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CNN Tonight

Federal Prosecutors Investigating Finances Of Rep-Elect George Santos (R-NY); Jan. 6 Committee Drops Trump Subpoena As It Winds Down; Trump Tax Returns To Be Released By House Panel On Friday; Southwest Airlines Deal With Meltdowns; Clever Passenger Help People Claim Their Luggage; Pope Emeritus Benedict Getting Weak By The Day; Karens Will Now Be In-Demand. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 28, 2022 - 22:00   ET



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you for watching and be with us through it all. I'm Tom Foreman. And my wish for you and yours, how about all of the best and none of the worst in 2023.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening everyone. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

We have got news tonight on that congressman-elect who keeps getting caught in flagrant lies. He may be in more hot water. You'll recall George Santos has admitted to lying about key parts of his biography, from his wealth to his education, to his resume, to his family, to his religion. Now the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York is looking into some of his dubious finances. And the Nassau County district attorney has announced she is looking into his, quote, numerous fabrications and inconsistencies. And we have some new lies he has just been caught in.

Also, the Southwest Airlines meltdown continues. The airline is still canceling thousands of flights. Passengers are still outraged. And we've learned that Southwest airlines got a $7 billion bailout during the pandemic. So, what did they use all that money for?

But let's begin with George Santos and more of his lies getting exposed. The Republican congressman-elect just cannot seem to get his own story straight. He lied about going to college. He lied about graduating from college. He lied about who he's worked for. He's lied about being Jewish. And CNN's KFile just dug up new lies that we'll bring you in a moment.

Now, federal prosecutors are looking into his dubious finances. A source tells CNN they're investigating the congressman-elect's financial situation that seems to rapidly swing from being too broke to pay rent to being a multimillionaire. The district attorney of Nassau County, New York, also says she has Santos on her radar. But, wait, there's more. CNN has confirmed that Santos was charged with embezzlement in Brazil.

Let's go to CNN's Eva McKend with more on all of this. I barely know where you can begin, Eva. So, let's just try to narrow it down and let's start with the federal investigation now into George Santos. What are prosecutors looking out there and is that different than with the Nassau County D.A. is looking at?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Santos' finances. That is what a source familiar with the matter is telling us tonight. This is the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of New York. Santos has faced questions over his wealth and loans totaling more than $700,000 that he made to his winning 2022 campaign. We don't know yet about the scope of the investigation, but like much of this story, it is likely more will come into focus in the days ahead.

CAMEROTA: So, Eva, we also have new reporting from CNN's KFile. Of course, that's our investigative unit. What did they uncover?

MCKEND: Yes. So, this is really remarkable from KFile. Santos said that he attended Horace Mann prep school in the Bronx. I actually grew up in New York City, so I'm calling my friends who went there as well today asking them, hey, do you know this guy? They said we don't know this guy. Well, KFile called Horace Mann and they said that he never attended the school. But he gave sort of this sad story about his family falling on hard times and him being four months shy of graduation and not being able to graduate from this esteemed school. Well, it turns out this entire episode is not true.

He also claimed that he stood up at this conference and criticized Goldman Sachs when he was working there at the Salt Private Equity Conference. But, of course, we know that Santos never worked for Goldman Sachs. And we spoke to Anthony Scaramucci, who I know that many folks are familiar with, who runs that conference, and they say not only did Santos not speak on a panel, he didn't even attend.

CAMEROTA: Okay. And then, Eva, how about these criminal charges against Santos in Brazil? What do we know about that?

MCKEND: Yes. CNN can now confirm reports Santos was charged with embezzlement in a Brazilian court, according to case records from the Rio de Janeiro court of justice. This dates back to 2008, a charge of embezzlement. Court records, though, show from 2013 that the charge was archived after the court was unable to locate Santos.

CAMEROTA: Okay, Eva. Thank you very much for all of that reporting. As we've said this is not going away, this story, so much to unpack tonight.

We're joined now by former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis, Nina Turner, co-chair of Bernie Sanders '2020 presidential campaign, and the former governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. Great to have you all of you here.

Errol, just to recap for everybody, I just want to put up on the screen some of the lies that George Santos has been caught in. I mean, they are wide-ranging.

