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The Lead with Jake Tapper

McCarthy Struggles To Secure Enough Votes To Win Speakership; Idaho Murder Suspect Due In Court Tomorrow In Pennsylvania; Attack Happened Near Times Square NYE Screening Zone; Major Blow To Russian Forces After Strike Detonates Ammunition Cache; Pope Francis To President Over Benedict XVI's Funeral Thursday; Tens Of Thousands Pay Tribute To Soccer Legend Pele; Holiday Travel Nightmare Winding Down After Southwest Cancellations. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 02, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: The bulk of Musk's wealth is tied up in Tesla, whose stock plunged 65 percent last year. His $44 billion purchase of Twitter hasn't helped Tesla stock or his own personal wealth either. He has sold $23 billion worth of Tesla shares since his interest in Twitter became public back in April. Bloomberg still lists him as the second richest person in the world.

So everything is relative. Don't feel too sorry for him yet.

That is it for me.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Kevin McCarthy playing an intense version of "Let's Make a Deal".

THE LEAD starts right now.

Promises and concessions as Kevin McCarthy's bid to become House speaker comes down to the wire and a group of Republican hard-liners continued to push their demands.

Plus, those tragic Idaho college murders. How police tracked down a suspected killer through DNA evidence, the Web, and his Hyundai Elantra.

And air pressure. Passengers still trying to get their bags back after a holiday travel meltdown. How easy is it to get a refund if you were stranded passenger? The points guy is here with answers.


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

We begin today in our politics lead. Time is running out for House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and his dreams of wielding the speakers gavel, making the possibility of a brutal floor fight increasingly likely. And that is something that has not happened in the United States since 1923.

Right now, McCarthy is in deal making mode, we're told. Working the phones, trying to win over holdouts, giving into some demands from some of the most extreme MAGA members of the House Republican conference, including agreeing to lower the threshold on the motion used to oust a House speaker.

But with just hours to go before the vote, five Republican no votes along with nine additional McCarthy skeptics are making it clear that even with the concessions, McCarthy is offering, they are still not sold. McCarthy can only afford to lose a four House Republicans, that's if all House members cast votes tomorrow.

Despite, this McCarthy earlier today projected confidence.


REPORTER: Do you have the votes for speaker locked in tomorrow?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think we're going to have a good day tomorrow.


MCCARTHY: Allies of the Republican leader say he will get there, they point out that there still is not remotely serious or credible alternative to him.

But Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Good, one of the five hard, no votes against McCarthy says and new candidate will emerge after McCarthy is denied on any first ballot tomorrow. I guess we'll see.

CNN's Melanie Zanona begins our coverage now with the latest on McCarthy's struggle to lock down the speakership.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER (voice-over): House Republicans are bracing for a once in a century fight.

REPORTER: Do you have the votes for speaker locked in tomorrow?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think we're going to have a good day tomorrow.

ZANONA: After their leader Kevin McCarthy has struggled to lockdown the speaker votes.

REP. WARREN DAVIDSON (R-OH): He's worked hard to earn the job as a speaker, and we'll see whether this is placated the people that put out a list of demands. He has gone up to the line. He has conceded on virtually everything.

ZANONA: McCarthy has given into his critics most hard-line demands, including making it easier to topple the sitting speaker. His opponents remain unmoved. REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): I hope we vote for Kevin McCarthy tomorrow.

He's part of the problem. He's not part of the solution.

ZANONA: In addition to have five hard no votes, another group of nine Republicans made clear they are unsatisfied with McCarthy's promises. Writing in a new letter, thus far, they're continuing to be missing specific commitments with respect to virtually every component of our entreaties.

The drama threatening to paralyze business in the House and overshadow the GOP's new majority.

REP.-ELECT ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): Kevin McCarthy has its own problems. We will see if he becomes the speaker are not. Obviously, Republicans are in complete disarray right now and trying to get the real leadership House in order.

ZANONA: McCarthy still projecting confidence, with boxes from his office being moved into the speaker suite and McCarthy vowing not to go down without a fight.

