Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Heavy Snow And Ice Hit North Carolina; Up To 13 Inches Of Snow Expected In And Around Pittsburgh; Standoff Ends With All Hostages Rescued, Assailant Dead; Rabbi Who Was Held Hostage Receives Praises; Senate To Take Up Election Reform Legislation Tuesday; Australian Open About To Begin Without Novak Djokovic. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 16, 2022 - 18:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, millions of Americans hunkering down as a vicious winter storm pummels the United States, causing mass power outages.

GOV. ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: If you haven't already, now is the time to get prepared. This storm is a menace.

HARLOW: And hostages safely rescued after a near 11-hour ordeal at a Texas synagogue. A hero rabbi is praised by the community.

ELLEN SMITH, MEMBER, CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL: The rabbi is generally the best human I think anyone could ever meet.

HARLOW: And the FBI reveals new information about the suspected hostage-taker. Meantime, tough weeks ahead in the battle against Omicron as post-holiday cases spike.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON-GENERAL: This is a very difficult time during this surge. We are seeing high case numbers and hospitalization rates. The good news is that there are parts of the country where we are starting to see a plateau, and in some cases, an early decline in cases.


HARLOW: Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York tonight in for Pamela Brown. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And a long weekend for many Americans is proving to be no holiday thanks to a huge winter storm. Right now more than 80 million people are under winter weather alerts across the east. The storm will exit the south tonight and begin its march up through New England.

The Carolinas have been especially hard hit. North Carolina's governor says some areas with 12 inches of snow and the added danger of ice underneath. More than two dozen counties have declared a state of emergency. Across the southeast, some 280,000 homes and businesses are without power tonight. And the weight of freezing rain and high winds brought down trees, as you can see right there.

Widespread damage is also reported around Fort Myers, Florida, after the same storm whipped up both confirmed and suspected tornadoes this morning. An ef-2 tornado damaged more than 100 mobile homes in that area.

Also across the country air traffic has been snarled on this day before Martin Luther King Jr., the holiday, tomorrow of course. Nearly 3,000 flights have been canceled today and around that many more have been delayed.

We are following the path of this enormous storm and its damage. Our Dianne Gallagher is in Charlotte, North Carolina, where there has been a lot of snow. Polo Sandoval is in Pittsburgh where it's arriving.

Dianne, let's begin with you. What are conditions like there? I mean, 12 inches in some spots?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, it's icy here in Charlotte, and really across the Carolinas. Even those spots that got a lot of snow, ice is underneath that snow. I want you to take a look at this live drone footage of the interstate around the city of Charlotte right now. They've cleared off those roads for now but you can see they're wet. And that's the concern, that there's going to be another freeze overnight.

Already within the state they've dealt with more than 200 accidents. There are several large accidents that they're currently dealing with around the state at this point. Officials have said, look, please just don't drive. You probably don't know how to drive in these conditions and they're only going to get worse, even though it seems like the conditions have stopped briefly.


COOPER: For today the best way to avoid a car accident or getting stranded is to stay put. Fewer people on the road means fewer car crashes. Plus it allows highway crews and utility workers to get faster results. If you must travel, reduce your speed, increase your following distance and be sure to clear all the snow and ice off your vehicle before traveling.


GALLAGHER: Now, to give you an idea, what I'm talking about, Poppy, can you hear it? This is hard. This is sleet that's frozen. It's already starting to rain a little bit. We're seeing some of that freeze over again. The other big concern, of course, is power outages. More than 90,000 across the state of North Carolina right now. They anticipate more as the ice weighs down those tree branches, potentially impacting power lines. And of course, there's air travel as well, Poppy. Nearly 90 percent of all flights coming out of Charlotte International Airport had to be canceled today.

HARLOW: Wow. All right, Dianne, thank you so very much. I hope people stay off the roads there. Let's move north with the path of this storm, Polo Sandoval is in


Polo, what's expected and what are they doing to prepare?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, maybe about an hour ago, you could actually still see the road. In the last hour you've really seen that rate of snowfall increasing. The local National Weather Service is saying that later this evening we could potentially see up to two inches an hour in and around Pittsburgh. The forecast right now, though, calling for really no more than seven to eight inches.


