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Trump Watched The Capitol Attack On TV; U.S. COVID Daily Average Rising On Surging Omicron; Colorado Wildfires Destroys Nearly 1,000 Homes; Trump Endorsements And Vendetta; Tesla Owner Blows Up Own Car. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 02, 2022 - 17:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When she landed in Iceland she quarantined for 10 days in a hotel room this time. The same flight who helped her on the flight sent her some Christmas gifts to pass the time. Fotieo was released from quarantine on Thursday and says she hopes to spend the remaining few days of her holiday with her family. Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


PAULA REID, CNN HOST: You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Paula Reid in Washington. Jim Acosta is off today. We begin with breaking news in the January 6th investigation. Today, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Republican, on the select committee, revealing they have first-hand knowledge about former President Trump's actions or lack thereof during the attack.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The committee has first-hand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television as the assault on the capitol occurred. Members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television to tell people to stop. We know leader McCarthy was pleading with him to do that. We know members of his family, we know his daughter. We have first-hand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.


REID: Well, this first-hand testimony means that despite all the headlines about who isn't talking to the committee, someone is, and that someone was in the White House during the insurrection witnessing the commander-in-chief refusing to do anything as he watched this for more than three hours, news coverage of the attack.

Live video of a crowd of his supporters descending on the capitol, scaling the walls, assaulting police officers, chanting for the vice president to be hanged, and eventually make their way onto the Senate floor. CNN's Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill. Melanie, explain where this new evidence fits in with what the committee already knows. We know so much of their work goes on behind closed doors. It's so interesting to really hear about some of this key evidence they've collected.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, you're absolutely right. And what the committee is really trying to do here is paint a picture of what Trump did and didn't do during those 187 minutes that he was publicly silent as his supporters stormed the capitol building.

Last month the committee revealed a tranche of text messages sent to chief of staff Mark Meadows of people essentially begging him to get Trump to call it off including from Donald Trump, Jr. We also know House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a phone call with Trump as the building was under attack.

And we now know, thanks to Liz Cheney, that Ivanka Trump also urged his father -- her father twice to call it off and to put an end to the attacks.

Now the committee is still fighting to obtain access to a number of critical documents that could shed even further light on that day, and especially that critical time period. That includes call and visitor logs. That includes hand-written notes from Mark Meadows. And that also includes the -- some of the visitor logs that day, and a lot of the documents that can further shed light on all of this.

Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, was asked earlier today about all of this by our Dana Bash. Take a listen to what he had to say.


REP BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We are convinced that we'll have access to those 187 minutes of whatever occurred. But the harm that I see is the president of the United States seeing the capitol of the United States under siege by people he sent to the capitol and did nothing during that time. Something's wrong with that.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think that lack of action on January 6th may actually warrant a criminal referral?

THOMPSON: Well, the only thing I can say is highly unusual for anyone in charge of anything to watch what's going on and do nothing.


ZANONA: Now, what's unclear at this point is what was Trump's intent and what was his mindset as the riots were unfolding and he was refusing to act for that period of time. And does that inaction amount to something criminal. That is what investigators are still working to determine. But Bennie Thompson did say that if they find a criminal act was committed, they have no problem making a criminal referral to the Department of Justice. Paula?

REID: Melanie Zanona, thank you so much. Joining me now CNN senior political analyst and adviser to four

presidents, David Gergen and CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker" Susan Glasser.

All right, David, the big headline from all of this is that someone talked. We don't know who, just that they were in the White House while Trump was in his private dining room watching TV as the insurrection unfolded. But I covered this very closely.


There have been a lot of big developments, but this does feel like it could be a major turning point in the January 6th investigation.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIO POLITICAL ANALYST: It may be. I think it's too early to tell. A lot of people are pretty set in their views and I believe what they're told on Fox News or someplace like that. I mean, we've already got, you know, so many Republicans, two-thirds of Republicans who still believe the big lie.

So even with evidence, it may not, you know, it may not shift things that much. But I do think we are getting closer to the truth and what we need to know is through the documents and through people like Liz Cheney and her bravery, is exactly what the truth is, not just sort of some general sense of it.

