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More Locations Tied To President Joe Biden To Be Searched For Classified Documents; Kevin McCarthy Says He Always Had Questions About George Santos Resume; At Least 40 Killed In Strike On Dnipro Apartment Building; Life In Bakhmut Upended As Fighting Intensifies; Search Operation Resumes For Two Missing People In Nepal Plane Crash; California May See Break In Storms Later This Week; California May See Break in Storms Later This Week; Mob Boss Caught After 30 Years in Hiding; Planes Narrowly Avoid Collision on JFK Runway; Ex-Twitter Employees Fighting for Severance in Court; China Reports Economy Expanded by 2.9 Percent. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 17, 2023 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM. Those classified documents just keep turning up. Lawyers for the U.S. president confirm additional pages recovered from his private home. And Sources tells CNN other locations could soon be searched.

Moment of truth, the U.S. revs up training for Ukrainian troops, with both Russia and Ukraine, appearing to plan what could be major offensives.

And 30 years of hiding in plain sight, over. One of the world's most wanted fugitives, Mafia Kingpin Matteo Messina Denaro arrested while seeking treatment for his prostate.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

VAUSE: Lawyers for the U.S. president have confirmed five additional pages of classified information were found at Joe Biden's Wilmington residence last week and have since been handed to the Justice Department.

This comes as sources tell CNN there could be more searches to come beyond Biden's home and the private office he used in Washington before being elected president. Classified material have been recovered at both locations.

Republicans in Congress are demanding more information. Even many Democrats now admit the discoveries have been an embarrassment.

CNN's Arlette Saenz has our report.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden refusing to answer questions as pressure mounts.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Will you testify with the Special Counsel?

SAENZ: CNN has learned that the president is personally frustrated with how the classified documents saga has unfolded. This as more details about the classified documents at his Wilmington, Delaware home come to light.

The White House on Thursday morning saying Biden's personal attorneys searching a room adjacent to the President's Wilmington garage found one page of classified material.

Over the weekend, the president's White House lawyer revealing he travelled to Delaware on Thursday evening, and five additional pages with classification markings were discovered. It's the latest example of a shifting narrative from a White House on defense now referring all questions to the Justice Department as the Special Counsel investigation gets underway.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly.

SAENZ: The president's personal attorney defending their information sharing approach, saying they're working "to balance the importance of public transparency where appropriate with the established norms and limitations necessary to protect the investigation's integrity".

But Republicans promising investigations are sounding off.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): The administration hasn't been transparent about what's going on with President Biden's possession of classified documents.

SAENZ: The House Oversight Chairman demanding visitor logs for the President's Delaware home. But the White House and Secret Service say they simply don't exist. The White House Counsel adding like every president across decades of modern history, his personal residence is personal.

Some Democrats acknowledging the situation has been messy.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): It's certainly embarrassing, right? I mean, it's embarrassing that you would find a small number of documents.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I still would like to see Congress do its own assessment of -- and receiving assessment from the intelligence community of whether there was an exposure to others of these documents, whether there was harm to national security in the case of either set of documents with either president.

SAENZ: But as he celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, the president trying to keep the focus on the future.

[00:05:02] JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a time for choosing. Will we choose democracy over autocracy or community over chaos, love over hate? These are the questions of our time.

SAENZ (on camera): This all comes as sources tells CNN there are additional locations tied to President Biden that could be searched for more classified documents or government records.

Now, so far, President Biden's personal attorneys have searched his two homes in Delaware and that former private office here in Washington, D.C. but sources believe there may be other locations that could be searched, though it's unclear who exactly what searched those locations or where those locations exactly are.

But all of these are matters that could be looked into by the Special Counsel as that investigation gets underway.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


VAUSE: The scandal over the mishandling of classified documents will likely overshadow President Biden's legislative agenda at least in the short term and especially now that the Republicans have a slim majority in the House.

