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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Southwest Airliners Cancels 2,500+ Flights Today, 2,000+ Tomorrow; U.S. To Require Negative COVID Tests For Travelers From China; Thousands Of Migrants Left In Limbo After Supreme Court Extends Title 42; Ex-Aide Details QAnon Discussions Inside Trump White House; GOP Rep.-Elect Santos Faces Growing Condemnation As House GOP Leadership Remains Silent About His Lies; Death Toll In Erie County Rises To 34, Including 26 In Buffalo; Diabetic Struggle To Get Key Drug After Its Approval For Weight Loss. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 28, 2022 - 16:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGY, CNN HOST: The struggle is real for Southwest.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Six days in, Southwest has canceled more than 15,000 flights. Tomorrow may not be better. Southwest's stock is taking a hit.

Then, new details emerging about the final days of the Trump administration. A witness told the January 6th committee Donald Trump's chief of staff regularly burned documents. It gives a whole new meaning to fireside chats.

Plus, why celebrities and social media are driving a shortage of a life-saving diabetes drug.


MATTINGLY: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Phil Mattingly, in for Jake Tapper.

Relief is still a few days away for Southwest airlines passengers. The airlines canceled more than 2,500 flights today. More than 2,000 others already canceled tomorrow, putting the total number north of 15,000 since bad weather hit last week.

Airports are filled with long lines of southwest passengers trying to rebook as piles of lost luggage continue to grow. Now, while other airlines recovered from the winter storm fairly quickly, Southwest very obviously has not. Yesterday, Southwest accounted for 84 percent of cancellations among all airlines. Today, 91 percent of cancellations. And tomorrow, a whopping 99 percent.

We start with CNN's Gabe Cohen, who reports other airlines are beginning to cap fares in the hopes of helping stranded Southwest passengers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tens of thousands of travelers still weathering southwest's meltdown, without a clear end in sight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hungry, I'm exhausted. I just want to go home.

COHEN: The airline canceling more than 2,500 flights Wednesday, 62 percent of its schedule, according to FlightAware, with a similar wave of cancellations already shaping up for Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been disastrous.

COHEN: Erna (ph) and her kids are in line in Baltimore desperately trying to find their bags. They slept here last week when their flight to visit family got canceled. They eventually got there. The bags didn't. And they just got home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Standing back in this line is giving me anxiety again. I didn't have much but what's in my bag.

COHEN: Southwest says this began with winter weather, but the airlines antiquated system struggled to track their planes and crews and connect them, resulting in this near week's worth of canceled flights and missing luggage.

BOB JORDAN, CEO, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: We reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flying to catch up.

COHEN: And the airline's own employees want answers.

LYN MONTGOMERY, SOUTHWEST FLIGHT ATTENDANTS' UNION: It's been absolutely horrific, the most despicable working conditions that you can imagine.

CASEY MURRAY, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES PILOTS ASSOCIATION: This is going to continue until there is a sweeping change to the way Southwest operates.

COHEN: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg vowing to hold the airline accountable, especially after staffing issued caused problems last summer.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: They provided commitments in writing, including Southwest, that they would go above the previous level of what you do to take care of customers with things like covering the coast, if you get stuck and you need a hotel or a meal, in addition to rebooking.

COHEN: Still, thousands of passengers are stranded and struggling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I hate Southwest. I hate them.

COHEN: But amid the chaos, we've seen some remarkable gestures. I met 72-year-old Pam Shelby Tuesday, stranded and sleeping at Baltimore's airport for days. PAM SHELBY, STRANDED SOUTHWEST CUSTOMER: I'm scared I'm not going to

get out of here. And I'm by myself.

COHEN: A Good Samaritan saw her story on TV and bought her a ticket home to Alabama on another airline, leaving Wednesday night.

SHELBY: Just want to go take a shower and sleep and get this out of my mind.

COHEN: And that person who bought you the ticket, what did that mean to you?

SHELBY: She was a Godsend. She was my angel. She took me to get my meds, made sure I was on them, and -- I'll never forget her.


