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Now, High-Stakes House Meeting On Releasing Trump's Taxes; January 6th Committee Begins Handing Over Evidence, Transcripts To Justice Department; Plans Under Way For Ukraine's Zelenskyy To Visit White House Tomorrow; GOP Cong.-Elect Facing Scrutiny Over Resume Discrepancies; Taliban Release Two Americans Detained in Afghanistan. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 20, 2022 - 18:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a high-stakes meeting on whether boxes full of former President Trump's tax returns should be made public. We're waiting a vote on Capitol Hill that could deliver a defeat to Trump after years of his fighting to keep taxes secret.

Also tonight, the January 6th committee begins handing over transcripts and other evidence to the Justice Department as it prepares to release its final report. Will the information persuade prosecutors to charge Trump with crimes as the panel is recommending?

And breaking news, plans are underway for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit the White House tomorrow, as President Biden is set to officially announce the U.S. is sending Patriot missile systems to Ukraine.

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

We begin with two investigations of former President Donald Trump that are moving forward tonight, a House committee deciding whether the public will finally see Trump's tax returns and the Justice Department beginning to receive the January 6th committee's evidence against the former president.

Lauren Fox and Katelyn Polantz are following these stories as they unfold this hour. First, I want to go to Lauren who was on Capitol Hill. So, Lauren, how soon could we get a decision on Trump's tax returns?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, they have been in this meeting since about 3:00. So, it's been hours. And it looks like they could be in there for a while, because pizzas just went in, and usually on Capitol Hill that means they're going to continue their deliberation and they need to be fed at some point given that it's the dinner hour. One thing to keep in mind about this is that any decision they make, we expect they will come out of executive session and there will be a vote about whether or not they are going to release any of former President Donald Trump's tax information.

I just want to point out that right behind me is the room where they are meeting right now, Brianna. So, we will keep you updated as soon as we get any information. But it has been a long meeting thus far. It could be several more hours that lawmakers are deliberating.

KEILAR: Any indication which way they will go?

FOX: Well, I think one thing that we are really looking for right now is whether or not they would release all of Trump's tax returns that they have access to, or whether they would release some kind of summary explaining their findings.

Remember, when House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal requested this tax information from the former president, one of the reasons he wanted that information was he said he had a legislative purpose, he wanted to see if the presidential audit program was working properly.

So, we are waiting to see if there would be any kind of repercussion if lawmakers are going to be trying to move some kind of legislation or introduce some bill as part of that request and part of that investigation. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Lauren, we will stay tuned along with you at this critical hour on this decision here.

I do now want to go to the January 6th investigation and the handover of evidence from the House select committee to the Justice Department. Katelyn Polantz has the latest on this story. Katelyn, tell us more about what the committee is giving to federal prosecutors.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Brianna, the committee is now starting to hand over evidence and transcripts that the Justice Department has been waiting for, for a very, very long time, as this investigation was ongoing.

Now, tomorrow, the public also is going to see a little bit more of the committee's findings. There is a final report expected to be released. That could be as long as eight chapters, hundreds of pages. There could be transcripts, as well, that would be released to the public tomorrow.

And the Justice Department, in doing its investigation, they've been waiting for this sort of stuff for a very long time. And they're going to be looking for what key witnesses, perhaps in their criminal investigation, have been telling the House in the testimony that also would be under oath.

And they also may be looking for things to happen during the course of the congressional investigation, possible obstruction of that investigation, possible witness tampering, things that the committee did highlight yesterday in the summary that they released and in their public hearing.

KEILAR: And, Katelyn, you also have exclusive new information about a startling allegation that was made by the January 6th committee. Tell us about this.

POLANTZ: Right. So, Brianna, in the summary yesterday, the committee did highlight a lawyer that was paid by Donald Trump, a PAC working with Donald Trump, the Save America Pac, who was advising a client to mislead the committee. We now at CNN, Pamela Brown, Jamie Gangel and I, have been able to confirm that the witness that they were talking about who was advised to mislead was Cassidy Hutchison, their start witness, and the lawyer at that time was a man named Stefan Passantino.


Passantino was a White House ethics lawyer, during the Trump administration, then was representing Cassidy Hutchison, was getting payments through an LLC that he set up to represent her and other witnesses and do political law. And so that she, right before she was about to give her public testimony that was very damaging to Donald Trump, she changed lawyers. There was a big mystery around this.

