress started is with China's National Intelligence Law from 2017 as, you know, which states, quote, "Any organization or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and maintain the secrecy of all knowledge of state intelligence work," unquote. Which a lot of national security experts and members of Congress interpret this as saying that this law compels any private company in China to cooperate with Chinese national intelligence any way they want, which means that you sitting here right now, although I'm sure you wish you could, you cannot guarantee that the Chinese government can't get access to the TikTok user database. That's what people are worried about.

BECKERMAN: Well, no company can guarantee that a state actor can't get access to the company.

TAPPER: No, but I mean legally, not through hacking, legally. BECKERMAN: Sure. But one thing, like TikTok is not available in China, and we have many safeguards in place. But again, if that's the concern, there are many companies that this would apply to. But the unique thing for us is that we do have a solution that's ready to be deployed that we've already proactively worked on with companies like Oracle to safeguard Americans user data. We're ready to do it as soon as the administration is ready to act.

TAPPER: But what's the workable solution? How do you solve it? I mean, we have the top Republican commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, Brendan Carr, on THE LEAD last week. I want to get your reaction to what he told us about the Chinese government and access to user data.



BRENDAN CARR, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION: Underneath of it, it operates as a sophisticated surveillance tool. It's pulling everything from search and browsing history, keystroke patterns, potentially biometrics, including face prints and voice prints. And for years were told, don't worry, none of this is stored in China. But there was some internal communication from TikTok leaked over the summer that showed, quote, "everything thing is seen back in China." So it's a real concern.


BECKERMAN: Well, I appreciate I know Brendan Carr has been really interested in this issue for a while, but as you know, he's not on a government agency of jurisdiction over this and he's not an expert. And in fact, all the things that he rattled off are all false about information that we collect.

But the one thing that is accurate is we do store data here in the U.S. and we're moving things over to the Oracle cloud. And if this is a concern that people have, we have a solution that we're ready to implement to ensure that Americans user data is protected.

TAPPER: What about the document, the internal communication from TikTok that leaked over the summer that showed everything is seen back in China?

BECKERMAN: That's just not accurate. I mean, we have a U.S. based security team, we're working with Oracle, we're working with actual security agencies within the government. I think there's a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of what the commissioner was saying is just not accurate.

TAPPER: So there was a German report in March of this year showing that TikTok censored references to concentration camps, shadow banning, in their view, words such as Auschwitz or National Socialism. And the fear is the U.S. state department obviously has accused China of genocide, holding up to 2 million ethnic Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in detention camps, concentration camps in the Xinjiang province and that's what TikTok was censoring, not necessarily references to the German concentration camps.

First of all, do you acknowledge that the Chinese government has these Uyghurs and others in concentration camps?

BECKERMAN: Well, that's not something that I focus on, but I can tell you that for content moderation is done from the United States. We do not censor content on behalf of any government. You can just go on the app and look, and there's been plenty of content on TikTok.

TAPPER: What do you mean it's not something you focus on? You work for a Chinese government company and the Chinese are accused of concentration camps and ethnic genocide.

BECKERMAN: You can look -- you can find all of this content on TikTok.

TAPPER: But why won't you acknowledge that -- I mean --

BECKERMAN: I'm just not an expert on what's happening in China, so it's not an area that I'm focusing on. But I -- you can look on the app and you'll find plenty of content about that as well. It's not something that we censor. It's not something that we draw back. All of that -- those decisions are made from the United States.

TAPPER: Well, a viewer might see this and think, this guy won't even acknowledge that the Chinese are committing genocide against their own people. why -- you know, they would probably interpret that to be like, you're afraid of being fired if you acknowledge that.

BECKERMAN: And that's -- Jake, that's not accurate and that's not fair.

TAPPER: But I'm just -- do you disagree that that's what people -- how people are going to interpret it? I mean, that's --

BECKERMAN: Well, I could see how that's -- you're interpreting it. Look, I think there are many human rights violations that are happening in China and around the world. I think these are very important. I mean, I'm not here to be the expert on human rights violations around the world. But if you want to look up at that, you can go to TikTok and you can look it up, and you can see much information about that as you want.