We need -- we need some hearing. We need the people (inaudible) to see documents. And then (inaudible) period, the end of the Senate or maybe an exclamation point and then move on, you know. So what are we going to do about it? But right now I do think the committee has some momentum but not enough to really sway the country.

REID: And, Susan, the issue of Trump trying to block the committee from obtaining some of his White House records that has made its way all the way to the Supreme Court. Unclear if they'll hear the case. But this really does feel like one of the more critical cases. This is really imperative for investigators that they get access to these documents, isn't it?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, you know, Donald Trump spent four years really pushing the boundaries of executive power, especially versus Congress once the Democrats took back control of the House. He basically stonewalled completely through not one but two straight impeachments. Of course we've never had a president impeached twice.

And I think this case reinforces the question, you know, is Donald Trump arguing basically that executive privilege is so sweeping that the president of the United States is exempt even after he's left office. You know, I think a lot of lawyers are very skeptical and believe that ultimately this information will come out.

But, to your broader point, is anyone going to be held accountable for inciting the mob and bringing the mob to the capitol storming the capitol last January 6th? Right now there's been over 700, you know, essentially foot soldiers in this mob who've been charged according to the Justice Department, but no one, no one has faced charges for actually bringing them there in what amounted to an extraordinary attack just on the physical building of the capitol but on the electoral process itself.

REID: And, David, we're rapidly --

GERGEN: Yes. Yes.

REID: David, did you want to weigh in?

GERGEN: I just want to say I think she makes a very good point. We know a lot of -- that he sat there and watched over these hours. But what we don't know yet is who ordered this, how is it done? And I think Trump has his fingerprints all over that (inaudible). Then it's a much more serious and the country will take it much more seriously.

REID: And, David, we're rapidly approaching the first anniversary of the attacks on January 6th. We'll see a prayer vigil and a service at the capitol. But on the same day we'll also see the former president hold a press conference about his version of the events that day. So what impact will that split screen have on the nation?

GERGEN: Well, it all depends on who covers it, doesn't it? And I assume CNN will be there. It sounds like it's going to be a potentially big press conference. But, again, I think that what is still so surprising is how locked in Republican voters are to support Donald Trump no matter what the issue is, no matter how badly framed it is. It is -- and what's new I must say in the last few days is how much the conversation is starting to turn to the use of violence as a way to get your point.

You know, there are numbers out today that say that as much as a third of Americans believe that violence is justifiable against a government in certain circumstances. And they really do believe this has become not just Republicans versus Democrats but good versus evil.

REID: And, Susan, U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell gave us a reminder on why the January 6th investigation matters. He twitted photos of his wounds and took aim at former Vice President Mike Pence's description of the attack as one day in January saying, "This happened to me giving him and others time to escape to safety so he wouldn't get hanged or executed. To some, my efforts and injures are just an exaggeration. They did this to me. This is why it matters to me and should matter to you." What is your reaction to that?

GLASSER: Well, you know, it's very powerful. But I think just as powerful, unfortunately, is this dynamic where the Republican Party a year later remains not only still in the thrall of Donald Trump but in some ways and by some metrics even more in the thrall of Donald Trump than it was a year ago.


I think there was sort of a hope and expectation even among many Republicans on January 7th of last year that the events that were so horrific that it really would at least result and finally sort of the purging (inaudible) of the party.

And of course, not only has that not happened, David made the point two-thirds. It's actually I think 71 percent in a poll out just now that 71 percent of Republicans actually believe Joe Biden was not the legitimately elected president. That's more Republicans than believed the big lie than even one year ago.

And Mike Pence, you know, to the point of this tweet, Mike Pence stood up to Donald Trump and said, I don't have a constitutional option to do what you want me to do and to deny the legitimate results of the 2020 election. He stood up to Trump that day, but he spent, you know, most of the days since ducking and weaving and bobbing to avoid taking responsibility for that action and acting as though it was, you know, basically never really happened.

And I think that just speaks to this extraordinary morphing of the Republican Party into essentially a single-issue party, the issue being Donald Trump, which is more like a cult of personality than it is like a modern American political party.