So they have decreased the forecast when it comes to those snow amounts, but I'll tell you what, though, Pittsburgh, or what makes it a bit different than other major American cities are experiencing this weather is city officials as recently as Friday recognized that during the last major snow event, which was maybe about a week and a half ago, that their response fell short and basically did not anticipate a refreeze event, so there were many of the side streets that basically became just a frozen mess, paralyzing certain neighborhoods, even forcing school cancellations.

So we heard from Pittsburgh's new mayor as recently as Friday is basically promise that the residents here can expect a significant improvement in their response. I have to tell you, for the most part, we have seen that. You've seen plows not just on the roads, but also on the sidewalks, making sure that the roads are clear, anticipating a potential refreeze event. But again, it is obviously going to be a holiday weekend here. At least it is a holiday weekend.

So they're expecting that most people are going to stay off the roads. School was not scheduled for tomorrow, anyway, so they're certainly hoping that people will stay off the road. And really the big message that we're getting from folks here in Pittsburgh by emergency responders and officials is simply stay home and root on the Steelers versus going out and braving this weather -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Well, that's a good reason to stay home, right?


HARLOW: Thank you, Polo, very much.

Now let's go to the CNN Weather Center, our meteorologist Tom Sater joins me now.

Tom, good evening. Good to be with you. We're so glad we have you on a night like this. What is in store?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, in some cases, Poppy, it's just really ramping up. Other areas it's improving and things are doing quite well. When you look at these warnings, though, we've been showing you, just yesterday the warnings looked just like this but they were coming out of the Dakotas and Iowa. 14 inches in Des Moines, parts of Minnesota, and in Missouri and Illinois.

Only a couple of inches in St. Louis but you get down into Arkansas, how about Mississippi up to nine inches. So again, it's almost like a big horseshoe. The comma shaped image you're seeing on radar here, this is classic, but it's all about the track of the storm. This area of low pressure, if it was offshore tonight, then everyone would have get into heavy snowfall. But it's inland, which makes it tricky on that I-95 corridor.

Closer in, improving now, Nashville, you're in the clear just south of there, Brentwood. How about 9.8 inches of snowfall? You get down and you've got nine inches as mentioned in Mississippi. In the Atlanta area, they we hoping for more, the kids obviously, but it's widespread. We actually had heavier snowfall south of Atlanta in some of the counties there than areas to the north, it's getting better.

Raleigh saw theirs ice changed over to rain as temperatures were warming. And we'll watch that rain. Notice how the rain is lifting northward. So areas that have been picking up snowfall really, pretty much some of the I-95 areas are going to see a change to rain. Now that's the forecast. This gets tricky when you're talking about Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Does that warm air move in or does that cold air lock in place?

Philadelphia was added to the advisory just a little while ago. However, New York City is not getting any advisory. Boston is not. But you just -- you don't have to go far to the west to really get in on this. So, again, here's the track it's in inland. That's great news for areas east of I-95, but significant snowfall and not just a few inches. We're talking eight, nine, 10, 12, even more than that in some areas.

This will be accompanied by winds that were howling in the deep south. 50, 65 mile per hour winds. Thought we'd lose power just from that alone. Another situation on the tail end of this storm, we're talking about tornadoes. Yes, you can have them in Florida in the month of January, however, it's been six years. But watch what happened. We have not one, but now we're confirming two tornadoes from the National Weather Service, and Tampa, and they both had destructive winds.

The first one up around Charlotte County, ef-1, but then down closer to areas to the south, three communities, mobile home communities with winds up to 118 miles per hour. I mean, this is an ef-2. This moved in substantial damage. It was around 7:35 in the morning, only lasted five minutes, but 108 homes were damaged, 30 completely destroyed, some off their foundations and three injuries from this tornado.

To the one to the north, good news, Poppy, no injuries. The threat is over with as that system is now off the east coast of Florida. But we've got much more to talk about. In fact, I'll be back in just a few minutes. Icing is significant, so we're going to talk about that. Who is seeing better weather conditions, who's going to see worse power outages.


SATER: And believe it or not, our weather models want to give us another one in five to six days. So we'll touch on everything.

HARLOW: Wow. All right. Buckle up. Tom, we'll see you in just a few minutes. Thanks very much.

