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Erin Burnett Outfront
Supreme Court: Trump-Era Border Restrictions Will Remain In Effect; Biden Responds To Supreme Court Ruling On Trump-Era Border Policy; January 6 Committee Releases New Transcripts Of Witness Testimony; Southwest Cancels 60 Percent Plus Of Flights For Second Straight Day; Millions Of Ukrainians Without Power, Houses Destroyed Amid Intense Fighting In Key Eastern City Of Bakhmut; House GOP Leadership Silent As Rep.-Elect Santos Admits To Resume Lies. Aired 7- 8p ET
Aired December 27, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next:
The Supreme Court rules on a pandemic-era immigration fight preventing the Biden administration from ending Title 42. A policy Trump enacted, allowing the U.S. to quickly expel migrants in the name of public health. Biden just responded. We're live at the border.
Plus, new revelations in just-released transcripts from the January 6th committee, including the committee's key witness who reveals how QAnon conspiracies made their way into the West Wing.
And it's a full-blown travel fiasco for Southwest Airlines' passengers going nowhere, after most of the airline's flights have been canceled.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Sara Sidner, in for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, a major blow at the border for President Biden. The Supreme Court ruling that Title 42, a controversial Trump era border policy, will remain in place as legal challenges play out. It's a policy the Biden administration said it was ready to see end.
And just minutes ago, President Biden reacted to the ruling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: But for now, the 5-4 ruling is a major victory for GOP led states that asked the Supreme Court to step in, like Arizona, whose attorney general said he was, quote, proud to lead the charge on this important issue. The policy lets federal officials quickly expel migrants who crossed
the U.S. border illegally. And today's ruling means it will continue to take place for at least several more months. It was put in place during the beginning of the pandemic to stop the spread of COVID. But the White House did not want to keep the policy despite warnings from homeland security officials that lifting it could lead to disaster at the border.
One source telling CNN DHS projected between 9,000 to 14,000 migrants would try to cross the southern border each and every day.
More than double the current number of people crossing, according to a source familiar with those projections. The White House tonight also vowing to comply with the ruling but urging Republicans to now work with Democrats on bipartisan immigration reform.
We've got the story covered from all angles. Leyla Santiago is near the border in El Paso, Texas. And Priscilla Alvarez is in Washington, D.C. for us.
Knowing that border officials have been warning of a massive surge of people coming over the border if the court allowed the removal of Title 42. What is the mood there tonight? What are you hearing?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, as I've been speaking to the migrants themselves, I can't stop thinking about one mother who just repeated over and over in Spanish, saying, this is bad, this is bad. She's from Venezuela. Spent months trying to get up here and says she tried to cross legally but couldn't because of Title 42.
Then you have the city officials who had some contingency plans in case this was lifted and expecting a large surge. They're actually still moving forward with some of those plans because they see what's on the other side of the border, which is a lot of migrants waiting.
And then they're dealing with this. Take a look behind me. These are a lot of the migrants that have already crossed, and many of these migrants will not go to the shelters or get on a bus out of fear. They don't want to be moved because they don't know where they will go, even though El Paso city officials say they have the capacity right now to accommodate them.
So many of them are here, and I'm seeing young men, I'm seeing older men, I'm seeing children, toddlers, one of the shelter organizers told me that -- he said that this decision by the Supreme Court will only extend the bottleneck that we see at the border right now and could create unsustainable pressure for law enforcement.
So, a lot of folks still sort of trying to make sense of what this will mean. But for the migrants themselves, it has really left them with a sense of uncertainty and fear -- Sara.
SIDNER: All right. Thank you so much, Leyla Santiago, there at the border in El Paso.
Now let's go to CNN White House correspondent Priscilla Alvarez.
Priscilla, what else are you hearing from the White House? There is obviously a bit of disappointment.
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the White House says that they will comply with the order. But they're also pointing the finger at Congress.
Let me read part of that statement to you. They said, quote, Title 42 is a public health measure, not an immigration enforcement measure. And it should not be extended indefinitely.
They later went on to say that today's order gives Republicans in Congress plenty of time to move past political finger-pointing and join their Democratic colleagues in solving the challenge at our border by passing the comprehensive reform measures and delivering additional funds for border security that President Biden has requested.
