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The Situation Room

Meadows Sues Rep. Nnacy Pelosi (D-CA), 1/6 Committee As Panel Moves To Hold Him In Contempt; Biden Warned Putin Severe Consequences, Like None He's Ever Seen, If Russia Attacks Ukraine; Pfizer Shows Vaccine Booster Protects Against Omicron Variant; House Progressives Move To Strip GOP's Boebert Of Committee Assignments Over Anti-Muslim Remarks; Smollett Jury Finishes First Day Of Deliberations. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 08, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sure it goes, as the old saying goes, just because you're paranoid that doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now. Breaking news, former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows just sued the January 6th select committee and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the panel is now moving to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress. A key member standing by to join us live.

Also tonight, President Biden doubles down on his threat of severe sequences if Russia invades Ukraine, saying he warned Vladimir Putin the punishment would be, quote, like none he's ever seen. Will that deter Putin since Biden is also acknowledging U.S. military force is off the table?

And as omicron cases spread to more than 20 states, Pfizer now says a third booster shot of its COVID vaccine protects against the new variant, but two doses may not necessarily be enough. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with breaking news on Mark Meadows new federal lawsuit against January 6th select committee and the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles. Ryan, tell our viewers what are you learning.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf. This is an incredible turn of events from Mark Meadows, who just a few days ago -- and said that he was willing to cooperate with the January 6th select committee.

Things have changed. He skipped a deposition this morning. And now he's filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to help the court prevent him from handing over documents and information to the select committee. So far committee members say they're prepared to fight that filing. They also say they're ready to move ahead with criminal contempt against Meadows as soon as next week.


NOBLES (voice over): Tonight the January 6th select committee is done negotiating with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Obviously, we had hoped Mr. Meadows would continue to work with the committee, but, obviously, based on his lawyer's letter today and his plan to not show up for the deposition that creates a different dynamic.

NOBLES: Chairman Bennie Thompson now saying the committee has no choice but to move ahead with criminal contempt of Congress against Meadows. This after Meadows was a no show for his deposition today, his attorney claiming Meadows can't answer questions because he is bound by Donald Trump and his claims of executive privilege.

MARK MEADOWS, FOMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president has claimed the executive privilege. I'm going to honor that. I will not be the first chief of staff to actually waive that. It's not mine to waive.

NOBLES: It's a claim that committee members are not buying, especially because Meadows wrote extensively about his private interactions with Trump in his memoir out Tuesday.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It's very difficult to make the argument that I can write about the events of January 6th. I can I talk about it in my book, things that happened on January 6th and people I talked to, including the president, but I can't testify about those things.

NOBLES: The committee is very interesting to learn more from Meadows based on the more than 6,000 documents he did turn over before deciding to no longer cooperate. Among that a text message with a member of Congress in which Meadows response to quote I love it to a plan for appointing an alternate slate of electors.

A text exchange with January 6th rally organizers. Text messages about the need for Trump to issue a public statement to stop the January 6th attack and an e-mail that included a 38-page Powerpoint briefing entitled, election fraud, foreign interference and options for 6 Jan.

Meadows isn't the only potential witness stonewalling the committee. Trump ally Roger Stone now plans to plead the Fifth, joining several other high profile targets who have told the committee they do not plan to answer questions, because they could incriminate themselves. The committee also skeptical of this resistance.

SCHIFF: If they're asserting the Fifth merely to cater to the president's whims or cover up for the president, that is not a proper use of the privilege.

NOBLES: Still the committee remains confident that they will still get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th and who is to blame, pointing to the more than 275 witness who have talked.

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): These people are well within their right to not cooperate but it's not as if we're not going to get to the information we need.


NOBLES (voice over): And at this point, the committee is still sifting through this lawsuit as it was just filed. But Chairman Bennie Thompson told me just a few minutes ago that he is pushing back strongly on claims that the committee doesn't have merit and, therefore, Meadows doesn't have to hand over documents. Thompson pointing out that they were duly created by the House of Representative and, therefore, have that authority.


And Congressman Adam Schiff also responding to this lawsuit today by Mark Meadows, Wolf. He said, quote, it certainly strikes me as another fruitless effort to impede the work of the committee. Wolf/

BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thank you, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill.