REID: And, David, do you think the January 6th committee's plan to hold public hearings at some point this year, do you think that could at all possibly refocus attention on the victims of that day?

GLASSER: Well, look, I mean, David is right to be tactical about that I think. Unfortunately, you know, there's been lots of evidence over the last year that's come out, extraordinary dramatic footage, the committee already did have one hearing that tried to spotlight, you know, what happened.

But it really hasn't changed the numbers because you're dealing with such a polarized world in which Republicans, the vast majority of them who still identify themselves as Republicans basically have made this a new article of faith. And Donald Trump is going to be out there stoking it.

REID: And, David, Donald Trump continues to toy with a 2024 run. And today Liz Cheney actually sounded the alarm about what would happen if he was actually to win.


CHENEY: Any man who would provoke a violent assault on the capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes, any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the capitol of the United States, is clearly unfit for future office, clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Hillary Clinton said a couple of weeks ago that if he runs and wins that could be the end of our democracy. Do you share that fear?

CHENEY: I do. I think it is critically important given everything we know about the lines that he was willing to cross. He crossed lines no American president has ever crossed before. (END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: David, what is your reaction to that?

GERGEN: I think it's scary and I do -- but I do believe it also puts a finger on the right point. And that is we are not making progress on trying to resolve these issues. We are going backwards now. There is -- you know, the dangers to the country, I think, are accelerating. To see the Republican Party not only grab hold of this but to expand (inaudible), to expand its belief system of the number of people who have the big lie.

And I wanted to come back to this last point. (Inaudible) what one finds especially in Europe, but here too, there is a fear among serious observers, serious people that we may be heading towards some sort of civil conflict, some sort of civil war. There was a major piece in the "Financial Times" in the last few days (inaudible) from a reputable person, that that's what we really ought to be worried about.

And increasingly as we slip on our standards as things solidify on both sides, as people begin to see evil versus good, and the numbers of people who believe that violence can be justified, we have to be very, very aware right now about not just what happened on January 6th but where are we heading some in this whole political process? Are we in fact heading towards some sort of civil conflict? That is extraordinarily scary.

REID: Extraordinarily scary indeed. Susan, very quickly, we just got a readout of President Biden's call with the Ukrainian president amid tensions with Russia. It says President Biden made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia goes any further and invades Ukraine. How do you see this playing out?

GLASSER: Well, you know, talk about scary when you have 100,000 troops on your border, as the Ukrainians do right now. You know, they're looking for as much support as the U.S. and NATO can offer at this moment in time. But the reality is that Ukraine is not a member of NATO despite Putin using the threat that it might at some indeterminate point in the future, that's the pretext for this really manufactured crisis.

You know, Putin is seeking to divide the United States from Ukraine, basically saying I'll only deal super power to super power with the U.S.


But, you know, we're not in the business of carving up, you know, some other nation which is what Putin, you know, in his sort of 19th century czar mode seems to want. I think it's very important to look to the next date. I would look towards is January 10th. That's when there's going to be a high-level meetings for the first time in this (inaudible) in person between the U.S. and Russians, followed a couple days later by a U.S. -- sorry-- a NATO/Russia negotiation. So that's going to be kind of the next juncture to watch. But it's a

very dangerous situation. And I think you have to consider a real possibility that Russia will go ahead with another invasion of Ukraine.

REID: David Gergen and Susan Glasser, thank you so much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

REID: Next, EMTs in New York City told to turn away patients with flu- like symptoms in order to prioritize other emergencies. Thousands of commercial flights canceled as crews call out sick. And new evidence children may be more susceptible to the omicron variant. The latest on the pandemic, next. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."


REID: Surging COVID cases fueled mostly by the omicron variant have reached unprecedented levels and continue to disrupt daily life. The U.S. is now averaging nearly 400,000 new cases a day. That surge also crushing hospitals which are being overwhelmed mostly by unvaccinated Americans.

Businesses, particularly airlines, are also getting hit hard, which is creating a travel nightmare for many people trying to get home from their holidays. Thousands of U.S. flights have been canceled again today because of COVID and also wintery weather.