REPORTER: Are you prepared to make more concessions in exchange for support?

MCCARTHY: Oh -- I hope you all have a very nice New Year's.

ZANONA: While his allies acknowledge the tough road ahead.

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX): I am confident he can pull these final those together. It is not an easy job. It isn't easy being speaker these days. But Kevin McCarthy, I believe, can unite us.

ZANONA: And if McCarthy can't get the votes on Tuesday, no one knows what happens next. But there is speculation that another candidate could jump into the race.

GOOD: You will see on the second ballot, an increasing number of members vote for a true candidates who can represent the conservative center of the conference, can motivate the base, inspire Republicans across the country, get the country to 218 votes. Bring our conference together.


ZANONA (on camera): Now, Kevin McCarthy is still in talks with his opponents today. Sources tell CNN that he is still working to get those of votes.


But the expectation is that Kevin McCarthy has no plans to step aside, even if it is clear tomorrow that he does not have the support. That is a contrast from 2015 when Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the speaker's race when it was clear that he did not have the votes. And so, it is looking increasingly likely that the speakers race is going to go to multiple ballots tomorrow -- Jake. TAPPER: All right. Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill for us, thanks.

Later this hour, President Biden is returning to a politically reshaped Washington, D.C. on the era-- the eve of a new era of divided government. But the president is embracing bipartisanship with plans to travel this week or to a Kentucky event with top Republican officials, including the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

CNN's chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly joins us now.

Phil, what does this event with McConnell represent for President Biden?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, I think White House officials are keenly affair of the partisan warfare will very much be a part of the new Washington, the president returns to from his winter vacation with that House Republican majority. But they also believe, I think this event on Wednesday helps underscore the idea, both with what they accomplished in the first two years, several major bipartisan pieces of legislation, and what they think will be overlap with certain Senate Republicans, in particular in the years ahead.

They can highlight the idea that the president still wants to pursue and still sees openings for bipartisanship. But there are also very cognizant of the split screen that this event with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with Republican Governor Mike DeWine, as well as Democrats Andy Beshear in Kentucky and Sherrod Brown of Ohio helps kind of illuminate. And that is the idea that while the House and the House Republicans are very much devolving into their own interparty circus, they are holding up bipartisanship, results and opportunities to do more things in the future.

And that is a split screen. That is a contrast that White House officials will take every single day of the weekend, and one that will be seeking to highlight, not just this week, but in the weeks ahead, Jake.

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

Let's discuss with former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

Congressman, good to see you.

As we've heard, these Republicans, five say they are dead set opposed to McCarthy. Nine others say they aren't satisfied with him despite the concessions he made. Those nine wrote yesterday: Despite some progress achieved, Mr. McCarthy's statement comes almost impossibly late to address continue deficiencies ahead of the opening of the 118th Congress on January 3rd.

How real is this threat do you think? Do you think it's possible that Kevin McCarthy will not be the next speaker? CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the threat is real.

I think it's possible he will not be the next speaker. Now, between now and the first vote tomorrow, he may get some of these fellows back into the fold.

I kind of doubt it right now. I mean, it seems like they're going to go to the first ballot, he's not going to be successful. That is what it looks like right. Now he has made concessions. He's appeased these hard-liners. Only to have them move the goalposts further.

I think that some of the opposition to Kevin McCarthy from some of these guys is personal. It may be a bit geographic. Maybe they don't want a California speaker, but they don't have an alternative, but I don't know who they would support. Maybe Steve Scalise, maybe Patrick McHenry, maybe they want to Jim Jordan. I don't know.

But it appears they don't have -- they can't unite behind a horse. Again, there is always a new rejection to winning with the House Republican conference. I was there for, it I saw it. I mean, they weren't for things. They were just against things.

In this case, they were against Kevin McCarthy. I don't know what he can do for them. There are the five non-Kevin votes, and then now you have these other nine who have become public with their objections. That's the most recent concessions.