Let's discuss with the key member of the January 6th select committee, Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California. She also serves, by the way, on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. This Meadows lawsuit today argues your committee, in the words of the lawsuit, lacks lawful authority to seek information from these overly broad, their words, subpoenas. How do you respond? Is this simply a delay tactic or do you believe he does have some grounds here to sue?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): It doesn't look like there is much merit to this lawsuit. But, you know, isn't it interesting that while he's out selling his book for money that includes portions where he talked directly reveals conversations with the president, he's trying to keep from telling the truth to the committee. It's just not tenable.

But, you know, the lawsuit looks to be not very well-founded. He said over around 2,000 texts messages to the committee, including messages to rally organizers, texts that were contemporaneous with the riot. He sent over about 6,600 pages of private emails. We wanted to talk to him about that material that he sent. For one thing, it appears it was all on his personal cell phone and his two personal emails. Was that material sent over to the National Archive, as the federal law requires? Why did he still have it? And also we want to ask about the various texts and the substance of the emails.

And, of course, you know, he's an important witness for us, but he's not the only witness. We have depositions practically every day and there are many, many people coming forward to tell us what they know and were painstakingly putting the pieces together.

BLITZER: So, Meadows may not necessarily be cooperating now. He, clearly, is no longer cooperating. But it is pretty significant, as you correctly point out, he actually handed over some 6,000 pages of documents to the committee already. Does that initial cooperation make it more difficult for the Justice Department to actually go ahead and potentially prosecute him for criminal contempt?

LOFGREN: Well, that's obviously up to the Justice Department. But we think not. He sent this information over, obviously, he did not believe it was privileged or he wouldn't send it. And so to refuse to answer questions about it is really -- it's not the way things work. You assert privilege on a question-by-question basis. And he is just trying to escape telling the truth to the committee.

But we're committed to getting to the bottom of what happened on the date and the events leading up to that date so we can tell the American people but even more importantly, propose legislative and administrative actions that would prevent this kind of assault and threat to our democracy from ever happening again.

BLITZER: What are these Meadows communications, some 6,000 pages or so, already submitted to the committee, what do they show about what was happening as the violence unfolded back on January 6th? Do those messages, the emails, the text messages implicate the former president, Donald Trump?

LOFGREN: Well, I don't want to get into the details of that at this point, Wolf, but let me just say that there are some very interesting pieces of evidence we'd like to follow up more with Mark Meadows. There are other pieces of information flowing in from other sources, putting -- making a mesh of this information, so that we can understand this. And I think we found some very telling evidence but we're not through with the investigation.

BLITZER: Based on the documents you have already seen, Congresswoman, how much of the planning for the January 6th riot, the assault, was actually directed from inside the Trump White House?

LOFGREN: I don't want to get into percentages, but let me just say that there is ample evidence to say that there was not a disconnect between the White House and the riot. And that we need to know more about that.

BLITZER: Representatives Zoe Lofgren, thank you so much for joining us.

LOFGREN: Thank you, Wolf. Take care.

BLITZER: All right, thank you, you too.

Just ahead President Biden says he is warning Vladimir Putin of consequences like nothing he's ever seen, if Russia invades Ukraine.


We are live at the White House and in the Ukrainian capital. Much more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: President Biden giving new details today on his two-hour conversation with Vladimir Putin saying he warned the Russian president against invading Ukraine, telling him he would face consequences quote like none he's ever seen.

We are covering the story here in Washington with our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. We are also in the Ukrainian capital with CNN's Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance.

Kaitlan, let me start with you, the president tonight is promising severe economic consequences for Russia, if Russia were to invade Ukraine.


But at the same time, he seems to be rolling out military options. Tell us what he says.

COLLINS: Yes, Wolf. He says for now that's not on the table. Now, if you did see Russia invades Ukraine, the president said there is a possibility the United States would increase its troop presence in those NATO countries but Ukraine is not in NATO, therefore, it's not a part of that military alliance where if one is attacked, the others must respond.

