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New Transcripts: Cassidy Hutchinson Describes How QAnon Discussion Permeated The Trump White House; Biden On Title 42 Ruling: "We Have To Enforce It" Until Supreme Court Decides, But Thinks Termination Is "Overdue"; Southwest Airlines CEO Apologizes For Meltdown, Vows To Fix "Rolling Struggle". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 27, 2022 - 21:00   ET





SHA'KYRA AUGHTRY, RESCUED MAN WITH FROSTBITE DURING BLIZZARD: No, you're not going to die. We're not talking about death.

See, this is how you know he - he needs help.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And that help was about to come. Good Samaritan, showing up, in a vehicle that can make it through the snow. Joey was on his way to the hospital

AUGHTRY: I'm right here, Joe.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And Sha'Kyra rode with him.

AUGHTRY: Joe, see I'm right here. You OK?

J. WHITE: Love you.

AUGHTRY: I love you too, sweetie. You're OK.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joey arrived at the hospital safely.

AUGHTRY: This man could have died, 64-years-old could have died outside. I wouldn't let that happen on my watch, and he wasn't going to die in front of my kids.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joey has severe frostbite, and is in the ICU, in the hospital Burn Unit. His sister Yvonne telling us it's touch-and- go, whether his hands can be saved. But overall, he's in stable condition. And she is so grateful, for Sha'Kyra Aughtry.

YVONNE WHITE, BROTHER WAS RESCUED BY GOOD SAMARITAN: This woman did something that an angel would do, OK, to take in a perfectly stranger, a stranger. You took him, in your home, on Christmas Eve.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joey White's life was saved, by a woman, who cared deeply, about a man, she had never met.

AUGHTRY: Thank you. I'm right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Found him outside.

AUGHTRY: I'm right here.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Alisyn Camerota and "CNN TONIGHT."


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Thanks, Pam. Thanks so much.

Good evening, everyone. This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Alisyn Camerota.

The January 6 committee putting out more new witness testimony, tonight, stuff we have not heard before, including how Mark Meadows allegedly burned documents and how much talk about QAnon there was, in the White House.

Also tonight, the question thousands of angry stranded passengers are asking at this hour, "What's going on with Southwest Airlines? Why are they subjecting travelers to so much chaos? How will the Airline make it up to those passengers?"

And, the Supreme Court, allowing that, Trump-era border policy, to stay in place. That's the one that sends migrants back to Mexico to wait for their asylum hearings? So, what does this mean, for the mess, at the border, tonight? Will it change anything? And whose responsibility is it to fix this?

We have a lot to talk about tonight. But let's start with the new transcripts, from the January 6 committee, and CNN's Justice Correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

So, tell us what's in these, Jess?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, there are a lot of new details, here, particularly because one of these transcripts, is Cassidy Hutchinson's final deposition, from June 2022. That was actually right after she had fired her Trump-world attorney, and her new attorney was letting her correct the record, and really tell every truth, to the Committee.

So first off, she told the Committee that she saw Mark Meadows burning documents, in his office fireplace, around a dozen times, which she guessed amounted to about once or twice a week, all between December 2020 and January 2021.

And she says at least twice, she saw Mark Meadows burning documents, after he met with Republican congressman, Scott Perry. Perry, meanwhile, he'd been subpoenaed by the Committee, but he never complied.

Then there's another account that Hutchinson says Mark Meadows actually told White House staffers, during the transition, that they should keep a close hold on their meetings.

So, she says he put it this way. "I remember him having a meeting with Oval Office saying: Let's keep some meetings close hold. We will talk about what that means, but for now, we will keep things real tight and private so things don't start to leak out."

And Hutchinson expanded upon that. She said that these meetings were essentially kept off the books. They were out of the Oval Office diary, essentially, there'd be no record of these meetings.

So, Alisyn, between this detail and also Hutchinson observing Meadows burning documents, a lot of questions, a lot more, tonight, now that this transcript is out, about what exactly Meadows was trying to hide and, Alisyn, really, who he might be trying to protect.

CAMEROTA: Those are excellent questions.

Also how about all this QAnon stuff that has come out? I mean, how much QAnon crazy talk there was, in the White House, around the President?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it seems like there was a lot. Because Hutchinson, she talked about these multiple conversations, within the White House, where all these people seem to endorse these QAnon conspiracy theories. So, she said that Mark Meadows, for one, brought it up. Also, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene made mention of it.

And then, she actually said that she had this exchange, with the White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro.

She said, "At one point I had sarcastically said, 'Oh, is this from your QAnon friends, Peter?' Because Peter would talk to me frequently about his QAnon friends," and "He said, 'Have you looked into it yet, Cass? I think they point out a lot of good ideas. You really need to read this. Make sure the Chief sees it."

And then, Hutchinson said, she later replied to the Committee, "I did not take this as sarcasm."

Alisyn, Navarro has since been indicted, for refusing to comply with subpoenas, from the Committee.