And now there is a he said/she said happening of what happens. The committee is saying that she did say a client did tell them that the lawyer was advising her that she should testify, she couldn't recall certain things, when she wasn't did able to, that there were certain things she was going to say that could cast a bad light on Donald Trump, and she was saying that the lawyer told her, we don't want to go there, we don't want to talk about this. So, those are some really serious accusations that the committee is levying.

Now, Stefan Passantino did release a statement to CNN about what happened here. He said, I represented Ms. Hutchison honorably, ethically and fully consistent with her sole interest as she communicated them to me. I believe Ms. Hutchinson was being truthful and cooperative with the committee throughout the several interview sessions in which I represented her.

Now, since this, we have also learned tonight that Cassidy Hutchison has spoken to the Justice Department about this, and we also have learned that Stefan Passantino has taken a leave of absence from another law firm, a major law firm out of the Midwest that he's also a partner in. Brianna?

KEILAR: Very important reporting. Katelyn, thank you so much for sharing that with us.

I do want to bring in CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and CNN Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams with us, as well.

There's so much to talk about. I want to start with the former president's tax returns, Gloria, because as we see there, this is the scene on the Hill, Lauren Fox is waiting outside the committee room, the pizzas are there. Are we going to finally find out if these tax returns are released? What do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're going to have to vote, and that will come at some point. And I think the question is -- you know, Donald Trump has spent decades trying to keep his tax returns private. He ran for the presidency and didn't release his tax returns, as presidential candidates normally do. They're not required to do it by law. I think maybe they should be having gone through all of this.

And so I think if there's a fear in Donald Trump's mind of what they're going to discover and would it ruin his brand, because after all, Donald Trump wants you to believe he's really, really rich and we don't know what this is going to show.

KEILAR: Do they have a case to release them and does that matter?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean look, does anybody actually think that they weren't planning on releasing these all along? And I guess it all comes down to what is and was the point of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Yes, they claim that their purpose was legislative, we're overseeing the presidential audit process. But come on, we knew this was a political process all along and that they were probably gearing towards releasing them.

So, do they have a case for doing it? I think they can because they have them and they have the right to. But it's a little bit disingenuous. It's been because they've been saying for a long time that they were planning on just using it for passing laws. I don't know, Brianna.

KEILAR: Unless Santa Claus is writing a bill, unless that's going to happen here. But I guess my question too is we already know a lot about these tax returns, right? So, what is there to learn other than hey, this is the official tax return?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: We know a lot, because having seen different pieces of his tax returns from different sources, right. The New York Times report had extensive documents related to his returns going back for years. The Mazars accounting firm turned over documents in the New York State actions.

But what do we have to learn? Who knows? All we know is it's something really, really important to Donald Trump. He has spent so much time and money and effort fight thing this release. He's just amplified the public's interest in what might be there.

There could be all sorts -- this is raw information for investigators. There could be information that leads to questions of criminal liability. There could be information that leads to questions of civil liability. Or it could be, as Gloria said, things that damage his brand and his public image of himself.

BORGER: Look, we already know that he doesn't pay a lot of taxes. His accountant testified to that. He's claimed at least a billion dollars in losses. And he's a real estate guy, so that's very common. But The New York Times reporting showed that he paid $750 in taxes. We should all be so lucky.


WILLIAMS: And one of the things, it's not just the tax returns, they also were able to get access to notes and other files from the IRS, perhaps what tax authorities had, what their impressions about the former president's taxes were. But I guess we'll just see.

KEILAR: So, let's turn now to the January 6th committee turning over all of these documents. It's in progress as we speak. But the full access should culminate tomorrow. And I just wonder, Andy, if you can take us through -- I mean, what does that look like? What does that process look like? Where do they even begin with all this stuff they're getting from the committee?

MCCABE: Well, for all those hardworking men and women on this team, it's going to be a very uneventful Christmas, because they are about to get buried in information that this committee has pulled together over the last year-and-a-half, a thousand witnesses, a million pages of documents. And the prosecutors need -- and the agents working this issue, they need to go through every inch of that stuff.

So as most investigative teams are divided up, I would expect that Jack Smith's team is similarly divided up, you have discrete teams of agents and prosecutors who were focusing on individual people, individual acts, potential crimes, areas of investigation. You don't want everyone kind of chasing the ball.

