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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Hutchinson Testified She Felt Pressured By Trump-Aligned Lawyer; Senate Passes $1.7 Trillion Year-Long Spending Bill, Sends To House; Biden's Christmas Address Emphasizes National Unity; Source: Zelenskyy Felt "Real Bipartisan Support" Following U.S. Visit; Desperate Parents Face Shortages Of Medicines For Children; New Artificial Intelligence Can Write As Well, Better Than Humans. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 22, 2022 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hefty says the bags will not leak. They're strong enough to hold heavy snacks and will keep leftovers fresh and the partygoer warm. So, you get your little barbecue meatballs, and you just stuff them in the pocket there and keeps you warm. There's even a gallon size scarf for people who want to take chicken sandwiches. Thank you, Hefty.

THE LEAD WITIH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So, Cassidy Hutchinson thought her lawyer was more interested in defending Trump than in defending her.

THE LEAD starts right now.

In their own words, stunning testimony revealed new transcripts out yesterday and today from the January 6th committee. Star witness Cassidy Hutchinson among them -- admitting she was pressured to not talk by her first lawyer, paid by the Trump super PAC, and her final straw was with him when he suggested she risk a contempt of Congress charge. What more might we learn from the committee's final report?

Plus, nightmare before Christmas. Snow, ice, and dangerous arctic blast. Thousands of flights canceled, possible deaths where the weather may have been a contributing factor.

And forget Siri, forget Alexa, see the future of artificial intelligence. The powerful and alarming content that technology can create all on its own.


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

We begin today in our politics lead and a treasure trove of interview transcripts newly-released from the January 6 Committee's long awaited, and still, as of right now, unreleased final reporting, including the full testimony from the panel star witness, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, in which she details pressure from her first Trump aligned lawyer, Stefan Passantino, to not cooperate with the committee, even at the risk of being held in contempt of Congress.

Hutchinson telling the committee, quote, it wasn't just that I had Stephen sitting next to me, it was almost like I felt like I had Trump looking over my shoulder. Hutchinson also testifying that she told her mother, quote, I'm f'ed, in the days leading up to her very first interview with the committee, fearing that Trump allies would ruin her life if she was open and honest with the committee.

Other transcripts show leading figures in Trump's scheme to overturn the 2020 election, despite all sorts of grandiose pronouncements repeatedly invoking their Fifth Amendment right and refusing to answer any questions from the committee.

CNN's Sara Murray is digging into all the transcripts for us, which are revealing for the first time intriguing new aspects about the committees closed doors disposition.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New details about the pressure campaign of blockbuster witness faced.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I overheard the president say something to the effect of, I don't f'ing care that they have weapons. They are not here to hurt me, take the f'ing mags away.

MURRAY: As she thought to share details from inside the Trump White House with the House Select Committee investigating January 6th. Former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, told the committee her previous attorney, who CNN first identified as former White House ethics lawyer, Stefan Passantino, allegedly encouraged her to mislead Congress according to newly released transcripts from a pair of September interviews. The less you remember, the better, Passantino said, according to Hutchinson's testimony. And he allegedly advised her to stop talking to the committee saying, contempt is a small risk.

Hutchinson told the committee Pssantino never explicitly told her to life. I don't want to perjure yourself, Passantino told her, according to her testimony, but I don't recall is it perjury? They don't know what you can and can't recall.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): We are concerned that these efforts may have been a strategy to prevent the committee from finding the truth.

MURRAY: The Hutchinson transcript comes as the public awaits the release of the January 6 Committee's full report, slated to come today.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Expected to come sometime this afternoon.

REPORPTER: And what do you expect the American people to learn from this report?

THOMPSON: Well, I think you will see that it's very comprehensive.

MURRAY: It's expected to offer more details out of Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election and could offer new insights around this moment, revealed by Hutchinson, where Trump was allegedly told he could not go to the Capitol on January 6th.

HUTCHINSON: The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel, Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel and Mr. Ornato had recounted the story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.