But really, Cassidy Hutchinson, here, now that we have four complete transcripts, from her, we are seeing a ton more details, revealed to the Committee than we really previously knew.

And that begs the question, here. She's cooperated with the Justice Department. What might she lend to their investigation, and what potential criminal charges, based on her accounts, could that potentially lead to? That's something we're going to be really keeping an eye on, into the New Year.



CAMEROTA: Every new revelation contains surprises.


CAMEROTA: Jessica, thank you very much, for all of that reporting.

I want to bring in now CNN Legal Analyst, Norm Eisen; Counterterrorism Analyst, Phil Mudd; Political Commentator, Maria Cardona; and Olivia Troye, former Homeland Security and COVID Task Force Adviser to Vice President Pence.

Great to see, all of you, tonight.

Norm, I'm no lawyer. But burning documents, in your office fireplace, doesn't sound that great! Burning "Dozens," I think, was the word. And so, I mean? But, of course, it's hard to know what Mark Meadows burned. So, how legally damning?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, it's quite legally damning, when you're looking at potential obstruction of justice, and you have these badges, these indicators, of trying to keep things secret.

It's not just burning the documents. A couple of those episodes were after Meadows met with Congressman Scott Perry. We know he's in the Justice Department. Bullseye, Alisyn! They seized his phone. That's another bad sign. And then, there's keeping the meetings secret, keeping them on the Q.T.

So, there's a lot of evidence here that is troubling. And it adds to the accumulation that suggests crimes were committed. Meadows is one of those DOJ is making - receiving criminal referrals, from the Committee on, and now we know more why.

CAMEROTA: Olivia, it's interesting. It came out tonight that Cassidy Hutchinson wanted to clarify, or I guess, expand on, elaborate on her original testimony, because first, she had a Trump-supported, Trump- endorsed lawyer.

And then, she thought that she was getting bad advice, from that lawyer, who basically, according to reporting had told her to not remember certain things. So then, she contacted the Committee, and wanted to clarify some things.

So, here is this clarification. So, the Committee asks her, on "Page 43, lines 9 through 11, you were asked, 'Was there discussion about it needing to happen' - "it" being the rally - 'before the joint session started at 1:00 P.M. on January the 6th?' You said," then, "'Not to my recollection right now.' But you wanted to clarify that."

Miss Hutchinson says, "After reviewing my transcripts and thinking further into this moment, I do recall conversations about having the rally prior to Congress convening on January 6th to certify the results of the election."

The Committee asks, "Do you remember why?"

Cassidy Hutchinson says, "At the time, I understood that to be - I understood the reason to be the President's desired movement to the Capitol as Congress convened that day."

And then, Liz Cheney asks her "That the President wanted to be at the Capitol in time for the joint session to convene?"

And Miss Hutchinson says, "That's correct. Or around."

And, of course, now we know what happened, at the Capitol.

So, I mean, having been in the Administration, what do you see, when you read through and hear about these transcripts?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY & COVID TASK FORCE ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Feel like, I think, Cassidy wanted to tell the truth, and she was being sort of confined, by these Trump people, around her, who were basically sort of keeping her, from doing so. And she felt that she needed to come forward, and really speak truthfully, about what had happened here.

I think one of the more striking things is that conversation that she has with Peter Navarro.

And I just want to state this, because I actually personally have had those types of conversations, with Peter Navarro, earlier in the year, in 2020, in regards to the COVID Pandemic, and the Q conspiracies that he would bring in, trying to give them to the Vice President, at the time. And I used to intercept them, and I used to take the documents, out of his hand, believe it or not.

And he would say to me, "But Olivia, have you looked into this? Have you looked into Hydroxychloroquine, all these things?"

And I would sit there, and I'd look at him, and I think, like, "If this actually comes out of the Vice President's mouth, or we actually send this out to the American people, you could kill thousands of people."

A lot of these theories were just flat-out random false conspiracies. And to see Cassidy talk about that and say, this was a regular occurrence, where he would drop these things, and walk them into Mark Meadows, during her tenure? I can speak truthfully, that I dealt with that as well. And I know, because I remember Mark Meadows, walking some of these theories in, to the Vice President's office, where I would then have to counter the situation.

And, as you can imagine, as a Homeland Security or COVID Task Force Adviser, at the time, I mean, this is so out of the realm of the possibility that this is something that's happening in the West Wing. This is something that I'd never dealt with, in my entire national security career. CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, Olivia! that's incredible! You really had your hands full, running interference, so that it didn't make it to the Vice President's desk.


And Phil, that leads me to you. I mean the QAnon crazy stuff that was floating around the President, between Marjorie Taylor Greene - so, some of these transcripts show that she was babbling about it, and Peter Navarro. How gullible are these people, to fall for these conspiracy things, and then try to - and then talk about them, with the President of the United States?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: Boy, this tells me more about, or at least as much about 2024, as it tells me about what happened years ago.