And so each one of those teams is going to try to distill out of that pile of transcript and evidence and documents, those things relating to the people or the issues that they're investigating, and they're going to have to dive on that stuff for the next few weeks.

KEILAR: Because, they're getting transcripts from people that they will have already interviewed themselves, right? How do they treat that if they're taking from this person and looking what they already know from this person and documents from that person they may not have?

WILLIAMS: And the other thing is that they may find conflicting evidence or information. And this is sort of why the Justice Department's head has been exploding for much of the last --

MCCABE: Or exculpatory.

WILLIAMS: Or exculpatory, right, and if it's exculpatory, they have to turn that over to the defense if in fact it comes to trial. So, that's why Justice Department wanted all of this because they've got him in trouble.

BORGER: But the defense is going to be read thing, too. I mean, all these documents are available to Donald Trump's attorneys.

MCCABE: Every problem with a witness that DOJ identifies in these documents is a benefit for the defense. So, you have both sides really charging with the same information.

KEILAR: We have a lot more to talk about. If you guys can stand by for me, we're going to dig deeper on this exclusive new reporting from CNN about that Trump White House ethics lawyer who told Cassidy Hutchinson to give misleading testimony to the January 6th committee. This is what we are learning from the committee.

Also ahead, the breaking news on plans for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit the White House and Congress, quite a surprise here.



KEILAR: We are back with our legal and political experts here. We're following some breaking news. CNN has learned that a Trump White House ethics lawyer urged star witness Cassidy Hutchinson to give misleading testimony to the January 6th select committee.

This is really interesting, what we have learned here, right? This is Katelyn Polantz's reporting that Stefan Passantino, who was then a top ethics lawyer at the White House, told Cassidy Hutchinson essentially to mislead the committee about what she recalled about certain events, including some that would be casting a bad light on the former president. What do you make of this?

MCCABE: It's really fascinating, and like many of these issues, the devil is deep in the details here. If you look -- Mr. Passantino released a statement today. I think we have that. If you look at that statement, he clearly is indicating where the center of this dispute between the two of them will be.

He'll say that he was representing her consistent with her interests in the way that she expressed them to him. So, there is -- this gets down to the very nitty-gritty of that relationship, those interactions between the lawyer and the client.

KEILAR: Yes. This is the statement here, right?

MCCABE: Right. So, he said in a statement to CNN, I represented Ms. Hutchinson honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interest as she communicated them to me. So there it is. That's the --

BORGER: But she changed lawyers.

KEILAR: She did.

BORGER: She changed lawyer. And the quote from the committee is that he said to her, they don't know what you know. They don't know that you can recall some of these things. So, you saying I don't recall is an entirely acceptable response to a question that apparently would have put Donald Trump in bad light. If I were a client getting that advice and I did recall something and my attorney said, no, no, you don't have to say that and is that acceptable behavior for an attorney? WILLIAMS: And that's bordering on a federal offense. I mean, literally, if you are urging someone to say they don't recall a fact that they, in fact, recall, you're telling them to lie under oath, in effect. And so he could be prosecuted for that, could. Now, again --

MCCABE: Of course, a potential violation of the attorney's code of ethics.

KEILAR: He's an ethics lawyer.

WILLIAMS: Yes, ironic.

MCCABE: That he's a former White House ethics lawyer. But people were taken aback I think when they learned that the Trump PACs were paying for the representation of witnesses. That is not illegal, it's also not a violation of the ethics laws, but it is, when that attorney starts to advise the client in a way to protect the payer's interest and not the client's interest. That may be what we're seeing here.

WILLIAMS: And it's perfectly okay to not remember a fact. People say I don't recall all the time because you're questioned for hours and hours on end and there's nothing wrong with that.

KEILAR: But, Elliot, what is -- if you're preparing a client to be deposed, and this is what you do. If you have a client being deposed, you don't put them out there without practice. You walk them through things. What do you say to them to explain to them what to say or not say if they don't want it?

WILLIAMS: You say don't do the other side's lawyers work for them. Don't fill in the details of things you're not asked. But answer questions truthfully. And if the answer is, yes, I know. However, my knowledge stops at a certain point, then stop there. But it's okay saying I don't recall, but just not fabricating information that's not there or conceal that which you know.