COHEN (on camera): And behind me, Phil, you can see just some of the thousands of travelers still searching for their luggage. Many of them are still stranded, some stuck in hotels. And a lot of them are footing the bill right now for things like transportation, lodging, and food. Even though Southwest says they can submit those receipts for reimbursement and they'll be reviewed on a case by case basis -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: I spent the last day thinking about Pam Shelby, at least once an hour from your piece yesterday.


That is at least one story of great news.

Gabe Cohen, thanks so much.

Staying on Southwest Airlines, the company itself is expected to suffer a financial setback, following this meltdown.

CNN business correspondent Rahel Solomon is following this.

And, Rahel, obviously, we focus on the personal stories here. But the business impact has to be substantial here. What sense are you getting about what that may look like in the weeks and months ahead?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. For all sorts of financial implications for this, right, both for investors and Southwest Airlines, the company itself.

So, let's start with investors. Shares closing down again about 5 percent today. That's on top of the 6 percent loss we saw yesterday. So, investors, you see it there. Executives don't like to see their stock dropping day after day.

Now, let's talk about the cost for Southwest Airlines. You have one, the cost to reimburse all of these flyers who decide they don't want to rebook, they just want their money back. So, that will be pretty significant expense for Southwest. Phil, you think about the employees who have had to work in terms of

the reservation desk, manning the phones to try to provide relief and customer service, that will likely be some OT expense. And then you also think about the system that sort of appears to be at play here, the scheduling system that some of the unions have said was out of date. The update to that that the CEO said last night they're going to have to double down in terms of accelerating the plan to upgrade that.

I'm told, Phil, that those upgrades could cost double digits, $100 million to upgrade that, to all sorts of financial implications here. One industry consultant said, you're looking at roughly ballpark a million customers. If an average ticket is $250 to $300, that suggests absolute value is about $250 million to $300 million. The question is, how they defray that in terms of how they -- how many passengers can they convince cannot cash out, but just hold onto their ticket, rebook, likely with some generous perks.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, as they try to kind of unlock this very clear bottleneck, we're looking at the near term. When you look into the future, what does all this mean for southwest, as a company, as a brand, as a public -- or as a corporate entity at this point?

SOLOMON: Right, because it's not just the expense, Phil, it's the black eye this causes, right? The reputational brand damage this causes. Look, Southwest Airlines is an airline that is essentially synonymous with customer service. And so, when I talked to industry experts about what type of damage might this do for customers, you know, I'm told, look. People sometimes have short-term memory so we'll see how significant it will ultimately be, but it is no doubt a black eye for a company that prides itself on customer service.

MATTINGLY: Rahel Solomon, great reporting, Rahel, thanks so much.

Now, another growing travel issue tops our world lead. Federal health officials have announced the U.S. will require negative COVID tests for travelers coming from China. This as China is about to open its borders as it drastically reverses parts of its zero-COVID policy. That's led to an explosion of COVID cases in China and what U.S. officials consider, quote, lack of transparent data.

Let's bring in CNN's Arlette Saenz who's in St. Croix where President Biden and his family are vacationing. Our Selina Wang is in Beijing.

Arlette, I want to start with you. Can you explain the new rules and when they'll take effect?

SELINA WANG, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Phil, well, federal health officials announced today that those individuals traveling from China will now have to show a negative test before their departure. This is set to take place starting at 12:01 a.m. on January 5th. Now, these tests must be taken no more than two days before departure from China. It also would require that they would be PCR tests or antigen self-tests that are approved by the FDA here in the United States.

Additionally, those people who tested positive for COVID more than ten days before their departure, they would be able to show proof of recovery in lieu of that negative test.

Now, this is not just going to be for those coming directly from China. It will apply to those who might be traveling through third countries. So, including airports in Seoul, Vancouver, and Toronto.

And while so much of this is based on concerns over the rise of COVID- 19 cases in China, federal health officials say that a big portion of this has to do with what they consider a lack of transparent data coming from China. Officials saying that that includes data relating to cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, but most importantly, a lack of information when it comes to genomic sequencing. That helps determine new variants that could potentially be emerging.

