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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Immigrants in El Paso Face Bitter Cold Amid Limited Shelter Space; Iranians Fear Wave of Executions to Crush Protests; Desperate Parents Face Shortfalls of Medicines for Children. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 23, 2022 - 17:00   ET




PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- the committee writes, "The central cause of January 6 was one man, whom many others followed. None of the events of January 6 would have happened without him." The report alleges that Trump's decision to falsely declare victory on election night was, quote, premeditated.

ROGER STONE, TRUMP ALLY: The key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. No, we -- sorry.

REID (voice-over): The report also reveals efforts to get states to overturn Trump's losses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida, number of votes, 11.

REID (voice-over): Between the election and the insurrection, Trump or his inner circle engaged in at least 200 acts of public or private outreach to state officials to try to get them to overturn their election results.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The GOP electors are also on the Governor's Certificate of Attestation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I'm not going to get into a political debate. I'm following orders.

REID (voice-over): The investigation also discovered a nearly 23- minute phone call between someone at the White House and John Eastman. On the same day, the conservative attorney wrote anow infamous memo laying out how Pence could block the certification of the Electoral College vote.

JOHN EASTMAN, TRUMP ELECTION ATTORNEY: State election officials ignored or violated the state law in order to put Vice President Biden over the finish line. We know there was fraud.

REID (voice-over): The call came after Eastman emailed a Trump assistant that he wanted to talk to Trump to update him on our overall strategic thinking. Trump latched on to this theory and used it to press his reluctant vice president in the days leading up to January 6.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us.

REID (voice-over): The committee is also calling for lawyers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy Giuliani, accompanied by Professor John Eastman.

REID (voice-over): Who tried to overturn the election to be held accountable. Among its other recommendations, barring Trump from ever holding political office and reforming the Electoral Count Act, making it harder to overturn a certified presidential election.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: We think there's evidence to refer this to DOJ, but they've got to do the prosecution. That's not a legislative function.


REID: The committee is expected to release more transcripts in the coming days, which will, of course, be of great interest to defense attorneys and to Special Counsel Jack Smith, who will be getting much of the evidence gathered in this investigation as he and his team contemplate possible criminal charges for Trump and his associates.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Paula Reid, stick around.

Reading the transcript of the testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provides fascinating insights into two important parts of the Trump insurrection investigation. One is Cassidy Hutchinson's transformation from loyal MAGA foot soldier to whistleblower.

During her interview with the committee on February 23, she was repeatedly asked about the story she had heard about Trump in the presidential SUV on January 6, demanding he be taken to the Capitol. Hutchinson, at the advice of her lawyer, Stefan Passantino, continually tells the committee she cannot recall any details about that, even though she can, quote, "I felt this moral struggle," she later admitted.

"I was trying so hard to be loyal to the president and to be loyal to her former boss, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and to be loyal to the Trump White House. But in the back of my mind, too, I just kept thinking, like, this is wrong. I don't like who I'm being right now," unquote.

In April, Cassidy Hutchinson reads a legal brief filed by the committee and sees excerpts of that February testimony. Quote, "I kept reading how I was responding to questions in the "I don't recalls," and dancing around my responses, completely hedging for Trump and for Mark Meadows, where I would say, like, I was sticking up for them and saying that, like, essentially what they did wasn't really that bad.

I just had a mental breakdown after that because I just, you know, I was disappointed in myself. I was frustrated with myself. To be blunt, I was kind of disgusted with myself. I became somebody. I never thought that I would become. And it was hard. It was hard to come to terms with then. It's hard to look back on now," unquote.

Cassidy Hutchinson's transformation from MAGA foot soldier to courageous whistleblowers now part of history. And members of the committee firmly believe without her testimony, we would not have heard from so many others who ultimately provided valuable facts, including former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

The second major point one can glean from Cassidy Hutchinson's description of her experience with Passantino could provide insights into why so many others in the Trump orbit continued to say, "I don't recall" when they assuredly did. She sought legal help from Trump World, and she got it. But just who was her lawyer seeking to protect?

Quote, "Would you mind letting me know where the funding for this is coming from?" She asks him, according to her testimony. We're not telling people where funding is coming from right now. Don't worry we're taking care of you, he response.


