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House Oversight Chair Seeks More Info on Biden Documents; California Reels From Epic Flooding; University of Georgia Football Player and Staffer Killed in Crash. Data Recorder Recovered from Yeti Airlines Plane Crash; At Least 36 Killed in Strike on Dnipro Apartment Building. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world, I'm Max Foster in London. Bianca is off for this week. But just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't we hear about this on November 2nd when the first batch of classified documents were discovered?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those questions loom as he goes into the new week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Storm after storm in California over the last few weeks. The ground and rivers are so saturate saturated, it's not going to take much for more flooding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, let's remain vigilant and to heed the warnings of the officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just heartbreaking coming off of a celebratory week, I'm afraid yesterday the entire Bulldog nation is at a loss.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster.

FOSTER: It is Monday, January 16th, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 4:00 a.m. in Washington, D.C. where U.S. President Joe Biden is facing more scrutiny over his handling of classified documents. The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee has asked the White House for more information about the scandal, including visitor logs from Joe Biden's Delaware residence where several classified items have been found. James Comer is also seeking records and communications related to searches of the president's homes and other locations. On Sunday, Comer said he wanted Mr. Biden's case to be treated just like the probe involving Donald Trump and his own handling of classified documents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): At the end of the day, my biggest concern isn't the classified documents, to be honest with you. My concern is how there's such a discrepancy in how former President Trump was treated, by raiding Mar-a-Lago, by getting the security cameras, by taking pictures of documents on the floor, by going through Melania's closet. Versus Joe Biden, they're like, OK, your personal loggers who don't have security clearance, they can go through, they can just keep looking and keep looking and, you know, determine whatever is there. That's not equal treatment.


FOSTER: Democratic lawmaker Jamie Raskin responded to Comer's remarks saying there are key differences between these two cases.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We were delighted to learn that the president's lawyers the moment they found out about the documents that day turned them over to the National Archives And ultimately to the Department of Justice. That is a very different posture than what we saw with Donald Trump where he was fighting for a period of more than eight months to not turn over hundreds of missing documents that the Archives was asking about. When my friend Mr. Comer says we're looking for equal treatment, that's all we're looking for. I think it's good this is in the hands of special counsels on both sides and the special counsels, you know, are both trustworthy lawyers who I think will get to the bottom of it.


FOSTER: President Biden didn't address the scandal during a trip to Atlanta on Sunday. Instead, he rallied supporters at a church where civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. And he delivered a message about social justice and democracy. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez reports.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Joe Biden became the first sitting president to deliver remarks at a Sunday service at Ebenezer Baptist Church. His the same church where Dr. Martin Luther King preached at and it was an opportunity for President Biden to remember King's legacy ahead of MLK day. During his remarks, he reflected on the state of the nation, saying that it is at a critical juncture and that it is at an inflection point. Take a listen.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The battle for the soul of this nation is perennial. It's a constant struggle. It's a constant struggle between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice. Against those who traffic in racism, extremism and insurrection. A battle fought on battlefields and bridges from courthouses and ballot boxes to pulpits and protest.

ALVAREZ: The president also talked about economic justice and civil rights all in a state that Biden narrowly flipped in 2020 and was buoyed by black voters. It is a critical time as the president and his advisers consider his political future and whether he decides to launch a reelection bid.


Now of course it all came against the backdrop of a week where there were regular disclosures from the White House about documents marked as classified found at President Biden's residence here in Wilmington as well as at a former private office that he used after the vice presidency. The administration has been contending with those disclosures as we learn more about the documents that were marked classified found in these private spaces. Now the president did not speak to the matter during his remarks on Sunday. But those questions loom as he goes into the new week.

Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, Wilmington.


FOSTER: Rain and snow once again hitting Central and Northern California after residents got a small break with light rain on Sunday morning. And more than 8 million are under flood watches until Monday evening, including the Bay Area. Winter storm warnings in effect for the Sierra Nevada mountains where up to three feet of snow could fall through Monday. Storms have been slamming the state for weeks, flooding roads, homes and businesses, causes mud slides and leaving at least 19 people dead.

Rain fall is continuing to decrease, but about 14 million people remain under wind advisories across the southern part of the state. And take a look at the dramatic rescue in San Diego here. It took 90 minutes in the rain and wind to remove the driver of an SUV that plunged over a cliff. Here is what a firefighter had to say about the dangerous situation.