So, I don't know how he gets all these folks back. It is going to be a very interesting and dramatic day tomorrow, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. That's 14 as of now, if we are reading those tea leaves, 14 no votes. He can only afford to lose four. He can't afford 14. And those opposing McCarthy included, we should note, for anyone at home wondering, include such members of Congress such as Paul Gosar, Scott Perry, they signed on that letter. Also Bob Good and Andy Biggs and Matt Gaetz.

For folks who are not familiar with this group, the hard no, Andy Biggs, Ralph Norman, Bob Good and Matt Rosendale, we should point, these are very, very far, far right congressmen.

DENT: That is correct, Jake. The other thing we have to remember too, whatever concessions he is making to the hard letters, and let's assume they agreed to the concessions and gets hundred 218 votes, the next vote will be on the rules package.

Now, if I were still in the House advising more moderate, pragmatic colleagues, I'd say, you know what? We'll move the goalposts too. We're not going to agree to these rules changes, period.

Then that is another fight they're going to have to have. I can't imagine every Republican is going to agree to this rule to make it easier to vacate the chair, that is to remove the speaker, the five members of object. If I were more pragmatic and moderate member, I don't know if I'd agree to these concessions that are being made in order to get the 218 votes from the most hard-line, extreme members of the conference. [16:10:03]

TAPPER: Motion to vacate didn't need to be that big of a deal. Nancy Pelosi removed it I think in 2019 when she became the speaker for the second time. But before that, it existed. Members of congress, speakers of the house were just able to deal with it because it just wasn't taken very seriously, or they wielded power.

You were there in 2015, however, when Mark Meadows, a congressman with the freedom caucus is the motion to vacate that ultimately led to Republican Speaker John Boehner heading for the exits. How do you see this playing out? I don't understand how lowing this threshold will make Kevin McCarthy anything other than a caretaker speaker, just waiting for the first time, Matt Gaetz and his gang object to something.

DENT: Well, it will certainly weaken them. You mentioned 2015, Jake. Back in 2015, Mark Meadows did come to the floor the motion to vacate. It only took one member back then. His group was disorganized.

They would not have won that vote. In fact, I remember imploring then Speaker Boehner and staff to call the question immediately because the freedom caucus, some of him who have been hired that, they weren't organized. They were divided. I said, call the question, throttle this insurrection while it's in the bassinet here.

Boehner didn't want to do that because he wanted to protect his members who were going to be facing primary challenges, which I thought was ridiculous at the time. That is what happens, a few months later, John Boehner did resign. So, I'm curious to see what happens tomorrow. I suspect they could be going to multiple -- this might not be resolved tomorrow. This could go on for some time.

You know, if these five guys -- these guys are holding their breath. They are waiting for everybody to turn blue. They are doing a pretty good job of that right. Now it seems like they are holding pretty firm, now, they're probably going to have to recess at some point to go into a conference meeting. They will have a beat down session on some of those objectors.


DENT: But it won't be easy to recess the House because the chief clerk is in charge. Not a Republican speaker. So, it's going to be a crazy day.

TAPPER: Do you think that McCarthy is being hoisted on his own petard in any way of the sense that many people criticize him for being too complacent when it comes to the rise of this -- it's not just Freedom Caucus types, it's really more extreme than that we're talking about the Paul Gosar's of the world, right?

So, has he been so complacent that ultimately he lead enough of these people into the conference, didn't object when they defeated, for instance, Denver Riggleman in a convention in Virginia? Now they are coming after him. DENT: Well, I think he's empowered to many of. Them they feel

empowered anyway. And my advice to these Republican speakers from Boehner to Ryan, that is my advice to McCarthy will always be, look, you have to marginalize these figures as much as you can.

That means going to the Democrats and saying, hey, we need votes on a particular bill. Maybe in this case for the speaker. You know, cut a deal with the Democrats. That might be the only way out of this. If they can't get 218 Republican votes for the speaker.

That is the way you deal with that crowd. You have to marginalize, the Republicans need it, they can greet us with the Democrats until the Democrats will make agreement with it anymore. That is how they deal with it.