CNN spoke with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries about what comes next.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think we want to collect more of the data, more of the information. Are these all the documents? Are there more out there?

I mean, I know the White House tried to say it was all cleared up on Thursday. And now that we find there's more documents, I think there's a lot of questions that continue to raise and we want to get all the information possible.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): This situation appears to be inadvertent, not intentional. And we'll see what is ultimately uncovered. But by all accounts, this was inadvertent, not intentionality and that should be an important factor as people evaluate this particular situation.

Third, we know that there's a Special Counsel who has been appointed. And so, it's my expectation that the Special Counsel is just going to simply follow the facts, apply to law, figure out what happened, present that information to the Department of Justice, and to the American people. And we should take it from there.


VAUSE: Now, to another congressional scandal, and the Republican U.S. House Speaker says he did not know the GOP Congressman George Santos had embellished his resume, to say the least but he says he always had questions. This is the first time Kevin McCarthy has acknowledged having apprehension about Santos's record. Even so McCarthy still has not asked him to resign.

CNN's Melanie Zanona reports.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER (on camera): Well, as more and more damaging revelations have come out about George Santos, a big question has become what did GOP leaders know about George Santos? And when do they know it? CNN is learning new details on that front.

Sources told our Pam Brown that there had been questions circling in GOP circles as far back as last summer with donors and consultants and others concerned about George Santos's resume, whether his backstory was adding up and concerned that an expose might drop before the November election.

And in fact, Dan Conston who heads a pack aligned with Speaker Kevin McCarthy felt concerned enough about George Santos that he felt the need to reach out to lawmakers and donors and express those concerns.

So, I asked Kevin McCarthy before he went into a Republican meeting whether he knew about these allegations and when he knew that something might be amiss with George Santos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When were you first made aware about some of these allegations around Santos? Was it before it came out publicly in media? Were you given any indication that there might be something amiss there?

MCCARTHY: On which part?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any of it. His resume, all of the things that he's been accused of.

MCCARTHY: I never knew all about his resume or not. But I always had a few questions about it.

ZANONA: So, you heard there Kevin McCarthy publicly admitting for the first time that he had any sort of apprehension or suspicion about George Santos's backstory.

And yet, despite all of this, GOP leaders continued to support George Santos and fundraise for George Santos heading into the November election, and they are continuing to stand by him now.

Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.


VAUSE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says a deadly Russian strike on an apartment building in Dnipro was a war crime and those responsible will be brought to justice. At least 40 people were killed by a Russian missile strike Saturday, making it one of the single deadliest attacks against civilians since the Russian invasion. At least 25 people remain missing. Rescue crews have been working

around the clock in a desperate search to find any survivors.

A Kremlin spokesperson has suggested the strike was the result of an air defense counter missile, claiming Russian forces only strike military targets.

Ukraine's president says the attack shows the need for more urgent action from Ukrainian allies around the world.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What happened in Dnipro, the fact that Russia is preparing a new attempt to seize the initiative in the war, the fact that the nature of hostilities at the front requires new decisions in the defense supply, all this only emphasizes how important it is to coordinate our efforts, the efforts of all members of the coalition to defend Ukraine and freedom and to speed up decision making.


VAUSE: And in that there is the British defense secretary who says Ukraine is now in need of new level of support, and says the U.K. is sending main battle tanks to the country.


Meantime, Poland's Prime Minister calling on Germany to supply "all sorts of weapons to Ukraine" that will include the Leopard tank. (INAUDIBLE) German defense minister has resigned.

A high level U.S. delegation which included the Deputy Secretary of State met with Mr. Zelenskyy and other top Ukrainian officials in Kyiv on Monday. The goal was to reaffirm U.S. commitment to Ukraine and its defense against Russian aggression.

This comes on the same day we learned Ukrainian troops are now in the U.S. to begin training on the Patriot defense missile system.