[22:05:00] He never worked for Citigroup or Goldman Sachs, though he claimed he did. He didn't graduate from Baruch College or MBA from NYU. He didn't go to college at all. He's not Jewish. His grandparents are not Holocaust survivors. He never ran an animal nonprofit. He never owned 13 properties or any that people can find. He was not forced to leave Horace Mann, that's the New York private school, as Eva just reported, because he never went there to begin with. Oh, and by the way, as we've learned, CNN can confirm he was charged with embezzlement in Brazil for forging an elderly man's signature on checks that were not hi. So, I think that you wouldn't want this person to be a lawmaker in your country's Capitol but he is going to be, Errol, so now what?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, now what? There are a couple different possibilities, Alisyn. One is that he does get seated and he serves. And if the law catches up with him, then and possibly only then would his fellow members of Congress decide to take action against him. The last member of Congress to be kicked out was James Traficant. And that was a long time ago. It was a generation ago. And that was after he was convicted on ten federal fraud charges.

So, you can be under quite a cloud and still exist in Congress. You can ask Matt Gaetz about that. There are any number of members who are being investigated at any given time facing very, very serious charges. So, that is one distinct possibility that the lies that this man has told and the investigations of those lies are likely to have some consequences.

I mean, honestly, while it is very attractive to look at the embellishment and sort of and I think people can kind of understand that, I guess, maybe on some emotional level, wanting to seem like you're more than you are and fake it until you make it, but the ones that involved -- the charges and the lies that involve money are going to get him in a lot of trouble. When you raise money for animal rescue and none of the money makes its way to where it is supposed to be, that's when you get into real trouble. And I think those are the kind of charges that the prosecutors are going to look at most closely.

CAMEROTA: And that's the kind of thing we're seeing start tonight.

Governor, why haven't we heard anything from Republican Leader McCarthy? Is he okay with all of this? Why isn't he saying anything?

FMR. GOV. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): Clearly, he is not. I'm sure of that. But the reality is his ability to become speaker possibly hinges on one vote. I mean, it is very tight given the holdouts that are there on the sort of right flank of the Republican conference. And so as a consequence in terms of self-preservation, he is quiet, but I think it is a real mistake.

I think that this is where leadership is absolutely essential in stepping out, condemning wrong and saying, this does not fly. We do not want him as a part of our caucus. He'll be a drain and a distraction and he shouldn't join us. There ought to be that kind of forceful comment. I doubt we'll see that in McCarthy though.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Nina, it is sort of fascinating to listen to George Santos spin these lies because he is unabashed when he does it and when he is caught. Here is a moment where he was talking about going to that New York City prep school and the sad story about how he had to withdraw because his parents, you know, fell on hard times. So, I just want viewers to hear him in his own words.


REP.-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): They sent me to a good prep school, which was Horace Mann Prep in the Bronx. And on my senior year of prep school, unfortunately, my parents fell on hard times. So, anyway, I left school four months to graduation.


CAMEROTA: Apparently, none of that was true. So, what's going to happen?

NINA TURNER, HOST, UNBOSSED ON TYT: I mean, the man is a pathological liar, Alisyn. I mean, you look up pathological liar, he is at the top of the list right now. If the governor's contention is correct that, for self-preservation, McCarthy is just going to let this go on without speaking out and up against this and saying that we don't want this man here, then that is a very sad commentary, a condemnation on the GOP leadership itself.

The people who are going to lose out the most are the voters who voted for this fraud because they did not know that he was a fraud. But now that the truth is out, the Republicans should be calling for this man to have some decency and step down. I mean, there are lies and then there are damn lies, and this man has told lies.

CAMEROTA: John, there are three Republicans so far who have spoken out. They're not in leadership. They are new Republicans to Congress, Republican Congressman-elect Nick LaLota, Congressman-elect Anthony D'Esposito and Mike Lawler. Basically, what Nick LaLota has said is that he believes a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee is necessary. Your thoughts?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's absolutely correct. It's very difficult to remove an elected member. It takes a two-thirds vote of the House. There is no way the Republicans are going to go for an ejection of this man even after he is sworn in and is seated.


So, he is going to wrap himself around his patriotism, his seat in Congress, and claim they're coming after him as something of a defense, and it might work a little bit for him. But he's got both the federal and state governments now investigating. He is in a heap of trouble.

He may well have committed wire fraud by putting up false advertising to entice donors. That is a serious offense. He may -- there are endless potentials in New York election laws that he might have violated. So, I don't think he is going to survive but I think Speaker-would-be McCarthy is going to get his vote. CAMEROTA: Errol, it is incredible that there is no process for getting rid of someone who has this flagrantly violated the public trust. I saw today a petition going around among, I think, voters in his district trying to, I guess, write him out of the position, but I don't even know if that is possible.

LOUIS: Yes. We don't have any legal provisions for this. This is a highly unusual situation. And, frankly, the timing of it is unusual. For this to all come out after the election but before he's been sworn in, I think that's probably the most unusual thing about it.

