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CNN This Morning
McCarthy Sworn In As House Speaker After 15 Ballots; Provost: Arrest Of Idaho Students' Murder Suspect Brings "A Great Sense Of Relief"; Bills' Damar Hamlin Has Breathing Tube Removed; Biden Honors Capitol Police, Election Workers For Protecting Democracy; Ukraine Says Fighting Continues Despite Russian "Ceasefire"; United States Military Expands Leave For New Parents In Uniform. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired January 07, 2023 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Good morning and welcome to CNN this morning. I'm Alex Marquardt, in today for Boris Sanchez.
AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Good to be with you, Alex. And I'm Amara Walker.
After days of drama and 15 rounds of voting, the House finally elects a Speaker. How the chaos ended and what it means for the future of Kevin McCarthy and the GOP?
MARQUARDT (voice over): And there are new details in the horrific murder of four Idaho college students. What we're learning from a recently released affidavit?
And a former FBI agent will be joining us with her perspective on that investigation.
WALKER (voice over): Also, remarkable progress for Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin. An update on his condition, and the moment he FaceTimed his teammates from his hospital bed.
MARQUARDT: And a major policy change for military parents. The changes that will allow them to spend more time with their newborns. That's coming up on CNN THIS MORNING.
WALKER (on camera): Good morning, everyone. And welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It's January 7th, and Alex is gracing us with his presence. Thank you for being with us, Alex. Hopefully, you got some sleep last night.
MARQUARDT (on camera): Always nice to be back with you. I got some sleep and that means I missed the historic, you know, end of the speakership race.
MARQUARDT: And woke up to that news this morning. Happy New Year to you.
WALKER: Well, Happy New Year to you as well.
Well, if you missed it like some of us did, because we had to go to bed. We're going to tell you more about this historic chaotic drama that played out late last night.
WALKER (voice over): And into early this morning, it ended with a Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy, finally securing the role of House Speaker.
It took 50 rounds of voting though for McCarthy to finally clinch the gavel as the last lawmaker cast his vote.
You can see there, the chamber erupted in applause.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHERYL JOHNSON, CLERK OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Zinke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: And after the bruising fight against conservatives in his own party, Kevin McCarthy says it is now time to focus on what is best for the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): And now, the hard work begins. What we do here today, next week, next month, next year, will set the tone for everything that follows.
As Speaker the House, my ultimate responsibility is not to my party, my conference, or even our Congress. My responsibility, our responsibility is to our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, she compared the chaos surrounding McCarthy's rise to the speakership in contrasting that with the Democrats unity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX), REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: What I hope most Americans will take away from this marathon of over five days of unceasing voting, massive chaos, and confusion, almost fistfights on the floor, was that the Democrats under the leadership of Hakeem Jeffries remain solidly solid. 212 votes every single time.
And we have progressives and moderates and Blue Dogs and people from all places around the country, obviously. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER (on camera): All right, so who flipped? What concessions did Speaker McCarthy make? And what happens next?
MARQUARDT: To answer those questions, CNN Washington correspondent Sunlen Serfaty joins us now from Capitol Hill.
Sunlen, a late night and early morning for all of us. For a while there it looks like McCarthy might not be able to pull this off. How did he finally get it done?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): That's right, Alex. There certainly were many twists and turns over the course of the night. A historic moment in the end for Kevin McCarthy after so many -- much drama.
15 rounds of voting, he was able to become the next Speaker in the end with 216 votes.
Now, how did he get there? He was, in the end, able to flip those holdouts, those conservative voting bloc of House members that had consistently voted no, he was able to get them to vote present.
That important because it lowered the threshold that he needed to reach this -- to get the Speaker's gavel. And he was able to get there with some real time negotiations that we saw play out on the House floor over the course of this week, these last five days.
And certainly, in the moment, over the course of last night, significant negotiation between the 14th and 15th round of voting.
And McCarthy here able to extract numerous concessions, able to give numerous concessions to many of the members who were those holdouts.