And so the president said for now the idea of having American troops on the ground for the purpose of combat if Russia invades Ukraine is not an option.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I was very straight forward. There were no mixed words. It was polite but I made it very clear if, in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences. Economic consequence like none he's ever seen or ever has been seen in term of being imposed.

But the idea that the United States is going to unilateral use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the card right now.


COLLINS: Not in the cards right now, Wolf. And so we should note that this comes ahead of a call that he is schedule to have with the Ukrainian President Zelensky tomorrow. They're going to speak and then after that, he is also going to speak with the nine leaders of those countries on the eastern side of NATO to talk to them about what he discussed with the Russian president yesterday in that two hour one minute phone call that we were told turned tense at times as they talked about the options here.

And the president is hoping to have more to say on Friday about a potential meeting with other NATO allies, potentially Russia involve in that. But for now, Wolf, the White House is really kind of a waiting game to see does Putin heed these warnings that Biden offered during this call yesterday, or does he continue with this military buildup that we have sheen on the border.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a very, very tense situation right now. The stakes are enormous. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's go to the Ukrainian capital Kiev right now. Our Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is on the scene for us. Matthew, President Putin held a news conference today, did he publicly respond to these U.S. warnings?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what he is that, you know, he characterized the talks, the video calls between himself and President Biden as being open and constructive. He said he hoped the United States' side fell the same way.

He also confirmed that would be what he calls a security structure set up, a diplomatic grouping to discuss security in eastern Europe, specifically Ukraine, so he confirm that, that was, indeed, taking place over the days and in the weeks ahead.

But he did push back on the suggestion of Russia planning an invasion of Ukraine. He said that was provocative. He went on to say Russia conducted what he calls a peaceful foreign policy but he has a right to defend his interests.

And so he spent some time today defending this idea that NATO represents an existential threat to Russia and calling again for legal guarantees to the United States and allies to prevent NATO expanding any further eastward, of course, including to expand in the future, Ukraine into the western military alliance as well.

A little bet of, you know, breaking news coming to us within the past hour. Defense officials in Ukraine on that issue of whether Russia is stopping building up its forces or not, telling us that they now assess that the number of Russian forces close to the Ukrainian border poised potentially to carry out any kind of military action has risen from 95,000 troops when they last made this assessment to 120,000 troops in this latest assessments.

Again, a copy of which they've made available to us here in Kiev. And so, you know, it's obviously that increase didn't take place since the call with President Biden. It just shows you the trajectory of that buildup of Russian forces in the past several weeks.

BLITZER: Yes. And there is a lot of concern that number can eventually go up to 175,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, obviously, once again, a very tense situation. Mathew, we'll stay in close touch with you, Mathew Chance reporting from Ukraine.

Coming up, chilling video and emotional testimony as former Police Officer Kim Potter stands trial in the shooting death of Daunte Wright. Her claim that she mistakenly pulled her gun instead of her taser at the center of this case. Our experts are standing by to weigh in on the opening arguments.



BLITZER: The manslaughter trial of former Police Officer Kimberly Potter just wrapped up for the day after getting off to a very emotional start in Minnesota. During opening statements, the prosecutor showed jurors video of the moment before and after Potter shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. Pulling the gun she says she mistook for a taser.

We want to show you some of that video. But a warning, it's graphic.



I shot him. Oh my God.



POTTER: Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell. Josh, tell us more about what happened today during this opening round of statements in the trial?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, a powerful day, the first day of arguments here in the trial of that former Brooklyn Center police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright.

Now, the prosecution and defense laying out their perspective cases. The prosecution calling the actions of the officer a betrayal, a betrayal of her badge, a betrayal of her oath, a betrayal of the public trust. Prosecution also pointing out that this was not a rookie officer. This was an officer who had several years of experience and pointing to that moment, you know, mixing up a firearm for a taser, really saying this wasn't something that an experienced officer should have done.

The defense, by contrast, calling this an accident, calling it a mistake, also pointing out that this officer had never pulled her weapon before, had never fired it, pointing to her record, also at one point, Wolf, seeming to blame Daunte Wright himself, take a listen.


