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OpenAI In Turmoil After Mysterious Firing Of CEO Altman; Appeals Court Appears Inclined To Largely Restore Trump Gag Order; Thousands On Alert For Possible Volcanic Eruption In Iceland; TSA Predicts Record Airport Numbers Over Thanksgiving. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 14:30   ET



KARA SWISHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I suspect -- this morning, it was 505 of them. I suspect it's very close to the whole company leaving.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Yes. Potentially huge implications for one of the frontrunners --


SANCHEZ: -- leading in a revolutionary technology.

SWISHER: Yes. Yes. I think the issue is misalignment between his vision and theirs and that he wasn't fully forthcoming about that. They could have handled this 10 different ways instead of just firing him. They could have had a meeting, or et cetera, et cetera.

Instead, they took this rather -- they're very -- they're very concerned about safety and everything else, but then wouldn't give specific issues, saying it wasn't a specific safety issue either.

So who knows? It's the worst performance of a board I've seen in a very long time and it's a low bar.


Kara Swisher, thanks for breaking it down with us.

SWISHER: Thanks a lot.

SANCHEZ: Still to come on NEWS CENTRAL, will the gag order on former President Trump stay in place for that federal election subversion case? There's a hearing happening right now on this. We'll tell you what the appeal judge's grilled Trump's lawyers on.

Plus, we'll take you to Iceland where officials say it could be a matter of days before a massive volcano eruption. Stay with us.



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: At a hearing today, an appeals court appears ready to limit the speech of a former American president, and largely restore a gag order on Donald Trump.

Now, this involves the federal criminal case against Trump alleging he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.

The order has been frozen as Trump's attorneys try to get it fully lift, saying it violates his free speech.

SANCHEZ: The gag order restricts Trump's ability to publicly target court personnel, potential witnesses, and Special Counsel Jack Smith and his staff.

Let's chat with CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, who followed the two and a half hour hearing.

So, Even, from your viewpoint, it appears the judges are likely to keep the gag order in place?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They are likely to keep at least a version of it.

And you can tell from the hearing, later on in the hearing, you can hear from the prosecutor and the way he talked to judges that he understood perhaps they should try to find a way to modify some of this.

To make it more acceptable but at least the judges have something they can live with because of the broadness of this.

One of the criticism Trump's attorneys were making in court today was that the language is very, very broad, very dubious, to say the least, right? The idea that the word "targeting," for instance. What does that mean?

The unprecedented nature was something that he, John Sauer, lawyer for the former president, focused on the idea that the one of the leading candidates, "the" leading candidate, according to some polls, would have his speech filtered or restricted by a judge.



JOHN SAUER, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: The order is unprecedented and it sets a terrible precedent for future restrictions on core political speech.

This is a radical departure from the only cases considered this particular form of restriction, a restriction on a critical defendant running for public office.

And does so in the context is a hotly contested campaign for the highest office in the United States of America.


PEREZ: And look, all three judges on this appeals panel were very skeptical of the broadness what he was trying to push on.

One thing they pointed out was this really wasn't just about the First Amendment. There is an interest for the court to be able to preserve a fair trial. Right? Not to taint the jury pool, and to protect the safety of the people on the jury and so on.

MARQUARDT: And speaking of the jury pool and their safety, the judges did express some concern for them. What did they say?

PEREZ: Right. One of the concerns of the judges were asking -- again, this is a hearing that went on much longer than we all anticipated. They were asking a lot of questions.

And one of the questions, the idea by criticizing jurors in this trial, which begins in March, the former president could get some of these people doxed, have their personal information out in the public sphere.

And they asked prosecutors whether there's any way to protect that. The prosecutor in this case said there's really not any technological way to protect all of the names and all of the information of potential jurors in this case.

SANCHEZ: Really fascinating stuff to watch. We'll see if it ends here. Perhaps if it continues all the way to the Supreme Court.

PEREZ: Right, exactly.

SANCHEZ: Evan Perez, thanks so much for the reporting.

It is the so-called calm before the storm in Iceland where officials are warning it could be just a few days before a volcano erupts. CNN is on the ground. We'll take you there in just moments.



SANCHEZ: Welcome back to CNN NEWS CENTRAL. Here's some of the other headlines we're watching this hour.

Today, in Mississippi, Dexter Wade was laid to rest again, his second burial. His mother reported the 37-year-old missing to Jackson police on March 14th but she did not receive word he was deceased and buried in a pauper's grave behind the police department until six months later.

The Jackson Police Department says Wade was struck by a police cruiser but it failed to connect the missing person's report with his death.

Police claim there was no ill-intent in delaying the notification of his next of kin. The family wants the Justice Department to investigate.

In Italy, 207 mobsters were sentenced today to a total of 2,200 years in jail, 2,200 years. The trial was held in a bunker with a panel of judges under police protection. This is the largest mafia trial in the last 30 years of Italy's storied history with organized crime.

Also, Argentina over the weekend elected a new president. He's a political outsider who's been compared to Donald Trump. Javier Milei, a former right-wing TV pundit, won 55 percent of the vote after promising to break up the status quo in that country.

Keep in mind, Argentina has one of the world's highest inflation rates and the new president's campaigned on swapping the Argentinian peso for the U.S. dollar.


MARQUARDT: A fishing town in Iceland is staying on high alert with the possibility of a major volcanic eruption at any time. The town is called Grindavik. It has around 3,400 residents, who have now been evacuated.

People have only had brief opportunities to go back to their homes and gather personal belongings.


CNN senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, now reports from Iceland.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Icelandic government today, once again, reiterated that there is a high likelihood of a major eruption occurring in this part of Iceland.

We're seeing on the ground, there is a geothermal power plant and also a town that could very much be affected. That's definitely something the government is preparing for.

