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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: More Searches For Documents Possible At Locations Connected To Biden; Russian Missile Attack Kills At Least 40 Ukrainian Civilians; Rep. Santos Defiant Amid Growing GOP Calls For Him To Resign Over Lies; Millions Under Flood Watches Along California's Coast; A Look At How NFL Medical Teams Prepare For A Game Day Emergency. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The crowd singing "We Shall Overcome" as they remember Dr. King's speeches and writings which are still very relevant today. Events all across the country honoring Dr. King, some have a tradition of volunteering at food banks or service organizations as a part of a tradition of helping others.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: If only there was a way to keep track.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Turns out the White House did not keep a visitor's log for guests at President Biden's Wilmington home where five more pages of classified documents were found as the president's personal lawyer tries to explain.

And then, Ukrainian officials now say it was a Russian cruise missile designed to take out aircraft carriers that struck an apartment building, killing at least 40 people. Could the weapon system the U.S. is sending Ukraine have prevented that?

Plus, you've never seen this angle for a game. Inside access to the extensive medical teams at every NFL game from the doctors who are the eyes in the sky to the first responders on the sidelines.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we start today in our politics lead. Controversy still swirling around the White House after it announced over the weekend that five more pages of classified documents were found in President Biden's Wilmington home. Questions are mounting today about what security measures were in place around these documents as the White House council's office confirms there are no visitor logs for the president's private residence.

CNN's Arlette Saenz begins our coverage today with how the president's attorneys are explaining transparency or lack thereof surrounding the discoveries.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden refusing to answer questions today as pressure mounts.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Will you testify with the special counsel?

SAENZ: CNN has learned the president is personally frustrated with how the classified documents saga has unfolded, this as more details about the classified documents at his Wilmington, Delaware, home come to light.

The White House on Thursday morning saying Biden's personal attorneys searching a room adjacent to the president's garage found one page of classified material. Over the weekend, the president's White House lawyer revealing he traveled to Delaware on Thursday evening and five additional pages with classification markings were discovered.

It's the latest example of a shifting narrative from a White House on defense. Now referring all questions to the Justice Department as the special counsel investigation gets underway.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly.

SAENZ: The president's personal attorney defending their information sharing approach saying they're working quote to balance the importance of public transparency where appropriate with the established norms and limitations necessary to protect the investigation's integrity. But Republicans promising investigations are sounding off.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): The administration hasn't been transparent about what's going on when President Biden's possession of classified documents.

SAENZ: The House Oversight chairman demanding visitor logs for the president's Delaware home. But today, the White House and Secret Service say they simply don't exist. The White House counsel adding like every president across decades of modern history, his personal residence is personal.

Some Democrats acknowledging the situation has been messy.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): It's certainly embarrassing, right? I mean, it's embarrassing that you would find a small number of documents.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I still would like to see Congress do its own assessment and receive an assessment from the intelligence community of whether there was exposure to others of these documents, whether there was harm to national security, in the case of either set of documents with either president.

SAENZ: But as he celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, the president trying to keep the focus on the future.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a time for choosing. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, community over chaos, love over hate? These are the questions of our time.


SAENZ: And, Pamela, some new reporting from our colleagues, Paula Reid and Evan Perez who sources have told that there may be additional locations tied to President Biden. That could be searched. Now, it's unclear who exactly would conduct that search or where those searches would be, but it comes as these sources while they did not detail exact locations, there are other offices that were tied to President Biden and, of course, he did rent a home here in northern Virginia in the years after he left the White House. All of these issues could be things the special counsel could look into in the coming months.

BROWN: All right. Thanks so much, Arlette Saenz, at the White House.

I'd like to bring in CNN senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt, and CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.


So, that is notable what Arlette said there from reporting from Evan Perez and Paula Reid about the possibility of more searches because as we know, Elie, up until now, it has been the president's personal attorneys who don't have security clearances who have been going to these homes and finding these documents.

Now there's a special counsel investigation. Again, we don't know who is going to be doing the searches, but what is the significance of that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Pam, this is rule number one in any case you're defending, PR-wise or legally, know all the facts. You have to know everything that's out there.