BORGER: But the client, in this case, Cassidy Hutchinson, clearly did recall. And he apparently said to her, no, no, no, no, no, five nos. We don't want to go there. We don't want to talk about hat. Who's we? It's not just her. It's, well, the people paying the lawyer, we don't want you to go there?

MCCABE: It's possible that the answer to that question is what drove her to find a new lawyer.

WILLIAMS: And, again, even if it's not -- it sort of what straight to this might be a federal offense. At a minimum, it's a bar reference for someone and you can lose your license.

KEILAR: Yes. It's such an important development that we're learning in this exclusive reporting. Thank you guys so much for being with me this evening. I appreciate it.

Coming up, breaking news, CNN has learned plans are underway for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit the White House tomorrow. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



KEILAR: We do have some breaking news. Sources telling CNN that plans are underway for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit the White House tomorrow.

Our Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is on this story for us, and CNN's Oren Liebermann is working his sources at the Pentagon.

First, I want to go to Phil, at the White House. So, Phil, this actually would be Zelenskyy's first trip outside of Ukraine since the Russian invasion. What more can you tell us about his meeting with the president?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, the significance and the symbolism can't be overstated, and also the substance here, as well.

This has been a very tightly held trip due to security concerns over the course of the last several days, a trip to Washington that will include a visit to the White House and a meeting with President Biden, a meeting that will coincide with an announcement by President Biden of additional security assistance for Ukraine.

Most notably, that security assistance, sources say, is expected to include the U.S. decision to send Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine. This has been a top priority for President Zelenskyy over t course of the last several months, one that U.S. officials had initially not been willing to move forward on that, has shifted over the course of the last several weeks. The Pentagon has been in process of working on this, as well as the National Security Council. And tomorrow, should this visit go through, as expected, that will be announced with the visit of President Zelenskyy.

Now, keep in mind, President Biden has made very clear throughout the course of Russia's war on Ukraine, starting back in February that the U.S. would be behind and beside Ukraine and President Zelenskyy, not just in the near-term but for the long-term and in his word, as long as it takes. Probably nothing will underscore that reality more than the White House and Washington, D.C. serving as the first place for Zelenskyy to visit.

And likely, it looks like it won't just be the White House. While plans are still very fluid mostly due to security concerns, there is tentative planning underway for President Zelenskyy also to go down the street of Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill, potentially to give a joint address to Congress. Again, that is not completely confirmed yet, but officials say that is something that is also being planned here.

Keep in mind, he would be on Capitol Hill at the same exact moment lawmakers are considering a spending bill that includes an additional $40 plus billion in assistance to Ukraine, again, something that underscores both in a bipartisan manner and a very significant manner the weight of the U.S. support behind Ukraine's effort over the course of the last nine months, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, such a fascinating development. Phil, thank you so much for that.

I want to bring in our Pentagon Correspondent, Oren Liebermann. Oren, this planned visit underscores just the significance of those patriot missiles and other assistance the U.S. is set to give to Ukraine.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does. And two main parts as we're learning to this Ukraine assistance package that were learning about, one is the Patriot missiles. The other is a precision bombing kit that would turn, quote/unquote, dumb bombs into precision bombs and allow Ukraine to carry out the actions we have seen against Russian forces, especially the counteroffensives we've been closely watching over the course of the past few months here, two different capabilities.

The Patriots would add to Ukraine's aerial defenses, adding a long- range component to that. We have seen how effectively they have used the medium range components, that is the NASAMS missiles that the U.S. provided over the course of the past several months, as well as even the shorter range components of aerial defense, such as stingers and other components there.

The Patriot missiles, though they would take time to train up on the operation and the maintenance and the sustainment of those would still add one of the most advanced U.S. components of aerial defense to Ukraine's arsenal. It is probably the second most significant system the U.S. has provided to Ukraine. The first would probably be the HIMARS precision rockets that the U.S. has provide, such a significant component that they have used so well.

Meanwhile, those precision guided bombing kits, known as JDAMS, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, would add to the capability Ukraine has had to attack at range with precision. We have seen that with the HIMARS, we've seen that with the Excalibur precision artillery. This would very much add to that.

It does come with its own complications, its own issues. For example, they need to be launched or sent from fighter jets, so it requires some way to be able to connect those to Soviet-era fighters. Ukraine has shown the ability to do that, for example, with the U.S.-provided anti-radar missiles.


So they have had to figure this out in the past and they will certainly figure this out again. A significant capability both on the Patriots and the JDAMS that the U.S. looks set to announce tomorrow.

