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The Situation Room

President Biden Warns Winter Of Severe Illness And Death For The Unvaccinated; Interview With Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) About The January 6th Committee Investigation; Biden's Build Back Better Plan Stalled In The Senate; Prosecution Rests In Kim Potter Trial; NFL Updates COVID Protocols As Outbreaks Threaten Season; Death Toll In Tornado Outbreak Climbs To At Least 88. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 16, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I'm Jake Tapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of "THE LEAD," you can listen to "THE LEAD" wherever you get your podcast.

Our coverage continues right now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer who's right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden issuing a dire warning, a winter of severe illness and death, he says, among unvaccinated Americans as the Omicron coronavirus variant quickly spreads across the country.

Also, growing questions about GOP Congressman Jim Jordan who pushed an election conspiracy theory and was then wanted -- and then wanted to be on the House January 6th Select Committee. We're going to talk about it with one of two Republicans on that panel, Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's standing by live.

Plus President Biden facing troubling poll numbers as his agenda is clearly stalling right now. There is little hope of his sweeping spending plan passing the Senate before the end of the year as well as voting rights legislation.

So what is his party's plan? We're going to ask the number one two Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Dick Durbin.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get straight to the breaking pandemic news. President Biden underscoring in very stark terms the threat posed by the Omicron coronavirus variant to millions of unvaccinated Americans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Omicron has not yet spread as fast as it would have otherwise done, and that has happened in Europe, but it's here now and it is spreading and it's going to increase. For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated. For themselves, their families and the hospitals will soon overwhelm.


BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in CNN national correspondent Nick Watt.

Nick, COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths here in the United States are all rising rapidly.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and Wolf, this just in from New York, that city saw the positivity rate on their PCR tests double in just the space of four days. The city is now dishing out a million-dollars' worth of masks, half a million at-home tests, setting up more testing sites and meantime, Wolf, some fairly monumental vaccine news.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have 15 yeses, zero no's.

WATT (voice-over): CDC vaccine advisers unanimous in recommending the CDC change its guidance to say that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferred over the J&J. Why? Well, those very rare blood clots connected to the J&J that can be fatal. Meantime Hamilton, among the Broadway shows canceling performances once more after cases amongst the cast, just two months after reopening.

Princeton and NYU just joined Cornell and others moving what is left of the semester back online. A depressing dose of deja vu. Officials in Philly are warning don't party with people outside your household over the holidays.

DR. CHERYL BETTIGOLE, PHILADELPHIA HEALTH COMMISSIONER: It's hard and it feels impossible and it feels unfair. These gatherings when we get together with friends and family are when we infect each other with COVID.

WATT: Pro-sports teams demonstrating how the virus is spreading. Odell Beckham Jr. scored Monday night. Next morning joined the long list of players and staff testing positive or quarantining after exposure.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: They're really a window into the community spread, and kudos to the sports leagues because they are actually doing a fantastic job of surveillance testing and the rest of the country, we're driving a car down a dark road with the headlights off while looking in the rearview mirror.

WATT: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations climbed around 40 percent this past month. Deaths says the CDC forecast to rise in the month ahead. The Delta variant still rampant, Omicron on the rise.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Very soon it will be the dominant variant. We've seen that in South Africa, we're seeing it in the U.K. and I'm absolutely certain that's what we're going to be seeing here relatively soon.

WATT: No need at this point for an Omicron specific booster vaccine says Dr. Fauci, but this variant is now the most complete escapee, say researchers in a new pre-print study, although the vaccines are still highly effective at preventing severe disease or death.


DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: It is reassuring that these infections seem to be less severe. But that's really only true probably if you're a healthy person who's been immunized and ideally immunized with three shots.


WATT: Now, we just heard President Biden there saying Omicron is not spreading as fast here as it is in Europe, not yet any way. We heard Dr. Fauci say that Omicron is becoming dominant in the U.K. What is happening in the U.K.? Today Britain recorded its most new confirmed COVID cases of this entire pandemic. The most new cases ever, today. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nick, thank you very much. Nick Watt reporting for us.

So let's get some more on the breaking news right now. Joining us our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also with us Dr. Paul Offit, his new book is entitled "You Bet Your Life: From Blood Transfusions to Mass Vaccination, the Long and Risky History of Medical Innovation."