MURRAY: Hutchinson says, her former attorney, Passantino, encouraged her to steer clear of sharing that bombshell moment, while Hutchinson faced pushback after her testimony, she stuck with her account in subsequent committee interviews, saying, deputy White House chief of staff Tony Ornato later made sarcastic comments about the incident like, it could be worse.


The president could have tried to strangle you on January 6th.

Ornato told the committee, he didn't recall the communications with Hutchinson and had no knowledge of Trump's anger.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, Hutchinson also detailed how she felt like she needed to stay loyal to the former president, that Trump's allies and Pasadena were saying, she would be taken care of if she remained loyal.

Now, Passantino, in an earlier statement to CNN, said he believed he represented Cassidy Hutchinson ethically and that she was honest and cooperative with committee during the period that he was representing her. Of course, Jake, she obviously later got new counsel and provided all this information.

TAPPER: Yeah, hers was a journey, without question.

Sara Murray, stay with me for a second because to add to that, sources telling me that the members of the House Select Committee are expressing concerns that former President Trump and his allies are desperately trying to keep secret what happened in that presidential SUV, known as The Beast, on January 6th. Whatever it was, as a miracle, Cassidy Hutchinson told the committee behind closed doors that she was told by then deputy chief of staff, Tony Ornato, in front of Secret Service agent, Bobby Engel, that in The Beast, then President Trump, on January 6, 2021, quote, tried to wrap his hands around Bobby's neck and strangle him because he wouldn't take him to the Capitol.

Hutchinson also testify behind closed doors that when meeting with her first attorney, then Trump super PAC paid attorney, Stefan Passantino, his response to her desire to tell the truth about that story about what Ornato told her, quote, I remember he, like, sat back in his chair and he's, like, no, no, no, no, we don't want to go there, we don't want to talk about that, unquote.

Hutchinson later dropped Passantino for fear that he was more concerned about protecting Trump than protecting her.

Now, the people who can confirm whatever happened in The Beast, the driver, and bobby angle, and Tony Ornato, who is allegedly told by angle about what happened in The Beast, have all obtained private attorneys, not using those provided at no cost to them by the U.S. Secret Service. That fact is something that members of the committee clearly find suspicious.

In private testimony, the committee revealed, or not said, he could not recall conveying that story to Hutchinson or conveying it to another White House employee who said that Ornato told him a similar story. The committee said, it is, quote, skeptical of Ornato's account, unquote. Soon, we will all see for ourselves what's in the actual transcript and what the driver and Ornato, and Engel all actually said under oath, if anything.

Sara Murray is still with me.

Let's bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez on this.

And, Evan, is there a role for the Justice Department here, when we have contradictory testimony under oath about what happened inside the presidential SUV?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There absolutely is, especially if, you know, again, what Cassidy Hutchinson has provided testimony to is something that she was essentially being told to lie to the committee. That is a crime. And that is something the justice department is absolutely would be interested in, in investigating.

We know from the committee that they have, you know, even in the middle of all this, they turned over information to prosecutors. And so, we know that they have at least interviewed Cassidy Hutchinson, so they have a lot of what exactly went on behind the scenes, including what her accounts are with her attorney. They already know a lot of this.

TAPPER: So, just to stay on this for one second, according to her testimony, Passantino told her, you can say that you don't remember stuff even if you remember a lot of it. I'm not a lawyer, but that doesn't sound ethical to me.

PEREZ: At a minimum, it sounds unethical. I mean, it could be a crime. It depends on, again, some of the facts, we know, Jake, so that a lot of people who are working with the former president, you know, just wanted to say out of this. And so, they misremembered or didn't remember things, and we see that throughout. We've seen this through multiple Trump investigations. It's a feature.

TAPPER: And, Sara, the pressure campaign on Cassidy Hutchinson to get her to not fully comply with the probe by this attorney, paid for by a Trump super PAC, and she's not the only one. Is this something the Justice Department is looking into as potentially criminal? I mean, it sounds like obstruction of justice in some ways.

MURRAY: Yeah, I mean, I think that's part of the reason, you know, the Justice Department wants these transcripts for a lot of reasons. I think, you know, we, think about the top line referrals that the committee made about Donald Trump. You know, DOJ's again, that's fine, we're doing our own Trump investigation.

