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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

House Ousts Omar From Powerful Committee Over Past Comments; Interview With Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY); Pentagon Tracking Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Over The US; CIA Chief: Next Six Months Will Be "Absolutely Crucial" In Ukraine; CNN Reporter Describes Moment Missile Hit A Few Yards Away; Alex Murdaugh Murder Trial Judge Deciding Whether To Allow Prosecutors To Point Jury To Alleged Financial Crimes; Jury Learns More About Key Evidence In Murdaugh Murder Trial; Coldest Wind Chills In Decades Expected To Hit The Northeast Beginning Tomorrow; Eight Deaths And 400,000 Power Outages In South After Ice Storm. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 02, 2023 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were dying because of them. They didn't care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was just bat [bleep] crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They put on the wire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people buried themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the signal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baby, I'm [bleep].


ANNOUNCER: "American Pain." Sunday at nine on CNN.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 begins now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Promises kept, revenge as politics, or both?

John Berman here, in for Anderson.

In a moment, I will be joined by Representative Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez to talk about what happened on Capitol Hill today. You will remember House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowed last year that if Republicans took the House, he would strip Democrats Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Ilhan Omar of Committee assignments.

Well, so far, he has bounced Swalwell and Schiff from the Intelligence Committee and today, he led a House vote along party lines to remove Congresswoman Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee. The reason given, statements she has made related to Israel that in some cases have been criticized by members of both parties as antisemitic statements, which she subsequently apologized for making.

At the same time, though, Speaker McCarthy has reinstated Committee assignments for Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, both of whom have close ties to the far-right, including some White nationalists.

The Congresswoman as you know, has compared masking rules to the Holocaust. She apologized for that. She also posted on Facebook a long ramble about California wildfires, solar power, spotting of what looked like laser beams, and the Rothschilds, a Jewish family long central to antisemitic tropes.

Congressman Gosar was responsible for a violent anime style video showing a character with his head killing then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who spoke out today.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I had a Member of the Republican caucus threaten my life, and you all, and the Republican Caucus rewarded him with one of the most prestigious Committee assignments in this Congress.

Don't tell me this is about consistency. Don't tell me that this is about a condemnation of antisemitic remarks, when you have a member of the Republican Caucus who has talked about Jewish space lasers and an entire amount of tropes and also elevated her to some of the highest Committee assignments in this body.

This is about targeting women of color in the United States of America. Don't tell me because I didn't get a single apology when my life was threatened.

Thank you.


BERMAN: And Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins us now, fresh from Washington, DC.

Thank you so much for being with us.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: So Representative Omar said that the vote today was about revenge. Is that how you see it?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely. You know, I think this was about revenge. This was about petty politics. But also, I think it's also important to state that this was not just about Republicans trying to feed a base that they have already primed for years under Donald Trump with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, but also it represents a stripping of an important perspective on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that Ilhan Omar as a refugee, as an immigrant, as the only Hijabi woman in the United States Congress presents, and that perspective is critical in terms of American foreign policy.

BERMAN: So you brought up race and religion. I want to play a little bit more of what you said on that front. Let's listen.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: As a fellow New Yorker, I think one of the things that we should talk about here is also one of the disgusting legacies after 9/11 has been the targeting and racism against Muslim-Americans throughout the United States of America, and this is an extension of that legacy.

Consistency, there is nothing consistent with the Republican Party's continued attack, except for the racism and incitement of violence against women of color in this body.


BERMAN: So you're talking about Representative Omar, who is of course, from Somalia, a minority, but Swalwell and Schiff are both White guys. So that's not about race, but this is?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, you know, I think when we look at all three of these, first of all, when you look at Swalwell and Schiff, they're targeting and the Republican Party's targeting of all three of them have always been about campaigning, and it has always been about the perspectives that they bring.

It is about political revenge in the case of all three of them. Political revenge for Adam Schiff for his work on the impeachment of Donald Trump, political revenge with Eric Swalwell in the incisive -- his incisive ability to communicate against the Trump administration and the wrongdoings of the Republican Party, and in the case of Ilhan Omar, I believe that that hers is absolutely especially amplified with racist target because this is what set her base, this is the same Representative that Donald Trump held rallies around saying send her back to "her country."


Her country is the United States of America. She's an American.