Guys, thank you very much for joining us. So, Sanjay, you just heard President Biden just moments ago issue this grave warning that we are looking at what he describes as a winter of severe illness and death for people who are not vaccinated. Should we be prepared for a surge from Omicron that dwarves what we actually saw from Delta?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know for sure yet, Wolf. But this does appear to be more transmissible. I mean, we've been looking at some of this data. Let me show you a couple of things just to give you an idea when you look at Omicron and compare it to Delta, this graph here is basically looking at what happens after the first few days.

If we have that, we could show it. But basically Delta took some time to ramp up. That's the line in blue. You know, with Omicron, it just took off right away. So, you know, that's I think part of the concern here, you know, speaking to its contagiousness, and also in terms of what percentage of cases now are made up of Omicron, you can see that the doubling rate, people keep talking about how quickly it's doubling.

And in the United States overall it went from .4 percent to 3 percent over a couple of weeks in certain pockets of the country like New York, New Jersey, went from 2 percent to 13 percent. So I think that that's what's really fueling these concerns. Just how contagious this is. It's likely everyone will get exposed to this at some point.

BLITZER: At least right now, Dr. Offit, Omicron cases seem to be more mild, but could this variant actually pose a greater risk for the elderly, for example, for those who are immunocompromised, for young 4-year-olds, for example, young children who are not vaccinated yet, not eligible to be vaccinated, unvaccinated kids given that it spreads so much more quickly and easily than the Delta variant?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Yes, I mean, the CDC estimated today that the doubling time was about two days, which is much faster than the Delta variant in terms of transmissibility. So you're therefore much more likely to be infected. The best thing you could do is to vaccinate yourself. I know we talk about giving a third dose, but the most important thing is to get those first two doses.

I mean, I just came off of being on service for a week at children's hospital of Philadelphia, and we saw a number of children, more than really I've seen consistent with the national average, and the surge in children, and what all those children had in common. Even though most were over 5, many were over 12, none of them were vaccinated. None of their family members were vaccinated, the siblings, parents, no one was vaccinated.

So I think we talk about boosting but we need to make sure, even if you just get two doses of an MRNA vaccine, I think that's highly likely to protect you against severe illness.

BLITZER: You know, Sanjay, if Omicron does become the dominant variant within a few days here in the United States as Dr. Fauci and other experts are now predicting, and people are getting, God willing, less sick, though, should the CDC coronavirus guidelines be revisited, for example as a 10-day isolation quarantine necessary if people test negative and they're no longer contagious within that window?

In other words, how long are you going to be contagious if you come down with this new variant?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I don't think we know that for sure yet, Wolf. But I mean, I think the larger point, you know, if this is more contagious but less severe, is that going to impact guidelines. It may at some point but I don't think we're at that point now. And I think we have a map of what's going on in the United States, showing just how wide spread transmission is. I mean, we're still showering in virus, you know, in many parts of the United States.

And the numbers, you know, are so high. You know, we have 1300 people who are dying on average in a day. 67,000 people in the hospital. So, at some point, I think there's going to be these conversations that happen trying to figure out what are we willing to tolerate as a society, I mean, you know, 60,000 people may die of flu in any given year. Right now we're way above that, right, if you look at these numbers, it would be closer to 450,000 people would be dying every year right now if things stand the way that they are.

[18:10:04] At some point, there may be some pulling back on some of these recommendations. But I don't think it's now. And to Dr. Offit's point, if we have the vaccination versus unvaccination trajectory we can show this in terms of who's being hospitalized. So if you look at these 67,000 people who are in the hospital, and just say OK, look, of these COVID patients in the hospital, how many are vaccinated versus unvaccinated? What you find is that the vast majority are still unvaccinated.

So there will be lots of conversations about boosters, important, but, you know, you got 90 million people roughly in the country who don't yet have vaccine immunity, and that's a problem. And I should just point out one more thing, there's a lot of discussion about infection acquired immunity. But the concern is now that this virus, this variant may be different enough that a previous infection, with a previous variant may not offer you as much immunity as it once did. So that's a concern.

BLITZER: That's so, so disturbing. 1300 Americans on average are still dying from COVID-19 every single day here in the United States.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Paul Offit, very helpful, thank you so much for doing this. An important note to our viewers, this Sunday, Sanjay will bring us a CNN special record, "WEED 6, MARIJUANA AND AUTISM." It's Sunday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Just head, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan reveals he was the lawmaker who sent a very damning text to then Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows outlining a plan for a coup. Even though he later pushed to join the panel investigating the insurrection.