You know, plenty of politicians get caught lying after the fact, but in this case he is not quite a politician until he takes the oath of office. Once he does, though, John is exactly right, I mean, he'll be in ensconced and he'll have a couple new privileges that he won't be able -- that we won't be able to sort of pass through or crack through. He even has a relative immunity speaking privilege as long as the statements are made on the floor of the House. So, he can spin all kinds of stories and have relative immunity as a member of Congress.

So, we are in a very tough position. This is intended to be self- correcting, though. The system is intended to be self-correcting. I wouldn't like George Santos' chances at re-election or, for example, if the seat were vacated and he tried to run again. I don't think he'd get very far. And I think, ultimately, that is the way the system works.

CAMEROTA: Governor, what committee is he fit to sit on in Congress?

SANFORD: None, and that is something McCarthy could do, is not seat him on a committee. That is ultimately a leadership prerogative and it's something I would encourage leadership to exercise. We will see.

But, again, I think this is -- the bigger conundrum that I think we're all dealing with at this time, which is, I think that some extent, Trump reset the bar on the value and significance of truth in the political process. And we see and hear in its aftermath effects like this that I think in the day passed (ph), going back to John Dean's time and others, where people would just say, the uprise has got to end, you'd see a much stronger pushback at the local level and maybe that will come next and you would see much stronger pushback at the leadership level. Tragically, we've not seen that thus far.

CAMEROTA: Nina, what about that? Has integrity sort of lost its way now?

TURNER: Alisyn, this is outrageous. That leadership does not have to follow the path of President Donald J. Trump. But McCarthy, all he cares about right now is getting that one vote and basically -- constituents of the Third District in New York. That is the problem. Trump is not the problem, though I am not disagreeing with the governor in terms of resetting the bar, but McCarthy can do something different. He could put the pressure on this man.

He needs to have some decency and the GOP needs some decency to say, look, we don't want you here. Go. Put the pressure on him. And tell him to stand down. But he's not going to do that because all he cares about is being the next speaker of the House.

CAMEROTA: John, yes, maybe Kevin McCarthy will do it right after George Santos votes for him. Can he get rid of him then?

DEAN: Well, as I say, it is very difficult to expel somebody from the House. What they can do is not give him a seat on any decent committee. They can put him in charge of janitorial services or something like that. But I think that we have a Republican Party today that Trump somehow convinced should have no shame, and they don't. It is not the Republican Party I was once a member or the governor.

So, it's a different time and this man seems to get out there and say anything he wants to and no repercussions and no personal anxiety about his behavior. So, it is really quite striking. And the system isn't built for these kinds of people.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, I made a prediction last night and it has come true, which is this story is not going away. So, I predict there may be even more chapters with George Santos.


Thank you all very much for all the insight on that.

Next, we have more revelations from the January 6th committee, testimony about how Donald Trump suggested a blanket pardon for some of the rioters at the Capitol.


CAMEROTA: The January 6th committee is winding down, so they are withdrawing their subpoena to former President Trump. In a letter to Trump's lawyers, Chairman Bennie Thompson wrote in part, quote, in light of the imminent end of our investigation, the select committee can no longer pursue the specific information covered by the subpoena. Therefore, through this letter, I hereby formally withdraw the subpoena issued to former President Trump and notify you that he is no longer obligated to comply or produce records in response to said subpoena.

John dean, Mark Sanford are back with us, also CNN Political Analyst Alex Burns who joins the conversation.

So, John, as predicted, former President Trump ran out the clock. I mean, this is what our legal experts thought was going to happen, and he successfully ran out the clock on the subpoena.

DEAN: Yes, he did and that is his standard playbook. So, there is little the committee can do and they are a select committee so they are only alive as long as Congress is alive. We are going into a new Congress and the Republicans are certainly not going to revive this select committee.

So, Trump -- this was the right thing for the chairman to do, it kind of tidies things up. But it is actually meaningless. They knew long ago that they weren't going to fight him, they were going to try to take him to court, they weren't going to hold him in contempt. So, Trump's playbook worked in this instance.

CAMEROTA: Alex, let's talk about some of the new things that we're learning from the transcripts that the committee is releasing. So, we had heard -- there had been reporting that President Trump was considering pardoning the rioters. But here it is now in Johnny McEntee's words, he's the director of personnel, this was from March 28.


It says -- basically, he is describing what happened in the Oval Office. One day when we walked into the oval, I remember it was being discussed and I remember the president saying, well, what if I pardoned the people that were not violent that just walked into the building? And I think the White House counsel gave him some pushback.

