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New Day Saturday

Trump Pardons Friends, Allies, Convicted Mercenaries; CDC To Require Negative Test For All Passengers Traveling To U.S. From U.K.; Vaccine Barriers In The Black Community; Police R.V. Played Warning Before Blast; Biden Team Weighs Options For A.G., CIA Director Nominees; Russia Launches Criminal Probe Against Navalny Ally. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 26, 2020 - 07:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just never believed that we would get to 330,000 American lives lost by Christmas Day and still accelerating at 3,000 deaths a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems clear that he's not going to read the bill, or sign it, or veto it. And if he doesn't sign the bill by the end of the day, then actual unemployment benefits will cease.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And thank you so much for joining us, I'm Boris Sanchez. Victor and Christi have the morning off. We're following breaking developments this morning in Nashville, Tennessee. Investigators have found what might be human remains near the site of what appears to be an intentional bombing yesterday morning. The blast damaged dozens of buildings and injured at least three people. But first, a desperate moment this morning.

For many Americans, it is the day after Christmas. Pandemic assistance money has just run out. Eviction moratoriums are expiring. Having the basics food and rent are becoming serious concerns for millions of Americans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. But the bill that would have provided at least temporary relief is stalled at Mar-a-Lago waiting on a presidential signature that seems less and less likely to come.

The President called the bill a disgrace this week, appending months of careful negotiations, and introducing a demand for $2,000 checks, stretching well beyond how far Republicans said they were willing to go and even beyond what the White House had its own negotiators asking for. CNN's Sarah Westwood is in West Palm Beach.

Sarah, good morning. Senator Lindsey Graham played golf with the President yesterday, and even though he voted for this bill and said that it should have been passed a long time ago, now he's apparently come around to the President's view.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris, and that's the kind of reversal that President Trump is asking basically all Republicans to make to abandon their support of a bill that they voted for less than a week ago, under the impression at the time that this is what the White House wanted. So, really putting Republicans in particular in an impossible situation. The reason those $600 checks weren't much higher, because Republicans wouldn't universally support a higher number for those checks.

So, really difficult position for the GOP right now that Trump, Trump is putting them in. He had every opportunity to weigh in on those negotiations. Keep in mind, this was the product of weeks and weeks of talks in which his White House was involved, and yet Trump chose to wait until after that bill had passed both chambers of Congress to unveil his opposition. Now, we got a little bit of clarity from Graham yesterday after he stepped off the golf course with President Trump, about his opposition.

I want to read you what Graham said yesterday: "After spending some time with President Trump today, I am convinced he is more determined than ever to increase stimulus payments to $2,000 per person and challenge Section 230 Big Tech Liability Protection." That Section 230 that Graham mentioned was the reason why Trump vetoed the defense authorization bill, the defense spending bill that had passed Congress with a veto proof majority and so did the stimulus and spending package that passed earlier this week, the one that Trump is now asking Republicans to oppose.

He doubled down on his own opposition yesterday writing: "Made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida. Why would politicians not want to give people $2,000 rather than only 600? It wasn't their fault. It was China. Give our people the money."

Now, adding to the fact that millions of Americans are worried about how they're going to pay their bills, the government will shut down on Monday if Trump doesn't put his signature on this legislation. So, a lot is riding on this deadline. That bill, Boris, was flown down to Mar-a-Lago, especially for the President's consideration. But the White House has not indicated whether he'll sign it, whether he'll veto it or what he's going to do.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and Democrats are thrilled about this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thanking the president for coming around to spending more money on paychecks for individual American saying let's do it. Sarah, the president issuing 41 pardons this past week widely expected that he's going to issue a lot more before his 20-plus days in office are over. What are the big names left on the list of people that he could potentially pardon?

WESTWOOD: Yes, Boris, he's pardon so many of the marquee names from the Russia investigation and related to his family like Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Charles Kushner, Jared Kushner's father, that it's hard to believe there's anything left for him to pardon, but certainly there are some people related to the Russia investigation, like Rick Gates, for example of former deputy to Paul Manafort, who were criminally charged, who could still be pardoned.

And then of course, there's the big question of whether President Trump will attempt to grant some sort of clemency even to himself as he faces the prospect of potential legal issues after he leaves office. This is obviously going to be one of the things that his final days in office is remembered for this raft of pardons. And the White House is showing no signs of stopping on this breakneck pace of issuing these grants of clemency.