So, if there are other homes, offices, automobiles, file cabinets where there could be documents, you better search them because if you're a lawyer on the case representing Joe Biden or the White House, you need to know all the facts.

Now, the big question is, who will do these searches? There's a big, big difference between Joe Biden's own legal team doing the searches and DOJ going and getting a search warrant like we saw in Mar-a-Lago.

Now, if you're Biden's team, you want to do these searches on your own, and you want to do them in a way where you can assure DOJ and reassure them, you don't need to get a search warrant, you don't need to get the FBI agents with the jackets because we did the search in a complete and comprehensive way, and it will be up to DOJ to decide whether they're satisfied with that.

BROWN: And do you that given the political implications here, too, with the Trump investigation, that ultimately, DOJ could decide, you know what? We're going to send the FBI agents to just chauffeur us even though there are clear differences between the cases?

HONIG: Yeah, it's a delicate, political judgment for the attorney general and for DOJ. I think what DOJ is looking at here is what are all the circumstances? Because while Biden's team has not been completely transparent or fully forthcoming in its statements, they have made efforts to cooperate, and there's no evidence at this point that they affirmatively obstruct justice.

We look at the Trump Mar-a-Lago situation, by contrast, there was an extended campaign of delay, of misstatements. And, in fact, we know that obstruction is one of the crimes under investigation, which is what sort of compelled DOJ to go and do the search warrant. So there is a factual distinction there, but you're right, I think the AG has to think about what the political appearance is here as well.

BROWN: Yeah, and, Alex, the White House special counsel's office says there are no visitor logs for President Biden's personal residence, his Wilmington home. How unusual is that?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, this really highlights the difference between a president's government residence, so in this case, the White House of course, and the president's primary private residence, so the president's house in Wilmington, Delaware. Who would maintain those types of visitor logs? That would fall to the Secret Service.

So we have the White House counsel of the president saying that a personal home is personal, and that is being backed up by the Secret Service saying we do not maintain visitor logs at private homes, that they do -- they do make sure that the area is secure. They do screen people before they come over to a private residence.

But that, ultimately, it is up to the president and the president's staff to make sure that the people who are coming to the property are allowed to be there. So there is no formal visitor log. Now, just speaking with a former official at the Secret Service who said that there may be some tidbits, there may be some information about people who did come and go, but that Republicans may eventually be able to get their hands on, but there is no formal visitor's log.

So, it's unlikely that Republicans carrying out oversight will be able to get their hands on records like that.

BROWN: And, Elie, how might the fact that there are no visitor logs at the private residences, complicate potentially this investigation for DOJ?

HONIG: So, I think you hit the nail on the head there, Pam. It does complicate the investigation for DOJ but it doesn't mean they're at a dead end. There's no nice neat one document that says date of visitor, name of visitor. However, you can still reconstruct this. You can ask other people around Joe Biden. Ultimately, you could probably ask Joe Biden.

But there would be records of this. There would be people who would know who went into that house. So, it does make the task much more complicated because you don't have that document, but it's something DOJ can look into.

BROWN: Let's talk about the big picture here. We now have, since 2016, three candidates to choose from to be president, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, President Biden, who have all had issues with handling classified information. So does it raise the question for you, Alex, that this could not only be a problem about the person but also the U.S. classification system?

MARQUARDT: I think it really comes down to two things, and like you, I have been speaking to people about this. The first is that there is no clear system in place that is preventing this kind of thing from happening, when offices like the former Vice President Biden's office or former President Trump's offices are being packed up, clearly classified information is making its way into those boxes.

So there's no oversight there or mechanism to stop that from happening.


But you're absolutely right. There is a conversation, not just now but a conversation that has been going on for years in the national security space, in the intelligence community about this question of classification, and over-classification. There are countless people in government, outside of government who agree that there's way too much classification, that things that are not all that sensitive do end up getting classified -- things that are very much in the open source out in the world, that you could Google, you and I could Google, end up getting classified.

