Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

CDC Shortens Recommended COVID Isolation And Quarantine Times; Omicron Explodes, Tests Scarce, Flights Canceled, Crisis Worsens; January 6 Committee Ramps Up Effort To Track Money Behind Capitol Rally; 1/6 Panel Probing Calls To DC Hotel "War Room"; Archbishop Desmond Tutu's Ashes To Be Interred At Cape Town Cathedral On New Year's Day. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 27, 2021 - 18:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the CDC just updated its guidelines for people who get COVID or are exposed to it, shortening isolation and quarantine times for many Americans as the omicron variant tears across the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us live to explain the changes.

This comes during a perilous week in the omicron crisis with new cases exploding, COVID tests in short supply, and high demand, and many more flights canceled. We're covering it all this hour.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we begin with the breaking news on the CDC's new recommendations on how long COVID patients should isolate themselves, shortening the time from ten to five days.

Let's go right to CNN's Tom Foreman. Tom, this is huge news. Tell us more about these new guidelines.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we've been expecting a change like this for several days now. Like omicron itself, it's been moving very, very swiftly and now we know a little bit more.


FOREMAN (voice over): Big news from the Centers for Disease Control. The federal government is shortening the recommended time for isolation from ten days for people with COVID-19 to five days if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others. The announcement came just hours after President Biden admitted to the nation's governors COVID testing has not kept pace with the omicron threat.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's not enough. It's clearly not enough. If we've known, we would have gone harder, quicker if we could have. FOREMAN: With COVID cases soaring, more than 2,000 flights were grounded worldwide and nearly 3,000 delayed in the U.S. just today. That's on top of thousands over the weekend. And flight crews keep calling in sick even as holiday travelers keep coming.

RANI LALL, TRAVELER: We actually changed our flight to a non-stop flight just in hopes of hopefully not having any cancellations.

FOREMAN: At sea, several cruise ships have been infected, in some cases being turned away from ports in all dampening the festivities.

ASHLEY PETERSON, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER: And they weren't really enforcing masks until a lot of people started getting COVID. And then they were kind of enforcing masks more. I don't think I'll ever go on a cruise again honestly at this point.

FOREMAN: As the omicron variant rages, testing lines are stretching out and tests running short in some places. New York City is enforcing a COVID vaccine mandate for private businesses.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: No one thinks of this as the holiday season we were hoping for. But contrast it to last year. It's so much better.

FOREMAN: Also better, hospitalizations are not rising as quickly as feared. Though in many places, patients and staff alike are staggering against the surge.

DIANA RICHARDSON, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, TUFTS MEDICAL CENTER: We have as of this morning 115 staff members out ill with COVID who have tested positive.

FOREMAN: Even the holiday fun and games are getting shaky with five college football bowl games canceled or scrambling to find new teams as COVID rips through locker rooms. Brand new rules allow for the championship itself to be delayed or decided by forfeit if necessary, although nobody wants that.

ELI GOLD, RADIO VOICE FOR ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE FOOTBALL: Everybody wants to play. The players are looking out for themselves. They really are.


FOREMAN (on camera): Simply put, if you have New Year's plans, you might want to rethink them and simply stay home and brace yourself. Health officials are saying this omicron winter surge could be with us for six to eight weeks. Jim?

ACOSTA: That is a long time. All right, Tom Foreman, thank you very much for that.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen along with Dr. Peter Hotez, co-Director of the Children's Center -- Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. He is also author of Preventing the Next Pandemic. Thanks to both of you very much. Elizabeth Cohen, let me start with you first. Can you walk us through these new CDC isolation guidelines? And some of this sounds like the honor system, if you don't mind me saying.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. You're absolutely right about that, Jim. And this also came really after pressure from employers for whose businesses are considered essential, really pressuring the CDC to change these isolation rules because so many people are mildly ill or even just asymptomatic with this new variant that they said, look, if we want to keep -- for example, Delta Airlines said, if we want to keep the planes flying, we really need to change these.

So, it used to be that if you had COVID, it was a ten-day ice isolation. Let's look at what it is now. As Tom mentioned, it's now five days of isolation followed by five days of wearing a mask around others.


But, you know, these days, so many people are home testing that if they can get one, of course, but so many people are home testing and probably I would imagine not reporting their results to local authorities that, as you said, Jim, this is really all about the honor system. Jim?