So, officials are hoping this will help reduce the spread of the controversy, but also eliminate any possible new variants from coming to the country as they are seeking more information. There will also be an expansion of this traveler-based genomic sequencing program that's expanding to seven airports.


They are hoping that will help identify any possible new variants at this moment, as well.

Now, another important note, this goes into effect on January 5th. Officials saying they are trying to give the airlines more time to implement those operations to have this plan in place.

MATTINGLY: And, Selina, how is China responding to this? And is there any sense right now on the ground that the COVID outbreak is getting any better or easing?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Phil, yesterday before we got this official announcement from the U.S. in response to potential travel restrictions from the states, China essentially defended its COVID policy, accused some western media for hyping up its policy change and urged countries to work together, so, the country's foreign ministry spokesperson said, quote, China has always believed the measures taken to prevent the epidemic should be scientific and moderate and not effect normal people to people exchanges.

The irony here is that since the very start of the pandemic, China's had some of the strictest border controls in the world. But now that the country is finally opening up and cases are surging, well, other places are getting nervous.

China has also stopped reporting daily COVID cases on a national level. It severely narrowed its definition of COVID deaths, only reporting a handful of COVID deaths for the entire month. Now, Beijing says, look, everything is under control, but we know that hospitals are overflowing with elderly patients. And crematoriums across the country are overwhelmed. Fever and cold medicine are scarce.

So far, Japan, India, Taiwan, and Italy's Lombardi region have put some COVID testing requirements in place. Taiwan and Japan said if a traveler tests positive, they'll have to quarantine for several days.

Now, as Arlette said, the big concern from some of these countries is the lack of data from China that could help detect new variants. However, the global consortium that collects a database of COVID sequences, said that China has significantly increase the data that it's submitting and it says that all sequences shared by China suggest the virus is fueling the outbreak here closely resemble the variant circulating in the rest of the world since July.

But, look, it's not as if China has totally thrown open its own borders. China's borders, however, still remain largely closed to foreigners, apart from a limited number of business or family visits -- Phil.

MATTINGY: Yeah, there are layers to this. A lot of concerns as well.

Arlette Saenz, clearly on hardship duty in St. Croix, and Selina Wang in Beijing, thanks to you both.

From actually burning documents to discussions about conspiracy theories. We're learning one witness's description of the wild final days in the Trump White House.



MATTINGLY: We're back with our national lead.

The crisis at the border, and it comes after the Supreme Court issued an order leaving Title 42 in place. That has left thousands of migrants in limbo, crowds sleeping on the streets of Texas, thousands more in Mexico waiting to cross into the U.S.

In El Paso, Customs and Border Protection officials are preparing for the surge to continue, putting up large tents to help with migrant processing.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in El Paso, where many more are concerned the court's decision could trigger even more illegal crossings.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, what she wants now, she's hoping to get to Dallas to -- where she knows someone to be able to, as she has repeated, find a better future for her children and work.

Marveles Montecinos (ph) and her 1-year-old son just finished a four- months long journey from Venezuela, through nine different countries, just to be here in the United States of America.

Her question is, to the people of the United States, to the government of the United States, why don't they want her here?

That sentiment echoed by many mothers here with their futures in doubt after the Supreme Court ordered Tuesday to keep in place the Trump-era Title 42 policy, while legal challenges play out in court over the next few months. Their policy allows the U.S. government to expel migrants legally seeking asylum before they've had a proper hearing.

PASTOR TIMOTHY PEREA, EL PASO COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: It breaks me because there's no directive. And what we're trying to provide with the minimal resources that we have is a direction, so they can go from point A to point B.

SANTIAGO: Over the past few months, tens of thousands of migrants have been surging to the southern board wither, creating a humanitarian crisis. It's left border towns like El Paso overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the challenges of providing care, food, and shelter for those in need.

MAYOR OSCAR LEESER (D), EL PASO, TEXAS: We've had as many as 2,500 crossings a day. And that's going to continue. And this is while Title 42 is still in place.

SANTIAGO: El Paso is preparing for an even loner surge should Title 42 be rescinded, transforming two vacant schools into temporary housing.