And so you know, in the case of all three of these expulsions, there is either political revenge or there is the absolute agenda of racist, misogynist, and xenophobic targeting and those three -- those are -- those three points, in addition to the political revenge constitute modern Trumpian politics, pettiness, revenge scorekeeping, and the use the race and the baiting of identity in order to divide people up.

BERMAN: What do you think that Speaker McCarthy specifically gets out of this?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think Speaker McCarthy gets a fundraising boon. I think he gets potentially currying favor with either Trump and his base saying, I delivered on these promises. I'm a good soldier to the Trumpian political base. I am really letting the world know that the House Republican Party is now being fully transformed. We are cementing the transformation.

Even with Donald Trump being gone, they are cementing the transformation of the Republican Party into a Trumpian party, one that settles petty political scores that is no longer motivated by classic "conservative politics" of reducing a tax base, et cetera, but that this is truly just about service to their benefactors.

BERMAN: So talking about Speaker McCarthy, during the vote on the House floor to make him Speaker, there was this video of you speaking to Congressman Paul Gosar, who we spoke about moments ago posted the anime video showing the version of him attacking you and you're seen there talking. There was sort of almost a smile, somewhere in there at least talking in an animated way.

Should we take this to mean that you have -- you're okay with what he did? Or he apologized to you?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No, no. There was never an apology. But I think what a lot of people sometimes fail to understand is that when a workplace has been made unsafe for a person, it is then up to that individual to try to survive on their own.

This is not an institution that protects. It is not a party that protects people that they disagree with. But that being said, when it comes to those remarks with Representative Gosar, one of the things that I told him was, I can't stand what you did, and I can't stand what you stand for. But I don't think that you should support Kevin McCarthy for Speaker either. And, you know, that's one thing on one day that I think both of us were in alignment on.

BERMAN: Did you feel safe sitting there with him?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think it's uncomfortable serving with people who engage in what many experts deem stochastic terrorism, which is the incitement of violence in a -- which is an incitement of violence using digital means and large platforms. So that individual themselves may not be the one that's wielding a weapon.

But I have had to ride as has Representative Omar, I have consistently had to ride in 20,000-pound armored vehicles, you know, engaging in some of the most gruesome threats that you can imagine that were incited by Republican members.

This is not just about a tweet, it is about what life looks like, and the marshaling of hundreds, thousands if not millions of people into doing something and Donald Trump knows that very well. And he uses and used his rallies very strategically, in order to engage in political intimidation of what he deemed his political enemies.

BERMAN: You think Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, we may see. He will either be the nominee or he will burn down anyone who isn't him who is the nominee. BERMAN: Back to Paul Gosar, so just because you're talking to him, it doesn't -- you're still against him being on Committees?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, there has never been an apology. And by the way, that is something that highly distinguishes these situations.

These individuals that Kevin McCarthy has appointed, chosen to appoint to committee, George Santos claimed that his grandparents were in the Holocaust. That was a lie, a disgusting lie.

Marjorie Taylor Greene regularly trafficking in antisemitic conspiracy theories. Paul Gosar inciting -- these are individuals, Marjorie Taylor Greene included -- inciting violence against specific members in the body. He has appointed all three of them to House Committees not just one, but multiple.

Marjorie Taylor Greene who was engaging in 9/11 conspiracy theories, Kevin McCarthy appointed her to the Homeland Security Committee.


So there is really no consistency here. And it needs to be very well known that this targeting of Ilhan Omar is because the Republican base finds it easy. The Republican base finds it politically self- rewarding. And I also believe that the Republican base seeks to remove a perspective that challenges a certain foreign policy establishment in this country.

She advocates against just pivoting toward the defaulting to use of violent means in American foreign policy, and she really pushes this country to engage in diplomatic means, and to center the needs of refugees and survivors and the casualties of war.

BERMAN: We keep talking about Kevin McCarthy. Let's listen to a little bit of what the Speaker said, how we justified this vote today.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No, and that's the clear part how it's not tit-for-tat.

We're not removing her from other Committees. We just do not believe when it comes to Foreign Affairs, especially the responsibility of that position around the world with the comments that you make. She shouldn't serve there.

But this is what is clear, if it was tit-for-tat, we would have picked people, took them off all Committees and said nothing about it. We don't believe in that.


BERMAN: So what he is saying there is Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene were stripped of all their Committee assignments. Representative Omar has been taken off Foreign Affairs, but I think is going to get put on budget, which is another sought after Committee there.