ACOSTA: And, Dr. Hotez, the CDC specifies that people who tested positive have to isolate for five days, and if they don't have symptoms, they'll have to wear a mask for at least five days after that isolation period ends. Are you concerned that people are not going to adhere to this honor system?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: Yes, that's always the risk. I think part of this, Jim and Elizabeth, is the CDC is in a very tight spot right now and here's why. First of all, there are so many healthcare workers now reporting out sick either because they have asymptomatic COVID or they've been exposed or they have symptomatic COVID. That's putting a massive strain on the healthcare system as hospitalizations are going up in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Then you factor in to the fact that, as Elizabeth mentioned, getting testing now is really problematic. I mean, for all of those lines either of cars or of people just snaking around city blocks, you have to multiply that times four or five in terms of the number of people who look at those lines and throw up their hands and say this is too much of a wait. I'm not going to bother doing it.

And so the worry is, particularly for the health system, that it could start collapsing in places if there are not enough healthcare providers to take care of the sick and then you have the fact that it's going to shut down essential businesses, not only air travel, but, you know, fire and rescue. And so I think part of this is to avoid panic and a national crisis.

ACOSTA: And, Elizabeth, what is the CDC recommending for people who are boosted and are exposed to the virus but don't test positive?

COHEN: Right. So, if you're exposed, let's say someone in your family gets it or someone you work with or whatever, they're saying now you don't need to quarantine. Wear a mask for ten days, but you don't need to quarantine. So, this is really different.

And let's look at the data that tells you why they decided to do this. So, what the CDC says is that with two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna, you're 35 percent protected against omicron infection. So, that's not great. But if you've had a booster dose, you're 75 percent effective. So, 75 percent is really quite good and so what they're saying is, look, if you're fully boosted, you know, or if you're two doses and you're within six months of that second dose, you don't need to quarantine.

ACOSTA: I mean, it's also good news just to see that 75 percent number right there. I mean, I think that's important.

And, Dr. Hotez, should people who are vaccinated and boosted be able to spend less time in isolation after a positive test than unvaccinated people? If you're unvaccinated, it seems to me your symptoms could be far worse, you could be much more infectious.

HOTEZ: Yes. They idea is that if you're boosted, you have really high levels of virus-neutralizing antibody, a 30 to 40-fold rise. And a lot of that virus-neutralizing antibody also gets into your nasal mucosa and to your throat, and that neutralizes in your nose and mouth so you're not shedding virus.

Here's the one wrinkle on this, Jim. So, right after you get boosted, you're 70 to 75 percent protected, but there are some worrying modeling studies coming out of Imperial College London to say that with the omicron variant, because of its unique features, that 70 to 75 percent number may not hold and starts going down after two or three months and potentially to 30 to 40 percent.

So, there is that vulnerability there that it's not holding, and that's why Israel, for instance, is looking at the possibility of a second booster, a fourth immunization, especially for healthcare providers and older individuals to rev up those virus-neutralizing antibodies again and then keep you from getting either infected or seriously ill. And the U.S. government is now looking at this as well. I've actually recommended this now to keep our healthcare providers in the workforce.

ACOSTA: All right. And, again, I mean, the numbers don't lie. If folks can get vaccinated and boosted right now, it sounds like that is a key factor in battling the omicron variant. All right, Elizabeth Cohen, Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you both very much. We'll have much more on all of this.

Coming up, Dr. Anthony Fauci is standing by. He'll be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, just ahead.

New details on the House investigation into the January 6th insurrection, what lawmakers want to know about the Trump war room. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ACOSTA: The chairman of the House January 6 committee tells me the panel will look into any communication with the war room, the so- called war room, at the Willard Hotel, which would include whether former President Donald Trump was in contact with the group there. Meanwhile, the committee is demanding bank records to uncover the money trail behind the January 6th insurrection.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles has the latest on Capitol Hill. Ryan, what are you learning?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we've known for some time that the committee is very interested in where the money came from and how it was spent by these different groups that were organizing and carrying out rallies in the days leading up to January 6. Of course, those rallies served as a prelude to the insurrection here at the Capitol. And it was also what brought the thousands and thousands of people to Washington on that day.

And what we're now learning is that the committee is taking this a step further, actually subpoenaing the bank records of some of those that were connected to some of those events. We know this because Taylor Budowich, who is the former president's current spokesperson, is suing the committee to prevent them from handing over those documents, the committee apparently asking for those documents from his bank, which is JPMorgan.