My point is going into 2016, 2017, when President Trump forms a new government? You look at the Executive branch, and whether, you like President Trump or not, you look at the Secretary of Defense, General Mattis? You look at the Secretary of State? You look at the Counselor to the President, General Kelly? These are serious people who talk about guiderails around the President.

As the presidency proceeds, under President Trump, you get people like Peter Navarro, who are talking about QAnon, which is nuts!

My point about 2024, and candidacy of President Trump, going into the next election, is if you take out people, like the President had, in 2016, 2017, who bring rationality into the Oval Office, and you assume that the next round will be the Peter Navarros of the world? You tell me what's going to happen, during those four years? I'm not looking forward to that.

And, by the way, Cassidy Hutchinson, she didn't want to do that. A lawyer told her, "Go in, because you have legal jeopardy." I don't believe her for a heartbeat.

CAMEROTA: What do you mean? What do you mean, Phil that you don't - what don't you believe?

MUDD: Well because we're saying that she wanted to go correct the record.

Let me tell you what happened. A new lawyer came in, who wasn't paid by the Trump people, and said, "They've done - the Committee's done hundreds of interviews. They have thousands of pages of transcripts. If you don't correct the record, you're in legal jeopardy."

I don't think she did any of us a favor. I think a lawyer said, "You better speak this now. Whether you want to speak or not, you better speak because you might be in legal jeopardy, if you don't." I don't trust her for a heartbeat.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, she did end up providing the-- TROYE: I disagree.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Olivia, you can speak to the--

MUDD: Well but she had to. What was her choice?

CAMEROTA: She could have said that she didn't remember things.

TROYE: Yes. Well I understand the legal aspects.

CAMEROTA: But, go ahead, Olivia. You know about this. Go ahead.

TROYE: Well, I understand the legal aspect of that. And yes, she probably got counseled on that, and thinking of the implications of that.

I think we need to all take a step back, and understand what we're dealing with here, in terms of the intimidation, and remind ourselves of what she also says, that these people were going to destroy her, and ruin her life, because she watched this firsthand.

Happened to me, when they came out and attacked me, when they went on public TV, and tried to destroy me, for telling the truth, about what was happening. She was inside the White House, living that. So, I think that's also part of it, right? It's just the fear of it.

I'm not discounting what Phil Mudd is saying completely. But I just have to say like, that is also part of the equation, of here, when people come forward, and try to tell the truth, as part of this whole sort of mob-like Trump administration that many of us had to live, unfortunately.


Maria, I want to get to you, for a second, because there's more that has just been released by the January 6 committee.

And this is from Judd Deere, who was the Deputy Press Secretary, and he says something that we did not know before, which is that President Trump was about to do the right thing, and concede. But then, I guess, I don't know, I guess his - he changed his mind.

But here's what Judd Deere says. "In the week after the election, there was gossip around the building, that he," meaning Trump, "was considering conceding... even strongly considering inviting the President-elect and the incoming First Lady to the White House."

Now, he calls it gossip. But I think that we had had reporting that it took a while, for President Trump, to fasten upon his new plan to say that, the Big Lie, and that there was all sorts of fraud.


Because one of the things that really sticks out, from all of these transcripts, and from the lurid detail, that we have gotten, from the January 6 committee, reporting from the very beginning, is that this was not something that was done on a whim.

This intention, to overturn the election, and to lie about winning the 2020 election, and that it was all a fraud that was committed upon Donald Trump, and the American people? It was all very well nefariously, maliciously planned.

Not just the lie itself, but literally what to do, when Joe Biden won, in terms of making sure that either the Vice President was not there to - or was not willing to certify the election, on January 6, the fake electors' plan?

You don't do that if at some point, you really have the intention, of conceding and of inviting your most elaborately vicious enemy that you have made, during the presidential campaign, over to the White House, along with the new first lady.


I'm sorry. Maybe it was gossip, from people, who were trying to push Trump into that direction. But I don't believe for a minute that he actually really had the intention of doing it. Because, the nastiness with which, he did everything, from the very beginning, in terms of lying to the American people, and still lies about it, today, Alisyn--


CARDONA: --is not something that really comes from somebody that had the intention, at some point, to concede the election, and to invite the President-elect, and the first lady, over to the White House.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I would say that your skepticism is well-founded, in terms of all of that.

Friends, thank you. And stick around. I have many more questions for you, on all sorts of subjects.

Because, the Supreme Court says that officials can keep sending migrants back, across the border, for now. But, with desperate people, continuing to arrive at that border, every single day, and the border being overrun, what does this change? What is the solution to our immigration mess? That's next.


CAMEROTA: We have news, on the border, tonight. The Supreme Court ruling that Title 42, that's the Trump-era border policy, it will remain in place, indefinitely, while legal challenges play out.

It was initially set to expire, last week, until a temporary hold was ordered by Chief Justice John Roberts. This means that federal officials will be able to swiftly turn away migrants, as they've been allowed to do, since the start of the Pandemic. This is a victory, for Republican-led States that urged the High Court to step in.