Also today, at least five Metro Atlanta school districts have joined others nationwide moving to remote learning after the holiday break. This, as the former head of the FDA warns the new omicron variant could possibly be more dangerous for young kids.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: It does appear now based on a lot of experimental evidence that we've gotten just in the last two weeks that this is a milder form of the coronavirus. It appears to be more of an upper airway disease than a lower airway disease.


That's good for most Americans. The one group that that maybe a problem for is very young kids, very young children, toddlers, who have trouble with upper airway infections and you're in fact seeing more croup-like infections and bronchiolitis in New York City among children. So that could be a challenge for young kids and we are seeing rising hospitalizations among that pediatric segment.


REID: CNN's Ryan Young is in Atlanta at one of the world's busiest airports. But let's start with CNN's Polo Sandoval in New York. Polo, how is this latest surge in cases impacting people in New York? Once again it's at the epicenter. How are they responding? POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start off with first

responders, Paula. These staggering numbers also leading to extremely high number of EMS workers, for example, calling in sick. That number currently sits -- sits at about 30 percent. That's already exceeded what we saw at the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

And because of concerns of short-staffing, there's been this mandate or it's basically been issued to these EMS workers to not transport any noncritical patients to the hospital that are experiencing influenza-like symptoms. Of course the keyword there is stable patients. There are some exceptions including more of the younger and more of the older patients and those with pre-existing conditions as well.

But the goal here is to try to transport only those that actually need to be transported to the hospital to try to deal with those staffing issues. So that's one way that New Yorkers are being affected. The other way of course is parents and students and staff at the nation's largest school system right here in New York City.

They will be implementing new protocols, new policy to try to limit the amount of disruptions to day-to-day life. Let's go down to breakdown here. Basically, what NYC public schools are going to require now is they're going to be distributing at-home tests to students, staff who have symptoms and have been exposed to a COVID- positive person on campus.

This is the way it's going to work. Kids who don't have symptoms and test negative can go right back to class. Kids who do have symptoms may not be able to head back to class until they receive two negatives -- two tests taken about a day apart and ultimately those kids that do test positive will have to isolate at home for about 10 days.

The goal here is to try, again, to limit those disruptions, to try to return to normal for many of these students. We've heard from the Biden administration and the secretary of education over the weekend who says that this is what they want, is for these students to be able to go back to in-person teaching to try to limit any kind of disruptions for those kids. Paula?

REID: Polo, thank you. Ryan, we're seeing thousands of new flight cancelations again today. I cannot even begin to imagine what a mess it is down there in Atlanta. So what are you seeing on the ground?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, all across the country, Paula, if you think about it, some people want to return to normal. We heard Polo talking about that. Just the idea, getting to see family during the holiday was so special to so many people. They got vaccinated and they're thinking, hey, we can travel at this point.

The lines on the inside are very long. Obviously, a lot of people like to travel during the holidays and return to work before the Monday. But what we're seeing is between the weather and all the cancelations that the airlines are having to make because of COVID-19, it's starting to have an impact. Take a look at the video from the inside. You can see how long the

lines are. We just went in a few minutes ago. We were starting to see cancelations to certain cities that are being impacted by the weather that's headed this direction especially to Washington, D.C., to Tennessee, to Alabama. There is another couple that was trapped here. They were trying to get to California. Take a listen to their story about how long they've been at this airport.


UNKNOWN: We tried to leave on Thursday, and then they canceled it, and then we tried to reschedule for Saturday night and they rescheduled it again and canceled it. And then today they canceled it on the way to the airport. And then now we're rescheduled for tonight.

YOUNG: Have they given you guys any kind of lodging or anything at all?

UNKNOWN: No, not yet.

YOUNG: That's got to be frustrating.

UNKNOWN: It is. But as long as we can get back to us, we'll be good.


YOUNG: You got to think about it for these families who are stuck. We met another family of seven who was stuck on the inside trying to make themselves comfortable on the floor inside the airport. More than 2,300 flights have been canceled so far. More than 2,700 flights canceled just yesterday. And when you think about the 10-day total, you're talking about more than 14,000 flights.

Now, I've talked to my friends who worked for several airlines here at the airport and they are telling me that a lot of the fellow co- workers have been decimated by getting these positive COVID tests and they've had to stay home. So that's also having an impact.