There is an oversight body called the Information Security Oversight Office whose director wrote to President Biden last year saying we can no longer keep our heads above the tsunami of digitally created classified records, and the director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, is on the record in a letter to senators that "The Wall Street Journal" got saying this undermines democratic values because it undermines transparency for the American people.

So there are certainly things that are classified that don't necessarily need to be, but we need to remember, our reporting shows that some of these documents that were found in President Biden's possession were classified at some of the highest levels and it had to do with things like Ukraine and Iran.

BROWN: Exactly. That was the case for both Trump and Biden.

Where is the most legal exposure potentially for President Biden, Elie?

HONIG: Well, Pam, I think we have to look at certain statutes that relate to the mishandling of sensitive or classified documents. And much like Alex was describing when it comes to the classification system, the legal system here, there's not one straightforward law that governs all of this. There's really about a half dozen or so laws that in different ways manage destruction or hiding or mishandling of classified or sensitive information. Ultimately, though, the big question there, Pam, is did Joe Biden know

or anyone else know about these documents being removed? And was there any criminal intent? Same operative questions for the Trump investigation.

So I think we're looking at the same sets of statutes, minus obstruction which is only an issue on the Trump side right now. Ultimately, knowledge and intent will rule the day, though.

BROWN: All right. Thank you, both. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the Russian missile strike that leveled a Ukrainian apartment building. Could U.S. defense systems have stopped it?

And then, the ground is so wet in California roads -- that they are just crumbling away. When will residents get a break?



BROWN: In our world lead. Ukraine says a missile designed to sink ships nearly obliterated this apartment building. At least 40 people were killed in the Russian attack over the weekend, making it one of the deadliest attacks against Ukrainian civilians since Russia invaded nearly a year ago. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls it, quote, a war crime.

And as Fred Pleitgen reports, Ukrainian officials say the death toll is likely to rise.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): While rescue crews are still sifting through the debris, the chance of finding any more survivors is virtually zero, a gaping hole where dozens of families once lived.

As you can see here, this building was completely annihilated all the way down to the ground floor. The Ukrainians say the reason why the damage is so extensive is that the Russians used a cruise missile called the KH22. That is designed to destroy whole aircraft carrier strike groups, and when it hit the building, the building just completely collapsed and buried dozens of people underneath.

A miracle that anyone survived at all, Ukrainian authorities say.

Katerina Zelenska (ph) was pulled from the rubble by rescuers hours after the strike, but her husband and 1-year-old son remain unaccounted for.

And this video shows happier times for the Koronofsky (ph) family. Father Mykola Koronofsky (ph) was killed in their apartment, the distinctive yellow kitchen, like their family, torn apart by the massive explosion.

Fifteen-year-old Maria was also killed in the blast. Dozens of relatives, classmates and teachers coming to pay their final respects.

She was an incredible child, her class teacher says, God is taking the best of ours. This is what happened.

The Kremlin denies its forces were behind the strike, and instead claims a Ukrainian antiaircraft missile hit the building. The Ukrainians says that simply isn't true, and Dnipro's mayor tells me his city and the country need more Western air defense systems.

Western countries give us air defense systems, he tells me, but unfortunately it's not enough, and it comes with delays. More air defense systems are the only thing that can save our civilians in our cities.

And while they wait, these scenes repeat themselves again and again.


PLEITGEN: And, Pamela, tonight an angry Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine has launched an investigation and vowed to bring those behind the strikes to justice in front of an International Criminal Court. He also said that the rescue and recovery effort is going on. Essentially what we're seeing here on the ground right now is a clearing operation.

The folks here are using some pretty heavy equipment already, and a staggering number for you, the Ukrainians say they have already cleared around 8,500 tons of debris from here. This just goes to show the scale of destruction that was brought on by this missile strike, Pamela.

BROWN: Just awful. Fred Pleitgen in Dnipro, Ukraine, thank you.

Well, Ukraine appeals to allies for more advanced weaponry and missile defense systems. The U.S. is committed to sending Ukraine the Patriot defense system but would that have made a difference in repelling this weekend's attack.

CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now from the Pentagon.