I'll discuss with a key Republican on the January 6th Select Committee, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, there you see him. He's standing by live.



BLITZER: Breaking news, we're following the January 6th Select Committee trying to make new inroads into the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election here in the United States. The panel just subpoenaed a retired U.S. Army colonel who circulated a PowerPoint presentation detailing ways to carry out the coup.

Let's discuss with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a key member of the January 6th Select Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. The creator of that PowerPoint says he actually visited the White House, briefed members of Congress, spoke to Mark Meadows who was then the White House chief of staff, but what questions do you have for him about the extent of this planning and coordination?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I think that's it. I think it's a lot of, you know, who did you talk to, when did you talk to them, why, where did you get this information from? Can you talk about, you know, anything else on that level? Because we've interviewed over 300 people and I know, you know, things like Meadows contempt and Bannon contempt get a lot of attention as they should because they need to come in front of the people's legitimately constituted inquiry into this stuff.

But there is a lot of people that are giving us a lot of information and this can be a key piece to that. But, I mean, the reality is about a year ago now, and I can't believe it's been a year, it also seems like it's been 10 years ago and yesterday at the same time, but there was this kind of fever pitch to not accept the fact that a legitimate election had happened. And that's why the committee is so important, Wolf.

It's not just about the day of January 6th. That's an important point. But it's about what is the route that led up to that and how do we prevent anything like that from happening again. And so I expect a lot of questions.

BLITZER: Because if we don't learn from those blunders, those mistakes, we're going to repeat them down the road, God forbid.

Republican Congressman Jim Jordan did confirm that he's the one who sent instructions to the then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows the day before the January 6th attack on how then Vice President Mike Pence could actually reject the electoral votes.

How brazen was it for him to attempt to serve on the committee investigating the January 6th attack knowing he actually pushed this coup attempt?

KINZINGER: Yes, it's extremely brazen. And, you know, by the way, there is a few people that had ideas get sent to Mark Meadows. I'm sure over time there will be more and more information that we'll put out about that and everybody had their theory. And by the way, none of the theories were things like hey, Mark, let's actually count the votes and go with the winner. It was some way to finagle the Constitution or use a different article or send it back to the states or tell the state legislators to disregard their own people's will.

And for Jim Jordan to have done that, and then to want to serve on the committee, first off, shows that there would not have been -- all he would have served was trying to shut down the legitimate inquiry of this committee. By the way, he wants to serve as chairman if Republicans win the majority of probably oversight and government reform or judiciary, actually. That's a sad thing. It's a sad -- that's a sad notion.

And, you know, we used to be party, Wolf, that was committed to I'll say law and order but also the rule of law. And now we're using -- trying to use the nuances of the law to overthrow the will of the people. That's never been the intention of that and that's why I think we need to look at the Electoral Count Act, not just look at it. We need to make some reforms because this dry run on January 6th that mercifully failed, there is a lot you can learn from it if you run this script again. BLITZER: It's so, so worrisome. You say you believe some members of

Congress actually knew what was going to happen on January 6th. Would you include Congressman Jordan in that group?

KINZINGER: Well, there is a lot I don't want to say, but I think certainly he played a role in terms of pushing some of the theories.


But I'm not going to go as far as to say he played a role in January 6th and what happened but it is certainly in the scope, the legitimate scope of the January 6th Committee when we talk about what led up to it, we talk about the big lie, we talk about all this kind of stuff, to find further information out and we will. And like I said, we're going to move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of this.

And we know that the Republicans, when they take the majority, which is likely if they take the majority, will try to shut down this committee. So we have a clock on us. We need to get to this quickly and we've been pleased so far that the judicial system has ruled expeditiously, but expect to see more lawsuits, more frivolous lawsuits to try to slow this down because they now the truth is going to hurt.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure it will. You know, before I let you go, Congressman, I know you know this but a group of more than 40 conservatives and Trump allies have actually written a letter calling for you and Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney to be removed from the House GOP Caucus. So you both have taken great personal risk to investigate the January 6th attacks. So what's keeping you going amid this onslaught you're getting from members of your own party?

KINZINGER: Well, it's fighting for the soul of a party that's going to be around a while. You know, I find it ironic that people like Tony Perkins signed that, the family, you know, with these Family Research Councils or whatever, that, by the way, there is, as a Christian myself, I've never seen anywhere in the bible the words of Jesus say things like, use conspiracy as long as you can take power.