ERIN ELDRIDGE, MINNESOTA ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: She was trained to be aware of the differences between her gun and her taser and, importantly, she was also trained about the risks of pulling the wrong weapon and that drawing and firing the wrong weapon could kill someone.

PAUL ENGH, KIM POTTER'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So when she says, taser, taser, taser, there is one last pause, the facts will show you, Mr. Wright didn't stop. All he has to do is stop and he'd be with us. But he goes. She can't let him leave because he's going to kill her partner and so she does taser, taser, taser, she pulls the trigger, believing that it was a taser. Well, why else would she say it?


CAMPBELL: Now, Wolf, the first witness called today by the prosecution was Daunte Wright's mother, and incredibly emotional testimony. She described being on a video call after that incident, an occupant inside that car that answered the video call from her, she could see on the screen her son sitting in the driver seat suffering from a gunshot wound. Take a listen to her testimony.


KATIE WRIGHT, DAUNTE WRIGHT'S MOTHER: Yes, do you know if he was in trouble? I said, no, he hadn't done anything wrong. And he sounded really nervous. But we assured him that it would be okay.

And then I heard, I heard the officer tell Daunte, no, and I heard Daunte say, no, I'm not, it sounded of like he said don't run. Daunte said, no, I'm not and then I heard them say somebody tell somebody to hang up the phone and then that's all I heard.


CAMPBELL: Wright's mother's testimony there very powerful, but also, Wolf, the video, itself, doing so much today in court. We saw a different vantage points released by prosecutors, the body camera and also dash camera, where you see the moment of that shooting and the after math, including officer Kimberly Potter at one point on the ground clasping her head in her hands screaming, I just shot him, I just shot him, saying she thought she was going to go to prison. Of course, that decision will ultimately be left up to the jury.

We are expecting that she will testify in her own defense. We will obviously be watching that. We will continue bring you updates from court in this trial. Again, the first day here, Wolf, very dramatic, very emotional testimony, as these juror saw that body camera footage of Wright being shot and the aftermath of that incident, this officer screaming that she thinks she was going to go to jail.

BLITZER: Very dramatic, indeed. All right, Josh, thank you very much, Josh Campbell on the scene for us.

Let's get some more on the case. Joining us, CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey.

Joey, walk us through the legal issues here. The defense says this is a horrible accident while the prosecution is making the case, this is a crime. Give us your analysis.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, there are really three questions in my view with respect to this case. There are two counts, number one relating to recklessness. And the question is, do you believe as viewers, as jurors that this officer acted recklessly with respect to pulling that firearm and discharging it as opposed to the taser? That's as to count one, if the jurors believe that she was reckless with respect to pulling out, drawing the wrong weapon, then that's problematic.

Step two, in the event you don't believe she is reckless but you do believe she is negligent, what does that mean? You were careless, right? You consciously disregarded the risk that your behavior was unreasonable because you were so careless.


Then if jurors find, she was careless with regard to pulling the wrong weapon, then have you responsibility as a guilty.

The final question is whether or not an officer, to the extent that you pull the wrong weapon, but feel horrible about it, you're remorseful about it, you can't believe what you just did and you saw it on the screen there that you can't believe it, should you be giving officers a free pass as a result of their remorse or should you hold an officers of 26 years on the force to the standard who is a training officer of knowing better? And that's really the legal dynamics that's happening in the courtroom.

BLITZER: You know, Chief Ramsey, I want to go into that a little bit, and I want to play once again the new video played in court earlier this afternoon, Kimberly Potter, and the aftermath of the shooting watch the video. Then we'll discuss.


POTTER: I shot him. Oh my God.


POTTER: Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.


BLITZER: All right, Chief Ramsey, I want your analysis of what we just saw and what we just heard, this now former police officer screaming out, oh my God, oh my God, I shot him. I shot him. And when she was filing the actual weapon, we could hear her say taser, taser, taser. What does all that say to you as far as a jury is concerned?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I don't believe she intended the shooting, but there was negligence there. You know, after a few years ago in Oakland, there was a Bart officer a transit officer that pulled his firearm as opposed to his taser, shot and killed an individual.