When it comes to trying to encourage a witness to lie to Congress, to lying to Congress, to trying to temper with a witness, all of that stuff is stuff the DOJ can prosecute. I think the issue that they are going to have its trying to corroborate some of these things.

You know, Cassidy Hutchinson may recall her conversations with Stefan Passantino, but if she doesn't have, you know, knows she was taking from that -- other people can help corroborate it, then it becomes an issue for DOJ.

Is this a case we can actually prosecute, and we can actually win?

TAPPER: Although he's taken a lead from his law firm, right? Stefan Passantino?

MURRAY: He has, he said it was a distraction, so he was stepping back in the meantime.


TAPPER: Yeah, okay.

Evan Hutchinson also expressed concern the committee investigators at times weren't asking the right questions. She said, they weren't asked me the right questions. What do we know about that?

PEREZ: Well, in the transcripts, what emerges is that she's concerned, clearly, that her lawyer is not helping the situation. So, she reaches out to a friend who can then back -- who then back channels to the committee, to make sure they ask the right questions. She clearly has a lot of information that she wanted to give to the committee, but clearly was not being asked the right way.

And so, as a result of that, you know, she was asked the right questions, which apparently surprise her lawyer, Passantino, who did not know that this was going to come this way. And so, it really gives you a sense, Jake, of the importance of this witness and someone who clearly had a lot of information, perhaps damaging information of the former president and people around him, and wanted to provide that and, you know, she was being blocked, clearly, by the people she was surrounded by, including, according to her, by her lawyer.

TAPPER: Yeah and she also said she wanted to find out who is paying for the lawyer, so she could thank him. Passantino allegedly said, we are not going to tell you. That is not fishy at all.

PEREZ: That's also unethical. You can't be saying that. MURRAY: Right.

TAPPER: That's super bizarre.

Sara Murray, Evan Perez, thanks to both of you.

After a wrinkle threatened to derail the mammoth $1.7 trillion spending bill, the omnibus spending bill needed to avoid the government shutdown tomorrow, a last minute deal push that massive bill through the Senate in a bipartisan vote just a few hours ago. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives, where Democrats are hoping to vote on the final passage later tonight. Then it goes to President Biden to be signed.

CNN chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Manu, an amendment from Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, on Title 42, having to do with the border, was responsible for the holdup. How did Democrats get around that?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they actually had their own alternative proposal that they knew would fail. They wanted to give an opportunity for the members that were considering voting for that Mike Lee plan to vote for the alternative immigration plan. So, they agreed to do that.

So, the Mike Lee plan, it did not have enough amendment votes, they were concerned about getting it adopted to the larger bill that was sunk in the House. And then that amendment failed. The other one did as well.

Now, this all came as a bipartisan majority supported this bill on final passage 68 to 29 was the final vote in the Senate. There were 29 Republicans voted against it, but the Republican leadership in the Senate supported it. Even though the House Republican leaders urged Mitch McConnell not to support this plan, urging him to punt it into the New Year, he disagreed with that approach.

I asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about the new dynamic in the new Congress, and he had said he planned to talk with Kevin McCarthy if he is elected speaker, and he warned him about the next fiscal fight ahead.


RAJU: Senator, you are heading into a new political dynamic next year with Republicans taking the House. First, I mean, what discussions have you had with Kevin McCarthy ahead of next year? And what is your level of concern in dealing with an issue like raising the debt ceiling next year?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I'm going to wait until after his election to sit down and talk to them. There's a large chunk of Republicans, perhaps a majority, in the House and the Senate, who are not MAGA, and this election showed that I've talked to them, that following MAGA is like Thelma and Louise. Going over a cliff.

As the debt ceiling has to be done in a bipartisan way, it always is a party that tries to hold up the government and demand something in return is going to lose.


RAJU: And some timing news here, Jake. I just talked to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, as he walked off the House floor. Tomorrow is when the House will vote on final passage of this bill, sending it to the president's desk just hours before the shutdown deadline. They may have to pass a short term measure to keep the government open, to give them more time to process the paperwork. But final passage on the larger $1.7 trillion bill out tomorrow in the House.