It is just interesting to hear how those negotiations were going on behind closed doors and that President Trump thought that would be a good idea.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Interesting is a really good euphemism for what that scene is, Alisyn. Look, I think that this is an important contribution to the historical record. I think that for the matter, you know, as far as the politics of the moment go, we have now had Donald Trump go to rallies and talk publicly about pardoning the demonstrators and the rioters and the people who ransacked the Capitol on January 6th.

So, it is not some sort of bombshell in a political sense. That is basically the stated position of the Trump 2024 campaign. But it is certainly a potential legal matter and certainly is a matter for just our understanding of this moment in history is a really important thing to have preserved in the record like this, that within days of this historic assault on the Capitol, the sitting president of the United States was thinking about potentially issuing essentially an amnesty for the people involved in that.

And I think, Alisyn, it helps sort of set the stakes for everything else that we have learned in these transcripts that this was the president's frame of mind when people in his cabinet may or may not have been talking about the 25th Amendment or were talking with each other about how alarming it was that he was still on the job. It shows us that was not just sort of wild speculation that he was a guy who was really out of control.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Nina, let's talk about that, the 25th Amendment. I totally agree with Alex. I mean, I can't get enough of these transcripts, just seeing it in people's own words, for posterity, history and to set the record straight. So, here is what one portion about the 25th Amendment conversation, this comes from the White House deputy press secretary, Judd Deere. He says, the conversations shifted from debating the certification of Arizona and establishing a commission to audit Arizona to impeachment, talk of the 25th Amendment, and the senators thought that any effort to mount a sustained objection to any state had ended. So, basically, it did come up and people were debating the 25th Amendment as, you know, we suspected.

TURNER: Yes. I mean, what is coming out of this committee is quite incredible, not just for history's sake but right here in this moment that in the 21st century, President Trump and his allies, even having Congress members like Gaetz and others who wanted that blanketed pardon, this president, what happened on January 6th falls clearly at his feet. And that is what the committee is showing, that he had people so amped up and so ready to do whatever they wanted to do to disqualify the election results. And, also, Alisyn, I mean, they didn't care that seven people, I think, died. That's not even to name all the people who got hurt but seven people lost their lives including --

CAMEROTA: Nina, sorry, we are having a little problem with your audio. But I hear you, and more than 140 police officers were injured, some of them obviously gravely.

John, how about the Cassidy Hutchinson testimony that she saw Mark Meadows burning dozens of documents in his fire place? Here is a little bit more color on that. This is the actual testimony. Quote, so, throughout the day he would put more logs on the fire place to keep it burning throughout the day. And I recall roughly a dozen times when he would take the, I don't know the formal name for what it's called that covers the fire place, but take that off and then throw a few more pieces of paper in with it when he had put more logs on the fire place.

I mean, we've heard about President Trump flushing documents down the toilet. Now, Mark Meadows is burning them in the fire place. This is incredible.

DEAN: It is incredible. I know that fire place too in the chief of staff's office. It works well. So, I'm sure he had no trouble disposing of papers and records he didn't want to ever be seen by anybody. I think this is an indication of his intent, his consciousness of guilt. If he is not cooperating, and there are some who suspect he is, this is the sort of thing that will come up and he'd be quizzed on in a grand jury at some length to explain this. He'll probably deny it, but I think Cassidy Hutchinson is a good witness and others who cleaned out the fire place may have further evidence on it.

CAMEROTA: Governor, what jumps out at you from everything we've seen now from these transcripts?


SANFORD: I guess two things. I mean, one, if you start with crazy, you end with crazy. And it is just remarkable given the entire tone and tenure of the Trump White House some of the way it spilled out into people who frankly I thought to be good folk. I mean, I served with Mark Meadows. And he was a decent guy and yet you get in the wrong environment and things start being condoned that aren't right and you start getting pressures in the wrong places and good people, what I perceived to be good people, end up doing horrific things. And I think this is a good example of how leadership from the top sets the tone and sets the bar and a lot of people end up following in very, very strange directions. Burning stuff in the fire place is crazy and nothing I would have imagined out of Mark Meadows.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I think that is such an interesting point, Governor. I mean, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Let's talk very quickly about Donald Trump's taxes, which are going to be released on Friday. So, Alex, the House Ways and Means Committee is releasing them. What is the point? I mean, he is no longer in office. What is the point now of releasing his taxes? And as you know there are some critics who say, well, this shows that Congress could do this to any individual. Is this troubling that they're going to release his taxes?

BURNS: Well, first of all, it does show that Congress can do it to any individual because Congress can do it to any individual. That is not something that is new as a result of what the Ways and Means Committee is doing right now. That was already the case.