You add the weather on top of this and you're starting to see those flight cancelations just stack up. So Paula, we are seeing some of these changes really impacting travel. Hopefully Wolf is in D.C. for tomorrow because it's going to be pretty hard to get anywhere close to D.C. where the conditions are at this point.

REID: Ryan Young and Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for your reporting.


Joining me now, CNN medical analyst and former city of Baltimore health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen. She's also the author of "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health." All right, doctor, for so long, one of the silver linings of this pandemic has been the fact that coronavirus for the most part wasn't impacting kids in the same way it was adults. Is that now no longer our understanding? LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, all along in this pandemic there

has been this misunderstanding that somehow COVID doesn't affect children. Of course children have gotten infected with COVID. Sadly, hundreds of children have died and actually COVID is one of the leading causes of death among children. It came out of nowhere to become one of the leading causes of death in kids.

And so this is why vaccinations for younger children remains extremely important. The issue that we're seeing right now is there is just so much omicron, so much COVID everywhere across the U.S., and so children are getting ill in larger numbers. And when you have more kids getting sick, a higher number of kids are going to be needing to be hospitalized.

And so I think this is a call for any parent who has not yet vaccinated their kids and their kids are 5 years and older and are eligible, please vaccinate your children now and protect them. That also helps to protect the other people around them including younger kids who are not yet eligible.

REID: And speaking for eligibility for those under 5, what's the timeline looking like right now for when they may be eligible to get a vaccine?

WEN: Yes, I am eagerly awaiting this as both of my kids are under 5. Right now we're hearing that it's not going to be the first quarter of 2022. That is most likely going to be the second quarter, hopefully some time in spring. Now, of course, I also hope for more information. Pfizer is the closest when it comes to vaccines for younger children. I certainly hope that they are doing everything they can to expedite their trials especially in light of how widespread omicron is right now.

REID: Now, as far as returning to school, I know many parents the last thing they want to contemplate is home learning, at-home learning, virtual learning. But from a medical perspective, should any schools be going back to in-person learning this week?

WEN: Yes. I believe that every school should be returning to in-person learning. The reason is at this point in the pandemic, we know what it takes in order to keep our children safe. We know that when protective measures are in place, schools can actually be the safest for children from a COVID-19 standpoint.

That is, if kids are not in school, it's very unlikely that they're actually hunkering down at home. They are probably going to the mall, hanging out with their friends, being together with other relatives. And caregivers who are also likely to carry COVID.

And, so, at this point what's needed in school is absolutely masking. I would recommend even if your school is not requiring masks and schools really should be requiring masks, but even if it's not, it your child wears a high-quality mask, at least a surgical mask but ideally a KN95, N95, KF94. That protects your child very well.

And then on top of that, if schools are also implementing improved ventilation or some form of testing that also helps too. But I think at this point we know enough about how to keep schools open as well as the damage that this is doing to our children to not have schools open in-person immediately.

REID: And to the point of this variant being milder for adults, we keep hearing that. But at the same time we're seeing National Guard troops being sent to assisted hospitals. New York City has directed EMTs not to transport patients with flu-like symptoms so they can prioritize other emergencies. That doesn't feel it's like something that is mild.

WEN: I think the difference here is that for individuals, it is probably going to be something that's mild as in if you are somebody who's vaccinated and boosted and generally healthy, even if you have a breakthrough infection, chances are really good that you are going to have a mild infection or something that you may not even know that you're infected, which is the reason why this is spreading so quickly.

But, at the same time, we're seeing a substantial strain on our systems, our critical infrastructure. Police, fire, et cetera, are being disrupted because so many people are out ill. And then our hospitals were already overwhelmed because of delta. And then you have omicron on top of that. They just have very little room to maneuver, so that's why so many healthcare systems are being overwhelmed.

And so I think we're dealing with two separate issues here. We need to alleviate the strain on our hospitals, support our healthcare workers and also, at the same time, give people the faith that at this point there are so many people getting infected but chances are really good that they are going to do just fine if they are vaccinated and also boosted.

