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The Situation Room

Child COVID Hospitalizations Hit New Pandemic High; New White House Readout On Biden's High-Stakes Call With Putin; 1/6 Committee To Supreme Court, Reject Trump's Appeal; Colorado Governor Declares Emergency As "Truly Historic Windstorm" Fans Wildfires In Colorado; Ghislaine Maxwell Faces Up To 65 Years After Guilty Verdict. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired December 30, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: As cases explode nationwide, the FDA is expected to green light COVID boosters for 12 to 15-year-olds soon.

Also breaking, we're now getting the first word from the White House about President Biden's high stakes call with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Did it ease or escalate tensions over Ukraine?

And as the U.S. nears one year since the Capitol attack, the January 6th committee is asking the Supreme Court to reject former President Donald Trump's efforts to thwart the investigation. I'll talk live with a panel member about the escalating legal battle.

Welcome to our viewers here 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 do begin with breaking news on the record-shattering onslaught of the omicron variant. More children are now being hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any time during the pandemic.

Let's go to CNN's Tom Foreman. These COVID cases are skyrocketing but the FDA is scrambling to give 12 to 15-year-olds greater protection. That's a very important development.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're trying to pull out all of the stops because they're saying something has to be done to slow this onslaught, and even though hospitalizations, as a percentage, have not shot up as much as they might have, they're saying that's because people have been vaccinated, and if we can get more in the same state and boosted, the better off we'll be.


FOREMAN (voice over): With the pandemic clocking unprecedented numbers of infections, the FDA is expected to okay booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine soon for 12 to 15-year-olds. The CDC has intensified its warning against cruise ship travel amid dozens of outbreaks. And health officials are advising caution on shore too. DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I would not eat in a restaurant now without a mask. I would absolutely not go into a bar. If you go into the bar now, you are very likely to get COVID whether you're vaccinated or not. If you're unvaccinated and you go into the bar, you will come out of it infected.

FOREMAN: As predicted, the surge is not hitting everyone equally.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR (voice over): If you are unvaccinated, you are ten times more likely to be a case and 20 times more likely to be a fatality.

DR. LEE SAVIO BEERS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: We're still getting the data, but what we're hearing from hospitals really across the nation, and this is very consistent, is that the vast majority of the children who are being admitted are unvaccinated.

FOREMAN: So, many people are being affected, many states are reporting near record highs. Maryland hospital officials are calling for a limited emergency declaration. In New York City, the fire department has so many people out sick, they're reminding everyone to call 911 only in true emergencies. And everywhere, the drumbeat for more testing is growing louder, especially with schools reopening next week.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Testing, testing, testing all the time. So, this is what we have to do. And you're seeing this in New York, you're seeing this in D.C., you're seeing this in as many places as we can.

FOREMAN: In the meantime, two new reports indicate a booster shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine significantly lowers the risk of severe illness from the omicron variant. And health officials are pleading no matter which vaccine you choose, get your first shot, your second, then get boosted too.

SYRA MADAD, SENIOR DIRECTOR, SYSTEM-WIDE SPECIAL PATHOGENS PROGRAM, NYC HEALTH + HOSPITALS: That's where, you know, so many of us are echoing, go ahead and make sure that you get vaccinated if you haven't gotten your first or second shot and getting your booster dose. That's really what's going to protect you right now.


FOREMAN (on camera): Make no mistake about it, even though this didn't produce the rush on hospitals that it might have, there is still a lot of people showing up at the emergency care facilities and they are overwhelming facilities that had been pounded for two years now, Jim. That's one of the reasons people are saying, whatever you want to do for New Year's Eve, think it over carefully and maybe just stay home, be with people who you know are vaccinated or safe. Don't make this worse going into the New Year. Jim?

ACOSTA: Great advice. All right, Tom Foreman, thanks.

Let's bring in Dr. Peter Hotez, co-Director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. Dr. Hotez, thanks so much.

You know, as pediatric hospitalizations in the U.S. reach the highest that they have been throughout this pandemic, just so alarming. We're learning that the FDA will allow these booster shots for 12 to 15- year-olds in the coming days. I mean, that's going to be God send to a lot of parents out there who have been waiting for this to happen.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: Yes. And the reasons, Jim, are there's a twofold concern regarding the kids. One -- threefold, really. The hospitalizations among children's hospitals are starting to increase. So, this business that it's not a severe disease doesn't always hold. So, we are seeing the kids get hospitalized. And so many of the pediatric staff, ICU staff, nurses, respiratory therapists, docs are getting knocked out, not seriously ill but at home.