Then later preparing for her testimony in November 2021, Cassidy Hutchinson asks, quote, "Can we print off a calendar really quick? I want to make sure that I'm getting the dates right with these things." He goes, "No, no, no." He says, "We're going to downplay your role. You were a secretary. You had an administrative role. The less you remember, the better."

She tells him, I had this conversation with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Tony Ornato when we got back from the Rank alley that day, and he told me that the president tried to wrap his hands around Secret Service agent Bobby Engel's neck and strangle him because Engle wouldn't take him to the Capitol.

Passantino tells her she shouldn't go there. She doesn't need to share that with the committee. Hutchinson tried to get some clarity, asking, OK, well, what's the line that I draw her -- here? Her lawyer's response, quote, "Look, the goal with you is to get you in and out. Keep your answer short, sweet, and simple. The less the committee thinks you know, the better. It's going to be painless, and then you're going to be taken care of," unquote.

Cassidy Hutchinson says, quote, "He specifically told me, I don't want you to perjure yourself, but I don't recall isn't perjury," unquote.

Keep in mind, all this time, Passantino is also helping to set Cassidy Hutchinson up on job interviews. He says, quote, "We're going to get you a really good job in Trump World. You don't need to apply other places. We want to keep you in the family," unquote.

So the free legal representation and the job opportunities are what she's getting, and what she's giving is assistance and a cover up. In her very first interview with the committee in February, she's asked multiple times about that incident in the SUV, which she says at the time she never heard anything about. But then during a break, she tells her attorney, Passantino, Stefan, I'm f-ked.

He responds, "Don't freak out. You're fine." She insists, "No, Stefan, I'm f-ked. I just lied." He says you didn't lie. No, Stefan. Do you know how many times they just asked me that question? I just lied." Passantino says, "They don't know what you know, Cassidy. They don't know that you can recall some of these things. So you saying I don't recall is an entirely acceptable response to this," unquote.

And the fear of what would happen to her if she did not take his advice was potent. She says in her testimony, quote, "It was almost like I felt like I had Trump looking over my shoulder because I knew in some fashion it would get back to him if I said anything that he would find disloyal, and the prospect of that genuinely scared me. She testifies, "I'd seen how vicious they can be, the level they'll go to, to tear somebody else down.

And why would she feel like Trump was looking over her shoulder? Well, she quotes Passantino telling her, quote, "The boss does read transcripts, and we want to make sure that, like, whatever he's reading isn't going to put you in a bad situation." I mean, it all sounds like a mob movie.

Before her second interview, she gets a call from an aide to Mark Meadows, who she says said something to the effect of, "Well, Mark wants me to let you know that he knows you're loyal and he knows you'll do the right thing tomorrow and that you're going to protect him and the boss. He knows that we're all on the same team, we're all a family," unquote.

Hutchinson testified that she told her mom, "I'm f-ked. I'm completely indebted to these people, and they will ruin my life, mom, if I do anything that they don't want me to do," unquote. Now, the final straw for Cassidy Hutchinson comes when Passantino advises her to stop cooperating with the committee. Quote, "There's a small element of risk to refusing to cooperate," he says.

She tells her lawyer, "I don't want to gamble with being held in contempt of Congress, Stefan. If they do prosecute me, I theoretically could go to prison, right?" He said, "Well, just keep giving it some thought. We really think this is what's best for you, Cass. Like this needs to end at some point, and I think it just needs to end now," unquote.

And Hutchinson explains, it was this moment, quote, "In my mind, I thought, this does need to end now. This being our attorney-client relationship, "unquote. So when other transcripts are released from other witnesses and you see how many "I don't recalls" have been offered, keep all this in mind.

We should note that in a statement, Passantino says he represented Hutchinson, quote, "Honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me," unquote.

Our team here at CNN has been working its way through this 845-page report. Let's discuss some of the key takeaways and the pressure campaign on star witness Cassidy Hutchinson. And, Evan, this conversation she recalls with her first attorney, Passantino, is it evidence of inducing perjury to say, you can say, I don't recall, even if you do?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it does sound like it. And I think that's one of the things that Cassidy Hutchinson likely would have talked about with the Justice Department when she met with them for an interview. And her testimony goes beyond just Passantino.