WALKER: Yes, and most of those holdouts, most of those who initially, at least, voted against McCarthy, were part of the Freedom Caucus. How did they emerge from this fight within the party?
SERFATY: It's a great question, because the Freedom Caucus here did have considerable sway. They were among many of the holdouts that consistently voted against McCarthy.
In the end, they did get some concessions. They got more spots in the House Rules Committee for important -- for example, an important committee up here on Capitol Hill.
But this is certainly just the pattern that we have seen from the House Freedom Caucus over nearly the last decade, trying to pressure House Republican leaders at every turn.
REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): I won't take orders from anyone in this town. SERFATY (voice over): They have become some of the most obstructionist.
MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It gives us the power of negation, which the power of no.
SERFATY: And antagonistic Republican members on Capitol Hill.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): That up with the ways of the swamp and fed up with leadership that fails us, telling us to vote along with a Democrat agenda that is completely failing America.
SERFATY: The House Freedom Caucus, a small but feisty group of Republican rebels, that has become a thorn stuck firmly in the side of Republican leadership for nearly a decade.
REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): What I do not support is blindly supporting legislation that is critically flawed at its core, because of, oh, we're in the minority.
SERFATY: Building a brand on challenging GOP leaders, earning the various nicknames from their own party, like legislative terrorists and the Taliban-19.
REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): Being told by our own Republican leadership. Well, it's 90 percent good, it's 90 percent tasty, it's 90 percent pure, there's only 10 percent poison and toxins in it, but drink it anyway.
SERFATY: The group has been at the center of some of the biggest fights on Capitol Hill.
MEADOWS: At this point, it looks like we could be in for a very long term shutdown.
SERFATY: Consistently, making the task of governing more challenging.
PAUL RYAN, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't want us to become a factionalized majority. I want us to become a unified majority.
SERFATY: To the frustration of past House Republican speakers.
RYAN: I share a frustration. About 90 percent of our conference is for this bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and about 10 percent are not.
SERFATY: The Freedom Caucus was involved in former House Speaker John Boehner's ouster in 2015.
JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: On my case, on any given day, there were two or three dozen, what I call, knuckleheads who just wanted -- they wanted chaos.
They wanted that all their way or no way.
SERFATY: Who stepped down amid difficulty managing the faction. BOEHNER: The people on the fringes have a bigger platform to make their points. And frankly, create chaos.
SERFATY: Later that year, they blocked Kevin McCarthy's first bid for Speaker.
TIM HUELSKAMP, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: We're looking for a Speaker who works with conservatives rather than against us.
SERFATY: Having a hand in his withdrawal, then from the race.
MCCARTHY: I think I shock something.
SERFATY: The caucus was first founded in 2015.
AMERICAN CROWD: (INAUDIBLE)
SERFATY: Born out of the Tea Party movement.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Do what we told the voters we were going to do.
SERFATY: With founding members like Congressman Jim Jordan.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We all swore an oath of office --
SERFATY: Ron DeSantis, and Mark Meadows among others, under the original founding principles of open, accountable, and limited government, the constitution, and the rule of law.
The group attempts to operate with a bit of mystique.
MEADOWS: We would have to kill you if we told you.
SERFATY: They don't publish their member list, which is around 35 members. And as now, a small number of them are again threatening to derail the next Speaker.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): If you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise.
SERFATY: Their fight has become personal, embolden in the culmination of this moment.
REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, sir, you do not have the votes, and it's time to withdraw.
SERFATY (on camera): And in an end, of course, many House Freedom Caucus members did relent and ended up voting present for McCarthy.
And Lauren Boebert there, how -- who you saw at the end, she voted present in the end.
What comes next though, on Capitol Hill, Alex and Amara? Well, of course, they will take the weekend off and then get back at 5:00 p.m.
On Monday, they need to vote a rules package that is essentially the protocol on the rules of how the House will operate.
That is going to be important going forward. But that's just a window into what likely lies ahead for Kevin McCarthy and his new speakership.
MARQUARDT: All right. And well, really dramatic start to the New Year.
Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much.
Now, let's get some perspective from CNN political commentator and former Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart.