LEESER: This is just a band-aid on a broken immigration system. The system has to be fixed, because we can't continue to go this way.

SANTIAGO: U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it's setting up a new processing facility. It's one of ten new processing facilities being added on the U.S./Mexico border. For now, local organizers in El Paso are asking people to just try to see the humanity in everyone.

PEREA: They're here, some of them are here. What are we going to do? It's time to step up. It's time to say, you know what, they're here, regardless if I'm a red shirt, blue shirt, whatever the case maybe, let's help out these people.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And tonight, Phil, you can see behind me on both sides, these sidewalks continue to be lined by families, quite frankly, hoping that there will be enough space tonight to sleep in this shelter. And, you know, as the country braces for a potential surge in more migrants coming, we are learning of another potential surge that's concerning the Department of Homeland Security.

CNN has obtained a memo circulated just days ago, warning of potential violent extremist attacks targeting migrants and potentially critical infrastructure, should this Trump-era policy end -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Humanity. Not a terrible idea.

Leyla Santiago, great reporting, thanks so much.

Turning to politics lead, shocking new claims revealed in transcripts released by the January 6th committee, including the chief of staff Mark Meadows burned documents in the White House following meetings with former President Donald Trump, which could be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.


If not, it's very shady, nonetheless.

CNN's Sara Murray is with us now.

Sara, walk us through this. It was a crazy time. I think that is well- established at this point. But where does this exact allegation come from?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a crazy time, but this comes from Cassidy Hutchinson who is, of course, a top aide to Mark Meadows. A little bit of it came out of the public reporting. So, frankly, it was a bit surprising that it wasn't a big focus of the committee in their public hearings.

But in her transcript, she talks about a dozen instances where she remembers this happening. She says, throughout the day, he would put more logs on the fireplace to keep burning throughout the day. And I recall roughly a dozen times where they would throw a few more pieces of paper and with it. And he would put more logs on the fireplace.

Now, she does say, she doesn't know what these papers were. She doesn't know if they were original documents. She doesn't know if they were copies. So she can't really explain to the committee what the contents. We're but as you, said it is an interesting move for the White House chief of staff.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, there are other ways to keep the fire. Going the White House is to burn bags, they burn documents. That's just not usually the way they do it.

One of the interesting things with the testimony was that the idea that they think that was on the periphery in terms of QAnon, the insane QAnon conspiracy theory, it actually appears like it was fairly regularly discussed inside the White House.

MURRAY: Yeah, I mean, I think in some ways, it shouldn't be surprising because the former president indulged in a lot of conspiracies. But Cassidy Hutchinson, again, in her transcript, talks about a number of instances where QAnon conspiracies come up in her time at the White House.

One of these is a conversation she is having with Peter Navarro who's in the administration then. She said, at one point, I said, sarcastically, oh, is this from your QAnon friends Peter? Because Peter talk to me frequently about his QAnon friends.

He said, have you looked into it yet, Cass? I think they point out a lot of good ideas. You really need to read this. Make sure the chief sees it.

So you have people within the administration trying to elevate these conspiracies up to the White House chief of staff, potentially up to the president. MATTINGLY: It's great that whenever you think we're at peak crazy, it

turns out you can actually go higher.

MURRAY: There's a lot going on, turns out.

MATTTINGLY: A lot going on.

Sara Murray, thanks so much.

All right, coming up, incoming Republican Congressman George Santos may want to lay low for a little bit, after breaking his silence about those resume lies.



MATTINGLY: In our politics lead, in his first television interview since he admitted to repeatedly lying about his background and resume, Republican Congressman-elect George Santos of New York was grilled about many of the false claims he now acknowledges making on the campaign trail, including his claims of having Jewish heritage.

And as CNN's Eva McKend reports, some prominent Republicans are starting to turn against the congressman-elect.


TULSI GABBARD, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: These are blatant lies. My question is, do you have no shame?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): Incoming Republican Congressman George Santos facing his most contentious interview yet, as he tries to explain lies he told about his life while campaigning for Congress.