President Biden said this tonight.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The court is not going to decide until June apparently, and in the meantime we have to enforce it - but I think it's overdue.


CAMEROTA: OK. So, let's get to CNN's Leyla Santiago. She is live, in El Paso. That's the border city that declared a state of emergency, in anticipation of the end of Title 42.

So, what's happening, Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you talk to the migrants, there's certainly a mood, here, of disappointment.


I spoke to one mother, Alisyn, from Venezuela. Says she escaped, as she was trying to flee violence, from Venezuela, and made it up here. Her intention was to cross legally. But because of Title 42, was sent back. And she and her two children, one, a toddler, crossed, illegally, for what she is hoping to be a better life, here.

Now, the officials here, in El Paso, are not, by any means, just waiting to see what happens next. They are continuing with some of their contingency plans. In fact, have two schools, two vacant schools that they plan to have, as shelters, for migrants that are coming, because, on the other side of the border, there are a lot of migrants, in Mexico, in Ciudad Juarez that are waiting to come in.

So, let me show you what's happening behind me. I'll step out of the way, so you can see. We are at a shelter. This is near the church. And there are a lot of migrants that are taken to the streets. I'm seeing old men, young men, children, toddlers, babies, Alisyn, that are now under blankets, on the sidewalks.

Now, many of these individuals could go to another shelter. The City says they have capacity. They have availability, with beds. But they are fearful. When I talk to them, they say, "We don't trust getting on any sort of bus, because we don't know exactly where we will end up." So, this is an issue that the City is going to have to deal with, despite the Supreme Court's decision, and what has come of Title 42.

But while this is a win for those Republican States, and Republican governors, and while it is finally a decision that many had been waiting for, just to see what the Court decided, there is still very much a feeling of disappointment, uncertainty, among the migrants, and among the City officials, sort of plowing forward, regardless, because they still know that they could see a potential surge at any time.



CAMEROTA: There's just all sorts of uncertainty, at this point. Leyla, thank you very much for being there, and for reporting.

Let's discuss with Norm Eisen, Maria Cardona, and Olivia Troye. Also joining us is CNN Political Commentator, Scott Jennings.

Norm, what does this change? What changes, tonight? I mean the fact that the Supreme Court has sort of kicked the can down the road? There's still a migrant crisis, tonight, at the border, as Leyla just told us.

EISEN: Alisyn, the Supreme Court has continued the Trump-era policy that is, frankly, heartbreaking.

These are individuals, who have come to the border. They have a right, under U.S. law, and under International law, to seek asylum. And they have been turned away, literally by the millions, under this Trump-era policy.

It was supposedly based on COVID. We all know that's not the real reason, for it, under Trump. But despite the fact that an order that was entered at the peak of the Pandemic? Those facts have changed.


EISEN: And the district court was right to strike this down. But we're going to be left with the status quo, and this heartbreaking rejection of migrants, for many, many months ahead, while the Supreme Court decides.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I hear you, Norm. I mean, Maria, I want to come to you. Because, I hear what Norm's saying. It's obviously heartbreaking, for people with families that are outside freezing in the cold, right now. And they've fled Nicaragua, or Venezuela, and the authoritarian regimes.

However, let me just give you what the backlog is in the U.S. The U.S. is not equipped to handle this number. There is just - that's a demonstrable truth. And here, there's 1.6 million asylum applications pending, right now. That is seven times more than the asylum cases, in 2012.


CAMEROTA: Three out of 10 of them are children. And, in El Paso alone, they're making something like 30 - I can't remember, 3,500 interceptions a day. They say that they're overrun.

And so, I understand that it's heartbreaking all around. But what is the solution?

CARDONA: I'm so glad you brought this up, Alisyn, because those numbers that you just mentioned are heartbreaking, because it does demonstrate that our immigration system is absolutely broken.

But you know what happened, under, four years of Donald Trump? They proceeded to systematically dismantle and destroy any kind of legal asylum processes and procedures that existed. They proceeded to close off any known asylum legal ways that migrants could come, and ask for asylum, under U.S. law.

They proceeded to cut off any aid to Western Hemisphere countries that were dealing with migrants, who wanted to flee their countries, and come to ours. They proceeded to implement a heartless, cruel and inhumane policy that ripped babies, from the arms of their mothers.

CAMEROTA: Yes. The separation, yes.


CARDONA: So, what happens is, now, when the Biden administration came in, they were dealing with a completely destroyed immigration system.

You know what needs to happen, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes, quickly.

CARDONA: Members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, need to come together to fix this. The first thing that President Biden did, in office, was offer a comprehensive package of legislation that increased resources, to the border, by the billions, to secure the borders.


CARDONA: You hear that Republicans? In addition to focusing on legal pathways--


CARDONA: --in addition to more asylum ways, for migrants, to come here, legally.

CAMEROTA: I hear you.

CARDONA: We need workers here.


CARDONA: Let's do this. Republicans need to stop using this as an excuse to exercise their xenophobia and the racism--

CAMEROTA: I want to get--

CARDONA: --and let's get to a real solution.