In fact, he very much eschewed getting it involved in government issues. And now instead we see folks trying to remove Liz and I for telling the truth. I think it shows way more about them than us. I'm amused by it but also saddened at the same at the state of the party.

BLITZER: Yes. It's pretty awful when you think about what's going on right now.

Congressman Adam Kinzinger, if you don't see you before Christmas, I hope you and the family have a Merry, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Let's hope 2022 is a better year for all of us. Thanks so much for joining us.

KINZINGER: Amen, thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Coming up, after months of negotiations, are Democrats ready to give up on passing President Biden's $2 trillion spending plan? I'll ask the second ranking Senate Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin. He's standing by live. I'll ask him where the talks are now headed.



BLITZER: Several top Democrats now admit they're growing exhausted and frustrated by the stalled negotiations over President Biden's $2 trillion spending plan raising serious questions about the bill's future.

Our chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny is standing by over at the White House for us.

So, Jeff, it appears there's little chance of the Senate passing Build Back Better before Christmas. Could it be at risk of collapsing altogether?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it certainly could be at risk because it has lost its sense of momentum that it had after the House passed the legislation and there was a time at the beginning of this month that, you know, Christmas seemed like a long time away. They thought they could work through the differences with Democrats particularly Senator Joe Manchin and find a deal.

Now Christmas is nine days away but there's likely only one day left in the Senate. Unless something dramatic happens, that really no one is expecting this evening, this is likely not going to happen for the remainder of the year. Now the sticking point remains just a lot of spending, inflation, the childcare tax credit. Senator Joe Manchin quite frankly is not even in the ballpark of where the rest of the Democrats are and where the White House is.

So there have been conversations as we know between President Biden and Senator Joe Manchin this week but they've not resolved in any type of compromise. And now there is just not the framework for this. Even if there was an agreement, it would be a very hard-pressed to get it done before Christmas any way. So what people here at the White House are saying as well as senior Democrats on Capitol Hill, yes, they wanted it done by Christmas but they're certainly willing to give it until the early part of next year.

But, Wolf, it's very much an open question. They would like to have it passed before the State of the Union, if you will, which usually is at the end of January. After that it becomes much more difficult to sort of corral everyone here. But there is still a sense from Democrats that they want to get this passed. Joe Manchin remains a big sticking point. He's been, you know, on the outs before but he does have a good relationship with President Biden so at least at the White House they're optimistic that something could happen in the new year, but certainly not this year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to you stand by, Jeff. I also want to bring into this conversation our senior political commentator David Axelrod. David, how big of a setback is it for President Biden to have to put

his social spending bill on the back burner at least for now?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's a setback. I mean, you know, deadlines keep getting passed and that creates a sense of disorder, and that's unhelpful. And I'm sure he would love to get this behind him and get on with the business of selling the things that he's passed instead of trying to pass them. But, you know, I still think that there is a determination to try and get this done.

But, you know, Manchin, this is what happens when you have an evenly divided Senate. Every senator has enormous power and Manchin is using his, and he's expressed himself repeatedly, thinks there are budget gimmicks in this bill that hide the true cost of it and he is pressing Democrats on it.

BLITZER: You know, Jeff, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says he thinks the bill is, quote, "dead," not just for 2021, but forever.


How hard will it be to rebuild that momentum among Democrats?

ZELENY: Well, look, I don't think Senator Graham is the arbiter of this first and foremost. He's not a supporter of this bill. So of course he will say it's dead. He may be right. We will see. But building momentum is going to be a challenge. But Democrats have, you know, really the only thing that has united Democrats both sides of the party, the progressives and the moderates, is Republican opposition.

So there is still a sense that they want to get something accomplished. They know the window is extraordinarily narrow in the new year. It's viewed right now as a lost opportunity. Yes, the majorities, the Democratic majorities, are super tight but they're not getting any better for sure so momentum is one thing that they are going to have to build here but I think it's a little bit too early to say that it's dead for sure.

There are a lot of, you know, popular items inside this bill that a lot of Democrats would like to see passed. Of course the burden is on President Biden to coral all of these varying divisions in the party.

BLITZER: I know he's trying.


BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, David.