SANCHEZ: Yes, we'll keep an eye on that. And also, whether the President further addresses the explosion yesterday in Nashville. We know you'll keep an eye on it. Sarah Westwood from West Palm Beach, thanks so much. Joining me now to share her insights, Margaret Talev from Axios, she's also a CNN Political Analyst. Margaret, thanks so much for getting up early for us on this holiday weekend.

Let's talk about the President -- of course, let's talk about the President and the relief negotiations first. Senator Lindsey Graham now saying he backs President Trump's demand for $2,000 checks. You can almost sense Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cringing? Is he a bellwether? Or does he, you know, does he actually represent where Republican senators are on this? Do you think we'll follow him?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Boris, never say never, but it doesn't seem like it. At this point, we don't even know whether McConnell is poised to bring this up. And so, we have a situation where even if the president were to sort of reverse course, in sign this today, it's likely still that the that $300 extension for unemployment benefit would be delayed. If he doesn't sign this today, this is now delayed into January.

And we get closer and closer to the moment where this becomes, you know, President-elect Joe Biden's first issue to deal with. So, if Nancy Pelosi's test vote on trying to, you know, beef back up that stimulus, and is any indication, most Republicans are not ready to jump on board with this. But I think it just gives you a sense of how chaotic and up in the air the situation is right now.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and sort of alluding to that idea that this may wind up falling to a Joe Biden administration, Senator Roy Blunt said on Thursday that, "The best way out of this is for the President to sign the bill." He said that plan B would get a lot more messy. Your sources indicate that there's any scenario in which the President is going to reverse course and sign this thing?

TALEV: I think that like what's happening right now is that President Trump is having a lot of conversations with people and people are trying to message to President Trump, whether it's on the golf course, or whether it's in private conversations. You've seen the president reverse course, at some points before, but because he's made, you know, some of these issues both in the stimulus in the government funding act, and in the and D.A., the Defense Act, he's made these such cases, you know, that it really wants to stick to. I think it's left a lot up in the air. And these, the kind of timetables for both of these pieces of

legislation are barreling driving down the track at the same time. NDDA, the Defense Act, they can't really even get to the override votes on that until they know whether the government's going to stay open Monday and Tuesday, or kind of do or die days for this. You know, we'll see whether there is any ability to at least halt the shutdown, kind of bridge that gap to keep the government running, but you still have the question of stimulus on top of that. So, all of these issues are now bound together.

And their decision points for President Trump their decision points for now the Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to try to figure out does he want to challenge the president? Does he want to allow his members to vote on this? Or does he want to spare them to vote? Leave all of this up in the air.

And then, there are questions for the individual Republicans whose decisions to vote or to filibuster on any of these issues will be crucial to whether Americans can get their relief before the end of the year, whether they lose a week's worth of that unemployment bump between now and March because this gets delayed. All of these questions are up in the air. All of this is centrally up to President Trump to untangle.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and it's still a potential scenario that's out there that this winds up falling to the next Congress, the next administration. And if Democrats win in Georgia on January 5th, then President Trump is effectively handing Joe Biden an enormous gift to start his presidency letting the Democrats essentially write this with a majority potentially in the Senate.

I do want to ask you about pardons a Republican, rather, the President's pardons have already invited fury, some among Republicans. How serious have you heard are the deliberations within the White House about a self-pardon and about a pardon for family members?

TALEV: Yes, that's a really interesting questions if the President did want to try to ask you to self-pardon. There are a couple of different ways that he could do it, but I think at this moment, this is one of the few leverage points that he has left with others.

And so, part of the reason that we'll be watching right up until the very last day about which other partners are actually executed is because it is a way that he can wield power, particularly as people see how widely and to whom he's willing to, to offer this, this grant of mercy in sort of the political context, you know.

But look, this is -- he's had dozens and dozens of conversations with anybody around him in the White House who will engage on whether they would like to be part of who should be pardoned who else you should look at.

The two other considerations are, of course, if you pardon someone close to you, you do prevent their ability to take the fifth and future cases and a pardon at the federal level does not protect you against potential future prosecution at the state level and local level. And so, these are some of the machinations the White House is looking at in the final days.