And what the committee has done, what Chairman Richard Neal and the staff of the committee have done is show that, really, the law does apply to the president and his relationship with the House at this point. They show they had a legitimate legislative purpose to see if the president was properly audited, as presidents are meant to be, and I do think we started this segment talking about a point, a way in which Donald Trump managed to sort of run out the clock on the subpoena from the January 6th committee.

This was a request for his tax returns from the Ways and Means Committee that did happen while he was the president of the United States when he was not a private citizen, and he ran out the clock and ran out the clock, and, man, he almost got away with it on this one too. We are weeks away from the committee changing hands when they got the taxes.

CAMEROTA: Right. But why do they have to release them publicly? I mean, I hear what you're saying with all that. They got their hands on them, they wanted them, they wanted to show the IRS clearly had not audited properly, but why release them publicly?

BURNS: Well, look, that is a question that the committee is going to have to defend in the coming days. And I am certainly not going to do their job for them in sort of building a rationale for it. I will just say that as a reporter and as a citizen, we've seen the tax returns of other presidents, we've not seen the tax returns of Donald Trump during a comparable phase in his life and his presidency. And I for one look forward to seeing what's in them. I think this is one of these areas where sun light really, really is an important part of the democratic process and important part of our political system.

CAMEROTA: Look, as a journalist, I am very interested in seeing them, but as an American, Nina, is there a reason to release them publicly?

TURNER: Yes. The reason is all politics. He's running again. And this may come in handy for his upcoming bid. So, they should be clear about that. Otherwise, Alisyn, I think what you are getting at is what is the purpose in this moment to release those things. It doesn't make any sense -- the election bid.


BURNS: I mean, if I could just jump in on that though --

CAMEROTA: Yes, quickly.

BURNS: Yes. I mean, the reason to do it now is because they can't do it in two weeks because then the committee changes hands at that point, right? And I for one believe we should sort of lower our expectations that there is going to be some nuclear bombshell in this because I think we know a lot about what is in his tax returns and now we are going to get to look under the hood.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Go ahead, Governor.

SANFORD: Yes. I mean, there are two reasons to release them. One is this exactly what he said he would do as a candidate, and straight into the Santos story on truth mattering and what we say as candidates ought to be something that plays out when we're in elected office. So, one it is something he said he'd do. Two, it is a 50-year tradition that's been upheld by Republican, Democratic presidential nominees on both the Republican and Democratic side for 50 years. And the idea we take a walk from that I think is a mistake.

You know, I released my tax returns twice as the gubernatorial nominee in South Carolina. I think it is a good tradition. And I don't think it is wise to walk back. So, I think this is a tradition we've had for 50 years. It is a good idea to keep it out and in place and in public.

John, we'll give you the last word. This is just a tradition that the House Ways and Means Committee feels strongly about preserving or is this retribution or political maneuver on some level?

DEAN: I think they could not do it but they also have a technical reason to do it. They are turning them over to the House. They're going to be printed on Friday in the congressional record. So, they are, in essence, public when they follow their own rules.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Folks, thank you very much, great to get all of your perspectives.

Now to this, thousands of Southwest flights canceled again and thousands of passengers with lost luggage still.


Coming up, we're going to introduce you to one passenger that we're calling the luggage ferry, and you'll see why.


CAMEROTA: Now to the Southwest Airlines meltdown. Southwest has canceled more than 2,300 flights for tomorrow, and in just the past week, Southwest has canceled nearly 16,000 flights. The airline CEO says they'll be back on track before next week. But another big question tonight is why did its systems fail so

spectacularly when Southwest got more than $7 billion from taxpayers during the pandemic.

Let's bring in Catherine Rampell. She is a CNN economics and political commentator and a Washington Post opinion columnist.

Catherine, great to see you.

So, they had this huge systems failure. I mean, their phone system sounds woefully antiquated. Even the flight attendants couldn't get through on their phone system. Then they had all these other technological failures. They got $7 billion. Let me just give this you some context.

So, during the pandemic, this was the PPP relief funds that airlines got. American got 18 billion, Delta got 12 billion, United got close to 11 billion, and Southwest got more than 7 billion.

Could they have used any of that PPP money to upgrade their systems?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: So, the pandemic relief funds were really intended to keep people on their payrolls, right? That's what this was supposed to be for, was to prevent layoffs. It was to pay for wages and salaries and benefits and that sort thing.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, they couldn't have used any of that.

RAMPELL: So, I mean, money is fungible, right? Like in theory, they could have made some investments to upgrade their systems.


