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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Some Republican Members Press McCarthy For More Transparency On Deals He Struck With Hard-Liners; Source: U.S. Intel Materials Related To Ukraine, Iran And U.K. Found In Biden's Private Office; Dem. Lawmakers File Complaint Against Rep. George Santos; Rep. Matt Gaetz Introduces Amendment To Allow C-SPAN Cameras Back On House Floor Permanently; Relentless Flooding, Mudslides, Powerful Winds Batter California; Satellite Images Indicate Surge In COVID Deaths Across China; Husband Is In Custody Charged With Misleading Police; Prosecutors: Blood And Bloody Knife Found In Couple's Basement. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 10, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And keep in mind that really since last night, when the news of the discovery of the classified documents broke, he has been ignoring questions, shouted questions from members of the media on anything related to this. Obviously just goes to show how sensitive this matter is. But it is expected and there's a very good chance that the American reporter that gets chosen to ask a question to President Biden will very much ask about this given the gravity of this news.
It's important to note that so far the White House has been incredibly careful in steering clear of commenting on the details, given that the DOJ is currently looking into the matter. So, we'll have to see whether the President is more willing to dive into the details and share anything more that we don't know. But again, you know, earlier today, just exemplifying this, the White House Counsel spokesperson said that they're just simply limited in what they can say right now because the DOJ is looking into the matter, but that they do want to handle things correctly and that they may be able to share further details at a later time.
So, we'll see what question the President gets. And also, just more broadly speaking, of course, how he addresses the various issues that he has been discussing over the last 48 hours with the leaders of Canada, with the President of Mexico as we've been talking about for the last couple of days, of course, migration and immigration is going to be a top issue that the three leaders have been talking about at this Trilateral meeting. Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, MJ. Lee, stand by. We'll come back to you, of course, when the three leaders come out. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is also in Mexico City for us.
And Priscilla, what do we expect President Biden to say about the border and the humanitarian crisis at the border on the U.S. side? PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REORTER: We expect him to echo the calls of his administration officials, which is that addressing migration requires regional partnership. Do we have seen mass movement of migrants across the Western Hemisphere, and they've landed at the U.S. doorstep, and that has been a growing political vulnerability for President Biden. And so, his administration has said that they need the assistance of regional partners and neighbors like Canada and Mexico, and they are rolling out measures to that effect. That includes, for example, a virtual portal where migrants can apply for legal pathways to the U.S. Mexico or Canada as a one stop shop, as well as a center in southern Mexico in a city that has been a transit city for migrants, where they can also receive services and information.
Now, of course, Jake, migrants are often fleeing desperate conditions, and they're doing so urgently. So, it's unclear at this point how viable these options are going to be for them. I spoke to a senior administration official, I asked that question, and the official said it's an experiment, but it is necessary because they are seeing a lot of movement and they are trying to find ways in which migrants can make these pathways and use them in an accessible way. So, of course, we're going to hear from President Biden on this and see what commitments they have made, the three of them, to really address this growing issue in the region. Jake.
TAPPER: And Priscilla, you have new reporting about this tool that migrants can use to more easily navigate their status. Tell us more about that.
ALVAREZ: Right. And what I was mentioning earlier, it's a portal that will essentially provide a way for migrants to look at what they could be eligible for in terms of migrating to the United States legally. That has been the growing call from the administration, to have migrants stay in place and apply to come to the U.S. from there. Now, I also spoke to an official from the United Nations who said, look, these are great measures, but will they be able to help migrants who are at high risk? And is there going to be a move by the administration to keep migrants from claiming asylum at the U.S. Mexico border as they have always been able to do? So there are still a lot of questions.
This is a portal that is still being worked on. It's underway and will take several months to roll out. So a lot of questions still unanswered, but of course, it's just part of that broader effort by the administration to engage all of the region.
TAPPER: All right. Priscilla Alvarez in Mexico City for us. Thank you so much.
We're going to bring you that news conference with the three leaders as soon as it begins. There is another major story in our politics lead today, of course, the White House attempting to downplay the legal and national security concerns from the multiple classified documents discovered in one of President Biden's private offices. The files date back to Biden's time as vice president. They cover, according to sources, topics like Ukraine, Iran, the United Kingdom. And as CNN Sara Murray reports for us now, this controversy is just the latest addition to a long list of issues House Republicans have vowed to probe and provide oversight over with their new majority.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I never thought we'd get up here.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As House Republicans take control and clamor to investigate the Biden administration, a new line of attack falling squarely in their laps.
REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): I'm wondering why the Vice President of the United States had classified documents outside of the hands of the intelligence community.
MURRAY (voice-over): Republicans pouncing on the news that classified documents were found in a private office from Joe Biden's time as vice president.
REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): There's got to be consequences now. You cannot just overlook this.
MURRAY (voice-over): House Oversight Chairman James Comer preparing letters to the White House and National Archives as lawmakers vote to establish a new Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY), OVERSIGHT CHAIRMAN: Right now, it seems like all the jockeying is to get on the new Select Committee.
MURRAY (voice-over): All of this adding to the list of issues Republicans have vowed to probe, from Hunter Biden in the southern border to COVID origins and the withdrawal from Afghanistan now that they have subpoena power. Oversight plans to start with a public hearing on COVID spending in February, while staffers plan to immediately dig into the Biden family with transcribed interviews with voluntary witnesses.
COMER: They can either come in voluntarily and be interviewed in the basement or they can be subpoenaed and be interviewed on national television in the committee hearing room. So, I'm pretty confident we're going to have a lot of people come in voluntarily.
MURRAY (voice-over): Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan expecting to target the FBI and DOJ as some of the GOP's probes shape up to be launching points to relitigate investigations of Donald Trump or to portray law enforcement agencies and tech companies as political.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), JIM JORDAN: It's the collusion between big government, big tech, big media. We've seen that now with the Twitter files.
MURRAY (voice-over): The new Select Committee under Judiciary's umbrella includes the ability to scrutinize ongoing criminal probes, a clause that's sure to run up against resistance at DOJ and its long standing policy to limit evidence sharing in ongoing investigations. The investigators also shared a face pushback from the White House, which told Republicans to restart their request for information now that they have the gavel, that's.
COMER: That's pretty cheap shot. But honestly, I'm not surprised.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MURRAY: Now we're already seeing this jostling, especially to get on this new Select Committee, supposed to be that, you know, investigating federal agencies. We heard from Republican Congressman Thomas Massie earlier today, he said he's already talked to Speaker Kevin McCarthy about wanting a slot on that committee.
We also heard from Democrats. We heard from Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on Judiciary who says, look, they are not going to back down. They want their slots on this committee so that they can point out what he says is the absurdity of the work that this committee is going to be doing, Jake.
TAPPER: How are they going to manage to get through this long, long list of investigations?
MURRAY: I mean, it's basically impossible, right? They're going to have to decide what they really want to delve into. When I was talking to Chairman Comer about this, he said, look, you can probe a number of different things, and then whatever rises to the level that becomes a full-fledged investigation. He also said that he and Jim Jordan are in touch on a daily basis, that there might be some people that they bring in for interviews, and both the oversight staff and the judiciary staff sit in on those interviews because both committees are interested in it, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.
Any moment now, President Biden expected to answer reporter questions in Mexico City with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. We're going to bring that to you live when they come out.
Plus, will the lies catch up with him? New calls for an investigation into newly sworn in Republican Congressman George Santos, if that is his real name.
Then, mudslides, raging floods, high winds, the death toll rising in California as more severe storms move in. Stay with us.
TAPPER: You're looking at live pictures at Mexico City where President Biden is about to hold a news conference with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. We will bring that to you live as soon as those three amigos step out and begin speaking. Meanwhile, it has been four days since Kevin McCarthy secured the House speaker's gavel by making some backroom handshake deals to win over the opposition. Now some House Republicans want answers from their leader, who has, as of now, only provided them with vague bullet points on all the concessions he has made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY MACE (R-S-C): There's still some questions that I think many of us have about what side deals may or may not have been made, what promises were made, what handshakes were made.
Are there any other side deals for chairmanships and committee assignments? We won't know until the steering process is actually over. They say that there weren't, but we'll see at the hopefully the end of this week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's talk about this with our panel. Why not just come out and give the list? I'm not saying any of the items are wrong or bad. Why not you? But why can't Speaker McCarthy just come out and say, we're going to do this and these people get on the Rules Committee? I mean it all seems --
CARLOS DIAZ-ROSILLO, FORMR TRUMP W.H DIRECTOR OF POLICY & INTERAGENCY COORDINATOR: I think he will. I mean, he's been speaker for three days. So give him time. I think he will. I think he got elected by 216 votes, and those 216 members of Congress deserve to know what's in that deal, and I think they will.