Charlie, Alice, thank you so much for joining us this morning after really a historic four days went into the fifth day, ending early this morning.
Of course, the big question now, despite the fact that Kevin McCarthy is all smiles, the real question is, how strong is he going to be as Speaker, when Matt Gaetz, who was arguably the leader of that rebel coalition?
When he was asked why he flipped his vote from no to present, he told CNN that, "I ran out of things, I couldn't even imagine to ask for."
So, Alice, to you first, how weak is Kevin McCarthy going to be a Speaker?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (on camera): Well, based on all the concessions he gave, he has weakened the position of without a doubt.
And the question is, we need to know exactly what he did concede to a lot of these members of the chaos caucus in order to first and foremost make it even viable for him to stay in that position without someone -- once they get frustrated with him, putting forth a motion to vacate. That is the biggest concern I would imagine for him.
Look, I think this was a difficult road to where we are. It was very ugly. But a victory is still a victory. And we'll take it. And as Kevin McCarthy has often said, as his father said, it's not how you begin, but it's how you end.
Now, we got through this very difficult week, which should not have ever gotten to this point. And it is time to stop the aggravation and begin the legislation.
And I'm encouraged by not just the speech by Kevin McCarthy, who said that he plans to work together. And it's time for the Republicans to focus on taking the fight to Joe Biden and the Democrats on issues like inflation, the economy, and crime, and securing the border. And also oversight. And I think that's an important component of this.
And he says they will also look at, when they're talking about spending money. If you want to spend it, you have to defend it.
But also Alex, given a tremendous credit to Hakeem Jeffries and his speech, really about unity and talking about working together as for Republicans and Democrats, and saying it's time to restore normalcy to the order there in the House.
MARQUARDT: Right. Yes. It was a victory, it was a hard fought one. It was a contentious one at moments.
Charlie, a source did tell CNN that Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, he told Matt Gaetz that Gaetz was going to be finished for continuing to wreck the Speaker's vote and really forcing it to go so many rounds.
Now, McCarthy has tried to spin this division that we saw on full display as, as he -- as he said, now we've learned how to govern.
But Charlie, what do you think this means for passing legislation, actually getting stuff done? Why the American people sent these people to Congress, when Republicans have such a tiny majority?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, why. Governing, it's going to get much harder now. The Speaker vote is usually the easiest vote of the Congress. It really is.
And we just saw what happened. This turned out to be one of the hardest votes to the Congress.
But to legislate, it's going to become even more difficult. Because some of the concessions that Speaker McCarthy had to make to get the job, such as adding a few Freedom Caucus members to the Rules Committee?
Well, good luck getting those bills to the floor. That's a key committee. Most of the public doesn't understand what goes on in that committee. But that's essential.
Gave those folks a seat at that table. That's a big mistake. There are other mistakes that they've made here too, as I was pointed out, the motion to vacate the chair.
You know, it just empowered these guys, you know, for example, OK, I love the idea of passing appropriations bills individually, and the House should do that.
The problem you have is the United States Senate. They don't pass bills individually, and you will end up with yet another omnibus.
So, while Speaker McCarthy made those concessions. It's almost as if they pretended the United States Senate doesn't exist. I have heard suggestions that they were going to cap defense spending. Well, hello. You know, there the Armed Services Committee, there the Appropriations Committee at the Senate. They're all going to have a say on this matter.
How can that -- how can those types of concessions be made to a group now of this chaos caucus?
I mean, it's almost as if it's easier, it's almost better to be an opponent to the Speaker than to be an ally, because look what these guys have extracted out of him.
I mean, I really think this is -- this is going to get much harder to govern. And then, there is the debt ceiling.
DENT: Or even talked about, wait until that comes around. How are they going to be able to pass a debt ceiling? They said, there has to be spending cuts tied to it?
Well, again, hello, the Senate is going to be involved, the president is going to be involved, and they're going to have to renege on that, that concession.
MARQUARDT: And one of the next things that's going to happen in the near future, Alice is, is committee assignments.