CAMEROTA: I want to get Scott in here. Because, that is true that President Biden did offer that up, on his first day in office.

Scott, what is your response to this?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I mean, you asked Maria what the solution was. And she spent five minutes whining about Donald Trump, who hasn't been the President, for over two years.

The reality is Joe Biden has failed. He's not been to the border. Kamala Harris, who's supposed to be in charge of this, has failed. The Administration has been dishonest with the American people.

The Biden administration doesn't want border security. If they did, they wouldn't be in court, suing Arizona governor, Doug Ducey, who tried to put up shipping containers, to block the Yuma gap, in Arizona.

CAMEROTA: But, Scott, I hear you.

JENNINGS: And look at the general--

CAMEROTA: And Scott, I hear you.

CARDONA: That's not border security.

CAMEROTA: The only reason I'm interrupting is because you say that the Biden administration has failed. Isn't it Congress? I mean, what do you want President Biden to do?


JENNINGS: I want them to secure the border.


JENNINGS: I want them to support the Border Patrol. Ask Border Patrol agents, if they feel supported by this administration? And yes, I want them to exercise some leadership.

Not every single person, who shows up, here, at our border, is a refugee. I know that's the position of Maria, and the Democrats, and the Biden administration. But we can't take on the entire population, of all of Central America, and just say, "Well, these are all refugees." You said it yourself. We have a massive backlog. We can't possibly process this.

The Supreme Court today, saved Biden from himself. And you'd have to forgive a judge, for being confused about the Biden position. Because, one day, they're claiming the Pandemic is still going on, to relieve student debt. And today, the Solicitor General is in court, saying, "Well, we know the Pandemic is over. So let's end Title 42."


JENNINGS: You cannot have it both ways. It's confusing, and it's dishonest.


Olivia, there's obviously a lot of politics around this. And there's a lot of frustration. But I just keep looking for the solution. And I don't know what it is. Because Congress won't - I mean, Congress has failed, administration after administration, on this. It's not just Biden. And it wasn't just Trump. The Congress has not done anything about this.

TROYE: Yes. And I'm listening to all of this, and I'm thinking to myself, it's always been Ping-Pong, right?

I'm a person that grew up on the border. I grew up in El Paso. That is my hometown. They have shouldered this burden for years now. I've seen this firsthand. Yes, it's a tough issue. And I see Ping-Pong. And I see Ping-Pong between Democrats, and I see Ping-Pong between Republicans as well.

And look, great, go to the border. Go and visit. I saw this during the Trump administration, numerous times, with Republicans, going to the border, looking at people in cages, like they were sitting animals and ducks. What did that do? Did we resolve anything? No.

And then we talk about this migration crisis coming over, and these people that are coming here, not all of them are refugees, not all of them need it? Well, yes. And you also throw in that so many people are terrorists, crossing the border. I also had to defuse that talking point, because factually, the Intelligence Community reminded people that that was just not true. But to all the benevolent points?

CARDONA: Thank you.

TROYE: Look, Title 42, I mean, it was not meant to be a public health measure--


TROYE: --when it was enacted in the Trump administration. I know that for a fact, because I've lived it.

And the Head of the Global Migration unit, at the CDC, never signed off on it, by the way. They were blindsided. And I know this, because I was in those meetings, with Stephen Miller.

And it was an anti-immigrant policy that it was enacted, bottom line. And it was rammed through. And it remains today. So, I actually think that it's actually very shameful, that the Supreme Court held this ruling, because it is a policy decision that is based on a fallacy. It's not correct, today.

And so, all these things, I think, it is Congress. I think people need to come together, instead of using migration and immigration, as a political talking point, from both sides of the House, if you really want to get there.

But I think there's no incentive, when you can bus people, around the country, and drop them off, at the Vice President's residence, on Christmas Eve, and claim that as a win!


TROYE: And I was looking at that, and I was thinking to myself, "What - how would Mike Pence, what would he have felt like, if somebody had dropped off the migrants, at his residence, when he was there," as a Christian, right, to see them freezing in the cold like that?

Is that OK? Is that where we are right now? Is this how we're looking at solutions, to the migration crisis? Because I think if we don't actually start to have serious conversations, this crisis isn't going away anytime soon.


TROYE: And cities, like El Paso--

CARDONA: You know, Alisyn?

TROYE: --like my hometown are going to continue to shoulder this.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Maria, I'm sorry. Maria, we have to - I'm sorry. We're out of time, and we have to move on.


CAMEROTA: But I think that you've all given such great perspectives.


And Olivia, it's so helpful, to have your insight, from you having been in the room, during all of this.

And yes, I mean, we will continue to talk about this, because we're not clearly helping the migrants, who are freezing, right now, but we're also not figuring it out. So, thank you very much, all of you.

We do need to talk about this, also, because if you're trying to fly somewhere--


CAMEROTA: --right now, good luck! Thousands of flights canceled, yet again, today. And now the Transportation Secretary is calling out Southwest. We'll tell you what they plan to do about that.