What you're hearing there is a wider effort, really, to try to keep her from helping this committee get to the bottom of what they were trying to get to the bottom of, and that includes Mark Meadows. If Mark Meadows is passing on messages saying, you know, I know tomorrow is going to go well for you, you know, make sure you stay on the team, there are ways for prosecutors to get at exactly what was going on here if there was a wider conspiracy to try to make sure she lied to the committee.

TAPPER: Yes. Interference --

PEREZ: And those are crimes.

TAPPER: Yes. And Katelyn, the report alleges that Trump personally, quote, oversaw the scheme to put slates of fake electors in seven states that he lost, despite concerns from his attorneys, expressed concerns that doing so would be against the law. What's the significance of this?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, one of the things that you see in that episode, as well as the Cassidy Hutchinson documentation we have now, is there are so many people that were witnessed to what was going on and so many people that were in touch with the very senior people around Donald Trump. People like Rudy Giuliani. There's a man named Ken Chesebro who was working as a lawyer for Trump for the campaign.

And what happens when the committee goes and digs in, talks to all of those people, hundreds of people related to the fake electors. They're getting stories where it's not clear who is in -- who has intent, who's knowingly willfully trying to submit these fake documents. But you know who does know and who is knowingly willfully taking part in it? It is the people that are orchestrating it.

And those are people that are talking to Donald Trump, not just about the use of electors in those states, but how that fits into the broader plan to try and get Mike Pence to stop the transfer of power of the presidency.

TAPPER: Paula, Trump's repeatedly claimed he was relying on the advice of his attorneys, the advice of his attorneys in his attacks on the election. The report makes it pretty clear that a lot of attorneys were not giving him bad advice.

REID: Absolutely. And they argued that this was premeditated, this was always the plan. They present this new evidence, emails from a conservative group urging Trump to rebut the election if he lost. They are also presenting new evidence that the White House was in touch with John Eastman, for example, while he was drafting his now infamous memo about how Pence could try to block the counting of electoral votes.

We saw on Monday, they presented multiple clips from interviews of White House advisers who were telling him, look, you didn't lose. So even if they tried to argue this, they can point to these other clips. And then, of course, they use these anecdotes like him calling one of his attorneys, Sidney Powell crazy --

TAPPER: Right.

REID: -- when it comes to her allegations about foreign interference. So it's not clear that he needs a criminal defense at this point. He, of course, hasn't been charged, but it's clear, the committee was trying to preemptively thwart this defense.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, he wasn't wrong about Sidney Powell. Evan, what does the Justice Department Special Counsel, Jack Smith, what does he do now that he has all this evidence and transcripts?

PEREZ: Well, he doesn't yet. I mean, he has this report, and I think the report does raise important new questions. And it looks like they have additional evidence that the Justice Department has been asking for and hasn't received yet. We know that they began the process of turning over some of these transcripts last week, and that is an ongoing process, but I don't think, you know, they have all of them yet.

And I think that's the importance for the Justice Department is to get those transcripts, to see whether there's something that they don't yet have or, you know, that could identify new crimes, that they haven't yet been investigated.

POLANTZ: And they'll need to compare and contrast too, right. If somebody sat for many, many interviews with the House and they're also talking to the Justice Department, if there's any daylight between what they said to either, I mean, that's something the Justice Department will have to look into.

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: Well, speaking of the Justice Department, I mean, the Committee made a very strategic decision to focus on Trump, right? I mean, they could have said this was a conspiracy of several, but they, you know, several thousand people or whatever, several dozen, but they said this is because of one man. How might that impact the Justice Department, if at all?

POLANTZ: Yes. Well, Jake, they do put it all together, right, in the same way --

TAPPER: Sure. POLANTZ: -- that the Justice Department is going to have to, too. They're going to look at the riders, see what the connections are. But I think Paula used the word intent when she was talking earlier. And that is the thing that the committee underlines over and over again, that they are trying to talk to people about intent.