SANCHEZ: Yes, the reporting indicates that Trump is essentially offering pardons like Tictacs to whoever comes in the room. Interesting. Margaret Talev, thank you again for joining us. We appreciate it.

TALEV: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Now, the police are calling an intentional bombing in Nashville, Tennessee on Christmas morning. When a bomb detonated, it shattered windows and sent a breath through the air damaging several buildings. We now also have sound of a recording that played from this RV warning people nearby to evacuate. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can hear this message, evacuate now. If you can hear this message, evacuate now.


SACHEZ: Let's get straight to Natasha Chen. She's live in Nashville. And Natasha, what is the latest you're hearing from investigators?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, they're still working through this very large blast site. It happened on Second Avenue where we are but many, many blocks away. They're trying to keep people far back from here. You can see some of the flashing lights and police are blocking off the perimeter in the background. But they really don't want people coming around this area of downtown. There is actually a curfew in place that started the afternoon of Christmas day, it goes into Sunday afternoon to try and keep people away.

Of course, if folks actually have businesses here, they can show photo ID to have police escort them in. And that's another thing, the business is here. The mayor said at least 41 businesses damaged in this historic part of Nashville. This area was already relatively more quiet this holiday season compared to what Nashville would typically see because of COVID-19 protocols and restrictions.

And then this happened just around this time yesterday morning, Christmas morning. So, that really cleared the area out. This has been a tough year for Nashville and the mayor spoke to me about that last night when discussing this explosion.


JOHN COOPER, MAYOR OF NASHVILLE: Second Avenue, which is a treasure for Nashville. It's one of our historic streets needs to be rebuilt. We can't let this deter us. Now, we had a tornado here, and frankly, the scene on Second Avenue is reminiscent to the worst of our tornado episodes back in March. So, it's hard to end the year back with the scene of three devastation.


CHEN: Really, challenging for people here, especially those who lived in the building right next to where the explosion happens. They woke up to gunshots at first, they had called 911 and six police officers from Metro Nashville police came and heard that recording that you played, giving people a 15-minute warning for this explosion. They really helped people evacuate that area in a very terrifying situation for those residents, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, why that recording was on there? One of many questions that investigators still have to answer. Natasha Chen, thanks so much. Despite repeated warnings, millions of Americans traveled over the holidays raising concerns that the nation is weeks away from yet another devastating new spike in COVID-19 cases. CNNs Alison Kosik joins us now. Alison, after the Thanksgiving holiday, three weeks later, we saw a surge across the country and now we may be in for another round of new infections.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a holiday weekend, Boris, but no holiday from the coronavirus. We're seeing cases rides from New York to California. And now, we're seeing this new travel restriction come into play to try to keep this new variant from coming into the U.S. But this is a strain that even Dr. Anthony Fauci says may already be here.


KOSIK (voice over): Starting Monday in the U.K., all passengers must have a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the U.S. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised the decision by the CDC for passengers to be tested, who are flying from the U.K. "Testing people for COVID-19 before they get on planes is common sense. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past, and we must continue to do everything we can to keep New Yorkers and Americans safe," Cuomo said in the statement, Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the new testing requirements for travelers. But research by the agency's own scientists shows the role may have only a small impact on the spread of the new U.K. strain of the coronavirus. According to researchers on the CDC's COVID-19 Response Team, testing three days before a flight might reduce the risk of spreading the virus by just five to nine percent.

Pfizer and Moderna are testing to see whether their vaccines work against the new variant which thus far has not been detected in the U.S. Southern California is grappling with surging COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths as the state passes another grim milestone, reporting more than 300 new COVID deaths for a third straight day. In Los Angeles County, a person died every 10 minutes from COVID-19, county's public health director says.


DR. CHRIS PERNELL, PUBLIC HEALTH PHYSICIAN: I think people don't think coronavirus will happen to them. They think coronavirus will happen to another family, but there is no safety other than those public health measures that we have been preaching from the mountaintops.

KOSIK: As Christmas comes to an end, and we head into the new year, experts say the safest way to celebrate is at home with the people you live with or online with friends and family. For those that host a New Year celebration, the CDC suggests staying outside, limiting the number of guests wearing and making extra masks available and keeping background music low to avoid shouting.