This is not entirely up to Speaker McCarthy. There is a steering committee that assigns members of Congress to the various committees.
How do you expect -- or where do you expect some of these conservative rebels, as we've been calling them in terms of what they may or may not get in terms of committee assignments?
STEWART: I don't think there is going to be as much under the Christmas tree for them in that regard, as they seem to think.
Speaking with a lot of members of the rational Republican group throughout the week, and specifically, late into the night last night, they were frustrated, they were angry. They felt this was completely unnecessary, given the fact that every concession they had requested had been met. And this was not a matter of policy. This was just about personality conflicts with Kevin McCarthy.
And here these people have gone in day in and day out for all the right reasons for the party and for policies. And you have people like Gaetz and Boebert, who are in a vanity project to raise money for the future.
They do have the opportunity to decide who gets on which committee and where. And I can guarantee you, Alex that they are going to be quite selective in who gets on which committee. And certainly, Matt Gaetz has his eye on the price for a key committee assignment, but I -- they're going to be in for a rude awakening because their colleagues are frustrated with the fact that they have a job to do, they were all elected under -- by the same voters in terms of the agenda on looking at the key issues and policies, and they want to work together with the people that were supporting McCarthy from the beginning, all the way up until this very last vote.
MARQUARDT: Well, I think, as far as Speaker McCarthy is concerned, he would like to think that this is over, but I think he's got quite a bit coming in the coming weeks and months.
Charlie Dent, Alice Stewart, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for your time and expertise this morning. Appreciate it.
DENT: Thanks, Alex.
STEWART: Thanks, Alex.
WALKER: And we're learning new details about the brutal murders of four Idaho college students, including how police tracked and eventually arrested a suspect.
A former FBI agent will join us with her perspective on the investigation in the man accused of the crime.
Plus, promising news on the recovery of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. The reaction from his teammates when he FaceTimed in to the team. Their meeting this week, that's coming up.
WALKER: The provost of the University of Idaho says the arrest of a murder suspect brings a great sense of relief, as students head back to campus two months after four classmates were killed. Security on campus will remain heightened as classes resume Wednesday.
Bryan Kohberger is the only suspect in the killings of four students in their off campus home on November 13th. Kohberger has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and one count of felony burglary. He was arrested in his parents' Pennsylvania home on December 30th.
Now, court documents are giving us some insight into the investigation, leading up to his arrest. And an affidavit shows police found DNA on a knife sheath at the crime scene. A roommate described a masked figure with bushy eyebrows and phone records show the suspect was near the victim's home at least a dozen times before the killings.
And surveillance video recorded a white sedan. Police found a white sedan at nearby Washington State University. But look, there are still questions about what motivated the killings and why these victims were targeted.
Joining us now to discuss is retired FBI special agent, Jennifer Coffindaffer. She is the CEO of Firearms Beyond International.
Jennifer, really appreciate you joining us this morning. You know, just reading through portions of this affidavit, I mean, they're horrifically chilling.
We know that four people were killed, two were not attacked. And we know from the court documents that one roommate came face to face with the suspect. She reported that she heard crying that this figure clad in black clothing and a mask, said, it's OK. I'm going to help you.
First off, why would he leave a witness? And what does this tell you about how the suspect, perhaps, went about the killings?
JENNIFER COFFINDAFFER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, FIREARMS BEYOND INTERNATIONAL: Well, I think in this situation, he had killed four individuals already massively stabbing them.
And this takes a lot of effort and a lot of energy. There was also dog barking. There was crying, as was mentioned by the witness.
And so, when one has a fantasy of how this is all going to play out, this started not playing out well for him. He lost his sheath, and I think he had made the decision to leave because he didn't want to get caught and walked right past this woman.
This is not rare though. Bundy, when he committed the sorority murders in Florida, he did the same thing he only attacked four and left many alive, walking right past their doors.
WALKER: And you don't believe this was his first encounter with violence or maybe even such an attack?