And to be clear, she did make comments, which I'm not going to repeat here that they're antisemitic, she did apologize for them, as you said there. So McCarthy saying it is not tit-for-tat. Does he have a point?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I don't think he does. First of all, when he says that Gosar and all these folks removed from their Committees, Republicans did not do that. In fact, they appointed them to Committees.

Paul Gosar is on House Oversight, and I believe Natural Resources, the same two committees that I serve on, by the way, very selectively put this individual on the exact two Committees that I have been appointed in.

BERMAN: You think that that was intentional to put him on the Committees you are on?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I do not know I cannot -- I cannot speak into Kevin McCarthy's mind, but it certainly should have been a consideration as Speaker of the House that he should have taken into account.

BERMAN: Because that Gosar posted the video attacking you.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely. But beyond that, he also appointed Marjorie Taylor Greene to Oversight and Homeland Security. So this idea that they did it to one and the other is -- you know, I think is something that can be dispensed with.

But when it comes to Representative Omar's role on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, she has modeled what coming together with a community looks like, what apology looks like.

One of the leaders of the large group of Jewish Members in Congress stood up in her -- several Jewish Members of Congress, Jan Schakowsky, Dean Phillips stood up in defense saying she has engaged in a process of reconciliation with us. This is a model of what this kind of -- what this kind of incident should look like.

They were begging Kevin McCarthy, as Jewish Members of Congress, if you listen to what Jan Schakowsky was saying, you do not speak for me, you cannot do this on my behalf. And yet, he still railroaded this, which is really what gives the whole game away.

In fact, Representative Miller who brought forth the resolution in discussing it today really gave the whole game away when he started to equate a position that Amnesty International, certain bodies within the UN, even Israeli Human Rights organizations have been sounding the alarm that the Human Rights crisis in the West Bank and the Palestinian space is constituting apartheid, and he equated that position, that global human rights organizations have already raised as antisemitic and that right there is the slippery slope that we really need to be paying attention to.

BERMAN: So, so far in the House of Representatives, it has been a big battle, days long battle over who would be Speaker. Now, there have been days spent knocking people off Committees. How much do you think is going to get done in this Congress?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, Kevin McCarthy took a week -- took about a week to become selected Speaker of the House something, that is typically a ceremonial formality because all of that brawling happens in the months between November and January. So he took a week to become Speaker. They have taken almost an entire month to even organize their Committees.


We just had our first Oversight Committee hearing yesterday. You know, serving on Oversight under the great Elijah Cummings. You know, one of the things that he told us is a congressional term is two years, but you really have the first six months to be effective, because you go out in August, and when you come back, Members of Congress already have primary elections coming up. So you have that first six months to really legislate and get your agenda rolling.

Kevin McCarthy has already burned through month one doing nothing, no Committees formally organized. He burned a week becoming Speaker of the House. These first six months, he cannot afford to lose that kind of time.

So now, he is down to five months, and what we're seeing next week on the docket for, you know, Oversight Committee, for example, they're spending a week doing a hearing on Twitter. So I do not anticipate this Republican majority being able to do much or be effective beyond engaging in political stunts, and that is to the detriment of Americans, both Republican and Democrat, as well as Independents because things are not going to be getting done in the way that they need to be under his leadership.

BERMAN: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, fresh from Washington, DC. Thank you so much for coming.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you so much, John.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

So next, look up in the sky, not a bird nor a plane. It's a Chinese spy balloon, really and this could be footage of it.

We do know it is over the United States. It is the size of three buses. And it is breaking news, a former top Air Force General joins us to talk about what it could be doing and what to do about it.

And later, new developments in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial, including potentially damaging information that jurors could soon be allowed to hear.



BERMAN: Breaking news report about a huge high altitude Chinese spy balloon that the Pentagon says is now over the continental United States. This is a picture of what is suspected to be that balloon. And here is video also suspected to be of the balloon from an affiliate in Billings, Montana where the spy balloon may have been spotted.

Now, we should point out that The Pentagon has not confirmed any of these images. A Defense Department source says the spy balloon is the size of three buses, and a Pentagon spokesman says they have been tracking it for several days. A senior official tells CNN that President Biden has been briefed on the matter.

This revelation comes as a top Air Force General warned of a possible coming conflict between the US and China in the years ahead, and as the US military has been expanding its footprint in the Pacific with an eye toward China.

For the latest on the spy balloon, let's go to our senior national security correspondent, Alex Marquardt.