TAPPER: What do you think? I mean --
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought we heard a lot of talking points about transparency.
FINNEY: And that seems to have fallen apart pretty quickly. They had not enough time to actually read the full rules package and don't even know that everything that was agreed to was what they actually voted on. But look, I think part of what we know is that this is a fairly hollow gavel for Kevin McCarthy and that we are likely to see lurching from crisis to crisis. We don't know what's actually going to happen when more of the members of the caucus learn what was actually agreed to and what that's going to mean from for the -- particularly those members who are in those Biden districts who say, hey, this dysfunction and this beholden to the extremes of our party, that's not going to help me get reelected.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: Another element of this, I think, is that McCarthy realizes that if he puts all of his cards on the table, not only will his conference see it, but so will the other side, the Democrats who will be negotiating with him. So they're trying to keep some of this stuff back, although a lot of it's been leaked. And what you're also hearing from a lot of lawmakers when they talk about this is that they'll say things like, oh, well, Kevin McCarthy is going to try his very best to do this, that he promised this, you know, Freedom Caucus member.
A lot of this stuff sounds really -- I mean, literally, one lawmaker described it last week, I think to you, as aspirational. So I think that there's a bit of this that is saying to the Freedom Caucus, we're going to work really hard to make some of this stuff happen. But the reality is is that Kevin McCarthy is one half of one third of this picture, and I think he recognizes that.
TAPPER: So hide the promises so just in case he has to break them? I mean --
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Kind of. And I think one of the toughest promises, if we think that Kevin McCarthy made this promise to his members, one of the toughest that he's going to have -- one of the toughest that he will have to make or follow through is the question of defense spending. We know a lot of these conservatives who had pushed McCarthy before he secured the speakership had pushed him on spending issues. These are conservatives. They are the traditional kind of, you know, foreign policy conservatives. They believe that there's less involvement that's needed abroad.
And I think just the amounts that have been talked about, about paring back defense is really going to -- is already really upsetting those defense hawks and I think that's why at least for now, Kevin McCarthy didn't want to put it in writing and perhaps solve that problem down the line.
PHILLIP: Literally aspirational.
KIM: Yes, exactly.
TAPPER: So, let's talk about the new problem that President Biden finds himself with is that they found these 10 documents classified in his private office. And they apparently discovered this in November right before the election, immediately turned it over to the National Archives as far as what we've been told. We only found out about it yesterday. How big a deal is this and do you think it's more of a political problem or a national security slash legal problem?
PHILLIP: I think we're still peeling back the layers of this onion. I don't think we really quite know exactly what transpired here. But at the moment I think for sure it's a political problem. I don't know yet if there are -- there was any legal jeopardy involved here because based on what we know so far, it does seem like they did what they were supposed to do. It was discovered, they called the Archives, the Archives retrieved it. That was their part of the picture.
On the political front, though, I mean Republicans on the other side are gleeful about this. They say that it kind of inoculates them in some ways from the Trump argument, even though these cases actually really are radically different. But as one Republican said to me, that's nuance, and they don't have to deal in nuance. They can just simply say that Biden did the same thing too. And I think that's what you will expect them to do.
FINNEY: That's exactly what they're going to say and I think what we've already heard them saying. But there is a challenge for them, for those of us who do deal in the world of facts, which is if they choose to go hard on President Biden when we're talking about roughly 10 documents, no subpoenas, no invasion of anybody's offices, many of these same members who were completely silent when it came to Mar-a- Lago. The question becomes, OK, if they're going to apply the law equally to everyone and these policies equally to everyone, what are you going to do about Donald Trump, particularly knowing that there's an ongoing investigation that -- where there's more we may learn.
DIAZ-ROSILLO: Jake, I think this issue screams hypocrisy on both sides. Democrats have been very quick to downplay the situation, to say it's not a big deal, to highlight the differences between both cases. But there are a lot of similarities. And while I cannot comment on the legal differences because I'm not a legal expert, on the political side, there are a lot of similarities, and I think you use the right word, inoculate.
They have been saying that Donald Trump cannot handle classified information. Guess what? He seems to be not the only one who can handle --
TAPPER: And I think one of the issues here is we don't know what these 10 documents are and we don't know who's had access to them over the last 10 years, just as were talking about the, you know, with the carnival down in Mar-a-Lago and who's walking in and out and who's able to see any of those documents. We don't know who's been able to walk in and out of the Biden Penn office here.