TAPPER: And today was also the final press conference for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker. What did she have to say?

RAJU: You know, she reflected on her time in office. She talked about the difficulties that she had, some of the more challenging moments, sustaining presidential veto when the Democrat was a president, if Republicans are trying to override a veto, she talked about the Affordable Care Act and also blazing a path for women lawmakers along the way.

She also discuss that she planned to still maintain influence in a different way. But she said she would not give advice, not play any role as someone who would give advice to Democratic leaders and new Democratic leadership team. She was asked about advice she would give to Kevin McCarthy, assuming he becomes how speaker, she said, there is no need to offer him any advice.

TAPPER: Yeah. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much, appreciate it.

Baby, it's cold outside. Maybe, it's dangerously cold outside. Baby, please don't go outside. Where and when the worst winter weather will hit this holiday weekend?

Plus, an impassioned speech by Ukraine's president to U.S. lawmakers. We will take you to the front lines to see why the gains he wants are so desperately needed.



TAPPER: Let's go live to the White House, where President Biden is delivering his Christmas address to the nation.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon. "How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given."

There is a certain stillness at the center of the Christmas story. A silent night when all the world goes quiet and all the glamour, all the noise, everything that divides us, everything that pits us against one another, everything -- everything that seems so important but really isn't, this all fades away in stillness of the winter's evening.

And we look to the sky, to a lone star, shining brighter than all the rest, guiding us to the birth of a child -- a child Christians believe to be the son of God; miraculously now, here among us on Earth, bringing hope, love and peace and joy to the world.

Yes, it's a story that's 2,000 years old, but it's still very much alive today. Just look into the eyes of a child on Christmas morning, or listen to the laughter of a family together this holiday season after years -- after years of being apart. Just feel the hope rising in your chest as you sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," even though you've sung the countless times before.

Yes, even after 2,000 years, Christmas still has the power to lift us up, to bring us together, to change lives, to change the world.

The Christmas story is at the heart of the Christmas -- Christian faith. But the message of hope, love, peace, and joy, they're also universal.

It speaks to all of us, whether we're Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or any other faith, or no faith at all. It speaks to all of us as human beings who are here on this Earth to care for one another, to look out for one another, to love one another.

The message of Christmas is always important, but it's especially important through tough times, like the ones we've been through the past few years.

The pandemic has taken so much from us. We've lost so much time with one another. We've lost so many people -- people we loved. Over a million lives lost in America alone. That's a million empty chairs breaking hearts in homes all across the country.

Our politics has gotten so angry, so mean, so partisan. And too often we see each other as enemies, not as neighbors; as Democrats or Republicans, not as fellow Americans. We've become too divided.

But as tough as these times have been, if we look a little closer, we see bright spots all across the country: the strength, the determination, the resilience that's long defined America.

We're surely making progress. Things are getting better. COVID long -- no longer controls our lives. Our kids are back in school. People are back to work. In fact, more people are working than ever before.

Americans are building again, innovating again, dreaming again.

So my hope this Christmas season is that we take a few moments of quiet reflection and find that stillness in the heart of Christmas -- that's at the heart of Christmas, and look -- really look at each other, not as Democrats or Republicans, not as members of "Team Red" or "Team Blue," but as who we really are: fellow Americans. Fellow human beings worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.

I sincerely hope this holiday season will drain the poison that has infected our politics and set us against one another.


I hope this Christmas season marks a fresh start for our nation, because there is so much that unites us as Americans, so much more that unites us than divides us.

We're truly blessed to live in this nation. And I truly hope we take the time to look out -- look out for one another. Not at one -- for one another.

So many people struggle at Christmas. It can be a time of great pain and terrible loneliness. I know, like many of you know.

It was 50 years ago this week that I lost my first wife and my infant daughter in a car accident, and my two sons were badly injured, when they were out shopping for a Christmas tree. I know how hard this time of year can be.

But here's what I learned long ago: No one -- no one can ever know what someone else is going through, what's really going on in their life, what they're struggling with, what they're trying to overcome.