So let's give you a little bit more detail on what Tom just mentioned across southwest Florida. This, we're going to show you here, is near Fort Myers. Look at that. You can see the debris swirling around, this confirmed tornado, powerful ef-2. CNN affiliate WBBH reports a tornado then plowed into the Punta Rossa community.


EDWARD MURRAY, RESIDENT: It lifted me up off my feet and blew me I thought toward the east wall, I believe it would have been, and under the sink. But instead it was turning the house upside down. I thought I was looking down at the floor and I was actually looking up.


SKIP HARRIS, RESIDENT: I've seen the twister debris flying around. My wife was still in the house. I screamed, get dressed. Our landlord behind us. He has concrete for a foundation with enough to stand. We made it inside and 10 seconds later it hit. Glass flying everywhere. We came out and saw all this.


HARLOW: Officials say 108 mobile homes were damaged, 30 destroyed. Fire officials say as many as 200 people are displaced tonight, but somehow no known serious injuries.

Well, up next, what we know about the hostage-taker in that synagogue in Texas. As you saw the news break here last night, how the congregation is praising their heroic rabbi.

And then a dramatic departure for tennis ace Novak Djokovic and his Australian visa drama ends with the deportation debacle. Will it change his mind about getting vaccinated?

And later ash blanketing Tonga after a huge underwater volcanic eruption creates a cloud of smoke three miles wide.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HARLOW: An update tonight on the terrifying hostage ordeal at Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. All four hostages, including the congregation's rabbi were finally released and are all physically unharmed. The suspect was shot dead as police moved in. The FBI has identified the suspect as a 44-year-old British citizen. And while investigators try to determine exactly why he targeted this congregation, we're learning just how terrifying it was inside.

Our Natasha Chen is live tonight in Colleyville tonight.

Natasha, thank you so much for being with us, and you've got more details, especially on Facebook audio livestream. So many people heard this happening in real time.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, the services inside the synagogue were being livestreamed at the time in the building behind us. You can see there are still police vehicles there, and there is a truck there where our colleagues have seen officers loading that pretty much all day, perhaps still processing evidence. And you're talking about that livestream.

It gives us a glimpse into the chaotic, terrifying 11 hours that those hostages were inside. Now, there is just audio, no video here, so what you're about to hear, we don't know exactly whom the suspect is speaking to, but you get the sense from this clip we're about to show you that he did not want to leave the building alive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). I've got these four guys with me, yes. So I don't want to hurt them, yes. OK, are you listening? I don't want you to cry. Listen. I'm going to release these four guys once (INAUDIBLE). But then I'm going to go in the yard, yes. (INAUDIBLE) and they're going to take me, all right? I'm going to die at the end of this, all right? Are you listening? I am going to die. OK. So don't cry over me. OK? Don't cry, we cannot (INAUDIBLE).


CHEN: And really that was so terrifying for the folks at home watching the livestream, perhaps, but also of course for the people inside, including the rabbi who released a statement. I want to read part of that to you where he talks about how the congregation had security and active shooter training in the past, how critical that training was. He says, "In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening. Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself. There is no question that this was a traumatic experience."

And he goes on to thank everyone for their prayers and support. We're also learning from law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation, the sources told our colleague Josh Campbell that the suspect arrived in the U.S. at JFK about five weeks ago and that he was vetted when coming into the country, that he was not on a watch list. So we're watching for those developments as we try to find out exactly what happened here, Poppy.

HARLOW: Natasha, thank you very much for your reporting tonight, and there has been much praise for Rabbi Charlie Citron-Walker who not only leads this congregation but again who was one of the hostages himself, and last night during the siege, I spoke with some of his congregants. They had nothing but praise for this clearly beloved man. Listen.


SMITH: The rabbi is genuinely the best human I think anyone could ever meet. He was the one that went and sat with my dad, who is not Jewish. My family is an interfaith family. But the rabbi still took time out of his day to drive down, we live 45 minutes from the synagogue. He drove down to see my dad in the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rabbi Charlie is respected and beloved in this community and has spent his entire tenure, over 13 years in this synagogue. He has spent building bridges. We have a very small Jewish community in this area. We're in between Dallas and Fort Worth, and these cities, but there is a very, very large Muslim community, and Rabbi Charlie has reached out. We have Ramadan with the Muslim community, we have (INAUDIBLE), we have a strong community, we have strong relations with our neighbors, our Christian neighbors and our Muslim neighbors.