COFFINDAFFER: I am not sure. This would be quite a lot to fight off for first time offender. But, I know, in Pennsylvania, they are going to be scouring burglary reports that are unsolved, different assaults that might be unsolved with the same sort of modus operandi, to see if he had any fledgling attempts at such a crime in the past.
WALKER: And the police work is also so fascinating and really commendable to me as well. I've been reading through this affidavit. They were able to link the DNA from the trash bins at the Kohberger family home in Pennsylvania to the DNA found across the country in Idaho on that knife sheath.
You mentioned the fact that they entered -- the FBI agents who had been surveilling Kohberger for days, they entered his home at three in the morning, and you say, that's not an ordinary occurrence?
COFFINDAFFER: That's correct. It's not ordinary. And I think that it explains why we have this 19-page long, probable cause affidavit, which is also fairly rare.
Usually, you're just giving them a bite of your case enough to show there's probable cause, which is the lowest standard required. But not in this case, we are seeing well beyond probable cause written up in these pages.
And part of it is to justify such a dangerous entry as in the middle of the evening against a suspected murderer of four people. They needed to make sure that judge saw some strong evidence.
WALKER: We know that he was a graduate student, trying to get his PhD in Criminal Justice at Washington State University. We don't know a motive just yet. But do you think that, that could have played a role in such a motive?
COFFINDAFFER: Well, I think it played a role in his understanding of the criminal justice system. But did not help him at all and how to commit this crime.
We can see blunder after blunder using his own car, using his cellular phone, not using it during the time of the murders, having a sheath not locked in his belt properly, where it was dislodged and left behind by Madi's body.
All of these huge errors showed me a lack of common sense. Maybe good behind the pencil, but not so good committing crimes.
WALKER: And the fact that authorities found that the suspect's phone was near that Moscow, Idaho home even as far as five months before he allegedly carried out these murders. What do you make of that?
COFFINDAFFER: What this really shows his planning and premeditation. Many of us believe he had to be familiar with the house, familiar with that area, and sure enough in this affidavit, they paint a picture of him conducting surveillance, you know, stalking if you will, preparing for this day.
WALKER: Just unimaginable these details. Really appreciate you joining us this morning, Jennifer Coffindaffer. Thank you.
COFFINDAFFER: Thank you, Amara.
MARQUARDT: Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has made a surprise appearance on FaceTime with his team just hours after his breathing tube was removed. More on his recovery and how the NFL plans to honor him this weekend. That's coming up next.
MARQUARDT: The Buffalo Bills announced on Friday that they have placed safety Damar Hamlin on injured reserve, which means that he is effectively ending his season with the Buffalo Bills.
Now, this is coming as Hamlin had his breathing tube removed and a positive development that's just four days after the 24-year-old suffered cardiac arrest on the field.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell delivered a message to Hamlin during a meeting yesterday, discussing playoff plans after the cancelation of that Bills-Bengals game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, COMMISSIONER, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: Yesterday's news of tomorrow's improving condition lifted not only my spirits, but the spirits of the entire league.
I'm grateful for it and humbled by all who played a role as Damar continues on his road to recovery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: Talking about spirits lifted, Damar Hamlin is up and FaceTiming with his teammates. Laughing and smiling on the call with them yesterday from the hospital in Cincinnati.
CNN's Ryan Young has more on his remarkable recovery.
DION DAWKINS, LINEMAN, BUFFALO BILLS: Got our boy, the excitement was beautiful. It was amazing.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A team overjoyed with good news.
DAWKINS: To see that boy's face, to see him smile, see him go like this in the camera, it was -- it was -- it was everything. So, and then, to hear him talk to us, it was -- it was literally everything and that's what we needed.
YOUNG: The Buffalo Bills announcing more progress after Damar Hamlin's breathing tube was removed overnight.
SEAN MCDERMOTT, HEAD COACH , BUFFALO BILLS: He said, I love you, boys.
YOUNG: The 24-year-old, now able to breathe on his own. Briefly joining Friday morning's team meeting with players and coaches via FaceTime.
MCDERMOTT: To see the player's reaction. They stood up right away and clap for him. And, you know, yield some things to him.
YOUNG: Hamlin injecting his sense of humor into the call.