REP.-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Look, I -- I agree with what you're saying, and as I stated and I continue, we can debate my resume and how I worked with firms such as --

GABBARD: Is it debatable or is it just false?

SANTOS: No, no, it's not false at all. It's debatable.

MCKEND: Santos trying to minimize his lies as mere embellishments, in an interview with Fox News. His answers getting strong push-back from the host, Tulsi Gabbard.

GABBARD: It's hard to imagine how they could possibly trust your explanations when you're not really even willing to admit the depth of your deception to them.

MCKEND: Santos insisting despite the controversy that he intends to serve in Congress.

SANTOS: Now, it's going to be incumbent upon me to deliver on those results and I look forward to service -- servicing and serving my people -- my district.

GABBARD: You're exactly right.

MCKEND: House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy remaining silent on the matter, even as two fellow incoming GOP House members from New York issued statements criticizing Santos' lack of transparency.

One of those lawmakers to be, Congressman-elect Nick LaLota, calling for an ethics investigation and potential law enforcement involvement if necessary.

Santos also under scrutiny for how he made his money and how he was able to loan his campaign more than $700,000. Santos telling news outlet "Semafor" he earned his money in the capital introduction business and did deal building and specialty consulting for high net worth individuals.

The Democrat who lost to Santos just last month calling on him to resign and to face him in a rematch.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN (D), FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Assuming his name is George Santos, I think, in fact, he should resign his position. Based on the lies he's told. If he's no confident that he's got the trust of the voter, I'd face him in a rematch.


MCKEND (on camera): And CNN can now confirm reports Santos was charged with embezzlement in a Brazilian court, according to case records from the Rio de Janeiro court of justice. This dates back to a 2008 charge. Court records from 2013 say the court was archived after the court was unable to locate Santos.

MATTINGLY: What is it like trying to keep up with this story, Eva McKend?

MCKEND: Ah, no rest for the weary.


MATTINGLY: Abby, as someone who clearly had Tulsi Gabbard on your bingo card, as the person who was really going to press George Santos, I guess one of the questions I had, I feel like one of the most interesting developments of the week, two of his fellow congressmen- elect from New York starting to kind of creep out and say, this doesn't look super great.


We haven't seen a lot of Republicans do that. What do you think the durability is for the congressman-elect at this moment in time going into the new Congress?

PHILLIP: I'm willing to put some money that he'll probably be around at least until after next Tuesday when Kevin McCarthy needs as many of those votes as possible. But after that, I don't really know. I mean, I think if you're a member of Congress at this particular moment, you have to ask yourself, do I really want to serve in Congress with someone who literally is a manufactured version of a person?

Like, they don't even know who he is, because so much of his background has been manufactured. And I think long-term, Republicans would be wise to question whether there are many, many, many more shoes to drop here. I mean, we've scratched the surface. Some of the biographical stuff is interesting and strange, but there are some other layers to this, like, the money stuff, that I think is deeply concerning to a lot of members. And it could be very problematic for Republicans if they wrap their arms around this guy.

MATTINGLY: Doug, I want to ask you about that. You're a veteran campaign hand. This is not an oppo-related question. I understand the dynamics going into this, that both sides had a lot of information tied to this. But it's the money part, in terms of how that goes with that. You see stuff where it all came from.

When you look at it from a campaign perspective and what you've seen or what we've learned publicly about the money and what was transferred in, where it came from, what stands out to you, what stands out to you? Do you see clear red flags?

DOUG THORNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I mean, it's his PFD. He filled it out and he didn't list any clients. He supposedly earned $750,000 -- that's what he gave to his campaign, he earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. You have to list your clients. He didn't do that. And so that's a huge red flag.

And I agree with Abby, I just think -- I think he's going to be sworn in, going to have leverage then, but at the end of the day, he has to -- he has to do the right thing here and step down. I don't think he will, because he's a Trump acolyte, and the rule book in Trump world is you stay on until you are literally kicked out.