So, that's where you get the danger point.

And my concern is now schools are going to be opening and right at a time when this thing is peaking at 300,000 new cases a day. It's this wave across the northeast that's going to extend into other parts of the country and then even more kids are likely going to get sick.

So, we're going to be in for a very rough three or four weeks. I think it's good news that we'll have the boosters for the 12 to 15-year- olds, so that will help a little bit. But this is going to be a very rough time not only for the kids, but for the adults as well.

ACOSTA: And the latest surge of coronavirus cases that shatter the all-time pandemic peak in this country. There's a lot of confusion about how to protect ourselves right now, especially with limited access to tests while exposure to the virus seems really all but inevitable at this point, or at least that's the concern that people have, but it's just inevitable. But how do you think we should be navigating this?

HOTEZ: Well, I think we have to -- you know, there's a lot of happy talk about the lower severity from the omicron variant, and it's true, but it's not that much lower. So, we're still seeing a lot of hospitalizations, some of them may be from delta, but omicron hospitalizations too and some breakthroughs.

So, I think the message is as we head into the New Year's weekend, be conservative, be thoughtful, don't do reckless things. Try to keep your gatherings small, try to keep surround yourself with those who are vaccinated. You don't want to come out the other end of this weekend hospitalized or very sick.

So, this is still a bad wave and has different features from the previous wave, but that unique one-two punch of hospitalizations and the hospital staff, essential workers getting knocked out, if you call 911 for an ambulance, you don't know that it's going to come as quickly as you might hope. So, there's a lot of red flags here. ACOSTA: And this is an important thing to talk about. The surge comes as a significant portion of the country remains unvaccinated. Some 64 million people who are eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine have not done so. Many of them are just being stubborn about this. Could this current surge, do you think, could it have been avoided if disinformation was not so rampant in this country right now?

HOTEZ: That's right. If we had reached levels of 80, 85 percent vaccination, potentially, this could have -- and boosted, this could have staved it off. And, unfortunately, this disinformation is more than disinformation. It's a killer. Jim, we have lost, by my calculation, since June 1 of this year 200,000 unvaccinated Americans have needlessly lost their lives from COVID, despite the widespread availability of vaccinations.

Anti-science is one of the leading killers of young and middle aged adults in the United States. And I think we have to take more aggressive steps to counter it because it's not going to stop. We're still at 12,000 deaths per day. Those are all among the unvaccinated, just about, and those are all among people who have made a deliberate decision to refuse vaccines or, in some cases, openly defied because of what they're hearing from this anti-science aggression.

ACOSTA: And just to follow-up on that. So, as a society, we are just going to be scrambling from one pandemic crisis to the next until we get that portion of the population vaccinated? Is that what we're looking at right now, do you think?

That and vaccinating the world, absolutely. And what I have asked the Biden administration to do is I said, look, this is a well-oiled, well-funded anti-vaccine ecosystem. These are not mom and pop groups. They have funding, they have organization. They have leaders in the U.S. Congress. They have the conservative think tanks. They have the far right wing news outlets. And this is going to require homeland security. This is going to require the Justice Department, the Commerce Department to help us figure it out because the health sector just doesn't know what to do at this point.

ACOSTA: Yes, it's such a difficult problem. Dr. Peter Hotez, thanks for what you do to get reliable information out there. We appreciate it, as always.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

ACOSTA: And breaking news next, we're learning details of the high stakes call that just wrapped up between President Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin.



ACOSTA: There's more breaking news we're following. We are just getting new details of the 50-minute phone call between President Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin who requested the conversation. We're covering all angles with CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson in Moscow for us. But let's begin with CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond with the president in Delaware.

Jeremy, we just got a readout from the White House on the call. What does it say?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. I just got off a call with a senior administration official who was briefing us on this conversation. This official said that the tone of the conversation was serious and substantive. And we have also this statement from the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, who says that President Biden, quote, urged Russia to deescalate tensions in Ukraine. He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.

