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Parts of New York Paralyzed by Historic Snowfall; Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) Seen As Favorite to Succeed Pelosi; Japan Defense Minister Says, North Korea Missile Range Could Include U.S. Mainland. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2022 - 10:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Dangerous lake-effect snow, it's impacting 6 million people.


In Buffalo, the city, if all the snow falls, it's on the verge of being paralyzed by this, up to five feet of snow expected. A state of emergency, travel bans in effect already. The city's mayor has given a dire warning.


MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: This is a snowstorm with potentially deadly consequences if people do not do the right thing.


ERIC HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, in Congress, a new world order shaping up. New York's Hakeem Jeffries now poised to replace Nancy Pelosi as the top Democrat in the House, this after the speaker said she is stepping down from leadership and called for a new generation to take over.

SCIUTTO: First, we will begin with the crippling snowstorm. Buffalo, New York, could become the real center of this, possibly seeing more than four feet of snow in that city. The area could see a month's worth of snow in just a matter of hours with places reporting lightning and thunder as well. Wow, that is quite a storm.

HILL: Yes, it is. Just 13 miles south of Buffalo in Hamburg, New York, nearly 40 inches of snow already fallen there. Officials are warning residents they need to take caution. The weight of this snow so heavy, it could understandably topple trees, real concern about the potential damage to buildings.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is on the scene for us in Buffalo this morning. So, Polo, just starting to hit you again a little bit there, this band of snow. We see the white stuff. So, what are you in for, what are folks waiting on?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It comes and goes, too, Erica. And what really concerns officials is not necessarily the roughly three feet of snow that they've received about 15 miles south of where we are, here, downtown Buffalo, it is stuff, what is coming down on top of that, which would potentially compound the situation throughout the region. That is why there are travel advisories and travel bans that are still in place.

Here in Buffalo, that travel ban was downgraded to an advisory, meaning now that if you are able to get out, but to try to limit that to only essential travel. Because the message that is still going out is that the worst could still be ahead, when you look at the numbers that have been forecasted, that we could potentially see, close to four feet of snow in the Buffalo area.

Now, this storm system is going to slowly -- according to what we've seen from our experts, slowly make its way from the north where we are, and that is why the threat is certainly not over. Yes, we are seeing some people either driving or walking around. But we can assume that most of those folks who cannot stay home today. I saw some people on their way to work earlier this morning.

But for the most part, it seems, at least this is what the local mayor here is saying, people are heeding those warning, especially with the worst still ahead. So, this kind of gives you an idea what we've seen here in Downtown buffalo, but, again, when you check back with us, some of these snow levels will be a little bit higher. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It sounds like you're seeing just an early taste of it all. Polo Sandoval, stay warm, thanks very much.


HILL: Well, this morning, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries looks to be on the verge of succeeding Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, of course, announcing on Thursday she's stepping away from leadership, part of a generational changing of the guard in the lower chamber.

SCIUTTO: Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn will also step down from their roles. This is a big deal. They've been at the top for a long time.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. So, tell us what more you're learning about the leadership shakeup. It does seem to be pretty set and level-headed here, right, in terms of this very big transition.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, pretty smooth at the moment. Because yesterday, the big question was whether or not Steny Hoyer, the number two, would try to stay in leadership. That would have complicated the ascension of the three people who have been in waiting for some time to take the ranks. That is not just Hakeem Jeffries but also the expected number two, Katherine Clark, who's announced this morning that she is running for the minority whip position and also number three, Pete Aguilar, California Democrat, someone who is also looking to move up to that number three position.

So, the expected ascension will be Hakeem Jeffries, number one, number two, Clark, three, Aguilar. But they do have to get formally approved by the House Democratic caucus and the secret ballot leadership election that will happen on November 30th. But right now, they're all running unopposed. Just moments ago, Pramila Jayapal, someone who has had leadership ambitions, a progressive leader, said she would not run for leadership, she will continue staying in the Democratic side, in the Progressive Caucus, so, no real drama at the moment about these three leaders moving forward.

The drama at the moment is on the Republican side, where Kevin McCarthy is still trying to lockdown votes to become the next speaker of the House. He has a different calculation, though. He has to get a majority of the full House, 218 votes to get there. Meaning, he can't afford more than a handful of defections given the narrow majority. These other leaders who are on the Democratic side, they only need to get a majority of their own individual caucus, a much smaller threshold to overcome, and they expect to do just that. But that is all expected to play out here, guys, in the coming days.