That's why sometimes the smallest act of kindness can mean so much. A simple smile. A hug. An unexpected phone call. A quiet cup of coffee. Simple acts of kindness that can lift a spirit, provide comfort, and perhaps maybe even save a life.

So, this Christmas, let's spread a little kindness.

This Christmas, let's be that -- that helping hand, that strong shoulder, that friendly voice when no one else seems to care for those who are struggling, in trouble, in need. It just might be the best gift you can ever give.

And let's be sure to remember the brave women and men in uniform who defend and protect our nation. Many of them -- many of them are away from their families at this time of year. Let's keep them in our prayers.

You know, and I believe Christmas is a season of hope. And throughout the life of this country, it's been during the weeks of December -- even in the midst of some of our toughest days -- that some of the best chapters of our story have been written.

It was during these weeks back in 1862 that President Lincoln prepared the Emancipation Proclamation, which he issued on New Year's Day.

At Christmas 1941, in the weeks after Pearl Harbor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt hosted Winston Churchill in this White House. Together, they planned the Allied strategy to defeat fascism and autocracy.

And it was 1968 that the most terrible year -- of years -- a year of assassination and riot, of war and chaos -- that the astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the Moon and spoke to us here on Earth.

From the silence of space, on a silent night on a Christmas Eve, they read the story of Christmas -- Creation from the King James Bible. It went: In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

That light is still with us, illuminating our way forward as Americans and as citizens of the world. A light that burned in the beginning and at Bethlehem. A light that shines still today in our own time, our own lives.

As we sing "O' Holy Night" -- "His law is love, and His Gospel is peace" -- may I wish you and for you, and for our nation, now and always, is that we'll live in the light -- the light of liberty and hope, of love and generosity, of kindness and compassion, of dignity and decency.

So, from the Biden family, we wish you and your family peace, joy, health, and happiness.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. And all the best in the New Year.

God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.

TAPPER: A Christmas address from the president of the United States in the East Room of the White House, talking about the importance of kindness and appreciation.

Let's go to CNN's Phil Mattingly.

Phil, the president had a -- not surprisingly, an uplifting message. He acknowledged the hardships many Americans are facing right now.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think it underscores something White House officials have certainly been feeling inside the White House over the course of the last several weeks, where the return to the normal of holiday party after holiday party, after holiday party has been welcomed not just because they're happening, but because people feel like they're able to do things that they have not been able to do over the course of the last several years. To some extent, that extends across the country right now.

I think interestingly, I was texting with a former Biden instruction official during that speech and the response when I asked, how this came to view, was this was pure Biden. I think to some degree, when you listen to the remarks, obviously the optimism which he's very much known for when you talk to his advisers, the family elements, the loss elements, his personal loss and his reflections on those who might be dealing with loss and loneliness at this moment of time, but also the importance of the holidays and trying to push forward to, in his view, or in his mind, the idea of a better future ahead.


I think there's a genuine belief right now inside the White House in the wake of the course of the last year and how things have pulled out over the course of the last couple months, that they are heading into 2023 in a very good place, a positive place with very real opportunities going forward about policy, politics, all of those things. That was not really what this speech was about. This speech wasn't said about the country, to some degree, turning a corner and feeling that as a distinct possibility, despite all the times in the past two years where they have said that was about to happen, now I think there's a genuine belief that they are right on the cusp of that moment, if they have not already turned it.

And Christmas, the New Year, the time to be able to mark that, and going to people to mark that with their own families, their own lives as well, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, he noted also, of course, that it was just a few days ago, the 50th anniversary of that horrific car crash which took the life of his first wife, Neilia, and his daughter, Naomi, also his two sons, Beau and Hunter. So, I would imagine for the president that this is a time of sadness as well, given that the season is also associated with one of the worst things that ever happened to him.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, I don't think there's any question about that, mind you, he was delivering remarks at the national guard reserve center in Delaware, named after his late son, Beau, just a few days before that anniversary as well. The loss, obviously, it's such a central part of President Biden's life, of his story, of how he got to this point right now.

