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CNN Tonight

Biden Signs Same-Sex, Interracial Marriage Law; Jan. 6 Committee To Release, Vote On Criminal Referrals Next Week; DOJ Seeks Access To Rep. Scott Perry's (R-PA) Texts In 2020 Election Probe; Teenager Died From Drug Overdose; No One-Size-Fits-All Solution To Drug Problem In America; Drug-Related Deaths Increased Since 2021; Huge Storm Coming To West Coast. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening everyone. I'm Laura Coates.


More than 5,000 people celebrated on the White House lawn today when President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, with new federal protections for same-sex in interracial couples.

It was a long road to get there, politically and personally, especially for one of our guests tonight. In a moment, we're going to speak to an LGBTQ activist who was in that crowd today but who had to fight his own aunt, a Congresswoman from Missouri, after she cried on the House floor begging her colleagues not to vote for this gay marriage protection.

Plus, we'll talk to a mother who is living a true nightmare suddenly losing her 17 yards on, an eagle scout, a soccer player, the star of his high school musical, to the fentanyl epidemic. It's happening to thousands of families across this country. And the shocking thing is many people do not even know that they are taking fentanyl. They are not buying it in some dark alley. It's right there available on social media.

CAMEROTA: The way that particular story happened, Laura, is so heartbreaking and I think other parents need to know about this.

COATES: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Also, we're tracking a powerful winter storm. It's threatening about 21 million people from Texas to Mississippi. So, we are going to tell you where it's headed so you can be prepared.

Okay. But as we said, it was a historic man for same-sex couples today but this victory lap was not a layup. Roughly 200 Republican lawmakers voted against it and some really did not want to provide protections for same-sex and interracial couples. That includes Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. Here she is begging her colleagues last week to vote against it.


REP. VICKY HARTZLER (R-MO): Protect religious liberty. Protect people of faith. And protect Americans who believe in the true meaning of marriage. I hope and pray that my colleagues will find the courage to join me in opposing this misguided and this dangerous bill. And I yield back.


CAMEROTA: Okay. Now, that Congresswoman's nephew, Andrew Hartzler, was so upset by his aunt's speech, he took to social media to respond.


ANDREW HARTZLER, NEPHEW OF REPRESENTATIVE VICKY HARTZLER: Today, a United States congresswoman, my Aunt Vicky, started crying because gay people like me can get married.

So, despite coming out of my aunt this past February, I guess she's still just as much as a homophobe.


CAMEROTA: And Andrew Hartzler joins us. Now good evening, Andrew.

A. HARTZLER: Hi. Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here. So, what was it like to be at the White House here today, particularly in that context, knowing that there were a large portion of Republicans who didn't want to see this happen, including your aunt?

A. HARTZLER: Yes. It was, honestly, quite emotional. So, I remember when I first got there. There was a couple standing right in front of me in the crowd and they had been married for over 20 years. And I introduced myself to them. And then in front of them was one of their mothers. And it kind of hit me at that time that, wow, there are families out there in the world and there are people who will never see their families support how they love and who they love. And the implications of that are ultimately so far-reaching that they will affect someone for the rest of their life.

But my aunt, my Aunt Vicky, what she said on the House floor was really disturbing and that type of negative rhetoric that she used, it basically perpetrates people who want to harm LGBTQ people and they're empowered to harm us by rhetoric like my aunt. And --

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, Andrew, let me stop you there, because she wasn't using violent rhetoric, she was so emotional. She was so -- it sounded, devastating for her. Do you understand why your aunt feels so emotional about this?

A. HARTZLER: I mean, it wasn't violent, and like you said, it was emotional, but referring to LGBTQ people as disrespect to marriage or as a danger, that portrays the idea that LGBTQ people are harmful to society. And what she was doing was weaponizing her own religion and framing queer people as a threat to that religion.

CAMEROTA: And, Andrew, have you had conversations with her? I mean, I'm just curious about the family dynamic, because I've read that you, at one time, were very close to her.



CAMEROTA: And so what -- and you came out to her.


CAMEROTA: And what have those conversations been like in your family?