They don't keep moving the conference to the right to take care of them, to pass bills that they know have no chance of passing in the Senate controlled by Democrats or Republicans for that matter. So, I don't understand why they continue this game of appeasement of these rejectionist members who really aren't going to help him in terms of governing, things like the debt ceiling, or finding the government.

They are not going to be there to help them. I always feel that Republican leadership took too much advice, too much advice and guidance from these people who aren't voting for the bills.

TAPPER: Yeah. All right, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent from the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania -- good to see you. Thank you.

Look for special coverage of what will be an exciting vote for House speaker tomorrow at noon Eastern right here on CNN.

Ahead here on THE LEAD, brand-new documents released from the January 6 committee including text messages telling what Trump outside were saying in real time during and after the Capitol riot.

But, first, those tragic Idaho college killings. The behavior changed noticed by people who knew the suspect.

And in New York, the man accused of attacking police with a machete. The disturbing fine police say was in that suspect's diary.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the suspect in the University of Idaho student killing is due in court tomorrow. In Pennsylvania, he's expected to not fight efforts to bring him back to Idaho to face four counts of murder, in those mid-November deaths of four students. Police say they found the killer through DNA evidence and more.

CNN's Veronica Miracle has the latest from Moscow, Idaho.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bryan Kohberger, the 28-year-old graduate student in criminology at Washington State University is expected to return to Idaho to face four counts of first-degree murder. His arrest comes almost seven weeks after the stabbing death of four University of Idaho college students. One of the victims' families reacting today.

STEVE GONCALVES, VICTIM'S FATHER: It's a bit of hope. Things are moving in the right direction. There was a lot of times of not knowing. They had to do everything to monitor this individual.

MIRACLE: Police say they started zeroing in on Kohberger using DNA evidence just before Christmas. An FBI surveillance team tracked down him for four days before he was arrested in Pennsylvania.

Police haven't disclosed a motive, found a murder weapon, or offered any other details about the suspect, except that the schools he attended.

CHIEF JAMES FRY, MOSCOW, IDAHO POLICE: We have a job to do. We continue to do. It

MIRACLE: Now, police are starting to piece together DNA evidence, and events leading up to the stabbings, including the suspects Hyundai Elantra, like this one spotted near the crime scene. After coming through nearly 20,000 tests, police continue to appeal to the public.


FRY: Now, we're at a new point. Now we know who we're looking at. We want information about that individual. We want updated individuals so we can start building that picture now.

MIRACLE: The killings traumatizing two college communities, the University of Idaho, and Washington State University, just nine miles apart.

Samuel Newton teaches criminal law at the University of Idaho.

SAMUEL NEWTON, ASST. LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO: It's been a community on edge. A community stressed. My students, it's reflected in my students and my classroom.

MIRACLE: Kohberger was arrested on Friday, according to officials at this Pennsylvania house. His attorney telling CNN, the suspect's father went to Washington state, and drove him across the country to Pennsylvania, arriving before Christmas. The Kohberger family issued a statement saying in part, there's no words that can adequately express the sadness we feel, and saying, we will love and support our son and brother.

And Washington State University student Hayden Stinchfield says he was alarmed when he realized the man charged in the murder was one of his teacher's assistants.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, STUDENT, WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY: It was totally jarring, totally shocking to realize this person had been grading my papers, he was allegedly, this horrible murderer.


MIRACLE (on camera): And, Jake, when asked about the Kohberger's family statement, Steve Goncalves says he thought it was well-written. He said he has no ill will towards the family. He says he has four other children of his own. He knows this hasn't season for anyone.

He goes a step further by saying that he agrees with the Kohberger's, that Bryan is innocent until proven guilty -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Veronica Miracle in Moscow, Idaho, thanks so much.

Also in our national lead today, new details on the suspect in the New Year's Eve machete attack on three New York City police officers near Times Square. Police say the suspect is an Islamist extremist who wanted to join the Taliban. He was a well-known to authorities they say, and left behind a diary that shows he did not expect to still be alive right now.

Let's bring in CNN's Shimon Prokupecz in New York.