HARLOW: Let me bring in Rabbi Gary Zola, a professor at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.

Rabbi, thank you very much for being with me tonight.

RABBI GARY ZOLA, PROFESSOR, HEBREW UNION COLLEGE: It's a pleasure. Nice to be with you.

HARLOW: You know Rabbi Citron-Walker. He was one of your students, not once but twice I believe, and you described him as someone who is particularly interested in how Judaism can help solve the problems of society, which I just think is so fitting to discuss tonight. How so?


ZOLA: Well, you know, Charlie, really, what we're hearing about Rabbi Citron-Walker this evening is just exactly what one would have anticipated, all of us who had the privilege of teaching him here in Cincinnati. He just exuded the kind of goodness, bridge-building qualities, a decency that we have come to believe is what really is -- these are the qualities that the best kinds of rabbis.

And Charlie believed in the ideology, and I'm sure he continues to believe in it, that our reformed Jewish tradition teaches us that we need to apply the ethical teachings, the principles of our heritage not only to our own issues but also to help to make our world a better place. So Charlie was interested in the environment. He was interested in social justice issues. These were all evident when he was a student here in the time that he studied at the Hebrew Union College.

HARLOW: Seeing those characteristics in him as a young student and then that he no doubt carried on as a rabbi of this congregation, I wonder how you believe he may have led during those 10-plus hours of being held hostage? I'm sure trying to comfort and assure his fellow congregants.

ZOLA: I would assume so. Rabbi Citron-Walker has an equanimity about him that he's a very good listener. He has a warm smile, and he seems to be able to take possession of the time that he has with people to make them feel comfortable. So I suspect you're right about that. You know, he and I developed a friendship because we're both graduates of the University of Michigan so I remembered that.

And you know, we have a lot of colorful students in our rabbinical school. Everybody has -- everyone has his or her own approach to life and strong feelings about things. Charlie was one of those people in class who seemed to be able to connect with and make friends with everybody.

HARLOW: I wonder what, finally, Rabbi, your thoughts were as you were watching this unfold, yet again another violent, horrific, tragic attack on Jewish people in this country, on a Jewish place of worship. What are your thoughts as you reflect on what has happened in the last 24 hours?

ZOLA: Yes, well, it's very tragic. My field is American Jewish history. That's what I teach. That's what I taught Rabbi Citron- Walker. And this event, as some of us have already heard, is just another sad mile marker, because it is the first time as far as I know that Jews have been held hostage in their own house of worship. And you know, we've seen these tragic developments, the uptick in anti- Semitism and the increasing attacks on Jews in the United States, and that's very tragic.

I think that what I would end with is a hopeful note considering the fact that tomorrow is MLK Day. And I'm thinking right now in terms of your question, Poppy, about Rabbi Joachim Prinz who spoke just prior to Dr. King on August 28th, 1963 on the march on Washington. A very famous brief talk in which Rabbi Prinz who was a survivor himself of Nazi Germany. He was a refugee, he left in 1937, came to America and became very involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

And at that occasion, which we think about tomorrow on MLK Day, Rabbi Prinz famously said, you know, I was -- he said, I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, and he said, I learned many things. The most important thing, he said, that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that it was not bigotry, not hatred. These were not the most urgent problems. The most urgent, the most disgraceful and the most shameful problem Rabbi Prinz said is silence.


He called upon America not to be silent onlookers. So here we are. We're faced with this. I think tomorrow we should all rededicate ourselves not to be silent onlookers. Let's all come forward and do our best, each in our own communities, to see to it that this nation lives up to the lofty ideals enshrined in our noble founding documents.

HARLOW: Rabbi Gary Zola, thank you for that poignant message tonight, very much.

ZOLA: Thank you very much, Poppy. HARLOW: Well, severe weather is threatening more than 80 million of

you right now. We'll have an update on this storm moving across the east next.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HARLOW: Right now more than 80 million people in this country under winter weather alerts all across the East Coast. The Carolinas have already been hit very hard. North Carolina's governor says some areas have a foot of snow, and the added danger of ice underneath is making for pretty perilous situation on the roads.

Let's get to the CNN Weather Center meteorologist Tom Sater who joins us.