Now, Sara, this is an issue that has vexed Congress for decades and it is also one that has only grown more politically contentious over time. So any reform or attempt to overhaul the immigration system is going to be a challenge.
In the meantime, though, the administration says they're going to move forward with their preparations in the event that, as you heard from President Biden, Title 42 ends next summer. The Department of Homeland Security also saying in a statement that migrants should not be listening to smugglers who may try to exploit the situation -- Sara.
SIDNER: All right. We have heard that there has been some exploiting going on for sure. Thank you so much.
OUTFRONT now, Scott Jennings, former senior adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a CNN political commentator. And Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former defense attorney and former Democratic mayor of Baltimore.
Thank you both for being here.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: God evening.
SIDNER: Scott, I'll start with you. What's the big takeaway that you see coming out of this from the Supreme Court's decision?
JENNINGS: Yeah, a few things. And thanks for having me on tonight.
I think, number one, the Supreme Court, at least temporarily, saved Joe Biden from himself. His administration was in court arguing to end this. They even admitted in court the solicitor general admitted that lifting Title 42 will lead to disruption and a temporary increase on unlawful border crossings. And we already have a massive number of people coming across anyway. So, you know, the Supreme Court here did them a favor. Number two, big political win for the Republicans who run the states
that challenge this. They see what the problem is, and they wanted to keep this in place. So, I think that was a good move politically for the Republicans here who were arguing for more border security.
But, number three, the real question's going to come next year. This is going to end. And at what point are all the federal policymakers going to help these states, these governors and these mayors who are dealing with this influx of people?
It's really a federal issue. They have to secure the border, and I don't think the American people think everybody coming across there is a legitimate refugee which is what the position the Biden administration apparently is.
SIDNER: Mayor Rawlings-Blake, you think President Biden, as well as his predecessors, have really failed to solve the issue of immigration. And I suspect that includes Congress.
Do you think this might help push two sides together? Or is this going to be the same old, same old when it comes to Republicans and Democrats in Congress?
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER BALTIMORE MAYOR: I think when you listen to Scott and he talks about it being a big political win, that sort of tells you where we are. We're talking about people. We're talking about vulnerable populations, and too many leaders are still talking about whether or not we can -- who can score political points.
This is a time, a crisis that requires leaders to do what they are elected to do, which is to lead in difficult circumstances. And we need more attention. This is a crisis. We need to see members of the Biden administration at the borders with mayors who are on the ground dealing with this issue day in and day out until some real comprehensive solutions can be found.
SIDNER: And, to be fair, we have heard --
JENNINGS: I totally agree with that last statement, that we need to see the Biden administration at the border. Neither the president nor the vice president has visited the border. They have not offered the kind of support to the Border Patrol. In fact, they have attacked in the past Border Patrol agents who were doing their job.
So I totally agree. I do think we need to see Biden and Kamala Harris and other officials down there admitting that they have told the American people a bunch of falsehoods. They've said the border is secure, that's not true. The White House press secretary has said, oh, people are just -- it's not like they walk across, that's not true.
It's been dishonest statements after dishonest statements. And they've never even visited to see this crisis. So I agree with it.
SIDNER: Okay. So you both agree on something.
Scott, I want to get quickly to reading some of what the White House responds to this ruling is. And, in part, they say, quote, today's order gives Republicans in Congress plenty of time to move past political finger-pointing and join their Democratic colleagues in solving the challenge at our border bypassing the comprehensive reform measures and delivering the additional funds for border security that President Biden has requested.
I know myself from talking to lawmakers on the ground there, some of the council members in El Paso, they've said that they're not seeing those federal funds. They need the federal funds to deal with the influx of people. Why can't Republicans and Democrats seem to come together? Is it because we are seeing the edges of both parties keeping reform from happening, keeping major reform from happening?
JENNINGS: Well, I think there's a fundamental disagreement between both parties on who should be able to come across and claim legitimate refugee status. It appears that the left and the Biden administration thinks everybody should come and we should just do the paperwork faster. And the Republicans I think want to slow this down and say wait a minute, what we really need to focus on is more resources to actually secure the border.
Case in point, the other day, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey literally took shipping containers and tried to build a wall on the Arizona border in the Yuma gap. And the Biden administration sued him and made him take it down.