ERN BROMAGE, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS: What we've just seen, you know these amplification events and that's what's happened at the end of this year in the U.S. We had, you know, Thanksgiving, we had Labor Day, we had Halloween and each one of these events brought lots of people together and just gave the virus more fuel to move through the population. So, Christmas is going to do a similar thing.


KOSIK: And the TSA says more than a million people pass through security checkpoints at airports across the country just days before Christmas. It's raising fears from healthcare experts that we could see another coronavirus case spike on top of the one we're seeing now, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Alison Kosik reporting from New York. Thanks so much. How the coronavirus is amplifying racial inequality. CNN reports from Chicago on the barriers that African Americans are facing before they can get vaccinated. Plus, we'll tell you about these two high profile positions that President-elect Biden is weighing for his administration this weekend. Details ahead.



SANCHEZ: Just yesterday, Americans celebrated their first Christmas under the pandemic. New Year's Eve celebrations are just around the corner. Earlier this morning, I spoke to Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University School of Medicine about how to celebrate safely.


DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: You know, I think it's really important if you're going to do that, that you stayed within your bubble that people get tested before they get together once or maybe twice. As I mentioned, just like when you're going to traveling, I think to limit the gathering for to less than, than 10 people. I mean as much as you can do, to not have a lot of people not have a lot of strangers, as you know settle over and over, you know, the -- your, your level of protection is as strong as your weakest link.

If you're the weak lengthen the virus is going to spread. We've learned how quickly this virus and how easy this virus spreads. So, we have to take all the know precautions possible. If you're going to be inside with other people, wear a face mask -- or and remember to socially distance.

If you're going to be sitting with somebody talking, you know, make sure you're wearing a facemask and you're sitting six weeks, six feet apart. I think that will be a very important way to preventing possible spread. Stay in a place that is open, as you know, go out on a walk. Don't be inside, don't be in a close up poorly ventilated space. So, all those things will help you at this point in time.


SANCHEZ: As the coronavirus vaccine rolls out across the country, some in the Black community say they're worried they will be left behind. Omar Jimenez spoke with them in Westside, Chicago.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): How long have you lived in this neighborhood?

ROCHELLE SYKES, RESIDENT: All my life. 55 years. It's changed a whole lot. If they're going to roll out of that same and they're going to roll it out to grocery stores and, and pharmacies, I see a problem.

JIMENEZ: You feel just because the vaccine is available, it's not necessarily going to be accessible.

SYKES: That is correct.

JIMENEZ: Rochelle Sykes lives in the predominantly Black Westside Chicago neighborhood of Austin and is in a zip code that has among the highest COVID-19 death rates in the city. And the barriers to getting a vaccine are already taking shape, ranging anywhere from distance to pharmacies, confidence in health care, and even personal safety as Austin is also among the city's most violent neighborhoods.

SYKES: Is it even worth the time, OK, you hear gunshots, you know, you got to get out and get in your car, you're doing carjacking. And if you don't feel safe, then you just don't do it.

JIMENEZ: Just down the street Loretto Hospital was host to the city's first COVID-19 vaccination. And the first to set up a Westside Community testing site back in April one they plan to soon turn into a community vaccination site.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In order to stop this virus. Eventually, we all have to do our part. And we want to make sure we involve everybody. We're experiencing three types of pandemics, and that's violence, racism, as well as COVID-19.

JIMENEZ: It's an issue leadership continues to wrestle with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where any part of the city is not supported enough, it indirectly impacts the entire city, not just that this is a let's make sure that we treat COVID, it's about what are the root causes that have made these neighborhoods, these subgroups and Chicago, more vulnerable. JIMENEZ: Parts of the downtown Chicago area have a life expectancy of up to 90 years old, according to an analysis out of NYU. Then just about 10 miles down the road near here on Chicago's South Side, the life expectancy goes down to 59.9. That's a difference of about 30 years which that same NYU analysis says is that the largest gap in the country.

EMMA WASHINGTON, RESIDENT: All of a sudden, this virus and took my sister away.


JIMENEZ: Emma Washington is almost 80 years old. She lost her sister to COVID-19 in September, and her brother to COVID the day before Christmas Eve. And now she's considering what getting a vaccine is going to look like with their pharmacy over a mile away, and no car to get her there.