So, Oren, that's the question. Could Ukraine have shot down the Russian KH22 missile that caused so much death and destruction in Dnipro if that Patriot system was already up and running?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Pam, it's difficult to say with absolute certainty yes or no on this question, but we look at different factors here. The entire purpose, the reason the U.S. has given or is giving the Patriot system to Ukraine is because it's an extremely advanced long range aerial defense system.


That means its radar can pick up incoming threats at a greater distance. Its missiles can intercept that threat at a greater distance. It's also been battle proven in other locations against ballistic missiles, for example, in the Middle East. So, we have seen its effectiveness against these types of missiles. So, it may very well have been able to make a difference.

But on the flip side of that, there's the open question of would Ukraine have placed one of its Patriot systems to defend the city of Dnipro. As of right now, it's only getting two -- one from the U.S. and one we just learned from Germany. You will have to believe one of those would be used to defend Kyiv. Would the other one have defended Dnipro or another area? Because these systems can't defend the entire country.

That's another question. That's what Ukraine will have to decide, where to put these very capable systems. But the whole purpose is not that the Patriots on themselves will change the war. It will simply give Ukraine another option for aerial defense. A very capable option, but even that requires to decide whether to focus it, Pam.

BROWN: Yeah, they got to train, decide where to focus it. There's a lot of steps to go through.

You also have new reporting on Ukrainian forces coming to the U.S. to be trained on that Patriot missile defense system.

LIEBERMANN: That training is now set to begin. Ukrainian troops have arrived at Fort Sill in Oklahoma where the U.S. does not only its own military's training on patriots, but also other allies and partners who have come to train on the Patriot system. So, we know according to a statement from Fort Sill, Ukrainians have arrived, a team of 90 to 100, and they will begin training on the patriots. This is expected to last several months, and there hasn't been a more specific time line on that for a couple of reasons.

First, the U.S. is trying to figure out how much you can accelerate this long system, and the U.S. doesn't want to tell Russia exactly when it will arrive in Ukraine for security and safety reasons.

BROWN: All right. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us today, thank you so much.

And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just talked about Congressman George Santos and his lies, including one involving McCarthy's office. That's next.



BROWN: In our politics lead, at least seven House Republicans have called for the resignation of embattled Congressman George Santos in the wake of the avalanche of lies he told about himself. And today there are growing questions about how he was able to loan his campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is live on Capitol Hill.

Melanie, we have new information about how Republicans concerns over Santos' back story became louder leading into the campaign. When it became clear the district was winnable, that's when people start talking more.

Tell us more about that.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Pam, you've been doing some great reporting on this as well because as more damaging revelations have come out, the big question has become, what did GOP leaders know and when did they know it?

CNN has learned that there were concerns inside GOP circles about Santos' resume and whether his back story added up as far back as last summer. So, prior to the election, including among donors, and consultants and even lawmakers, in fact, who leads a super PAC aligned with Kevin McCarthy, the speaker, was so concerned about Santos, he expressed concerns and reached out to lawmakers ahead of the November election.

So I asked Kevin McCarthy just moments ago, what did you know? When did you learn something might be amiss with George Santos? Take a listen to that exchange.


REPORTER: When were you first made aware about some of these allegations around Santos? Was it before they came out in the media, were you given indication there might be something amiss there?


REPORTER: Any of it, the resume.

MCCARTHY: I didn't know about his resume or not. I always had a few questions about him.

REPORTER: What about the news that the campaign aide pretending to be your chief of staff in his solicitation?

MCCARTHY: You know, I didn't know about that. It happened. They corrected, but I was not notified about that until a later day.

REPORTER: Yeah, did you hear about it at all?

MCCARTHY: Yeah, I didn't know about the letter date unfortunately.


ZANONA: So, as you heard right there, Kevin McCarthy is acknowledging publicly for the first time that he had any sort of apprehension about George Santos, and yet, despite these concerns, Kevin McCarthy and the GOP stood by Santos before the election, continued to support him, and they're continuing to stand by him now, Pam.