CNN's Oren Liebermann has details reporting in from the Pentagon.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The first group of Ukrainian troops has arrived at Fort Sill in Oklahoma to begin training sometime this week on Patriot Missile Systems.

Fort Sill is where the U.S. conducts its own Patriot training not only for U.S. troops, but also for visiting troops from allies and partners and that is where a team of about 90 to 100 Ukrainian troops has arrived to begin their own training. The training according to the Pentagon is expected to take several months, the U.S. is trying to figure out how much it can accelerate the training on the system, but it is an advanced and inherently complex system, so operating it will require a tremendous amount of time not only on how to fire it, but also on how to maintain this system in the field. So, all of that is folded in.

Also, the US doesn't want to give a timeline and how long the training may take because it doesn't want Russia to know when the Patriot might arrive in the field. It's designed to be a long range aerial defense system to help in addition to the shorter and more medium range systems the U.S. and others have already provided.

The Patriot will be able to use its radar to detect incoming threats at a greater distance and its missiles to intercept those threats. It has been given to more than a dozen other countries, and has shown its effectiveness in other theaters.

Ukraine looking to add it to beef up its own aerial defense systems as we see these barrages from the Russians continue.

Oren Liebermann, CNN at the Pentagon.


VAUSE: Well, after having claimed to take the town of Soledar, the Russian mercenary group Wagner claims it's captured the main train station on town's outskirts which is located about 14 kilometers north of Bakhmut, a larger city which has been a target of Russian forces for months.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has our report.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Near Bakhmut's front lines, lost souls wandered the streets. Those who can't leave, won't leave or have given up caring.

I put some food on the fire, I chop some wood says Svetlana (PH), I decided to go out for some fresh air.

Dimitro (PH) pays no heed to the shelling. This is my land he says, I won't leave.

The fighting echoes through the fog.

As the Russians seem to be gaining control of Soledar, north of here in Bakhmut, the fighting seems to be intensifying.

One local resident told us whereas before mortars were flying over their heads, now it's bullets.

Soldiers prepare trenches inside the city, new defensive positions if the Russians push forward.

Sandbags with wood on top says Valentin (PH) in three firing positions. On the ever so slightly safer western side of the city, a makeshift market offers the basics. With no electricity or running water, commerce is conducted in the open.

My two shops were destroyed says Denise (PH), so I'm selling on the street.

But this food is only for those who can afford it and said he isn't one of them. I'm living like an effing animal, he says.

Yvonne (PH) returns home after collecting firewood. The bitter cold is deadly as the shelling. People have frozen to death in their apartments, he says.

On a bluff overlooking Bakhmut, this artillery officer nicknamed Pilot (PH) says they're up against troops, many of them convicts, with the private military company Wagner.

We're fighting against soldiers brought to the slaughter, he says. These Wagner guys have no choice, they're sentenced to death. And then, the order comes to open fire.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Bakhmut, Ukraine.


VAUSE: Eight people were injured during a shooting at a Martin Luther King Jr. event in Fort Pierce, Florida Monday. Police say gunfire erupted during an argument at a car show at a block party celebrating the life of MLK. Over a thousand people were at the venue.



CHIEF DEPUTY BRIAN HESTER, ST. LUCIE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: As our deputies were arriving and going to entering the scene. You know, it was -- it was mass chaos there. There were people laying behind cars, laying behind anything they could lay behind. It was kind of hard to tell who was a victim and who was just hiding at that point.

But our deputies did start to render aid on multiple people. There were people in the crowd that were rendering aid as well. And then there were some people that were loading people up in cars and taking them to the hospital as well.


VAUSE: Authorities say they have several leads but no suspects in custody as of now.

Still to come here on CNN, new details on the deadly Yeti Airlines crash in Nepal, including some of the decisions the pilot made just before the plane went down. A live report in just a moment. You're watching CNN.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. The search has resumed this hour for two people who remain unaccounted for after the deadly crash of a Yeti Airlines plane in Nepal. Authorities say 70 bodies have been recovered so far, at least 41 had been identified. Many families are now waiting to receive those bodies, while the bodies of foreign nationals will be airlifted to the capital Kathmandu. There were 73 people on board including four crew members when the plane crashed into a gorge on Sunday.