WASHINGTON: I have to take one bus then I had to take another bus, because there was only one place around, Walgreens, around my area.

JIMENEZ: Now she mostly has her medication delivered. But this isn't a new phenomenon. One study based on data from 2000 to 2012 found over 50 percent of the city's Black communities were so called pharmacy deserts, low income neighborhoods where pharmacies are far from the population and people don't have regular access to vehicles compared with just five percent in white communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not something that's going to get solved any year or in five years. But how do we take the COVID conversation and turn it into the conversation that links to chronic disease, and homicide, and infant mortality, and HIV and opioid overdose? Those are the five main drivers of our, you know, disparate life expectancies in Chicago and COVID has indirectly impacted all of those.

JIMENEZ: But when it comes to COVID, for Sykes, along with those and Washington's community, the vaccine shot is about more than medicine. It's about getting a fair shot. without it being a long shot.

SYKES: We are in a lifeboat. They are on a cruiser. If you can come up with a vaccine within a year, why are we sitting in a community where there is no grocery store with fresh fruits and vegetables?

JIMENEZ: Omar Jimenez, CNN, Chicago.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Omar for that. Up next, we're tracking developments in the Nashville Christmas Day explosion. There are still many unanswered questions. What caused it? What was the motive? Why was that location specifically targeted? What was up with that recording warning people to get away? Former FBI Special Agent James Galliano is up next sharing his expert insight. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ (on camera): We are continuing to monitor the breaking developments in Nashville, Tennessee, where police say someone intentionally detonated a bomb near the tourist district. Investigators have found what might be human remains near the site of the bombing. The blasts damaging dozens of buildings and injuring at least three people yesterday morning.

Here is an odd thing, for 15 minutes before the explosion, an audio recording warned people to evacuate the area.

Now, six police officers rushing to the scene responding to gunshots are being hailed as heroes, credited with getting people out of harm's way. Authorities say there were no credible threats signaling an impending attack before Christmas.

And now, the FBI is asking anyone with information to please come forward.

Let's bring in CNN Law Enforcement Analyst and retired FBI special agent James Gagliano.

James, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us this holiday weekend. The size of this crime scene is really staggering. The blast tearing into at least 41 buildings. One building partially collapsing. Walk us through the efforts to collect evidence over that kind of crime scene. It might be a radius of several blocks.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (on camera): Sure, Boris. And one of the most difficult things about conducting post-blast analysis after an explosion like this is, much of the evidence gets destroyed in the explosion. So, the FBI, the ATF, and the local police really have their work cut out for them.

Now, the size of this type of explosion, I mean, you know, an improvised explosive device can be anything from a pipe bomb to something along the lines of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which was, you know, fertilizer and diesel fuel, and took out a huge part of the building.

What makes this so perplexing is the fact that it doesn't appear that the person or the people who conspired to do this had any interest in causing any type of mass casualties.

There was a pre-emptory warning, they did not park the vehicle close enough to the -- to the -- to the building to actually do structural damage. So, this one is really perplexing.

Boris, I think we'll get some answers today when police probably have a second press conference to kind of fill the public in on where they are in the investigation.

SANCHEZ: James, tell us more about that the significance of the fact that there was a message playing, warning people to get away, it didn't appear that the vehicle was next to any sort of symbolic monument or anything that would, you know, attract someone wanting to destroy it, at least, on the surface, right?

Why would somebody play a message like that and have this thing station in the middle of the street where it wasn't going to be really taking life or destroying anything symbolic.

GAGLIANO: Well, you know, understand, look, that the FBI is not labeled this terrorism yet. Then -- and what is terrorism? Terrorism is something that is either violence or the threat or intimidation of violence to get the some type of political goal or aim.

Now, the vehicle was parked next to an AT&T facility. Now, that facility is not well marked. I mean, you'd have to do some research to understand that it was actually a communication center. And look, there's been some speculation and we don't know yet. Was this an attack on critical infrastructure? There are plenty of other places that would have been more suitable for that for someone that wanted to do something like that.

Critically for infrastructures, anything from the dams, defensive industry, energy, commercial facilities, this doesn't seem to be that. This seems to be something where a message was sent and there was a purposeful methodology not to hurt people.