And one of the things, you know, we've covered many justice investigations, they take time off in five years, as much as five years, but this was within two years of the day of the riot. They're preserving memories of people and every single person that agreed to speak to the House Select Committee, they are going to have to speak to the Justice Department, too, if the Justice Department wants to talk to them.

There's no arguing against sitting for the Justice Department if you've already spilled the beans to the House.

PEREZ: Right.

POLANTZ: And so now the Justice Department has tools at hand that they can push further if they want to, if they see fit. And there are certain episodes that the committee couldn't really necessarily get to the bottom of the situation in the presidential SUV. They talked to Cassidy Hutchinson. Those are the sorts of things that I would expect the Justice Department to really want to flesh out now.


TAPPER: And Paula, one of the headlines from the report is that the committee is recommending the Trump be prevented from ever holding public office again. How does that even work?

REID: I'm not sure it does. It's a splashy headline, certainly, but it's not clear that there's a viable path. In the report, they pointed a section of the Constitution that says that those engaged in insurrection or we've given aid or comfort to our enemies can be barred from holding office, but it's not clear that there's actually a process to do that or if it even applies to presidents.

So we also heard the Vice Chairwoman, Liz Cheney, talk about this on Monday as well. That's really a message to voters. It's not clear that there's any viable mechanism to carry that out.

TAPPER: Where do we go from here? I mean, obviously, Jack Smith, the Special Counsel, he's going to do something. We have no idea when. It could be in five years. It could be in 10 years special counsels. I mean, Durham still has this probe going. I mean, like, these probes --

PEREZ: Will remind us.

TAPPER: -- these probes go on forever and ever and ever. We have -- I mean, the -- we could be talking about serious criminal charges in a month or in 10 years or never.

PEREZ: Right. Well, I think the important -- there's two important decisions for the Justice Department we often talk about, right? There's a decision of whether you can find prosecutable crimes here. Second is if -- a policy decision. Is it in the interests of the country? Is it in the interests of justice to bring charges like this?

And I think one of the important things -- and I think if you talk to people around the former president, one of their worries is that this committee has had an impact. It has made the second decision, the policy decision, a lot more accessible for DOJ. It means that it is much more likely that they'll cross that bridge, that a lot of people said, oh, my God, you know, they'll never do it.

I think it makes it a lot more possible for them to do it because this committee has really eliminated a lot of things that a lot of Americans maybe had put out of their minds from that terrible day on January 6, 2021.

REID: And if they're going to do it, the attorney general would like them to do it sooner rather than later.

PEREZ: Right.

REID: When he announced the Special Counsel, one of the things she talked about is that this will not delay the work. There is a concern about how long these investigations, both the investigation into possible mishandling of classified information at Mar-a-Lago and January 6.

How far this could go into the presidential election cycle --


REID: -- now that Trump has announced, because they have gone to such lengths to try to paint this as an apolitical, objective investigation. And some of the president's -- former president's attorneys argue that these recommendations, this report doesn't help that.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all, I'll really appreciate it.

Following our other top story, wind, snow, and ice now slamming the northeast as temperatures plummet to dangerous levels across the U.S. Where the winter wallop is headed next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, new images show the dangers of this winter weather stretching coast to coast. This is the aftermath of 50, 50, 5-0 cars involved in crashes along the Ohio Turnpike. This is in northern Ohio. Authorities tell us at least one person was killed.

In Buffalo, New York, whiteout conditions and hurricane force, winds forced officials to cancel all flights at the airport. The city has shut down all roads to non-emergency vehicles. Along the coast of New England, severe flooding is causing problems. It will be even more problematic when temperatures suddenly plunged this evening. Further south, high winds are also problematic. At D.C.'s Reagan National Airport, a plane had to abort its landing just a few feet from the runway. Ground stops have been issued at airports coast to coast, with more than 4,900 flights canceled in the U.S. so far today. And FedEx is warning about possible delivery delays due to the weather.

The storm also bringing an arctic air that will make this the coldest Christmas in roughly 40 years in the plain states in the Midwest. Right now, the entire state of Texas, Texas is seeing temperatures below freezing.