Now, we don't know if there are other individuals who the committee has subpoenaed these records for, but it would not be a surprise given the fact that they are so interested in this funding, not just the funding of the rallies themselves, Jim, but where this money went to.


Was it all spent specifically on the rally organization itself? Did the money go to other individuals that they did not publicly disclose? This is all of great interest to the committee as they continue to try to find out who is responsible for all the violence that took place on that day. And more specifically, was there an organized effort to try to and get people here to the Capitol on that day to try and interrupt the certification of the election results on January 6th. We know that is a key part of their organization. Finding out the money trail, Jim, seems to be a big part of trying to nail down that specific direct connection between the organizers and what happened here on January 6. Jim?

ACOSTA: It sounds like they certainly are following the money. All right, CNN's Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

Let's get more now with CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and Defense Attorney Shan Wu.

Elie, let me go to you first. Your reaction to Chairman Bennie Thompson of the January 6th committee, telling me that his committee will look into any communication with that Willard Hotel war room, which would include, of course, whether former President Trump was in contact with that group. Thompson was telling me earlier today they're going to be looking at, quote, anyone and he put that in all caps to me, who communicated by telephone with that war room. What do you think about that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jim, I think Representative Thompson here has confirmed that the committee has drawn a bulls eye around what was happening during those war room meetings in January 5th and January 6th at the Willard Hotel and rightly so, because this is where the brain trust, so to speak, maybe I'm being generous with that term, but this is where the brain trust behind the effort to steal the election was having its meetings.

And if you look at who was in those meetings and think of what they've done so far, you have Steve Bannon, he stonewalled the committee, he's now being prosecuted for contempt. You have John Eastman, a lawyer who has taken the Fifth. He is entitled to take the Fifth. But we are allowed to say, boy, that's suspicious. What was going on there? I think the committee has drawn that exact conclusion. And they want to know and they need to know who was in communication from the outside with that war room up to and including potentially Donald Trump.

ACOSTA: And, Shan, how does the committee piece together the role Trump may have played in advising that command center? How do they put that together?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the phone records, one, of course, tell what was said but it gives them a lot of leverage on these folks that were in communication with each other and with others because they won't be able to deny that certain calls occurred when there are records documenting that they did. It also gives them a good timeline. They can go through the times of these calls and use that as kind of a roadmap as to what happened that day to develop that narrative.

ACOSTA: And, Elie, we've also just learned about the committee's subpoena of financial records, which a Trump ally is fighting now. That is a very interesting development. Don't you think?

HONIG: Yes, Jim. When you're a prosecutor, you are taught the first two things you do on any complex case are get the phone records, get the bank records. Get the phone records for exactly the reason Shan just said. You want to know who talked to who, when. Get the bank records because you need to follow the money. And it shows me this committee, which has several former prosecutors on it, is clearly taking that type of approach to the investigation. They need to know where the money came from, who handled the money, who it went out to, did anyone siphon any of it off, could we have potential fraud here? I think those are all key questions for the committee.

ACOSTA: And, Shan, what do you make of that strategy, going after these financial records? I mean, how successful are some of these Trump allies going to be, do you think, and telling a judge that, no, you can't have my financial records, when they're a very critical part of this investigation? WU: Yes, I agree with Elie. I mean, it's a very critical part of the investigation. I don't think they're going to have much success, Jim. I mean, Budowich is sort of like a day late and a dollar short. He basically showed up saying that I've asked the court to delay this one. What JPMorgan told them was you need a court order that says it is being delayed right now.

And I do think one interesting aspect of this, it really underscores how much could be done, maybe is being done, with a criminal investigation. I mean, grand jury subpoenas versus these by Congress are being issued in secret when they're issued. And, usually, the banks are even asked not to disclose it at all. So, were a criminal investigation to be going forward, we could potentially avoid a lot of these delays, like these really baseless lawsuits.

ACOSTA: And, Elie, the committee wants an answer from the Supreme Court on these Trump White House documents by mid-January. Do we think that that is going to play out in that regard? I mean, do we think that they're going to be able to get their hands on these documents and get a favorable decision by the Supreme Court in that kind of timeline?

HONIG: Well, one way or another, Jim, I am confident the committee is going to win. They are on solid legal ground. They won at the district court level. They won at the court of appeals level. The only question now is timing.

There's one of two ways this could go.