After that happened, many departments changed their training. That includes how you carry the taser. Most departments have you carry it on the cross draw in the weak side so that you can't mistake it for your firearm. Tasers also come in bright colors, like yellow or a bright green, to further distinguish between the two.

But let me just say something else, because the whole thing from the beginning of the stop was really poorly done, the tactics led to this, in my opinion. When you look at the officer making the stop and they get Mr. Wright out of the car, there is a reason why police officers take people once they're out of the car to the rear of the car.

That lessens the likelihood of them trying to jump in the car and take off. He's right there at the driver's door, it's open, car running. He tries to put the handcuffs on him if whatever reason right beside and jump in the car and try to pull off. I mean, you create a situation by using poor tactics, and that can't be overlooked. I'm not saying it's criminal but it certainly is sloppy in terms of police work.

BLITZER: What do you think of that powerful, dramatic video is going -- the impact it's going to have on the jury? You are a criminal defense attorney.

JACKSON: Yes. I think it's very powerful. And I think the defense is going really with the notion that, number one, people have really loafed (ph) to convict police officers. They don't want to do it. They believe police are trying to do the right thing. Certainly, she did not have the interpretation with respect to the death.

But be that as it may, it cuts both ways. Yes, you remorseful, yes you feel bad, yes it's horrific what you did, and you admitted it, but at the same time for the prosecution point, you did admit it, you do recognized that you acted negligently. You have a responsibility to be held to a higher standard when you're in the position of a police officer to protect and preserve life. And to the extent that you don't do it, the issue for the jury is should we hold her accountable or give her a pass and say, you know what, we get it. We understand you, you're not guilty. I think that's a heavy lift to ask a jury from a criminal defense perspective.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens, this was just day one. Joey Jackson, Chief Ramsey, guys, thank you very much. We'll stay on top of this trial.

Just ahead, are vaccinated Americans protected against the omicron variant of coronavirus? Pfizer now says the answer depends on whether you've gotten your third shot, your booster. We will break it down with a key vaccine expert when we come back.



BLITZER: Tonight we have another key piece of information as experts assess the threat of the new omicron variant of coronavirus. Pfizer now says its vaccine does repeat does work against the variant but three doses are needed to get the best protection.

Let's discuss with Dr. Paul Offit a key member of the FDA vaccine advisory committee also the Author of the important new book entitled You Bet Your Life, From Blood Trance Fusions To Mass Vaccination, The Long And Risky History Of Medical Innovation.

Dr. Offit, thanks as usual for joining us. You and I have someone about booster doses many times. And you previously explained you don't necessarily think all Americans need those boosters, at least not right now. Given this news from Pfizer, is that still your position?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Yes, because it depends on what you want from this vaccine. I think what you would want from this vaccine is what you want from every vaccine, which is to protect you against serious illness, I mean the kind of illness that causes to you go to the doctor's office or go to the hospital or go to the ICU.

This vaccine -- these vaccines have continued to do that and it is extremely right that these vaccines will continue to protect against serious illness including the omicron variant. What the omicron variant, however, does, it does escape to some extent the neutralizing antibodies that are induced by two doses of say an mRNA vaccine.

So to give a third dose, what that will do is decrease your chance of having a mild illness for a certain period of time.


And I don't know what that period of time is. It could be as few as three months, six months, nine months. But if that's the strategy, that we're using, if we're trying to prevent asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection, then you're talking about boosters down the road.

And I just think we expect that if no vaccine -- I mean for most new mucosal vaccines, meaning vaccines like this, influenza, coronavirus, whooping cough, we're trying to protect against severe illness, these vaccines do that. And I suspect it's extremely likely they will do it for the omicron variant.

BLITZER: But if you get the COVID, even if you have very mild symptoms, you could still pass it on potentially to someone who is not vaccinated an older person who has health conditions or a young kid, for example who is not vaccinated. That itself concern, right?

OFFIT: Well, yes, you can still be contagious. But you are you less contagious. Another word if you have gotten say two doses of an mRNA vaccine and you have a mild illness as compared to that you will never vaccinated and you have a mild illness. You will you still shed less virus rates in a shorter period of time if you were vaccinated and weren't vaccinated.