KIM: Right. And we don't know if there was something specifically that prompted his personal attorneys to go into the Penn Biden Center office and look for things or what kind of prompted all of that. I do think, again, there are vast differences in terms of the facts surrounding Trump's case and Biden's case, but I think one question that he will certainly face in the coming days, may face it in the next few minutes when he goes for that press conferences, why not disclose it at the time? Obviously, November 2, right before the election, why was this found out through the news media? Why did the White House kind of put it out there proactively?
FINNEY: But remember, the only reason we actually know about what happened at Mar-a-Lago is because Trump announced it. It is the practice of the Department of Justice that you actually don't talk about ongoing investigations. So that's -- I mean, it came out in part because of DOJ. I don't know if it was a leak or what have you, but we wouldn't even know about Mar-a-Lago if Donald Trump could have kept his mouth shut.
PHILLIP: I do think that's a good point, because the Justice Department would not have publicized the Trump search.
PHILLIP: And when Trump put it out there, he made it a political issue. And I think the Biden team, I think it still remains to be seen whether they really had a responsibility to say something earlier. Maybe they should not have, because this does involve classified documents that they really shouldn't be discussing probably in the media or elsewhere. So there's that. I will say also, it is worth noting these Republicans, and we heard some of them played earlier in the show who literally ignored what Trump had hundreds of documents here and wouldn't give them back, literally ignored that.
And that includes James Comer, who will be investigating this stuff. He has leapt very quickly to investigate the Biden case and he told CNN just a few weeks ago that the Trump case was, quote, not a priority for him. His tune has changed really radically just in a matter of weeks because the political circumstances obviously are different.
TAPPER: Let's talk about another issue that's facing Speaker McCarthy. Democratic lawmakers have filed an ethics complaint against New York's Congressman, newly elected George Santos. Santos told reporters today that he's done nothing unethical. Speaker McCarthy won't comment on Santos. He calls his lies to voters in internal matters.
Just for those who may not be familiar with the story, George Santos has misrepresented almost every single thing about his biography. And even New York Republican members of Congress are attacking him, criticizing him, calling for him to come clean. It truly is embarrassing.
Is McCarthy, now that he got Santos's vote in that squeaker of an election, is he going to have to maybe take a look at what's going on here?
KIM: I think he can continue to punt this because he may need his vote again in the future because we have that mechanism, the vote of no confidence in place. I think what the multiple investigations both back in New York State and down here, the complaints that have gone into Mr. Santos, that allows Republican leaders to kind of punt to the ongoing investigations and not really have to comment despite being asked repeatedly by reporters, is he going to be seated on committees? What do you think of his actions? Should he resign?
You know, a lot of these investigations, particularly House Ethics, FTC, take a long time. You know, George Santos may not even be a member of Congress by the time these investigations conclude. But one thing I do want to point out, the reason that Democratic lawmakers had to kind of directly go or decided to directly go to the House Ethics Committee is that part of the rules package that House Republicans passed this week, it kind of weakens the Office of Congressional Ethics, which performs that preliminary ethics investigation before it's referred to the House Ethics Committee. So there is -- in terms of policing their own, there is a weaker apparatus there right now in the House.
TAPPER: Yes, I wouldn't call the House Ethics Committee before the weakening. KIM: Right. Fair enough.
TAPPER: Particularly strong either.
PHILLIP: I think it's really interesting that one of the things that Santos is accused of doing, his staff at least, is impersonating a McCarthy staffer --
TAPPER: His chief of staff, Dan Meyer.
PHILLIP: -- to raised money. And the response from McCarthy to that has basically been, oh, well, we worked it out privately. It's fine.
TAPPER: So I have to say -- so, there was an interesting response from Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas, which was, I'm paraphrasing here, but it's something along the lines of, there are a lot of frauds in Congress. This guy is not on my top list.
DIAZ-ROSILLO: There are a lot of wrong Congress, but, no. I think you're absolutely right. This is going to take a long time. The speaker can punt and say, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation and this is going to be months before we know exactly what happened. So I think he has plenty of time to punt and let the congressman vote.
FINNEY: Kevin McCarthy profiles and courage continues.
TAPPER: So, there's another interesting thing that Congressman Matt Gaetz did. He filed an amendment today to the rules package which would allow C-SPAN the kind of access to film the activities on the floor of the House like we saw last week. That was taken away once Speaker McCarthy became speaker then government resumed control of the cameras, just aiming towards the front, not towards the seats. Gaetz telling me, quote, "The current pool view of the Congress is antiquated and boomer-fied. My amendment will allow C-SPAN cameras on the House floor during proceedings, bringing greater transparency and humanizing the entire process."