But I also think the holidays themselves are very much a part of that story when you read the book that he's written, when you listen to people who know him well, the family element and the ability for somebody who's been in a political life for the better part of 50 years to have the holidays, to spend with the family, particularly a family that has dealt with so much loss. This is critically important to him, to his family, to how they operate. I think the sense of trying to share that with others and in the hopes that others might share that inside their own family units or with themselves. I think that's very much something we saw the president trying to convey.

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

Coming up, despite Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's triumphant address that receive large bipartisan support, the battle in Ukraine rages on. We are going to go live to Kyiv, as Zelenskyy heads home. That's next.




PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Your money is not charity. It's an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right after Zelenskyy's powerful address to Congress, a source close to him told me he was very pleased with his visit to Washington and felt, quote, real bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

Despite that, some Republican lawmakers remain opposed to the rising price of U.S. aid to Ukraine, as the Pentagon moves forward with its plan to send Ukraine the coveted Patriot missile defense system. A senior U.S. defense official tells CNN, the U.S. will start training Ukrainian troops on the complex resource heavy machine, quote, very soon.

In the meantime, CNN's Will Ripley shows us what's happening right now on the frontlines in eastern Ukraine.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukrainians remain defiant in Bakhmut, as heavy fighting continues on the outskirts. Russian forces still pounding the city, as they've been doing for months now, driving most of its 70,000 residents away. These days, it's eerily quiet here, silence broken only by rushing soldiers and Russia's deadly bombardments.

Only a handful have stayed, briefing the Russian artillery roulette. They gather in underground shelters, power, water, heating, only available in aid stations like this. There is Wi-Fi as well, a chance to call family, get a warm drink.

For Denis, it's this that keeps him going. We are holding on, surviving, he says. His father stayed behind and so did he, betting on Ukraine.

We hope our soldiers will defend Bakhmut, he says. To make sure they are able to do so, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled all the way to Washington.

ZELENSKYY: To ensure Bakhmut is not just a stronghold that holds back the Russian army, but for the Russian army to completely pull out more cannons and shells are needed.

RIPLEY: The Ukrainian president also thanking the U.S. for its support and the decision to supply more advanced anti-aircraft missiles.

ZELENSKYY: If your Patriots stop the Russian terror against our cities, it will let Ukrainian Patriots work to the full, to defend our freedom.


RIPLEY: A predictably less enthusiastic response from Russia. Moscow, saying, providing Patriots will only prolong the war. This is a rather old system, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said. Those who are doing this are doing it in vain.


Putin's PR machine, firing back. The Russian defense ministry, releasing this video of what it says is a visit by Minister Sergei Shoigu, reassuring frontline troops in Ukraine.

Don't fuss, keep calm, everything is fine, he says. Everything is fine, keep calm.

Back in Europe, Zelenskyy seemingly ending the year on a high with more military aid on the pipeline. But on the frontline, no break. Still no cause for celebration.


RIPLEY (on camera): Now, the details of Zelenskyy's travel are closely guarded secret, for obvious security reasons. But video has emerged tonight showing him meeting with the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, the obvious way, the safest way to travel back to Ukraine would be to land in Poland and then he took the train from the Polish border to Kyiv, or I should say, from Kyiv to the Polish border, when he traveled to Washington. If he's taking the train this time or another route is unknown. We will, of course, keep you posted when he pops back up in public here in the capital.

Meanwhile, on the alternate universe commonly known as Russia, they've actually put out a statement from the top general, Jake, saying that Ukraine has been transformed by the West into a hostile terrorist state. Ukraine has been transformed into hostile terrorist state even though, of course, it's Russia that started this war, Russia that bombed civilians, and Russia that has inflicted so much suffering on millions of people across this country that is trying to defend its democracy.

TAPPER: Yeah, Kremlin is in the upside down, as they say. Will Ripley in Kyiv, thanks so much for that.

American life expectancy has dropped to its lowest level in 25 years. What is behind the deadly drop? That's next.



TAPPER: Turning to our healthy right now, as if cold weather, COVID, the flu, RSV, and whatever crowd happens to be going around at your kids school are not already giving enough parents enough to worry about, finding medicine to relieve your sick child's symptoms has sadly become a challenge in too many places.

Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Megan Ranney, who among other things, is an emergency room physician in Rhode Island.

Dr. Ranney, always good to see you.

Based on the patients you see, what's your advice to the parents of sick kids when it is hard in so many places to come by antibiotics and pain medications?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: This fall and winter feels like the viral season that never ends. It feels like back when my kids were back in daycare for the first time and every week, they were coming down with something new. So, the first thing is to keep those anti fever medicines, acetaminophen or Tylenol, and ibuprofen, also known as motion or Advil, keep those stocked in your house so that you are not running out when your kid gets a fever, desperately trying to find a pharmacy that has it in stock.

Have a couple of bottles around, particularly that liquid suspension, which is most difficult to find. Have hydrating drinks too, Pedialyte, Gatorade, something that your kid likes to drink that will help get them through this fever and this viral season. And then have your pediatrician or urgent care phone number available.

Like you said, a lot of what we are seeing right now is nothing that we can treat. It is random viruses that we often see in the fall and that we are just seeing a little earlier and a little stronger.

There are some diseases, though, that we can treat. Flu, if your kid's high risk, obviously, COVID, there are some treatments, particularly if your kid's high risk. And of course, we are seeing increases in strep throat as well. So, it's worth getting your kid checked out if they do have a fever and those viral symptoms.

TAPPER: Let's turn to our new report from the CDC blaming COVID and drug overdoses for driving life expectancy here in the United States down. In fact, to the lowest level in 25 years. It's now 76.4 years, that follows a big drop in the COVID epidemic year of 2020. Smaller job in 2021.

Tackling that seems, to me, focusing on two very different solutions. Isn't COVID turning into a bigger threat to older people, even if they have been vaccinated multiple times?

RANNEY: Yeah, so that change in life expectancy is acceleration of a long trend. If we go back to the 1980s, Jake, the United States had almost the same life expectancy as every other developed country that we consider to be our peer.

That has been slowly going down over the last three or four decades, and we saw a dramatic decrease over the last two years thanks, in large part, to COVID, which, of course, was the third leading cause of death for Americans in 2021 and in 2020, and which, during those years, was largely striking those folks who were in middle age. It was having a real big impact on life expectancy.

As we move into this era of being vaccinated, many of us having been infected, we are seeing COVID affect the elderly more, but time will tell how it's going to affect life expectancy going forward. But there's another part to this story about life expectancy, there are actually to other parts. The second part is opioid overdoses.

TAPPER: Right. RANNEY: We've seen a 50 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths over last couple of years. Again, that existed pre-pandemic, but it's killing largely young people.

And the third thing is, is that our life expectancy is bad despite us spending and order of magnitude more money on health care. So, we've got three different things. We weren't getting vaccinated. Opioids are too easy to access and are killing too many people, and then our health care system needs fixing.


TAPPER: Yeah, well, a lot of that money is not going to medicine and physicians, right? It's going to executives, all sorts of firms.

Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the technology that makes Siri and Alexa look like floppy disks and eight tracks. See the new artificial intelligence fooling even the most well-trained eyes.


TAPPER: In our tech lead, the next story is about how artificial intelligence is changing our lives, and I'm not talking about asking Siri, what's the weather? Or Alexa, how tall is Mount Everest?

I'm also not talking about the Terminator-like robots from Boston Dynamics that can do hard-core parkour.

This story gets to the challenges A.I. poses to the harder, or maybe the head, of humanity. Need someone to write a Shakespearean sonnet or a college essay or a company-wide email?

There might now actually be an app for that and as Tom Foreman tells us now, you might have written most of this story.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Allowing cars to drive themselves, composing songs that mimic popular artists.


And producing this digital painting that took the top award at a Colorado art show. This is all the work of artificial intelligence, computers that don't just do what they are told, but in a sense, think, learn, and create.

And right now, ChatGPT is rattling the A.I. world, turning out stunningly humanoid writing.

Just ask Douglas Rushkoff, author and professor of media culture.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, MEDIA THEORIST: It is writing better than most of my students right, at this point, you know? College freshman. So yeah, I am impressed with that.

