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Tens Of Millions Of Americans Prepare For Heavy Snow In West, Midwest; Supreme Court Hears Suit Over Twitter's Liability In Terrorist Attack; Employees At Murdaugh's Former Law Firm Fearful After Murders. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 22, 2023 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: 150 million Americans are facing winter storm threats today. In Arizona, a massive blizzard is already blanketing roadways and knocking out power. In South Dakota, police say that the weather's so bad it may be impossible to rescue drivers that are already been stranded there for quite some time. But let's head to Minnesota now. Adrienne Broaddus is standing by where some of the heaviest snow is expected. Adrienne, how's it looking?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's beautiful right now, but do not let the look at this hour deceive you, Kate. It's not horrible. But the conditions are expected to worsen as we progress into the day and into tomorrow morning. And when I say beautiful, that's because the sun is shining, right behind me not a lot of traffic on this stretch of highway but the roads are clear, the clouds have been out all morning.

Here's -- in parts of the state, there is a blizzard warning. And from the National Weather Service, they're saying life-threatening travel conditions will likely result. Warning people across the state if they do not have to be out do not get out.

Minnesota's Department of Transportation is equipped to handle this significant storm. They have at least 800 snow piles, and about 1600 drivers. Schools across the state have already taken action, some canceled classes for the day, others quickly switch gears to E- learning.

And again, those worse conditions will be expected late tonight. And we're talking about seeing in some parts of the state sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour while the snow is falling, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Oh, my goodness. All right, Adrienne, be well. Thank you.

Let's go now to Ohio where the head of the EPA is now saying that Norfolk Southern will pay for the cleanup of toxic chemicals that spilled following that train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. This as federal regulators are taking charge of the long-term recovery efforts at the site. Miguel Marquez is an East Palestine for us. Miguel, you talk to the head of the EPA about the cleanup efforts, what did he tell you?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, the EPA is clearly trying to take full control of the situation here. There has been so much concern among residents that the way this thing has unfolded slowly finding out more and more information from North Norfolk Southern as it's gone around, that the EPA is now trying to sort of take charge and take control of the situation.

I do want to show you exactly what's happening sort of in town. This is the sort of small-bore-specific stuff that they are doing. This is one stream that flows through the town of East Palestine. Emergency crews now and -- trying to clean all this up putting up these barriers on the water. It's been raining today, so the water level has come up a little bit. Those barriers are absorbent, and then they will pick up any toxins that they can stir up.

They're trying to stir it up. They use these big generators and pumps to suck water up out of the stream, and then shoot it back into the stream just sort of disturbed the water so that it hits those barriers, so that it can get -- it can get all of those toxins that may be in these streams. Two streams that they know of in town are contaminated. The EPA director telling us yesterday that Norfolk Southern must step up.


MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We'll work as quickly as possible. We just signed the order yesterday. There's 48 hours the company has an opportunity to respond, and then engage with us to begin to put together a very comprehensive work plan. And so, I can just assure you, we're going to push them as far and as fast as we can.

I have not heard from the company. But that doesn't mean the agency hasn't. But I have a lot of confidence in the laws that Congress have given me to have them respond and respond appropriately.


MARQUEZ: So, the focus on East Palestine in this derailment has been enormous, not only from the federal government but the two states, Ohio and Pennsylvania as well. Former President Donald Trump is here today. Erin Brockovich, the activist is here later this week. There is just massive attention. And Norfolk Southern now responding very forcefully as well and saying everybody's going to be here for many years to come. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right, Miguel, thank you. A quick programming note for all of you. Tonight, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine will be joining Jake Tapper for a special "CNN TOWN HALL" about all of this. It begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

So, right now, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments about whether or not Twitter is liable for aiding and abetting a 2017 terrorist attack. The very latest from the court is next.


BOLDUAN: The Supreme Court is hearing arguments over whether Twitter can be held liable for content created by its users. The family of a man killed in an ISIS attack in Istanbul is suing a social media giant claiming that they aided and abetted the attack by hosting the terrorist organization on their platform. That could be very important what happens in this case. Jessica Schneider is following this very closely for us. Jess, what have you heard so far?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Kate, a lot of technical back and forth from these justices. A little bit less lively than yesterday. But these are really taken with today and yesterday, two big cases that big tech is warning could upend the internet.


So, the case being heard right now we're about 90 minutes into arguments, it's this broad examination of whether social media companies can be held liable for terrorist activity if they allow groups like ISIS to post and share content on their sites. The family of one terrorist attack is saying, yes, they should be able to sue Twitter and other sites. But, of course, social media companies, even the government, they're arguing no. They're saying that this federal anti-terrorism statute was just never intended to allow for such a broad liability.