In this instance, we know there were three injuries. Thank goodness there were no fatalities as a result to this blast, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and it's also certainly possible that this was some kind of a mistake, and perhaps, this was meant to detonate at a different time, right?

GAGLIANO: Sure. So, when somebody puts a bomb together and they're pretty simple to fashion, we don't know if this was a sophisticated device or if this was something crude and rudimentary.

But they are looking to cause massive damage to some type of structure or the overpressure, the shrapnel, the incendiary effects of the device is going to cause casualties.


GAGLIANO: This was set at 5:30 in the morning, Central Standard Time. It really defies credulity. Now, what it did do, we're hearing reports is, it knocked out some FAA communications, it disabled the 911 call system in the air for a brief period of time.

I anticipate again as there are no perfect crimes. I think police and the FBI and the ATF are probably moving pretty quickly now with all the digital exhaust that's emitted by the vehicle, and by cell phone technology, and things like that.

I imagine between the signal intelligence they're going to get off the scene, and the human intelligence talking to people in the area, talking to people that might have seen that R.V. or known somebody that had an R.V. like that. I think we'll get some answers today, Boris. SANCHEZ: Yes, perplexing and staggering when you consider that it happened on Christmas morning too. Look forward to getting some more information from law enforcement. James Gagliano, we have to leave it there. Thank you again.

GAGLIANO: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Thanks.

As the Nashville explosion investigation unfolds and continues into the next administration, we're still waiting to hear who will lead the justice department overseeing that investigation.

Joe Biden's team is still deliberating over two of the most high- profile positions in his administration, attorney general and CIA director. Biden says his team is just working throughout the efforts to do due diligence. Both appointments will still have to face Senate confirmation, of course.

CNN Political Reporter, Rebecca Buck is in Washington this morning.

And Rebecca, when can we expect to hear more about these announcements?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (on camera): Well, Boris, good morning. We should be hearing more in the next few weeks, early January. It's the target for Biden and his team to continue making these announcements and filling out his Cabinet picks.

Now, it's worth noting that the vast majority of his Cabinet picks have already been announced. So, these are just the few positions left to fill. But of course, that attorney general position to lead the Department of Justice is going to be so important. Biden says that he wants to use this to restore credibility to the DOJ after the Trump administration.

And so, we do know a couple of the front runners who could potentially be filling this role. First, here's former Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who is a longtime Biden loyalist and ally, and of course, served in the Senate representing Alabama for one term.

There is also Judge Merrick Garland, who is nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama. Never got a hearing from Senate Republicans. So, these are the two front runners right now according to our reporting for the attorney general.

Also in the mix, Sally Yates, Deval Patrick. There could be a surprise, but Doug Jones and Merrick Garland for now are those front runners.

Now, one note, of course, this confirmation process will have to go through the Senate. And we don't know yet if Republicans or Democrats will be in control. That comes down to those Georgia runoffs ongoing will be decided, January 5th.

But Biden says that he is not going to wait on the outcome in those races. That he's going to pick the people he wants to pick, but the chips fall where they may. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and you mentioned the names that are already out there, Rebecca. A lot of familiar faces. It seems like Biden is betting on old allies to help him confront crises.

BUCK: That's right. If Lincoln had his team of rivals, Biden has sort of a band of buddies happening here with his Cabinet. These are definitely familiar faces.

He has been in Washington for a long time. He's established really deep and loyal relationships in his time in Washington. But he's also wanting to continue as he said as a candidate for president and throughout this transition, Biden wants to continue the Obama legacy in his presidency.

And so, as a result to that, you're seeing a lot of familiar faces from the Obama administration. People who served as administration officials under President Obama. So, of course, Biden turning to those people to help him continue that legacy and finish their unfinished business. Boris.

SANCHEZ: All right, Rebecca Buck, thanks so much for the update.

BUCK: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Still to come, Russian police have raided the home of an outspoken Kremlin critic. We'll tell you what she's accused of and take you live to Moscow next.



SANCHEZ: Russian authorities say they've launched a criminal probe into an ally of Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The home of Lyubov Sobol was raided and she was taken into police custody for questioning early Friday.

Navalny's team tweeted that she has not been heard from since. CNN's Fred Plietgen is in Moscow following these developments.