So the question then is what is the impact of giving a third dose to healthy young people on this pandemic? I suspect it won't be big. What we really need to do, and I think we all keep saying this over and over again, is we need to vaccinate the unvaccinated. I mean that's the issue.

If you work in a hospital, and I was on service last week at Children's Hospital Philadelphia, the issue for the children that we see in our hospital is that they're not vaccinated and their parents aren't vaccinated. That's the problem. We need to figure out how to do that and we can't abandon that.

I think I feel like at some level we've kind of given up on trying to vaccinate the unvaccinated. And we can't do that because it's our really, only way out of this pandemic.

BLITZER: It will save lots and lots of lives. Dr. Paul Offit, thanks so much, as usual, for joining us. We always appreciate it.

Coming up, a far right Republican Congressman Lauren Boebert sparks yet another new controversy, even as House progressives move to try to strip her of her assignments over anti-Muslim remarks.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The push to punish the far right Congresswoman Lauren Boebert for anti-Muslim remarks is getting stronger tonight.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. He got the latest developments.

Even as the controversy is raging, Brian, Boebert is sparking yet another controversy.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is, indeed, Wolf, and seems to be emboldened as pressure builds for some kind of discipline to be given to this rogue Republican congresswoman, questions are running whether she'll actually be disciplined.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): We the people --

TODD (voice-over): Tonight a resolution to strip freshman Republican House member Lauren Boebert of her committee assignments has been introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and other progressives.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): It is shameful we have had to wait this long for meaningful action, for meaningful accountability. But here we are.

TODD: The move comes after recently surfaced video showed Boebert implying that Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who is Muslim could have been mistaken for a terrorist in a Capitol Hill elevator.

BOEBERT: I looked to my left. There she is, Ilhan Omar. I said, well, she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine.

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Today, we're here --

TODD: Boebert also recently said this about Omar and another Muslim congresswoman, Democrat Rashida Tlaib.

BOEBERT: These are black-hearted evil women.

OMAR: Their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry.

TODD: But so far, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has not publicly reprimanded Boebert.

OMAR: McCarthy is a liar and a coward.

TODD: Congressman Boebert doubled down on what they are characterizing as her outrageous behavior, tweeting a picture of her with semi automatic style weapons by a Christmas tree just days after the mass school shooting in Michigan.

Boebert's tweet came after a similar photo that fellow Republican Congressman Thomas Massie tweeted of his family.

Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won't commit to disciplining her yet saying it's the Republican's responsibility to deal with their people.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't feel like talking what the Republicans aren't doing or are doing ability the disgraceful, unacceptable behavior of their members.

TODD: Sources on Capitol Hill tell CNN that privately, Democrats are struggling over whether to discipline Boebert. Concerned that it would different her more oxygen.

NOLAN MCCASKIL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: She can use this to create more attention to generate more buzz, it's a very real concern. This is a part of her brand. This is who she is. She has hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter.

TODD: Boebert and other members of the Republican Freedom Caucus exhibited controversial behavior, like Congress members Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar have been called out as posers by Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who says they project themselves as loyal Trump supporters but don't always vote with Trump's agenda.

REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): Members of Congress, there is performance artists, there is legislator. And performance artists are the ones that get all the attention. The ones you think are more conservative because they know how to say slogans real well. They know how to recite the lines that they know our voters want to hear. We have grifters in our midst.


TODD (on camera): Now, some political analysts believe the Republican infighting and outrageous behavior may some Republican House members may hurt the Republicans' messaging, but it won't necessarily harm their chances for reclaiming the majority in the House after next year's mid-term election. Lauren Boebert's office did not respond to CNN's request for comment on these latest reporting of her actions, Wolf. [18:50:08]

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting for us.

Let's get some on this. Joining us now, CNN senior commentator, former Ohio governor, John Kasich.

Governor, thanks for joining us.

Just last week, four high school students were killed in a shooting in Michigan. So many Americans have lost their lives to gun violence. Why do these Republicans insisted on putting out holiday pictures, Christmas pictures children holding deadly weapons?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Wolf, Wolf, it's just pathetic. I -- I -- it's just so sad.