BROWN: They are. GOP leaders, as you point out, they are standing by him. What overall, though, what are Republicans saying? We've heard from McCarthy, we have heard others who say they want him to resign, but only a small, you know, handful of Republicans considering all that are in the House. ZANONA: You're right, it has been a small handful of House

Republicans who called on Santos to resign, including several members of the New York delegation and from the freshman class. So, that is notable to see members standing up to Santos.

But I would say, for the most part Republicans say it should be up to the voters to decide Santos' political fate. However, that doesn't mean they're defending his behavior. In fact, I would say a lot of Republicans are going out of their way to distance themselves from Santos. Take a listen.


COMER: He's a bad guy. This is something that's really bad. He's not the first politician, unfortunately, to make it to Congress to lie.

I haven't introduced myself to him because, you know, it's pretty despicable, the lies that he tell. But at the end of the day, it's not up to me or any other member of Congress to determine whether he could be kicked out for lying. Now, if he broke campaign finance laws, then he will be removed from Congress.


ZANONA: So, this has just become a huge distraction for House Republicans, and there are no signs of this letting up anytime soon -- Pam.

BROWN: No, there are not. Melanie Zanona, on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

So, let's discuss with our panel.

Where to even start here. Michael, I want to go with you because I have been speaking with these GOP sources.

We heard Melanie lay out on some of the reporting that CNN has. And I have learned from many Republicans that they knew Santos was lying, at least in the summer, last summer, leading into the fall, when it became clear that, whoa, this could be a winnable district for us. That's when there was this chatter, right?

And we learned from "The Times" that even behind the scenes, there were aides pressuring Santos to resign, saying there could be a big story coming out.

Why do you think Republicans were more vocal publicly about this? Is it because this was a swing district do you think? What do you think?

MICHAEL LAROSA, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, it was a district that President Biden won, I think, by about 10 points. I think George Santos ended up winning by ten points.

But you could even see in the spending, that they were slowing their spending down over the course of the summer and into the fall and spending in other districts that were not as competitive as opposed to his district. So, they must have known something was going on.

It's a huge problem for McCarthy. It reminds me a lot of 2001 when Gary Conditt was this walking distraction for Democrats, just -- you know, noose around their head forever, for five months, until Gephardt, the leader, finally got sick of it and basically pressure the guy out.

BROWN: Yeah, and as Melanie laid out, only a few Republicans are asking for him to resign. The others are saying it should be up to the voters, but the voters voted on someone who was not the person he presented himself to be, right?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: It's going to be hard for them to out run this. I have been spending time speaking to constituents in the district, and I don't think they're their organizing strength should be under estimated. They're holding regular meetings. They really want to see him gone. They're talking about coming to Washington in large numbers to speak to any House Republican that will give them a meeting, right? So that is something I think is going to become increasingly distracting for House Republicans.

BROWN: Yeah.

MCKEND: And then, of course, Santos can't even operate as a regular member. A lot of the members are home in their districts right now, holding town hall meetings, meeting with constituents. That's something he can not do at this point.

BROWN: No. I mean, exactly. Go ahead.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You said it's a relatively small number of Republicans who are in Congress who are calling for -- there are other Republicans from New York who would like to hang on their jobs when they're up for reelection in two years, which is basically now, when it starts. And so, they want to distance themselves from him.

I think it's clear to me if George Santos was a Democrat, the Republican GOP leadership would be calling for his head, and if this was a clear Republican majority district where it didn't matter, you know, who the Democrat was that you were running against, it was just between the nominating battle, this would be done. They would be leaning on him hard. The problem is, the political problem it's such a small majority for the Republicans. Every time you think you know the extent of the lies, there's an alleged Ponzi scheme.

BROWN: We don't know where he got the $700,000. And by the way, reporters will figure that out. Every reporter in the country right now is trying to figure that out, among other things. So, I mean, this will likely continue each day.

JOE WALSH (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: They need his vote, and they need his seat. I'm a broken record. Pam, I think they believe, and I think we all believe, I'd be stunned if he runs again. So I think it's the Republican wish that this does kind of quiet down, and he doesn't make much of a fuss for two years, and they will probably lose that seat in two years.

