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Snow and Ice Creating Dangerous Conditions in North Carolina; Pittsburgh Expects Up to 13 Inches of Snow; Rabbi Who Was Held Hostage Describes the Ordeal; Pentagon Says Russia Preps Operation to Justify Ukraine Invasion; Oath Keepers Leader Pleads Not Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy; North Korea Fires Possible Ballistic Missile; Biden's Voting Rights Push Collapses Ahead of MLK Holiday; Reframing Marilyn Monroe. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 16, 2022 - 20:00   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 genuinely 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. It's the top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York, in for Pamela Brown. Tonight you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And we begin with severe weather. Snow, freezing rain in the north, tornadoes in the southwest, in Florida particularly a massive storm has more than 80 million people under winter weather alerts across the East Coast. The storm will march all the way to New England after battering the south.

Across the southeast some 180,000 homes and businesses are without power tonight after the weight of freezing rain and high winds brought down big trees, as you see. And across the country, air traffic has been snarled on this day before the Martin Luther King Junior holiday. Nearly 3,000 flights have been cancelled.

We're following the path of this enormous storm and its damage. Our Dianne Gallagher starts us off this hour in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the storm has already been. Polo Sandoval is in Pittsburgh where it is currently.

Dianne, let me begin with you. I mean, they're not used to snow there let alone a foot of snow. And this is really icy, dangerous, sticky snow.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly the problem here, Poppy. You're seeing these beautiful flakes falling right now. This is not what we experienced for most of the day in Charlotte. It was freezing rain, it was sleet. If you take a look at this live drone that were flying around the city of Charlotte in the uptown. There you can see the interstates, they've been cleared off but they look wet.

And that's the biggest concern that there is going to be a freeze again overnight. People are going to feel that they're comfortable to drive and they're going to be dealing with treacherous conditions again in the morning. They've been dealing with more than 200 different collisions already today in the state of North Carolina. The governor asking people you probably don't know how to drive in this so just stay off the road.


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: And he mentioned letting those vehicles get to people, emergency helpers and things like that. They activated the National Guard in North Carolian to help out, but they also admitted that due to staffing issues like we've seen across the nation that it may be a little bit more time before they can clear off all the roads. We're seeing some of the roads in the Charlotte area get cleared off quickly but that's not the case all across the state.

And Poppy, the biggest issue with the ice as well is the heaviness and what that might mean for trees and power lines. At one point there were more than 90,000 power outages across the state. They're letting people know that just because they're not seeing the same kind of weather right now doesn't mean that power outages may not continue to increase overnight.

HARLOW: OK, Dianne, thank you so much to you and your team out there reporting on it for us. Let's follow this path of the storm and head north. Our Polo Sandoval is in Pittsburgh.

Polo, what's expected? What's being done to prepare?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, the local National Weather Service office is expecting up to a foot of snow to fall in and around Pittsburgh. So here in Pittsburgh the snowfall that we're seeing right now is certainly going to test the city's ability to respond to keep these roads clear. I'll tell you why, we heard from the mayor on Friday basically say that the response that they had during the last major snow event which is earlier this month came up short. According to the public works director they did not anticipate a refreeze event.


So that basically made a lot of these side streets here in the city of Pittsburgh just a frozen mess, paralyzing different parts of the city here. So what we heard on Friday from city officials is that they're going to basically increase their ability to try to respond, to treat these roads before the first know snowflakes started to fall here, which is about four hours to go.

And to have those plow trucks just moving constantly to keep these roads clear and here is the thing. The big issue here according to head of public works is their ageing fleet of snow removal trucks. They ordered about a dozen new trucks but those have not been delivered yet because of supply chain shortages caused by COVID so it all ties together right now in terms of the city's ability to respond and to keep these roads clear especially come tomorrow.

Yes, there is no school scheduled but obviously some people still have to get to work tomorrow so that why's we're hearing right now from the state's governor Tom Wolf, if you don't have to go out right now, don't go out because their trucks, the limited amount of trucks that they have, are going to be out working as fast as they can to keep these roads clearer. So really the main message, especially for Pittsburgh residents, stay home, watch the Steelers take on Kansas City, stay warm at home and don't brave the streets.