If the Supreme Court says, no, we're not taking the case, A, we should know that soon, and, B, that ends it. That means the committee gets the documents. But option B, is if the Supreme Court says, we do want to take that case, they might make that decision. I think it's less likely than likely. But even if they do, ultimately, I think it results in a firm Supreme Court decision against Donald Trump in favor of the committee here. It will take longer but it will have more of a precedential effect.

ACOSTA: All right. Elie Honig, Shan Wu, thank you very much for those insights. We appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: And coming up, Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us live to explain the just released CDC guidelines shortening the isolation time for people who get COVID-19.



ACOSTA: We're following breaking news from the CDC. It's now recommending people infected with COVID-19 isolate for five days instead of ten. This comes as the U.S. is facing a dramatic spike in cases fueled by the omicron variant. The surge expected to get worse this week after Christmas and heading into the New Year.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is at a COVID testing site in Miami. It's been busy out there, hasn't it?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, we have been here all day long, never saw the lines let up once. In fact, when we talk to people, they told us they had been in line, this line of cars you see right behind me, anywhere from two to three hours just to get a test. This is considered one of the busiest testing sites here in South Florida.

I spoke to the general manager of Nomi Health Florida. They are running the sites for the county here in Miami-Dade. He tells me they have seen a 50 percent increase in the demand for testing compared to that peak during the delta wave that was experienced here. Here's what else he had to say.


RON GONCALVES, GENERAL MANAGER, NOMI HEALTH FLORIDA: What we're seeing is just the volumes are coming through and it's a higher degree of volume. So, that is volume that would have happened anyway because of the holidays. I just think with the rapid spread of omicron that's also created a little bit panic. But people are doing the right thing. They're at least going out and seeking a test.


SANTIAGO: And so, Jim, to try to meet that demand that they're calling a challenge right now, they're actually opening four to five more testing sites here in Miami-Dade County over the next few days. That is something that we have just learned today and a result of that volume that you see in the demand for testing.

ACOSTA: All right, Leyla Santiago, thanks so much for that report. We appreciate it.

Joining me now, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Biden. Dr. Fauci, great to see you again.

Let's begin with these new CDC guidelines. Why is the CDC now changing these recommended isolation times for people who test positive for the virus but don't have symptoms? I guess the simple question is why now.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, the reason is that with the sheer volume of new cases that we are having and that we expect to continue with omicron, one of the things we want to be careful of is that we don't have so many people out. I mean, obviously if you have symptoms, you should not be out. But if you are asymptomatic and you are infected, we want to get people back to the jobs, particularly those with essential jobs to keep our society running smoothly. So, I think that was a very prudent and good choice on the part of the CDC, which we spent a considerable amount of time discussing, namely getting people back in half the time that they would have been out so that they can get back to the workplace doing things that are important to keep society running smoothly.

ACOSTA: And are you concerned Americans will have trouble keeping track of all of these changes, these rules that change here and there? And does this boil down to just a big honor system now?

FAUCI: No, I don't think so, Jim. I think it was a good idea to do that because what we were seeing when you have so many cases and many of the omicron cases interestingly are either without symptoms or minimally symptomatic, particularly the breakthrough infections that you get when people have been vaccinated. So, it just makes sense if you keep them out for five days, keep them isolated for five days, then get them back doing their job, doing their work, keeping a mask on to protecting themselves from infecting other individuals. So, I don't think it's confusing. I think it's a rather crisp recommendation.

ACOSTA: And President Biden -- let's talk about testing. President Biden concedes that not enough has been done to expand testing capacity for COVID-19. You're saying that testing will get better in January. We're almost two years into this pandemic. I mean, should we have people scrambling to drugstores, you know, from one drugstore to the next trying to find these tests at this stage in the pandemic?

FAUCI: Well, it should be uniform availability throughout the country. We see some regions of the country where there's no problem getting tests. And then when you have places like high demand, like you've seen in Miami and in New York, then you're starting to see the long lines. It's a combination of people concerned appropriately about omicron, which is spreading so rapidly, as well as the fact that we're in the holiday season.


And people want to get tested before they start mingling with their family and their friends and traveling. So, it really has made a major upsurge in demand for the tests when we are already in a situation where, quite frankly, we don't have enough tests at this particularly point in time to get everybody uniformly to have the availability of testing.

ACOSTA: What do people do?

