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UGA Football Player And Staffer Killed; Radi Nabulsi Is Interviewed About The UGA Accident; Battle Over Debt Limit; Republicans Shy Away From Santos; Study On Excessive Drinking. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 09:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, tragedy in Georgia surrounding college football's national champions. Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Devin Willock and team staffer Chandler LeCroy died in a car crash early Sunday morning near UGA's campus.

It happened just hours after the team celebrated winning back to back national championships with a parade through Athens. We now know offensive lineman Warren McClendon, who recently declared for the NFL draft, was also in the vehicle. He received minor injuries.

CNN's Isabel Rosales joins us now.

Isabel, what updates you have heard?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, we -- good morning to you.

We do have new details on that fourth person who was inside of the car who survived alongside McClendon.

But first, let me walk you through what happened here early Saturday morning, 2:45 a.m. For some reason their car veered off of the road, striking two power poles. And then take a look at all (INAUDIBLE) the trees and continuing down this slope, down this small hill and the car coming to a rest and striking this edge of this apartment complex.

Willock and LeCroy, they died from their injuries. And this crash happening -- making this even worse, John, happening just hours before that crash the team was out in Athens, happy, celebrating, cheering on with fans, with students, celebrating their massive national championship victory, making all of this just even worse.

New this morning, I have confirmed with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department the identity of that fourth and final person inside of the car. Her name is Victoria Bowles. She was seriously hurt, John, but she survived.

BERMAN: Isabel Rosales, what a sad story. Thank you so much for bringing there for us. Keep us posted.

Joining me now is Radi Nabulsi. He is the publisher of

Thank you so much for being with us.

Just give us a sense of the impact this has had in the Bulldogs community.


It's been a devastating thing because you go from the highest to the highs. Georgia had not had a national title celebration in 41 years until last year. Then they had a back to back celebration that all day Saturday the entire community. And you would think that maybe after having won one previously that the excitement for a second one would be lesser.

It was actually greater. The streets were filled with people. And just the absolute high that everybody was feeling, guys declaring for the NFL, everyone cheering, everyone very excited about next year's team just as well.

And then to have this - when we broke the news first thing in the morning about Tory and Chandler and Willock. Devin Willock is one of the most beloved players on the entire team, you know. There's players from other schools who were recruited by Georgia, who were talking about Chandler LeCroy and Tory Bowles and Warren McClendon was also one of those beloved players on the team. So, it's just an absolute gut punch to this community.

BERMAN: Yes, tell us more. You were talking about how beloved Devin Willock is. Tell us more about him and also, you know, Chandler LeCroy.

NABULSI: Well, Chandler LeCroy just brings -- brought so much energy to the recruiting office. And that's what that system needs. I mean it's a situation where, when you're bring people in, you're trying to sell them on the university, that's what she did.

And, again, when you see a kid who's going to Florida, going to Auburn, going to Alabama, he's changing his profile picture to a picture of him and Chandler, that says a lot about how much they loved her and how much they are missing her.

But Devin Willock, I mean, this was a guy who was letting little kids try on his national championship ring 12 hours before his untimely demise. And this is a - think about his poor mother. She lost her -- an older son the same way, at the same age, in a car crash. So, she's been doubly afflicted by this.

But when you talk to people in the community - and it's not to say that you wish it would happen to anybody else, but almost everyone says, why Devin. Devin was this gentle giant, well spoken, soft spoken, that everyone just absolutely adored.

BERMAN: And I do understand that the team had a meeting yesterday. What have you learned about that?

NABULSI: Yes. So they had a team meeting around noon. It -- I spoke to people who were at that meeting. You know, people that were involved in it. And they said somber does not even come close. Now, this was a organization that just, you know, 24 hours later we're going - was going down the heart of campus, you know, to throngs of fans cheering and music playing and stuff like that.


They said that everybody within the organization except the people who were involved in that convoy, people who -- because there was more than just one car there. There were some other cars going with them to go eat at Waffle House. The players - some players were there on scene. They said everybody who was not there, everybody within the organization was at this meeting.

And they said it was just one of the most emotional, gut wrenching meetings they've had. And there's been other tragedies, there's been other, you know, sad situations. But there's never been anything like this from the highs to lows that these people have seen. And they've been there 30, 40 years.

BERMAN: So quick, so sudden, so hard to process.


BERMAN: Radi Nabulsi, thank you so much for helping us understand what's happening there. Appreciate it.

NABULSI: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: A University of Alabama basketball player is one of two suspects charged with murder in connection to a deadly shooting near campus. Darius Miles is a junior at the university. He and 20-year-old Michael Lynn Davis, who is not connected to the school, were arrest for Sunday's shooting that killed 23-year-old Jamea Harris. The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office says she was shot while sitting in a car about a half mile from campus.