So I think the fundamental disagreements on priorities here, Republicans for border security, the Biden administration says, come on in. That's a big divide. And I have a hard time seeing how bipartisan solutions will happen when you've got such fundamental disagreements on the policy.
SIDNER: But, Scott, I think it's a bit disingenuous to say the Biden administration is saying, come on in. There are still border agents there who are still trying to do their job. And they are seeing a huge influx of people who are trying to come in. And they will do it any way they can.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake, just curious about your response to what you heard from Scott there and what you heard from the Biden administration itself?
RAWLINGS-BLAKE: You know, every day, the Republican Party sends out its talking points on all the news of the day, the Democratic Party does the same thing. I get it, I get it. There are positions that we're supposed to take to say that there is a fundamental disagreement -- of course, there's a disagreement. But there's a lot of things that I'm sure that if we sat down, we could agree on but until the leaders who are elected are willing to not worry about who gets the blame, not worry about who gets the credit, and try to help these people who deserve better, we're going to be stuck.
SIDNER: And that being stuck, you know, as mayor, if you can't get cooperation from the federal government, you're going to have trouble dealing with this massive influx. And that is exactly what is happening in places like El Paso.
Thank you to both of you for being on tonight with your honest analysis.
OUTFRONT next, the January 6th Select Committee releasing more transcripts tonight, including one White House aide describing an order from Trump's former chief of staff that may have kept some Oval Office meetings off the books.
Plus, it's an epic disaster any way you slice it. Southwest Airlines trying to dig its way out of a never-ending flight cancelation, creating a nightmare for travelers and a public relations debacle for the company.
And new audio into OUTFRONT of a Russian soldier revealing why Russia has flat-out stopped paying some troops who are fighting in Ukraine.
SIDNER: Tonight, close hold. That's the guidance former President Trump's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, apparently gave staffers regarding some Oval Office meetings near the end of Trump's presidency, potentially leaving some off the books. These new details from the just-released transcripts of interviews former Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson gave in the January 6 Committee.
Hutchinson said she doesn't recall if that close hold directive applied to January 6th information. Also in the transcripts, Hutchinson told the committee there were several discussions about QAnon in the White House and that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene mentioned the conspiracy's theory several times.
Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT in Washington.
Lots of details here that we haven't heard before. What more can you tell us?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Sara, you said it. We're now seeing these intricate details really of all four times that Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the committee, the last time in June 2022. And that was the most illuminating because by that point she'd actually left her Trump world attorney for a more neutral council who told the committee that Hutchinson actually needed to correct some of her previous testimony to clear the record.
And what we're seeing in this testimony, this transcript, are the details that she gave are indeed damaging. So, first, she told the committee that she saw Mark Meadows burning documents in his office fireplace just about a dozen times, which she said amounted to about once a twice a week between December 2020 and January 2021.
And then at least twice she says she saw Meadows burning documents after meetings with Republican Congressman Scott Perry. Perry was ultimately subpoenaed by the committee because he never complied. And then, Sara, in addition, Hutchinson told the committee that there
were discussions about QAnon conspiracies that really permeated the Trump White House after the election. So she said that Mark Meadows brought it up, also Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene made mention of the far-right-wing political movement.
And then she said that she had this particular exchange with the White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. It 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 then he said, haven't you looked into it, Cass? I think they point out a lot of good ideas. You really need to read this. Make sure the chief sees it. And Hutchinson continued saying I did not take it as sarcasm.
Ultimately, Peter Navarro, he was indicted, Sara, for not complying with the subpoena from the committee, but a lot of details coming out now in more of these transcripts that we're seeing from Cassidy Hutchinson and others.
SIDNER: Can I follow up with you, Jessica, on the transcripts also revealing that the Trump White House aides heard rumors that then President Trump considered conceding after the election and inviting the Bidens to the White House, which obviously did not actually happen?
SCHNEIDER: Yeah, those were the rumors. So, this was coming from testimony from deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere. He told the committee in his testimony he heard some gossip from people at the White House. It was the week after the 2020 election. And those people in the White House said that Trump, in fact, was considering conceding and inviting the Bidens to the White House.
And Judd Deere says he was looped in because he would be the one as a deputy press secretary who would been arranging press access, if there was any sort of visit from the White House. Obviously neither of those things happened. And Trump, of course, refused to concede and held onto those claims of a stolen election -- Sara.