Alex, what more are you learning about this balloon? And is it still over Montana?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, Montana is the one place that the Pentagon has said that it has been spotted. They have not said where it is exactly now. We know that it came across the border from Canada, across that northern border.

As you said it is quite large, the size of three school buses. It is flying well above what we are told, the altitude where commercial planes fly. It is in the atmosphere, but in American airspace.

It is loitering for longer than past instances. That's right, John. There have been several examples in the past few years, including we're told by The Pentagon during the past administration, when the Chinese have sent similar balloons into the United States to carry out surveillance.

So what are they looking for? Well, as you know, Montana, very sparsely populated, that's also one of the reasons that the US keeps one of the parts of the nuclear triad in Montana. There are fields of siloed nuclear ballistic missiles in Montana. The Pentagon says that this balloon was over or near sensitive areas, including military area. So we have to imagine that that is the kind of Intelligence that they are gathering.

The Pentagon does note that this type of balloon doesn't really add much more benefit in terms of Intelligence gathering capabilities than, say, spy satellites. So one major question now is, why would the Chinese send something across the border, excuse me, that is so highly visible that the military has been tracking for several days.

BERMAN: So Alex, what options does the US have to deal with the balloon, if any?

MARQUARDT: Well, the big option, of course, is to shoot it down, and that is one option that they have considered quite closely and that they have ruled out. We're told by The Pentagon that they did shut down temporarily the airspace over Billings, Montana, that jets were scrambled to give them options.

Planes have gone up to look at this thing, but they determined that it is too dangerous to shoot this down. The President was briefed, he was asked for military options. He was advised by top military officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to not shoot it down. That it is too dangerous for people and for property on the ground.

So for now, they continue to monitor it. They continue to follow it. Pentagon says they do have options -- John.

BERMAN: Alex Marquardt, stay on this for us. Thank you very much.

Perspective now from retired US Air Force General Philip Breedlove. General Breedlove, thank you for being with us. So what stands out to you about this suspected spy balloon?

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE (RET), US AIR FORCE: Well, first of all, your correspondent did a good job of capturing the big elements here. It's not the first time, it is well above a danger to airplanes and things. It is over sparsely populated area, but very, very important area, as you pointed out, because of part of our nuclear triad there.

I think more interesting is why now? As you know, and others have reported today, we are on the precipice of several important delegations going to China to include our Secretary of State. Our President is coming up on his State of the Union. So why would the Chinese choose now to sort of make this point and put this into the news cycle?

Some have said that this could have been a mistake. Everything that flies is subject to weather. Maybe we have an upper atmospheric change that has put this thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. I kind of doubt that, but it is a possibility.

On the other side, a more alarming side is this was put here at purpose at this time in order to message and that would be something we'd have to look at.


And then the final thing I would just throw out real quick, John is, your correspondent made a great point, the low-flying satellites can do a lot of good work, and maybe even better work than this balloon, but what we don't know is what exactly is the balloon carrying? And what is it trying to sense or collect?

We have a pretty good idea what goes up on satellites, and we sort of understand. But when you get a big package like this that can carry a lot of kit, it is concerning to know what they're actually after.

BERMAN: So even if it's not posing an immediate threat, why not try to knock it out of the sky anyway? What's the potential downside there?

BREEDLOVE: Well, it was stated before, even though this is a remote portion of our nation, there are Americans living below it. And as I said, this is a pretty big piece of kit. So I think it's highly unlikely it would hit someone, but there is that possibility, and I understand that's part of the calculus.

BERMAN: Do we have balloon in places over China?

BREEDLOVE: The first thing that actually came to my mind -- I'm sorry, John.

BERMAN: Do we have balloons like this over China?

BREEDLOVE: No, but we do have a lot of aircraft collecting in airspace that we consider to be international airspace, but the Chinese consider to be Chinese airspace, and that is the point that leapt out at me.

If we shoot down a Chinese object over our airspace, is that a precedent that we can live with? Would we then set a precedent whereby we think we're flying in international space near China, but they believe it's Chinese airspace, and they take the same action that we did?

So I'm not saying it's right, wrong, or indifferent. I just believe there are some issues that we need to think through before we knock this out of the sky.

BERMAN: Retired General Philip Breedlove, thank you for helping us understand what's going on, apparently still, over the continental United States. Appreciate it.