CNN's Paula Hancock follows the very latest developments. He joins us now live. So, what do we know about the investigation into how this crash happened? In particular, those last few moments before the accident?


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, John, at this point, we know that there is a five person investigation team that's been created. There's also members of the French Civil Aviation Safety Agency that will be involved in this as well. We understand that there will be four investigators from France arriving at the site today, this Tuesday, as the search still goes on for two more of those victims of that crash.

So, there's a number of things that they will be looking at. Now, we saw social media video showing the plane flying extremely low over populated areas, and then banking to one side very significantly, that's clearly going to be something they will look at.

We also heard from the spokesperson of the airport and the Civil Aviation Authority, saying the pilot had asked for a change of runway just moments before they were supposed to land.

Now, they said that that permission was given. They didn't ask for a reason why they wanted that, suggestion -- suggesting it's not an unusual request.

And crucially saying "no distress calls were reported from the pilot to the Pokhara airport tower controllers."

So, just before landing, there didn't appear to be any problems. Now, they have retrieved the black boxes, we know that the flight data recorder and also the cockpit voice recorder have been retrieved, they will be -- and had been handed over to the Civil Aviation Authority.

So, hopefully, that will give some kind of indication as to what happened.

Now, there was of course, there are many tragic stories within this disaster. There was one tragic twist of fate we know now from the Yeti Airlines spokesperson that the pilot herself was actually a widow and she had lost her husband who was also a copilot of Yeti Airlines in a similar crash back in 2006.

Now, we understand from the spokesperson that she had used that insurance payout money to travel to the U.S. and to get her training to become a pilot.

So, a tragic twist of fate. The spokesperson said "She was a brave woman with all the courage and determination. She's left us too soon."

And of course, there are those who were very close to tragedy, those in the populated area just before that plane crashed, and we did hear from one who was very close by.


SAPANA KHADKA, EYEWITNESS (through translator): I live in the house just next to the crash site. The plane crashed right across my house on a cliff, one of its wings still lies on the edge of the cliff. It came to the side of my house after bouncing back and then burst into flames.

On hearing the sound, we looked out and saw a huge ball of fire in the air. And then we rushed out of our house. We thought the plane was going to crash land over our house when my children and I were inside. But we are lucky that God saved us.


HANCOCKS: And as condolence has come in from the prime minister of Nepal of India, of other countries as well. There were 15 foreign nationals on board. There are also the devastated families waiting outside the hospital to be able to identify their loved ones and for the body to be handed over to them, John.

VAUSE: So many tragic stories associated with this crash. The story of the pilot just being one of them. Paula, thank you for the update. We appreciate the report. Paula Hancocks live in Seoul.

With that, we'll take a short break. When we come back, California facing weeks of cleanup as it sees an end to atmospheric rivers which have caused extensive damage statewide.

Also ahead this hour, the so-called last Godfather or the Sicilian Mafia finally captured. Was he done in by his prostrate? More on that in a moment.



VAUSE: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Weeks of heavy rain could soon be coming to an end for California. The so called atmospheric rivers are being blamed for more than a dozen deaths and causing extensive damage as well as power outages, mudslides and major flooding.

CNN's Natasha Chen has more now reporting in from the Bay Area.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In California, another big storm after a series of atmospheric rivers ravage the state, eight million people still under flood watch, one storm after another, overflowing rivers, flooding farms, roads and neighborhoods, causing landslides more than 500 in the last 2-1/2 weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have seen damage from down in Santa Barbara and Montecito, all the way up north, on the coast, in the valley, in the mountains. It has really hit us hard from one part of the state to the next.