A. HARTZLER: Well, often, I have been met with the idea of love the sinner, hate the sin, which evangelical Christians, they kind of cling to that type of phrase. Really, regardless of any family drama that I thought would be brought up by me making this TikTok, it was worth it because the people that were seeing my aunt, especially young people, like I was envisioning myself as a young person, as before I was able to come out to my aunt because I was still under the guidance and the support and the care of my parents, so I just kind of had to agree and bite my tongue.

And I remember often, like, googling Vicky Hartzler gay and seeing what she was saying about us that week. So, whenever she put this out there into the world, I felt really compelled to make a response to it so that other young people who are in my same shoes when I was young would hopefully, not only see my aunt's response but see mine, and that regardless of whatever hateful rhetoric or dangerous rhetoric, basically implying that queer people are inherently bad and wrong, that they would know they were okay.

CAMEROTA: And, Andrew, just about your personal history, in high school you are subjected to conversion therapy. What was that like?

A. HARTZLER: Yes. So, I came out my parents when I was 14 and they didn't take it well. They ultimately sent me to an inpatient conversion therapy in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And after then that, I spent multiple days of the week from freshman year to senior year of high school seeing the same conversion therapist in Kansas City.

And what really changed my mind about my aunt was when I was a sophomore in college. I remember very vividly I Googled that same phrase that I often what about my aunt, and up came this article from The Huffington Post, and it said, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler host conversion therapy group at the Capitol. And I look at the photo, and in that photo was the very conversion therapist who I had spent hours upon hours of my life with that I attributed so much trauma to.

At that point, I was like, I accept that this is my family member but the harm that is being done like directly to me and ultimately on to other members of my community far outweighs any relational ties. CAMEROTA: And so, Andrew, ultimately, what was it like today? I mean, after everything you've been through and what your family has been through, what was it like today to know that this happened?

A. HARTZLER: Yes. It was really emotional. And props to the Biden administration, they did a great job with it, like there were several music sets. They had Sam Smith come up and play, Stay with Me, which is a very like slow, kind of moody song, so I kind of felt like they're trying to get us all in a certain kind of sobby mood, because by the end of it I was crying. But it was part happy tears, part like, wow, this is seeing progress in action. And this is historic. But also it's progress, but it doesn't mean that it's the end of progress. There's so much further that we have to go.


A. HARTZLER: And because people are still being harmed. And part of that is from religious exemptions, which there's a lot of that in this bill.

CAMEROTA: And we'll get to that too. But if you don't cry at Sam Smith, I don't know that person. Then you're not (INAUDIBLE).

Well, Andrew, thanks so much for sharing your story. I know it's not always easy to talk about family members, and we really appreciate hearing how you got here today. So, thanks for being here.

A. HARTZLER: Thanks for having me.

COATES: I'm sure Sam smith was thrilled. He was setting the vibe for everyone in the moment. But can I just say, I cannot believe that we have conversion therapy in this country or in this world. I mean, just hearing that from so many people, thinking about the generational shift, I mean, President Biden back in 2012, it was astounding news to hear him make this comment that made his -- obviously, the president he was under, President Barack Obama, come out several days later, but just think of how striking it was in 2012 from just, say, this and now is full arc.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.


And, quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction beyond that.


COATES: We are going to talk about all of this with our panel. We've got the former Democratic presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp and Christine Quinn, former New York City council speaker. I mean, to that point, Christine, think about this, that was 2012. Here we are ten years later, and he is signing this into law. Tell me about the significance of this.

CHRISTINE QUINN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: Well, it's remarkable. You know, my wife and I have been together 20 years, just in September, and we got married in 2012. And to think about what it was like when we first met, we remember talking about should we have a ceremony, should we have a party, even though it didn't, quote/unquote, mean anything. But then to be able to really get married by that time Judge Judith K. and to have this since passed, but both of our fathers walk us down the aisle and we happen to be two women who lost our mothers when we are teenagers. You can't describe the impact of that.

And until laws like this are passed and until the court ruled, you had this exclusion that LGBTQ people were prevented from being married. And that's really having a poison in our laws. And what does poison do? It spreads. And now, President Biden is taking more of that poison out and sending a message that Kim and I are just as good as he and Dr. Biden, and that will cause change and reduce hate.