Just ahead, the ongoing Russian missile attacks on Kramatorsk in Ukraine that reclaiming the lives of residents and today came dangerously close to a CNN crew that was just yards away.

Our Fred Pleitgen will join us live from Ukraine. That's next.



BERMAN: The director of the CIA said today that the next six months will be absolutely crucial in Ukraine. A top Ukrainian defense official says he's not ruling out a major Russian offensive in the next two to three weeks. In Ukrainian civilians, many are living day to day, or even moment to moment, as Russian shells and missiles target their homes over and over again.

This is Kramatorsk, where a residential area got pounded again today, forcing CNN's Frederik Pleitgen and his crew nearby to race for shelter.


(Speaking Foreign Language)



BERMAN: Now targeted civilians is nothing new for Russia, and if the goal is breaking Ukraine's morale, it does not seem to be working. The main concern is what comes next on the battlefield.

And to that end, multiple U.S. officials tell us to expect the announcement of another round of military aid in the coming days, including crucially longer-range munitions that can be fired from the HIMARS launchers already in country, roughly doubling the range of the current rockets.

Also today, Vladimir Putin issued a new veiled threat in answer to the coming shipment of Western tanks to Ukraine. We are not, he said, sending our tanks to their borders, but we have something to answer with, and it will not end with the use of armored vehicles. So, crucial months indeed.

We have two reports tonight from CNN's Fred Pleitgen, who narrowly avoided that strike in Kramatorsk, and CNN Sam Kylie, who's just back from Kherson, which also got hit today. First to Fred Pleitgen. Fred, so glad that you and your team were safe. Tell us what you saw during this strike.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, first of all, this all happened in a residential area. I think it's really important to point out is that last night, there was already an air strike on the town of Kramatorsk, a missile strike, and that killed several people on the ground there.

So we went there today looking to film the search and rescue effort which was still going on, John. And it was a big search and rescue effort. There were a lot of first responders who were on the ground there, the fire department, obviously, some pretty heavy equipment because the Ukrainians believed that there might still be people trapped under the rubble.

And it was exactly that area that the Russians then tried to hit again. We had just arrived at the scene, we just left our vehicles and we're actually on our way to the scene when the first really big explosion happened. Obviously, a lot of people then went running for cover when that happened.

We also made our way to a hardened shelter, to a building that we wanted to go into. And as we were walking towards that building, I sort of looked back and I could see the second missile then impacting at almost the same place as the first missile impacted.

Now, there was a lot of damage on the ground and the Ukrainians later told us they believe that the missiles that impacted there, John, were S-300 missiles. Those are normally missiles that are there to take down airplanes. However, they also have aground to ground configuration.

But when they are used in that ground-to-ground mode, they're extremely inaccurate. And obviously, using them in densely populated areas can lead to a lot of civilian casualties on the ground. So certainly, this was something that caused a lot of havoc on the ground there, a lot of damage on the ground.

We then had to get out of there as fast as possible. But, of course, a lot of the people there on the ground in Kramatorsk, they can't do that. They live with this missile threat every day. And, you know, one of the things that we've been seeing over the past couple of weeks that we've been here on the frontlines around Eastern Ukraine is that especially the threat to those sort of areas that have been a bit in the rear echelon, that have been a bit more quiet.

They've drastically increased over the past couple of weeks. It seems as though it really is part of the Russian strategy to also hit those areas as they're also beefing up their forces on the frontline for that possible big offensive of which some people here in Ukraine, certainly some officials in Ukraine believe, that offensive may already have started, John.

BERMAN: Yes. When you're using missiles like that, it means you have no regard for the safety of civilians in that area. Frederik Pleitgen, again, to you and your team, thank you and please stay safe.


Next, Kherson where Russian forces were driven out but not beyond artillery range, which means that for day after day, the Russians have been shelling that city. CNN's Sam Kylie is just back from there and joins us now. Sam, you spent several hours in Kherson, and I understand people were asking you for help. So what does that tell you and what else did you find?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you'll recall, John, the celebration that were marked when Kherson was recaptured from the Russian occupation back in November. That was very striking. Now, of course, the situation is much, much worse, with many scores of artillery rockets, direct fire by tanks and mortars fired against the civilian areas and military targets in and around the coastal city and much more widely in the province.

And we were there for a few hours on the ground, as you say. This is how it unfolded.