So what is next here, Tom?

SATER: Well, we've got some good news. When you look at the warnings and the advisories, something has changed on this map since we last spoke, and then as the ice warning has been lifted in South Carolina, excellent news. In some cases the forecast is what we call underachieving meaning it's not giving us the amount of ice we were expecting, which is good news, but in other cases it's overachieving in snowfall.

So again, we have this conversation. We talked about Florida at the top of the newscast. This snow is coming to an end central areas of Tennessee, back, and it's still snowing, though, in Alabama and in Georgia. Even though it's patchy, a lot of dry slots moving in it's still accumulating. But good news is, the rain is moving northward. That means some areas seeing snow. We'll see the changeover.

Now as we're get in closer, really good news for Charlotte, most of their ice accumulations just south of the metro city area. So that's good. Not for them but it is showing that that warmer air is trying to move in. Now even though snowfall rates in D.C. and areas west have been one, two inches an hour, starting to see that pink move into the downtown D.C. That means it's going to start to warm a bit where it's going to mix with sleet. Eventually changing over to rainfall.

Points to the north. New York City, you can see a few flurries before that too changes over to rain. Philadelphia, you're -- it's a mix with you right now. You're going to see some snow for a while. Look at these totals. Boone, North Carolina, 12. I do want to point out Brentley, Tennessee, 6.8, I think I added an inch and a half to you earlier, But it's the ice, Poppy. And this is a concern especially for central areas of Virginia. As that storm moves up, howling winds will create blinding visibility.

So everybody, just stay off the roads. Over a foot of snowfall, and you'll see it's more inland. Concerned about Cleveland over to Pittsburgh and Buffalo. These are the extreme areas conditions. But it's all about this ice. So we want this to underachieve as well because we can lose power for hours. And if they're out of power, they'll be out for about a week so.

HARLOW: Yes. Wow. OK, Tom, thank you so much for that update. We'll get back to you very soon.

Ahead, one of the top Democrats in the House thinks voting rights are on life support ahead of a critical vote this week. April Ryan and Cornell William Brooks joins me next to talk about it.



HARLOW: Well, on Tuesday the Senate will take up voting rights legislation that many fear is dead on arrival. Passing the bills will be a monumental challenge with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema standing strong against changing the filibuster rules, which seem to be the only way to get this legislation through. Still, Majority whip James Clyburn says he's not giving up and that his party must find a way to make it work. Listen.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): If we do not protect the vote with everything that we've got, we will not have a country to protect going forward. I don't know where we got the notion from that this democracy is here to stay no matter how we conduct ourselves. Our job when we took the oath, we took the oath of office to protect this country from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

There are some domestic enemies that showed up on January 6th, and it didn't stop there. It's still going on. And you hear it when the president tweets out, or whatever he said, about getting rid of people's convenient voting places, saying to paraplegics that we can't make it convenient for you to vote, saying to (INAUDIBLE) that you got to stand in line four and five hours to vote, and if anybody gives you a glass of water, they will be put in jail. That's third world stuff.


HARLOW: Let's talk about all this. CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for TheGrio, April Ryan, is with me and Cornell William Brooks, former president of the NAACP and professor now at Harvard Kennedy School.

Thank you both so much. April, let me just begin with you on your reporting about what happens after Tuesday. I'm assuming this does not make it through, right? I mean, mountains would literally have to move. So then what?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the mountain, it looks like, is not going to move. It's going to stay in place. But here's what's going to happen. Black America, who overwhelmingly put the Biden- Harris ticket into the Oval Office, is trying to figure out what is going on, especially as this president said the reason why he came into office or ran for the Oval Office is because of issues of race, equity and equality, particularly stemming from Charlottesville.

Now voting rights is gone. We are now voting without the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Build Back Better to help those frontline workers, to help people, the underserved specifically, to have money, jobs, to have child care to do other thing that are pocketbook issues.


And then there's another issue, the issue of policing. The George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. It did not move because of Tim Scott and Mitch McConnell. Black people are looking for answers from this White House that gave promises during the campaign that they were going to move mountains for them on these critical issues.