CHEN: After three years of extreme drought in California, the state received about a year's worth of rain in a matter of weeks.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): By some estimates 20 to 25 trillion gallons of water have fallen over the course of last 16, 17 days.

CHEN: At least 19 people have died as a result of the storms. Hundreds more were rescued across the state from a man who drove off a cliff, his SUV dangling over crashing waves. And a woman airlifted from a creek after clinging to a tree amid rapidly rising waters in Southern California to families evacuated from a mobile home park that flooded in the northern part of the state. A coastal road west of San Jose collapsed as the ground saturated by rain gave way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really devastating, it makes -- it just breaks my heart and just the flooding and it's almost unbelievable.

CHEN: But now relief for the state's water supply and lingering drought and overflowing reservoir near the San Francisco Bay full for the first time in almost four years.

And the Sierra Nevada Mountains expecting another two to three feet of snow. Though the snow and high winds are making travel treacherous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sign all over the road. You know, you got to know what you're doing in the snow or at least have a plan.

CHEN: For this Santa Cruz County community, a unique plan, a zipline to cross their local creek after the bridge washed out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you live in the woods, you know, you've just got to be prepared (ph).

CHEN: The rain may be gone for a short while, but it will take quite some time for waters to recede. Places that are typically much drier are still seeing high levels of water. Parts of roadways are still flooded.

And people we've talked to throughout the area say that they are exhausted by the consecutive storms. They tell me they can't wait for drier weather coming next weekend.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Nevada, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: He was known as the last godfather of the Sicilian Mafia, a feared, bloodthirsty mob boss who'd been on the run for three decades. Until Monday.

Matteo Messino Denaro was one of the masterminds behind a series of deadly bombings by the Cosa Nostra in the 1990s. Those killings led to a massive government crackdown on organized crime in Italy.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau has more now, reporting in from Rome.


BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Italy's most-wanted Mafia kingpin, finally arrested after 30 years in hiding.

PASQUALE ANGELOSANTO, MILITARY POLICE MAJOR GENERAL (through translator): As a part of investigations coordinated by the public prosecutor's office of Palermo, we arrested fugitive Matteo Messino Denaro inside a health facility.

NADEAU (voice-over): Messino Denaro was last seen publicly in 1993, shortly before he went into hiding. After he was convicted in absentia for the assassinations of anti-Mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, both killed in separate targeted bombings in 1992.

Police had been searching for him ever since.

Messino Denaro is thought to have led the Cosa Nostra Mafia in Sicily since the arrest of his predecessor, Bernardo Provenzano, who was captured near the infamous Sicilian town of Corleone in 2006.

Messina Denaro has multiple convictions for murder, including the kidnapping and death of a 12-year-old boy, whose body was dissolved in acid.

Despite evading police for so long, there was cause for celebration.

MAURIZIO BELLACOSA, LUISS UNIVERSITY: The arrest is a very, very important event. Obviously, Mr. Matteo Messino Denaro is the keeper of fundamental secrets in very delicate matter, as for example, the reasons of the most serious Mafia crimes or the possible connections (ph) between political subjects and Mafia leaders.

NADEAU (voice-over): Italy's new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, was in Palermo to celebrate the spectacular arrest.

She said, "The war against the Mafia is not over. But this was a battle that was fundamental to win. And it's a hard hit to organized crime."

Now, the so-called boss of bosses will be held in a high-security prison, and authorities fear his replacement is likely already on the job.

Barbie Nadeau, CNN, Rome. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Just ahead here on CNN, confusion in air traffic control at JFK Airport almost led to a collision on the ground Friday. So what happened, and how is disaster avoided at the last second?



VAUSE: Welcome back. Two planes at New York's JFK International Airport came dangerously close to colliding on the ground Friday. Now, experts are trying to find out how the so-called runway incursion actually happened.