As journalists, we always favor the -- you know, more transparency. I have to say, I found the video gripping and engrossing. It probably --
DIAZ-ROSILLO: Which part?
TAPPER: -- make people more interested in what's going on. Do you like it?
FINNEY: Yes. I mean, I have to say, I never thought it would save this sentence, I agree with Matt Gaetz --
FINNEY: -- 100 percent on this one.
FINNEY: I actually do also think it was good for the country to have more of a view into what was happening, how it happened, and, frankly, how their own members were behaving throughout the process.
TAPPER: What do you say?
DIAZ-ROSILLO: I think -- I mean, on the one hand, yes, more transparency is always better. On the other hand, more transparency might mean less governability, right? Are people going to be able to say the things -- members of Congress say the things that they want to say, to be able to strike deals and negotiate if they know C-SPAN is right there? Probably not. So this is about between governability and transparency, and it's very delicate.
PHILLIP: It's good for Matt Gaetz, though, because you know --
DIAZ-ROSILLO: Very good for Matt Gaetz, yes.
PHILLIP: -- there's a lot of C-SPAN cameras for Matt Gaetz, and that's exactly what he wants. But I do -- I'm with you. I'm all for it. Let's deboomify (ph) -- boomer-fied C-SPAN camera.
TAPPER: I mean, we got to see what was going on. Tell me that you have seen anything as fascinating in government in the last 10 years as Kevin McCarthy walking up the aisle --
TAPPER: -- confronting Matt Gaetz. Chairman Rogers, you know, almost --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost.
TAPPER: -- coming at him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
TAPPER: That other member of Congress restraining him. I mean --
PHILLIP: It's really good stuff.
TAPPER: But also you got to see members of Congress from different parties --
TAPPER: -- talking to each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.
TAPPER: You know, you saw Gosar talking to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
TAPPER: I mean, it does humanize these people. KIM: Right. And you just see, for example, you saw how hard Kevin McCarthy's deputies were in trying to whip the Boeberts and the Gaetz's of the world. And I don't think as much as we try, in our words, there are no words that could quite describe Kevin McCarthy's face when he walked up to confront Gaetz. I believe that was really the first time he confronted --
PHILLIP: And also when he walked away --
KIM: Yes. There's just --
PHILLIP: -- after that confrontation.
KIM: You cannot put that into words. You have to see it.
TAPPER: The one problem we had about the thing is that we don't have the big boom mic, so we don't know exactly what they're saying. A great Twitter feed called Bad Lip Reading.
FINNEY: Yes, yes.
TAPPER: -- solves that problem. And in fact, this was shown in the Republican conference meeting today. This is not actually what they were saying, this is a joke. But this is showing that they're trying to have a light hearted approach to this. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of your friends promised me I could flick you in your face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely you may not do that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hit him in his cringy smirk for real.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say any cereal name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cinnamon toast crunch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Such a good -- and look, they're very excuse (ph) to show it.
PHILLIP And that might actually be.
TAPPER: They showed it at the conference today. The Republicans were, I mean -- that's also a nice thing that they were able to get -- find some humor.
PHILLIP: You got to get a good laugh out of it. And you know what, I thought that because the drama was out in the open, they had to confront it. I mean, Mike Rogers and Matt Gaetz had to have like, a bit of a heart to heart on Twitter, kind of reconciling with each other. It also prompted a lot of reporting. People saw things on the floor they could ask members about, even though we couldn't hear what the conversations were about. I think it really helped people understand what was going on.
If it had been just the regular cameras, it would have been dead air --
PHILLIP: -- for like three days straight when there was really a lot of stuff happening on the floor.
DIAZ-ROSILLO: But thinking of this long term, once the cameras are in, you're not going to be able to take them out, right? So, it has long term implications for how the Congress is going to be run going down the road.
FINNEY: But again, I mean, having been at the White House when we added -- we brought the cameras in for the White House press briefing, I think ultimately -- although there's a lot of grand standing from time to time, let's make clear. Ultimately, I do think it's a good thing, because again, more is better. It does create more accountability, frankly, with the viewers, not just with journalists, who actually get to see what their members of congress are doing, you know, in between rather than just as you pointed out, Abby, it would have just been looking at people sitting there when we knew there was a lot more going on.