HARLOW: All right. Polo, thank you for your reporting. We appreciate it.

Meantime, 11 terrifying hours for members of the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, yesterday. They were held hostage by a British national Malik Faisal Akram, who died after an elite FBI rescue team went in. All of the hostages were physically unharmed miraculously but the final hour was especially tense as the gunman became more unstable.

Our Natasha Chen has more on how everyone made it out safely. What more have you learned reporting on the ground today?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, police are still processing evidence today, still working the scene, the area is still blocked off. What we do know about those final hours, some of it is coming from the rabbi himself. Charlie Citron-Walker who was one of the four people held hostage for those 11 hours released a statement today saying that what was really crucial was the congregation's training, active shooter training, security training that they had done.

Very unfortunate that that's needed but he encouraged other organizations and congregations to do the same type of training. Here is what he said. "In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening. Without the instruction we received, we wouldn't have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself. There was no question that this was a traumatic experience."

And to give you just a glimpse into the type of chaos that was happening inside, here is a clip from the livestream of those services Saturday. Now keep in mind, this is audio only, no video. So what we're hearing is the suspect, unclear exactly whom he's talking to but the key thing to listen for here is that the suspect seemed to 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: Such a tense situation and we're also learning from law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation who told our colleague Josh Campbell that the suspect arrived in the United States about five weeks ago at JFK and he was not on any terror watch list -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Natasha, thank you very much for your reporting on the ground. Thank goodness everyone got out.

Well, moments ago North Korea fired a, quote, "unidentified projectile" into the waters off the Peninsula's east coast. This is according to South Korean news. Japan's prime minister says it was a ballistic missile. It would be the North Korea's fourth weapons test this month. We'll talk with former CIA deputy division chief for North Korea, Bruce Klingner, later in the hour.

Still ahead, though, Ukraine accusing Russia of a huge cyberattack on government computers. Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor explains what is at stake right now on all of this and America's position given this.

Plus for the first time in the January 6th investigation, the Justice Department raises the stakes using the rare sedition charge against members of the Oath Keepers. I'll show you how the group's message spread to millions.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HARLOW: Tonight, the U.S. and a number of its allies are growing more alarmed about Russia and the growing threat of war with Ukraine. Tensions have been rising for more than a month now as Russia has stationed more than 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine and these troops are also south in Crimea which Russia of course annexed in 2014.

U.S. intelligence says a similar playbook is unfolding for the possible invasion of Ukraine. The Pentagon says there is credible evidence that Russia has a, quote, "propositioned group of operatives" with the goal of making it look like there have been an attack on them or on Russia speaking of people in Ukraine saying the goal is to create justification to invade Ukraine.

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor joins me now. And I'm very glad to have you especially in the midst of this. Thanks for taking the time.


HARLOW: What do you make of the Pentagon's assessment here of potential false flag operation?


TAYLOR: Well, the Russians have done it before. The Russians have provoked both the Ukrainians but also we remember they provoked the Georgians back in 2008 as a justification of invasion, the Russian invasion of Georgia, so they've done this before as they -- as the Pentagon said this is a playbook. They know how to provoke and thus try to justify an invasion of another country.

HARLOW: Ukraine is blaming Russia tonight for a cyberattack on a number of its key computers, many of them government. Fareed Zakaria, my colleague, had this exclusive interview with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. And I want you to listen to what he said and get your reaction on the other side.


DMITRY PESKOV, PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT PUTIN: Presented and we consider a continuation of another un-proved accusation of Russia. So we are nearly accustomed to the fact that Ukrainians are blaming everything on Russia, even their bad weather in their country.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: But the timing does seem unusual, I mean, right at the time when these talks seem to not be going anywhere, the Russian government has suggested that they would take some military and technical actions against Ukraine if the talks didn't go well. Is it just a total coincidence that somehow hackers from somewhere decided to target Ukrainian government offices? PESKOV: You know, it's very dangerous coincidence. Extremely



HARLOW: Ambassador, you make the point this is not just about Ukraine. It is about what Putin can get away with beyond Ukraine. Can you expand on that?