CAMEROTA: And so, S.E., as I mentioned to Andrew there, 200 Republicans in the Senate and the House voted against it, but some didn't. It was bipartisan. And so, I mean, we have come a long way since 2012 even.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The silver lining -- actually, today may be really sad. The silver lining was that you had some Republican support. But, you know, I was at CNN in D.C. in 2015 at the Obergefell ruling. And I had been going to, you know, comment on whatever the court was going to say for months, not knowing when it was come down. And it came down that day, and I was real a motion because I supported gay rights longer than most Democrats I know.

And I saw the people on the screen that day, and they were friends and they were people who I knew just one of the same things I had, dignity, respect, rights. And I was really thrilled and I thought, well, that's that. And to see Roe overturned and then Clarence Thomas' comments about maybe overturning interracial marriage and gay marriage too, and to see Republicans kind of roll with that made me really sad that this was needed today. I'm glad it happened, I'm glad it was codified but I don't know that we've progressed as much as I thought we had that July day in 2014.

CAMEROTA: I understand what you're saying. First of all, I mean, there're always steps forward and there are steps back. I know you thought it was going to be a full forward march.

CUPP: I did.

CAMEROTA: I totally get that. But -- yes.

COATES: And to that point, I mean, we had a conversation with Mr. Obergefell recently about the idea of this was not the pure codification that the Supreme Court has ruled. And there was some tension about whether it had gone far enough, the idea of having to still respect other states. If that other state essentially said it was not valid, you could marry someplace else. And it had to be then reciprocity. But to know you had to leave your state possibly to get married, to have the same rights other people have had, it's stunning.

I wonder how you measure this progress in the sense of it might feel incremental, but in a grand bureaucratic scheme of things, how do you judge it?

ANDREW YANG, FOUNDER, THE FORWARD PARTY: Oh, well, I count the number of Republican senators who voted for this as a measuring stick in line with the fact that almost 70 percent of Americans are for same-sex. So, 12 Republican senators, including Mitt Romney and many others, decided that this was an issue that the American people had moved past. Some of them did so on principle. They said, look, I may or may not personally be for this, but I think Americans should have this right and recognition.

And that coalition gives me some hope. I mean, the fact is we're such a polarized country right now, that if you can get 12 Republican senators on board with this kind of act, I think that that's the energy that we should be trying to build on, because there are Republicans who are on the right side of history on this.


QUINN: Look, I think today, absolutely, this is celebratory today. We need to celebrate. But you can be grateful and not satisfied at the same time. And that's where I am. I am very grateful to the president for what he did today and what he did as vice president but I'm not satisfied. I'm not satisfied until there's protection, full in every state, and that I'm not satisfied until there is no more conversion therapy.


In some states, insurance pays for conversion therapy.

COATES: Unbelievable.

QUINN: I mean, how hard is it to get your regular therapy coverage?

CAMEROTA: And it doesn't work.

QUINN: It hurts, it hurts.

CAMEROTA: I mean, not only does it hurt, as we just heard from Andrew, but if insurance companies want to pay for efficacy and for things that actually work, it is curious.

QUINN: Absolutely, absolutely.

COATES: And on that point, you raised with him, the idea of the violence versus nonviolence distinction. I mean, the fact that she was not calling for injury or harm physically to be done to somebody didn't undermine the idea that there was violence, an attack and assault on one's dignity, and one's -- and he recognized the question about that. But just thinking about how we have to redefine the way in which we judge violence and how that --

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, he was saying -- I was drawing the distinction between violence and just on the speech that --

COATES: Oh, I know.

CAMEROTA: But he was saying that it's still -- he felt that it's still dangerous, even if it's not officially violence.

QUINN: And it's particularly dangerous because when people who are in positions of authority, a congresswoman, speak out so emotionally, creating another from themselves, there are people in society who have violent tendencies. They use that as an affirmation that there -- the violence that they want to perpetrate is okay and it moves them forward.