And, Shimon, this attacked played out very close to grounds gathered for the New Year's Eve countdown.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, actually, Jake, or standing right in the area where this happened. It's along Eighth Avenue, which is just outside of Times Square, where actually thousands of people were gathered trying to get inside Times Square, trying to get inside here, Jake, through the security barriers.

Let me show you this is where the security barriers were set up for people to go inside Times Square. You can see, Jake, there was a sign telling people what they can and cannot bring inside Times Square. It's here where police say the man with this knife attack three of officers coming up to them, pulling out this large knife and attacking them. The knife, Jake, was found right here on this corner after police shot him.


PROKUPECZ: The 19-year-old accused of attacking three NYPD officers with a machete, on New Year's Eve now facing two charges of attempted murder of and to a top -- in connection to the attack.

The charges come two days after chaos erupted just outside Times Square Saturday night. Moments after police say that Trevor Bickford attacked the officers with a machete near a security screening zone to enter the Times Square celebration.

Investigators seeking information on his phone and online activities, as well as searching his family home, in, Wells, Maine, on Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just kind of hard to believe. I was just shocked, you know? PROKUPECZ: Meanwhile, more is being learned about the suspect. Multiple law enforcements sources tell CNN, Bickford's mother and grandmother grew concerned after he said he was willing to die for his religion, and wanted to travel overseas to help fellow Muslims.

They contacted police on December 10th. The teenager was interviewed by FBI agents in mid December. The FBI placing I'm on a terrorist watch list according to sources. Investigators believe Bickford arrived in New York on Thursday, via Amtrak. Those travels not tripping watch list databases. And checked into the hotel on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

On Saturday, he checked out carrying a bag that authorities say he later discarded containing a handwritten diary, in which he expressed his desire to join the Taliban in Afghanistan and dies as a martyr. Bickford also wrote in the diary on New Year's Eve. Quote, this will likely be my last century, and left instructions for his last will and testament.

That evening, he traveled to Times Square and according to police approach a checkpoint were officers checked bags for weapons, or suspicious items.

COMMISSIONER KEECHANT SEWELL, NEW YORK POLICE: Unprovoked, a 19-year- old male approached an officer and attempted to strike him over the head with a machete. The male then struck two additional officers in the head with a machete. One of the officers fired their service weapon, striking the subject in the shoulder.

PROKUPECZ: All three officers have been released from the hospital, and are being held as heroes.

MICHAEL DRISCOLL, ASST. DIRECTOR IN CHARGE, FBI NEW YORK FIELD OFFICE: Truly impressive to see what they do every day, and even more impressive to see how they respond in times of emergency.



PROKUPECZ (on camera): And, Jake, we still have a lot more to learn. Certainly, we expect an arraignment at some point of the suspect who still remains in the hospital.

And then the big question is whether or not the FBI, whether or not the U.S. attorney's office, is going to charge him as well. That still remains to be seen. We haven't heard much from authorities. Besides that press conference they held early Sunday morning after New Year's Eve, we have not heard anything from them.

So we still have yet to learn exactly what exactly the FBI here did, what exactly they learned and what they did with that information. So still a lot of questions as we await the arraignment of the suspect and certainly whether or not he's going to be facing any federal charges, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Shimon Prokupecz in New York City, thank you so much.

Coming up next, Russia's vow after one of the deadliest strikes on its own forces since they invaded Ukraine nearly one year ago.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In the world lead, new video showing the aftermath of one of the deadliest days for Russian forces, almost a year since that country invaded Ukraine. A Ukrainian rocket strike on Russian forces blew up ammunitions stored at a vocational school in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine's military claims the strike killed upwards of 400 Russian troops.

But as CNN's Ben Wedeman reports, the Kremlin strongly disputes that number.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Russian army barracks reduced to rubble. In the first hours of 2023, Ukraine's army delivered one of the war's deadliest strikes, killing scores of Russian conscripts stationed in the occupied city of Makiivka in eastern Donetsk. Moscow said 63 died here, but the Ukrainians claim the death toll is much higher.