HILL: Yes, as we look for all of that. We also know the incoming oversight chair, Republican oversight chair, spoke to CNN about the committee's targeting of the Biden family. What specifically did he talk about in terms of planning there?

RAJU: Yes. The question has been about Joe Biden versus Hunter Biden. Yesterday, when James Comer, along with Jim Jordan, detailed their investigative plans to go after what they say were suspicious business dealings overseas involving the Biden family, they made it clear that they were looking at Joe Biden, the president himself. They called him a national security risk. The White House has called this all debunked conspiracy theories that have no merit, whatsoever.

But in speaking to our colleague, Pamela Brown, James Comer did indicate that they plan to subpoena Hunter Biden but not the president.

SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, good to have you on the Hill. Thanks so much for joining us.

RAJU: It is a sound bite.

SCIUTTO: We do have the sound. I thought there is -- let's play it for you.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: If they don't give you the information, you would then use subpoenas. But are there any discussions, plans to eventually subpoena Joe Biden and/or his son, Hunter Biden?

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): There are no plans to subpoena Joe Biden. There are plans to subpoena Hunter Biden.

BROWN: Why then would you not subpoena Joe Biden if this is all about Joe Biden? COMER: Well, it is complicated to subpoena a president of the United States.

BROWN: But it has been done with several presidents.

COMER: It has been done, and the Democrats sent out subpoenas like junk mail. And that is why it is hard to get people to come --


RAJU: So, other investigative plans also taking shape this morning. The House Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, indicating they want him and other top officials to come testify and discuss their plans over immigration, questions that they had over the efforts to secure the border. We'll see where that ultimately leads.

There had been a push among some House Republicans to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas. Republicans are divided over the prospect. But those are the issues they will now confront as they come to power in January. Guys?

SCIUTTO: Manu Raju on the Hill, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss, Democratic Congressman Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts. Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.

REP. JAKE AUCHINCLOSS (D-MA): Good morning. It is good to be here.

SCIUTTO: Nancy Pelosi, she was formidable as speaker. And along with Hoyer and Clyburn, they were able to count votes, corral votes. Do you, as a member of the Democratic caucus, have confidence that Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar, if that's how the leadership ends up, that they could do the same?

AUCHINCLOSS: Yes, I do. Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, Pete Aguilar, they have the full confidence of House Democrats. They are the next generation of leadership. And they are going to keep us focused on lowering costs for American families, on protecting our democracy and on winning back the House in 2024. We are organized and we are unified.

SCIUTTO: Okay. You talk about the next generation which Nancy Pelosi did and Democrats are talking about right now. The president, Joe Biden, has been in the Senate longer than you've been alive. In fact, he joined the Senate 15 years before you were born. Is Biden too old for this new generation?

AUCHINCLOSS: Joe Biden has always put the country first when he's made political decisions. Joe Biden is going to decide in his own time what makes sense for the next presidential cycle and I have no doubt that he's going to put America's best interest first when he does that.

Right now, I'm focused on working with our new House leadership on how we are going to take back the House in 2024. SCIUTTO: Republicans, of course, have a majority. It is a slim majority but a majority nonetheless. Are there Republican members who oppose, in your view, some of the more extreme aspects of the GOP agenda that you and other Democrats can envision working with on something, even simple things like avoiding a government shutdown?

AUCHINCLOSS: It got off to a bad start. Kevin McCarthy did not even attend Speaker Pelosi's farewell address to the House chamber. Just a minimum act of class and decency was above him. And, unfortunately, that is a marker to me of the way he's going to behave if he does get the gavel. With the gavel comes the initiative.

If the House GOP wants to talk about bipartisan ways that we can lower cost in health care, childcare, higher education, housing, they want to talk about ways we can achieve clean energy independence as a nation, they're going to find that Democrats are here in good faith to debate and to work on solutions. If they're going to instead turn to political theater and attack the president or his son, then we are going to fight back ferociously.

This is a House Democratic caucus where the majority of members were elected since 2018. This is a battle-hardened House Democratic caucus. People know why we are here. People know what they stand for. People know their districts and we're going to be ferocious on the campaign trail.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. I know that Democrats overperformed in this midterm election but they did lose the House.