MCDERMOTT: The thing that makes me laugh is, is he did this to the guys. You know, right away and he made the heart, the heart symbol prime more than anything.
YOUNG: The signs of progress, welcome relief for players and staff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like how he went down.
YOUNG: New audio of the intense moments on the field after Hamlin's collapse as medics fought to save his life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring the cot with the medics, all of you and get wheeled out here.
YOUNG: A reminder of how far Hamlin's condition has improved.
DR. WILLIAM KNIGHT IV, PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI: I don't think that we can emphasize enough the immediate medical response.
YOUNG: The medical team treating Hamlin crediting those first responders with his improved condition.
KNIGHT: In addition to having paramedics, emergency physicians, respiratory therapists, all right at his bedside in less than a minute from the collapse, that speaks to that ability that demonstrates that he had good perfusion to his brain that led to no identifiable neurologic deficit.
YOUNG: The player on the other side of that routine play, Tee Higgins speaking out.
TEE HIGGINS, AMERICAN FOOTBALL WIDE RECEIVER: Obviously, it's been hard, you know, just because you don't have something to do with the play. He's doing good. So, I'm in -- I'm in a good place right now.
YOUNG: All of this coming as the Bills prepare to face off against the Patriots on Sunday.
MCDERMOTT: All the improvements of Damar make life so much easier to focus on, as you mentioned, the task at hand in that game, the New England Patriots.
YOUNG: Buffalo teasing a special number three patch that players will wear at a number of tributes this weekend, including highlighting the number three on the field.
The NFL encouraging teams to show leaguewide support for Damar, the first responders, and medical caregivers.
DAWKINS: It'll be emotional. It really will be.
YOUNG: As the players now shift their focus from that traumatic moment to future games --
DAWKINS: We're going to use all the positives to help us win.
YOUNG: Their teammate's future is still top of mind with the long recovery ahead.
KNIGHT: His future in professional football is that it's an entirely too early to have that conversation. He is still critically ill in the ICU, our focus is on getting him better.
YOUNG (on camera): We've been using the words unprecedented all week, and the NFL stepped in to make some moves when it comes to the playoffs.
They said the AFC Championship could be played at a neutral site if needed. Also, if the Bengals and Ravens have to face each other in a wildcard game, home field advantage will be determined by a coin flip.
But everybody right now is happy and pleased with the improvements that have been made during this week.
Ryan Young, CNN, Cincinnati.
WALKER: Yes, some positive news there. Thank you, Ryan.
Still ahead, CNN goes inside one of the most famous churches in Ukraine as the Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas day. Why this day holds even more significance now?
WALKER (on camera): President Joe Biden marked the second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection by honoring those who helped protect democracy that day.
MARQUARDT: It's right. President Biden awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal to nine police officers, three of whom died after protecting the Capitol. As well as five election workers and public officials who protected the vote counts.
CNN's Jasmine Wright joins us now from the White House. Jasmine, President Biden, he talked about the soccer sacrifices that these recipients who got this medal made to defending American democracy.
JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, he did, Alex. And the -- and that is why the president really bestowed one of the highest honors that a civilian can receive, to these 14 individuals.
And you're right, they broke down into those two groups, law enforcement officials who responded to the carnage on January 6th at the Capitol, and then, those poll workers and election officials who really upheld election integrity in the days, weeks, and months, before January 6th, all stopping president -- former President Trump from overturning the election.
And that included Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who now famously misdirected rioters, luring them away from lawmakers.
And also included election workers, Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, as you can see on the screen right there, who had really been singled out and heavily criticized by President Trump and his allies for just doing their job on that day. And continue to be criticized really, up until this week.
Now, President Biden said that the country owe these 14 individuals a great debt, while also emphasizing the point here that it was not just on January 6th, where we saw these real attacks against election integrity and democracy itself. But it happened up in the days and weeks leading to it.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this day, two years ago, we were reminded about the most fundamental of things, democracy itself.
