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McCarthy Vows to Remove Some Dems From House Committee Posts; Justice Alito Denies Allegations of Leak in 2014 Decision; Ukraine and Russia Trade Blame for Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant Shelling; State Media: 2 Actresses Arrested for Supporting Protests in Iran; Historic Snowfall Blankets Parts of New York State. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 21, 2022 - 04:30   ET



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): They're still going to say it, but it's the right thing to do. And most particularly, if you ensure that it won't cause any delay. So, if the same prosecutors that had been investigating the former president and others can be moved on to the special prosecutor's team, then there's every reason to do it, no reason not to do it. And I think the personal he's chosen seems to be capable and qualified.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, meanwhile, House Democrat Zoe Lofgren who serves on the January 6th committee investigating the Capitol riots says they'll release their final report soon.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, we're not sharing information with the Justice Department. We're doing our own investigation. However, we anticipate when our report is released to release all of the evidence that we have assembled so the public can see it -- including the Department of Justice. Within a month the public will have everything that we found, all the evidence.


FOSTER: Democrat Zoe Lofgren there. Now as the House wraps up its final days this session, Republican Kevin McCarthy is giving a sneak peek of his plans if he becomes Speaker of the House next year. For starters he's promising to remove some Democrats from their House committees.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Eric Swalwell cannot get a security clearance in the public sector. Why would we ever give him a security clearance and the secrets to America? So, I will not allow him to be on intel. You have Adam Schiff who had lied to the American public time and again. We will not allow him to be on the intel committee either. And look, Congresswoman Omar, her antisemitic comments that have gone forward. We're not going allow her to be on foreign affairs. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, McCarthy is aiming to be the next House Speaker in January now that Republicans control the chamber, but Republicans are divided on how they feel about him in that role. Paul Ryan, a former House Speaker, says McCarthy is perfect for the job.


PAUL RYAN (R) FORMER U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: There isn't anybody better suited to running this conference than Kevin McCarthy. He's been good for conservatives frankly but he's also a person who really understands how to manage a conference.


FOSTER: But House Republican Adam Kinzinger who is retiring at the end of this term says if McCarthy becomes House Speaker, then his tenure might be pretty short lived.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I think he has cut so many deals with bad people to get to this position that I think he's not going to be a leader at all. I think he'll be hostage to kind of the extreme wings of the Republican Party. And I frankly don't think he's going to last very long. Maybe he'll prove me wrong, but it's sad to see a man that I think had so much potential just totally sell himself.


FOSTER: Well, CNN Jake Tapper asked Democrat Hakeem Jeffries how his party will work with Republican leadership if McCarthy becomes the new House Speaker. Jeffreys is running unopposed in his bid to become the next Democratic leader in the U.S. House, replacing Nancy Pelosi who is stepping back from her leadership post.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: There is going to be -- because of the narrow majority that House Republicans are going to have, the far right wing, the MAGA, caucus is going to be empowered and emboldened and make it tougher for McCarthy to govern as Speaker if he does in fact, become Speaker. If Kevin McCarthy needs votes to pass essential legislation, such as keeping the government open or raising the debt limit, will Democrats be willing to help him if the Freedom Caucus folks, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world refuse to participate?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, it seems to me that that's a case by case basis, but Democrats have always been willing to lean in on making sure that we fully fund the government. And Democrats have always been willing to lean in in making sure that we meet our nation's obligations and do not default on our debt for the first time in American history. I think it's also important to point out, Jake, that we have consistently fought against extremism on the Republican side, including when it manifested itself often during the former president's tenure, while at the same time, being able to find common ground to make progress for the American people.


FOSTER: Now, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is reacting after "The New York Times" reported that a former evangelical activist claims he learned of a 2014 Supreme Court decision before a formal announcement was made. CNN's Ariane de Vogue has all the details now from Washington.


ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN U.S. SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, this case involves the Reverend Rob Shank, who used to be an opponent of abortion, he told "The New York Times" that he knew of another instance of a leak of a Supreme Court decision. He formally ran a nonprofit and he said basically through wealthy donors he would try to get access to the justices.


He said in 2014, one of his donors, a woman nailed Gayle Wright told him she was going to have dinner with Mr. And Mrs. Alito and she was going to ask about an important religious liberty case that was pending. He said that she called him afterwards to say that she'd learned that Alito was going to write the opinion and that it was going to go in their favor.

Flash forward a few years later, he became a supporter of abortion rights and when he realized that Chief Justice John Roberts last term was going to launch an investigation into who leaked the abortion decision, he said he had information that he thought would be interesting to Chief Justice John Roberts and he sent him a letter.

It's worth noting that Justice Samuel Alito has issued a really strong statement denying "The New York Times" story.

He said in part: I never directed any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything that I did in either an official or private capacity and I would have strongly objected if they had done so.

CNN reached out to Wright and she said that the story "The New York Times" was patently false. But what's interesting about this story is it may not just be about this particular leak and whether it happened, but the fact that there was this behind the scenes effort to try to influence the court. That feels very political and that causes the justices and court watchers in general consternation. Because if the public thinks that the Supreme Court is just another political body, they may dismiss how important their decisions are and may not even follow them. That's the import of this story.