And, ultimately, this is the focus for the United States and for President Biden during this 50-minute conversation that took place this afternoon. It was aimed for President Biden to give the Russian president a very clear sense of the two paths that he now faces, a sense of the stark choice that he faces as he decides whether or not Russia is going to invade Ukraine. To make clear that on the one side, there is this meaningful diplomatic engagement that can go forward beginning with those talks between U.S. and Russian officials on January 10th. And on the other side of that, if the Russian president decides to move forward with the invasion are serious costs and consequences, economic sanctions as well as increased NATO force posture right in Eastern Europe, right Russia's doorstep. So, that is what officials say the president emphasized.

And they also said that it was really aimed at setting the tone for those January 10th discussions to give both sides a better sense of what may be achievable.

ACOSTA: And I know this is a difficult question to answer, but was there any indication about what Putin has, you know, in store for Ukraine?


Did he tip his hand at all? I suppose that's difficult to answer.

DIAMOND: Yes. That senior administration official was actually asked about whether or not they had a better sense of Putin's intentions as it relates to whether or not he's going to invade Ukraine. The official said they do not. And rather than focus on Vladimir Putin's words during this conversation, the official said that the White House is much more focused on actions by the Russian side.

And that's why we have seen the U.S. Step up its monitoring of Russian military movements. They have now flown two U.S. spy planes, two U.S. reconnaissance missions over Eastern Ukraine, a plane that has a very powerful radar that can detect military movements on the other side of the Ukrainian border. And so that's where the U.S.'s focus is, is on monitoring those movements at this time.

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

Let's get more on this breaking news with CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson in Moscow, CNN White House Reporter Natasha Bertrand and CNN National Security Commentator Mike Rogers, a former House Intelligence Committee chairman.

Nic, let me start with you. You're in Moscow for us. We know this call came about at the request of Vladimir Putin. Tell us what you're learning about this conversation. It lasted about 50 minutes. What's the Russian side saying about this? We know sometimes they like to get out their take out on these kinds of conversations before the Americans do.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, sure. They were pretty quick to give us their read on it and an extensive read as well, serious and constructive. So, the tone seems to be the same. They're saying that they're happy with the way that the call went. They're glad about it. They say they believe that President Putin was able to get a sense from President Biden, that President Biden is willing to understand what they call the essence of Russia's security demands. That is, you know, NATO's presence or taking on of -- taking on of Ukraine into NATO.

So, you know, the -- from the Russian perspective, they feel that that message is sort of not being utterly rejected, that some semblance of it is being absorbed or understood. But the Russian side also is saying, look, President Biden made it very clear that he wants for see a de-escalation of Russian forces, and if there isn't, there will be serious economic, military and financial sanctions. This is what the Kremlin said, and Putin, they say, responded that if that were the case, if that was to happen, then this would provide a serious rupture in relations between the two countries and this would be a mistake. It would be a generational mistake.

ACOSTA: Chairman Rogers, it certainly would be a generational mistake. What do you think the Russian leader's motivation is here? Are you concerned that this was some kind of a ploy on Putin's part? It almost always is.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: You know, I think he was trying to determine the resolve of the United States in this, candidly. I think that's why he asked for the call. Remember, this is something that he's talked about for the better part of a decade about making sure that Ukraine did not go into NATO, number one, but, two, didn't lean western when it came to its economic ties. And he's getting a lot of that just by putting troops along the border, making the economy there just a little bit less stable, less interesting for western investment. All of those things play into Putin's hands.

And I think today, I mean, remember the United States took -- which I thought was a mistake, took unilateral action against -- military action against the Russians if they came across the border off the table. That goes into his calculus a little bit. And I think this was all about detecting that resolve. Remember, he's still in Georgia. That happened in 2008. He put troops into Georgia. They're still there. He still owns Crimea, by all accounts. He had a really aggressive cyberattack in 2015 and 2016 in Ukraine. And so -- and he's still doing information operation campaigns there. So he's still moving out on his plan. I really think today was about is there resolve in the deterrence part of a diplomatic resolution.

ACOSTA: Right, checking those pressure points. And, Natasha, you have done a lot of reporting on this. What message did the White House want to get across and did they get that message across? And based on what you're learning, do you think the White House was successful?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it depends on who you ask, I guess, but I think that the White House, really with this phone call, just wanted to convey the tone of the talks that are going to happen on January 10th. They kind of wanted to lay out a roadmap of what the U.S. expects to see over the next week or so, especially ahead of the talks and whether or not Russia is going to drawdown at all, whether they're going to take steps to deescalate, which is what the White House has said would produce a more productive conversation. But they also wanted to convey to the Russians that there will be consequences if they did not de-escalate.