REID: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much for joining us to help us make sense of all of this.

And coming up, two people missing and feared dead and nearly 1,000 structures burned to the ground. How people in Colorado are grappling with the effects of the most destructive wildfires in the state's history.



REID: New today, one of the three people reported missing after the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history has now been accounted for. It's been a devastating start to the New Year for hundreds of Colorado families after fast-moving flames fueled by hurricane-force winds engulfed nearly a thousand structures.

The tens of thousands who were forced to flee in a matter of minutes are now returning to find what's left of their homes covered in snow. The Delaware family says this is all that's left of their house. They left so fast, all they managed to grab was their pets and some medication. Now, CNN's Natasha Chen joins me now from Superior, Colorado. Hi Natasha. I know you've been covering this for a few days. What's the latest?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Paula, we just went through two press conferences with a lot of officials talking about the investigation into the cause of the fire as well as those missing people you mentioned. So let's start with the people. Those two people are one woman from the Superior area and one man near the Marshall area. They are still actively looking for them.

And this task can be really difficult because, as you mentioned, there's a lot of damage and destruction. We're talking about some homes that are reduced to ashes, and now that's been covered in about eight inches of snow in some places. So that's a really difficult process there to look for them.

At the same time, they are talking about looking into what started this fire on Thursday. The sheriff wouldn't go into any details about that.


We do know that a search warrant was executed on private property on Friday. And we did of course continue to meet people over the weekend who told us harrowing stories about how they evacuated in just minutes. And that actually includes a Boulder County commissioner who said that he used to fight wildfires and when he first started looking at the situation on Thursday, he knew it was bad. The high winds were practically knocking him over. And here's how he described the next few moments.


MATT JONES, BOLDER COUNTY, COLORADO COMMISSIONER: And, so, I decided I'd better get home. So I went back to the car, started driving home. Got a message from my wife that we had an evacuation order. In the meantime, I'm being told by staff that I need to do an emergency declaration. So, as I was trying to think and collect the papers that I would need to get out, the legal papers and all the things that pictures, the heirlooms, I had to sign the emergency declaration too. And it was really, really intense.


CHEN: Multitasking there in those really frightening moments. A lot of stories like that we've heard. People that we've met really keeping a positive attitude, even families that have lost absolutely everything, Paula?

REID: Natasha Chen, thank you so much for your great reporting on this incredible story.

Coming up, an endorsement and an ultimatum. Trump telling one Republican governor he'll back him, but there's a big catch.


REID: These are the lines some Floridians are having to wait in to find out whether they have coronavirus. Some of them hours long. And while we're seeing lines like this elsewhere, Florida is definitely a hot spot. In the last week it has added more COVID cases than nearly any other state, second only to New York.


And this surge comes just two months after the governor banned schools from mandating students to wear masks and signed a law requiring all Florida entities to allow workers to opt out of a vaccine requirement.

Now, the mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber, joins us now.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Help us understand what is going on in your city right now.

DAN GELBER (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH: Well, I'm in Dade County and right now we're sort of -- we've got it pretty bad. We've got about 1,500 people in ICU. We are getting hundreds of new cases of hospitalizations every single day when two weeks ago it was only dozens. So obviously this virus is spreading again.

And, unfortunately, you know, I think the best way to describe this is, it's just been politicized nationally and obviously in our state where instead of our governor following, I think, a medical, you know, routine, he's following political ideology.

And unfortunately, I think we're seeing that in a lot of mis-messaging and miscommunication to the public who right now don't know whether they should have a mask, wear a mask, whether a booster is good, whether a vaccine is good when there are obvious scientific answers to those questions.

REID: Now, speaking of Governor DeSantis, he attended a Christian concert just up the road from you in Miami. And at this concert he received the "Defender of Freedom" award. And I want to play for you what he told the crowd.


RON DESANTIS, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I wish you all a Happy New Year.


And I'm glad we're going to be able to celebrate the New Year in the freest state in the United States.



REID: But the freedom he's referring to comes at a cost. So, in your perspective, what has the cost been for Florida?

