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Santos Tapped For 2 House Panels Despite Growing Calls To Resign; Marjorie Taylor Greene Placed On Oversight, Homeland Security Panels; Mixed Economic Data On Wall Street; Wholesale Prices Fell 0.5% In December, More Than Expected; U.S. Retail Sales Fell In December As Shoppers Battled Inflation; Microsoft Laying Off 10,000 Employees; 911 Calls Released From Jeremy Renner Snowplow Accident. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 18, 2023 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Congressman George Santos, the truth- challenged Republican, who grossly embellished his resume and life experience while running for election, was awarded seats on two congressional committees.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: That's despite mounting legal issues and growing calls for his resignation.

CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill.

Some of his own colleagues, members of his conference are calling for him to resign, but he still gets committee assignments.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the House Republican leadership decided he'll be treated like any other member of the House, given committee assignments.

He did not get the committees he wanted. I'm told he pushed for very high-profile committee seats on the House Financial Services Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Republican leaders decided against that. Instead, gave him two other committees, lower-profile committees, the Science Committee and the Small Business Committee, but still having committee assignments, nonetheless.

Republican leaders say because they're investigations are ongoing and an ethics investigation will take place, they want those to play out. If there were ever an indictment, that's when he would lose the committee assignments.

But there is precedence for knocking off people from committee assignments when they have not been indicted.

In 2019, then-Congressman Steve King made some racist comments. Then- minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, pushed to have him removed from his committee.

But Republicans say this situation is different.


REP. ROGER WILLIAMS (R-TX): I don't condone what he said and what he's done. I don't think anybody does. That's not my role. He was elected. He represents a million people.

REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA): We'll treat him like any other member and keep an eye on him. So -- but.

RAJU: Yes. There's precedent for Steve King lost his committee assignments after the controversies. What is different here?

LOUDERMILK: The nature of what was said. Feeling like some things others said in the past were condemning of other people. I mean, basically, he said some things about himself.


RAJU: So in just a point of clarification, Santos' district represents 776,000 people, not a million people. But that same district is a blue one, one that Joe Biden carried by eight points.

And that is a major factor in how Republican leaders are dealing with it. The last thing they would want, at this point, according to a number of Republican sources, is for a resignation to happen.

That would set up a special election that could make it very difficult to hold on to that seat and tighten McCarthy's already very tight majority in the House.

Which is why Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leaders are giving him committee assignments, saying he'll be a standing member of the conference for now.

CAMEROTA: OK. Manu Raju, thank you very much.

Let's bring in Alyssa Farah Griffin, our CNN political commentator and former White House communications director. We also have Rina Shah, our Republican strategist.

Ladies, great to have you here.

George Santos, Alyssa? He is a charged with financial fraud in Brazil.

Let me give our viewers a little more details about that. This is according to documents presented by CNN.

Santos is accused of stealing a man's checkbook to purchase clothing and shoes in 2008. Santos confessed to forging the man's signature on two checks to purchase clothes and shoes costing $1,313.

Someone charged with financial fraud and defrauding a small business is going to be on the Small Business Committee. ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: In a step further, my

understanding the first time in history a foreign nation asked to extradite a sitting congressman because the Brazil government would like to charge him for these crimes.

It's totally unprecedented. It's the simple math of not wanting to lose a Republican seat that has Kevin McCarthy kind of turning a blind eye to these things.

While they are considered "B" committees, not "A" committees, the ones you want to be on, you're still overseeing things that matter to the American public.

The Science and Technology Committee will be extremely important in a Congress that will be looking into big tech.

He's going to have roles in two influential committees at a time he's under any number of investigations.

And also note, there's reporting he defrauded veterans trying to help dogs. This man seems to know no bottom.


BLACKWELL: Yes. We have that reporting that there were veterans, their dog was sick. This pit bull named Sapphire. He started a GoFundMe. Raised $3,000. The owner of the pit bull never saw the money.

The list just gets, Rina, worse and worse as we go day after day. There's not a constituency he hasn't offended or allegedly defrauded in some way.

How does he have credibility to question or hold accountable any witness who comes before either committee?

RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Already sitting in this moment he has zero credibility because his own local GOP wants nothing to do with him. They want to send constituent case work not to his office but a neighboring congressman's office.

That tells you, when your own people don't want you and tell you you're not welcome in the ranks but at any event, we have to say, what person made it to the highest level of office?

It is a person who is frankly a conn man. There's nothing about him that seems true. He seems to be not just full of himself and somebody who is embellished. He seems to be quite dangerous.

I felt like he's the kind of guy who with stay and stay until he's led out in handcuffs.