CAPT. JACK KENNEDY, TUSCALOOSA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: At this time it appears that the only motive to this was a minor altercation that these individuals had with the victim as they were out on the street.


BERMAN: The University of Alabama Athletics Department says Darius Miles has been removed from the basketball team.

A stark warning. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the U.S. may hit the debt ceiling this week. The so-called extraordinary measures she says will need to be taken. That's next.


BERMAN: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is now warning that the U.S. will reach its debt limit on Thursday. Congress needs to take action, which would require deal making. Republican leaders are already demanding spending cuts.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): The Senate's going to have to recognize the fact that we're not going to budge until we see meaningful reform with respect to spending. The majority of our Republican conference are serious about spending. And we recognize that our national debt is one of the biggest threats to our - the future of our democracy. So we have to focus on making spending cuts. We have to live within our means. And that battle starts today.


BERMAN: So, CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with me this morning.

Can we just start, Romans, explain exactly what the debt ceiling is. And when I say we'll reach it on Thursday -


BERMAN: Or, more importantly, when Janet Yellen said we'll reach it on Thursday, what does that mean? Does that mean it's all over Thursday or that something else is happening?

ROMANS: We are at the beginning of this process. A process that could take six months toward default if Congress doesn't get its act together. And essentially the debt ceiling is exactly what it sounds like, is a legal amount of national debt the U.S. can hold. And Congress, about a century ago, put this law into place because they wanted to keep -- they wanted to keep policymakers, they wanted to keep lawmakers, you know, thinking about the best ways to tax and spend and not just build up a national debt.

Instead, we just repeatedly raise that debt ceiling. It's kind of like a credit card limit if you are a family, but the U.S. government is not a family. The U.S. government can issue bonds that the whole world will run after to buy because our financing, our credit rating, our reputation in the United States in terms of investment is just the best in the world.

BERMAN: So this isn't going to all go boom on Thursday, even though we reached the limit.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: Extraordinary measures can extend it for a while -

ROMANS: But not forever.

BERMAN: But not forever. And they need to reach a deal. And what happens if they don't?

ROMANS: Well, and those extraordinary measures, I think, also show the U.S. in a position of weakness. That is essentially the Treasury Department deferring or not putting investments, important investments into the, you know, the pension funds of civil servants. Well, the retirement funds of civil servants. Well, that's not really good.

And then at some point you can give the military an IOU instead of paying your military, right? You can start to tell Social Security recipients, if you get to the end of that line and you actually are defaulting, you cannot issue new debt, you can start to give IOUs to people who get checks from the government. Again, all a very big position of weakness. And it doesn't make the U.S. look strong in the global arena by any stretch of the imagination.

It can also spark a financial crisis, which could be job loss, rising interest rates, which would, ironically, add even more to the national debt.

BERMAN: At a time when there are concerns that there could be some kind of a recession or downturn in the next 12 months.

You and I, we're old enough to remember, we were in our teens, but back in 2011, wasn't there a lowering of our - the U.S. bond rating because of this no (ph) deal?

ROMANS: 2011 was just - was -- this was the last time we saw that. Goldman Sachs actually, in December, said, we are the biggest risk for another 2011 time scenario than we have been since then because of the political makeup of Congress and this - this leverage that the new House Republicans want to have over - over Democrats leverage using the debt ceiling for spending cuts.

That was a painful period in 2011. We got over it, right? They did finally raise the debt ceiling. I they - I think they learned from it because they kept raising the debt ceiling without too much trouble after that.

2013, there was another little hiccup there. You could shut the government down easily by not raising the debt ceiling. Again, these are all self-inflicted wounds at a time when there are a lot of very, you know, very troublesome signals and cross currents in the global economy. We're trying to figure out if the U.S. economy is going to be able to skirt past a recession this year and have a soft landing. There's probably a 30 some percent chance that that could happen. Not - not if you don't raise the debt ceiling.

BERMAN: Yes, look, get ready to hear a lot about this over the coming months. It's going to be bruising on Capitol Hill.

ROMANS: Probably six months. I think the Treasury can move things around for six months before we really are at that x date.


BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, great to see you. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: So, happening this morning, House Republicans are stopping short of calling for embattled New York Congressman George Santos to resign, despite the fact that he fabricated huge chunks of his resume during his campaign. I mean made them up out of whole cloth. The Republican House Oversight Chair James Comer did call him, quote, a bad guy.

CNN national politics reporter Eva McKend is with me this morning.

And, Eva, it's interesting, now Democrats are asking basically, who knew what when about this guy? What are you learning?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's exactly right, John. Democrats have called on GOP leadership to cooperate with any potential forthcoming House Ethics Committee investigation. New York Congressmen Dan Goldman and Richie Torres.