And two years, less than two years after January 6 and after two- thirds of the House Republican caucus voted to decertify election results, after the events we saw of January 6, what are the messages, the lessons that Democratic lawmakers should take from this loss?

AUCHINCLOSS: First, voters rejected extremism. They rejected the GOP narrative around democracy, around reproductive rights and we're going to continue to draw sharp contrast with the GOP as they step outside the mainstream.

But you're right, House Democrats did not win the House. We are unsatisfied with that. We want a W. We're going to get a W in 2024. And we understand that we need to be laser-focused on talking about things that are impactful to average Americans. What makes energy bills higher? What makes housing costs more? What makes prescription drugs cost more?

Democrats delivered on all of those things in the 117th Congress. We have got plans for the 118th or the 119th that we want to share with the American public, and that's going to be in contrast to political theater around Hunter Biden's laptop and we're going to be asking the American people how do those oversight investigations improve your life. And that is going to be -- go ahead.

SCIUTTO: I do want to ask you about one investigation that House Republicans say they want to look into, noting that you served in Afghanistan. They want to investigate the Afghanistan withdrawal. And let's be frank, the U.S. left the country, left behind tens of thousands of Afghans who served alongside U.S. forces there, and are now -- their lives at risk from the Taliban, it left their country to be overrun by the Taliban who welcomed Al Qaeda there, prior to 9/11. Is an investigation of the withdrawal warranted?

AUCHINCLOSS: President Biden had the moral courage to tell the American people that we could not win the war in Afghanistan, that it was a failed war. He did what previous administrations, Democrat and Republican before him, had been unable to do. And for that, he deserves tremendous credit. We're now able to pivot to the Indo- Pacific, where our true near peer geostrategic threats are.

We absolutely need to look at decision-making around Afghanistan but it needs to be 20 years worth of decision-making around Afghanistan. How did we go into there? How was the decisions around the surge made? How were the decisions around the SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction? Why did it take so long for that report to get published? And what did the national security establishment know and when and what were they hiding or dissembling from the American public? I absolutely welcome sunlight but it's on the full 20 years of decision-making here.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Jake Auchincloss, Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

AUCHINCLOSS: It is good to be on.

HILL: Next hour in Georgia, a Fulton County judge will hear arguments over a lawsuit challenging state officials to allow early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This is, of course, for the state's Senate runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

Senator Warnock's campaign filed that lawsuit on Tuesday alleging Georgia is, quote, unlawfully restricting the number of advanced voting days for the December 6th runoff. Without a ruling, early voting would begin in all Georgia counties by Monday, November 28th.

Still to come here, the father of one of the University of Idaho victims revealing new details about his daughter's death as the research for a killer continues. What we're learning.

SCIUTTO: Plus, outrage this morning from the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi after the Biden administration determined the Saudi crown prince now has legal immunity because of his position in the government. The State Department's reasoning, just ahead.

HILL: Plus, he left Ukraine with a backpack and his bassoon. Now, a teen who fled the war is set to make his debut at Carnegie Hall this weekend. He joins us with this incredible story and his music later this hour.



SCIUTTO: This just into CNN. North Korea's latest intercontinental ballistic missile could have the range to threaten the United States mainland. That is according to Japan's defense minister.

HILL: Well, after that latest test, South Korea and the United States just conducted joint military exercises in response to show their, quote, strong will to sternly respond to any threats and provocations.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul for us this morning. So, Paula, bring us up to speed here.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica and Jim, we're hearing also from a senior administration official telling CNN the same as we heard from Japan's defense minister, they believe that this IBM, if it was fired at a normal angle, would be able to reach mainland United States. At this point, North Korea fires its long- range missiles into the air, very high, so it comes down very close to where it was launched. This is how their testing how far it can go. But if it was at a normal angle, there are concerns just how far it could go.

Now, at the APEC summit in Thailand, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris convened a hasty meeting with some of the allies, the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, to talk about this. They all condemned the launch and they all decided on how they could work together to prevent more.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: This conduct by North Korea most recently is a brazen violation of multiple U.N. security resolutions. It destabilizes security in the region and unnecessarily raises tensions.


HANCOCKS: Now, a physical response from the allies was also very swept, Japan sending aircraft into the area. In fact, on F-15, the Ministry of Defense said, actually filmed what it thought was the contrails or the vapor trails of that ballistic missile from North Korea.