Some military bloggers in Russia are outraged, asking why troops were allegedly housed next to a stash of ammunition, which exploded under fire.

The daring assault came after Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital at the start of the New Year holiday. Kyiv's mayor said that two people were killed and many others wounded Saturday when rockets hit a hotel and residential neighborhoods. A new reminder, in needed, that this war threatens Ukrainian lives far from the front lines.

Many in Kyiv spent the last day of 2022 sheltering in metro stations and underpasses. Others put on a brave face to venture out.

I guess this is how they can congratulate us with the New Year, Veronika Kolihina (ph) said. We were very close to where the first explosion happened. It was very frightening.

Added Serhii Tolirador (ph), shelling people on this day is nothing but villainous. They are just animals.

Russian shelling continued Sunday, hitting the children's hospital in the southern city of Kherson according to local officials.

In Monday, Kyiv faced its third straight day of attacks as more than three dozen drones were launched overnight at the Capitol. The Ukrainian military says that they intercepted 39 of them, but the falling debris causing damage and injury. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (on camera): Already, Russian politicians are looking for someone to blame for that deadly Ukrainian attack on Russian forces in Makiivka. The head of the A Just Russian Party is calling for, what he's calling hire authorities to be held responsible for the fact that so many Russian troops were in and unprotected building completely with any without any sort of air defenses -- Jack.

TAPPER: Ben Wedeman, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the overwhelming response in Brazil right now to pay respects to a giant in the sports world known simply by his nickname, Pele.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our faith lead now, remembering Pope Benedict.

Today began three days of Benedict XVI lying in state inside St. Peter's Basilica following the 95-year-old's death on Saturday.

CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher reports on the mix of people in Rome now to pay their respects.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At seven a.m., they were here in the hundreds. But each hour, the line to visit the body of Benedict XVI inside St. Peter's Basilica grew. By 7:00 p.m., closing time some 65,000 had passed through, according to Vatican police. Some, despite not agreeing with everything Benedict did came anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): In reality, I thought he could've continued a bit longer, then he chose to abandon. We remember him regardless.

GALLAGHER: Others were unexpected fans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He's a great man. It's strange to see him, a man who is very charismatic in my opinion.

GALLAGHER: For tourists who just happened to be in Rome, it was a novel experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quiet, very quiet. Solemn.

GALLAGHER: The line moves swiftly once inside. In fact, people barely had a chance to stop and say a prayer. The seating area reserved for VIP visitors only. So, I have just come out from St. Peter's Basilica, it might seem like

a little bit of a strange thing to go in and see the body of a pope. But this is a Vatican tradition. This is something they do for the people in order for them to be able to come here and pay their last respects.

To be sure, the first day Benedict's body lying in state was very different than his predecessor John Paul II in 2005, when hundreds of thousands nearly burst down the barriers to get into St. Peter's. But that was a different time and a very different pope, a superstar, John Paul II who lived out his final suffering years before the world's cameras, and a reserve to Benedict XVI who resigned well before his health began to decline.

And perhaps the crowds today were a mirror of that man they have come to see, quiet and respectful of the rituals of tradition.


GALLAGHER: And, Jake, Thursday is the funeral. It's the first time in modern history at least that we will have a funeral mass for a pope said by a pope. And, of course, this ends the unique era of two living popes. You have to think about Pope Francis at this point who spent the first ten years of his pontificate with another pope just behind him. It's a new start for him as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Delia Gallagher in Rome for us, thank you so much.

Now to Brazil, you're watching tens of thousands of mourners paying their respects to Pele, the man soccer fan called the king. Today's public wake is at the Santos football club where Pele dominated the sport for almost 20 years. He died last week at age 82 after battling colon cancer. He won his first world cup at 17 and went on to win two more and scored nearly 1300 career goals.

CNN's Stefano Pozzebon is in Santos, Brazil, at the stadium.

Stefano, what are mourners telling you about the soccer legend?

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is striking, Jake, I think the history is giving us the privilege to see these two wakes in Rome and here in Brazil going on at the same time because here, Pele was really considered a priest of the game, a pontiff of the game, and over the past couple of days, we really had the privilege to speak with somebody who knew him by name.