But I think the biggest regular plaid is that PFD. There are a number of other things in his background that is just -- that is are, you know, extraordinarily concerning. If you -- even the thing about the charity, the pet charity, the Holocaust accusations, this thing about the Pulse Nightclub, just -- the guy's a total fraud and the people in his district deserve a lot better than this.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you, you know, one of the -- if you watch kind of the progression of stories like this, the thing that usually tips things over the edge is when other members start looking around and saying, this could actually blow back onto me. He's a congressman- elect in the Republican conference from New York, which was the state almost single handedly responsible for giving Republicans the majority in a bunch of seats that in 2024 are going to be very, very much battleground seats.

How does this play out as you kind of look at the map and your understanding of the dynamics up there, do you feel like this could turn to a tipping point for a lot of those new members from New York? KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think

what you just described is exactly why it is some of those new members from New York who are going to be less electorally stable than someone who is a known quantity and people know them and will be voting more on that. For those newer names who are going to want to cement their political careers, this is probably a bit more of a risk for them than someone from across the country, someone from another state, someone from further away.

I doubt this is a story that we will be talking about two years from now, as we head into the 2024 election, with the exception of, in the area, immediately around that district. This may well be a story that comes up. So, I can understand why some members are more reluctant to talk about it while others much more eager to distance themselves.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, I mean, in that area, there are two other new Republican members from that part of New York.

Eva, somebody who has been following the story very closely, it just feels like more is going to come out. Do you get the sense, when you talk to people around this that there is kind of a waiting for the next shoe to drop to some degree?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. I spoke to a house Republican today who not coming forward publicly, none of them really are, but he told me that they are all in disbelief, that they're still processing this. You're not going to see anyone give sort of this full-throated defense of Santos beyond Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green. And they are really concerned about the money.

And so, I think that they are not going to be commenting on this until they have no other choice. Of course, they return to Washington next week, and are going to be dealing with a very aggressive hill press corps, and so it's going to be a little bit harder to be as evasive.

But as of right now, they really don't want to say anything, because there are so many unknowns right now.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, tough to go out on a limb in this.


Abby, you covered the Trump White House. I'm sure that was a super enjoyable experience every single day. The burning of the documents by Mark Meadows. Honestly, like, I saw it, I was like, yeah, that kind of sounds like something they would do.

However, when you take a step back, it's fairly bonkers, depending on what the documents were. Does this mean anything longer term or just yet another window into an insane period of time?

PHILLIP: Maybe a little bit of both. I mean, it's definitely a window into an insane period of time and the way Cassidy Hutchinson described it, he's throwing logs on the fire to keep it hot all day long so he can toss pieces of paper onto the fire -- it's really wild but it's part of a pattern. This administration, when I was covering them and all the things we've

learned since then, flouting the well-known rules about document preservation, but also trying to kind of create a climate of secrecy around certain things that the former president was doing -- meetings that he was having, trying to keep those from ever reaching the light of day, even as people within the White House knew that what was going on was crazy. And I think you could include Mark Meadows as one of those people.

People around Trump would often see him talking to folks and reading things that were crazy and they tried to keep a lid on it. But eventually this stuff comes out. And that's what we're finding out right now. And I think there are consequences on this, legal ones, really.

There's a special counsel investigation. They're going to be looking at this very closely and looking at what it says about whether or not the people doing this knew what they were doing was wrong. What were they trying to hide? I think those are the questions that are still out there.

MATTINGLY: Doug, to shift gears a little bit more, the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to read the president's taxes -- former president's taxes into the congressional record on Friday. You are a senior former committee staffer, I was a little cub running around Capitol Hill hallways, you were a big-time staffer.

There's an interesting kind of graph in "The Wall Street Journal" editorial, where they said, quote, Democrats have spent years justifying any action to get Mr. Trump and releasing his tax returns is another wrecking ball to standards and norms. Democrats could come to regret it and sooner than they think.

"Wall Street Journal" ed board is conservative ed board but they've been no friends of the former president to some degree. What do you think about that? The idea that, all right, Democrats are about to be in the minority right now, this could come back on them to some degree?

THORNELL: I wouldn't worry about it too much.