LAROSA: The problem is if he resigns and they call a special election, special elections are special for a reason. They're unpredictable. And a district like that is likely to flip to the other side.

BROWN: And talk about the drip, drip, drip, too, more servicing about the lies he has told. I want to listen to this interview he did, a whopper of a lie from George Santos. Let's listen.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): You know, it's funny, I actually went to school on a volley ball scholarship.

HOST: You did?

SANTOS: I did, yeah. When I was in Baruch, we were the number one volleyball team --

HOST: Did you graduate from Baruch? Did you graduate from there?

SANTOS: Yes, I did.

HOST: So did I. So did I.

SANTOS: Oh, very coo, great school, great institution. Very liberal but very good.

Look, I sacrificed both of my knees and got nice knee replacements from HHS (ph) playing volley ball. That's how serious I took the game.


BROWN: OK. So that was an interview he did with WABC from 2020. I cannot keep a straight face. Everything he said was a lie. He did not graduate from Baruch College. He was not part of the volley ball team and didn't have a double knee replacement from playing volleyball if he wasn't on the team. Who wants to jump in on this one?

WALSH: I don't want to address that. I think as long as this is lying, he's fine. Especially in this Republican Party, and I keep saying this, the leader of the Republican Party right now is Donald Trump. And we've never, on the public stage, had a liar like him, so it's a really tough thing for Republicans to come down on Santos for lying. If we're talking about ethics charges and some financial crimes down the road, that's a bigger deal.

MCKEND: It's the commitment, though, to this particular line from me, right, he told variations of this Baruch volleyball story over and over again, which seems really curious.


BROWN: It raises all kinds of questions. And, you know, Margaret, you brought up if this was a Democrat, this

happened with a Democrat, Republicans would be all over it. I think when you look at the other situation in Washington with the mishandling of classified documents, the same is true, right?

I mean, Republicans now say they are very concerned about the mishandling of classified documents for Biden's time as VP. That's not what they were saying months ago from Trump. Let's listen.

All right. Well, we have sound here from Mike Turner who is head of intel agency, and he has said, about Trump, he said, this is so outrageous that this has to rise to the level of this. This better not be a clerical issue between the archivist and the former president.

And so -- and he went on Biden, he said, these facts and circumstances are absolutely outrageous. This is completely mishandling of classified information.

So what do you make of that, the way that Republicans are now trying to respond to Biden?

TALEV: With an extreme double standard but I don't think it matters. Biden is the president. This is Biden's political crisis to deal with and he and his team or, you know, whether it's his comps team or legal team, overall there has been some self-forced errors that have raised a lot of legitimate questions about whether we know the extent of this, why any of this happened.

Now, because it's all tangled up in the special prosecutor they're saying they can't explain it. That's created a new communications problem. Is it hypocrisy, nothing to see here, and now they want to investigate it. It doesn't matter.

There are a lot of questions there are a lot of questions the president and his team need to answer. If they're ham strung by the fact that the special prosecutor is involved, they created that problem.

BROWN: Before we have to go, I want to get your take, because you used to work there.


BROWN: I mean, this seems to be a mess.

LAROSA: Sure. I think what you're seeing is that the law has been the North Star for this White House and that they are following the law, and sometimes that comes at a inconvenience to the public relations strategy which I think is frustrating to us, to the public, to the media, to Democrats.

BROWN: Hold on, I have to quickly push back on it. They first released the statement about the one batch, even though they knew there was a second batch, it didn't include that. So, that has nothing to do with the law. LAROSA: No, but I think the communications team is left with not a

ton of great options because I think they're taking their lead from the legal team, from the White House counsel, from the lawyers. I think this is a legal strategy driving a communications strategy.

Now is it a political problem? It's absolutely, you know, they dumped a big bucket of chum in a pool of swimming sharks, right? They handed this to house Republicans who were hungry enough, and they're going to lose a lot of goodwill from independent voters as a result who now think both of the parties be dammed.

BROWN: All right. Thank you all so much for your insight and analysis.

Coming up, California just got more rain in a few weeks than the state normally gets in a year, and the danger is not over.