And what they have been telling us, they've been telling us all day, is Pele would never die. He will always be next to our heart. He is now in the sky. He will keep playing football.

Just because he really transcended the game of soccer, and really came and spoke to so many people in their hearts here in Brazil. So, that is why they feel this is just the goodbye of about a friend, he will be with us always.

It is true, over the last few hours, at least 20,000 people have been passing just behind my back to pay their respects. Very solemnly, very quietly. It is a stadium.

We don't have any cheering. We don't have any chants. We don't have any fans. It is just solemnly paying respects in a ceremony, Jake.

TAPPER: And, amazingly, Pele has survived by his 100-year-old month mother. What, if anything, is her role in the funeral?

POZZEBON: Well, from what we understand, tomorrow morning, the coffin will leave the casket. It will leave the stadium. It will be a funeral cortege around the historic places in the city of Santos that he used to go.

One of them is, of course, the house of his mother who will be able to say one last farewell from her house before going to the cemetery where Pele would be laid to rest in a private ceremony. Other places are, for example, a bakery he used to go, and his favorite barbershop, really, you breathe his presence in these places in particular. It is the city where he played the most beautiful soccer in history -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Stefano Pozzebon in Brazil, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Coming up next, a status check on the busiest day of post-Christmas air travel. What do you do if your flight was canceled?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead, Southwest Airlines' passengers affected by that airlines' disastrous holiday meltdown are still trying to get their money and their stranded luggage back.

CNN's Pete Muntean is at Reagan National Airport for us just outside D.C.

Pete, has Southwest fully recovered, or even partially recovered from last week's mess?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Southwest has recovered from last week's meltdown, Jake. But travelers are not fully out of the woods just yet.

Look at the departures and arrivals board. We've seen the delays go out throughout the day. In fact, the FAA said there is a computer problem at one of its big air traffic control centers in Miami. That is causing flight delays going into Florida, up to two hours. So, far so good today for Southwest Airlines. Cancellations have remained relatively low. 160 according to FlightAware, I just checked it nationwide by Southwest Airlines.

It pales in comparison to the big numbers we saw of last week, 2,000, even 3,000 cancellations per day during the peak of that last week. Travel experts say right now it is really important for southwest to issue those refunds to passengers. I want you to listen now to workers who say that Southwest really needs to repair that back and infrastructure that caused all these problems in the first place in order to fully repair its reputation. Listen.


MIKE SANTORO, VICE PRESIDENT, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES PILOT ASSOCIATION: I think initially is going to cause damage, a lot of upset people not getting to their Christmas plans, one of the most important days of the year. So, totally and completely understandable that they are going to be upset.

I do encourage them to give us a another shot, I think we're going to end up fixing this going forward. You know, it does take a pretty, very large weather event to make this happen. The union, policy union, is going to be pressing the company very hard and making sure things get fixed.


MUNTEAN: This is how you get your money back from southwest airlines if you need a refund, slash travel disruption. You put in your name and your confirmation number.

You can also upload receipts if you incur any extra expenses when you have to change your travel plans because or cancellation. There is still a lot of problems with bags when it comes to getting them back to passengers who lost them.

This is the pile here at Reagan National Airport. In fact, these are letters a through, and there's another pilot across the way. We are seeing big piles of unclaimed bags not only here but also across the country, El Paso, even as far away as Oakland -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Pete Muntean at Reagan National, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Brian Kelly. He created the popular travel website called The Points Guy.

Thanks so much for joining us.

So, the reimbursement process for southwest seems, if you go on the website, rather, easy -- although good luck getting through by phone.

What should people do if they still have not heard back from Southwest about potential refund?

BRIAN KELLY, FOUNDER, THE POINTS GUY: Well, I would give it a little bit of time. They have seven business days in order to respond. We have had writers at The Points Guy who were impacted and they surprisingly got pretty quick resolutions.