KEILAR: All right, Oren, thank you for that.

I want to discuss the breaking news with CNN Military Analyst, Retired Colonel Cedric Leighton. Cedric, this is historic. I mean, this is a picture that could be a defining one of this conflict for the history books.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it certainly could be, Brianna. And when you look at how President Zelenskyy has been working with the media, whether it was official media or media that he himself has generated, it is pretty remarkable.

It's kind of like a line out of his T.V. series, Servant of the People, where he played the Ukrainian president, and now, of course, he is the real Ukrainian president. And this effort, this visit here is going to, I think, be a big development, not only in the war, but I think it could also be politically important for Ukraine in the future. It really solidifies the U.S./Ukrainian alliance at this point.

KEILAR: Yes. And look, there's a message here, and if you can speak a little bit about this, there's a message to the U.S. as a new Congress, a new Republican-led House is coming in. There's also a message to Russia.

LEIGHTON: Yes, most certainly. Domestically, as Phil mentioned in his piece, the Congress is considering bills that would allow for more aid to Ukraine. And as they consider this, the timing couldn't be more perfect from Zelenskyy's standpoint.

And as far as Russia is concerned, the key thing here, Brianna, is that it really solidifies that connection between the United States and Ukraine. And it is sending a message to Putin, as Putin is deciding whether or not to include Belarus in his war effort against Ukraine. He's actually being forced to look at how united the west is, and this just underscores that unity. And it solidifies that unity going forward, both internationally and domestically.

KEILAR: We see it, some of these significant moments, these sort of like optical moments, right? These visuals that Putin likes to send his own message. And I wonder what you think he is going to do in response.

LEIGHTON: So that's a really good question. I think what Putin may try to do is he may try to discredit Zelenskyy in one way or the other. And it doesn't have to be with real information. It can be with false information. He will try to do something like that, perhaps through social media. But that's kind of a weak response compared to the actual fact of visiting Washington and making Washington Zelenskyy's first foreign visit since the start of the war.

So, what Putin may do is he may redouble his efforts with Iran. He may try to speed up production of his weapons systems. He may also try to work a more of a draft-type situation in terms of conscription for Russians and get them to really say, hey, the west is ganging up on us. Therefore, we need more troops. Therefore, we need to fight harder in Ukraine. I don't think it will work, but that might be what he does in response to this.

KEILAR: Cedric, how much of a difference can these precision guided bomb kits and this Patriot missile defense systems that are planning to go to Ukraine make?

LEIGHTTON: So, let's take the JDAM or the precision guided bomb kit that you mentioned first. The JDAM is designed to take what we would call a dumb bomb, one that has no GPS guidance, and make it smart bomb with GPS guidance. So, it makes these weapons far more precise. And if they can pull things together so that they come off of a Soviet-built fighter aircraft or through even artillery shells, they can really be a game changer, because it makes the Ukrainian effort far more accurate. And they have to expend, if these weapons work, they will have to expend far more shells, far less munitions than they have had to in the past. So, they're expending less if these JDAMS work.

When it comes to the Patriots, the key thing with them is they go after the ballistic missiles, and the ballistic missiles have really created havoc when it comes to the infrastructure, water supplies, electricity supplies and other aspects of the critical infrastructure of Ukraine. That's what Zelenskyy needs to defend against, and that is one of the key reasons to have the Patriot system. It will become an integral part of what we would call integrated air defense system. And if that happens, then Ukraine is much safer. It's not going to be a perfect solution but at least it will go a long way towards achieving a degree of security and stability from an anti-missile shield perspective than they have now.


KEILAR: And that the backdrop for this momentous visit that we are expecting to see. Thank you so much, Ret. Col. Cedric Leighton, for joining us this evening.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, breaking news, the White House fires back after the Supreme Court temporarily pauses the termination of a Trump administration border policy. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



KEILAR: We do have some breaking news. The White House has formally responded to the Supreme Court temporarily extending a controversial Trump-era immigration policy, Biden officials asking the justices to allow the rule, known as Title 42, to expire.

CNN Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera is joining us live from El Paso, Texas, with more. So, Ed, this back and forth here in Washington is only deepening the uncertainty near the border where you are.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question about that, Brianna. And as the fate of Title 42 remains up in the air, kind of tied up in the courts, it's been a day of political gamesmanship and photo-ops here in El Paso. You're looking at a live drone image of the border. This is where migrants have been lining up for most of the last week. Earlier today, Texas National Guard, sent by the Texas governor, set up a chain link fence with razor wire.