CUPP: Or that their fear is justified. It's mirrored back, right? Someone is just as afraid of these people as I am and so desperate to keep this progress from happening as I am. And my concern is that when are these communities going to feel like they can relax and like these rights are good forever and not going to be pulled back by an activist court or some president that doesn't like it or a Congress that's imbalanced. When do you get to relax? I hope today was a step in that direction.

CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you very much. We really appreciate it.

All right, so time is running out for the January 6th committee but they've just decided to hold one last public hearing. What more do they have to reveal? We'll discuss.



CAMEROTA: The January 6th committee announcing they'll hold one last hearing next week on Monday because they say they have a few last important things to reveal to the public.

COATES: The way you said it made me -- it made me lean in. I was like, what does she know? What is being said?

CAMEROTA: Nothing. But we are going to discuss what they have revealed a little bit of.

COATES: Well, here to talk about this and talk about what that might, Andrew Yang, CNN Political Analyst Astead Herndon, excuse me, and S.E. Cupp as well.

Well, we're still not going to talk about, because you know why? I want to know what we did not hear in the last moments that we're here (ph). And we've seen televised hearings before, right? But the idea now instead of thinking about what happened to Ginni Thomas' conversation, her testimony, but a lot of these people had these deals made, right, about what would be aired or not aired. I'm wondering if they are going to, do you think, have a lot of that included.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's the big question. We know that the committee went down many roads that we had not seen kind of the full fruition of what they're able to dig up, but the problem is we don't think that that's all going to come out in just one hearing. What we do know is that they will do a kind of journalistic accounting of record, a summary that will have all of that information in there. And the biggest clues might come in the footnotes, it might come in some of the documents we get from that rather than what is televised in the hearing.

But I also think that the committee wants to do a kind of political victory lap. I mean, they were part of a Democratic effort to cast Republicans as extremists, and that kind of worked in the midterms. And so I really think that we're going to see kind of the official business of what they're going to put out but also the unofficial business of continuing to highlight the threats to democracy that they've tried to do over the past year.

CAMEROTA: S.E., I think it has to be a little juicier than that. And the reason I say that is because we know that they have had help from some Hollywood hands, or I guess, I should say, broadcast hands. And so they have been pretty P.R. savvy throughout all this.

CUPP: Yes, very.

CAMEROTA: So, we thought they weren't going to hold any more hearings.

So, the fact that they're holding one last one, doesn't it mean that they have some -- not bombshell, I think that's overused, but some juicy nugget that they want the public to see?

COATES: They better have.

CUPP: I think you're right, and I agree with you. They do not like to disappoint. And so, I mean, they drum up a lot of interest and then they usually deliver. I will expect that as well next week. But I also think, just to be a little political about it too, you know, it's December. The next Congress is going to get sworn in. Republicans have already promised to investigate the investigations throw the book at these people. I think they want one more pass, one last little reminder before everyone leaves for holiday vacation, that this stuff was real, this happened, it's bad, it's still dangerous, and this investigation was worth it, but for the next Congress gets their say.

COATES: Or even before the vacation, I mean, before, for example, Kinzinger or Liz Cheney say goodbye to Congress. I mean, they have nothing to lose. If you're Congresswoman Liz Cheney in particular, and you have been censored by your party in Wyoming, you're no longer a member of Congress, you know, there is the idea of she can just go all out and hammer the point again, this is a continuing threat.

YANG: If you have an opportunity to extend and reinforce a narrative, you'd probably take it. And of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, eight did not make it back, including Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Some of them did not run, but many of them lost in their primary.

And so, one of the most interesting questions that is to be answered is what is the political destination or future or direction for Adam Kinzinger or Liz Cheney, because there's talk about them challenging Trump in a Republican primary, there's talk about them doing some kind of nonprofit organizational effort. But they represent a very significant number of moderate Republicans who are uncomfortable with Trumpism and are looking for some kind of home.

CAMEROTA: Here is how Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren explained what they're going to tell us all on Monday.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): There is no live interviews but there's a lot of information that we, in evidence, that we compiled that we were unable to lay out during our hearings.


Some of that maybe touched on, on Monday. All of it will be touched on either in the report or, I think, even more importantly, the publication of the committee records that will follow the report.


CAMEROTA: So, Astead, maybe they're just drumming up interest for the report, which comes out on Wednesday. Maybe they're just reminding people, okay, report coming.