As I've said before, we face an inflection point in our nation's history. On January 6th, is a reminder that there's nothing guaranteed about our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WRIGHT: So, there we heard President Biden talking about democracy. Now, something that he didn't talk about was really that split screen that we saw him on Pennsylvania honoring those who upheld election integrity.
And then, what we saw yesterday before, Kevin McCarthy managed to get the Speaker's gavel, which was really the 10th -- 11th time missing votes for those people who also really oppose Kevin McCarthy.
Also, some of them also, were against certifying the election.
Now, this all funnels into the President Biden's bottom line here, which is the fact that although there has been progress, although that he and officials feel that the country is turning a corner, the fact still remains that the threat -- threats against democracy still exist. Alex, Amara?
WALKER: All right. Jasmine Wright, thank you very much, in Wilmington, Delaware with the president.
MARQUARDT: And we have a quick programming note. CNN is looking into how Rudy Giuliani went from being called America's mayor to now facing a litany of legal troubles surrounding election conspiracies in an all new CNN original series. Here is a preview.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Forget Paris, and forget London, and forget everything else. New York City is where it's at.
MICHAEL TOMASKY, FORMER CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST. NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I don't know how close Giuliani and Trump were personally in the 1980s. But I do know they occupied similar spaces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're outer borough guys. One thing that they have inherited from their fathers is a certain kind of owe and resentment of Manhattan, and those rich people.
NANCY COLLINS, T.V. AND PRINT REPORTER: Rudy represented the kind of every guy who came from the boroughs and came to New York and made it big.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: If you or a person that's looking at a snow globe, if you will, from the outside, even if you end up inside the snow globe, you'll always feel like an outsider.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giuliani didn't come from the upper crust establishment that may have fueled his ambition. Did and also contribute to some deep sense of insecurity that he was an outsider. And in that, maybe he does identify with Trump.
MARQUARDT: You can watch the new series called, "GIULIANI: WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICA'S MAYOR", when it premieres tomorrow night at 9:00, right here on CNN.
We'll be right back.
WALKER: Ukraine says it's still under attack by Russian forces, even though Vladimir Putin's "ceasefire" was supposed to start at noon yesterday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected the ceasefire, calling it a "manipulation".
MARQUARDT: CNN's Scott McLean is on the ground in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for us. So, Scott, what has happened since Putin proposed this suppose ceasefire?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hey, Alex, Amara, look, the Russians say that they are only returning fire when fired at. And they say that they will continue to observe this ceasefire for the rest of Christmas Day here in Ukraine, regardless of what the Ukrainians do.
But the reality is that Ukrainians never agreed to this ceasefire in the first place. So, they have carried on business as usual.
Case in point, the Russians say that they managed to shoot down a Ukrainian drone over Crimea where -- whereas, the Ukrainian say that they've taken plenty of incoming across the front line, including particularly heavy fighting in Bakhmut, where some of the really most serious battles are taking place in this war right now.
And there are dead and wounded, according to the Ukrainians.
As I mentioned, it is also Christmas day in the country today in the Orthodox faith.
[07:50:00] And so, we went to one of the most famous Orthodox churches in Ukraine today for Christmas mass. And this was a church that was formerly being used by a branch of the Orthodox faith that formerly had links to the Orthodox Church of Russia.
But since the war began, the Ukrainian government has put some of the leadership of that branch of the Orthodox faith under investigation, alleging that they are still under the influence of the Russian church.
And so, as a result, they are no longer the tenants of that very famous church. Instead, it's been handed over to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
And so, mass was celebrated inside that church in Ukrainian for the first time in a very long time. And people traveled from across the country to be there to mark this historic occasion.
And people told me that look, this year, in particular, Christmas is very important, given the war -- given how difficult things have been over the past year, and they need to pray now, perhaps more than ever. Alex, Amara.
Oh, boy. All right, Scott McLean, live in Kyiv for us. Thank you.
Well, meantime, the U.S. military is getting much more time off to new parents in uniform.
MARQUARDT: CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon with details on the Army's push to recruit soldiers but retain families. Oren?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Alex, and Amara, this new policy is a dramatic expansion on the amount of parental leave parents get after giving birth.