CAMEROTA: If you're flying Southwest Airlines, this week, you may want to get comfortable. You could be waiting a while. Even with the weather clearing, in much of the country, nearly two-thirds of all Southwest flights were canceled, today.

And look at this that we're about to show you. On the far-right side, of this chart, 99 percent of tomorrow's flight cancelations, tomorrow, belong to just one airline, and that would be Southwest.

This evening, the Company's CEO offered an apology, and an attempt to explain, in this recorded message.


BOB JORDAN, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CEO: Our network is highly complex, and the operation of the airline counts on all the pieces, especially aircraft and crews remaining in motion, to where they're planned to go.


With our large fleet of airplanes and flight crews out of position, in dozens of locations, and after days of trying to operate as much of our full schedule, across the busy holiday weekend, we reached a decision point to significantly reduce our flying, to catch up. We're focused on safely getting all of the pieces back into position, to end this rolling struggle.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Lucy Kafanov is with some of the people, still stuck in this mess.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately our next available seats for rebooking are on the 31st and beyond.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's another day of travel chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every flight is canceled. So, I don't know, when I go back home.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Another day of flight cancelations, delays and frayed nerves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phone calls were busy. You couldn't get ahold of anybody. It's awful.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Exhausted passengers, braving long lines, only to receive more bad news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they said even if you go through this line, it might be up to New Year's to get a flight.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Travelers on Southwest bearing the brunt of the post-Christmas cancelations, many stranded until the New Year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The next flight that was offered was in January, and they couldn't even get us home back to Pittsburgh.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Southwest's CEO Bob Jordan warned of more "Tough days ahead," according to a transcript of a company-wide message, CNN has obtained, while Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Watterson, said the Airline's systems were "Unable to match available crews to available aircraft," and it had to be done by hand.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: From what I can tell, Southwest is unable to locate even where their own crews are, let alone their own passengers, let alone baggage. Their system really has completely melted down. And I've made clear that our Department will be holding them accountable, for their responsibilities, to customers, both, to get them through this situation, and to make sure that this can't happen again.

LYN MONTGOMERY, PRESIDENT, TWU LOCAL 556: This is a deep failure of Management, not to have supported its IT infrastructure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I don't know where my luggage is.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The travel chaos leaving mountains of lost luggage.

In Las Vegas, a sea of unclaimed bags, some passengers told it would be days before they can get their luggage.

Denver's airport leading the nation in terms of delays and cancelations, passenger Nik Viveza (ph) has been stuck here, since December 21st.

NIK VIVEZA (ph), STRANDED PASSENGER: I will never fly Southwest Airlines, again. And I will tell anyone, I know, never to fly Southwest Airlines, again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is that? What do you want to do different?

VIVEZA (ph): I mean, you just can't leave people stranded, for eight days, and just say, "It's the weather," when it's not the weather.


KAFANOV: And what a difference a day makes, Alisyn? Yesterday, the line, for Southwest, was sneaking around the corner. Very few people behind me, right now.

But it does not mean that Southwest's problems are over. You heard that apology video, from the CEO, Bob Jordan. He used a lot of words to basically say the Airline is going to be flying at a reduced schedule, for the next few days. He hopes to be back - get back on track, before next week.

But a lot of people aren't here, frankly, because they've given up. And a lot of the luggage has yet to be reunited with customers. This is unfortunately going to be a vacation to remember, for all the wrong reasons.


CAMEROTA: You're so right, Lucy. That's the story of our next guest.

We want to bring in now Monica Benavidez. She is a Southwest passenger, who got caught, in a delay and cancelation drama, during Christmas, trying to get home, to Texas, from Las Vegas.

Monica, thanks so much for being here. As I understand it, you spent 11 hours, on Christmas Day, in the Vegas airport, trying to get home. What was that experience like?

MONICA BENAVIDEZ, TRAVELER WHO WAS STRANDED IN LAS VEGAS: It was just really hard. My father passed away, on Christmas. So, it was a very hard day to be traveling. And so, I just wanted to be with family. And to just experience delay after delay was just really heartbreaking.

And - but, I mean, so many other people had it worse than I did. There was people that were elderly, just sitting in wheelchairs, and there was parents with small children. Overall, we were just trying to help one another make the most of it. But it was just really an unacceptable situation.

CAMEROTA: Well we're really sorry to hear about your father, first of all. That sounds awful.

You did send us video of the things that you were seeing. I mean, all of the people who were stranded, including, as you said, elderly people, and it was just - people were just like languishing there, in the waiting room.

What was Southwest telling you?

BENAVIDEZ: We all got in line to airport (ph), very excited. And then, eventually, we were just told it would be five to 10 minutes. And that five to 10 minutes, became half an hour, became several hours.

And we were just being told that we needed one more crew member. And then when that one crew member got there, the gate agent, who was very kind, and was trying to help, just said that she had to call and wait on the phone, just like everyone else did, to try to get us off the ground.