Ariane de Vogue, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOSTER: A senior Russian Senator says he believes any potential normalization with Ukraine will only happen if there's a change of leadership in Kyiv. Those comments coming as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia has used more than 4,700 missiles to strike his country since the conflict began. Sunday marked 270 days since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion.

Meanwhile, Ukraine and Russia are blaming each other for weekend shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. The strikes are renewing concerns that fighting so close to the plant could cause a nuclear accident.

Our correspondents are tracking the developments. Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow, Scott McLean is here in London. The conversation around normalization is some progress, isn't it, Fred? But obviously Kyiv is not going to agree to a change in leadership.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, absolutely not. And I think in the end what all this shows, Max, is that the Russians are still sticking by the war aims that they've put out at the beginning of what they call their special military operation. Which is where they said that they wanted to change, as they put it, the regime in Kyiv. Of course, meaning the government in Kyiv, essentially toppling of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his government there.

And that they certainly despite the fact they suffered a string of setbacks recently on the battlefield still seem to have those aims going forward. It was quite interesting because at the end of last week, a spokesman for the Kremlin, Max, Dmitry Peskov, he also came out and said that the objectives of the special military operation as he put it remain unchanged and that also they remain unchanged in the fact that of course we have winter where some people believed there might be a lull on the battlefield.

Certainly, the Russians seem to be indicating that they are going to continue this war in full force despite the fact that the winter months are upon us and of course, things are a lot more difficult on the battlefield at the moment. And all this despite the fact that you do have those setbacks that they suffered in Kherson currently also pretty difficult situation for them in the Luhansk Oblast as well.

One of the things that the Russians seem to believe -- and this is something we're seeing on state media but also seeing from various Russian politicians as well, Max, is they seem to believe that these strikes that they're conducting on critical infrastructure in Ukraine obviously crippling a lot of power plants in some places but also the heating infrastructure as well, that those are going to have an effect in the long run. They do believe this is something that could bring Ukraine to the negotiating table on Moscow's terms.

Of course, right now there is absolutely no indication that that's the case. In fact, the Ukrainians are saying that the opposite is going to be the case. That their resistance will be hardened in the face of this. But certainly, what we're seeing right now this morning here in

Moscow, some pretty hard line comments from that very senior Russian Senator who does hold a lot of sway, who says that the Russians are still aiming to change who is in power in Kyiv -- Max.

FOSTER: Fred in Moscow, thank you. And, Scott, what's going on at the nuclear plant? There are clearly missiles landing near it. We don't know who is firing those missiles.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the blame game has begun already. But as you said, no one is disputing the fact that this did, in fact, happen. In effect, the International Atomic Energy Agency has staff on the site of the plant and they says overnight Saturday into Sunday that their staff could actually see some of the explosions from their window. So, these were extremely close. This is what the IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said.


He said: Even though there was no direct impact on key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant, the shelling came dangerously close to them. We are talking meters, not kilometers. Whoever is shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is taking huge risks and gambling with many people's lives.

So, notice there, Max, he's not assigning blame there. It serves him no purpose to assign blame here. Grossi has been trying to make nice with both Russians and the Ukrainians to try to get them to agree to at least mark off a section of territory that there's not going to be fighting in -- a sort of safety zone around the plant. That hasn't happened just yet.

The Ukrainian National Energy -- Nuclear Energy Company, they're blaming the Russians. They say that suspiciously the equipment that was hit on the site of the power plant is the same equipment that would be needed to restart two reactors on the site. This would be huge for Ukraine because obviously they're desperately in need of the energy and despite the fact that the Russians are in control of the plant, it is still connected to the Ukrainian grid for the moment.

The Russian ministry of defense, though, they're blaming the Ukrainian military. They say that the missiles or the shelling came from a city right across the river called Marhanets. They say that they fired back. The Ukrainians have acknowledged regardless of whether this was provoked or not there has been shelling in Marhanets. Some 60 shells fell in that area. Homes damaged, cars damaged as well -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, I will keep watching that very worrying situation, Scott. Thank you.

Still to come, two Iranian actresses have been arrested as the government's brutal crackdown on protesters there continues. We'll have the details on that.

Plus, we're following extreme winter weather in New York. We'll look at how the state is responding to the historic weather and trying to keep roads open for residents there.



FOSTER: Protesters clashed with police in Peru on Sunday demanding the resignation of President Pedro Castillo. Castillo took office in July of last year has already survived two impeachment attempts. Opposition leaders are trying to launch a third.

The Iranian government is continued to crack down on protesters across the country. State media reports that a sixth protesters with us sentenced to death on Sunday. Meanwhile, this Instagram video was posted by one of the two actresses arrested for showing solidarity with the protesters. You can see she appeared in public without her hijab. The other actress posted a video of herself without the head scarf on Instagram two days after Mahsa Amini's death in police custody, of course.

For more let's go CNN's Jomana Karadsheh who joins us live from Istanbul. These death sentencing are frightening, aren't they, for protests?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very, very disturbing news coming out of Iran, Max, over the past week really with these death sentences being issued by revolutionary courts in what is being described as sham trials by human rights groups around the world. At least six protesters so far have been handed the death sentence.