And look, you know, what -- what's happening is in politics today, you're -- you are rewarded for doing things that are just outrageous. You get publicity. You raise more money. And shame on them. But really, shame on the leadership, Wolf.

You know, the leaders are not doing the job. They need to condemn these -- especially, the words of Boebert. And I mean, I condemned it. You have condemned it. Everybody has but the leadership hasn't done it.

So, you know, it's like if you have people with a child-like attitude, you let them get away with X. Then, they go farther and farther and farther, and they're all in power suit of power. And this is a shame.

And the other thing is -- remember this, also, Wolf. There was anti- Semitic comments that came out of a member of the Democratic Party in the House. And, you know, this stuff is -- just -- it's out of control. And why are they thinking maybe we better not punish her? Wolf, then you start a war of attrition.

So then, the Republicans win the majority and they start kicking people out or taking their committee assignments away. You know, it's just -- it's ridiculous and I blame it on the leadership.

And Nancy Pelosi, in this case, has got a cool head. I blame it on the leaders for not condemning this behavior. That would be -- that would start to -- to solve this problem.

BLITZER: Your fellow Republican leaders -- that's who you are referring to.

These Republicans are following what's seen as the Trump playbook, governor. But the former president is clearly relishing the idea of yet another campaign. Listen to what he told Hugh Hewitt. Listen to this.


HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: If Donald Trump decides not to run in 2024, who out there will that base flock to?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: If I do decide that, I think my base is going to be very angry.

HEWITT: Well, it will but they'll still have to find somebody.

TRUMP: They will be very angry. I think we have a couple of people that are -- would be very good. But it's -- you know, very early.

HEWITT: If you get hit by a truck, if a meteor hits Donald Trump or the Iranians get you like they want to, what do you want the Republican Party to nominate? People got to know.

TRUMP: Someday soon. Okay? I will tell you about it.


BLITZER: Well, what about that, Governor? How worried are you that the former president is already trying to stoke anger among his base if he doesn't launch a 2024 presidential campaign?

KASICH: Well, Wolf, the reason why he didn't mention anybody is he doesn't want to give anybody any oxygen and if he doesn't run, and -- and is a cry baby, he will try to be disruptive and it will hurt the ability of the Republicans to win the White House, there is no question about it.

But it's interesting that he won't give a name, and he is not going to give a name because he hasn't decided and he certainly doesn't want to give anybody else that oxygen that they desperately need to be successful running for president.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Kasich, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

KASICH: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, day one of jury deliberations in the trial of the actor Jussie Smollett just concluded. We have the latest on the case.



BLITZER: Jurors in the trial of the actor Jussie Smollett just finished their first day of deliberating whether he falsely reported a hate crime that he allegedly arranged against himself.

Let's go to our senior national correspondent, Sara Sidner. She is in Chicago for us.

So, Sara, update our viewers on the latest. What happened?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the jury has gone home after a couple hours of deliberations. They will be back early-morning tomorrow. And they will start again. We did hear, of course, as did the jury, closing arguments from both

the prosecution and defense as is normal in a trial like this. The prosecution, going after Jussie Smollett, once again, calling him not only a liar who told police fibs but someone who lied on the stand under oath in front of the jury about what happened on that cold January overnight in 2019.

They said he perpetrated a fake hate crime against himself for media attention. Now, his attorney, Mr. Uche, shot back. He went after these two brothers that we have heard a lot about, that were friends with Smollett. In particular, one of them was his trainer.

And we heard from the defense attorney that he basically called them the liars, saying that they are the ones that were paid for something else and lied about being -- taking part in this at the direction of Mr. Smollett. He called them a lot of other names, as well. But really, went after the Osundairo brothers because those brothers, along with police, were the ones who said, look, this was a fake hate crime. We were responsible for the perpetration of this game but it was Smollett who planned it.

The jury will have to take all of the information they have learned from surveillance video to police body-camera video when they went in to talk to Mr. Smollett the night that he reported this crime and they will have to put that all together and try to come up with a verdict. And, again, they will begin again tomorrow morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching. All right. Sara, thank you very much. Sara Sidner in Chicago.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.