Aviation correspondent Pete Muntean has the story.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aviation experts are calling it a narrowly-avoided disaster at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport Friday night. Two commercial airliners, a Delta Airlines Boeing 737 and an American Airlines Triple-7 on a collision course on the runway.

BRIAN HEALY, PASSENGER: I'm just very glad to be here.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Passenger Brian Healy was on board the Delta flight, unaware of what was about to take place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clear for takeoff. Runway 4 left, Delta 1943.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): This animation generated by flight-tracking data shows the Delta flight accelerating for takeoff as the American flag begin taxiing onto the runway ahead. An air-traffic controller in the tower urgently noticed the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance! Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): The Delta crew slammed on the brakes, something typically only practiced in flight simulators like this one.


HEALY: The captain came on and explained that air traffic control had told him to abort the takeoff, because there was another aircraft on the runway.

I didn't really -- it didn't really sink in how serious a near miss this was.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): It is the latest example of a top concern for aviation regulators, known as a runway incursion. Federal figures show more than 1,400 incidents reported at airports large and small last year.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: There were plenty of visual cues for this flight crew to know that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Former NTSB managing director, Peter Goelz, says now, investigators will want to hear the cockpit voice recorder, especially from the American flight that crossed the runway. After the incident, that crew asked the tower if they made a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last clearance we were given we were cleared to cross? Is that correct?

MUNTEAN (voice-over): The confusion is what experts fear could have led to a repeat of the 1970 Tenerife disaster, when two 747s collided on the runway. More than 500 people were killed.

GOELZ: It would have been catastrophic, had a collusion taken place.

HEALY: I really am grateful to the captain and to air traffic control for their utter professionalism.

MUNTEAN: The vast majority of runway incursions are not as extreme as this one. There are so many safeguards in place.

The Tenerife crash is the case study. It caused regulators to look hard at pilot procedures, how runways and taxiways are marked, all the way down to the words that pilots use on the radio. There's even new technology to better track planes on the ground.

But the big question here is why the system failed as hard as it did. The good news: commercial aviation in the U.S. is still the safest in the world.


Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: There's an invitation to a memorial service to the general public, for Lisa Marie Presley this Sunday at Graceland.

The only child of Elvis Presley died last week at age 54, after an apparent cardiac arrest. She's to be laid to rest at Memphis, Tennessee, mansion next to her son Benjamin, who took his own life back in 2020.

The family is encouraging donations to the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation instead of flowers.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. For our international viewers, please stay with us. WORLD SPORT is up next after a break.

For our viewers in the United States, I'll be right back with more news after a very short break. Stay tuned.



VAUSE: Bad news keeps on coming for laid-off workers at Twitter. The U.S. federal judge in California has ruled they cannot bring a class- action lawsuit against the social media company over their termination.

Instead, they'll have to pursue individual cases and in arbitration.

Twitter laid off about 3,700 employees back in November, not long after Elon Musk took over. And ever since, more legal complaints have followed, including allegations the company has violated federal labor laws, targeted women for lay-offs, and failed to pay severance.

To San Francisco now and Mike Isaac, a technology writer for "New York Times." Mike, good to see you.


VAUSE: Well, welcome back.

Now, the timeline here, just for some context, it all begins back in November. Not long after Musk bought Twitter, he laid off 3,700 workers, promising three months of severance. He noted at the time it's 50 percent more than legally required.

Although severance agreements have arrived, the final number was for one month's wages, 50 percent lower than legally required. That was quickly rejected by a lawyer representing a small group of Twitter workers, saying that he was basically trying to fleece them.

And then came a ruling in a district court last week. Laid-off Twitter workers are being forced to drop their class-action lawsuit and go into individual arbitration.

So back to the lawyer, who then tweeted, "We anticipated this and that's why we have already filed 500 individual arbitration demands -- and counting. This is not a win for Elon Musk."

OK. First off, this legal decision, in and of itself, does look like it's a win for Musk, simply because dragging out these sorts of legal battles only harms the plaintiffs, who often look for a fairly quick settlement. And the company, which usually has the -- you know, the deep pockets can hold out for longer.