Let's start with CNN's Polo Sandoval, who's in Buffalo, New York, where blizzard conditions are hammering the area with hurricane force winds. And Polo, you've been seeing whiteout conditions for hours now.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's right behind me, Jake. You know, I've covered hurricanes, I've covered snowstorms. I can personally tell you, this particular storm, it is the worst of both worlds. You're talking the frigid temperatures roughly 10 degrees here in Buffalo, but a wind chill, and it's up zero.

And combined with these whipping winds that have just been relentless all day. It's been kicking up the snow that's fallen already hours ago. So you have this sort of ground blizzard effect here. This really wasn't packing a whole lot of snow, but it's that wind that kept kicking it up that has resulted in some of these just treacherous conditions.

Now, when it comes to these winds here, the National Weather Service here in Buffalo confirming one wind measurement of roughly 79 miles an hour, a wind gust of 79 miles an hour in the Buffalo area earlier today. That surpasses that of a historic blizzard in 1977. So that certainly confirms what we've been hearing from officials. This is an extraordinary storm, even for western New York.

Largely, we have seen very few people on the streets, but nonetheless, authorities here, including authorities here in Erie County do say that they continue to see people violating what is a travel ban that's been in place since 9:30 this morning and will be in place indefinitely as these conditions will continue through the evening, tonight and then tomorrow. These winds will continue as well.

But for now, authorities here, Jake, the big recommendation is to stay at home. In fact, that's the safest place. Even with thousands of people currently losing power in and around the Buffalo area, authorities here saying your house, even if it's 45 degrees, wearing multiple layers, it's still much safer than being stuck on the side of the road with sub-zero wind chills.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

SANDOVAL: Back to you.

TAPPER: Polo Sandoval in Buffalo, New York, thank you. CNN's Omar Jimenez is at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where it's one of the busiest travel days of the year. Omar, are people able to get out or flights leaving?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, not at the rate that people would like at this point. And just in the last moments, we have learned -- we have now crossed more than 5,000 cancelations across the United States, according to data from FlightAware. More than 5,000. And that's on top of the almost 8,000 delays we have seen in flights across the country.

All of it happening just two days before Christmas, where everybody, at the very least, is trying to either get somewhere warm or close to famous family members. Because we are here at O'Hare, where the airport has announced more than 500 cancelations on its own here, not to mention the average arrival times of planes coming in is delayed by about 30 minutes, which when you think about the connections, affects those and could potentially leave people stranded.


We talked to two passengers a little bit earlier today who had their flight canceled tonight with their entire family. They were going to go all the way to New Zealand and now won't be able to get out for another two days. Take a listen to some of how they are dealing with these cancelations.


ANTHONY SCHURZ, TRAVELING FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS: We hopped on an earlier flight thinking that we were going to, you know, get in and even the pilot on the way out was saying, you know, this is one of the last flights into Chicago from Austin.


SCHURZ: So we felt really lucky and then, you know, came to find out that everything had gotten delayed. Now we're going through L.A. but --


SCHURZ: -- I think it's going to be fine. I think it's just --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been changing by the minute.


JIMENEZ: And that's the thing. All these people that you're talking to are trying to figure out what is changing with our flights. Are they delayed? Is it canceled? Am I going to have to get a hotel? We were also downstairs here at O'Hare, a long line of people trying to figure out where their baggage is because they might check in, their flight gets canceled, they don't know if they can get their bags.

And so, all of these factors coming into play when that demand to at least get home or to other places is as high as really it would ever be over the course of a year, Jake.

TAPPER: Omar Jimenez, at Chicago's O'Hare, thank you so much.

The big question, how long is this going to last? CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is in Atlanta where it feels like two degrees outside and they're about to have the coldest Christmas Eve on record. Derek?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Yes, you know, there's a lot of cities in the south that are just impacted by this cold. In fact, they're going to stay below freezing for at least 48 hours. Birmingham to Jackson, Mississippi, to here in Atlanta as well.

And, you know, it's difficult to explain and show you what cold is like other than being bundled up, seeing my breath, but went to go take a drink out of my water completely frozen. So that's not an option. We got my handy thermometer, it is well below freezing here, as Jake was just saying, but I think this is quite impactful.

This was a wet towel, a few hours ago, completely rock solid. And if that gives you any indication of what the roads are like, any water that was on the ground is now completely frozen. Obviously, that's a concern.