That's not something that's censored by the app. I was responding to your question --


BECKERMAN: -- about whether or not that content is censored on TikTok, and it certainly is not.

TAPPER: So if a U.S. user were to make a video summarizing the 2022 U.N. report, which shows that China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang Province, they would be able to see it? It wouldn't be banned?

BECKERMAN: Go for it. TAPPER: It wouldn't be shadow banned?

BECKERMAN: Absolutely. Go for it. I mean, that does not violate our content guidelines. I can't tell you if you did a video of that, Jake, that would go viral. That's how many people would be interested in. But that doesn't violate our guidelines at all.

TAPPER: So, there was a 60 minutes report that I'm sure you saw that showed American kids on TikTok, and they were seeing images of self- harm and eating disorders, encouraging psychological distress for these kids. And there's the Chinese version of TikTok, which not -- it's not called TikTok, it's something else and it was educational, and there were automatic time limits, and somebody, a parent might see that and think the Chinese government is trying to destroy our kids from within. I'm just saying, don't you think that's the impression?

BECKERMAN: I think that's one that's a mischaracterization. Like, as a parent as well, we do so much. We were talking during the break about parental tools that we have here in the U.S. But it's kind of a little bit of a curious argument. The same people that are complaining about employees in China and access from China, all these things, are also suggesting that here in the U.S. we should apply Chinese style media rules.

We have freedom of speech, other things here in the United States, it's different. But look, on content for kids and for younger people on the app, it's something that we take incredibly seriously. All those teams are based here in the United States. We have tools for parents, you should have conversations with your teens --


BECKERMAN: -- about screen time. But content that's dangerous like that, I don't think that's a fair characterization of what people are actually seeing on the app.

TAPPER: You think that TikTok is getting a really bad rap and a lot of people that are just projecting their concerns about the Chinese government on to, in your view, a harmless app. Is that fair conversion?


BECKERMAN: I mean, we take all the concerns seriously. Our goal is to earn trust. We're living in an era now where there are legitimate concerns with all apps and there should be about what data is collected, about safety, security. We take those really, really seriously. We've been leaning into transparency, we've been leaning into safety.

And the reason that we've been so proactive working with the government on a solution them for the security concerns is we want to clear the air about that. We want to raise -- no doubt that the app is safe and secure.

TAPPER: So, Michael Beckerman, I have to go because we're out of time. But I hope you'll come back because there are a lot of concerns and I think it's only fair that you guys get to address them. As I told you, I have deleted the app, but I haven't forced my kids to. And the only reason I deleted it is because national security experts said you need to get that off your phone.

BECKERMAN: I hope to convince you, get you back.

TAPPER: All right. Michael Beckerman, I appreciate you coming and taking the questions. That's important.

It's going to be freezing across the United States. Fifty million people will see temperatures dip below zero. Why this and a possible blizzard could make holiday travel nearly impossible in some parts of the country. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Get ready for a polar air mass and powerful winter storm. Our Derek Van Dam is keeping track.

Derek, things could get really messy?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Jake, this is turning out to be a blockbuster of a storm that's right before the busy travel season coming up for the holidays. Right now, we have 70 million Americans under some winter weather alert. By the way, blizzard warnings just hoisted across south central Minnesota, as we speak. Every single state in the lower 48 will feel the effects of this. In fact, below freezing temperatures for all the lower 48 over the next coming days.

We have 75 million Americans under wind chill alerts. This is a multifaceted storm, people. It's got the potential for blizzard conditions. We have the potential for flash freezes and the arctic air that is going to settle in behind it. Using terminology from the national weather service, life threatening wind chills with the potential to have frostbite and exposed skin in a matter of minutes. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much.

Coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM," we're waiting to hear what Democrats are going to do with Donald Trump's tax returns. I'll see you tomorrow.