Here's what we're learning.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Nature's brute force punching through the ground, cracking roads and houses here in Grindavik, southern Iceland, ahead of what could be a massive volcanic eruption threatening the entire town.

Residents are on the run, like Paul Petersson, who evacuated his wife and three small children.

(on camera): You had to leave quickly?


PLEITGEN: What was that like?

PETERSSON: I don't know. It was horrible.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Iceland is in what is called a hot spot, where magma often breaks through the earth's crust, which can result in massive eruptions. And what happens here can affect large parts of the globe. In 2010,

ash spewed into the atmosphere by a volcano here brought transatlantic air travel to a virtual standstill for weeks.

Iceland's government says, this time around, the effects could also be devastating, with both Grindavik and a geothermal power plant nearby, which provides energy to Iceland's main international airport, in the possible path of lava.

(on camera): The authorities here are highly concerned about the town of Grindavik. It, of course, has been evacuated a few days ago.

But also about the geothermal power plant here in this area. And they are working 24/7 to try and dig a trench to redirect the lava if it comes to the surface.

(voice-over): Government experts here acknowledge they're not certain the trench would prevent lava from damaging the powerplant.

The main problem isn't even the size of the possible eruption, but the fact that it is so close to urban areas, geophysicist, Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, of the University of Iceland, tells me.

MAGNUS TUMI, GUDMUNDSSON, GEOPHYSICIST, UNIVERSITY OF ICELAND: It's so close to the town of Grindavik and the power plant and that is the main concern, that it could damage one or both of these facilities.


PLEITGEN: Because the eruption could happen anytime, Grindavik's residents can only return for a few minutes on some days to retrieve personal items from their home.

(on camera): Are you hopeful about the situation that maybe the town will be spared if a big eruption happened?

ELIZABETH OLAFSDOTTIR, GRINDAVIK RESIDENT: Regarding our house, no, not really. Because the lava tunnel is laying very close to our house. So we are expecting to lose everything if it will erupt.

PLEITGEN: The people here in this part of Iceland absolutely stoic in the face of adversity they face. They, of course, live with the threat of volcanic eruptions all the time in this part of the world.

And the Icelandic government said that they believe that if a big eruption occurs, it's a matter not of weeks but of days.


MARQUARDT: All right, very scary nerve-racking prospect.


MARQUARDT: Thanks to Fred Pleitgen for that report.

Now still to come, planes, trains and automobiles. Millions of Americans will be on the move for Thanksgiving, some of them. Many are already. We'll tell you how much patience you should be packing. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: The TSA has predicted a record number of passengers flying over the Thanksgiving holiday. AAA is predicting a record or at least the busiest Thanksgiving on record on the road in years. And that means the timing of a brewing storm system on the east coast could not be worse.

MARQUARDT: Awful timing.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is joining us now.

Gabe, how are things shaping up as Thanksgiving approaches?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this severe weather is terrible news. This is going to impact tens of millions of Americans, on some of the busiest travel days we've seen here in the United States.

Experts are predicting around 49 million people on the roads between Wednesday and Sunday. And around 30 million fliers over this extended 12-day period that we're already into around the holidays.

So for folks on the roads across the east coast, as the storm comes in tomorrow, we're expecting a lot of extended rainfall that could create not just basic traffic but it could create more dangerous conditions, more crashes on the road.

It could amplify what we were already expecting to see, these stoppages on the road.

And it could also mean that a lot of people look at their schedules, say, you know what, I don't want to travel in the middle of the storm, let me wait until Wednesday, let me wait until things blow over, wait until midday.

But we know that's going to be peak travel time. That's just going to cause more backups into Wednesday up and down the east coast.

And so, what we could see is this ripple effect. That means more disruptions, more traffic all the way until Thanksgiving Day.

For air travelers, we expect that the rain could mean disruptions at major airports up and down the east coast, Atlanta, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, New York.

And we know the FAA, their system has been strained all year. They're still down around 3,000 air traffic controllers.

The Department of Transportation points to their flight cancellation numbers so far this year, saying the best they've been in years. And yet still, the agency just this morning, looking at this forecast,

said, we expect there could be delays. We expect there could be cancellations. People need to be ready.

Not just here on the east coast. Remember, if we get cancellations here, flight crews could get stranded, they can't get across the country to their next flight.

And that means fliers everywhere need to be paying attention. There are50,000 flights scheduled just Wednesday across the United States.


And remember also, this is a time when tensions tend to run a little high at airports. People are trying to get home to family. They want to see loved ones.

We know that, since the pandemic, there's been a surge in harassment, even attacks --


COHEN: -- of aviation workers, airline workers.

And just this morning, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, spoke about that issue.

Here's his message to travelers.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We take the incidents very seriously. We refer them to the Department of Justice.

So in addition to it simply being the right thing to do, know there's a lot of enforcement behind our expectation, that all passengers will treat all flight crew members with the respect they deserve.


COHEN: His message, obviously, be patient. And the bad news is the disruptions may not end when the turkey is served.

Because our CNN team already looking ahead to Sunday, which could be the busiest travel day in U.S. history.

They're already looking at the possibility of some winter weather on the east coast. We're going to get a clearer picture of that in the next couple of days.

But just be prepared and be paying attention because tens of millions of people then obviously coming home.

SANCHEZ: The making of a potential holiday travel nightmare. They should pack their patience, would you say, Gabe?




MARQUARDT: He was trying to avoid saying that.

COHEN: I didn't want to say it.

MARQUARDT: We stole your line.

SANCHEZ: Gabe Cohen, thank you so much.

We're getting close to the end. National security spokesman, John Kirby, says that a deal for Israeli hostages is near. We'll have details on that straight ahead.