Get to my graphics, I want to show you just how cold it is in Atlanta. It dropped a whopping 35 degrees in 8 hours. That is incredible. We've got two more days of temperatures below freezing. So if you lose electricity like the 1.2 million customers across the Eastern Seaboard, you're going to have trouble heating your home, right, unless you've got gas

It's just incredible to see these numbers. In Memphis, the mayor and the electrical company, they're urging residents to turn off all unnecessary appliances, conserve power because there's so much demand on the energy grid as we speak. There's the location of this arctic front, right? The emperor from the north just colliding into the East Coast right now.

I'm going to zoom into a couple of key locations because I want you to see that Interstate 95 corridor, largely dry in New York. You did have your first snow of the year, but look at Boston, still in rain. And then where we saw the live shot with Polo a few minutes ago, wow, whiteout conditions. That is because the wind direction is coming basically parallel with Lake Erie as we speak.

So it's allowing for that to pick up the moisture from the relatively warm lake waters and deposit it in the form of heavy snow bans right where he's located. Look at the millions under these high wind warnings, gusting to near Category 1 strength. While this cold front presses through, you can see some of the current wind gusts that are ongoing for some of the major East Coast cities.

And those are not typos, Jake. We're talking about wind gusts potentially over 70 mph for some of these locations. Highest snowfall totals downwind from all the lakes. The Great Lakes getting hammered right now as we speak. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Derek Van Dam in Atlanta, Georgia, thank you so much.

It's hoovering around freezing even along the U.S. Mexican border where thousands of migrants are trapped in limbo as they wait for the Supreme Court to weigh. And that's next.



TAPPER: In our lead, the severe winter storm is also hitting El Paso, Texas, where migrants, unable to get into the already overcrowded shelters, are sleeping on sidewalks in below-freezing temperatures.

This as Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic policy, which allows border officials to expel migrants either back to their home countries or to Mexico, is still in effect.

CNN's Camila Bernal is live for us from El Paso, Texas, where temperatures will get down to about 20 degrees tonight.

Camila, what's happening with these migrants who cannot get into shelters? What are they supposed to do?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, try to figure it out, Jake. It is very difficult for them.

Essentially, the only thing they can do is try to grab as many blankets as possible. You'll see all of those blankets currently folded up against the wall. Some of them are being used right now.

What they do is grab as many blankets as they can and then they lay on the sidewalk, and they're one next to the other, next to the other.

We were here very early this morning when it was 17, 18 degrees, and they were using cardboard boxes to block the wind because the wind was also picking up a lot over those early morning hours, those critical times when the temperatures were so, so low. It is dangerously low.


Officials here say that they are at capacity, specifically at this shelter at this church. They have about 130 people that are allowed to be in there in terms of capacity. But last night, they were able to fit about 200 people. They had to turn people away because they just don't have any room.

The problem is that a lot of the people here who have to sleep here outside at night, they don't have the proper documentation from border patrol.

A lot of them don't want to go through that process, so they're not allowed to the city shelters. The convention center, there are schools that are open, but because they don't have that paperwork, they're not allowed in those city-run shelters, because of state and federal law.

So instead, this is where they are and this is where they will be tonight as well -- Jake?

TAPPER: We're still waiting to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court is going to side with the Biden administration to end Title 42 on Tuesday. Are border cities such as El Paso preparing for that?

BERNAL: Absolutely. And El Paso even declaring a state of emergency because local officials here say it is not right to see so many people on the streets.

They say, look, not only are they coming and they're coming in high numbers, but they're also not having anywhere to go. So that is why they decided to activate that state of emergency, which allows them to bring in state resources.

That means emergency management teams that are walking around trying to get people to go to those Border Patrol stations so they can go through the process and then receive help from the city.

There's a city bus here that we saw overnight and is still here, and that allowed some of these migrants to jump on the bus just to warm up overnight.

I talked to one of these migrants who told me, look, I was telling my friends, get on the bus because you're going to freeze to death.

But a lot of them are just so scared and they are going to go through this because they want to be in this country.