So, I wouldn't waste a lot of your time following up right away. Give it at least a week. I am confident that they are going to be generous with their compensation.

TAPPER: So, Southwest is known for a lot of. Things one of them is a very loyal customer base. Are they gone? Did they destroy that?

KELLY: No, U.S. travelers especially, we are very much focused in the short term, people are going to forget about this. Southwest, they certainly burned a lot of bridges this holiday season. People will remember it.

Let's also remember, this past summer, American Airlines had a meltdown. Spirit had their meltdown, JetBlue. So, it's been a little bit of a game of hot potato with all the airlines melting down. And, frankly, the U.S., there aren't that many choices for consumers when it comes to flying. And Southwest still get those two free checked bags with their flyers love.

TAPPER: That's the question, can American fires avoid cancellations in any reasonable way around busy travel periods? I mean, do people need to go as far as to book two or three flights and hope one of them actually takes off?

KELLY: Well, you know, if you need to get some, or this is why I use we could flyer miles. Even if I buy a ticket on one airline, I use my points on another airline as a backup later in the day. If I really have to get there, most frequent flyer programs will be canceled free of charge up until departure.

So, if you really have to get to a wedding or something, always try to leave it possible. You know, for most people, booking multiple reservations is not realistic. But, you know, with weather patterns, the whole aviation system is fragile as it is, there is going to be speed bumps that come in 2023.

TAPPER: That's the other, thing because of COVID and the pandemic and all the flight restrictions et cetera, there weren't a lot of flight cancellations, because there weren't a lot of flights. Now people are starting to travel again, more people are back vaccinated, we're living with COVID. Should we expect more flight cancellations and delays this year? Is this what normal looks like?

KELLY: Absolutely, weather events are catastrophic. I highly recommend people, book on a credit card that offers flight disruption or delayed coverage, a lot of the big credit cards, chase sat fire, they automatically include the coverage. So, the next time you book a flight and know the coverage on your credit card.

The DOT does have the dashboard for airlines, what they owe you. But in general, in the U.S., passengers don't have rights. Until we press our lawmakers to have consumer protections like they have in Europe, it's kind of every flyer for themselves, but using a credit card with protections is key.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, thanks so much. Good to see you.

Coming up next, brand new documents released by the January 6 committee including text messages from Trump White House aides who said they felt unemployable after January 6.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, the suspect for college students is set to return to Idaho to face charges. This is we learn, his dad drove with him cross- country in the same car, a white Hyundai Elantra that police say may have been at the scene of the crime.

Plus, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's sworn in for a second term. CNN's Kaitlan Collins sits down with the Democrat and talks about her 2024 plans.

And leading this hour, as it prepares to shut down permanently, the January 6 Committee is posting a treasure trove of investigatory material online, ranging from witness trans backs, private text messages to White House call logs. The logs giving more detailed picture of who Donald Trump spoke with right around the time he was pushing the secretary of state of Georgia to, quote, find enough votes for him to win that state that he had lost.

CNN's Sara Murray dives into this latest batch of transcripts and evidence.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The January 6 Committee officially shutting down today.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (R-MS): The Select Committee stands adjourned.

MURRAY: Blasting out another round of transcription evidence on the way out. The latest trove revealing specific questions that committee had for Trump's former White House chief of staff.

MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is about Donald Trump, and about going after him once again.

MURRAY: Investigators wanted to ask about a December 2020 email, where Mark Meadows says Donald Trump tapped Rudy Giuliani to lead his post-election legal fight, according to one transcript.

Rudy was put in charge. That was the president's decision, the email said.

But will Meadow shared documents with the committee, he backed out of his deposition, just one of the road blocks investigators face.

When it came to former Trump attorney, Kenneth Chesebro, one of the alleged architects of the fake electors plot --

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

MATT MORGAN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN GENERAL COUNSEL: Ken Chesebro had written a memo about electors.

MURRAY: He invoked his Fifth Amendment right or executive privilege to avoid answering the bulk of the committee's questions.

More details also emerging about Trump's activities ahead of January 6, after this December exchange between Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel and Trump --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president say when he called you?