HARLOW: Yes. To your point, Cornell, to April's point which I think is an important one, you said recently, quote, "African-Americans didn't elect him to be quiet," talking about Biden. We heard his forceful voting rights speech this past week, but as you know, fellow Democrats have criticized it for some, you know, and some have said too late, so what more do they -- many American people who got him into office want to hear and see?

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER NAACP PRESIDENT: People all across this country, particularly African-Americans, are expecting the president to expand political capital on the moral capital of his presidency, which is to say the right to vote. The point being here is we have had literally people going to jail in 2021 and 2022. Children and faith leaders of which I'm one on hunger strikes for the right to vote.

We have invoked again and again Martin Luther King's name, John Lewis' memory, for the right to vote. And so for us to be on the eve of the Martin Luther King federal holiday with the right to vote hanging in the balance, this presidency has a political or electoral question mark before it, which is to say, having started out in this administration on a high plane of hope, descending into righteous outrage, we descend further into apathy and anger at the midterms. So this presidency is hanging in the balance. Not merely the voting rights of Americans all across the country. So this is a perilous moment politically as well as democratically.

HARLOW: We heard James Clyburn there talking about the critical importance of passing this legislation and warning of, quote, "domestic enemies" trying to make it harder for people to vote. I do want to play -- I think this is an important exchange that Jake Tapper had this morning, April, with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy. Listen to this.


SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): They're not criminalizing giving people water. They're just saying you can't just walk up to them just before they walk in, give them a piece of water and tell them who to vote for. You can still give water to the people working at the poll. They can distribute it. There are several other things he said that are misleading, and so did President Biden. Now if you're trying to call the United States of America to unity,

trying to get us to where we will come to common ground, you don't end up spreading things that are untrue or, frankly, lies. And that's why people think we need the filibuster, otherwise you're just totally rolled by somebody who's willing to sacrifice truth to pursue their agenda.


HARLOW: Now Cassidy was responding directly to a question about the new law in Georgia that does effectively keep pretty much anyone, except for those poll workers, from giving food or water to people standing in line to vote. During the last election voters in some Georgia precincts, as you guys know, mostly with very large non-white populations had to wait hours to vote in hot weather.

April, what's your response to what Senator Cassidy said there?

RYAN: This is the new way in 2022 to look like 1963, 1964, 1965. Think about this. We are now witnessing the electorate saying, I have a voice, going to the polls, standing in long lines as people cut down the number of polling places. But they're saying I want to cast my vote, and with that there are long lines.

And you have some of those people who are grandmothers, who are mothers, who are fathers, who are uncles, who are cousins, et cetera, who have been in those long lines and may need something to help if they have some kind of insulin issue, some kind of health issue at all.

And if you go and Grandma calls you and said, look, I want to give you some help, Grandma and Grandpa, you can't do it, you're going to jail. What does that look like and sound like? That looks like voter suppression. The new age of voter suppression from the '50s and '60s. Black people have seen this before. This is not new. This is a way to suppress the vote. And what the problem is it's not just suppressing the black vote. It's suppressing everyone's vote. The handy capable, it's the white vote, the Asian vote, the Hispanic vote, the black vote.

This is the new way to suppress the black vote and all other votes for the Republican Party to get their way.

HARLOW: Cornell, a few days ago, I'm sure you read it, Charles Blow wrote that piece in the "New York Times."


The headline was, "Biden Fully Enters the Battle to Save Democracy When It's Nearly Over," and I was struck by this part of it. He said, "When Biden fully entered the battle the other warriors were already bloodied, bruised and exhausted." He goes on to write, "The question now is whether at the 11th hour, he's foray into the battle will prove to be too little too late."

What if things don't dramatically change? I mean, then what? Is there another bite at this apple for this administration or not?

BROOKS: Well, there will have to be another bite. This is not a matter of moral -- I should say matter of political calculation, but a matter of moral calculation. Here's what I mean. If John Lewis and Amelia Boynton were beaten to the pavement in 1965 as a consequence of their blood sacrifice to secure the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we cannot give up in 2022. And so the point being here is the Biden administration has to be clear.

They must fight tooth and nail, day in and day out, for the right to vote. Let's be clear here. When black Atlantans spend times as long in line as white Atlantans, when we see people on, I said Native Americans from Reservations who have long lines imposed on them, inconveniences imposed on them, this is not merely a matter of voter inconvenience, but rather, voter injustice.