So, the debate this -- we're seeing this morning is very technical. It's over the wording of this anti-terrorism statute. But it is clear that the justices here are still confronting this big consequential decision of whether in both cases to refine the rules that currently govern the internet and to allow more people to sue over the content that's posted by third-party users on various social media sites.

The key here, Kate, is that this case today is a lot more broad whether or not people can sue under this anti-terrorism statute. A lot of court watchers are saying if the court decides no, that they can't sue under this anti-terrorism statute, that would alleviate the court from even deciding that question yesterday, over whether you know, section 230 fully protects social media companies. So, it's a very technical case today, but obviously big implications for big tech down the line, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Especially when you take it together as you so perfectly put it together.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, Jess. It was great to see you.


BOLDUAN: Now, let's start to grow -- the growing speculation about the potential -- growing presidential field for 2024. Republican Senator Tim Scott heads to Iowa today, which of course is the first Republican presidential caucus state. His visit comes as he is seen as eyeing a White House bid. And then there's candidate Donald Trump. He's headed to East Palestine, Ohio right now, as Miguel Marquez was just telling us, to focus on the site of that toxic train wreck.

Jeff Zeleny is monitoring all of these moves for us. He's joining me now. Jeff, what do you think we're going to hear from Tim Scott?

EFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it's been so interesting watching Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina who just won re-election last fall. And he really delivers a very different message than we've heard from this era of the Republican Party. He delivers a hopeful message. He delivers an optimistic message. He really sheds it in his own biography talking about how he grew up through the ranks and rose from poverty into becoming a wealthy businessman and then to becoming a U.S. senator.

So, he really you know embodies what Ronald Reagan used to call Morning in America, a very hopeful and optimistic message. The question is, is the Republican Party open for that type of a message at this point? This has become a party in many respects, filled with grievances, and filled with some more negative views of things. But he is going to Des Moines, Iowa later today. He'll have a couple of appearances. And, of course, he's the latest Republican potential candidate visiting the state of Iowa.

Of course, he has some company. Nikki Haley, a fellow South Carolinian has been spending all week in the state. Many other candidates have been as well. But it really sets up a stark contrast, as you said, the former President Donald Trump, he's already in the race.

He's yet to visit some of the early-voting states like Iowa, but he is front and center in the state of Ohio this afternoon visiting East Palestine. But the question is, what type of candidate are these Republicans looking for? So, the voting begins for the primary in less than a year. That's why Tim Scott out there today.

We should also point out. Speaking of South Carolina, former Vice President Mike Pence, he's visiting South Carolina next week. He is also considering a run as well. So, a very crowded sense. But, Kate, the question today is what type of Republican candidate and message are they looking for? That's why this year is so important. It's all about testing and trying out these various messages.

BOLDUAN: Yes, how many lanes are there, and what is the lane for each?

ZELENY: Let's see.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see -- it's good to see you, Jeff.

ZELENY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Joining right now for more on this is Marc Short. He's the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, some of that knows Mike Pence's thinking very well, especially as Pence is considering a potential presidential run. What would South Carolina mean for a possible Mike Pence 2024 presidential campaign, Marc? I mean, how important is that early state to a successful run? MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP MIKE PENCE: Good morning, Kate. Thanks for having me on. I think that -- I think the trajectory for Republican nominee still goes through those first three states. I think there's no doubt that in the last cycle in 2016, when it was competitive on the Republican side, you had 17, 18 candidates and it went much longer, but I think that's an aberration.

I think the reality is that you're probably going to face less than 10 candidates in 2024. The system is a way of weeding out those candidates who can't survive, either raising the resources or getting the public attention. And so, I would imagine that those first three states are all going to be pivotal to whoever the nominee is in 2024.

BOLDUAN: It's interesting because I was going to ask you about kind of the -- you know, forgetting the timing of when people are getting into the race but more about the number of people who could be getting into the primary.


SHORT: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Because we know in 2016, we saw a large Republican primary fieldwork to Donald Trump's advantage. Do you think -- I know you don't think it's going to be as big of a field this time, but do you think a bigger fields still works to his advantage this time around?

SHORT: I think just looking at it from the sheer numbers, sure, Kate. I think that anybody can defend that argument that in 2016, I think there was a greater urge for everybody to just sort of upset the applecart and elect somebody who go to Washington, DC, and disrupt the system. I think there's still some of that, but not to the same extent there was after eight years of the Obama presidency for Republican primary voters. And so, I don't know that that same urge is there but at the same time, I think that you're going to have a smaller field in 2024.