They sent a letter to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House GOP Chairman Elise Stefanik, and the president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, that's the super PAC affiliated with the House GOP, citing new reporting indicating they had at least some awareness of the lies Santos used to deceive his voters.

Now, CNN has reported that the president of CLF expressed concerns about Santos' background prior to the election and then contacted lawmakers and donors with those concerns.

But most Republican lawmakers, they aren't explicitly calling on Santos to resign. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer of Kentucky telling us, it's not up to him or any member of Congress to determine if Santos can be kicked out for lying, but says if the embattled freshman broke campaign finance laws, he'll be removed from Congress.


BERMAN: All right, Eva McKend, on this for us. Keep us posted, Eva. Great to see you.

So new motivation if you are struggling through dry January. What we're learning about alcohol's tricky role in our health. That's next.



BERMAN: This morning, New York City Mayor Eric Adams is calling for Washington to deliver a more coordinated response to the migrant crisis. He visited the border in El Paso on Sunday and urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to step up. He said the government's overall lack of coordination has compelled him to take his efforts to a national level.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: I'm extremely disappointed of what we have done to the cities of this country. And the impression that we're not seeing the level of urgency of getting this issue resolved.

I believe that we must appoint a FEMA leader that is going to come in and look at this and coordinate our response. It is wrong for El Paso to have a response, for New York to have a response. We cannot have these disjointed responses.


BERMAN: Mayor Adams also said New York City received more than 3,000 migrants over a week ago with more than 800 arrived in one day alone.

So, this morning, a lot of folks are in the middle of a voluntarily dry January, laying off booze for the first month of the New Year. Not surprisingly, a new study shows that always being mindful of alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of an early death.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here.

You know, not dying is always good for your health, Elizabeth. You know, what else does this study say?


So, what this study did was it looked to excess alcohol intake. There is some alcohol intake that is OK, and we'll get to that in a second. But the CDC scientists had this huge task in front of them. They looked at deaths in the United States and said, how many are attributable to excess alcohol consumption.

So, everything from drunk driving accidents, where, obviously, being drunk plays a huge role, or alcohol plays a huge role, to things like cancer and heart disease, where they play a role but less so.

So, they tabulated all of that up and here's what they came up with. They said, when you look at deaths of people ages 20 to 49, one in five deaths could be attributed to excess alcohol consumption. When you look at ages 20 through 64, one in eight deaths could be attributed to alcohol consumption.

Now, the CDC is not saying that you shouldn't drink, they're just pointing out that there's something called drinking in moderation. So, let's take a look at what the CDC defined as drinking in moderation. For men that's no more than two glasses of alcohol a day, like a beer or a glass of wine, et cetera. For women it is no more than one a day.

And, by the way, I want to note that you can't, you know, sort of add those up. You can't abstain all week and then have seven drinks on a Saturday night. That's called binge drinking. And that's bad for all sorts of other reasons.

John. BERMAN: Yes, that moderate list there is actually reasonably generous, two drinks a day.


BERMAN: You know, obviously, some people are doing the dry January thing, giving it up altogether. Are there benefits to, you know, being dry all year?

COHEN: You know, there can be benefits. If you've been, you know, dry this -- for these past two weeks and you're feeling good, you're sleeping better, you're feeling less fatigued, you're less moody maybe, that's a good thing. Your body's trying to tell you something. Maybe you just shouldn't drink at all.

But, again, the CDC doesn't say that we all need to give up alcohol. They say basically a couple things. One, if you don't want to drink, that's terrific. If you don't drink now, don't start thinking somehow it might be healthy for you. No, just keep not drinking. And that drinking in moderation, they're not telling you not to do that. They're saying that drinking in moderation is there and here are the numbers.


BERMAN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for sharing this report.

So, travel in China is amping up ahead of the lunar new year holiday starting next week. Officials say more than 42 million people traveled across China on Saturday. They estimate more than 2 billion journeys will be made before the travel period is over. That is twice as many as were made in last year's celebration.

Covid cases have been surging in China and many fear the mass migration will make the outbreak even worse. Nearly 60,000 people have died of Covid since early December -- this is according to China numbers, which is probably an undercount -- when it abandoned its tight zero Covid policy.


That's according to a medical official from the National Health Commission.

House Republicans are demanding more evidence after more classified documents were found at President Biden's private home. This time the president's team is taking a different approach.


BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is just about the top of the hour. I'm here sampling because Jim Sciutto is off this week.

This morning, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer is demanding answers after another batch of classified documents was discovered in President Biden's Delaware home. Comer is now asking the White House to turn over evidence as he plans a congressional investigation.