SIDNER: It's all just sort of fascinating new details that we did not hear in the public view and are hearing now. Thank you so much, Jessica Schneider, for us there.
OUTFRONT now, John Dean. He was the White House counsel under President Nixon.
You know a lot about the craziness that goes on when something like this happens with a president. I do want to first talk about the burning of items. You just heard that several times there were things that were burned on a regular basis.
What do you do with that? What does that tell you?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that sounds like somebody who wants documents that can never be discovered by anybody. I don't know if there are notes he made, memos he received. We don't have any idea what they are.
But Mark meadows has been around long enough to know that if this ever came to -- push came to shove and a criminal investigation was launched, he might be in the sights of obstruction for that activity. We'll need to know more before that is apparent. But it's a very dangerous act, particularly since they're government documents.
SIDNER: Do you think in this case that someone like Meadows could -- there could be some legal action against him after some of these revelations have come out from the DOJ, for example?
DEAN: I think that reading the report and reading the transcripts that Mark Meadows is target number two. I think Donald Trump is target number one. And I'll be very surprised if there isn't a serious effort, it may have already gone on, to flip Mark Meadows, because he could be the most powerful witness, and Donald Trump's worst nightmare in this whole picture.
SIDNER: That's really interesting, Mr. Dean.
Also I want to ask you about Cassidy Hutchinson going back to the committee to correct, as she put it, the testimony she gave while she was represented by a Trump-funded attorney at the time.
Can you give us some sense of what that could mean? Because her surprise public testimony before the committee this past summer after she got a new lawyer was really sort of smoking gun kind of stuff.
DEAN: Yes, it was. And we know from her earlier release transcripts that she was actually in front of the committee. She was laboring as to what she would do or wouldn't do. And by September, after she has testified, they're examining the issue of whether there has been an effort to obstruct by this tampering.
And she at some length explained her difficulty in her initial appearances. And they were serious. She had real moral qualms by saying I don't remember, advice her attorney had given her and advice she was wisely questioning.
So, yes, these -- the transcripts released today only sort of fill in what we were missing from the earlier transcripts and her public testimony. So, while we're drinking from a fire hose with both a report and all these transcripts, it is interesting information. And CNN did a terrific job on their website, their politics website of digesting all this.
SIDNER: I'd have to agree and go to CNN.com to read that. It does give you all the details. Thank you so much, John Dean, for joining us on OUTFRONT tonight.
DEAN: Thank you.
SIDNER: And, next, southwest airlines unsure where some of its personnel are tonight. Their outdated systems ill equipped. And that's left thousands of travelers stranded.
Also, another maternity ward shelled by Russians who are not letting up, bombarding Ukrainian cities and infrastructure nonstop.
SIDNER: Tonight, the airline that can't seem to get off the ground. For the second straight day, Southwest Airlines canceling a majority of its flights in what Transportation Secretary Buttigieg is calling a system-wide meltdown.
Tens of thousands of travelers stranded across the country. This is what it looks like today at Southwest terminals in Chicago, Dallas, Baltimore, and Denver, just to name a few.
And it's just not passengers who are stranded. Baggage claim across the country is littered with luggage waiting to be claimed.
Our Lucy Kafanov is OUTFRONT.
ANNOUNCER: Unfortunately, our next available seats for rebooking are 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: Another day of flight cancelations, delays, and frayed nerves.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phone calls were busy. You couldn't get a hold of anybody. It's awful.
KAFANOV: 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: 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: Southwest's CEO Bob Jordan warned of more tough days ahead, according to a transcript of a companywide message CNN has obtained. While the 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 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.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a deep failure of management not to have supported its IT infrastructure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I don't know where my luggage at.
KAFANOV: 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 Nick Fabasa (ph) has been stuck here since December 21st.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will never fly southwest airlines again. And I will tell anyone I know never to fly Southwest Airlines again.
KAFANOV: What do you want them to do different?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 (on camera): And what a difference a day makes, Sara.
You remember yesterday we were talking the Southwest line snaking around the corner. Very few people behind me now. But it doesn't mean that the southwest flight delays and cancelations are over.
The CEO releasing an apology video saying the problems, the plans, pardon me, for the next few days is to fly a reduced schedule, adding that the company is optimistic it will be back on track before next week. We'll have to see about that -- Sara.