KILEY (voice-over): Twelve weeks ago, Ukrainians celebrated the liberation of Kherson from months of Russian occupation. This is the scene today.

(on-camera): The Russians continuing to fire with direct fire from tanks across the river, which is just a few hundred meters in that direction. And on top of that, locals are telling us that it's being regularly shelled with grads, the multiple rocket launching systems completely indiscriminate.

(voice-over): Homes have been blown up, hospitals torn by high explosives in weeks of an ever intensifying bombardment. Local authorities here talk of scores of artillery attacks from Russian positions just across the Dnipro River. Every day, firefighters and emergency workers keep their base location secret, their prime targets for Russia's guns.

Two people were killed around the city overnight. A missile landed very close to here recently, adding urgency to this food distribution to people who are still here because they're trapped by poverty.

Grad rockets flew in during the day at 03:30 right here. Our guard was standing there. The guard got hit, they said.

(on-camera): And why do you think the Russians are doing this?

(voice-over): Revenge, probably, she said. Probably revenge because they ran away.

This underpass is a brief refuge taken by desperate civilians seeking help and food. Most of the houses are destroyed, he said. People are staying without electricity, water and gas, and there's constant shelling. We're on the contact line. We live near the bridge.

Anatoly will take what help he can get from local government. A Russian strike against City Hall five days ago means that this plastic sheeting can be put to better use.

(on-camera): What are you going to do with that? I'll board up the windows. The windows out. No glass. He'll have to walk home. No one will drive to his neighborhood. It looks out across the river at the Russians.


BERMAN: So, Sam, is it clear how the Ukrainians are trying to defend Kherson this second time around?

KILEY: What we know from our own context that -- and it's inevitable really that reconnaissance units have been operational, even fighting on some of the islands on the Dnipro River, trying to probe the Russian lines, trying to figure out whether or not the Russians are just going to have. This is a steady state of pounding Kherson, slowly trying to grind its civilian population down.

The military preparations more widely are closely guarded secret. Of course, there has been talk in the past of a renewed Ukrainian offensive. I think it'd be very unlikely indeed to be conducted across the Dnipro River. It's more likely to be perhaps near Zaporizhzhia, on the southern front, or indeed focused on trying to push the Russians back where Fred has been busy over the last couple of weeks in the east around Bakhmut, although, that looked fairly unlikely at the moment.

So here on this front, really, the state of play is a low level of artillery from the Ukrainian side, met with very heavy barrages coming from the Russians as they indiscriminately shell this city, which at the moment is not heavily invested with Ukrainian troops. John?

BERMAN: From the southern front, Sam Kylie, thank you very much.

Up next, day seven of the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. What the jury learned today about a Snapchat video that may be crucial for the prosecution and the testimony about big money that the jury did not get to hear.



BERMAN: So right now, jurors in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial are not allowed to hear the prosecution's entire case. But that could soon change. As we have been reporting, Murdaugh is the disgraced former attorney charged with killing his wife and son more than a year and a half ago. The alleged motive for the deadly shootings, huge money trouble. Some of them were spelled out today in the courtroom in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Our Randi Kaye was there for that. A new information the jury is getting about a key piece of evidence, social media video.


HEIDI GALORE, SNAP, INC.: I work for Snap Incorporated.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This employee from Snapchat was called on to testify for the state so she could authenticate this video. The video was extracted from Paul Murdaugh's phone months after he and his mother, Maggie, were killed.

GALORE: The username is listed here as Paul 9499.

KAYE (voice-over): You don't see Paul on the video, but you hear him laughing at his father, Alex Murdaugh.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you determine, reviewing the records, whether, excuse me, that account sent out that particular video?

GALORE: Yes, it was sent on the same day, June 7th 2021 at 23 -- or I'm sorry, 7:56 hours Eastern time.


KAYE (voice-over): 07:56 p.m., the night of the murders. That's less than an hour before prosecutors say Paul Murdaugh's phone ceased all activity, which they say was about 08:49 p.m. Remember, Alex Murdaugh told investigators he hadn't seen his family since supper time, that he'd discovered their bodies and called 911 at 10:07 p.m.

What's especially significant about this video, besides the timestamp, is what Alex Murdaugh is wearing in it. Notice the long pants and the short sleeve blue shirt. Testimony shows when police responded to the 911 call a couple of hours later, Alec was wearing something different, shorts and a white t-shirt.