And so we need to be very clear, Poppy, very, very clear. The Biden administration, despite what happens on Tuesday, has to make voting rights the number one party of this administration, because let me put it this way. If you have campaigns with campaign donations without votes, you don't have a democracy. Campaigns and elections depend on votes fairly cast, accurately and fairly counted. That is a central truth of this democracy.

HARLOW: Thank you both. Cornell, very good to have you. April, thank you.

RYAN: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, well, after more than a week of legal battles, tennis's number one in the world, Novak Djokovic, leaves Australia just before the first major tennis tournament of the year begins. What happens now? Senior writer for ESPN Howard Bryant is with me in just a second.



HARLOW: The Australia Open is about to begin without the world's number one, Serbia's Novak Djokovic. A plane with him on board took off from Melbourne this morning, not long after the Australian federal court upheld his visa cancellation and had him deported.

The court said he failed to show why he was medically exempt from getting vaccinated against COVID-19, but he's getting a lot of support back home. Belgrade lit up its tallest building in his honor, calling him the pride of Serbia. The prime minister called the Australian court's decision, quote," scandalous," and the president of Serbia says the court, quote, "humiliated themselves."


ALEKSANDAR VUCIC, SERBIAN PRESIDENT: They think they have by this, this mistreatment of 10 days humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves, Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high and look everyone in the eye.


HARLOW: Joining me now is ESPN's senior writer Howard Bryan. He's also with Meadowlark Media.

Howard, it's good to have you. What do you think, I mean, beyond today in the last past 10 days. What's the lasting impact of what we saw happen?

HOWARD BRYANT, SENIOR WRITER, ESPN: Well, I think the lasting impact of what we've seen really lies somewhat less with Djokovic and more with tennis itself, in all sport, in terms of trying to navigate this and have it both ways and not have vaccine mandates, and you run into a massive embarrassment. What is the sport going to do now when the French Open while this was taking place?

The French Open is welcoming Djokovic with open arm and then we're not quite sure what Wimbledon or what the U.S. Open is going to do. And effectively you have Tennis Australia really put Novak Djokovic in a very difficult position, even more than the difficult position he put himself in because they were trying to kind of pull a fast one on the country and I think that Novak has paid a pretty heavy price by being deported but Tennis Australia has a lot to answer for themselves.

HARLOW: So he won obviously the last three Australian Opens. This was -- he was set to compete for a record 21st grand slam win. What is next for him? I mean, when do you expect to see him compete again? You just mentioned France and then Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

BRYANT: Well, he's such a great champion, he's such a great player, he can play whenever he wants, whenever the next tournament, the next big ones that come up for a player of his stature, usually Dubai. And then you're going to come to the United States and I think that -- I think that he's going to run into some similar issues with the Indian Wells Tournament out in California. Also Miami if he chooses to play.

Then of course you get ready into the clay-court season, and once again, this is a very difficult thing for sports to navigate because nobody is really willing to give the sort of uniform policy that you need so everybody understands it.

HARLOW: You make --

BRYANT: I don't think Novak Djokovic was really skirting the rules.

HARLOW: Right.

BRYANT: But he certainly tried to find loopholes.

HARLOW: You make such an interesting point because even -- despite what the court did this week, there are many companies that are choosing to mandate and just make it a blanket policy, get vaccinated. And no major sport have we seen do that.

BRYANT: Well, that's right, and you look at even the Brooklyn Nets with Kyrie Irving up in New York.


You can't go into a restaurant in New York unless you show a proof of vaccination and then when the Nets said that they weren't going to let Kyrie Irving play he couldn't play home games because of the laws in New York, but he could play in the road games and the Nets pretty much said, well, you're not going to play at all if we can't have that uniformity, then when they started losing games and then when they started losing players they said, OK, you can come back in.

So it really is all about wins and money for the leagues when the covenant that you sort of have with the public is you were supposed to be part of the solution which is why we trusted sports to resume and which is why the rules were different.

HARLOW: Right. Yes, it's a fascinating point. Howard, great to have you. Come back soon. Thanks again.

BRYANT: Thank you.

HARLOW: From Mississippi to Maine, a huge winter storm hitting or threatening millions of Americans. We'll check in with our live reporters in the path of this storm, next.