SIDNER: All right. Thank you so much, Lucy Kafanov, and your crew out there.
OUTFRONT now, Captain Michael Santoro. He's the vice president of Southwest Airlines Pilot Association.
You just heard Southwest's CEO statement. He's basically saying he's truly sorry. That is coming out on video in a bit. He also warned that the schedule will be decreased dramatically to get things back on track.
For the travelers, how long could that take? They were doing things like changing where the crews are by hand?
MICHAEL SANTORO, CAPTAIN & VICE PRESIDENT, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES PILOT ASSOCIATION: Well, thanks for having me. Yeah, I'm sure Mr. Jordan's apology is sincere. But, yet, the scheduling software can't handle the amount of changes that happened when we had the mass cancelations. And, so, they're having to reduce basically froze up, just can't do the solutions.
So, they're having to reduce the schedule down to where you're seeing it and trying to match up crews by hand. It's a mess, and it's a large task that our scheduling department has to try to overcome here in the next day or two to try to get this airline back on track again.
SIDNER: Did Southwest know this could happen? Did leadership know that this could happen, that their systems were simply not capable at some point -- and this would at some point cause major problems?
SANTORO: So, we've had some sort of meltdown once or twice a year for the past several years. Every time that's happened, swap of leadership, myself included, has gone into flight ops leadership and talked to them about what's happened and kind of do an after-action report.
And we've always pointed to, you know, deficiencies in the scheduling system and the IT behind it, along with the schedule processes that they use to actually create our schedules and move us around the system. It's been -- countless times we've gone over there and made those warnings to them. They just never listened to us.
SIDNER: You just heard one of the southwest customers vowing to tell everyone never to fly southwest again. A man in Chicago says he's been a loyal southwest customer and called this the worst fiasco he's ever seen in the decades he's been flying with Southwest.
Do you think Southwest can recover from this? Or is this something that's really going to hurt the airline going forward?
SANTORO: So, I've been a Southwest pilot for 16 years, and it's, in my opinion, the best airline out there. And we will continue to strive to be the best. I think this is certainly a wake-up call. Maybe management will start listening to their pilots and fix the problems going forward so this never happens again.
SIDNER: Well, thank you so much for joining us and for your service to Southwest Airlines.
OUTFRONT next, Russian soldiers claiming their paychecks have been stopped. We have new audio.
And George Santos speaks out on false claims he's made about his family and work experience, the newly elected GOP congressman calls them embellishments. Really?
[19:35:30] SIDNER: Tonight, the Russian military has stopped paying its wounded troops. That's the claim made by an angry Russian soldier in a newly obtained phone intercept from Ukraine's defense intelligence. Here he is.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSSIAN SOLDIER (through translator): They're going to keep us until the end of the special military operation. But there aren't any legally binding documents. If you are shell shocked or wounded, they've just stopped compensating us.
For shell shock and shrapnel wounds, they're tossing the boys to the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wolves. If you are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) poisoned by phosphorous, if you were burnt by phosphorous, they're not paying you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) either. Basically, it's all bad news here.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SIDNER: This as Russia continues a brutal onslaught of missile strikes against civilian targets, hitting a hospital maternity ward in southern Ukraine.
Will Ripley is OUTFRONT on the ground in Lviv.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So many tears for yet another victim of Russia's war in Ukraine. Mourners in Kyiv paying their final respects to a fallen Ukrainian soldier, a husband, brother, and son. He was reportedly killed near Bakhmut.
Intense fighting has the city almost unrecognizable. Debris litters the streets. Buildings are on fire.
OLEKSANDR, BAKHMUT, UKRAINE RESIDENT (through translator): Our house is destroyed. There is a shop in our building. Now, it's not there anymore.
RIPLEY: In this besieged city, across the country, millions are still living without power.
Ukraine accuses Russia of persistently targeting Ukrainian energy facilities, giving engineers little time to repair the grid before the next strike comes.
Ukraine's energy minister describes the situation across his country as, really difficult. Strikes have left Ukraine with a power deficit, unable to meet the basic energy needs of the country. Fears are growing among Ukrainian officials Moscow could be planning large strikes around new year's day.