AXELROD: No, look, I think from the beginning the problem has been that the parts are greater than the sum. The parts of the bill, the elements are very popular, the size of it, and sort of the debate over cost has obscured the individual elements and that is been a frustration to Biden and the Democrats. I would point out, you know, I remember I lived through this in 2010

when it appeared that the Affordable Care Act was dead after Democrats lost their super majority in the Senate in a special election in Massachusetts. And by March the bill was passed. So it's really -- you know, I don't think -- I agree with jeff, I don't think that Lindsey Graham can play the Grim Reaper here. I'm not sure that his opinion means much to the Democratic caucus.

But it's better to have gotten this done before the beginning of the election year, the midterm election year. And I'm sure that there is disappointment that they haven't been able to do that.

BLITZER: You know, David, let me follow up because Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono put it bluntly and her words, I'm quoting her now, she said, "A 50/50 Senate sucks."


BLITZER: This is a reality clearly for President Biden right now, isn't it?

AXELROD: Yes, it totally is. I thought that on election night. You know, on the special election night in Georgia, I thought this is a -- it's a blessing and a curse because when you have a 50-50 Senate, every senator is an entrepreneur, every senator has the ultimate ability to sink bill. And that makes it very, very difficult and President Biden has experienced that.

You know, he is a veteran of the Senate for decades and he is -- he's got patience, but at some point your patience runs out with this. It's a really -- the only thing worse than a 50/50 Senate is a 49/51 Senate.

BLITZER: If you're in the minority, obviously that's important. And we hoped, by the way, I plan to speak with Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate this hour but unfortunately he's been called to a meeting right now. So he's not going to be with us. But we'll try to get him back down the road.

Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, a potentially pivotal moment in the trial of the former police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright. Will she testify in her own defense?



BLITZER: The prosecution has rested in the trial of former police officer Kim Potter on trial for the fatal shooting of Daunte wright.

CNN's Adrianne Broaddus reports the jury may soon hear from Potter herself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still want to testify or have you changed your mind?


ADRIANNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It could be a pivotal moment, former police officer Kim Potter expected to testify soon in her manslaughter trial in the shooting of Daunte Wright.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't need any more time to think about that?

POTTER: No, your honor.

BROADDUS: A high stakes decision today as the defense began to lay the foundation of its case. Key witnesses testifying Thursday.

EARL GRAY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Is it your opinion that not only took -- a taser be used in this chaotic situation, but also a gun? Is that right?


BROADDUS: Potter's former police chief testifying that after he first saw the body camera footage, he called shooting that killed Daunte Wright accidental but after later seeing another angle, he changed his assessment.

GANNON: When I viewed both camera angles and had all of the data in front of me, I saw no violation.

BROADDUS: The first witness for the defense, 40-year police veteran Steven Ijames, testifying about Potter's training.

PAUL ENGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Was the warning given by officer -- former Officer Potter, I'll tase you, I'll tase you, reasonable?

STEPHEN IJAMES, DEFENSE USE OF FORCE EXPERT: Yes, so that's the standard warning.

ENGH: We heard testimony yesterday that the taser in this case was -- or the assumed use of the taser was too close to officer -- to Mr. Wright to be effective in its impact. Do you agree or disagree with that?

IJAMES: That is completely untrue.

BROADDUS: His testimony comes a day after Seth Stoughton, the prosecution's use of force expert, testified Potter's use of the taser was inappropriate.

SETH STOUGHTON, PROSECUTION USE OF FORCE EXPERT: The use of a taser under the circumstances was unreasonable and inconsistent with generally accepted practices.

BROADDUS: The defense trying to show the shooting was justified. ENGH: So an officer seeing that could shoot.

IJAMES: It would meet that standard and an officer could shoot. Yes, sir.

BROADDUS: Then the prosecution pushing back.

MATTHEW FRANK, MINNESOTA ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: If an officer is trying to arrest somebody on a warrant, and the person pulls away, the officer can't just shoot them?


IJAMES: Of course not.

BROADDUS: Potter is accused of shooting Wright after she says she mistakenly pulled her gun instead of her taser during a traffic stop earlier this year. Both use of force experts agreed Potter intended to pull her taser.

POTTER: I shot him.

BROADDUS: But the question remains, why did the officer whose former colleagues call her peaceful and law-abiding pull her gun instead?


BROADDUS: And, Wolf, court ended early today. The defense said it will call two witnesses to testify tomorrow. The person everyone wants to hear from is Kimberly Potter. She has the opportunity to look members of the jury in the eye and tell them what she was thinking during that moment.