Kevin McCarthy did not grow a backbone to deal with this. They just can't afford to love his vote. And if they do lose his vote, gee, Kevin McCarthy may not be speaker anymore.

So this is an issue where we are looking at the situation and we're seeing the drip-drop but it's serving anybody.

CAMEROTA: That leads us to Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Alyssa, she's on the Homeland Security committee. Let's remind viewers of some of the insane things that she has said.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): A so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon, odd, there's never evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.

There's an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now.

Kennedy getting killed in the plane crash, that's another one of those Clinton murders, right?

We're talking about who is accused. I'll tell you what he says. According to him, "Many in our government are actively worshipping Satan."


CAMEROTA: That's her following QAnon.

So she is highly susceptible to crazy conspiracy theories. She's in charge of the security?

GRIFFIN: I mean, think of the history here. The Homeland Security Committee stood up in 2002 after the 9/11 attacks.

When I was a former Pentagon secretary, I offered to give Marjorie Taylor Greene a tour of the Pentagon where you can see where the plane hit the building. No response there.

That is the height of irresponsibility by Kevin McCarthy. He could have put her on House administration. There's many committees you can plug someone like her where she can't do real damage.

But Rina said something important that I think applies to both of these individuals, which is there's a danger element here.

Especially George Santos, a known con artist. This is somebody that foreign adversaries would be champing at the bit to exploit.

When you're this caught up in legal woes, you don't have an off ramp, this makes you susceptible to things like blackmail. And he's now to have access to what members of Congress do.

She's somebody as well. She's not demonstrated the judgment, the integrity to be on a committee dealing with our homeland.

And finally, one of the biggest issues Homeland Security should be dealing with is homegrown domestic terrorism, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. This is a woman that said, if she and Steve Bannon had led January

6th, they would have won and they would have been armed. Totally irresponsible.

BLACKWELL: Rina, let's look at the House Oversight Committee, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, who supported Kevin McCarthy in his bid for speakership.

But a couple holdouts, Lauren Boebert, Byron Donalds, Paul Gosar and others on the committee.

There have been questions about the side deals made to get to the final vote to the 15th vote to get to that gavel.

What are the next two years look like if you have these members there on House Oversight?

SHAH: Dysfunction, dysfunction, dysfunction. That is what the next two years look like.

It saddens me, as somebody that worked in the halls of Congress.

And any of us that worked in the halls know, we know not only are these members, these people we've elected as representatives, people who should be committed to intellectual debate, vigorous intellectual debate.

But they should also at the very least have stable minds.

What I think we've seen with the crazy clown car caucus of Gosar, Gaetz and Boebert, we've seen this lack of desire to govern. We've seen this want to blow it all up.

And this is a problem in our moment right now where we have these attitudes that are all-or-nothing attitudes. They are creating the problem that messes with everyday governing.

So it's what is happening in our politics isn't just happening over there. It affects what happens on the Hill because they bring these attitudes.

And then, they, at every moment, want to create barriers to progress, to things actually getting done for the American people.

Conservatives have real opportunities when we talk about economy, immigration. These are places they can lead this year. They can legislate. They can choose to govern.


But these people, characterizing our politics, they made it so hard because they made it so difficult for Kevin McCarthy to afford to lose even one vote, like I mentioned earlier.

And that is -- it's a very simple reason for why we'll see the dysfunction for the next two years. BLACKWELL: There's certainly some problems that must be solved. At the

top of the list, the debt ceiling coming up. Reaching it tomorrow. Default in a few months. We'll talk more about that in the next hour.

Rina Shah, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Encouraging news on the economy. Inflation appears to be slowing. What this means for the Fed and for you.



CAMEROTA: Just into CNN, State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, confirmed two Americans were among the 72 people killed in that Yeti Airways plane crash that went down in Nepal on Sunday.

CAMEROTA: We don't know the identities of these two Americans.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation. The Canada Transportation Safety Board is an active part of this investigation.

Canada is where the aircraft's engine was designed and manufactured so that's why they're playing a role.

$: Traders on Wall Street are busy deciphering a mixed bag of economic data. The Dow is down more than 400 points after another disappointing retail sales report.

On the flip side, producer prices fell last month. Evidence that the Fed's interest rate hikes are cooling the economy as intended.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Rahel Solomon is with us now.

Rahel, the Fed has to balance all of these different variables so what is this latest one mean for them?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You would think maybe it would mean they would slow the pace of rate hikes. We heard Citibank saying it's changing the call for the February Fed meeting to a slower rate hike.

And we heard from several Fed officials saying they're not done yet. And that's part of the reason the Dow was off more than 400 points.