In this small village near Kherson, people are bracing for a bitterly cold winter, a winter without power, collecting firewood and other supplies to protect against plummeting temperatures. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We will get through the
winter because we fixed the chimney, and now we can heat the house. We will get through it. We do not have any other option. Where would we go?
RIPLEY: On top of all this, a war of words brewing between Moscow and Kyiv. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issuing an ultimatum, Ukraine must bow to Russia's demands, including giving up occupied Ukrainian territories, or else the Russian army will take matters into its own hands.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says, that won't happen. He's vowing to retake all captured Ukrainian ground.
Diplomatic negotiations seem just as gridlocked as the battlefield. Little sign of peace coming this holiday season in a conflict that continues to grind on.
RIPLEY (on camera): When you hear President Zelenskyy describe the situation on the front lines as difficult and painful, that is an unspoken way of conveying what is often unreported here, is that large numbers of people are dying on both sides.
And think about those families right now over the holidays, Sara. It is the reality of this war which continues to drag on. The cyberattacks continue. The diplomatic back and forth continues with Ukraine calling for Russia's removal from the United Nations Security Council where it's one of five veto-holding members, meaning essentially Russia can veto any resolution against it. Ukraine says it's time for the Russians to be punished for what they're doing to civilians in this country, Sara.
SIDNER: Will Ripley in Lviv for us.
And OUTFRONT now, retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks, and Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, and now, executive director of McCain Institute.
I want to start with you, general marks. Heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine where the Russian military has concentrated most of its forces and keeps sending more in, according to the Ukrainians, if Ukraine, if their military apparatus is able to take control there, could this be an inflexion point in this war?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Sara, it probably is not going to be an inflexion point. One tactical victory does not lead to necessarily a strategic in-state that is certainly desirable. In order to have that type of success, you need to have a tactical victory that's tied to another tactical victory. And you have this cascading effect. And that's operational art, essentially, is what we're describing. What the Ukrainians are doing, that is magnificent is in direct
combat, they are achieving tremendous success. What's difficult and has not been done yet is to tie those successes together so that you can achieve that overarching operational objective. That's not there yet.
SIDNER: They have taken some places back, for instance, and not taking large swaths to be able to connect those together. That makes total sense. Thank you.
Evelyn, Russian artillery hit a hospital maternity ward in Kherson, according to a Ukrainian official, who said that the shell hit the exact spot where two children had been born earlier that day. Nobody, surprisingly, was injured there.
But this has happened before. We have seen this before including in March. This picture everyone remembers Russia bombed a maternity ward in Mariupol. The woman you see there on the stretcher ended up dying along with her baby. This woman that you see there ended up living.
But Russia seems to be doing this on purpose. I mean, isn't this a war crime? What do you think is going on here?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE & EURASIA: Yes, Sara. I think it's unfortunately pretty obvious to those of us who have been following the Russian military's activities throughout this decade, frankly, because this is something they did in Syria as well. They deliberately bombed hospitals. They deliberately bombed apartment buildings, a U.N. humanitarian convoy just after they had negotiated safe passage for it.
And what they're trying to do here is either force the Ukrainians to lose their will to fight and/or flee as refugees and cause a crisis for Europe.
So, that is what Vladimir Putin is after. He doesn't care about the fact that he is, as you pointed out, committing horrendous war crimes. He's doing everything counter to the U.N. charter. So, yes, I would argue that Russia has forfeited its seat on the security council because of what they are doing right now, which is essentially breaking every rule we set up after World War II to make sure that civilians are kept safe when there's a time of war.
SIDNER: And I can tell you, I've been on the ground in Ukraine for long periods of time, and there is no way that something like that is going to stop them from fighting. It makes them more fierce in all actuality. I think we've all seen that.
General Marks, you heard the soldier in the call intercept complaining that Russian military has stopped paying wounded troops. And he went on to say they're being thrown to the wolves, and it's basically all bad news on the battlefield. What does that tell you about their will to fight?
MARKS: Well, if true. If what we heard is accurate, and there's no reason to believe that it's not, what that talks to is the collapse and the decay of a military organization, whether it's isolated to that very unit where that soldier was a member, or whether it has spread throughout more organizations and more units within the Russian military, we don't know.
But really, it speaks to the morale and the absolute corruptness of that military. It's been shown that it's leaderless and it's incompetent. Now it has some legitimate morale issues in its ranks.