This body camera video all of 13 seconds shows how life changed not only for the Wright family, but Potter as well. Her former boss testified today. He resigned because of political pressure saying he refused to fire Potter at the time of the shooting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Adrienne Broaddus, thank you very much. Adrienne Broaddus reporting.

Let's get some more on all of this. CNN senior law enforcement analyst, the former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe is joining us. He's the author of the book "The Threat of the FBI: Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."

Andrew, thanks for joining us. How risky is it for Kim Potter to actually to take the stand and testify?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's a gamble, Wolf, no question about it. But it's one that could pay off for her. You know, this is a -- it's interesting, we've seen defendants in high-profile cases recently take the stand in their own defense. The Arbery trial where McMichaels took the stand and testified and of course Kyle Rittenhouse. This is a similar play. There is no question that she did what she's been accused of doing. She shot Daunte Wright in the chest. It's on video so there's no issue there.

What she's going to try to do here is to humanize herself in front of that jury, to show her contrition, her sorrow, her regret over this. And in some ways it's a Hail Mary pass for some lenience and compassion from the jury. But it's a dangerous move at that and it could go horribly wrong for her.

BLITZER: We saw that very compelling video of her immediate reaction after she shot Daunte Wright. Could her testimony potentially undermine the impression that video made with the jury?

MCCABE: You know, it could, Wolf. But I think that most helpful thing here to remember is that the question that is really in front of the jury is whether or not she acted in a grossly negligent manner or a reckless manner. And in some ways, that very traumatic video coverage that we saw of her reaction immediately after the shooting kind of proves the point. It's very clear from her own reaction that she didn't intend to shoot him, that it was a tragic and horrible error, a mistake that should not have been made.

So, you know, the experts can point in one direction or another as to whether or not she violated a law or policy, but at the end of the day it's for the jury so decide if she acted reasonably.

BLITZER: Bottom line here, Andrew, Potter showed remorse but shouldn't her training have prepared her to not mistake a gun for a taser?

MCCABE: That is absolutely true. And that is no doubt what the prosecution will point out when they get an opportunity to cross- examine her directly. She should have been wearing that taser on the opposite side of her body, photographs show that she was. It feels different than a gun. It functions differently than a gun. It looks different than a gun. She had had every reason based on her training to know that she was not pulling the taser. And that's what they'll point out.

BLITZER: Andrew McCabe, our thanks as usual for joining us. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Coming up, professional sports teams here in the United States are scrambling right now to save their seasons as COVID outbreaks sideline a growing number of players. We're going to bring you the latest information on a new set of COVID protocols just approved by the National Football League.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: This just into CNN, the NFL and players union have just agreed to update COVID protocols as the league is scrambling to save the season from a rash of outbreaks. The measures include mandatory masks insight, team facilities and getting players back on the field more quickly after testing positive. Let's discuss with Dr. Myron Rolle. He's a neurosurgery resident at

Harvard, a former NFL player himself.

Dr. Rolle, thanks for joining us.

So you heard the NFL just updating its coronavirus protocols as the league said right now some 100 players in the recent days, last three days have tested positive for COVID. Do you think these new rules help get the league these outbreaks under control?

DR. MYRON ROLLE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I really do. Thank you for having me, Wolf. I do believe that this new enhanced protocol uniformly across the league will help for sure. I think it's a large reason why you did have these outbreaks. Players were more complacent with mask hygiene, social distancing, the infrequency of tests. At that point, if you were vaccinated, you could get infected on Wednesday and walk around the facility without a mask for the whole week spreading the infection to your other teammates and personnel. Now that they're ramping it up, having the ability for vaccinated players to test out and come out of quarantine a little sooner is a step in the right direction for the NFL.


BLITZER: The Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield just reacted, tweeting this. He said NFL make up your damn mind on protocols. Actually caring about player safety would mean delaying the game with this continuing at the rate it is. Clearly, players right now, Dr. Rolle, they're frustrated, aren't they?

ROLLE: Absolutely. You have to be frustrated with such a dynamic pandemic. For once you think we have it under control where the NFL and NFLPA agree on these pathways for vaccinated and unvaccinated players. But you have these outbreaks happening, you had whole position groups, even coaches who are infected and may have to step away.

So it's very challenging. The thing that I appreciate by the NFL is they have employed epidemiologists outside the NFL. They are objective and they look right at the public health safety of these players and take that into consideration more so than the business of the NFL and getting the marquee players like Baker Mayfield back on the field.