DAVE SENEVIRATNE, SAN DIEGO FIRE DEPARTMENT: Here where the car landed where it was. It could have been worse. Car could have gone over the side and then it would have a whole different outcome.

TYLER MITCHELL, WITNESS: A very crazy scene. The rescue team did awesome out here. They had like ropes getting down there under the spotlight. Just double checking that the person, like the car was not going anywhere.


FOSTER: Amazing work. And now that the storms appear to be easing, officials and residents can turn their attention to the major cleanup right ahead. CNN's Natasha Chen has more on the epic flooding that hit California amid an historic drought.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're at Johnson's Beach at the Russian River here in Guerneville, California where residents tell me this is supposed to be a driveway right here. But it's so flooded and you can see that sign where it says no life guard on duty. Local residents tell me there's supposed to be a walkway after that for another 20 feet as well as an entire parking lot before you even reach the beach.

So, many of them have come to the water's edge taking photos as one woman told me, she has lived here 30 years and just extremely intrigued to see the water come up this far.

Of course, there is more rain expected into Monday morning. And because there has been storm after storm in California over the last few weeks, the ground and rivers are so saturated it's not going to take much for more flooding and more threats of mud slides.

Mud slides like the one we saw in Belmont, California, on Saturday. Belmont police showed these photos on social media of part of a hillside coming down into a neighborhood. So those are the types of dangers that city and county officials are really warning people about.

In fact, there's not just more rain coming but high winds as well. San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, there are high wind advisories there. Thousands of people -- as thousands of customers in California still without power and millions under a flood watch. President Biden on Saturday evening did approve California's request for a disaster declaration.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Guerneville, California.


FOSTER: University of Georgia is mourning the loss of a football player and staff member. Offensive lineman Devin Willock and Chandler LeCroy died in a car crash on Sunday near the university's campus. As CNN's Isabel Rosales has the details.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This loss has been a gut punch. Students and fans coming out here outside of the stadium leaving flowers, some writing 77 on the sign. That was Devin Willock's number.

And take a look at this. The grandfather of 7-year-old Bulldog's fan Camden Gonzalez sharing pictures on Twitter. They show Willock fist bumping the young boy and letting him wear his massive 2021 national championship ring. The grandfather says the child was star struck and the interaction made his day.

So, here's what we know happened. According to a statement from the Athens Clarke County Police Department, at around 2:45 Sunday morning, in the morning, their car left the road striking power poles and several trees. The car then striking and coming to rest at this apartment building. Willock and LeCroy died from their injuries. Two others connected with the football program were hurt.

According to the football roster, Willock was from New Jersey, an offensive lineman, he was a red shirt sophomore and played every game this year.

Willock's head coach speaking out saying quote: We're all heartbroken and devastated with the loss of Devin Willock and Chandler LeCroy. Devin was an outstanding young man in every way and was always smiling. He was a great teammate and a joy to coach. Chandler was a valuable member of our football staff and brought an incredible attitude and energy every single day.


And take a look at this video showing the team celebrating their national championship victory just hours before on Saturday. So many fans coming to this victory parade right here in Athens. I spoke with a Bulldog's fan who was at that parade route and says he saw Willock in person. Plus, a witness who saw the aftermath of the crash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just heart breaking coming off of a celebratory week and the parade yesterday. Getting to see this player and then come to find out, you know, he lost his life early this morning. The entire Bulldog nation is at a loss. And I can't imagine what his family is going through.

ROSALES: And that closeness that he's talking about is the immediate UGA fan base, but clearly that expands far beyond to the larger college football community. And you can see from these tweets, players, other teams, the S.E.C. commissioner speaking out sending condolences, prayers and encouragement on this difficult day.

Isabel Rosales, CNN, in Athens, Georgia.


FOSTER: Authorities in Nepal say they've recovered the flight's data recorder, one of the so-called black boxes from the deadly Yeti Airline's crash on Sunday. The box will be handed over to a civil aviation authorities. Early on Monday, search and rescue operations resumed for four people who are still missing and one official warned the chances of finding them alive are extremely low. Of the 72 people on board, 68 are confirmed dead. Including six children and 15 foreign nationals. One man who saw the plane going down described what happened.