SIDNER: I do want to turn to you, Evelyn. A Russian sausage magnet turned politician has died in India after falling from the third floor of his hotel. Now, Indian police believe he died by suicide. But this is after at least a dozen prominent Russian businessmen have reportedly died by suicide or in unexplained accidents over the last year.
What do you make of this?
MARKS: So, Sara, this is actually something that Vladimir Putin has been doing for maybe more than decades. Any time he feels that somebody turns against him, is disloyal, especially with these oligarchs, they suddenly die. You know, we used to kind of laugh about dying while smoking on a balcony.
You know, they suddenly fall from the balcony, and the Russians say, well, they were smoking on the balcony and they fell. And we were tracking all of these over time, those of us who watch Russia. But there's a new uptick. These I think are tied to oligarchs who have either privately or publicly expressed concern about the war in Ukraine.
And it's also possible some of them are also in trouble because Putin is uncovering corruption. And corruption that's not permitted by Putin can get you a death sentence, essentially.
SIDNER: Thank you to both of you for coming OUTFRONT tonight.
And OUTFRONT next, George Santos has a lot to say about his own lies and his resume. But he hardly sounds sorry about it. When will Republican House speaker, hopefully, Kevin McCarthy, respond?
And the tennis superstar whose refusal to get the COVID vaccine upended his career gets a break.
SIDNER: Tonight, silence. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy not speaking out at all a full day after embattled incoming Republican Congressman George Santos admitted to lying about a whole host of things. This as the Republican Jewish Coalition is slamming Santos, saying he, quote, deceived us and misrepresented his heritage after Santos falsely claimed to have Jewish ancestry and grandparents who survived the Holocaust.
Gloria Pazmino is OUTFRONT.
REP.-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did.
GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Congressman-elect George Santos now admitting he fabricated aspects of his life but is now playing those lies as minor embellishments. Santos insisting he has no plans on resigning from the job he was elected to do because of what he called fluff on his resume.
SANTOS: This will not deter me from being an effective member of the United States Congress in the 118th session.
PAZMINO: Santos previously said he earned degrees from Baruch College and NYU, but now admits he never attended college at all.
Santos also claimed he worked directly for financial firms Goldman Sachs and Citigroup but now says his company did consulting work for them.
SANTOS: I didn't outright lie about my work experience. Actually, I'm fairly well rounded in the financial markets and capital markets.
PAZMINO: The congressman-elect also under fire for what one prominent Jewish group described as misrepresenting his heritage, claiming that he was Jewish as recently, as last month appearing before the Republican Jewish coalition soon after the election.
SANTOS: Good morning. Shabbat shalom to everybody.
PAZMINO: Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy even touting Santos' victory at the same conference.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You know what? Max Miller in Ohio, George Santos in New York, and you had David Kustoff from Tennessee get reelected. Do you realize we have the largest Republican Jewish Caucus in more than 24 years? Not bad, huh?
PAZMINO: At one point, Santos claimed his grandparents survived the Holocaust. Those claims have been contradicted by multiple genealogists and a review of records of Jewish refugees. Now he is simply laughing off his heritage talk, saying he never seriously claimed he was Jewish.
SANTOS: As I've said many times, and I think you've heard me say this, I always joke. I'm Catholic, but I'm also Jew-ish, as in ish. I've made that joke because growing up, I grew up fully aware that my grandparents were Jewish, came from a Jewish family, and they were refugees to Brazil. PAZMINO: But in a document sent by Santos to Jewish leaders during
the campaign and confirmed by CNN, he described himself as a proud American Jew.
The Republican Jewish Coalition isn't laughing, releasing a statement today saying they were deceived by Santos, and that he will no longer be welcome at their events.
PAZMINO (on camera): Now two incoming House Republicans have been critical of Santos, Congressman-elect Nick LaLota called for an investigation by the House Ethics Committee and called the revelations about Santos a distraction for Republicans. Anthony Despacillo (ph), also a new member of Congress, calling the fabrications hurtful.
And the leadership of the Nassau County Republican Committee, Sara, also issuing a critical statement, but none has suggested that Santos should step down. We also reached out to the state attorney general's office, Letitia James, who told us that her office is looking into some of the claims. Now we did reach out to the congressman-elect asking him for a comment, but we have not heard back.