LIEBERMANN (voice over): And in this case, it applies not only to the birthing parent, but also the non-birthing parent. Up until now, the birthing parent got six weeks off, and the non-birthing parent didn't get any time off.
Instead, now both will get 12 weeks of parental leave. So, three months in order to plan and begin a life with an extended family.
And crucially, this applies not only to a birth, but also an adoption and to long-term foster care. So, the military is trying to offer flexibility in this case.
LIEBERMANN (on camera): The military also says these 12 weeks don't have to be taken all at once. And it can be broken up with additional leave or other kinds of leaves. So, there is flexibility in here intended to allow for family planning, and that's why this is so crucial.
LIEBERMANN (voice over): Family Planning is one of the most often cited frustration for military families about what military life is like. And this is intended to address that. To give families first more time off after a family expansion, but also -- expansion, but also more flexibility and what they can do with that time.
We saw earlier this year the army takes some steps to try to address similar issues.
LIEBERMANN (on camera): At the time, General McConville, the chief of staff of the Army said, we recruit soldiers, but we retain families.
This is that same idea to address the needs of families in the military by giving both parents three months off after the family is expanded. Alex and Amara?
MARQUARDT: All right. Our thanks to Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.
And the NFL's decision to cancel the Bills and Bengals game is causing a huge ripple effect on the playoff picture and not everyone is happy.
MARQUARDT: The NFL has now canceled the remainder of the Bills and Bengals game in the aftermath of the collapse by Damar Hamlin.
WALKER: Yes, but the decision could potentially cause huge ramifications for the playoffs. Andy Scholes is here to explain it all. Hi, Andy.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR (on camera): Yes, good morning, guys. So, you know, there is never been a conference championship game played at a neutral site like the Super Bowl is every year.
But there is a good chance that, that is actually going to happen this year in the AFC. So, with the NFL making the Bills-Bengals game a no contest. That means Buffalo and Cincinnati are going to have one less game in the standings.
SCHOLES (voice over): So, seating will now be based on win percentage. And if the Chiefs beat the Raiders today, they are going to be the one seed in the AFC, and get the buy in the first round of the playoffs.
But yesterday, the NFL owners, they approved scenarios to help fix potential competitive inequities since the Bills or Bengals could have gotten that one seed before their game was canceled.
So, the big news is the AFC title game is going to be held in a neutral site if one of these three scenarios happen. If the Chiefs and Bills both win this weekend, a Buffalo vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
If they both lose and the Ravens win, again, a Buffalo versus KC game would be at a neutral site. Or if they both lose and the Bengals win, then, a Buffalo or Cincinnati versus Kansas City championship game would be at that neutral site. Now, also because they're playing one less game, you all, the Bengals are already AFC North Division champions based on win percentage.
But if the Ravens beat them on Sunday, and the two teams playing the wild card round, they're going to have a coin toss actually to decide where that game is, Cincinnati or Baltimore.
SCHOLES (on camera): Bengals coach, Zac Taylor, he actually criticized the changes, saying, you know, it felt like they've benefited everyone, except for Cincinnati.
Well, of course, wait and see if any of these scenarios come to fruition. According to multiple reports out of Indianapolis, they actually turned down hosting a potential AFC title game because they have a volleyball tournament in town that weekend.
Guys, Atlanta has been thrown out as another possibility, but we'll wait and see if that happens. It almost be like a mini Super Bowl, having an AFC title game in a different city because you'd have fan bases traveling in.
And, you know, it would be -- it would be pretty neat if that had to happen, of course. I'm sure those fan bases would have loved to have the game at home.
WALKER: Andy, thank you. Good to see you.
SCHOLES: All right.
WALKER: All right. The next hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.
And good morning, everyone. Welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. I'm Amara Walker.
MARQUARDT: Good to see you Amara. I'm Alex Marquardt, in today for Boris Sanchez.
After days of drama and 15 rounds of voting, the House finally elects a Speaker. How Kevin McCarthy clinched the votes and the next big order of business?