But it's a slow process and I'm hopeful they can keep every player safe while preserving the game because we all love it as fans, and as a former player like myself.

BLITZER: The new protocols allow vaccinated players who tested positive to get back on the field more quickly by allowing rapid testing to clear them rather than requiring two PCR tests and being quarantined for five days or ten days. Is that a wise science-based decision?

ROLLE: You know, honestly, Wolf, I think that comes from the fact that for the last two years we've seen milder asymptomatic cases in this particular subset of athletes, the professional football player. They do clinically well. They do not progress and deteriorate to severe hospitalizations, morbidity and mortality, integrated imaging or being in the hospital.

So the fact that they are able to have these new test-out possibilities and because these players don't do that terrible, I guess, with their infection, I think it makes a lot of sense.

BLITZER: Yeah, I agree with you.

Dr. Myron Rolle, as usual, thank you very much for your expertise.

Coming up next, we're going to have the latest on severe and deadly weather. They're breaking records across the United States.



BLITZER: At least five people have been killed in severe weather that rolled across the Midwest. Now, that comes less than a week after a series of tornados killed at least 88 people in five states.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Kentucky, residents pick through the wreckage of a tornado that we now know was a monster, a mile or more wide at its worst, according to the National Weather Service. It was on the ground for at least 128 miles, and the measurement of that distance will likely increase as more surveys come in. Kentucky is not alone tonight in returning from freakish, severe December weather. In Lamar, Colorado, a dust bowl. And throughout Kansas Wednesday, dangerous high winds causing several rollovers of semi trucks.

TROOPER BEN GARDNER, KANSAS HIGHWAY PATROL: It's been overwhelming for first responders, including the Kansas Highway Patrol and our troopers. It has been a continuous call after call, rollover after rollover.

TODD: In Iowa, the driver of a tractor-trailer was killed Wednesday night when the vehicle was struck by a strong gust of wind and the driver lost control. A tornado in southeastern Minnesota yesterday was the first tornado ever reported in the state in the month of December.

BILL ULRICH, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: Sixty-eight years I've been here, and I don't -- I don't recall ever hearing the word "tornado" in December.

TODD: Nearly 20 tornados touched down on Wednesday in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. Across the Great Plains and the Midwest yesterday, a record was set for a single day in the U.S. at least 55 reports of hurricane-force thunderstorm wind gusts of over 75 miles an hour. That's according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. HAROLD BROOKS, SENIOR SCIENTIST, NOAA NATIONAL SEVERE STORMS

LABORATORY: Certainly the last week of severe weather, the tornados last Friday and the windstorm and tornados yesterday are very unusual for December. The winds on Wednesday, that's just something we haven't seen this time of year ever.

TODD: About 400 reports of severe wind came in from across those regions on Wednesday. The alerts impacting at least 80 million Americans, high winds whipped up fires in the southern plains and the southwestern U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fires breaking out were being fanned by 100- mile-per-hour winds. One fire grew to 200 acres in less than two hours.

TODD: Weather experts say much of this is due to unusually warm air from the Gulf of Mexico for this time of year, air that's being pushed northward. Key questions tonight, what effect does climate change have on this, and is this the new normal?

HAROLD BROOKS, SENIOR SCIENTIST, NOAA NATIONAL SEVERE STORMS LABORATORY: The contribution of climate change is probably at least noticeable that the gulf is very warm, the gulf is warmer this time of year than it's ever been. I don't really think we're talking about a new normal. It may be a slightly increased frequency but it's not the kind of thing we've seen outbreaks that we've seen last week on an annual or every year basis.


TODD: Could places like the East Coast see more tornadoes in the future? Harold Brooks of NOAA's severe storms laboratory says what people across the country have to worry about is more intense and heavy rainfall during future hurricanes and rain events, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

President Biden bestowed the Medal of Honor today to three U.S. army soldiers. It was awarded posthumously to Army Sergeant Alwyn Cashe, who pulled several soldiers from a burning vehicle in Iraq back in 2005. He died as a result of his wounds.

Also, Army Sergeant Christopher Celiz who died after using his body as a shield to protect an injured person back in Afghanistan in 2018. Army Sergeant Earl Plumlee was the only living recipient at the ceremony today honored for his actions in Afghanistan in 2013.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.