BROWN: Parts of California endured yet another round of gusty winds and torrential rain, further increasing the threat of mud slides and unstable roads. Killing at least 19 people over the past few weeks.

But as CNN's Natasha Chen reports, a much needed break from the rain is on the horizon.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In California, another big storm after a series of atmospheric rivers ravaged the state, 8 million people still under flood watch. One storm after another, overflowing rivers, flooding farms, roads and neighborhoods, causing landslides, more than 400 in the last two and a half weeks. Some catastrophic.

LT. GOV. ELENI KOUNALAKIS (D), CALIFORNIA: We have seen damage from down in Santa Barbara and Montecito, all the way up north on the coast, in the valley, in the mountains. It has really hit us hard from one part of the state to the next.

CHEN: After three years of extreme drought in California, the state received about a year's worth of rain in a matter of weeks.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: By some estimates, 22 to 25 trillion gallons of water have fallen over the course of the last 16, 17 days.

CHEN: At least 19 people have died as a result of the storms. Hundreds more were rescued across the state, from a man who drove off a cliff, his SUV dangling over crashing waves and a woman air lifted from a creek after clinging to a tree amid rapidly rising waters in southern California to families evacuated from a mobile home park that flooded in the northern part of the state. A coastal road west of San Jose collapsed as the ground saturated by rain gave way. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can get nasty. It really can.

CHEN: North of San Francisco, a resident says his apartment complex was overrun by debris as a hillside collapsed with trees crashing through bathroom windows.

MARK FLEISHER, NORTHERN CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: It was coming down this broad, about this deep. All mud flow.

LINDA CRIVELLO, NOVATO, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: I've just been crossing fingers every night when I go to bed that I wake up and we don't have a tree down. It's really devastating. It breaks my heart. Just the flooding. It's almost unbelievable.

CHEN: The Sierra Nevada mountains already hit by 3 feet of snow are expecting another 2 to 3 feet, adding relief for the state's water supply and lingering drought, but the snow and high winds are making travel treacherous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sliding all over the road, you know, you got to know what you're doing in the snow or at least have a plan.

CHEN: For this Santa Cruz county community, a unique plan, a zip line to cross their local creek after the bridge washed out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You live in the woods, you know, you just kind of got to be prepared.


BROWN: Our thanks to CNN's Natasha Chen for that report.

And coming up, what happens behind the scenes at an NFL game that could mean the difference between life and death?



BROWN: Now, a behind-the-scenes look into how the NFL puts together emergency action plans before each game that helped save the life of Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us the critical and life-saving protocols in place to keep players safe.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest, the game stopped. But for the emergency response team, everything was just getting started.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and go over to the cot. I don't like how he went down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to need everybody. All call! All call!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring everybody! We need an air-way doctor, everybody. Bring the cot with the medics, all of you, and get wheels out here.


GUPTA: As rare as this all is, I'm going to explain now the remarkable chain of events that came together to save Damar Hamlin's life.

DR. ALLEN SILLS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, NFL: So, this is actually It starts with this, the EAP --

GUPTA: So, what does EAP? What does that stand for?

SILLS: It stands for emergency action plan.

GUPTA: And that takes place for every game?

SILLS: So, basically, any time or place that players are going to be active, there has to be an emergency action plan.

The EAP was followed to a letter that night. In that moment everyone knew what they needed to do, how they needed to do it and had the equipment to do it and felt comfortable.

GUPTA: Dr. Allen Sills is the chief medical officer of the NFL. He's giving me a sideline view of the preparedness that goes into every game day. And once you see this, you'll probably never watch a game the same way again.

You may have missed this pop-up blue tent. It's on every sideline.

SILLS: It's like a medical exam room. We've kind of made this a medical space, even in the middle of a very busy stadium. It's just so much easier to do things in here because everybody is more relaxed. You don't have the cameras. You don't have the fans.

GUPTA: Or this, the injury review screen.

SILLS: So we can be down here on the sideline and the spotter's booth, if they've seen an injury video, they'll queue it up for us, put on the video exactly what we need to see. We can talk to them.