JOE MCCULLOCH, ATTORNEY: They're foreshadowing their effort to prove that somehow he showered off, washed his clothes, made those clothes disappear and changed clothes.

KAYE (voice-over): On cross examination, the defense seemed to try and show that perhaps someone else might have known where Paul Murdaugh was based on his snapchat, and that person killed Paul and his mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it possible for -- I mean, I don't know how it works -- for some or all of Paul's friends to have access to his location through the app?

GALORE: Yes, if he made his settings visible, his geolocation visible to his friends, yes.

KAYE (voice-over): That plays right into what Alex Murdaugh told investigators after the killings. That Paul had been receiving threats following a boat crash he was involved in. A young woman died in that crash, and Paul had been charged with driving a boat drunk and causing her death.

On the issue of motive, out of the jury's presence, the judge allowed testimony from this state witness. The chief financial officer of Alex Murdaugh's former law firm told the court she confronted Alex about hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing funds just hours before his wife and son were killed.

The judge hasn't decided if he'll allow testimony about Murdaugh's alleged financial schemes. He's accused of defrauding clients of nearly $9 million before he was disbarred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had the firm received this $792,000?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did this matter ever come to your attention again at a later time?

SECKINGER: Yes. That would have been in September after we found some other misappropriations and we had confronted Alex and he had resigned.

KAYE (voice-over): Prosecutors say Alex killed his wife and son to distract from his alleged financial fraud and prevented from being exposed.


KAYE: And John, getting back to that snapchat video, we haven't seen any evidence that Alex Murdaugh changed clothes or washed himself off. In fact, an investigator testified today and on cross examination, she said that she looked at the drains at the Murdaugh home. There wasn't any evidence of blood or tissue to indicate that someone had washed or bathed or showered there to get rid of any crime scene evidence.

BOLDUAN: Right. Interesting. Randi Kaye, thank you very much.

Let's bring in Criminal Defense Attorney Mark O'Mara, and CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers. She is a former federal prosecutor. Jen, let me just start with you on this Snapchat video and the idea that there are different clothes at different times. And the timestamp itself raises questions about the alibi, the possible alibi here. What do you think jurors will take from this?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's a great question, John, because jurors are human. Like they want to know what happened here. All the defense has to do in theory is raise one reasonable doubt as to one juror. But in actuality, they all really want to see what happened here. They'll be watching very carefully.

And something like that gives the jurors some pause, you know. Well, what was he doing? He was supposed to be napping. You know, he doesn't look like he's napping. He's wearing different clothes than he was wearing when he spoke to the police. Why would he change clothes if he's just going to nap?

So you start to see these kind of niggling questions for the jurors that bring some them doubt into their mind about what the defense is putting forward as to their story, even though they don't have to give a story. So it's just -- it's giving them a lot to think about.

BERMAN: It gives jury something to grab onto if they want. But, Mark, the flip side of that is the defense is trying to use this Snapchat video to create some kind of reasonable doubt, saying that someone else, and you heard it in that piece, someone else, not Alex Murdaugh could have learned Paul's location from the video. And then maybe it was that person that killed Paul and the mother. Is that a plausible theory for the defense?

MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, again, it is the defense job to raise reasonable doubt. Is it plausible that within minutes after Paul's Snapchat goes out, only to his friends for the most part, that somebody concocts a plan that they can then take to fruition by killing two people, hiding all the evidence? Possibly.

But, you know, like was just said, jurors have their common sense well, at heart, in a case like this. They want to know what's going on. They want to be able to connect the dots. The defense has to try and get in the way of some common sense if they can.

But I will tell you that video is very troubling for the defense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it basically excludes any stranger, right? We now know that it's somebody familiar to the two victims and that's that's going to be difficult for the defense to get around.


BERMAN: Jennifer, in terms of the judge, if the judge allows the jurors to hear stuff about Murdaugh's alleged financial crimes, how helpful will that be for the prosecution?

RODGERS: So usually, you're not allowed to put in evidence of other crimes or wrongs, but you can if there's a legitimate reason for it, like proving motive. And here you have a case where, by all accounts, we don't have any reason to believe that there's an unhappy marriage, that there's problems with father and son. So what is the reason for this?

So prosecutors want to give the jurors this motive, even though they don't technically have to prove one, and this has become their motive. They said he was completely underwater. The pressure is coming in. He needs something to distract from what's happening to him financially.