This latest protester not identified by state media sentenced on Sunday. They say for blocking traffic and clashing with members of the paramilitary group the Basij. Again, Max, this is just the latest in several trials that have been taking place. And a lot of concern that we might be seeing more of these death sentences in the coming days as the government is continuing to intensify its crackdown on these protests.

This national uprising has now entered its third month. And they don't seem to be able to contain and suppress these protests. You're seeing also an intensifying violent crackdown taking place on the streets, taking place in several cities in the Kurdish region, in the western part of the country where we have seen a lot of demonstrations in recent days.

And also, the Iranian regime announcing through its state media on Sunday the arrest of two actresses, as you mentioned. These are high profile, prominent actresses who have come out in support of the protesters. Katayoun Riahi, as you mentioned, one of the first back in September to appear without her head scarf and to voice her support for the protesters in her country.

Hengameh Ghaziani another high profile actress on Saturday posting this video that has gone viral of her without her head scarf, tying her hair up in a ponytail when she's out on the streets in Iran with a message, Max, that read -- This might be my last post. From this moment on, if anything happens to me, know that I'll always be with the people of Iran until my last breath.

Less than 24 hours after posting that video, she was arrested. Both actresses are being accused of creating chaos in the country, spreading propaganda by the Iranian regime. They are the latest in a list of very high profile figures, athletes, journalists, directors, musicians who have been arrested by the Iranian regime for coming out and supporting the protest movement. They are also among more than 14,000 people, who according to activists and human rights groups and the United Nations, who have been arrested since September -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Jomana Karadsheh live from Istanbul keeping across that ongoing story.

North Korea is slamming the U.N. for siding with the U.S. and condemning Pyongyang's recent ballistic missile test. State TV is reporting that the country's foreign minister said, quote, the U.N. Secretary-General has taken very a deplorable attitude on this issue. Last week Pyongyang launched an intercontinental ballistic missile which some experts warn could reach the U.S. By CNN's count this was Pyongyang's 34th missile launch day this year.

Now still to come, parts of New York state covered in a blanket of snow. We'll have a report from Buffalo as well as how the historic snowfall forced the NFL to get creative.



FOSTER: Well, you're watching time lapse video of snowfall in Buffalo, New York, over the weekend. Look at that. The state was buried under nearly 80 inches of snow since Thursday, causing cancelled flights, road closures, even driving bans just days ahead of Thanksgiving. But state officials are hard at work trying to get roads clear for residents. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more from Buffalo.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just about everywhere you look just south of Buffalo and really in the city, there are reminders that the cleanup efforts after this historic snowstorm they are far from over. This is a residential neighborhood just south of Buffalo proper. Residents have been working all weekend to dig their way out of their homes, clearing their driveways. The city, the county, they're joining the efforts making sure the streets are clear as well. They're also taking some extraordinary steps to not just plow the snow but also remove the snow.

So, this lake effect frozen precipitation it's wet, it's very heavy. So according to one city official I spoke to on Sunday, it's not the kind of snow you can just sort of plow and leave it there. So, they are taking these extraordinary steps by basically using equipment to remove the snow from these neighborhoods and then pile it up high, tons at a time, in some of the city facilities that they have. They say that certainly snow in Buffalo is not extraordinary but the volume that they received for the last three days it certainly is.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, Buffalo, New York.


FOSTER: Well, snow was so deep in Buffalo the NFL was forced to move Sunday's game between the Bills and the Cleveland Browns to Detroit.


The Bills say more than 56,000 tickets sold for the relocated game in less than 24 hours with fans eager to support their teams away from home. Buffalo's mayor says the snowstorm packed a bigger punch than the city expected.

Elsewhere in the NFL, fans were treated to some exciting game-changing kick returns. This one for the New England Patriots came with just seconds left in the game against the New York Jets. They were tied at three when Patriots' rookie Marcus Jones took this punt 84 yards for the game's only touchdown. Patriots win, 10-3, for their 14th consecutive victory over the Jets.

And in Atlanta, Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson set an NFL record with his ninth career kickoff return for a touchdown. Patterson caught the ball deep in his own end zone before racing up the middle for 103 yard return for the score, the Falcons went on to beat the Chicago Bears, 27-24.

The U.S. President Joe Biden celebrated his 80th birthday over the weekend, it's the first time in American history a sitting president has turned 80. The first lady shared this photo of the president blowing out a candle on his coconut birthday cake. The president decides to run for a second term and wins, he would be 86 by the time he leaves office, would you believe. Extraordinary.

Now, in the coming hours NASA's Orion spacecraft is set to perform a critical maneuver to enter the next phase of the Artemis mission. Putting the U.S. one step closer to land on the moon again.

Crews on earth will direct the unmanned craft on a fly-by of the moon. They'll lose contact with the craft for more than half an hour. It's a crucial move to send Orion into the next part of its journey distant orbit of the moon for nearly a week.

Thank you for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. "EARLY START" with Whitney Wild is next here on CNN.