Fred, walk us through why she was taken in and how this might be connected to the plot to kill Alexei Navalny.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, probably very closely connected, Boris. She was taken in for what the Russian authorities call trespassing using force or the threat of using force. That is the official language that's being used.

And essentially what she did is she went to the home or the apartment of an FSB agent, who was allegedly involved in the plot to assassinate Alexei Navalny using Novichok, which of course, we extensively reported on, and she rang the doorbell there.

Now, the interesting thing is that this FSB agent is the same guy who has an exclusive CNN report showed was actually later contacted by Alexei Navalny himself and duped into admitting large parts of that plot.

So, he is someone who had been in the news here in Russia. The Russians, of course, still continuing to say that they were not behind the plot to assassinate Alexei Navalny.

Now, as far as Lyubov Sobol is concerned, you're absolutely right, she remains in custody, she was ordered to remain in custody for at least 48 hours for questioning. And really serious part about this is that if she is convicted of this Boris, she could face up to two years in prison.

And as you can guess, Alexei Navalny himself was furious about this. He tweeted a picture of Lyubov Sobol being put in a police van. This happened late on Friday with the caption, I just want to read you a little part of it. He says this is how the system protects the privacy of those who commit terrorist acts on Putin's orders.

Of course, what he's referring to is that he believes that the privacy of this FSB agent is being protected, while those who are trying to uncover all of that are being put into custody.

So, this is a very dire situation for this Kremlin critic, for this ally of Alexei Navalny. And certainly, we're going to wait and see where this goes next as those 48 hours, those run out early tomorrow morning. We'll see what happens then, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, just another unbelievable chapter in this Navalny saga. We know you've been following it for us. Thank you so much, Frederik Pleitgen reporting from Moscow.


SANCHEZ: 2020 saw seismic global changes from the coronavirus pandemic to the economic crisis and the huge social justice movement. When we come back, we look at a year like no other in the business world.


SANCHEZ: The coronavirus pandemic could be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and it continues to get worse. But this wasn't the financial outlook given at the start of 2020.

CNN's Christine Romans reflects on this challenging year for the U.S. economy.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): 2020, a year like no other for business. The pandemic touched every part of the economy, altering the way Americans live, work, and shop. Historic in job losses prompted unprecedented stimulus. But as benefits to dwindled, Americans suffered. And while a few companies thrived, some may never recover.


ROMANS (voice over): This year, the pandemic triggered the worst job loss in U.S. history. 22 million jobs vanished in just two months, wiping out a decade of gains.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): The largest single month of job losses since the Great Depression.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The worst jobs report in American history.

ROMANS: Nearly every sector shed workers during the spring lockdowns. The U.S. still hasn't recovered all those jobs and hiring is now slowing again.


ROMANS: Historic losses prompt a historic response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is adopted.

ROMANS: The government passing an unheard of $2 trillion relief package back in March.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: This is the largest aid package in history.


ROMANS: The government enhanced unemployment benefits, funded stimulus checks for families, and loans for hard-hit industries. But there was a catch, all measures had expiration dates. Small businesses said PPP loans ran out fast if they managed to secure one at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first rounds send tens of millions of dollars to bigger publicly traded companies like Potbelly, Ruth's Chris, and Shake Shack.

ROMANS (on camera): All three later returned the money.

ROMANS (voice-over): As unemployment aid expired, Americans lined up at food banks in record numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They used to feed about 50,000 families a month. Now, it's over 100,000 a month.

ROMANS: And eviction moratoriums without rent forgiveness became a ticking time bomb.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Evictions are about to skyrocket.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 200 eviction orders have come through the Harris County courts for this week.

ROMANS: Experts warned for months that more stimulus was needed, but congressional gridlock kept a new deal in limbo. Meanwhile, that economic pain stalled growth.

CUOMO: The second quarter was the worst quarter in terms of GDP action in America's history.

ROMANS: And even with a record summer, bounce back --

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We still are not back to levels we were at before the COVID crisis hit.

ROMANS: The pandemic essentially froze the economy. Americans largely stopped eating in restaurants, attending movies and live events, and traveling. Leading to some big losses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two airlines, American and United, announced that they're laying off a combined 32,000 employees.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Marriott says that the financial impact of this pandemic is worse than 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis combined.

ROMANS: Homebound Americans fueled an online shopping spree, helping behemoths like Amazon, while devastating brick and mortar.