HERNDON: I mean, that's what I hear from that and that's what I've heard from some folks. I mean, I don't think that means that we don't get anything at this public hearing. To your point, there definitely has been a kind of media intention around the committee that I expect them to follow through on. But, certainly, they are pointing to that evidence, that written report, as we are going to kind of see the kind of full documenting of what the committee was able to do. And to your point, this is coming ahead of a Republican Congress that they know is going to roll some of this back.

And so I think they are really going to point eyes and I report to say, the fullness of what we were able to put together is here no matter what comes next.

COATES: And Congressman Liz Cheney has been saying they're going to reveal, at least in the report, which I view this hearing as a way of like drawing people in, but also telling them where to look, including about members of Congress who did not comply with their subpoenas, more information there.

But as this is wrapping up, you've got DOJ, who are now picking up essentially where they left off. And you even have interest now about accessing Congressman Scott Perry's texts. And he did vote, I believe, in favor of -- CAMEROTA: Overturning.

COATES: -- of overturning. So, this is somebody they're interested in.

Does it strike you as odd that there is a specific congressman now who is being focused on by DOJ?

CUPP: No, because I've been following on the focus on Scott Perry and everything he did to try and get someone new into the DOJ, to try and get this election overturned, the furious texts to Mark Meadows. I mean, there is a lot we already learned and I think there's more we have to learn. He has been a key figure in this whole sordid saga, someone I think a lot of people hadn't heard about or knew of before this came up. People really, it seems, pretty involved. We need to know more.

COATES: We will see. And I'm sure on Monday, we'll all be tuning in.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

COATES: Right, right?

CUPP: Oh, yes, yes, yes, absolutely. Yes.

COATES: Thank you. The script was good. Good job, good, guys. Next time, get a little more enthusiastic about it.

We also know that we are all watching something else, and you mentioned the word, sordid, in what's been happening and the tragedy, not just of things in terms of our democracy but what's happening to people of the United States of America. And, sadly, there is a tragic and deadly toll among America's teens, in particular, from fentanyl. And often, those teens are not even aware of what they're even taking.

Well, now we have lawmakers in California who are trying to tackle the problem head-on.



COATES: As America's opioid crisis continues, fentanyl is taking a horrific toll on teenagers. This week, both Democratic and Republican California lawmakers proposing legislation that would make Narcan available in all state public schools.

The legislation in the assembly sponsored by a lawmaker from Rockland, California whose neighbor Zach Didier died in 2017 of a fentanyl overdose after taking what he thought was a Percocet pill. Bought through a dealer he met on Snapchat.

Now I want to bring in Zach's mother, Laura Didier, who is also the outreach coordinator for Song for Charlie, which aims to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl pills.

Laura, I'm so sad to meet you this way, and sorry for your loss, but grateful as a parent that you are sharing the story of your son and have engaged in such tremendous outreach to get this story out. It's been nearly two years. It's been nearly two years since you lost your son, and I'm -- I want to know initially what you want people to know about what happened to Zach.

LAURA DIDIER, ZACH DIDIER'S MOTHER: Well, the bottom line is this crisis can really impact any family. Just to update the introduction, it was 2020 when I lost Zach. He was 17 years old, so we are approaching the two-year mark. It was two days after Christmas of 2020, and we were blindsided.

We had never heard of this crisis and these counterfeit pills, and it is really information that we need to share with all families, all young people, that this, that this risk is out there.

COATES: And on that point, and my apologies of that date was wrong. The least we can do is get it right in honor of your son. So my apologies to you, Laura.

When you think about this happening in your family, I mean, your son was a straight A student. He was an Eagle Scout. He was in musicals. And you talk about the idea of, look, if your child has a smartphone, if they go to the mall, if they are out in the world, they are at risk.

Can you talk to us about how there is no identifiable group where they are somehow safe from this pan -- from this epidemic, really?

DIDIER: That's exactly right. I mean, we as, co-parents, you know, my ex and I were very plugged in with our kids. Zach was our youngest of three. We had every drug conversation with him that we knew about, you know, around other substances that we thought he might be exposed to as a high school student.