TAPPER: Yes, unanimous vote for transparency. Congressman Gaetz, we're behind you there on that bill.
Thanks to all.
We're standing by for this news conference with President Biden and the leaders of Canada and Mexico. We're going to bring that to you live as soon as it starts.
Meanwhile, parts of California getting a month's worth of rain in just the last 24 hours. The day lose turning deadly with flash floods, mudslides and high winds. That's next.
TAPPER: In our national lead, sinkholes, flooded roads, desperate rescues, heavy snow, all happening in California, where the rain has been relentless. The storms over the past few weeks have killed at least 16 people.
CNN's Kyung Lah is in California for us tonight with a closer look at the widespread damage and mass evacuations.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During recent historic droughts, California prayed for rain, but not like this. Two days of torrential rain, thunderstorms and wind gusts are pounding California, causing mudslides, overflowing rivers and triggering extensive flooding.
LYNDA HOPKINS, SUPERVISOR, SONOMA COUNTY, CA: We've got trees down, we've got mudslides. We've got folks actually trapped in areas where we have major road failures.
LAH (voice-over): At least 16 people have died as a result of the storms, after more than 18 inches of rain fell in parts of Southern California, and high wind advisories were issued on the central coast.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rain hammered here pretty bad.
LAH (voice-over): In Northern California, the Russian River has flooded following torrential downpours. Some residents have been without power for a week. In Santa Barbara County, mass evacuations after back-to-back storms saturated the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pouring. The wind was whipping.
LAH (voice-over): Following years of extreme drought and fires.
RANDY WILLIAMS, RESIDENT, CASITAS SPRINGS, CA: From the mountainside here, the debris just started coming down and just filled up 4 feet or so and pretty much buried the truck. And now it's starting to flow towards the house.
LAH (voice-over): More than 30 million people are now under flood alerts. Across Southern California, flash flooding trapped drivers. Firefighters here rescued a motorist stranded in rushing waters and mud and rock slides created havoc for residents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A 800-pound rock, dismassed (ph) the house. It just hit the wall and blew everything up.
LAH (voice-over): In Northern California, the rain flooded roads and vineyards, but almost doubled the snow pack in local mountains, offering hope that these storms may somehow ease California's historic drought.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're riding through it. Yes, it could be a lot worse.
LAH: It's hard to think about drought, though, when this is what people are dealing with right now. This is a road that I'm standing on, but you can't see it because of all the debris. The road stretches out behind me.
This debris came from this mountain, this hillside, which burned in a fire five years ago. But with all that water, all of the vegetation couldn't hold it, and all of the mud came down, filling into some of those houses. So, Jake, a lot of clean up here.
Just on this a street, a boulder in a house, cars covered in mud. So, it is a lot of clean up ahead. And more rain is in the forecast. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah in California, thank you so much.
Let's bring in CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater. Tom, where in California is seeing the most rain right now?
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's been shifting around, Jake. Each one of these storms that move in seems to start in Northern California, drops down to central regions and then the south. Let me start with a rare occurrence today, San Francisco. How many times has this happened?
Cluster of storms, numerous lightning strikes, hail, flash flood warning, marine advisory for the bay from San Francisco down to San Mateo. I mean, this is just one area that's been impacted. Last night really was Southern California yesterday and last night. Santa Barbara, 4.2 inches. The rainiest, January on record.
In fact, the fourth wettest day in history and records go back in 1941. San Luis Obispo, just over 4 inches. The rainiest day in history. Eight days a week ago, last Saturday, we had Oakland with its wettest day in history. But east of Santa Barbara. This is incredible. San Marcos, couldn't believe it when they hit a foot of rainfall in the past.
And here in the Valley then about 16.5 inches. If you look at Even Ventura, Jake, Ventura River rose 17 feet in 12 hours, reaching an all-time crest of 25 feet. If you look at the system now, it's spreading into the Central Rockies. They've got problems there as well. But now the next one moves into Northern California, and we're going to see wave after wave of this.
90 percent of the state is under some sort of watch. There are warnings, too. We've seen the landslides, but now you've got whiteout conditions closed I-80 eastbound on the Utah state line. It's just one storm after another and they will continue.
TAPPER: When can we expect California to get any break from the rain?
SATER: This could go on, Jake, for another six to seven days. The parade of storms continues to line up. Now, this is Wednesday, and it slams into San Francisco again. But the winds that have been gusting over 60, 70 miles an hour, even over 100 miles an hour just really downing large and even historic trees.