Whether or not it was successful, well, there seemed to be kind of two different interpretations of the call that have come out on the U.S. side and the Russian side. The Russian side, as Nic said, is saying that the U.S. seemed very open to their concerns and hearing out their concerns and seemed much more kind of conciliatory than the U.S. frame of it, which is that we made it very clear that we are not willing to compromise when it comes to NATO, when it comes to each country's ability to make that decision of whether they want to take steps required to join NATO.

So, it seems like there's a bit of spin coming out from the Russian side, which is unsurprising. The White House is sticking firm in its position here that if Russia does take this step, they are going to take action. And that's in consultation with allies. It's not going to be unilateral. But they did say that the U.S. military forces in Ukraine are off the table. Whether that gives Putin some kind of leverage remains to be seen. He has kind of backed himself into a corner, Putin has, because he is making very specific demands and on a short timeline, and he has forces massed there. And so if he doesn't get what he wants, it remains to be seen whether he uses that as a pretext for an attack.

ACOSTA: And, Chairman Rogers, according to a Kremlin official, Vladimir Putin told Biden that new sanctions against Russia would be a, quote, colossal mistake. What's your reaction to that? Because, obviously, if he carries out some sort of incursion into Ukraine, if there's some sort of invasion, there would be sanctions. And so Putin is apparently warning Biden that they would be a, quote, colossal mistake, sanctions. What's your reaction to that?

ROGERS: Yes. Listen, Putin is making the calculus right now. I think he has a good sense of what the reaction will be, including, by the way, this announcement about the spy mission. And, by the way, when the government leaks that there's a spy mission, it's not the spy mission, it's an advertising campaign. They wanted Putin to know. They wanted the west to know that the United States were making these kind of flights even though the Russians probably already knew that.

So, he's making this calculation. He's going down his checklist. What sanctions could they do that would really hurt them? Could they weather the storm versus even moving troops to the river, which would split Ukraine in half? And, of course, that has all of the stuff on the half that he would have, that Putin wants. He's making all of those calculations.

Could they survive it? Is there another place to sell their goods? Remember, it's not like they're going to shut down the manufacturing sector in Russia. When was the last time you bought anything that said, made in Russia? So they're looking at, you know, could they offset that economic damage with natural resources, natural gas, oil and other things with China and other things. So, he's going through the checklist.

I think today, he was just trying to put his finger on the pulse to see if it was enough for him not to go into the Ukraine. Remember, all of the places he is, very low consequence thus far.

ACOSTA: All right, which means these upcoming talks in January are going to be so important. Thanks to all of you. We appreciate those insights. Great to hear from all of you. Thanks so much.

And more breaking news coming up just ahead on the new pandemic record for COVID hospitalizations among children and whether it's going to get worse.



ACOSTA: And tonight, the U.S. is blowing through pandemic records as quickly as the omicron variant is sweeping across the country. Let's get more on the breaking news about hospital admissions for children hitting a new high.

Our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us. Elizabeth, how much worse could this get for the children in the country?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, this could get so much worse. Omicron is so transmissible these case numbers are going up so quickly, that even if a small percentage of children are hospitalized, a small percentage of the huge number is still a big number. And that's why we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation today where we have broken the pediatric hospitalization number.

Let's take a look at these numbers. They do not tell a happy story. So, the peak for hospital admissions per day was back in September, and that was 342 admissions per day for the week ending September 4th. Now, if we look at the week ending September 28th, the admissions per day were about 378, an average of 378 per day. And that is just going to get higher. That number is not coming down any time soon. So, hopefully, this might help a bit. We are hearing at CNN that within days we're going to be -- there's going to be an FDA authorization for booster shots for children ages 12 to 15. If you remember, they were given their first round of shots back last spring. So, let's take a look at those numbers. Once the green light is given for these young people to get boosters, there will be 4 million who will be eligible because they are six months or more past the second shot. And in addition, that's another 4.7 million children that age who, in the weeks and months to come, will be eligible for it.