Despite the very low temperatures, they want a future in the U.S. and they're willing to do whatever it makes to stay here -- Jake?

TAPPER: Camila Bernal, in El Paso, thank you so much.

Still ahead, growing concerns that the Iranian regime is going to take its brutality to a whole new level in order to try to discourage protests. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Turning to our world lead, fears of outrageous new brutality in Iran.

Authorities are trying to clamp down after months of anti-government protests sparked by the death of a woman detained by Iran's so-called Morality Police for allegedly not wearing her head covering properly.

As CNN's Nima Elbagir reports, Iran appears to be planning to execute dozens of protesters, including some prominent athletes, and hoping that the world won't notice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): My son has been sentenced execution. NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ahmed Mohammad Ghobadloo (ph) is only 22.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): My son is innocent. For the love of God, help him.

ELBAGIR: Desperate families in Iran, risking it all with a plea to the world to save their loved ones from execution.

Fearing that detainees in Iran are set to face a wave of executions in an accelerated judicial process, while holiday celebrations have the world's attention elsewhere.

ELBAGIR (on camera): In collaboration with Iranian activist group, 1500Tasvir, we worked to verify court documents which show that dozens of Iranians, including high-profile Iranian athletes face execution.

We also worked to verify video pleas like this one, from this 81-year- old mother of one of the detainees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): We don't know his whereabouts, no information about him nor do we even know where he is.

(voice-over): This document from inside the Isfahan Regional Court shows that at least 10 people have been charged with Moharabe, war against God, spreading corruption on earth, and other charges, all which carry the possibility of the death penalty.

ELBAGIR (on camera): Through obtaining and verifying court documents and witness testimony, we have evidence which supports a rushed- through judicial process.

Defendants having court appointed counsel forced on them. Many defendants having their right to appeal refused. Some defendants faced with charges which could carry the death sentence being handed down in a single sitting.

Terrified Iranian families believe that while the world is busy celebrating the holiday season, busy with their families, that they in Iran face imminent execution of their loved ones.

(voice-over): CNN has confirmed that Iranian footballer Amir Nasr- Azadani is among those facing execution.

Here he is training ahead of matchday. Now, he's on death row, waiting.

This is social media video from the night of his arrest. CNN made contact with someone close to Amir Nasr-Azadani inside Iran. We are not disclosing their identity.

They told us that in the days after his arrest, they were unable to get word from him or about him from authorities, even as the Iranian authorities denied his arrest.

[17:45:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): It was one month and 19 days, I think maybe even perhaps longer since the security forces came and wanted to see Amir's home.

ELBAGIR: And despite being told he would be freed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): They would tell us in the first few weeks that they will release Amir, and that Amir will be released by the end of the week.

ELBAGIR: Then came a charge of the crime of Moharabe, war against God, which Nasr-Azadani and nine other people have been accused of.

Relating to involvement in the killing of two Basij militia operatives, and one policeman during protests in late November, a charge they deny.

Now sources close to Nasr-Azadani say he and four others have had their charges upgraded by the Isfahan Court to Baghi, a charge punishable only by execution.

There's more. In the Regional Court of Khuzestan, west of Isfahan, CNN has confirmed with 1500Tasvir through court documents that 23 more people have been charged with the same crime, punishable by death.

We're redacting their names out of fears for their safety.

There is still more. In Karaj, CNN and 1500Tasvir have confirmed that at least five more Iranians are facing execution.

Including 21-year-old Iranian-Kurdish karate champion, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, whose parents have also gone public with their pleas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Please, I beg you to please lift the execution order from my son's life.

ELBAGIR: In messages shared with CNN, his family say Karami was not only sentenced to death, but he's also been tortured in prison.

In another message shared with CNN, they said Karami was somehow in good spirits, but physically damaged having suffered torture on his head and body.

ELBAGIR (on camera): Including those whose families recorded public pleas for help, that brings the total of those verified by CNN as facing execution to at least 43.

And that's in addition to the two executed by Iran amid the excitement of the World Cup.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): Just this week, 27-year-old Iranian-Kurdish rapper, Saman Yasin, attempted suicide whilst in detention, according to a source from the prison. Yasin tried to end his life, sources say, with pills, after enjoying

extreme psychological torture in the harsh prison conditions in Northern Iran.