GELBER: Listen, I don't get it. At the beginning of this pandemic, frankly, he was pretty good. He promoted local control. He complimented us, we complimented him. He used me in some of his promotional videos saying he was doing a good job. And then he just realized there was a political opportunity if he made this about some supposed freedom, which of course it's not.

We require vaccines for kids in school. We require people to do things that don't endanger their neighbors or strangers even. So, he's just decided to make this a political thing. He has beer koozies on his campaign website that say, you know, you can't wear a mask or making fun of Fauci, Dr. Fauci.

And that's the contributing factor to this great tragedy has been that rather than treat it like a healthcare crisis or any other crisis we deal with like a hurricane when we all stand together and tell the public exactly the same thing, not caring what party you're at, he has made this a wedge issue.

And in a healthcare crisis when you make something a wedge issue and you divide the public so that half the public is one thing and half the public is the other, you get what we're getting right now which is variants still coming, people still getting sick, and this disease still with us. And that's really the tragedy within this tragedy.

REID: Yeah. Beer koozies, mocking medical professionals, another tragedy. Students have to return to school tomorrow. Will that be in classroom? Many parents the last words they want to hear are virtual learning. So will it be in classroom? And if so, what precautions will be taken to mitigate the spread?

GELBER: Well, we're limited in the counties. The legislature and the governor have limited lots of things we can do. My son will be returning to his senior year in public school and his instructors will be wearing masks. For kids they will have the option to wear it.

And I think he will wear it because I think we are using this as an opportunity to teach our children that these kinds of sacrifices are for other people, and that's a good thing to do as opposed to teaching him that the best thing they can do is to not wear a mask to exercise some silly expression of a freedom that really isn't a freedom.

I mean, really what's happening here is, like so much else in our country, they've politicized something that is -- the politicization of which is killing people. And that's going to be when they write the book on this pandemic what they're going to write about is how we made such an unforced error because we were incapable of extracting politics from really what is very obvious healthcare policy.

REID: Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, thank you so much for joining us.

And former President Trump makes an endorsement but then threatens to take it away unless his conditions are met. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty reports.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump making it clear he's using his endorsements to take on his political enemies. Endorsing Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy for re-election only if he does not endorse Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski for re-election.


Murkowski has been in Trump's sight since she voted to convict him on an impeachment charge for inciting the insurrection at the capitol.

UNKNOWN: Ms. Murkowski.


UNKNOWN: Ms. Murkowski, guilty.

SERFATY (voice-over): This is just the latest in a long string of controversial Trump endorsements fueled by getting revenge and settling political vendettas.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The war monger, a person that loves seeing our troops fighting, Liz Cheney, how about that?

SERFATY (voice-over): In Wyoming, Trump throwing his support behind Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney's primary opponent, Harriet Hageman.

TRUMP: So hopefully they'll get rid of her with the next election.

SERFATY (voice-over): After Cheney voted to impeach him and has continued to call out his dishonesty.

CHENEY: We cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president.

SERFATY (voice-over): In Georgia, Trump endorsing David Perdue for governor as a way to get back at Republican Governor Brian Kemp for not doing enough to undermine the will of Georgia voters and turn the 2020 election for Trump.

TRUMP: And your RINO governor, Brian Kemp, who's been a complete disaster --

SERFATY (voice-over): Trump also using his endorsement to preserve his own political brand attempting to stack the party with loyalists even if those candidates come with controversy. In Pennsylvania, Trump endorsing former army captain Sean Parnell.

TRUMP: He's a real hero, a real tough guy and he'll never let you down, Sean Parnell.

SERFATY (voice-over): Parnell went on to suspend his campaign in November after a messy and contentious custody battle. In the Georgia Senate race, Trump recruiting and endorsing political newcomer Herschel Walker.

TRUMP: You know, Herschel is not only a Georgia hero, he is an American legend. SERFATY (voice-over): Even as the former football star has faced

allegations of threatening multiple women over a span of a decade. Walker has spoken openly about his violent past, but his campaign denied a more recent allegation of threatening behavior from 2012.


SERFATY (voice-over): And in Ohio, Trump is backing former senior White House adviser Max Miller for Congress, even as he faces allegations of abuse from his ex-girlfriend former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. Miller has denied the abuse and filed a defamation suit against Grisham.