TAYLOR: So I think President Putin does have an obsession with Ukraine. He has other concerns that he certainly doesn't much like NATO would like to kind of drive wedges among the various fissures that he can try to find in NATO and in the West, and the United States and Europe, but it really is focused on Ukraine. He wants to be sure Ukraine doesn't join NATO. Ukraine has every right to apply to NATO.

Ukraine is a sovereign country. Mr. Putin doesn't agree with that. Mr. Putin things that Ukraine is not a sovereign country. Mr. Putin has said that he thinks Ukraine is really just part of Russia and so moving into Russia, invading Ukraine from Russia is consistent with that view. So I think he is really focused on Ukraine.

HARLOW: But yet, your belief is that the likelihood of an actual Russian incursion into Ukraine is less than 50 percent. Is that right? You still believe that tonight and if so, why?

TAYLOR: I think it's less than 50 percent but only barely, and what that means is there is a very good chance, a very -- nearly a 50 percent chance that he will do -- there will be a major war in Europe today with tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, both sides dying, civilians dying, a nearly 50 percent chance of that kind of an outcome is troubling, it's very troubling.

The reason if there is reason, if Mr. Putin is thinking about the cost and benefits then he won't do it. Because the costs are very, very high. The cost in soldier's lives, the cost in civilian lives. The cost in sanctions that he knows are coming. The cost in terms of just isolation of Russia again further from the international community so the costs are very high. So if he is rational in some sense and maybe he's not, maybe he has a different calculation.

But if there is some rationality or if the people around him can say, boss, this is not a good idea. This is a crazy idea, then I hope that reason will prevail and he won't invade.

HARLOW: Well, Bill Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Your perspective is so valuable especially right. Thanks very much.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Ahead, members of the Oath Keepers are the first to be charged with sedition in connection to the January 6th insurrection. After the break, we'll look at who the leader of this group is and how they were able to spread that message.



HARLOW: Seditious conspiracy. It is the most serious charge yet in the investigation into the January 6th riot. The Department of Justice charging 11 defendants including the leaders of the Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes who pleaded not guilty in court last week. But prosecutors say Rhodes and others used encrypted communications to coordinate, leading up to January 6th.

Our Drew Griffin has more on these significant new charges and the man accused of leading this far-right group.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Oath Keeper leader and founder Stewart Rhodes has spent nearly a year publicly denying he had anything to do with the violence on January 6th.

STEWART RHODES, FOUNDER, OATH KEEPERS: There were no plans by the leadership, us, me and -- me and the team leader Whip to enter the Capitol. No instructions by us to do so. And we didn't even know that any of our guys had done it until afterwards.

GRIFFIN: But this indictment tells a different story, accusing Rhodes of seditious conspiracy, a complex months-long plan for a massively bloody revolution if Joe Biden took office.


Prosecutors alleged Oath Keepers prepared for battle at Rhodes' direction. Rhodes purchasing thousands of dollars in guns and tactical equipment. Others setting up an armed quick reaction force and communicated as they stormed the Capitol.

RHODES: You are executing citizen's arrest. Arrest this assembly. We have probable cause to acts of treason, election fraud.

GRIFFIN: A promoter of the big lie, Rhodes constantly and publicly called for Donald Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act over the November 2020 election or else.

RHODES: If he does not do it, we'll have to fight a bloody civil war or a bloody revolution.

GRIFFIN: That fiery language about revolution isn't new for Rhodes. He's been obsessed with fears of a deep state government for over a dozen years. Rhodes formed the Oath Keepers in 2009.


GRIFFIN: After America elected its first black president. His loose military-based group swears allegiance, they claim, to the Constitution and nothing else. RHODES: I will not obey orders to impose Martial Law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not obey.

GRIFFIN: Rhodes started out with an Oath Keeper blog, but his messages were soon spread to millions of people by conspiracy theorist and Stop the Steal organizer, Alex Jones. Rhodes has been a regular on Jones' "InfoWars" show for more than a dozen years.