FAUCI: That will change considerably in January. Well, right now, you just keep trying. Yes. Jim, you can't do the impossible. If you can't find it, you can't find it. You just keep trying and doing your best.

ACOSTA: But I guess the point is is that here we are, you know, we're almost -- we've almost lapped year two. Should it be that way?

FAUCI: No, it shouldn't, Jim, but it is. So, we have to deal with it and we have to make it better. And that's what the president was talking about when he said we're going to make 500 million tests available in the first couple of weeks in January, and thereafter, there will be available 200 to 500 million tests per month in the succeeding months, as well as operating maybe 10,000 testing centers, having an online situation where you can order online and have tests delivered to you. That's going to significantly improve as we get into January and subsequent time. It would be great if we had it right now, but, unfortunately, we don't.

ACOSTA: And let's talk about vaccine mandates. You are -- you've been saying that vaccine mandates for domestic flights should be considered, should be seriously considered. Is that something that President Biden is seriously considering? Is it something that the administration is considering?

BIDEN: No. What I said Jim was that everything that comes up as a possibility, we put it on the table and we consider it. That does not mean that it is going to be likely to happen. Right now, I don't think people should expect that we're going to have a requirement in domestic flights for people to be vaccinated. When I was asked that question, I gave an honest answer. It's on the table, we consider it, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. I doubt if we're going to see something like that in the reasonably foreseeable future.

ACOSTA: If things get worse though, is that something that has to be kept on the table as an option? We didn't expect omicron to clobber us like this.

FAUCI: Well, Jim, you just repeated the scenario that happened when I made the answer to that question. You always keep things open for consideration and you monitor things on a daily and a weekly basis and if sometimes you have to make changes to be commensurate with the situation, you do. Right now, I don't see this being announced or happening in the reasonable future unless things change dramatically.

ACOSTA: And there's a conflict behind the scenes as they're over that idea, is there?

FAUCI: When you say, conflict, I'm not sure what you mean.

ACOSTA: Well, I guess what I'm wondering is it sounds as though you may be in favor of vaccine mandates on airliners whereas maybe others in the administration are not.

FAUCI: No, let's clarify that, Jim. I said that is something that's open for consideration. It's not a question of being in favor of it or not. I'm in favor of what we can do to keep the country safe. If the situation arise where that's something that we think should be important to do, we'll do it. Right now, that's not going to be done. But we never take anything off the table. We always keep things open for consideration.

ACOSTA: And let's talk about kids and COVID. One very troubling trend we're seeing is increasing numbers of children hospitalized with this virus. Note, children under 16 can get boosted and very young kids can't get vaccinated. How worried are you about the risk to our nation's children right now with omicron just tearing across the country?

FAUCI: Well, what I would like is to see those children that are eligible to be vaccinated get vaccinated. We don't have a higher proportion of children 5 to 11 years old who are now clearly eligible to be vaccinated. So, I appeal to parents that if your child is five and over, get that child vaccinated, not only for their own safety because you see there's a lot more infections in children, some of which result in hospitalizations. That's one of the things you don't want to happen. You don't want to see a child get seriously ill. And also children are an important part of our society and you don't want them to be spreading infections among themselves and others.

So, it's really important to get those children vaccinated. We don't have vaccinations available now or approved for children six months to four plus to five. But, hopefully, as we get more information in the coming year in the first quarter of 2022, we'll be able to get those children available for vaccination also.


ACOSTA: And the governor of Nebraska says it is promising that you and the president agree that COVID response should be measured by hospitalizations, not case counts, did you really commit to that new metric or is it not that clear cut?

FAUCI: Well, we better be careful of saying it's a new metric. We still are going to count cases. But what the president and I were saying today is that it becomes very important, particularly when you get so many infections, many of which in the context of where we are right now are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. What really counts is making sure people don't get sick.

So, what we were saying as we go on further and we maybe get more cases, but less hospital hospitalizations, it's important to focus on how well we're doing about keeping people well. If they're in the hospital taking good care of them but trying to keep them out of the hospital by whatever means possible.

ACOSTA: All right. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you very much for being with us. You took a lot of questions. We appreciate it. Happy holidays to you.

FAUCI: You too, Jim. Good to be with you. Thank you.

ACOSTA: Thanks for your time.

And just ahead, we're standing by for police to release body cam video of a deadly shooting and we're learning new information about the teenage girl killed by an apparent stray bullet.