So, that's good, but there's another number that is actually much more important even than those two numbers, and that is that one out of three children, between the ages of 12 and 15, haven't had a single shot. So, the booster is important, but it's even more important to get that first set of shots and someone needs to think of a way to get to those parents, one in three children, 12 to 15, not having a single shot.



ACOSTA: Yes, Elizabeth. We have so many millions of Americans in this country who just have not gotten the message on vaccinations, especially for their kids. It is such a difficult problem to solve. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very for that.

And joining me now is the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Lee Savio Beers. Dr. Beers, thank you so much for being with us.

You told CNN that at Children's National Hospital, where you work, about half of the hospitalizations are children under five who can't get vaccinated yet. What can we all do to help protect that vulnerable part of the population right now?

BEERS: Well, thank you so much for asking that, because I think it's really important and it is something that we sometimes forget when we're talking about that pandemic, is that we still do have a lot of very young children who aren't yet eligible for the vaccine. And so the things that we can do -- it's back to the basics, it's the things we have been talking about all along.

If you are eligible to get vaccinated please do. There is no better time than now if you haven't already. If you're eligible for a booster, as you're just talking, get your booster shot. And also I think just show some caution, right? When you're, you know, out and about, wear a mask, avoid busy indoor gatherings, crowded indoor gatherings, and just show that extra bit of caution so we can help keep this variant from spreading in the way that it really is right now and help keep our littlest ones safe.

ACOSTA: And the FDA is expected to broaden this COVID-19 vaccine booster eligibility to include those ages 12 to 15 in the coming days. That's huge news for a lot of parents out there. Are you hopeful that that will make a big difference? And I guess, you know, what about what Elizabeth Cohen was saying moments ago, which is we have so many teenagers in that segment of the population who have not been vaccinated yet. I mean, how do we get that message across?

BEERS: Yes. I think these are both really important issues. And I think we are looking forward to -- and hopeful that there will be a booster shot authorized for our adolescents in the coming week. We'll have to, of course, see where the data takes us and we'll have to see what the FDA and the CDC decide. But, absolutely, we'll recommend that and that will be really helpful in helping keeping the kids safe and healthy, keep adolescents safe and healthy.

But also I know parents still have lot of questions. And I think some parents were sort of holding off wanting to see how things went. There was a report just a day out from the CDC talking about the experience so far with children who have had the vaccines ages 5 to 11, just reinforcing that this has really been a safe and effective vaccine. And so if you're a parent who's on the fence, I would say, you know, talk to your pediatrician. Look to reputable sources for information because I think the time is now and we want to make sure your kids stay healthy and safe.

ACOSTA: Right, before the variant comes next and the one after that and so on if we can't get this under control. We don't know that that's going to be like. Dr. Lee Savio Beers, thanks so much for that expertise. We appreciate it.

BEER: Right. Thank you so much for talking with this important issue.

ACOSTA: You bet. Just ahead, where does the insurrection investigation stand right now? And as we're nearing one year since the Capitol attack, I'll talk with a member of the January 6th select committee.

And there is breaking news out of Colorado, a state of emergency has been ordered as dangerous wildfires are now being fanned by powerful winds.



ACOSTA: And we're following some breaking news out of Colorado, where fast moving wildfires have prompted a state of emergency and mass evacuation. More on that in just a moment.

But, first, the January 6th committee is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to deny former President Trump's request to shield his records from House investigators. The legal battle in intensifying as we are on the brink of one full year since the insurrection.

We are joined by a member of the January 6th select committee, Representative Zoe Lofgren. Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with us.

Your committee is arguing to the Supreme Court that the January 6 investigation outweighs Trump's request for confidentiality and executive privilege and all that. Can you lay out the case as you see it? What are you hoping that the court will listen to at the end of the day?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, first, the court doesn't need to take this case up at all. The trial court and the appellate court basically said that the former president had no case. The claim of executive privilege was not found to be valid since the current president, President Biden, has waived it as to these records.

As the appellate court noted, in order to get injunctive relief, you need to show irreparable harm and likelihood that you'll prevail at trial. The former president didn't try to do that. He just said he wanted to win but made no showing as to irreparable harm.

It's worth noting that, just today, a whole series of former Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush White House lawyers and Justice Department officials filed what's called an amicus brief saying that Congress should prevail in this and that basically the president's suit should not be prevailing.