ALEX JONES, HOST "INFOWARS": Why did you start Oath Keepers?

GRIFFIN: Together, Jones and Rhodes would whip up conspiracy theories and talk about government internment camps and plots to confiscate ammunition.

JONES: The Homeland Security Department is buying and has bought 1.6 billion rounds of ammo.

RHODES: They're buying it because they think they might have to use it pretty soon. And so they believe -- almost every gunner I spoke to is very concerned that this is for all the marbles and we're heading for civil war.

GRIFFIN: Armed Oath Keepers acting as vigilantes began showing up at civil disturbances, marches, protests. All while Rhodes pushed the idea that a real war would need to be fought to preserve the U.S. from so-called elites and leftists.

RHODES: Unless we can deactivate that brainwashing, we're going to eventually have to fight them. But when we do, it'll be a different ballgame because they don't have the military skills. We do.

GRIFFIN: Just days before election night 2020, Rhodes told "InfoWars" viewers the time he'd been predicting was coming.

RHODES: This is civil war because you have sitting politicians who are part of the enemy's ranks. But it's good news for us, though, as we have 14 million veterans, I believe, at least, a massive pool of combat veterans who are awake and aware.

GRIFFIN: After Trump lost the election, the Oath Keepers acted as security at Stop the Steal rallies. And Rhodes talked about providing protection for Alex Jones and others. He also broadcasted Donald Trump his shadowy army was in position.

RHODES: We have men already stationed outside D.C. as a nuclear option. In case they attempt to remove the president illegally, we will step in and stop it. Armed and prepared to go in if the president calls us.

GRIFFIN: And as the plans for January 6th started in motion, according to Rhodes's attorney, the Oath Keepers were asked by January 6th rally organizers to provide security.

JONATHON MOSELY, ATTORNEY FOR STEWART RHODES AND KELLY MEGGS: They were coming to the Capitol for a permitted demonstration on Lot Eight that Alex Jones and Ali Alexander were going to have. That went off the rails and didn't happen.

GRIFFIN: Two days before the insurrection, Rhodes posted an alert bulletin on the Oath Keepers' Web site. "All patriots who can get to D.C. need to be in D.C. Stand now," he wrote, "Or kneel forever." They came armed in battle fatigues. And, according to prosecutors, began executing their plan to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power, including multiple ways to deploy force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Took over the Capitol. Overran the Capitol.

GRIFFIN (on camera): The big question now, is this only the beginning? Are federal prosecutors now taking a much broader view of the insurrection and targeting those who planned and encouraged it, up to and potentially including members of Congress and even a former president?

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


HARLOW: We are following breaking news tonight as North Korea tests reportedly another missile. The fourth in two weeks' time. I'll speak with Bruce Klingner, the former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, next.




HARLOW: Tonight, another reported missile test from North Korea. The Japanese prime minister is accusing the regime of firing a ballistic missile just a short time ago. This would be North Korea's fourth missile test, fourth missile test already this month.

Let me bring in former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, Bruce Klingner.

It's good to have you, Bruce, on a night like this. What is your reaction to what would be the fourth test in a matter of weeks?

BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIVISION CHIEF FOR KOREA: Right. It'd be the fourth launch event and it may be the fifth and sixth missiles launched so far this year. The South Korean Military just updated their reporting. There may be two missiles. So it's most likely short-range ballistic missiles and continued developmental testing by North Korea, which they've been doing a wide range of new missiles in the last several years. They revealed five new weapons systems in 2019. Another five last year and already one this month, and we'll see if this is testing of an existing developmental missile or yet another new one.

HARLOW: And the fact that they're coming so close together right now, what does that tell you?

KLINGNER: Well, it's unusual that they're doing so many in January because usually they don't do missing testing during the winter.


KLINGNER: So I think it's just they're upping the game on expanding and refining their missile arsenal. So far, they've been doing short and medium range missile testing and developmental new systems the last several years. They haven't done a long-range including ICBM test for the last several years and they likely know that it would lead to new U.N. resolutions or stronger enforcement of sanctions so they may be going through a to-do list of the shorter and medium range missiles before they go through what would be, you know, much more provocative and more likely to generate a stronger international response.