So that moves to the north tomorrow, but they typically slide down to the south. This is going to be mainly Wednesday into Thursday central areas to the north. But if you look at the forecast and all the rain and the mountain snows out west, the parade of storms continues.
Here's the California coastline. You see the storms spinning to the north. That's where the winds are stronger, but they're lining up. It looks like, to take care of this drought, we need more than weeks of this. We need seasons of this rain. It's a mega drought, but the next ones that move in after tomorrow, I think it's going to be late Friday night and Saturday will be the next real potent one after tomorrow. They are lining up, but it looks like maybe day six, seven, they start to break down somewhat and slide more toward Baja California.
TAPPER: All right, Tom Sater, thanks so much.
Extreme weather like the flooding ripping part of California cost the United States at least $165 billion last year, according to a new report. In 2022, 18 catastrophic climate disasters such as tornadoes, extreme heat, extreme cold, drought, hurricanes and flooding caused 474 deaths and cost at least 100 -- I'm sorry -- and cost at least $1 billion each, that's according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA.
Scientists say the fingerprints of climate change are all over these extreme weather events. And it is not, of course, just a United States problem. The past eight years were the 8th warmest on record for the planet, with global temperatures teetering on the edge of a dangerous tipping point, according to another new report. The report states 2022 was a, quote, year of climate extremes, from deadly flooding in Pakistan to record breaking heat in Europe.
Any moment, we expect President Biden to hold a news conference with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. We're going to bring that to you live as soon as it starts. Next before and after satellite images reveal a very different COVID reality in China compared to the Chinese government's claims. Stay with us.
TAPPER: You are looking live at Mexico City, where President Biden, we are told, is about to hold a news conference with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. We will bring that to you live as soon as it begins.
Also in our world lead today, despite the Chinese government's denials, more evidence is emerging of a surging COVID deaths in that country since Beijing started loosening health restrictions and ended lockdowns. Although the Chinese government claims only 37 people have died of COVID since December 7, satellite images taken over six Chinese cities reveal crowding at crematoriums and funeral homes.
Selina Wang joins us now live from Beijing. Selina, do these satellite images reinforce what you're seeing on the ground there?
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Jake. These satellite images essentially confirm what I've been seeing on the ground for weeks now. And it's also consistent with the countless videos on Chinese social media also showing overflowing funeral homes. So this is just additional visual evidence that suggests China's COVID death toll is far higher than the government's tally, which is that strikingly low number you mentioned of only a few dozen deaths since reopening last month.
Now, the side-by-side images comparing a crematorium in Nanjing in November and in January show that in the more recent image, there are far more cars in the parking lot and a long line of cars down the road. There are also satellite images from the outskirts of Beijing, where that crematorium image shows a brand-new parking lot was even constructed on the crematorium grounds.
Now, when I visited another crematorium in the city center of Beijing, I did see a long line of cars myself waiting to get in, a very crowded parking lot, and yellow body bags piling up in metal crates and workers loading more of them in. I spoke to multiple families who told me their loved ones died of COVID and who also told me they were waiting days for cremation, Jake.
TAPPER: What is Chinese government saying?
WANG: Well, Jake, they're not directly commenting on the satellite images, but the propaganda message has been that everything is under control, that its zero-COVID policy of the past several years was a success, and that the reopening is still a success. Now, we know that the spread of COVID has been explosive, but the country is no longer providing nationwide statistics on infections.
But some provinces, they're sharing their own numbers. The provincial government of Hainan said that around 89 percent of its residents have been infected with COVID-19 as of last Friday. Now, for context here, this is China's most populous province, with a population of more than 98 million people. Local officials there, they did not disclose the death toll.
Now, Chinese state media throughout the pandemic, they've repeatedly used its low officially reported death toll as proof that China's COVID approach, its system, it's superior to the west, and specifically, Jake, superior to America's approach.
So images of overflowing crematoriums, they don't fit with that narrative. And the situation could still get worse. Beijing has been telling hospitals in rural areas to set up more fever clinics to brace for the Lunar New Year holiday. Experts have been warning for months that there could be disastrous consequences when people from the cities, they go back to their hometowns in the countryside, places with not enough health care resources, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Selina Wang in Beijing, thanks so much.