So, we're hopeful that the court will simply decline to take this case. It's completely discretionary on their part. You can imagine the circumstance where a former president would have a valid claim, but that's not the case in this case. So, they should wait for a more suitable presentation of facts and it's clear, obviously, that the former president's main effort is to delay. He doesn't have a case. If he can delay it, he thinks he will win. So, I'm hopeful the court will see right through that.

ACOSTA: And I want to look at something that Trump tweeted the day before the insurrection. He wrote, quote, let me put this up on the screen, I hope the Democrats and even more importantly the weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won't stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen.

He was referring to all the people who were coming into Washington the day before the insurrection. There's still a lot we don't know what -- about what Trump was up to before and during the January 6th insurrection. Congresswoman, are you confident that you are going to get those answers and do you have any more of those answers now?

LOFGREN: Well, that's our goal and our intent is to get all of the information out, you know? We are seeking the information, as you know, from close associates of the former president. But we're also getting information from lesser known individuals who were in his government that is helping us to put pieces together. Clearly, getting the information that is currently in the archives would be very important for the committee to help get the entire facts in order.

So, we're committed to getting the full picture, revealing it to the American people and also coming up with recommendations for legislative changes that would make our country less vulnerable to this kind of misconduct. ACOSTA: And Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell tweeted a reminder of why your investigation matters today. We can show that to our viewers. He quotes former Vice President Mike Pence, who referred to January 6th as one day in January. And he writes this happened to me, giving him and others time to escape to safety, so he wouldn't get hanged, executed. To some, my efforts and injuries are just an exaggeration. They did this to me.

And there are photos in the tweet, Congresswoman, I don't know if you can see it, of all the injuries or some of the injuries he sustained. We should note other police officers from that day obviously sustained very serious injuries. How important is it that Americans don't forget what happened that day and is that part of what is driving you and this committee?

LOFGREN: Well, I think it's very important that we not forget officers, such as that one, and others sustained serious injuries, so that members of Congress and the senators and the vice president would not suffer physical harm. I owe him and the rest of the Capitol police a debt of gratitude for my safety.

But even more important than my safety is the continuation of our democracy. That was what was under attack, not just the members of the Congress or the vice president who they say they wanted to hang. But the peaceful transition of power, the very essence of our democracy was what was hanging by a thread that day. We'd better not forget it if we want to maintain our democratic republic.

ACOSTA: All right. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of the January 6th committee, thanks again. As always, we appreciate it and Happy New Year. Thanks for your time.

LOFGREN: Thank you, you too.

ACOSTA: Breaking news next, a wildfire emergency unfolding right now in Colorado, the flames being fanned by hurricane-force winds.



ACOSTA: There's breaking news out of Colorado. The governor has declared a state of emergency because of wildfires that are being fanned by hurricane-force winds.

Joining us now over the phone is the Boulder County Emergency Operations Center spokesperson, Sarah Huntley.

Sarah, these images we're seeing right now are just unbelievable. Tell us what you're facing in Colorado right now. How far have the fires spread and how many are being impacted?

SARA HUNTLEY, BOULDER COUNTY EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER SPOKESPERSON (via telephone): Sure. We had two wildfires in our county today, both that started in grasslands and fueled by heavy winds. We have no structures damaged or any reports of any trouble there, but we have a significant fire southeast of the city of Boulder, affecting two communities called Superior and Lewisville. We have thousands of people who have evacuated their homes. It's about 1,600 acres at the moment and still very actively burning, even though we're coming upon night fall here.

ACOSTA: How unusual is this to see such significant and devastating fires in the middle of winter? You would think we wouldn't see something like this.

HUNTLEY: It's very concerning. We have very dry conditions here and today as you mentioned, we had hurricane-force winds. So any fire that starts can spread incredibly quickly. What's unusual about this fire, it's spread very quickly into the populated areas. We know we have probably hundreds of homes and businesses that have been consumed by fire. We obviously cannot do a damage assessment with the situation being as volatile as it is. And we are encouraging anybody in we are encouraging people to evacuate.

ACOSTA: What do you think led to this? Just dealing with very dry conditions recently?

HUNTLEY: Yes, actually, in our area the first notable snow is to fall tomorrow.