ACOSTA: We're awaiting the release of police body cam video of the shooting that killed a 14-year-old girl. She was in a store dressing room when police fired at an assault suspect.

CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah is working this story for us. Kyung, just an awful story. What is the latest on this investigation?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we anticipate learning a lot more at the top of the hour. That's when the LAPD is going to be releasing video leading up to the shooting and of the shooting itself.

Here's what we know so far. The Los Angeles Police on the day before Christmas Eve, so on December 23rd, right around lunchtime, they were respond to a call of a possible shooting inside a Burlington clothing store. Now, as officers entered, they saw a woman bleeding and a man standing nearby who they believed was the assailant. They shot him in the chest, killing him. A gun was not found. But he was found with some type of metal bike lock. And when officers say he was standing in front of the wall when they looked on the other side of the wall, they found the 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta. She had been fatally shot in the chest. Here's the Los Angeles police chief.


CHIEF MICHEL MOORE, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're doing everything we can to gather as much, to be as transparent as possible, but in the midst of that, we also recognize there's nothing that can be done for this poor family except for us to express my sorrow, my apologies that that tragic outcome occurred.


LAH: Now, the person you're looking at here is the Chilean family of this 14-year-old girl, and here's what they tell our Chilean affiliate, that, from what they understand, that this little girl was one of a number of people inside of the store who ran into the dressing rooms. And they say, unfortunately, the bullet caught her while she was hugging her mom and praying. He says of the Los Angeles Police Department, they're supposed to be the best police department in the world and they shot her. Jim?

ACOSTA: Just a terrible story. All right, CNN's Kyung Lah, thanks for staying on top of that. We appreciate it.

Let's get more on all of this with CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey. Chief, this is -- what a terrible, terrible tragedy and to happen during the holidays. How unusual is this to have a person killed by a stray bullet in an officer-involved shooting? I know it happens from time to time, but just is so heartbreaking.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, fortunately, it is rare. It doesn't happen that often. But, unfortunately, in this case, it did. The key is going to be the release of the video. The body-worn cam video as well as any closed circuit T.V. video that might be within the store, to see whether or not the officer was justified in his use of deadly force. There was no gun recovered. The person did have a bike chain. It could be used as a weapon. But the key is to -- you know, what is it that the officers saw that prompted him to shoot to begin with. Was it reasonable? Was it necessary for him to do that? And that's going to be the key. And I'm sure that the attorney general that is investigating this probably already seen a video. But once we see it, then we'll be able to better determine whether or not the use of force was justified.

But no matter what, it's a tragedy that can't be reversed. I mean, this young girl lost her life and that's just a tragedy. It should not have happened.

ACOSTA: All right. And, of course, we're awaiting that body cam footage to be released by the police department. We'll be watching that and, of course, we'll come back to you on that. CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

ACOSTA: And coming up, the Democrats push to revive the Biden spending bill in the New Year. Could dividing the plan into smaller pieces be the answer?



ACOSTA: Right now, we want to get more reaction to new information on the January 6 investigation.

The chairman of the House Select Committee telling me that the so- called war room at the Willard Hotel is a key part of the probe. That includes any possible calls by then-President Trump to the command center.

And joining me now to talk about that, Representative Jim Himes, a Democrat who serves on the Intelligence Committee.

Let me talk to you about this, Congressman. A lot of key Trump allies were in that Willard Hotel command center. That war room. We don't know a whole lot about what went on in there.

What questions do you have about the level of Trump's involvement and whether he was communicating directly with that group? I suppose any sign of any communication that he had with that group and that war room would be very interesting.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yeah, of course, Jim. And, I mean, I'll just say two things about that, right? I mean, for history's sake and to learn from what happened around the election -- and I don't even mean January 6th. In some ways, I'm more worried about what happened after January 6 with respect to the health of our democracy and what actually happened that day.

But, of course, it's important for two reasons. One, because we need to know all the facts, who was involved and how.


I'm not sure it's important from a political standpoint, right? I mean, you still have 60 percent or so of Republicans believing that Donald Trump won the election. And it doesn't seem to me that there's any list of facts or -- or weight of facts that's going to change that.

But, of course, Jim, the key thing here, the really key thing here is, you know, could you get facts that would show enough evidence to suggest a chargeable conspiracy? You know, could there be information that leads to criminal activity? Because right now, speaking as a guy who was in the chamber on January 6th, it's pretty hard to see, you know, the folks who got fired up by Donald Trump and his people go to jail, although they should go to jail.