He was not struggling with any kind of a substance use disorder. He was living an incredible life, just a wonderful young man, and we just couldn't have foreseen this for him. From the time he had first decided to experiment with what was sold to him as a Percocet pill, until the time he passed away. It was 48-hour timeframe.


DIDIER: You know, parents certainly can't see red flags in that amount of time. He had tried one pill on Christmas Eve, that must not have had much fentanyl in it. And the sinister nature of these pills is you, you don't know from one pill to the next. And so, he thought he would try one more Percocet pill on December 26th, and on the 27th, he never woke up.

COATES: My goodness. And just thinking about how this is impacting children and how the numbers. I mean, first of all, according to the State Department of Health, there were only, and I hate to even use the word only in conjunction, but only 82 Fentanyl deaths in 2012 compared now to more than 5,700 last year alone.

And you've got the age group, more than 200 occurring for those between the ages of 15 and 19 years old.

And I understand, Congressman -- a California assembly bill number 19, has now been introduced to try to get Narcan available in schools. It's been inspired by your son. You know the assemblyman, Joe Patterson, who introduced this bill. Can you talk to us about why you think this is the prudent course to have this available?

DIDIER: Certainly. And tragically, I came -- I only came to know Assemblyman Patterson after losing my son. I was unaware that, you know, that we lived in the same community. So, he had heard about Zach's tragic death, and then I had reached out to him. He was at that point on the city council about becoming a part of awareness efforts in our community.

And he vowed to me if he had -- if he did win his election for assembly, that fentanyl was going to be his first priority. And I think it's very important. I've now spoken in so many high school -- I've lost count how many high school since the beginning of the school year, talking to about 30,000 plus high school kids since the beginning of the school year.

And on one of the campuses student -- a teacher there had said they had already had to administer Narcan to multiple students on their campus. It just doesn't make sense not to have them most a lot, I should say, districts are already doing it on their own.

But it really should be mandated. It's a very important medication to have. Just like you would have a defibrillator or you would have a fire extinguisher on your campus.

COATES: Laura, thank you for sharing and for making us aware, and even by coming on tonight and talking about your son's experience, your family's personal journey. You've saved lives, and I appreciate it. Thank you.

DIDIER: Thank you so much.

COATES: Well, Alisyn, just --


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: I can totally applaud her because obviously it is, I can only imagine how hard it is to talk about that day after day, but I didn't know --


CAMEROTA: -- about this. I'm in the news business. I didn't know that Fentanyl is being disguised as Percocet pills. A lot of people are on Percocet for, you know, pain relief of some kind or another. And so, that is a huge, public service that she's doing. And it does, it is going to make me have different conversations with my kids now.

COATES: And about what you're looking at for social media as well. Snapchat and the like. I mean, just the idea of, you know, you think you are focused and honing in on what are the dangers and what conversations are happening and you think, OK, I checked off that list.

But then you realize the availability, you realize the way and the methods people are able to really target our children and it's stunning.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I don't understand why they're targeting our children. Because if you're killing children, then you're not increasing your -- your buyers. But we're going to talk about that. What's the solution?

So, how do we stop the fentanyl epidemic? We're going to discuss that next with solutions.



CAMEROTA: We're back with more on the opioid crisis in America. Nearly 108,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021. Two-thirds of those involved Fentanyl or other synthetic opioids. That's up 15 percent from the year before.

COATES: So how are these drugs getting to so many Americans?

We're joined now by CNN national security Analyst, Juliette Kayyem, and Washington Post reporter Nick Miroff, who was part of the Washington Post new seven-part investigation into the fentanyl crisis in this country.

I want to begin with you, Juliette, because we've been sitting here talking, and of course speaking with a parent who has lost her son. And there -- it's illustrative really of so many parents across this country and people who have lost their lives.

The availability, the idea of how pervasive this is really is a overall health and national security risk, frankly.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I mean, it's a border issue, and it's a synthetic drug. So you're not looking for poppy seed fields, or you're not looking for anything, essentially. It is -- it's purely chemical based, could be made in labs.