We also saw a joint drill from the U.S. and South Korean Air Forces. They were simulating an aerial attack on a mobile missile launcher. The Joint Chiefs of Staff here in Seoul saying it was specifically because of that launch that North Korea carried out and they wanted North Korea to know that they are able to pinpoint exactly where it comes from and target directly if need be.

HILL: Paula Hancock with the latest for us from Seoul, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Stunned and disturbed, that is how one Democrat in the House is reacting to news that the U.S. has determined Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, the man the U.S. says approved the plan that led to the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, should -- that MBS should receive immunity here in a civil case brought by Khashoggi's fiancee and a human rights organization he started.

SCIUTTO: That's right. That was the assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt joins us now. So, Alex, this is coming from State Department, and, basically, it is a judgment that this arises from his position, his political position there, right?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Right. They're not reversing, they're not stepping back from that I.C. assessment. They still believe that he's responsible. But what they're saying now is that he is the head of the Saudi government. Now, they're justifying this because they're saying it is a principle, a precedent, an international law, that heads of state, heads of government are given immunity from prosecution.

Now, just a couple of weeks ago, he was just the crown prince. He was the son of king. He was a defense minister. He was quite senior. But he wouldn't have been eligible for this immunity, then a couple of weeks ago, he was made the prime minister of Saudi Arabia, and, therefore, he is the head of the government. And that is what the Justice Department pointed to and in, really, this 11th hour filing last night, the deadline that the court had given them for them to weigh in on this question of immunity.

I did speak to the State Department that had suggested this immunity. This is a part of what they told me. This suggestion of immunity does not reflect an assessment on the merits of the case. It speaks to nothing on broader policy or on the state of relations. This is purely a legal determination. They say that there is an unbroken practice of the United States in recognizing immunity foreheads of government. And they also say this is how they want U.S. heads of state and government to be treated. So, it is a legal determination. It is part of an unbroken practice.

We should note they were under no obligation to weigh in on this. But they chose to because they want, again, U.S. officials, to be treated like this.

A lot of disappointment, a lot of anger. I spoke with the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi. She wrote to me saying that she's devastated and that she holds President Biden personally responsible.

SCIUTTO: Listen, I mean, given MBS's power in Saudi Arabia, perhaps he had some influence on the decision of him becoming the head of the government. Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.

Well, as questions surround the brutal killings of four University of Idaho students, officials believe the key to cracking that case, finding the suspect may lie with the surviving roommates. We are going to have the latest on the investigation. There is a lot we've been learning, and that is coming up.



SCIUTTO: With still no suspect in the brutal killing of four Idaho college students, police now say the two roommates who were also at the home that night and survived could be, quote, the key to this whole thing.

HILL: A police spokesperson telling ABC they may be potential witnesses or victims, but either way, they may be the only ones who can help investigators understand what happened.

We are learning some more details about what happened in the early hours of Sunday morning thanks to the autopsy report. Those results show it was a large knife that was likely used in these killings and that some of the victims may have put up a fight.

SCIUTTO: Idaho Statesman Reporter Sally Krutzig joins us now live from Boise, Idaho. So, first on this, Sally, the coroner's report, a large knife, some evidence they fought back. What else did we learn from the coroner?

SALLY KRUTZIG, REPORTER, IDAHO STATESMAN: Unfortunately, we didn't learn a whole lot from the coroner's report. Basically, she confirmed what police had already suspected, that it was a large knife that killed them, you know, likely in the early hours of Sunday morning. And some of the wounds may have been defense, so, yes, they might have put up a fight.

HILL: Earlier this week, the coroner had said that they could potentially find some further evidence during the autopsies. Was there any indication that there was, in fact, additional evidence found?

KRUTZIG: Well, the coroner has said that they've taken different things, fingernail clippings, bed sheets, other things, and they've submitted them for DNA evidence. So, I think that may have been what the coroner was referring to. So, it will definitely be interesting to see what those test results come back with.

SCIUTTO: When the police say that the two surviving roommates in an upstairs bedroom apparently behind a locked door are the key to this whole thing, how exactly? Is there any indication of whether police believe they witnessed something, knew something more about the killer? When he says, key to the whole thing, he doesn't just say valuable. He seems to say they will have the answers. But I'm trying to figure out why he believes -- why he seems so certain of that.

KRUTZIG: Well, yes, the interesting thing was those two roommates were in the house at the time of the killing.


I spoke to the mother of one of the victims and she did confirm that they heard something.