ISAAC: One hundred percent. And, you know, the lawyer, Shannon Liss- Riordan, who also worked on class-action suits against Uber and other companies, knows that a high-profile public legal battle is bad for plaintiffs.

And so, according to their contracts they signed to work at Twitter, they were required to go into arbitration to begin with. And so the judge basically said, you know, we're upholding those contracts. So I think as -- you know, as much as she wants to position it as a

win, or not a loss, rather, I think it is actually one of the rare wins for Elon in this ongoing saga so far.

VAUSE: Well, part of that ongoing saga. Last Wednesday, came word that Twitter employees were escorted out of their office in Singapore, which serves as its Asia-Pacific headquarters, because the rent hadn't been paid.

The rent hasn't been paid on other premises, as well. So is this Musk's plan for saving Twitter? Screw the workers and stiff the landlords?

ISAAC: You know, it's funny, because we -- my colleagues and I, we've been reporting on this. We start to get sort of tips coming in on, you know, they're going to get evicted from these -- from these offices.

And, you know, Musk obviously is no longer the richest man in the world, but I believe at least up there. You know, first or second. But part of his whole strategy is basically cut costs where we can. And that means literally not paying rent on the Seattle offices, which they were already evicted from. Offices around the world. In San Francisco, they're not paying rent.

And I think that he -- his basic sort of strategy is push it to the limit. See as far as we can make it before we absolutely have to pay something. And then only then will we start paying.

And another thing is to keep the lights on, we start renegotiating those contracts and really putting the screws to everyone that they're working with, which is just -- it's a real hardball way of doing business.

VAUSE: Well, one reason he's justified that is because back in November when he, you know, announced that thousands of workers were being fired, he said it's because the company was losing $4 million a day.

And according to "TIME," Musk's deal to buy Twitter has an annual cost in interest payments of $1.3 billion a year.

Twitter has never came close to making that much money in one year. And so you've got to ask the question, who lent him the money based on that sort -- on that formula, on that calculation?

But more to the point, what are the chances that Twitter just ends up going out of business, unable to to turn (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Because there's the Twitter that everyone idealizes and wants. Then there's the Twitter Musk is looking at. Those two things don't seem to coexist.

ISAAC: A hundred percent. I mean, Twitter has, you know, long before Elon -- I have a lot of criticisms of what Elon has been doing. But long before he ever showed up, the business was not that great. You know, Twitter, at eight out of the past ten years, was not a profitable company. They've been trying for a long time to sort of get costs down enough so they can start turning a profit.

But you know, Elon's plan in theory, in some ways, to reduce costs in a big way would have been great if he'd kept the revenue where it was at.


But the big problem is Elon is not able to stop himself from tweeting insane things all the time, and all the advertisers started fleeing.

So he's -- at the same time he's, like, sort of decimating his ad revenue, he's also sort of firing the folks who might have been able to help him build the thing back up.

So I don't know. I mean, there's potentially a cost-cutting way to turn this company around. But that's if he stops tweeting, basically.

VAUSE: So it could be a day in the near future where there's no Twitter?

ISAAC: I think it's possible. I absolutely think it's possible. I mean, I think in the span of technology companies, in the span of history, you know, these -- these companies can rise and fall fairly quickly. You know?

I mean from the Myspace days to Facebook is even, you know, for as big as it is, not what it used to be in terms of powerhouse. And the amount of time it took TikTok to rise is very short. So I don't think it's -- I don't think it's out of the question that Twitter can go away some day.

VAUSE: What a shame.

Mike, thank you. In San Francisco. Thank you, sir.

ISAAC: Thank you, sir.

VAUSE: For the first time in six decades, the population of China has actually decreased, falling by 850,000 last year.

The National Bureau of Statistics has released a slew of new information, including data showing the economy grew by 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter, well short of an official annual target of 5.5 percent.