So, there's three ways to target this, and none of them are easy. You have a supply chain issue, whether it's with materials that begin in China that are then get to Mexico through cargo, then made in Mexico, come over our border. Those are all challenges. And they have to be addressed in different ways, whether it's postal or border crossing.

The second, you have the people who are part of this enterprise, this sort of economic enterprise for them. We used to have a philosophy in the drug trade or in drug enforcement, that you go after HVTs. We call them high value targets.


That's completely shifted in the last two years. You go after the cartels, you go after anyone who's part of that entity, not just the high value targets. And then the third, of course, you -- we always have to talk about demand.

The United States, whether they know it or not, whether kids are taking it willingly or not, the demand is creating the supply. So that is the community outreach. That's parents like Laura you had on before educating people to what the harm is. It's working with police departments and getting the information out there and finding out what's going on the streets of America. It took -- it took too long for us to figure out what a crisis this was.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And I do want to talk about what else can be done at the border.


CAMEROTA: But Nick, first, I just want you to explain why, how this works? Because that story, Laura just interviewed the woman, Laura, whose son Zach was this ideal kid. He ordered on Snapchat. He met something on Snapchat and got a Percocet pill, which was actually fentanyl.

I don't understand why are dealers disguising fentanyl as a Percocet pill? How does it help their business to kill teenagers the first time or the second time they try it. That doesn't seem like a good business model. Why? Why are they disguising it as these other things?

NICK MIROFF, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, they're not killing all the drug users who take these pills. But the pills are extremely dangerous. And the reason they're doing it is profits and greed. The price of these fentanyl pills is incredibly low. The Mexican cartels are churning them out at an industrial scale and flooding them across the border.

And part of reporting this series, we found out that the wholesale price of one of these fake Percocet or fake Oxycodone pills. The wholesale price per pill right now in Arizona is down to about 50 cents. That pill will sit, will retail on the streets, say in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, for only four or $4 or $5.

So, dealers who are looking to make a buck or who are looking to spike the cocaine or meth or whatever other drug they're selling, they will take some fentanyl and they'll put it in there to try to get their customers hooked, and to try to deliver a more potent high. And tragically, they're killing some of their customers.

COATES: When you just look at that, I mean, this figure on the bottom of the screen, I mean, just it's -- it is heart stopping to think about the leading cause of death for Americans between 18 and 49 is fentanyl.

I mean, Juliette --


COATES: -- thinking about this and just the first of all, that range and age, number one. But also, the idea we hear about fentanyl oftentimes, obviously in great reports like you have in the Washington Post and thinking about the seven-part series.

But also, Juliette, in politics. The conversation comes around border.


COATES: It was discussion in Arizona. It was conflating with conversations around increase in crime, about border security. It's been a topic that's been politicized heavily and that, just listen to the way it's been talked about including around Mayorkas. Here it is.



REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): On Mayorkas' watch more than 14,000 pounds of fentanyl was seized in fiscal year 2022 at our southern border. That is an all-time record high.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Over a hundred thousand people dying of fentanyl that's come across our southern border. This is -- this has got to stop.

REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): These cartels have also smuggled. Illegal deadly drugs like fentanyl over our southern border and are killing thousands of Americans each and every day. For two years, Mayorkas has sat idly by and done nothing.


COATES: Now, Juliette, when you hear that, that a lot of the focus --


COATES: -- on the theme was a southern border, help us understand, is that the primary source of where fentanyl is coming from? Is that misleading or sincere?

KAYYEM: Well, honestly, they -- I mean, they, I don't want to get too political, but they have some nerve. I mean, you know, for four years the entire border enforcement was focused on a wall to stop people, during the Trump administration, to stop people from coming in.

The danger was elsewhere as we now know. It was coming through a variety of means. First of all, we -- China is not out of the picture. China's synthetic drug manufacturing or synthetic material manufacturing makes its way to Mexico. So, there's an issue about China and its enforcement. It's getting to Mexico through ship, plane, and postal. It then gets to Mexico.

So, border enforcement for four years during the Trump administration was focused on a wall. It was the wrong threat. And so, then I -- when Biden comes in, that movement begins to shift as there then begins to be, you know, sort of greater drug enforcement with the DEA. And Milgram is now in charge of it. She's focused on the cartel issue. [22:49:59]

So, it's hard for me to sort of show any sympathy about what the department and what our border enforcement inherited.