So, it was really hard for the Southwest employees, and my heart goes out to them, as well as the passengers, because it was just an awful situation.

CAMEROTA: It looks like it. I mean, that video that you sent us, it's just a sea of people, nobody going anywhere.


CAMEROTA: It's just people as far as the eye can see.


So ultimately, your story is that it took you 26 hours, to get from Vegas, to Corpus Christi, back home. And I know that you want to be compensated, somehow, by Southwest, for the hotel that you had to rent, the different transportation that you had to take to and from the airport, the food you had to buy.

How much - how could - what is the price tag of everything that you endured during this ordeal?

BENAVIDEZ: I mean, luckily for me, I think it's going to average (ph) right around maybe $300 to $500. But I have family members that are spending upwards of over $1,000, to get home, from various destinations. And so, the stories will vary.

But overall, it's just a really, really unacceptable situation that Southwest keeps using the weather, as a scapegoat, for their outdated scheduling software, when no other major U.S. airline has had the level of disruption that they have.

CAMEROTA: Well, if Southwest can get away with paying you just $500, for what you endured, that's a bargain, I would say. But we'll keep in touch, Monica, and find out what happens with you. Take care of yourself.

BENAVIDEZ: Sure. Thanks for having me on.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

OK. So, what's it like to be dealing with thousands of angry customers calling you out? Well, the head of Southwest's Flight Attendants' Union is going to join us next, with their frustrations.



CAMEROTA: So, why is Southwest Airlines having such a travel meltdown? The other major U.S. carriers got back to business, fairly quickly, after the snowstorms. Southwest has been around for more than half a century, and it used to pride itself on its top ranking, for customer satisfaction, by the Transportation Department.

Lyn Montgomery heads the Flight Attendants' Union, for Southwest. And she joins us, tonight.

Lyn, thanks so much for being here. I know it's been a busy day.

What has this been, this meltdown been like, for the flight attendants?

MONTGOMERY: It has been absolutely horrific, the most despicable working conditions that you can imagine, flying during the holidays. It's already a challenging time, even on a normal year. It's filled with busyness, and wanting to be with your family, and the hustle- bustle that creates a lot of stress. So, it's really, really difficult with this happening.

CAMEROTA: And so, when you say despicable flying conditions, what is it like? I mean, are they stranded at various airports? We just heard from passenger, who it took her 26 hours, to get home, for Christmas. Are flight attendants also stranded?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, flight attendants have been stranded that not only have they been stranded, but they've been left to try to contact, Crew Scheduling, for hours on end.

We have flight attendants sending us their screenshots of how long they've been on hold. We have anywhere from three to 17 hours of having to wait on hold, just to find out what your next assignment is going to be, what your next flight needs to be, where your hotel assignment might be. I mean, that is really despicable, to have to wait that long.

CAMEROTA: It's unconscionable. But what is the problem? And what is going on with Southwest? Why is this happening?

MONTGOMERY: It's been a reluctance over many, many years, for Southwest Airlines, not to invest properly, in its IT systems.

In fact, TWU Local 556 has indicated, over the years, that they need to invest in this money that we're going to come up with one of these major disasters, like that's just happened.

And it's happening over and over again. And each time, it gets worse and worse and worse. And, as you can see, now, it's created a huge implosion that's completely unacceptable.

CAMEROTA: So, Lyn, just so I understand this, in other words, Southwest does not have an up-to-date phone system? It doesn't have up-to-date IT equipment? The other airlines have outpaced it in terms of modern technology? Is that the problem?

MONTGOMERY: There's IT systems that Southwest Airlines uses that are unique to Southwest Airlines. And they would be able to reschedule the operation, when massive cancelations occur.

However, and our CEOs have reported to us - our CEO has reported, and our COO has reported to us that they can't keep up with the demands, that these systems can't do things quickly enough.

And we've been promised that they're putting enough into the systems that they've spent enough money. But they started so late, in trying to update these systems that even all those efforts, really, haven't come out to make any reasonable changes.

CAMEROTA: The CEO of Southwest Airlines, tonight, put out a statement. He said, "I have nothing but pride and respect for the efforts of the people of Southwest who are showing up" every day - "in every way. I'm apologizing to them daily. And they'll be hearing more about our specific plans" in the future.

What do you want from him?

MONTGOMERY: We're so tired of apologies. We're so tired of Southwest Airlines, just getting through one major catastrophe, and then going on to the next one, and saying, "Oh, we're sorry, again."

We need to see an action plan. We need to see an investment. We need to know what people are going to be, he's going to be using, to the best-in-the-world technology that Southwest Airlines can buy, should come and help us figure out what these systems need to be. And we also need to know when the Go-Live Date is going to be.

It's also important for Southwest Airlines to remember that its workers, and its employees, are the heart of the company. We are the ones, who really helped make this company successful, in the 90s, and here, today.