HARLOW: I wonder if you agree with Congressman Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who told my colleague Jake Tapper this morning that the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan was a moment of weakness that adversaries like North Korea are exploiting. Listen to exactly what he said.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): You and I talked about Afghanistan over the summer, last summer. I think people, our foreign adversaries like Putin, President Xi in China, the Ayatollah and Kim Jong-un, all view that as a moment of weakness so we are not projecting strength as Reagan talked about but rather projecting weakness which historically going back to Hitler and Chamberlain always invites aggression, and I think you're going to see a lot more of it.


HARLOW: Do you agree with him?

KLINGNER: Well, this is what North Korea does. They did 26 missile launches in 2019 during President Trump's era. That was the most they ever launched in a year. They did 10 launches in a month during that year, one of the months. And then in march 2020 they did nine launches and that was the second most launches ever in a year. So they've done this under consecutive presidents.

So it's what they do particularly under Kim Jong-un who has accelerated the missile testing and vastly expanded the number of missiles that North Korea is developing, sort of redundant missiles, several in the short range and medium range, and even intermediate range missiles. We've seen a number of ICBMs that were tested in 2017 and then in October 2020, they paraded many more systems, some of which haven't even been tested yet including a multi-warhead ICBM that would really raise provocations, it would raise tension if they tested that one.

HARLOW: I just wanted to let our viewers know that we just confirmed what you had just said is it indeed it was two different potentially ballistic missiles that were launched, so this would mark the fifth and sixth missiles launched tested in the last two weeks.

The U.S. has tried so many times, so many different administrations from both parties to stop North Korea's nuclear program advancement and failed. Is there any way to do that still?

KLINGNER: Well, we have had eight international denuclearization agreements. They all failed. That doesn't mean we don't try for a ninth. Hopefully we learned from the lessons of the past, which were very short vague, sort of poorly crafted agreements. We need stronger verification measures and stronger details more like the arms control agreements we had with the Soviet Union.

But as we wait for North Korea to hopefully come back to the negotiating table, and the Biden administration like its predecessors has tried diplomacy and North Korea is rejecting it, we need to maintain enforcing U.N. resolutions as well as U.S. laws and maintain the deterrence and defense in conjunction with our allies South Korea and Japan to make sure we maintain the shield of protection for our American homeland as well as our allies. So we have to use all the tools together.


Unfortunately, there's not a lot of optimism that we'll get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, but we have to maintain pressure while holding open the door for diplomatic negotiations.

HARLOW: But what about the global community, right? I mean, it's one thing for the U.S. to act on its own but do you see any more global effort that would be more successful this time vis-a-vis North Korea?

KLINGNER: Well, the international community agreed to those 11 U.N. resolutions including China and Russia.

HARLOW: Right. Right, and I think about China -- particularly China and what power China holds in this.

KLINGNER: Right. Well, and China and Russia will enforce sanctions for some time and then will start turning a blind eye to violations occurring particularly with China on its own soil and in its waters. So there are things we can do to influence Chinese banks and businesses but successive administrations have held back from imposing measures against Chinese banks and businesses that we could try to influence their behavior away from supporting North Korea but the Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden administrations have all refrained really from going after China strongly.

HARLOW: Bruce Klingner, thank you so much for getting ready for us on a moment's notice on this Sunday night. We appreciate your expertise.

KLINGNER: Well, thank you very having me.

HARLOW: Of course. Well, let me go to my colleague Blake Essig. He is following this story for us from Tokyo.

Blake, thank you very much. What can you tell us?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, since the start of 2022 North Korea has sent a strong message to the world by conducting a flurry of missile tests. This most recent missile test is believed to have taken place just a few hours ago and we just learned moments ago that according to Japanese and South Korean officials that they believe that the nuclear armed North Korea has once again test-fired two ballistic missiles into the waters off the Korean Peninsula.

This would mark the fourth missile test just in January alone. This all comes just a few weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promised to further strengthen his country's military capabilities during a speech closing out its five-day party meeting at the end of last year and in the recent statement carried by state media KCNA the spokesman defended the country's right to bolster its arms saying its recent developments of new types of weaponry was just part of its efforts for modernizing the national defense capability.