We are obviously very hopeful that occurs. We've gotten more snow in the mountain area but we are in the foothills and it is incredibly dry and the hefty winds are making it very easy for fire conditions to get very bad quickly.

ACOSTA: How are the resources there for first responders? Do you have all the help you need right now?

HUNTLEY: We have terrific resources. We have mutual aid agreements. We have a lot of nearby jurisdictions helping us. It was a little bit concerning earlier today when we had two different fires going, two different parts of our county.

But we were able to mobilize resources from our North Fire to the Marshall Fire once that got a little bit under control. So, we do have plenty of firefighting resources. This many evacuations, we've also had to draw a lot on our sheriff's resources to help people get safely out of town.

ACOSTA: All right. Sarah Huntley, thanks very much for jumping on the phone with us with the Bolder County Emergency Operations Center. The governor there declaring an emergency as this truly historic windstorm is fanning major fires in Colorado. We'll stay on top of it and bring you the latest as it comes in.

And breaking news next. Wildfires as we were just saying a few moments ago rapidly spreading in Colorado fueled by what officials are calling a very, a truly historic windstorm. We'll have more on that in a moment. A programming note. This Sunday night, join James Taylor and Carole

King for an unforgettable night of music. The CNN film "Just Call Out My Name" premieres at 9:00 Eastern.

Here's a preview.


JAMES TAYLOR, SINGER: The challenge was how to do a terrific show in a really large arena.

CAROLE KING, SINGER: We wish everybody could be close in. One way to do that is to perform in the round.

TAYLOR: We came up with the idea we would basically have a club in an arena, also rotating slowly, stage rotates. We've designed the show to be as close and intimate as possible and to play to everybody in the room.





ACOSTA: Breaking news: the growing wild fire emergency in Colorado is prompting evacuations in at least two towns with hurricane force winds making the situation dramatically worse. Stay with CNN for more on the crisis as it unfold. We'll stay on top of it as the night goes on.

Now the latest on the case of Ghislaine Maxwell facing up to 65 years in prison after being found guilty of sex trafficking of a minor for Jeffrey Epstein.

Let's get more with our legal analysts, Jennifer Rodgers and Paul Callan.

Jennifer, let me start with you. Do you think Maxwell could now flip and give authorities information on others who are involved? There have been some big names as you know who have come up, you know, that have come up throughout this saga. What do you think? Would she be much of a help to prosecutors at this point?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, she could try to flip, Jim. I don't anticipate that will happen, though, for a few reasons. One is that she has to give up a lot. Everything basically you have to go in and tell them everything you've known including everything that you've done that is illegal. I'm not sure prosecutors would want to cooperate her at this point. She had more leverage before she was convicted and facing perhaps the rest of her life in prison.

The other issue is what can she cooperate on? Even if she is willing to give up names of people involved with these girls she would have to do more than that to cooperate her. She would have to give up chargeable pieces.

It is just tough here where we don't know if these men were involved at all and if they were involved in criminal activity whether they were involved in federal criminal activity of the sort that Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein were charged with as opposed to state charges like statutory rape or sexual abuse.

ACOSTA: And, Paul Callan, what do you think? Does Maxwell likely have information she could offer or as Jennifer was saying would it have to be more than that? They would need evidence to move on, that kind of thing.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. They would need evidence. They have a statute of limitations problem also. She may have great evidence on something that happened way back in Florida 25 years ago, but it may not be within the statute of limitations. So regardless of how big a figure she might be able to incriminate it might not be useable.

The second thing is, remember, she had a horrible time in prison pretrial. They were in court five or six times trying to get her bail lowered and never succeeded at it. I think she would have given up any information that she had at that point to get out of jail. That was her get out of jail card. She never played it then. So, to me, it doesn't look like she has a get out of jail card.

ACOSTA: Jennifer, we just have a little time left. I wonder what you make of the fact that right now the only person being punished in this sex trafficking ring is a woman. Not to downplay Maxwell's guilty but she was not alone in this.

RODGERS: Certainly not. I mean, Jeffrey Epstein obviously was charged first but then died by suicide. He is the one who got away in that sense in terms of criminal liability.

But, listen, she was the number two. You really can't do this without a woman to be honest because she had to groom and find and entice them. She was a big fish here.

ACOSTA: Fascinating.

All right. Jennifer Rodgers, Paul Callan, thanks so much.

I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.