What did we learn in the report this morning? Producer prices, the wholesale retailer inflation, supplier inflation, and what it showed is prices fell 0.5 percent on a monthly basis. On an annual basis, prices are higher by 6.2 percent.

Take a look however at the last few years of annual PPI, or producer inflation, and you can see the trend that is certainly encouraging, 6.2 percent at an annual rate, as I just said.

But compare that to the peak of 11.7 percent in March of 2022. We like to see it. Now, take a look at consumer inflation, which is inflation that we as

consumers all experience on a day to day. You can see it is following a similar trend. Consumer inflation also falling.

You have consumer inflation falling, producer inflation falling, wages moderating. Part of the reason why you're hearing banks say the Fed can do a little less now because it is working.

At the same time, we got retail sales that showed, look, it was a disappointment. Consumers really pulling back how they're spending. Retail sales fell 1.1 percent on a monthly basis in December. November was also revised lower.

And, guys, the pullback was pretty broad-based. Even parts of the economy that had been doing really well, like restaurants and bars, we saw some pullbacks there in the last month.

So, you know, is it good? Is it bad? It's like when you're in a relationship and the label isn't really defined. It's complicated.


CAMEROTA: Thank you for putting it in our terms.


BLACKWELL: Been there.

SOLOMON: It gets better.


CAMEROTA: Haven't we all?

We learned earlier today that Microsoft will lay off 10,000 of its employees. That's almost 5 percent of the work force. What is going on there?

SOLOMON: Exactly. The company is saying larger macroeconomic trends -- haven't we heard that before, another tech player joining that space. And saying it is seeing slowing demand.

The CEO is at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He didn't talk about the layoffs but he did talk about normalizing demand. Another tech player experiencing this normalizing demand.

Guys, you got to remember, during the pandemic, they saw explosive and growth, explosive demand for their digital products. And it's now a different environment so demand has started to pull back.

BLACKWELL: Things are changing.


BLACKWELL: Rahel Solomon.

The 911 calls have been released from the accident involving Oscar- nominated actor, Jeremy Renner. You'll hear them for yourself, next.



BLACKWELL: We've just obtained the 911 calls from the incident that left actor, Jeremy Renner, hospitalized.

It's been two weeks since he was seriously injured by a snowplow. And just yesterday, the actor tweeted that he is home and recovering after several surgeries.

CAMEROTA: With us now is CNN's Chloe Melas.

Chloe, first, let's warn viewers that the 911 calls are disturbing.

But take us through them.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Look, this took place on New Year's Day at his home in the Lake Tahoe area where he had been moving a car with a snowcat, this multitoned piece of machinery he owns.

To move a car that one of his family members had gotten stuck in his driveway in the snow. There was unprecedented snowfall in the area.

We know that Jeremy successfully moves the car, gets onto the snowcat and somehow slips off.

An unidentified neighbor calls 911 and we have a little bit of that 911 call. Take a listen.


911 OPERATOR: How's he doing?

CALLER: Shallow breath. A lot of pain. He's conscious.


CALLER: We've got him covered in blankets. His head's covered. Slowly drifting off.

911 OPERATOR: Is he starting to drift off into sleep?


Stay awake.


MELAS: All right. So this 911 call goes on for 20 minutes. We're not playing all of it for you all because it is very disturbing and graphic in nature.

But at one point, you hear the caller say that his chest, upper torso, his ribs have been crushed. You saw, you know, on the 911 call that you are hearing that he's drifting off to sleep.

So the good news is though, that he survived, right?

And we know in that press conference that the sheriff's office did a few days later that, you know, it took them over 20 minutes, 25 minutes to get to him because roads were closed. There was all that snowfall in the area.

And he was airlifted to a hospital. Got out of the hospital just the other day. He's recovering at home.

We're hoping to hear from him soon, maybe even here at CNN.

And, you know, it's incredible. He's posted on social media updates from the hospital when he was there. His family surrounding him. His television show premiering the other day. And so, you know, he's posting about that.


So it's just obviously a long road to recovery, but it's incredible that he is alive.

So it's one of those stories that, you know, has a happy ending at the end of all of this.

But we obviously still want to know more details on his condition and how he's doing because that was such a heavy piece of machinery that crushed him.

BLACKWELL: Yes. A very severe accident here, but as we've seen on social media, his spirits are high.


BLACKWELL: That certainly helps in recovery.


BLACKWELL: Chloe, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

MELAS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, the failed politician accused of masterminding four shootings at the homes of Democratic officials is set to face a judge in just minutes. We're following all of the latest developments ahead.