And the pilot's union, for example, has been calling for them to upgrade their systems for a very long time. But that was not the intended use of those dollars. That doesn't excuse the fact that the whole system went under of course.

CAMEROTA: Yes. So, I mean, as you say the flight attendants have been calling for them to upgrade it for a long time also, so now they're in this mess. And so many, passengers, we've heard all of their sob stories. I mean, they missed Christmas with their family. They had to shell out their own money for either Ubers or for other flights, or for hotels or for meals. They got stranded for days.

What's the price tag for how they will compensate passengers and will they compensate?

RAMPELL: No, they have, Southwest has said that they will review these requests on a case-by-case basis. It's unclear exactly how -- what methodology they're going to use to decide who gets reimbursed for what. I think the financial costs of this are going to be enormous.

Because you think about not just the flights that were canceled and the refunds that were issued, but as you point out, reimbursements for alternative travel arrangements for hotels, for driving a rental car 19 hours across the country or what have you, for lost baggage.

You know, they're going to have to reimburse people for that because baggage ended up in completely different cities from where the passengers were supposed to land. So, there're going to be huge costs in the near term. And then of course, there are the reputational costs, right?

Because Southwest has this reputation as being a very consumer friendly airline. People are loyal, have been loyal customers, I just should say, because they're known for treating their consumers, their passengers very, very well. And all of that has gone up in smoke.

CAMEROTA: Are they obligated to reimburse their passengers?

RAMPELL: For some things, but not for everything. Like, like if they lose your bag, there are some requirements that they have to repay you, but I think it's capped, the amount of money per bag is capped. For a lot of these other kinds of expenses it's discretionary.

CAMEROTA: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said that they're going to be held accountable. How?

RAMPELL: You know, that's a -- that's an excellent question. I don't think that there is any way that the Department of Transportation could find Southwest into upgrading its I.T. system today or even next week. I do think that they should be held accountable to figure out if they have breached any -- breached any contract with their passengers, for example, if they haven't reimbursed people for expenses that they have told customers that they would reimburse them for.

But it's kind of hard for me to imagine that any punitive arrangements that the government would make would be more damaging than what Southwest has already done to itself at this point, given all of those costs.

CAMEROTA: Right, right. Catherine, thank you very much. You're going to want to stick around for this next story, because speaking of tons of lost baggage, that's what this is about.

You've seen all of that sea of luggage that's been stranded at airports this week. At the Tampa airport one Southwest passenger took action. She had decided to take it into her own hands to help other flyers track down their bags.

She was delayed. And while her flight was delayed, she pulled out her phone and started taking pictures of these bags here and any that had phone numbers attached to the handles, she started texting people. I think I've found your bag. Do you know where your bag is?

Her name is Brittany Loubier-Vervisch. We call her affectionately the luggage fairy. Brittany, how are?


CAMEROTA: I'm doing well. I understand that you were trying to go from Tampa to Tucson. And your flight was delayed, delayed, like perma-delayed.


CAMEROTA: And so, why did you decide to just start waiting through that sea of luggage and texting people?

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: So, we were upstairs in the terminal and then we waited in line for a long time and there was long lines upstairs because people were trying to rebook flights or try to get their bags off the planes or something like that.

And then we got to the front of the line after waiting, you know, over an hour and they said, no, you need to go down a baggage. So we got in that queue, which was over an hour. Well, over an hour. And my husband, Carl, was standing in that line. And I was like, well, we don't need both of us to stand here.

So, I started walking around thinking maybe I would find our luggage. Maybe it was already in the piles. The -- I've never seen anything like this. Just hundreds and hundreds of bags getting pulled off the carousels and placed in the space between the carousels. People were having to climb on the carousels to like get through the aisle ways of bags and look for their own luggage.

So, I started walking around looking for my own and thought, this one has a phone number on it. I will text them. And, you know, I texted as many people as I could.

CAMEROTA: How many? How many people did you text?

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: But it was a small thing. I think I sent around 70 texts. Some of them turned out to be the landlines. So those obviously didn't go through. But --


CAMEROTA: And just tell me, so of the 70, how many do -- how many responses did you get?

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: I want to say, I think 30 people texted me back. You know, it ranged from, OK, I need you to give them my phone number so they can call me to, thank you so much.


And then I actually met a man and a woman that came down. They got seven pieces of luggage. I guess it belonged to themselves and their parents. So like, as I was standing there, I kind of like helped them find their seven bags. They were like, do you work for the airline? I was like, no, no. I'm like you. I'm looking for my bag.

CAMEROTA: You might as well work for the airline, and I hope Southwest offers you a very handsomely paid job because you were doing their work for them.