You can see dozens of migrants passed all of that, lining up, still waiting to get in. This is the kind of photo-op that the Texas governor has always enjoyed. And this is why we're at where we're at here today.


LAVANDERA (voice over): Just hours before sunrise, Texas National Guard soldiers and Texas state troopers constructed a nearly mile-long fence covered in razor wire along the Rio Grande, in the very spot where federal border patrol agents started processing thousands of migrants in the last week. The Texas Military Department says the National Guard did not alert the border patrol or local officials that this fence would be constructed.

On Monday, El Paso officials said National Guard soldiers would primarily focus on humanitarian efforts, and with security of migrants who are already in the city, not with deterrent efforts.

MARIO D'AGOSTINO, DEPUTY CITY MANAGER, ELPASO, TEXAS: The state is preparing resources and relocating them to El Paso. They are not activated anything other than security. So at this time is for the what ifs.

LAVANDERA: El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego says the newly installed fence and razor wire is a political stunt and a misuse of resources at a critical time.

JUDGE RICARDO SAMANIEGO (D-EL PASO COUNTY, TX): Standing on the border, putting barbed wire and fences is not what we need. We're the epicenter right now of migration, and you've got the governor not calling the mayor and myself?

LAVANDERA: But this is the kind of optics and strategy that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has long supported. The Republican governor has repeatedly criticized the Biden administration for not doing enough to secure the border.

But the newly installed fence isn't stopping migrants. CNN captured these images just a few hours after the fence went up of a group of four migrants crawling through the razor wire despite warnings from border agents. They were taken into custody.


LAVANDERA: As the uncertainty of what happens with Title 42 looms over this border city, local officials and migrant advocate say they will continue preparing as if the public health rule that was used during the pandemic to block migrants from entering the U.S. some 2.5 million times will be lifted. But those leaving the humanitarian efforts, like Ruben Garcia, are frustrated. Garcia runs the migrant shelter, Annunciation House, and has served migrants for more than 40 years in El Paso.

GARCIA: The federal and state government are fighting with each other. So, they're not working together. One of the reasons we face moments like this is because our political leadership does not sit down to work out, you know, comprehensive reform that takes into account the phenomenon of refugees.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Brianna, if you take another look at that drone, live pictures of what the border looks like right now, the Texas National Guard puts up this fence, which extends about a mile. And essentially what that has done throughout the course of the day is that migrants have walked to either side of it and then walked back around it. So that is why many here in El Paso are calling this simply a political stunt.

This, as the number of migrants that have crossed in the last week because of the latest surge ahead of the possible end of Title 42, has really dwindled drastically. But right now, city officials, county officials here in El Paso say they are preparing for the possible end of Title 42 and kind of ignoring what's happening in the courts and getting ready for the possibility of the end of Title 42. Brianna?

KEILAR: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much for showing us what's happening there on the ground.

And for more on the breaking news, I also want to bring in CNN's David Culver. He is right there across the southern border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

So, David, here on this other side of the picture, you also watched that barbed wire fence go up today. Tell us what's happening from your view.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, that was striking, to be the only ones here, my team and I, 4:30 in the morning, and to watch what was a very quiet, really camp-like setting with a lot of fires and migrants on the U.S. side awaiting to be processed, suddenly be cleared out.

The fires extinguished. A few of the folks processed, many of them coming back over here to Mexico.


And then, this convoy of Humvees, come through and set up what you see behind me. And the intention was to keep people away, to deter.

It seems to be doing the opposite. It seems to be almost a magnet, attracting folks. The original crossing was a half mile down. Now you can see, right over there, it is not stopping people. They are still going back and forth. Some are getting food and blankets. And then setting up what seems to be almost a new camp on the U.S. side. That is U.S. territory, on the other side of the barbed wire.

If you look over here you can see there is a border patrol agent, who is speaking with some of the migrants. We just heard a short time ago that that agent informed them to get into certain groups and lines according to their nationality and perhaps they will be processed. There is no guarantee. There's been no indication that that will happen anytime soon, Brianna.

KEILAR: David, fascinating few from where you are. Thank you for that.