And this last missile test which was conducted just last week prior to today took place on the same day that North Korea's foreign minister released a statement expressing frustration over new sanctions imposed by the United States and with this most recent test what it really is showing is a show of force by North Korea as a way of perhaps gaining more bargaining chips with the United States.

Now to this point, Poppy, the Biden administration has taken a more subdued approach to dealing with North Korea compared to previous administrations. The Trump administration specifically. According to KCNA, North Korea has claimed to have successfully test-fired hypersonic missiles and according to South Korea's joint chiefs of staff they also say that they likely launched two short range ballistic missiles from a rail car. So a lot of developments, a flurry of missile tests from North Korea to start 2022.


ESSIG: Something definitely to keep an eye on.

HARLOW: Thank you, Blake, for your reporting from Tokyo. We appreciate it very much.

Democrats say they are not giving up on passing new voting rights legislation yet. Somebody whose job it is to make sure elections are free and fair in Michigan is my next guest.



HARLOW: As the nation observes Martin Luther King Junior Day tomorrow, President Biden's plan to try to protect voting rights is on the cusp of defeat despite virtually zero chance of passing in the Senate. Democrats are promising a vote on the bills this week. The move comes as Biden says new election rules in GOP-led states pose a danger to America's democracy. Watch.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The state legislative bodies continue to change the law, not who can vote but who gets to count the vote, count the vote, count the vote. I don't know that we can get it done but I know one thing. As long as I have a breath in me, as long as I'm in the White House, as long as I'm engaged at all, I'm going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures have moving.


HARLOW: Joining me now to discuss is Michigan Secretary of State, Democrat Jocelyn Benson.

Thank you very much, Secretary, for being with us. You are the key player in making sure that Michigan's elections are free and fair. Now you say we're facing an unprecedented attack on American democracy. And you write, quote, "The tragedy at our nation's capital on January 6th was not the beginning nor the end of modern attempts to undo democracy."

What are you most worried about now looking at what is going to happen in the Senate when this bill fails to pass on Tuesday?

JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: That people are going to -- if it does fail to pass -- become so discouraged that those who we need to fight and demand democracy in the states will turn to other things or kind of lose the will to keep fighting and this is not the time to blink. This is not the time to take even a breath.


When the attacks on democracy are escalating in multiple fronts all across the country and in states like mine, this is the time where we need to dig down and find the same sense of urgency we found in the past to defend democracy regardless of whether or not the federal government acts in this particular situation.

HARLOW: I do want to ask you this, though. There is a recent Quinnipiac poll that found something really interested. It found that large majorities in both parties say that elected officials in their state will protect their right to vote.

Do you worry at all that some of this rhetoric from Democrats about democracy being under assault is out of step with the belief that American people have in their states? I mean, they look at their states as the founders intended laboratories of democracy, right, and say we trust the people like you to protect it.

BENSON: I think truly that in 2020 democracy did prevail because people on both sides of the aisle, people of integrity did the right thing and defended the will of the voters and the people's ability to vote. But a lot of those folks, myself included, are now either facing reelection or facing attempts to replace us, or folks at the local level who did just that. Indeed many of the Republicans in the state board of canvassers and the local board of canvassers who did the right thing, followed the law and protected our results have since been replaced.

And so there is a systematic escalating effort not just to change and undo the very policies that enable us to have a successful high turnout election in 2020 in Michigan and across the country, but to change the people who protected the will of the voters as well and if there are different people in charge or watching, quote-unquote, "guard" in future elections, people more willing to block the will of the people or not certify election results they don't agree with, then we do indeed have a five-alarm fire when it comes to our democracy.

HARLOW: Final question, in the state of Washington, Governor Jay Inslee is pushing a bill that would make it illegal for elected officials or political candidates to lie about election results. And I wonder if that's something you'd support, as well.