You know, I'm not sure that it's a great motive, but this is what they're going with and so I think it will help them because also, again, I mean, jurors are human. They're not supposed to take this evidence and look at Murdaugh and say, he's a bad guy, so he must have killed his family.

But again, we're human. If they start hearing about all of these things, he's done, all this money he's stolen, that may take them a little bit against him.

BERMAN: So, Mark, the chief financial officer, Murdaugh's law firm, former law firm, confronted him with huge accounting irregularities just hours before the murders. How relevant could that be?

O'MARA: Very. I think it's very troubling again for the defense because it is very, very coincidental, at the very least, that the day he finds out that he is, in effect, being outed by his law firm for not only the 792 or so $1,000 that she confronted him with. But he also knew what else he had taken from the firm which was going to come out.

So, yes, the pressure is enormous on him. The idea that people act irrationally in times of high pressure or stress when things are criminally down around them. I think the state now has that opportunity if the judge allows it, and that's questionable. But if the judge allows it, it's going to give the, you know, raise the eyebrow of the juror who wants to look at him and say, now I know why you were doing what you may have done.

BERMAN: Mark O'Mara, Jennifer Rodgers, thank you both very much.

Still to come, if you're living in the northeast -- and we are -- get the warmest winter coat you have and then wear another one on top of it because you're about to experience the kind of cold people haven't seen or felt for generations. Details ahead.



BERMAN: Epic generational freezing cold. Just some of the descriptions meteorologists are using for what could be one of the coldest weather, some of the coldest weather felt in decades now descending upon millions in the Northeast. Wind chills in some areas could reach 50 degrees below zero.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now from the weather center with the latest. So, Derek, this Northeast is bracing for some awful cold weather. How cold are we talking? DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I like the teas you had before the break. If you got your thickest winter coat, put on another one right after it. That's like the best way we can describe it, right?

This cold is going to be so impressive. I was talking to my producer, my weather producer, just before the break ended, and we try to find the extremes in all of these events. And Mount Washington, the windiest place in the continental United States, will have wind chill values of a negative 100 degree reading on Saturday morning.

That's extreme, of course. No one lives there. But for places that do have a population density, we're going to see once in a generation type cold. It is significant and it is brutal. Here's the cold front right there. It is located over the Great Lakes, and it is coming in very quickly.

This cold front is responsible for the Boston mayor declaring a cold emergency. It is responsible for school closures in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island. The list continues to grow. We have 57 million Americans with wind chill alerts across the Great Lakes and northern New England as well.

By the way, it's going to be so cold in Utica, New York, that the Zoological Society has brought in all the animals to protect them from the freezing temperatures that are coming this way. Look at the winds on top of Mount Washington, it will be sustained hurricane force that's over 74 miles per hour. And get this, it could gust as high as category force strength hurricanes.

John, you've been in those types of winds, impossible to stand up. Those are the values we're forecasting across the Northeast. Epic, epic cold. The good news is it's a short lived, short duration cold snap.

BERMAN: A bad day to climb Mount Washington. That's one of the takeaways from this. And Derek --


BERMAN: -- parts of the south still recovering from that huge ice storm earlier this week. What's the latest from there?

VAN DAM: Yes, this is what you get when you get a very cold, dense layer of air that kind of sinks to the surface of the Earth, and then precipitation falls in a warmer layer just above it, a few hundred feet into the air. So the precipitation falling in the liquid variety. But once it reaches the temperatures that are below freezing, it freezes on everything on contact from power poles, to tree lines, to the roadways and the runways, across the airports.

And of course, this has translated into over 400,000 customers without power, mainly concentrated across the Deep South into Texas. You think about each household having roughly, I don't say, three to four people. That equates or translates to about a million people in the dark tonight. And you can see just right where the heaviest of concentration of the lack of power right now. Travis county, where Austin is located, that area has a good percentage of the county without power right now with this ice reports just stretching across over a dozen states. We've had over three quarters of an inch in some locations.

But the good news, temperatures have warmed and it's now falling in the form of rain. Just cold rain.

BERMAN: All right, Derek Van Dam, you're going to have a busy few days. Thank you so much --


BERMAN: -- for being with us tonight.

VAN DAM: Pleasure.

BERMAN: Still to come, more on the video showing the aftermath after two missiles hit close to Fred Pleitgen and his team in Ukraine in an in-depth conversation with Russian pro-democracy leader Garry Kasparov about Putin's next moves.