CAMEROTA: I hear you Juliette, but, and I'm sorry to interrupt, but we're just running out of time. What's the solution? I mean, what do they need to do at the border? Since obviously as we said, the -- it's the number one killer of young people. What can happen?


KAYYEM: It's -- you're not going to, honestly, you're not going to stop it at the border. You got to stop it at manufacturing. It is just -- it's too -- we, because it's dual use it. You can bring it in too easily. You can stop it at the border with luck or intelligence. You've got to stop both the manufacturing and the supply chain, and we've got to focus on the demand.

To view the border as our solution is not going to work. You've got a million people legally crossing that border every week. To be able to stop it at the border is the wrong focus. So, Mayorkas is trying to capture what he can, but it's both a -- it's a supply and a demand challenge not a -- not a border challenge. So I don't -- I think politicians who make it a border issue are looking at the -- at the wrong place.

COATES: Nick, I'll give you the final word here. Your reporting is consistent with that. You have this long series about this very notion about ways to tackle the issue. Is that what you're finding as well?

MIROFF: Well, I think you have to stop at wherever you can, and that includes the border. So, one of the things that the administration is -- the Biden administration is doing now is trying to roll out more sophisticated scanning technology to increase the percentage of vehicles that they -- that they scan, but that effort is years behind.

And in the meantime, they're simply inundated with cheap fentanyl coming across the southern border. But you -- yes, you have to -- you have to cut off the precursor chemicals. You have to intercept it at the border. You have to seize it on the streets, United States, you have to reduce demand. You have to do all of the above.



CAMEROTA: Thank you both for your expertise. We really appreciate having this conversation.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

COATES: Thank you. CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, there's a huge storm system sweeping across the country, leaving tornadoes and blizzard conditions in its wake. Where it's headed next, we'll tell you in a moment.


UNKNOWN: That's going back up.




CAMEROTA: The middle of the country getting walled by severe winter storms. Blizzard conditions hitting parts of Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska. You can see the video there. My goodness.


CAMEROTA: Some areas could get up to two feet of snow.

COATES: It's all part of a giant winter storm system that's allowing. It's also spawning tornadoes across Oklahoma, Texas, and also Louisiana. The National Weather Service is confirming at least five tornadoes in Texas. And now a tornado watches up for Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is here in the weather center. Allison, this is a huge storm. I mean, it's crawling across the entire country. It's got damage in the south. How bad is this threat?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right. This has been a pretty impressive storm, even from the very beginning when it was making its way into the West Coast, and it just keeps basically crawling across the country over the next couple of days.

So, here's a look at the storm. Again, you can see all of that white up there while we've got the snow in the northern tier. The purple color up here indicates that mix. You're getting a little bit of ice and freezing rain, then rain down to the south. And again, the severe component is really focused closer to the Gulf Coast.

These red boxes here, that's where we have tornado watches in effect. Now one of them is set to expire here in about five minutes. That will include Shreveport, but some new ones have been added on, kind of expanding that area out to the east, and those will not expire till about 2 to 4 a.m. overnight tonight.

So, do make sure you have a way to get those emergency alerts through the overnight hours, because we do have three active tornado warnings as of this point in time, and they've been off and on throughout the evening. You've also got a couple of severe thunderstorm warnings as well.

Here's a look at where the severe storms are expected to be starting now and then continuing through tomorrow. You can see it still includes Louisiana and areas of Mississippi, but then begins to spread east into areas of Alabama, portions of western Florida.

So, all of these still having the potential for a few strong tornadoes, damaging winds, as well as hail. Here's a look at that storm, though. It will continue to make its way across the east in the coming days, eventually pushing into portions of the mid-Atlantic and the northeast as we finish out the rest of the week.

COATES: It's a huge storm. My goodness.

CAMEROTA: I know. I mean, it is winter, but we will brace ourselves. Allison, thank you very much.

OK. So, the GOP is about to take power in the House, but Kevin McCarthy still does not know if he has the leadership role locked up. What he might have to give up to get it.