Coming up, an incoming GOP congressman is under fire tonight after reports exposed blatant inconsistencies on his resume.



KEILAR: Tonight, a newly elected House Republican is facing serious questions about his record before he even takes the oath of office.

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

Brian, there are some glaring discrepancies on what is the resume of this congressman-elect, George Santos.


CNN and "The New York Times" have looked extensively at George Santos' statements, his filings, and other records. What was discovered is that much of what this man claims to have done does not add up. Voters in his district may not have gotten the information they needed.


REP.-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Thank you for having me. My name is George Santos.

TODD: He is young, Latino, gay, and a winner for the Republican Party. Congressman-elect George Santos's victory in the New York district covering parts of Queens and Long Island help the GOP take a narrow majority in the House this fall.

SANTOS: My parents came to this country in search of the American dream. Today, I live that American dream.

TODD: But tonight, a CNN review of Santos's statement and his records show that his resume could be inaccurate. "The New York Times" first supported, citing public documents and court records that key parts of Santos' biography were either contradicted or not supported by evidence.

GRACE ASHFORD, NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: Once you started turning up things, more and more things did not add up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Santos -- TODD: A CNN review found the same discrepancies. Santos' biography

says he went to Baruch College and New York University, earning debris in finance and economies. Representatives for both schools told CNN they had no record of anyone with his name ever attending.

His campaign biography said he worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Both companies told CNN they have no record of his employment. Santos claimed he founded his own charity, friends of Pets United, but --

ASHFORD: One of the first things I did was look for some of the filings because he was very specific about being a -- when we were not able to find that with the IRS --

TODD: There was no group called Friends of Pets United found in the IRS's searchable database nor among registered charities in New York and Florida.

CNN has asked Santos for comment, but he has not responded. His attorney told CNN "The New York Times" was attempting to, quote, smear him with defamatory allegations. Santos' Democratic opponent in this year's election, Robert Zimmerman, said his campaign knew about some of these discrepancies.

Asked today by CNN whether his campaign was raising concerns loudly enough --

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN (D-NY), FORMER CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We spoke to many reporters on these issues and raise these concerns from the high heavens. And that is well-established. In fact, the DCCC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, brought out a 80-some page document about him and local media to their credit did cover it.

MARGARET TALEV, AXIOS MANAGING EDITOR: It's the failure of both parties and the media. If you are a voter in this district, the truth is, you don't really know who you just voted for.


TODD (on camera): Now, as for what could happen with George Santos from here, his election opponent, Robert Zimmerman, is calling for a Justice Department investigation and an investigation into the House of Representatives.

Now, on that front, CNN has reached out to House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to ask for what he plans to do about it. We have not heard back and we do not necessarily expect to.

KEILAR: That is almost unbelievable.

Brian Todd, thank you for that report.

Just ahead, two Americans held by the Taliban have been released. We have the details first reported by CNN, next.



KEILAR: A report first on CNN, two Americans detained in Afghanistan by the Taliban, now free.

CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is working the story for us.

Kylie, do we know why the Taliban released them?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the State Department spokesperson said that the Taliban characterize this as a goodwill gesture to the United States. They said that there was no money that exchanged hands as part of this. There was no prisoner swap or anything like that. These two Americans flew to Qatar today. One of them is Ivor Shearer, he is an American filmmaker, who was in the country.

The second American, we are not disclosing their name due to the request from the family. But we are not sure exactly what spurred this. However, Brianna, I think it is really important to note that this came today on the same day that Afghanistan is banning all women from attending universities.

The State Department spokesperson said the irony is not lost on the Biden administration that they're doing this goodwill gesture, but they are also banning women from attending universities. Call that indefensible and said there will be consequences for the Taliban -- Brianna.

KEILAR: CNN's Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for that.

I do want to take a moment to remember our beloved colleague Drew Griffin, who passed away this weekend at the age of 60. His producer say that is multi-year investigative reporting on veterans dying while waiting months and months for care at V.A. hospitals around the country meant the most to him. Drew's reports ultimately forced then V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, prompted federal legislation and an overhaul of the V.A. scheduling system.

As Drew said, while accepting the Peabody in 2015 for that reporting, he said we wanted to effect change, to hold these politicians and bureaucrats responsible. We call it keeping them honest.

You can read more on how Drew's journalism saved the lives of U.S. veterans. My column on that is up right now on

I'm Brianna Keilar in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you so much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.