FOREMAN: How does it work? Chat GPT has been filled in the sense with a massive amount of information. Imagine the biggest library you can, then programmed and trained by humans to process and spit it out in conversational phrases.

So, as for 1000 words on the early days of automobiles and in seconds, it responds. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, automobiles were relatively primitive by today's standards and were primarily used by wealthy individuals or businesses.

Ask it to write a sonnet in the style of Jerry Seinfeld. I'm just stand up comic telling jokes on stage, I make them laugh, and that's all I do. Sometimes, life is a joke. It hits me low and then a take the mic and say, who knew?

It's not perfect, but it can debate, compose essays, solve math problems.

Well, that looks right.

Write computer code, answer follow-up questions, even admit mistakes. And all that means, Chat GPT, or more advanced A.I. like it, could replace people in all sorts of positions.

RUSHKOFF: This could potentially save time and resources, but it could also lead to a loss of personal connections and a decline in the quality of these types of interactions.

FOREMAN: We know that because everything Rushkoff said just there was written by Chat GPT, when asked about potential problems with itself.

RUSHKOFF: The answer it gave me about the dangers of GPT, that sounded like a pretty good television guest to me, you know?


FOREMAN (on camera): This is genuinely a game-changer. This is one of the bits of technology, remember where you heard about it first, because this is going to change your life. It does have some problems still, it's knowledge so far only goes up to 2021, because it's not Googling disinformation, it has it inside.

But, they're also working on more advanced -- nothing more convincing about this does over than to look at this, Jake. This is a screen of Chat GPT, where I wrote in a simple question here. I said, write a short letter for software company job application. I'm friendly, like movies, and although I have no computer experience, I once worked at a zoo.

Put it in and moments, it spits out: Dear employer, I'm writing to express my interest in the company of opening, although I have no prior experience in the field of computer science. I'm a quick learner and eager to start my career. One of my strengths is my friendly personality, which I believe would make me a valuable asset. In my previous job at the zoo, I enjoyed interact with visitors and providing excellent customer service in my free time, I like watching movies and so far, so forth.

This letter was created right now, as we watch. This is not in a memory bank somewhere. It wrote this using artificial intelligence. It can write essays this way, it can write poetry this way. I had it earlier today right a very touching sentimental letter to my 93 year old mother about missing her Christmas time.

I still wanted to see if he could do it, and it wrote a very credible letter. This will change your world because suddenly, it's going to take a lot of writing, as Rushkoff notes, that maybe we don't always want to do. My mother's letter aside, and say, I will do that for you. And it can write the things you care about.

TAPPER: How do you get Chat GPT on your --

FOREMAN: Just go Google innovate look it up in the articles that are now being written about it. There's a link to it. You have to put an email address in.

TAPPER: But it's free?

FOREMAN: Yeah, right now, it's free. You can play with it. But a much, much more powerful version is coming along in the not distant future, as far as we know, and that may, at some point, becomes something else. Right now, it's a time to get in there, play with it, it's absolutely mesmerizing.

TAPPER: Yeah and yet, I mean, part of me is like, something is going to go wrong here.

FOREMAN: Something always goes wrong.

TAPPER: Right?

FOREMAN: At least it will be able to tell us why.

TAPPER: I just feel like we're a at the beginning of Jurassic Park.

FOREMAN: Yeah, we are, yeah.

TAPPER: Right? Nature finds a way.

All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

In less than 24 hours, the temperature in Casper, Wyoming, dropped 70 degrees. A record low of 42 below zero, 42 below zero, that's not the only spot receiving this arctic blast. The nightmare that is creating nationwide right before Christmas, that's ahead.



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

This hour, as China begins to lift its zero COVID restrictions, deaths are soaring. It is so bad in China, there are back logs at the crematorium. The Chinese government, of course, is telling a much different story.

Plus, it's been called the biggest upset of 2022, how one incoming House Democrat beat the Trump backed Republican in a ruby red, rural district.

And leading this hour, the National Weather Service is calling this a once in a generation event. Right now, most of the country is feeling the effects of the arctic blast or the bomb cyclone -- life- threatening cold, shifting east, with temperatures breaking all-time low records.