But to see the masterminds of all of this, you know, pleading the Fifth, ignoring subpoenas, and potentially walking away with no -- with no accountability.

ACOSTA: All right. Let's switch gears, and ask you about an unsettling exchange President Biden had on Christmas Eve. He was speaking to families updating them on Santa's progress, something we see that the president do typically every Christmas.

And then, one father who was calling in had this to say. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas, as well.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merry Christmas and let's go, Brandon.




ACOSTA: Congressman, I mean, that phrase as you know is right-wing code for blank Joe Biden. That father then joined Steve Bannon on his show to elaborate. Let's listen to that.


JARED SCHMECK: Donald Trump is my president and he should still be president right now. The election was 100 percent stolen.


ACOSTA: I mean, what does that tell you about where we're at right now in terms of the political dialogue in this country?

HIMES: It gets to my earlier point, right? I mean, this is a deep, deep sickness in our democracy. And I don't know how you address it. You asked me whether the, you know, specifics of what happened in the Willard would matter.

There's not a shred of evidence out there that this election was stolen and, in fact, court after court after court, and commission after commission after commission has said, no, it's not. And yet, you get guys like this.

I mean, set aside the basic indecency. Set aside what it says about our country that people talking to the president of the United States can't put aside their petty grudges to behave with some respect. This is a cancer. This is a deep, deep cancer on our democracy, Jim. And I really worry what that means for 2024 and beyond.

ACOSTA: And what about Steve Bannon? I mean, you know, he -- he is trying to return the election from the Willard Hotel war room. He is fighting the committee's investigation. And he still using this podcast to, you know, pump out Trump's big lie and have people on who are spouting the big lie.

How big of a problem is that for getting to the bottom of what happened on January 6th and protecting this democracy as you were saying?

HIMES: It's a huge problem. It's a huge problem. I mean, again, you know, I watched so many of my Republican colleagues in the House spend a year prior to the election casting doubt on whether the election would be fair.

And then, even though they know the election was fair, they say, oh, well look at that. People out there doubted it. And therefore, because they doubt it, by the way, they doubt it because you spread a great deal of doubt and anxiety about it. And, of course, Bannon continues to do exactly the same thing.

Now, why does he do it? Look, some of these people do this because it's how they stay famous. Some of them do it because they make an awful lot of money scamming people and, of course, Steve Bannon had to be pardoned for that. But it's deeply corrosive to our democracy, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Congressman Himes, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

HIMES: Thank you.

ACOSTA: And up next, new details of funeral plans for Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the world remembers his extraordinary work for civil and human rights.


ACOSTA: Funeral plans have been announced for Archbishop Desmond Tutu who died yesterday at age 90. CNN's Larry Madowo has details.

Larry, what are you learning?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are learning, Jim, that his ashes will be interred in Cape Town. This is a cathedral that was important to him. He preached there many times in the fight against apartheid. It used to be called the people's cathedral. His body will lie in state on Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. so people can pay their respects because the actual funeral will be restricted to just 100 people. That is the current South African government restriction on attendance at funerals so he won't get this big stadium funeral service like Nelson Mandela did.

This is an old friend and contemporary in the fight against apartheid. But still, an incredible, extraordinary life for a man considered the moral compass of South Africa who saw injustice, he called it out and he believed if you choose neutrality in injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

ACOSTA: Just stirring words. And, Larry, while this may be a smaller funeral, tributes, they have been pouring in nonstop. How is this anti-apartheid hero being remembered around the world? What stands out to you?

MADOWO: Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been remembered from kings, queens, royalty, prime ministers, and presidents all over the world and people in South Africa, we have heard from the pope and Dalai Lama and Queen Elizabeth and Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and leaders from every corner of the world. We saw tributes from President Biden and Jill Biden who remembered him as a true servant of god and of the people.

And President Obama called him a friend, a moral compass, and a mentor to him. And you remember that, Jim, President Obama awarded him the presidential Medal of Freedom back in 2009.

But this is a man who was friends with many of the presidents and leaders. Former-president Jimmy Carter, former President Bill Clinton. So, really, an extraordinary life and he believed that he said his father told him don't raise your voice, improve your argument.

ACOSTA: All right. CNN's Larry Madowo, thanks very much for that. I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.