And it's not only these marque races. Trump has endorsed several down ballot candidates, those running for secretary of state and attorney general in statewide races as well as local election posts, even down to the precinct level. Trump clearly helping to place his allies in more prominent roles ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, Washington.


REID: Sunlen, thank you. Coming up, what made a Tesla owner want to blow up his very expensive car with dynamite? Jeannie Moos has the story.



REID: A sweet New Year's moment shared between former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn just as the peanut drop in Carter's hometown of Plains, Georgia. The former president leaned in for a kiss with his wife of 75 years. The moment was captured by their longtime friend, Jill Stuckey, who said in a Facebook message, "Well, for the 75th New Years together, President and Mrs. Carter couldn't wait to kiss. The peanut dropped at 6:00, so Happy New Year." At 97, Carter is the oldest living former president in U.S. history.

And friends, collaborators, legends, the 50-year partnership between singer/songwriters James Taylor and Carole King has had a truly remarkable impact on American music. Now, in this exclusive joint interview recorded for a new CNN film, King recalls how Taylor played an instrumental role in launching her career as a singer. Let's take a look.


CAROLE KING, SINGER-SONGWRITER: I was your side man, and that's all you've ever wanted to be. Then you said to me, I want you to go on stage tonight and sing your song. What? Wait, what, what? No, No! I can't do it. No, you're going to do it. Don't worry. And you gave me the loveliest introduction. It might have been -- I could be wrong, it might have been in Queens College which I went to.

JAMES TAYLOR, SINGER-SONGWRITER: I seem to remember there was a Queens College.

KING: Yes. And you said, okay, everybody, I'm going to turn the stage over to Carole King. You know her as a songwriter, she wrote blah, blah, blah, and he listed the whole thing. And what he did was he made me pre-loved because everybody knew all those songs.

And I started singing and I just -- I wrote about this in my book like it's hard to -- and I'm like when this whole world starts getting down and I started playing and I'm terrified, and I start feeling the love. And by the time I got to, I'm (inaudible), let me tell you now and you made me do that and I will always be grateful for your love and support and shoving the kid out the nest.

And I watched you on stage and you were yourself. However you were, you were authentically you and you loved being up there, and you played the music, and your level of consciousness varied, but you were always present for that. And I watched you just be yourself, and I was like, oh, that's what you do. So, thank you.


REID: The all new CNN film "Carole King & James Taylor: Just Call Out My Name" premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN. I'll definitely be watching.

And finally tonight, what would make a driver irate enough to dynamite his own Tesla? CNN Jeanne Moos has the explosive video.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ever get so mad at repair bills that you wanted to blow up your car? Me, neither. But this finish guy was beyond finished with his 2013 Tesla Model S after he says he got an estimate of over $22,000 to replace his battery. Tuomas Katainen was asked which would be better, a working Tesla or 66 pounds of dynamite exploding?


TUOMAS KATAINEN, TESLA EXPLOSION GOES VIRAL (TEXT): Sort of both -- maybe more explosion.

MOOS (voice-over): Tuomas went to the Bomb Dudes, in Finnish, Pommijatkat, a YouTube channel known for blowing things up. Tuomas didn't have to pay the Bomb Dudes, used volunteers to rig the car with dynamite. Tuomas bought the 2013 Tesla used about a year and a half ago. He even choppered in a dummy meant to resemble Elon Musk.

To take that final ride, Tuomas got to push the button.

The explosion at a former quarry was captured from every angle.

The video exploded on the internet with poster asking Elon Musk, could you get him a new one, please? CNN asked Tesla for comment but got no response. This isn't the first Tesla to be blasted. SpaceX launched a rocket which released a Tesla roadster with Starman at the wheel. They're still orbiting the sun. Made on Earth by humans, well, this Tesla was exploded on Earth by humans. Jeanne Moos --

TEXT: There is nothing left.

MOOS (voice-over): CNN, New York.


REID: Well, that does it for me. I'm Paula Reid. Jim Acosta is back next week. For now, Pamela Brown takes over the CNN NEWSROOM live after a quick break. Have a good night.