THORNELL: No. I think -- I think they are doing this for -- this goes back to the fact that he should have been audited as president, right? And he wasn't. Except -- I think there was one year he was audited as president, there were a couple years they didn't audit him. Why didn't they audit him?

And so, I think the reasons that Democrats made to get these tax returns and the reasons why they're posting it are based in terms of the fact that this audit never happened. So, it's not just that, hey, we want to get them and post them. I think there's legitimacy around this. And it's the right thing to do.

And so, look, Trump has had years and years to do what every other president and nominee of their party has done for many years and that's to turn over his tax returns. He never did it. And so -- and now Democrats are doing it because, you know, look, quite frankly, he was never audited. And so, put that out there.

MCKEND: They're saying that, you know, this is about a public service, this is about accountability. Of course, Republicans will say they are weaponizing this and just wait until we have the gavel.

But also, I think this is about highlighting a two-tiered tax system in this country, right? We have undocumented immigrants in this country who are demonized and they pay more taxes than Trump does. Some of them, right?

So, I think that is also the effort behind this. Democrats highlighting and issue in a really big way with a really big figure they have been trying to amplify for a long time.

PHILLIP: Just to add, I mean, I think if Republicans released Democratic candidates tax returns, that would be nothing new, because candidates typically release their tax returns. Trump is actually the only one who hasn't done it in recent history and that's why this is even happening to begin with.

MATTINGLY: Just in the five seconds we have left, which is a ton of time, do you think this matters broadly?

ANDERSON: I think the only thing this could do is actually rally a fractured Republican Party back around Donald Trump. Right now, Donald Trump is wounded, Republicans have said, I want to get past this guy.

This is the sort of thing -- again, they've tried to distance themselves from him, they're coming around, saying, look, the Democrats versus people like you, and Donald Trump is an example of that. So, I think if there's any political effect at all, it's to rally Republicans around Donald Trump.

THORNELL: And that's a good thing for Democrats.

MATTINGLY: So many layers here, guys. Thanks so much.

All right, this just in, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland announcing he's been diagnosed with lymphoma. In a written statement, he calls it, quote, a serious but curable form of cancer. He goes on to say the prognosis for most people in my situation is excellent after four months of treatment. Raskin served as the lead impeachment manager for the second Trump impeachment trial and was recently elected as the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee for the next Congress.


Raskin says he expects he will be able to continue to work during his treatment. Our thoughts with Jamie Raskin.

Now, as the death toll rises from the blizzard in Buffalo, we're learning how some people saved the lives of complete strangers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank y'all so much. I'm so happy y'all responded so fast. I'm right here. You okay? I love you, too, sweetie.




MATTINGLY: In our national lead, the death toll from the storm in western New York now stands at 35, with at least 34 of those deaths this Erie County and the city of Buffalo. As residents and cleanup crews dig out from that Christmas weekend blizzard, we're hearing stories of both heartbreak and heartwarming compassion.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Buffalo.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Buffalo digging out. Officials here responding to criticism they should have done more.

MARK POLONCARZ, ERIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Thirty-five-mile-per-hour wind gusts for three hours straight with less than a quarter mile visibility. This was an extreme blizzard, maybe the category 5 of blizzards.

MARQUEZ: Casey Maccarone's mother, Monique Alexander, died in the storm on Christmas Eve. The Buffalo native, who had been through many snowstorms here, thought this one was the same.

CASEY MACCARONE, MOTHER DIED IN STORM: We were waiting for her to come home. I knew something was wrong right away.

MARQUEZ: A simple decision on any other day, life-threatening in this storm.

MACCARONE: My kids, they lost their grandmother and that was her most important role in her life was being a good grandmother. And now they just have memories.

MARQUEZ: In Erie County alone, at least 34 people killed so far in extreme weather in an area accustomed to major snowstorms. For every person who died, dozens of stories of those who stepped up and saved friends, neighbors, even strangers.

CRAIG ELSTON, OWNER, C&C CUTZ BARBERSHOP: This is something I always do. I help everybody. There's people out there dying. There's people freezing to death in they car.

MARQUEZ: Craig Elston was open for business when the extreme conditions started up.