BENSON: Yes, I think we need to hold people accountable. Those who use their positions of authority to spread misinformation. I think we have to be very clear when there is evidence of any type of wrongdoing, we do want to pursue it. But that wasn't the case in 2020. It's not been the case really in any of the allegations that have been, you know, thrown about in the past several years.

And so when there is meritless claims particularly in political positions that are used to sow seeds of doubt about the people's confidence in the elections, there absolutely needs to be accountability and consequences or else it's going to become a norm in our election system today and if that happens, then our democracy does begin to wither on the vine.

HARLOW: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, thanks so much for your time tonight.

BENSON: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Up next, Marilyn Monroe, CNN's new film, a new CNN series explores what we've been missing when we think of Marilyn Monroe and her legacy. "Turner Classic Movies" host Alicia Malone is here with a sneak peek of what you're going to see later tonight.



HARLOW: She's known all over the world as the movie star, the blond bombshell, the cultural icon but the new CNN Original Series "REFRAMED: MARILYN MONROE " changes maybe how you look at her through a more modern feminist lens. Watch.


JESSICA CHASTAIN, HOST: It's Christmas 1945. Marilyn takes a road trip, but not with her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She'd been married for a few years to a guy that she liked but she certainly wasn't in love with, and here comes this glamorous European photographer who's a man of the world.

CHASTAIN: 32-year-old fashion photographer Andre de Dienes.

LOIS BANNER, BIOGRAPHER: De Dienes is recommended to her and he is immediately taken with her so he takes her on a trip all around the southwest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They went into the desert. They went to old cowboy towns. They took hundreds and hundreds of photographers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was working with a photographer to learn how to inject energy into pictures, not that she was saying how to make me look pretty but she was saying how do we make a good picture?


HARLOW: Joining us now is Alicia Malone. She a host at "Turner Classic Movies" and she appears in the new series "Marilyn Monroe."

It's great to have you. I can't wait to see it. One thing I think is so interesting is that she does not always get credit for her groundbreaking accomplishments, does she?

ALICIA MALONE, HOST, TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES: Absolutely. I mean, we think of her as being very vulnerable and insecure and she definitely was but she was also really witty and intelligent, driven and ambitious. And one of her most impressive accomplishments in my mind was setting up her own production company in the mid-1950s, Marilyn Monroe Productions, and essentially holding 20th Century FOX hostage until they did a deal with her and her production company to give her greater creative control so she could start to produce her own films and find roles that were more complex than the dumb blondes that she was often given.

HARLOW: What role do you think she may have played in the women's rights movement if she hadn't left us so soon?

MALONE: Well, I think she would have been a huge voice during the Me Too Movement because even back in the early 1950s she wrote an article for "Motion Picture" magazine called "Wolves I Have Known," where she talked about all the predatory men that she'd encountered during her days as a model and in Hollywood. And she definitely had those experiences with men and now knowing what we know about the power dynamics of Hollywood, I think we would all see those interactions in a very different light.

HARLOW: How do you think people might see her mark on Hollywood and American culture after watching this film?

MALONE: Well, hopefully they see that she was complex. She was a mess of contradictions and she was also just extremely driven that she created the Marilyn Monroe persona. There might be a feeling out there that she was an overnight sensation or she was discovered by someone but when she came to Hollywood, she discovered herself and she really became a star. The fact that we're still talking about her all these years later just shows how savvy she was in creating her own image.

HARLOW: Why do you think it's so important to tell her story in this way?

MALONE: I think we've been doing a lot of reframing of female figures in popular culture, which is so important because Marilyn Monroe, during her time, she had a lot of jokes around her. No one took her seriously. Afterwards after her death that colored things again, and so now knowing what we know about again, the politics of Hollywood, sexuality for women and Hollywood in general and American culture in the '50s, now we can see her story in a different light and just add more colors to her. You know, ground her out as more than just an icon and a symbol.

HARLOW: Alicia Malone, thank you very much.

MALONE: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Well, the all-new CNN Original Series "REFRAMED: MARILYN MONROE" premieres with back-to-back episodes next.

Thank you so much for being with me tonight. I'm Poppy Harlow. Pamela Brown will be back with you next weekend. Have a great week.