But I do have one of the texts that I want to read to you. So, here's one. It's -- so, I think that you -- I think that you wrote this to her. Your bag is in Tampa, by claim 15, door 166. I'm just a random person looking for my luggage.

The person writes back, wow. Thanks so much. I hope you find yours. You write back, thanks. And the woman after that exchange tweeted out thank you to the random stranger --


CAMEROTA: -- who texted me that my suitcase was in fact in Tampa. You are a lifesaver. Especially since there was no way Southwest could ever tell me. How does that make you feel?

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: Yes. I mean, I just did the smallest thing. There were Southwest employees that were there. Some of them had -- or were 20 years employees of the company. And they were working so hard. They were being so kind. They were keeping their cool and some people were being very nasty to them. Even though they literally had no control over it.

These are the, you know, the people that work in baggage, the people that are taking the bags off the carousels, the people that are pulling the bags out of the bellies of the plane. Customer service agents, they were all working so hard. One woman had been there like over 24 hours she said.

So, it just really kudos to the employees that were trying to do their best to help all the customers get their bags back. This was very minor for us. We live in Tampa.


LOUBIER-VERVISCH: Our flight was canceled, thank God, while we were in Tampa.

CAMEROTA: That is -- that is lucky, I suppose. Did you find your bag?

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: Yes. We -- it took us about, I believe four or four and a half hours to find our bag from the time we went down to the time we started standing in line. So, we did get our bags back.

CAMEROTA: And Brittany, I mean, I don't know if you heard me talking to our guest earlier, but do -- what do you think Southwest should compensate passengers for all of this mess that people have endured the past week?

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: I mean, they need to get people home first. They need to get people their luggage first. All the rest of it is like down the road. You can't compensate everybody for everything. If the people just stop booking with Southwest, that's a huge loss in and of itself.

So, I don't know if you can really put a dollar amount on that. It would be great if they could, you know, reimburse for a rental car or something like that. But any of that, I don't know if you've ever had to make an insurance claim for a car accident or something. CAMEROTA: Yes.

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: It can take like two years --


CAMEROTA: You're right.

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: -- to get money back.

CAMEROTA: It's so true.

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: You think it'll be like a nice thing down the road, but I don't expect anything immediate can be happening unfortunately.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's barely worth it. Well, Brittany, you made people's Christmas week better and brighter. So, so we're calling you the luggage fairy, and feel free to put that on your business card. And thanks so much --


CAMEROTA: -- for sharing your story with us tonight.

LOUBIER-VERVISCH: Thank you. Have a good night.

CAMEROTA: You too. OK, so we have developments tonight on the Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Miami's head coach confirmed today that he did suffer a concussion during Sunday's game against the Packers. What's still not clear is when exactly he was hurt. And that's key because the quarterback played the entire game.

So, there are questions about why he was allowed to play a whole game if he suffered a head injury at some point. It's important to note that Tua's first health scare this season in September prompted changes to the NFL's concussion protocol, changes to try to ensure that players with head injuries are not allowed to continue to play through them.

So, the NFL says it has now launched a joint review of this incident with the player's union. Coach Mike McDaniel says earlier -- said earlier that he and the staff did not notice anything wrong with Tua until they reviewed the film hours after the game and then questioned him.

It's uncertain whether the quarterback will play in Sunday's pivotal game against the Patriots.

OK, so a next, another health scare to tell you about. Pope Emeritus Benedict is said to be very sick tonight, so we have a report from the Vatican right after this.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: Pope Francis asking for prayers tonight for his

predecessor. Ninety-five-year-old Pope Emeritus Benedict who is said to be very sick. Pope Benedict made history nearly a decade ago as the first pontiff to step down in nearly six centuries.

CNN's Delia Gallagher has the latest developments from Rome.



DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Prayers for a pope in failing health. In his globally broadcast general audience, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict as his health deteriorates.

POPE FRANCIS, HEAD OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: I want to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who sustains the church in his silence. He is very sick. We ask the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the church to the very end.

GALLAGHER: The Vatican says the 95-year-old's health has deteriorated due to the advancement of his age and that he's being continually monitored by his doctors.

Once the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI has been living alongside his successor, Pope Francis at the Vatican. After making the almost unprecedented decision to resign from his role as pope in 2013. Announcing that decision, Benedict said his choice to step down was made due to his lack of strength of body and mind.

POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT, POPE FRANCIS' PREDECESSOR: The decision I have made after much prayer is the fruit of a serene trust in God's will, the deep love of Christ's church. I will continue to accompany the church with my prayers and ask each of you to pray for me and for the new pope.