MEHMOOD KHAN, EYEWITNESS (through translator): We heard a loud, thunderous crash and reached our terrace to see what had happened. We saw a lot of smoke and realized it was an airline crash and we rushed to the site. Though I stayed back from where I could see the debris, my friend went down to look for survivors and took out at least 35 people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOSTER: Well, our CNN's Vedika Sud joins me now live from New Delhi with the very latest on this. And Vedika, the weather appeared to be OK at the time of landing. So, what's the line of inquiry here?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Well, it all depends on the black box, doesn't it? That's going to be the vital clues really in that black box. The voice recordings of the last minutes ahead of the plane crash that will lead to understanding what really went down with that plane, what really happened in that cockpit that led to the plane crash.

Now, we have been speaking to officials, Max, and they say that 16 bodies have been pulled up with the use of a crane from the gorge and those bodies have been recovered. They've been air lift, they've taken to a hospital where post mortems have been conducted and they will be gradually handed other to the family members who first have to identify those bodies.

As far as the 15 foreign nationals are concerned, their bodies are being air lifted to Kathmandu and postmortems will be conducted there after which those bodies will also be handed over to family members.

But it's really those last few minutes that will tell us the story and investigators are hoping at this point that the black box is going to be the key and the clue to what really happened in there. But it's that one vigil really that we have been talking about ever since the plane crashed in Pokhara that tells you the story of moments before the crash when that plane actually rolled to a side and left the frame of the person who was shooting from the balcony of his or her house.


SUD (voice-over): A video appears to show a passenger plane tilting to the side moments before it comes crashing into the ground in central Nepal. At least 68 people died when the Yeti Airlines operated flight crashed on Sunday, making it Nepal's deadliest plane crash in decades. Dozens of bodies were recovered by rescue workers searching among the wreckage until darkness settled in Nepal.

On Sunday morning, the aircraft embarked on a roughly 30 minute flight from the capital of Kathmandu to Pokhara, the country's second most populous city. But the flight was last in contact with the Pokhara airport about 18 minutes after takeoff before it came crashing down in the nearby Seti River Gorge. The Nepalian country has a record of crashes due to its mountainous topography and sudden changes to the weather. The Nepali Prime Minister announced an investigation which would see to determining exactly what happened.

PUSHPA KAMAL DAHAL, NEPALI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The incident was tragic. All forces have been deployed for rescue operations. The investigation is going on now. I have called an emergency cabinet meeting.

SUD (voice-over): The passengers on board were mostly Nepalis but included 15 foreign nationals, Nepal's civil aviation authority said. Yeti Airlines cancelled all regular flights on Monday in mourning for the passengers who lost their lives. The Nepali government also declared Monday a public holiday as the

nation continues to grapple with the tragedy.



SUD (on camera): Max, these families want answers. All they know as of now is that they've lost their near and dear ones. They're hoping that the probe, which the government is promising to complete within the next 45 days, will have answers to their questions -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Vedika, thank you for joining us from Delhi with the latest on that.

Now a near miss between two passenger planes at New York's busy JFK International Airport is now being investigated by U.S. authorities. It happened on Friday evening. This animation shows just how close it was to being a tragedy. The FAA says the crew of a departing Delta flight with 151 people on board aborted its takeoff stopping within 1,000 feet of an American Airlines jet that was taxiing on the same runway. Here is some of the audio from the control tower.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 1946 cancel takeoff plans. Delta 1943 cancel takeoff plans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right and the Delta 1943.


FOSTER: Amazingly no one hurt in that incident. So, the rescue efforts worked.

Up next, clinging to hope in Ukraine. Rescue workers are now sifting through rubble in search of survivors after a deadly missile strike. The latest in a live report for you.

Fears over rising COVID cases in China are casting a cloud over the Lunar New Year travel season. We'll get the latest from Hong Kong.

And the mayor of New York visits the U.S./Mexico border and sends a message to Washington. What Eric Adams says the federal government must do.



FOSTER: This hour an urgent search and rescue operation is pressing on in Dnipro, in Ukraine. This after a Russian missile slammed into an apartment building over the weekend. At least 36 people were killed. Dozens of others are still missing. Many are holding out hope for more scenes like this, the rescue of a woman from the rubble following Saturday's strike. But Dnipro's mayor is acknowledging the harsh reality.


BORYS FILATOV, DNIPRO MAYOR: (through translator): I think the chances of saving people now are minimal. My version is that the missile hit the building because there's a thermal station across the river, meaning they tried to hit the thermal station but the missile flew by and hit residential buildings.