As much of the world gets absorbed with their festivities, Iranian families have one message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Please save them. For the love of God, save my sons.

ELBAGIR (on camera) We reached out to Iranian authorities for a response and did not receive any comments.

We also shared out findings with the U.S. State Department, who, based on what we have found, said that they strongly denounce the charges handed down by Iranian authorities to these Iranians -- Jake?


TAPPER: Nima Elbagir, thank you for that harrowing report.

Coming up, imagine being a parent with a sick child and you cannot find the appropriate pain medication anywhere. That's the reality for so many parents across the country. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our health lead, the latest CDC report on this flu season, which started in early October, estimates that at least 18 million people in the U.S. have gotten the flu, 190,000 required hospitalization, and 12,000 have died from the flu.

And as CNN's Athena Jones reports, for parents of sick children, this misery is compounded ed by a shortfall of children's medicines.



ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Melissa Halfon's 18-month-old twins are teething -- a painful process.

HALFON: We just had an infant a few days ago where one of them didn't eat for three days because he had so much teething pain.

JONES: Lately, the Brooklyn mother has struggled to find medicines to treat her boys, Walt and Henry, who generally fall ill at the same time.

HALFON: Every drugstore within walking distance of me is totally bare. My husband did have to drive all the way across Brooklyn.

JONES: As communities nearly everywhere battle a surge in respiratory illnesses like the flu, COVID-19 and RSV, which can be particularly dangerous for young children, increased demand is driving a shortfall across the country of prescription and over-the-counter medicines for children.

The result, empty shelves and limits on the amount of medicine you can buy at CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, leaving parents and pharmacists frustrated and concerned.

From Reno, Nevada --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They get really bad fevers -- our kids -- so I was pretty scared. Nowhere over here, they didn't have anything in stock, so I had to drive 30 minutes to Carson to find some.

JONES: -- to Los Angeles --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, really hard to order Tylenol generic brand, ibuprofen general brand, cough syrup, especially for kids.


JONES: -- to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where children's Tamiflu is out of stock.

KEN ROGERS, PHARMACIST IN GREENVILLE, SC: There's not a delivery date to my wholesaler, which is in North Carolina. So -- and they can't -- they're telling me they can't get it from the manufacturers.

JONES: At Cherry's Pharmacy in Manhattan --


JONES: -- now, even alternatives to liquid medicines, like chewables and suppositories, are unavailable.

TABOUCHIRANI: It really is a huge problem in our community and across the country.

JONES (voice-over): Sales of children's medications to treat pain and fever are up 65 percent from this time last year, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

And manufacturers don't have a timeline for when supply may catch up with demand.

Pharmacist Charles Tabouchirani is trying to make the best of a bad situation.

TABOUCHIRANI: So our shelves where we normally stock Tylenol, Motrin, Advil are completely empty. So I just substituted what is supposed to be there with toys to give it a little scenery.

But it is sad that these shelves have been empty for more than six weeks.

JONES (voice-over): As for Halfon and her family --


HALFON: It's frustrating and it's scary. First, we couldn't feed our children because of the infant formula shortage, and now we're facing just another challenge of being able to take basic care of them.


JONES: Manufacturers say they're working around the clock to try to get more medicine to store shelves.

In the meantime, pharmacists, like the one we spoke to in Manhattan, they're compounding or custom making some medicines, for instance, ibuprofen in suppository form that you can use for children.

On Long Island, a doctor said parents are getting used to running around to five or six different places to find the medicine they need.

This doctor says they're trying to think outside the box. So going to like a 7-Eleven or a grocery store or a bodega instead of one of these big-box pharmacies.

That family in Brooklyn we spoke to, they say they're trying to stretch out the two bottles that woman's husband was trying to find for as long as they can.

They're think hard about using things like cold compresses, tender loving care. She said everything she could think of to be able to treat their children before hand, before resorting to the medicine -- Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much.

Coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM," where the massive winter storm is heading next.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, @JakeTapper. You can Tweet the show at THELEAD.CNN. You can download "THE LEAD" podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

Wishing you happy Hanukkah, merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.