With that, let's go live to Hong Kong. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is standing by.

So what does this actually mean and what does it say about, you know, China's economy as it transitions through COVID and, you know, tries to move on from zero-COVID to zero policy?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, all this data, it just marks a depressing end to what has been a deeply challenging year for China. For 2022, China posted economic growth growth, GDP growth for 3

percent. For the fourth quarter, China posted GDP growth of 2.9 percent, year on year.

And China's population is shrinking. It's shrinking for the first time since the 1960s. But the total population now about 1.4 billion people.

China right now is counting the cost of an ongoing and historic property slump. But it's also counting the cost of its zero-COVID policy, which absolutely wrecked its economy last year, so much so that provincial governments were forced to pay billions of dollars.

In fact, we learned recently that Guangdong province, this mega economic powerhouse province in the South of China, paid 22 billion U.S. dollars over the course of the pandemic due to zero-COVID expenses like mass testing campaigns, vaccination campaigns.

And this is one of the reasons why China abruptly ended its zero-COVID policy last month.

And now, we're in the midst of the reopening and, of course, this exit wave of infections. But economists point out that this will only pose short-term economic pain.

I want to bring up this statement that we got earlier today from a senior economist. This is from Aidan Yao, who tells us that "Q4 has likely marked the darkest before the dawn." He goes on to say, "With the reopening timeline now significantly front-loaded, the economic outlook has brightened beyond the near term," unquote.

Now, looking ahead, China's economic growth for 2023 is expected to rebound. It's based on a number of factors. No. 1, China will finally learn to live with COVID. No. 2, officials in China, they're showing signs that they're now easing on the regulatory crackdown on its critical technologies sector.

But also thirdly, Chinese officials have signaled that they do plan to pass policies that will stabilize the Chinese economy. And that's why a number of economists and analysts that we've been speaking to say that they anticipate China GDP growth this year to top 5 percent.

Back to you, John.

VAUSE: Kristie, we appreciate you putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, as best you an. Thank you so much for that.

STOUT: You got it.

VAUSE: OK. Just a few hours now until the eagerly-anticipated return of Novak Djokovic and his first match at the Australian Open 12 months after he was deported for his refusal to be vaccinated from COVID-19.

The 35-year-old is a nine-time champion Down Under and comes into the event as one of the favorites to claim his 22nd major title, which would tie the current record held by rival Nadal -- Raphael Nadal, I was trying to say.

The Dallas Cowboys moving on after a convincing win in the NFL wildcard game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott connected with tight end Dalton Schultz for the game's first touchdown.

There was no looking back from there. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay offense struggled throughout the game, Brady throwing this interception in the end zone.

Final score, Dallas 31, Tampa Bay 14. Cowboys head to San Francisco to take on the 49ers this Sunday.

Monday marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S., a celebration of the civil rights leader. Marching bands, dancers, first responders and more participated in a parade through the streets of Washington to commemorate Dr. King's legacy of fighting racism and segregation.

U.S. President Joe Biden addressed a civil rights breakfast at the nation's capital, where he credited Dr. King's life as a guide for the future of the country.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We face another inflection point in our nation's history, one that's going to determine what this country looks like several decades from now. You know, this is a time for choosing. Will we choose democracy over autocracy? Community over chaos? Love over hate? These are the questions of our time.

Doctor King's life and legacy, in my view, shows the way forward.


VAUSE: Meantime, there is some backlash over a monument honoring the King family legacy after it was unveiled in Boston. The statue, titled "The Embrace," features disembodied arms meant to represent Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, hugging after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

A relative, though, says the piece is an insult to the family and contains sexual imagery. But Martin Luther King III, the oldest of the King children, thanks the artist did a great job.

So much division in the world, he adds this. Huge reputation of bringing people together.

Well, that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause. Stay with us. More news after a short break. You're watching CNN.