FOSTER: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the battle for two towns has continued nonstop in the east. This comes days after Russia claims to have taken control of the town of Soledar after failing to capture Bakhmut. Mr. Zelenskyy says Moscow has made the battle for the area fundamental for itself. And that Ukrainian troops are making the battle fundamental for destruction of Russia's combat potential.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is following developments and joins me here in London. So, this is a town that isn't strategically important but, you know, symbolically very important because whoever wins it would appear to have the upper hand.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's very important for Russia, Max, which don't forget has not been able to claim any real territory or victory since they took Luhansk in July. So, this would be extremely important. The claim that they had taken over Soledar in just a day after they instilled the head of entire armed forces as the head of the operations in Ukraine. So, despite the fact that it was prewar a town of 9,500 people, a very small town. It is having an outsized impact on the battlefield. Ukraine though saying that battles continue even as Russia continues pad it's victory there.

FOSTER: In terms of what we're seeing with this rescue operation, I mean, the images are horrific, aren't they? Is that the working assumption the Ukrainians, this was not a direct, you know, attack on an apartment building, it wasn't a case of a war crime as some would argue?

SEBASTIAN: I mean, that's what we're hearing from the mayor of the town there. So far that's only his version of events. It would seem plausible given the type of weapon used. This is a missile that's usually reserved for attacking aircraft carriers. It's seen as very imprecise the way it targets its targets essentially, but we're not hearing that from anyone else.

And as you say, the rescue operations continue. The death toll seems to be climbing all the time. We're up to now 36. And more than 30 still unaccounted for, according to Ukrainian authorities. Children among both the dead and injured and those unaccounted for.

And meanwhile, Max, we're getting more reports of shelling this morning in the southern front according to Ukrainian officials in a town of Nikopol which is just across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the town of Zaporizhzhia as well, not too far from there. That all comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency is expanding its mission to Ukraine. And it's already got a presence at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. It's now adding officials at Ukraine's other power plants, very keen to avoid any kind of nuclear accident there.

FOSTER: What's the urgency with the nuclear power plant, they're worried again it's getting too close?

SEBASTIAN: Well, so I mean, the shelling continues in that area. In a very contested area, Zaporizhzhia, the nuclear plant itself is in Russian-controlled territory. They have had control of that since the beginning of the war. But the IAEA wants to set up a safety protection zone around it and they so far, haven't been able to do that. The head of the IAEA has traveled to Moscow. He's set to be is in Kyiv again this week to hold talks on that, really pushing progress there but as such there hasn't been any.

FOSTER: OK, Clare, thank you.

Travel in China ramping up ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday starting next week. Officials say more than 42 million people traveled across China on Saturday, would you believe. They estimate more than 2 billion journeys will be made before the travel period is over. That's twice as many as last year's celebration. COVID cases already have been surging in China and many feel the mass migration will make the outbreak even worse. It's logical, isn't it, Anna, when you look at the movement of people.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Max, it's extraordinary the number of people that will move across this period -- 2 billion people, as you mentioned. And remembering that so many of these people have been separated for the last three years because of these zero-COVID policies that have been firmly in place across China. We saw those harsh lockdowns, those quarantine measures, the mass testing on a scale we hadn't seen anywhere else in the world.

Well, that all came toon abrupt halt in December after the Chinese government basically did a back flip. That followed weeks of protests and obviously the strain to the Chinese economy.

But what was rather startling to the international community, Max, was this claim that only 37 people had died as a result of COVID. They were maintaining that claim that that was the death toll over the past month up until the weekend.

And then there was a meeting between the Chinese health minister and the World Health Organization and there was a drastic revision where Chinese National Health Commission came out and said actually the number is more like 60,000 COVID deaths over the last month. They said they were now adding in the COVID deaths with underlying illnesses and they also said, quote, the delay was due to a comprehensive exam examination of hospital reporting.

Now, Max, International analysts, experts, medical experts, they're not necessarily buying that 60,000. They think the number is much, much higher. And you know, add Chinese New Year to it, you know, it further complicates the situation. This is going to be the largest, you know, migration of humans in the world. And because people have been separated for so long, you will see people traveling across the country. They will be moving from the cities to provinces, to rural areas to the villages where there's a large elderly population and poor public health infrastructure. The concern is there's going to be a spike in cases and obviously, a spike in deaths -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Anna Coren in Hong Kong, thank you.

The battle is brewing in Washington over the debt ceiling and time is running out for lawmakers to make sure the government can pay its obligations on time. We'll have the details in just a few moments.