GUPTA: The spotter's booth, they are the eyes in the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome, welcome.

GUPTA: Thank you.

SILLS: This is another part of our game day medical preparations. The real goal of this booth is to help spot any injuries or illnesses on the field. It can be hard to see the whole field from down there. Probably, to me, one of the most unique things in sports is the spotter can directly communicate down to the referee. These people can stop the game.

SUE STANLEY-GREEN, CERTIFIED ATHLETIC TRAINER SPOTTER: So we watch every play, probably minimally four times, and then we'll go back and watch it again. And so, you know, we just want to make sure we don't miss anything.

SILLS: It's always about the right people, the right plan and the right equipment. We have almost 30 medical professionals and everyone has a job to do.

GUPTA: ER doctors, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, paramedics, X- ray techs and air-way specialists, like Dr. Justin Deaton.

DR. JUSTIN DEATON, NFL AIRWAY MANAGEMENT PHYSICIAN: So, this is the bag I carry and it's got a number of things that we could use. The first thing is a portable video scope, a portable ultrasound machine that we can use, and we also have the ability to perform surgical airways. I really have all the resources available here that I would have in an emergency room.

GUPTA: What's the biggest challenge of that scenario versus being in an emergency room?

DEATON: Well, the biggest challenge is the external environment and the chaos of the situation. When you have a larger than average size person that's laying flat on the ground and not able to be elevated to a certain level with extra equipment, plus cameras and other people around, those are really the things that make it more difficult to manage.

GUPTA: How does everyone know you're the guy in charge?

DEATON: I wear a red hat on the sideline. That signifies me as the emergency physician, the airway physician, so the other team knows when I come out what my role is.

GUPTA: Every game comes with new lessons. For example, on September 25th when Miami Dolphin Tua Tagovailoa stumbled after a hit, he was allowed back in the game. That won't happen again.

SILLS: We changed the protocol earlier this year when you and I spoke, to say if we see something it looks like a (INAUDIBLE) on video, they're also done.

GUPTA: And as the teams warm up, there is one final crucial step.

Every time I'm in the operating room we do something known as a time- out. Everyone stops what they're doing to make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is the same sort of thing that's happening here behind me. It's called a 60-minute meeting. It happens 60 minutes before every game. A chance for all the medical professionals to make sure they know who each other are and make sure they know who is going to do what if there's some sort of crisis on the field.

DR. KEVIN KAPLAN, HEAD TEAM PHYSICIAN, JAGUARS: All right. So let's start with introductions so that everyone is familiar with the medical staff here at the game. I'm Kevin Kaplan, head team physician and orthopedics with the Jaguars.

DEATON: Justin Deaton, airway management physician.

KAPLAN: So Justin is going to be on our 30 yard line. He stands just to our right. If a player goes down, obviously he won't know if it's orthopedic or internal medicine. He'll step out onto the field. Our all call sign is an X. If you need him to come out, he will come out with an X.

All of the important equipment, airway, defibrillator, all the medications are behind him with our paramedics and our sideline. If a player needs to get taken off of the field, the ambulance is going to be in the tunnel on your right. If you need anything at all, we'll be out there. Otherwise, I hope we have a safe and healthy game. Good luck.

GUPTA: Keep in mind, the medical team was able to get to Damar Hamlin within ten seconds.


And speed really matters here. Every additional minute that someone in cardiac arrest goes without CPR, mortality goes up by up to 10 percent.

SILLS: This is a process that's in place for every single game and we train in the offseason, and just like the players train and practice, we do as well. So I have tremendous confidence, but you always want to see a game with no injuries and you want everyone to, frankly, be bored on the medical side. That's a good game from my standpoint.

GUPTA: Yeah, yeah.


GUPTA (on camera): Pamela, I've got to tell you, it was just fascinating to see that all unfold. And it's worth pointing out the game of football has changed a lot, even over the last 20 years. There's been some 50 rule changes to try and make it safer. At the same time, Pamela, players are getting bigger, faster, stronger, so the medical capabilities need to keep changing to keep up and try to prevent as many injuries as possible.

BROWN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues with wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" after this short break.