SCIUTTO: J. Crew becomes the first major retailer to file for bankruptcy protection as a result of the outbreaks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lord & Taylor, the nation's first department store filed for Chapter 11.

ROMANS: As the country lived, worked, and attended school online, sales exploded for companies like Zoom, Peloton, and Nintendo, and a new breed of essential worker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As millions stay home, millions are out risking exposure to the virus on the front lines.

ROMANS: Delivery employees helped keep the economy afloat in 2020.

Amid the pandemic, the death of George Floyd in police custody in May sparked protests over racial justice and a racial reckoning for corporate America. Companies pledged to address diversity in their hiring, and some recognized the Juneteenth holiday.

Major retailers promised to better support black businesses, while others retired problematic logos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Aunt Jemima brand will retire the image, acknowledging its racist past.

ROMANS (on camera): Minority and low waged workers also bore the brunt of job and income loss this year. Meanwhile, the stock market thrived.

ROMANS (voice over): There was a big plunge in March.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trading has stopped because we've seen a drop of seven percent.

ROMANS: Ending in a bear market. But stocks rebounded quickly to record highs, buoyed by government stimulus, explosive rallies and stay-at-home stocks and big tech, and the Federal Reserve. RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: The feds bought up trillions of dollars in securities, pumping new money into the economy.

ROMANS: This is the historic disconnect of 2020. The so-called K- shaped recovery. Main Street suffers but Wall Street gains by vetting on the future that vaccines and more stimulus will trigger a rebound.

ROMANS (on camera): Can the economy turn around in 2021? After a year of historic losses, next year can only be better but it may be a dark winter before we get there.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Christine Romans for that report.

For some, today is going to be the perfect day to stay inside and sit by the fireplace. Freezing temperatures are making their way across the northeast this morning. Wind chills are near if not below zero.

And in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania a new record, the snowiest Christmas in 85 years. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar has the forecast for us. It is chilly out there, Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): It is, Boris. And there's actually more snow on the way for some folks, especially if you live along the Great Lakes. That's where we're seeing the snow right now.

This is a live look at the radar. You can see some of those heavy bands coming across portions of upstate New York, areas of Ohio, and even Pennsylvania. The narrow bands will end up producing in some spots, 6, 8, 10, even as much as a foot of snow once we get through the day Sunday.

So, this isn't just going to be today but it's also going to be through tomorrow as well. But behind all of that rain in the northeast, behind all the snow in the Great Lakes, you have a tremendous amount of cold air surging in, and it's stretching from the Dakotas all the way over to portions of the Carolinas, where you see those temperatures well below average. But that's not only place.


CHINCHAR: We go as far south say as the Gulf Coast, where you have freeze warnings in place. Again, portions of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, all of them dealing with incredibly cold temperatures.

Now, one thing that makes Florida unique is when temperatures drop down to the mid-40s or colder, you have what's referred to as falling iguanas. Now, they're not dead, and I want to emphasize that. Please do not go to try to touch them, pick them up, or even get close enough to take pictures. They are just cold-stunned because they're cold- blooded.

Once the temperatures warm back up into the upper 50s and low 60s, which is expected today in Florida, that's when you're going to start to see them come back. They'll wake back up and they can be very aggressive. But the good news is at least with this cold snap across portions of the Deep South, it is short-lived.

Again, Boris, take a look at this. A lot of these areas in Florida getting back into the 70s, once we get to a couple of days from now and same thing for much of the rest of the country, we'll start to see that warm-up continue in the next few days.

SANCHEZ: Allison, I'm so glad you mentioned not touching the frozen iguanas, that they can be very aggressive. Don't touch them, don't load them into your car by the dozen for a barbecue because they will wake up and make you crash as happened to one man in Florida in 2018. Believe it or not, great, great advice.

Allison Chinchar, thank you so much for that.

From peanut farmer to rocking the White House. See how America's 39th president used his passion for music to win the 1976 election. The CNN film, "JIMMY CARTER: ROCK AND ROLL PRESIDENT" airs Sunday, January 3rd at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Up next, many Americans are waking up this morning to the realization that their pandemic assistance money has run out. Lawmakers are pushing for more money in the relief bill, but will it actually happen?

Stay with us. We'll be right back.