SIDNER: That's the only comments we've gotten so far. Thank you so much. Great piece.
And OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi of New York. He actually represents the district Santos won and flipped for Republicans, but he did not run for reelection after running for governor instead.
All right. Congressman, this is not Santos' first time rung. You beat him in 2020. But now, he has won the seat and says he intends to serve his full term.
Can anything be done about that? Or is this just about what the constituents want done?
REP. TOM SUOZZI (D-NY): You know, Sara, I don't know what I can add to this story. That was a pretty complete story that you guys did.
What can happen? I mean, Kevin McCarthy could decide that he is bad for the Republican Party and put pressure on him to not take his seat. He could try and use what authority he has to not seat him. The Ethics Committee in Congress can investigate him for the lies that he has made on not only the thing you reported on, but, you know, big concerns about his financial disclosures.
The U.S. attorney's office can investigate him to find out where this money came from that he -- you know, when he ran against me, he had $40,000 in his campaign account. It was the middle of COVID. I never even mentioned his name in the campaign. I beat him by 12 points.
Now, all of the sudden, he had all this money that he loaned from himself. When he was running against me, he had been foreclosed on. I'm sorry -- he was being evicted for nonpayment of rent. Then, during this campaign, he loaned $700,000 to his campaign. As you
mentioned, the New York attorney general can investigate him.
So there are so many different things that can happen. But the bottom line is this is bad for the Republican Party. This is bad for America.
People don't know who to trust anymore. They don't know who to trust in politics. And this is just making it much -- this is so crazy. This is a crazy story.
And it's just bad for all of us. It's sad. It's this kind of culture that President Trump gave us. You can just say whatever you want and nobody is going to follow up on it.
SIDNER: Yeah. I mean, this is also interesting because he can do that, because the leadership hasn't done anything. Leadership McCarthy has still not spoken out about all the things that Santos has admitted to lying to.
Are you surprised that you're not hearing more from the leadership of the Republican Party?
SUOZZI: Well, I'm sure that Kevin McCarthy is very concerned about getting the votes to get the speaker's position. He needs every vote he can get. But I think he is going to get a lot of pressure.
You talked about the Republican Jewish Conference. That's big pressure. That's a big organization that's very important to the Republicans. You are hearing constituents here. They're doing petitions. They're doing protests.
Law enforcement is doing investigation. This story is not going away. This is not a one-day story. It's not a one-week story. This is going to go on for a long time.
SIDNER: You know this all too well, former Congressman Suozzi, New York Democrats have --
SUOZZI: January 3rd.
SIDNER: Okay, fine, still a congressman. That's right. You were right.
You have an incoming congressman who has spewed a whole bunch of stuff, but New York Democrats have come under scrutiny following the midterms after Republicans gained a seat, three House seats in New York, helping put the GOP back in the majority.
Now adding insult to injury, one of those Republicans who flipped a district has lied, and we've seen all those play out.
What are the lessons to the Democratic Party in all of this?
SUOZZI: Well, in New York state, you know, we need to make sure that we're responsive to the people. We lost these races on long island and the suburbs of Westchester and a little further north, because people are concerned about crime. And it's not being addressed in our state.
People are concerned about the highest taxes in America in New York state. People are concerned about things happening in our state, and they're concerned about how the Democrats are addressing it. We see throughout the rest of the country that Democrats held their own. And New York and Florida, you know, we didn't do as well.
SIDNER: Thank you so much, Congressman. I appreciate you coming on OUTFRONT and giving your honest opinion about what is going on with Mr. Santos.
OUTFRONT next, one of the best ever to play the game gets back on the tennis courts in Australia after his deportation about a year ago.
SIDNER: He was deported from Australia almost a year ago, but now tennis superstar Novak Djokovic is back in the country. He was threatened with a three-year ban after it was determined he was a public health risk. That all happened after Djokovic said he didn't want to be forced to get the COVID vaccine and Australia's immigration minister was concerned at the time he could be seen as a, quote, icon for anti-vaxxers. But the ban was lifted in November, allowing him to compete at tournaments in Australia.
Djokovic was shut out of the U.S. open in 2022 due to his vaccination status. He said he was willing to pass up tennis records he might break if it meant remaining unvaccinated.
Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
"AC360" starts now.