ELSTON: If you need shelter, come to 707 Filmore. You can get warm, heat and electricity.

MARQUEZ: He ended up hosting up to 40 people over two days at his C&C Cuts barbershop.

ELSTON: We got to come together and a lot of times people are selfish. So, at that moment, I was just thinking about, clearly not any this stuff, I was just thinking about keeping people warm. It was really that simple.

MARQUEZ: Then there was Sha'Kyra Aughtry who heard a man she didn't know screaming for help.

SHA'KYRA AUGHTRY, HELPED SAVE FROSTBITTEN MAN IN BUFFALO: He had ice balls on his hand. We brought him in my house.

MARQUEZ: Joe White, who was developmentally disabled, lost in whiteout conditions. Aughtry didn't know him, but she saved him.

AUGHTRY: We got to get some help. He has gangrene on his hands. He's going to lose his hands.

MARQUEZ: A driving ban remains in effect for Buffalo as the city recovers from a storm that will be one for the record books. The airport is now reopened, as Buffalo comes to grips with a brutal year.

MARK POLONCARZ, ERIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: The tragic stories, the losses of individuals in our community and it is heartbreaking. It's a gut punch. 2022 has been a horrible year for our community in so many different ways. I can't wait until 2023 starts.


MARQUEZ (on camera): There is so much frustration across Buffalo over this storm. You know, even the county executives saying the streets here in Buffalo, the city of Buffalo, aren't being cleared fast enough and maybe in the future the county and the state need to take over that role. Look, this storm was so different and so big and so just intense for so long that it is going to be talked about for a very long time -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, can't turn the page. Still very real right now. Miguel Marquez in Buffalo, thanks so much.

How celebrities and social media is making it hard for diabetics to find a life-saving medication.



MATTINGLY: In our health lead, as the market for weight loss drugs soars, people with diabetes could be the ones paying the price.

Joining me now is CNN's Elizabeth Cohen to explain what is going on.

We heard of diabetes drugs being used for weight lose. Can you explain to people who are extraordinarily selfish how does this affect those who need the drug for their diabetes?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, Phil, this pill is -- this drug I should say has been approved by the FDA for people with diabetes and another form of it for people who need -- who need to lose weight.

So both uses are legitimate but here is the problem. This drug was just out there for diabetics in the beginning and as people started to discover it as a weight loss drug, if you look on social media, you can find people who are getting it for weight loss when really, they probably don't need it for medical weight loss. They need it because maybe they want to lose a little bit of weight.

So the bottom line here is that we have had people with diabetes and doctors who care for them saying, look, I need this for my patient with diabetes and can't get it because it's so popular for weight loss.

Again, it is FDA approved for weight loss. The concern is that it's being used by people who don't really need to lose weight for medical reasons. I want to give you some numbers that show that. So a version of this drug, it's called Ozempic, when it's prescribed for diabetics.

A version of this drug is approved for people with weight loss. But there are rules. I mean, there are guidelines. You're supposed to be using this if you are overweight and have medically related weight problems for the left hand side, the right hand side are the guidelines.

The issue is that people who are likely below these weights are getting this drug when really, they don't need it for medical reasons and they should be leaving it alone for people who do need it for medical reasons -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: For those people who do need it for medical reasons, how effective is this drug for weight lose as they work through their health -- potential health concerns?

COHEN: Right. So for these folks, they're seeing some pretty impressive weight loss. I mean, it's like 10 to 15 percent. That's more than many other weight lose drugs.


But again, this is supposed to be used by people that need to lose weight for medical reasons because they're obese or because they're overweight and they have, you know, problems related to being overweight. So that's really important.

Let's take a look what the company has to say about these shortages. So, the company that makes this drug says: There are intermittent supply disruptions of some dosages of Ozempic due to the combination of incredible demand coupled with overall global supply constraints.

So, you see it right there, the drug maker is saying yes, there are problems -- Phil. MATTINGLY: Yeah. Social media influencers are not the threshold for

qualifications for the drug.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for your reporting.

And coming up next in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer, the United States putting in place rules, new rules for travelers coming from China.