I still think you have several candidates, though. It's not going to be Donald Trump's alone, clearly. And so, I do think that, yes, he can have a certain amount of still strong art and support, I think, because of his record as president. But at the same time, I don't think it's his to walk into. I think it's going to be a competitive field.

BOLDUAN: And an issue that is sure to come up in this race in the primary, a big issue that already in the fight over the debt ceiling is entitlements, Social Security, and Medicare. Mike Pence talked about it just this morning. Let me play what he said on CNBC.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I respect the speaker's commitment to take Social Security and Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling negotiations. We got to put them on the table in the long term.


BOLDUAN: There's that, Marc, but you also have Republican Senator Rick Scott, he's now reversed course with his proposal that's gotten so much attention now taking entitlements off the table in the long term. Who's right here?

SHORT: Well, Kate, I don't think that there's any question as to who's right. The reality is the math simply doesn't work unless you address the entitlement reforms. And I think that the former vice president's just going to be honest with the American people as he always has been.

I think if you look right now in Washington, DC, I think unfortunately, neither party is really truly being honest with the American people. We're facing a situation which the actuaries for Medicare and Social Security, not some conservative or left-wing group but actually government and police are saying that within the next 10 years, Social Security's going to begin to be having automatic cuts, and actually by 2028, on Medicare. The reality is this is an unsustainable path. And when those automatic cuts go into effect, that people can least afford them are the ones they're going to feel the consequences.

You know, when the programs of the great society were passed in the mid-1960s, defense spending was about 40 percent, entitlements 30 percent. Today, entitlement spending is 70 percent of our budget, and defense spending is about 10 percent. There are some on the right who were saying we can eliminate woke programs in the Pentagon to solve this. That's absurd. And they know better.

The reality is that we're the last place should be cutting as the Pentagon right now when you face problems with China and a growing nuclear threat in Iran. The reality is that we cannot address the spending problems in the United States unless we have an honest conversation with the American people about entitlement spending. We're on a course, and of course, it is going to become uncorrectable.

The reality is that for the first time since World War Two, we now face the reality that our debt is equal to or greater than our GDP. And coming out of World War Two, Kate, you could draw down defense spending and you had the prospect of an economic boom. We don't have that today. And we have to have a serious conversation with the American people, and you're going to hear the former Vice President have that conversation.

BOLDUAN: And we will see because there is -- I mean, look, the debate over entitlements is not new. We know that. But it's big -- it's definitely become a new debate and conversation within the Republican Party because they -- because we're -- as you pointed out, Republicans are not now on the same place on the same page when you talk about what should be on the table. It'll be interesting to hear this debate happening and to hear Mike Pence talk about it if and when he jumps into the race. It's good to see you, Marc, thanks for your time.

SHORT: Kate, thanks for having me on. BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it. Alex Murdaugh's former law partner is on the stand this morning. He was at the Murdaugh property the night of the killings and at the crime scene the next morning. We're going to take you live at the courthouse next.



BOLDUAN: On the stand, this morning in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh is his former law partner of more than two decades. He was there the night of the killings and on the property the next morning. Randi Kaye, outside the courthouse once again for us in South Carolina. Randi, I'm super interested in this man as a witness. What's going on today?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. This is Mark Ball that we're talking about. He's a longtime friend of Alex Murdaugh's and a fellow lawyer of his. And he described him that the night of the murders as devastated and crying when he saw him at the murder scene. But he also helped push forward this defense theory that this was a really sloppy crime scene investigation by the state investigators.

And he talked about the feed room. That's the area of the dog kennels where Paul Murdaugh was found. He said that he was there. And investigators told him that they were already done with that scene. But here's how he described it.


MARK BALL, ALEX MURDAUGH'S FORMER LAW PARTNER: Looking around down the -- around the floor and all that, just there was a piece of whole skull about the size of baseball lay in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did that upset you?

BALL: It did very much. I mean, it just really infuriated me. And I don't know who I was supposed to be mad at but it just infuriated me that this young man had been murdered. And it was still his remains there. And there was a large bloodspot tissue out right off of the apron of that area right outside the feed room that was there. And it's kind of like walking across the grave. You just -- it's one of those things you just don't do.



KAYE: And, Kate, was a witness for the defense, as I said. But he certainly helped the state as well when he identified Alex Murdaugh's voice on that kennel video at 8:44 p.m. when we know that Murdaugh has said he was not there earlier in the night, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Randi Kaye in South Carolina for us, we'll continue to follow that trend very closely. Appreciate it, Randi.

Thank you all so much for watching us at this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts after this break.