GALLAGHER: With that resignation, Pope Benedict became the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years, but retained his title and continued to dress in the papal white and make occasional public appearances.

Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in Germany, and a childhood spent under the shadow of Hitler's Nazi regime, Pope Benedict the XVI has sometimes been a divisive figure. Unflatteringly referred to as God's Rottweiler in his conservative defense of the faith.

He was Cardinal and Pope during the years when the Catholic church's sex abuse scandals came to light and he spearheaded the Vatican's efforts towards a zero-tolerance policy.

However, after his retirement, he suffered a reputational blow when the church commissioned report found he knew and failed to act against a pedophile priest while he was archbishop in Munich 40 years ago. Benedict denied the allegations.

Even after his resignation, he continues to be a towering figure in the Catholic Church. And as his health declines, there'll be many sending him their thoughts and prayers.


Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


CAMEROTA: And we will of course, keep you posted on the pope's health.

Next, we have a lighter story. Have you ever struggled with the company's customer service department? Well, now you can hire a quote, "Karen," to do that for you. We'll tell you how right after this.


CAMEROTA: Are you sick of waiting on hold forever for some customer service representative to talk to you and then be less than helpful? What if you could get someone to do it for you? Someone who won't take no for an answer? Sounds like a job for a Karen.

You know, one of those get me the manager types. Well, a Pittsburgh couple has launched a small company called Karen's for hire for a fee they'll get on the phone and fight the battles for you.


FALLON ZECCA, CO-FOUNDER, KARENS FOR HIRE: We had somebody who reached out, you know, reach out to us and say, you know, I have to call, I have to make this phone call, but I have a thick accent. And anytime I call these people they take advantage of me. So, you know, we were able to step in and we, you know, it was a male.

So, you know, Chris was able to call. He said, you know, I don't have an accent. You know, I can -- I can be that fair voice for you.


CAMEROTA: We're back with Errol Louis, Nina Turner, Mark Sanford, and Alex Burns.

Alex, have you ever needed a Karen?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think I have, but you know, Alisyn, I think I would, I think I would've regrets about deploying one. I can just say in my own customer service experience, I have never regretted being patient and sort of polite to people who work in customer service at tough jobs as not their fault when the companies are just awful behind them.

And the ones that I do regret are the ones where I lost my patience and acted like, I don't know if you can say this word on television. I think you can, but a jackass, and those are the ones I regret. I would not want to outsource that job to somebody else.

CAMEROTA: Not you, Alex. You're a saint as we've all learned just now by the fact that you are nice to customer service, people who keep you on hold for 12 hours.


I mean, how many of these Southwest passengers could use an army of Karens to help them try to find their luggage, et cetera? Governor, your thoughts?

FMR. GOV. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): Yes, I don't have this halo. I mean, I admire Alex, but again, I don't have this halo. I don't have that patience. Karen, where have you been all my life. I've been looking for you. I went on the web site when I learned about this. It looks spectacular.

CAMEROTA: OK, so here's what they say, Errol. This isn't about -- this is their, their ad, OK, for the Karens. This isn't about us. This is about you. You're the hero in this tale. You are Captain America. We are the Avengers materializing behind you facing insurmountable odds in end game. Karens assemble.

And I know, Errol, I know that Karens also have a very negative connotation, obviously. But it seems like -- do you think that this is a good a way to rebrand Karens and put them to good use?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. I mean, I'm having a hard time getting past that. You can go online and see minutes' worth of Karen's acting out, and in many cases, they're trying to get people arrested. In many cases, they're a racial overtones. In many cases, they're just flat out wrong, accusing people of stealing a phone or something, and they're just wrong. It was in their purse all along.

There's a relatively small number of cases where it's actually a rude person that you have to kind of deal with. It's mostly broken system. I personally, you know, like Alex, I try not to lose my temper. I find that social media is the right way to embarrass big companies that don't respond. That's when they -- you really get their attention.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Nina, maybe it's too early for a rebranding of Karen's.

NINA TURNER, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, SANDERS CAMPAIGN: Alisyn, I'm with Errol on this. I'm looking side eyed at this. Black folks would not be calling up a Karen. Because anytime Karen shows up, they mess with our lives with foolishness in mayhem. They might want to change that name.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I hear you. I understand that. I think you're right. I don't think they've thought this through entirely. We do need an army of people who are willing to fight, you know, Southwest Airline's phone system for us, not the actual people who I'm sure are lovely in kind, but the hideous 17-hour wait. We do need an army of people, but maybe we just need a different name for them.

OK, folks, thank you very much. Great to spend time with you. Thanks so much for watching. And our coverage continues.