And they need to start investing in their employees again, like they used to. They've completely abandoned that. We have been in contract negotiations with them, since 2018. It's pilots as well. And we're having to beg and plead for them to make the necessary changes, for these infrastructures, to be remedied.

CAMEROTA: Well, I hope that he's listening. He's also invited on our program, here, anytime. He has so far declined our invitation.

But Lyn, it doesn't sound like what you're asking for is unreasonable. Thanks so much for your time. And we really hope that the flight attendants can get where they need to, and get back to work, as effectively as possible as well. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.

MONTGOMERY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: It's a company that has designed more than 900 power stations, thousands of miles of power systems. They also handle nuclear security issues. And they work with the Defense Department. And they've just been hacked.

Who is targeting this country's energy grid? How vulnerable is our energy grid? All that, is next.



CAMEROTA: OK, now a troubling story. Hackers stole data, belonging to multiple electric utilities, in this October ransomware attack, on a U.S. government contractor that handles critical infrastructure projects, across the country. This is according to a memo, describing the hack that has just been obtained by CNN.

The contractor is a Chicago-based Sargent & Lundy. It's an engineering firm that designed more than 900 power stations, and thousands of miles of power systems. And that firm also works with the Department of Defense, Energy and other Energy - agencies, to strengthen nuclear deterrence.

So, this news comes just days after an attack on four power substations, in Washington State, that left thousands of people in the dark on Christmas Day, as well as a number of other attacks, on power stations, across the country, over the last few months.

Joining us now to discuss this is Phil Mudd.

Phil, thanks for coming back. Does it sound like these--

MUDD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: --I mean, does it sound like these are isolated incidents to you? MUDD: No, I kind of look at this, in a few categories. The first, the hardest, to figure out, is these attacks, we've seen, recently, sort of anti-government people, anarchists, who don't like government, don't like big utilities.

You go a step up, and you get into criminal organizations, who are conducting ransomware. That is stealing stuff or shutting down a system, and telling a company, or a contractor, they want millions of dollars, to get that system back up and running.

I guess the thing I worry about, when I see all these events, going into this century, is looking at the Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians, who've got to be reading U.S. newspapers, and watching CNN, and trying to understand how much they have - might have stolen, or compromised, over the past decade, and what they would do, if they wanted. We really don't know the answer to that, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I don't like that, Phil. I don't like that. I don't like hearing that, because that's - I mean, just shutting down our electrical grid? We always hear that. It's sort of an abstract anxiety that we have, "Hmm, maybe our electrical grid or our power grid is vulnerable."

But it's starting to feel like I'm reporting on this a lot. It's starting to feel as though something's picking up pace with this.

MUDD: I think so. And, I think, as someone, who worked in government, for a long time there's some things behind-the-scenes that would trouble me more.

The first is if you're the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, how do you plan for a massive outage that might be orchestrated, by somebody, like Russia or China?

I'm not suggesting that will happen in the near-term. I'm thinking about, for example, Ukraine, and if something unpleasant happens, with the Russians, in '24, '25, 2026, how do you plan for that?

How do you deal with U.S. consumers, who are going to lose power? We lost power in the house. I'm here in Memphis, earlier in the week, for 11 hours. And I'm going to tell you, it was freezing after 11 hours.

And the second is how do you coordinate not just within government, but within private companies that are going to be reluctant, to share data, about how they're vulnerable? How do you force those companies to say, "I don't care if it's embarrassing, you're going to share that data, because we've got to figure out how to address this."


CAMEROTA: Well, you're the law enforcement genius. How do we protect against all of that if that--

MUDD: Genius?

CAMEROTA: Yes, Phil, genius! MUDD: Can we roll that tape again?


MUDD: I think--

CAMEROTA: Look, I mean, surely there - like you were in meetings, where there was a plan--

MUDD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: --I hope, for this?

MUDD: Sort of. But I'd tell you, the problem here is? And you see it in the case that you were talking about, a moment ago. You're not dealing with the Defense Department or Homeland Security.

You're dealing with a contractor, or a subcontractor. You've got to have a requirement, from the White House, for example, that those people have plans, to respond to an event like this, that they are required to report it. And, by the way, companies don't like reporting this stuff, because it's not that great for the stock, when people outside realize that your company is vulnerable.

You've got to have plans for dealing with private entities, contractors, who are vulnerable. That is not easy for the government, to do, to go out in the private sector, and tell some relatively small company, "Here's what you've got to do to address that." People in this country don't like that, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, definitely. Because it sounds like this data breach happened in October. But CNN is just able to report it now.

MUDD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So, I hear what you're saying.

All right, Phil, I hope you have a lot of logs, for the fire, so that you don't get cold, down there, in Memphis. Thanks so much for being on.

MUDD: Thank you. And I'm happy to be a genius! I'll see you next time.

CAMEROTA: I may renege on that later. But we'll see.

MUDD: Yes!

CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, a huge decision, today, from the Supreme Court, leaving thousands of lives in the balance, so much uncertainty it's upending President Biden's plans for immigration.

We have much more about what's happening, at the border, after this.