Any moment, we expect President Biden to emerge to hold a news conference with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. We will bring that to you live as soon as it starts. Coming up, however, a grim discovery in the search for the missing Massachusetts mom. Investigators now testing new evidence collected from a landfill. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Just moments ago, police announced they had finished searching and processing the home of the missing Massachusetts mom. This after prosecutors say blood and a bloody knife were found in the basement of the home. 39-year-old Ana Walshe was last seen alive by a family member early on New Year's Day.
Her husband, Brian Walshe told police that she had gotten up early in the morning to get a ride share to the airport for a work trip. There is no record of her getting in a car or getting on a plane, and it was not reported missing until January 4th. Brian Walshe is now in custody. He's charged with misleading police.
Sources say police obtained a search warrant for the couple's house after uncovering Brian's Internet search history, how to dismember a body, was one of the items. How to dispose of a 115-pound woman was another. Walshe was also seen on surveillance video on January 2, buying $450 worth of cleaning supplies at a Home Depot. Police were searching the trash transfer station near the Walshe's home last night.
I'm now joined by Retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Steve Moore. Steve, if they don't find Ana or her remains, is there enough evidence at this point, given what we've been told, the blood, the bloody knife, the other evidence to charge the husband with murder?
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think they're pretty strong to go into court with this. At least that's what I tell the prosecutor if this were my case. You've got the missing woman, you've got his behavior that is at best, suspicious, at worst. It's right in line with hiding a body after a murder.
And the blood that they've got is probably going to be typed out as hers. So you've got a violent crime, you've got blood, you've got her missing, you've got the fact that there's no electronic record of her after that day. I think you've got a good case there.
TAPPER: The husband already wears a tracking bracelet. He's been on house arrest in connection with a federal wire fraud charge -- charges, plural, from 2018. Can police pull the location from the bracelet? And if so, do we assume that they probably did that already? Why didn't they do it immediately after his wife was reported missing as far as we know?
MOORE: Well, I don't know when they did. If it were - again, if it were my case, I would have pulled it as soon as I found out it was there. Sometimes you don't know as an investigator coming in necessarily that this guy is already been convicted of something else. But this is a federal ankle bracelet, if you put it that way. So it probably had tracking capabilities, and it was instituted at the behest of a federal judge.
So the court, the federal court actually owns the information from the GPS tracker. So the state court would have to request that information from the federal court. Whether or not they do that via a warrant or a request is up to how they do it. I would want a warrant, not because you need it so much, as you want to dot all the I's and cross all the T's and not give the defense any chance to get something back out of evidence. TAPPER: So, obviously, the suspect has yet to tell his story, but what we hear from prosecutors is that he lied about his whereabouts on the day his wife was last seen, including getting lost on the way to his mother's house, trips to CVS and Whole Foods, neither of which checked out, according to the store's security videos. I mean, why would the husband lie about something that was so easy to verify?
MOORE: Well, again, this is almost like he didn't just search the Internet for how to dispose of a 115-pound woman body. He might as well have searched for how do I murder my wife and make sure I'm convicted? I mean, he couldn't have done anything more straight down the line, provable.
I got lost on the way to my mother's house that I've been to before. I forgot my phone, going to my mother's house when I was gone four hours and my kids were with a babysitter. None of these things really work. And they are all going to work to create this, at least work for him. They're going to work for the prosecutors to create a very strong story, very strong true-life story about what actually happened. And they'll be able to bring this into court. It's more than circumstantial.
TAPPER: So just to remind folks, the last time she was seen by a family member was January 1, New Year's Day. Investigators say her cell phone pinged from the area around their house on January 2 and January 3. She wasn't reported missing until January 4. What else might Ana's phone tell investigators?
MOORE: I think what they'll be looking for is whether or not, first of all, they had text messages back and forth. I've -- if she has an emergency meeting at her company in Washington, D.C., I would want to see all the information, who told her, when they told her, and then how she made any attempts to get transportation from Cohasset, Massachusetts to Washington.
You're going to need ground transportation. You're going to need air transportation. And it didn't happen starting at 1:30 a.m. on the 1st, when she's going to leave at 06:00 a.m. on the 1st. It's going to be a lot of things. Think about what you do when you go on a trip. You have all sorts of communications, and they're going to be looking for exactly what she did and where the phone was when she did it.
TAPPER: All right, Steve Moore, thanks so much for your time today. I appreciate it.
You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead from whence you get your podcasts. It's all just sitting there, all two hours of it, like a juicy peach.
Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. He too, will await President Biden to come out and speak to the public and to reporters in Mexico City. We'll be right back, or Wolf will be right back.