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CNN International: Californians Urged to Prepare for Heavy Rain, Wind, Flooding; Ukraine: Russian Forces Still Advancing in Bakhmut; U.S. Senate Blocks Controversial Washington, DC Crime Bill; Bodies of 2 Americans Killed in Mexico To Be Returned to U.S. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 04:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Bianca Nobilo.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Max Foster, joining you live from London. Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With this kind of weather, you just don't know when it's going to be bad or worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two of four Americans kidnapped in Mexico, seen in this disturbing video, are now in the U.S. and preparing to return home.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is tactical for us. We understand that after Bakhmut, they could go further, they could go to Kramatorsk, to Sloviansk, it would be an open road for the Russians.


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

FOSTER: It is Thursday, March the 9th, 9 a.m. here in London, and 1 a.m. in California, where the state is bracing for more extreme weather.

NOBILO: California's governor has declared a state of emergency in 21 additional counties. That's 34 now in total, as a new round of storms moves in.

FOSTER: Authorities warning residents to get ready and be prepared for heavy rain, strong wind, and possible flooding. Northern and Central California expected to get the brunt of it in the coming hours, before the storms head south on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JASON HOPPIN, SANTA CRUZ COUNTY SPOKESPERSON: We could see localized flooding. You are definitely going to see travel impacts, because we have saturated ground still from all the weather, we've seen over the last two months. And then when you add in some strong winds, those will take down trees. The trees will take down wires. That leads to power outages. So, people are going to be affected by this. It's going to be difficult to get around again, and some people are going to lose power.


NOBILO: More than 17 million people are currently under flood alerts in California, not to mention those under winter weather alerts too.

FOSTER: Higher elevations expect to be hit with even more heavy snow, and they're still trying to dig out from earlier storms.

NOBILO: Officials warn residents of the rain combined with the snow could overwhelm some communities, and they're warning of possible roof collapses.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam explains why.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, if you're anything like me, you have maybe fond childhood memories of playing outdoor during a winter storm with that light fluffy snow. And we know that sometimes those storms coming on the mild side, and we get a denser snow pack, so it's easier to make snowballs or a snowman, for instance. But sometimes there's so much moisture associated with these winter storms and they actually pose a threat to structures and homes.

I bring that up because that's exactly what the National Weather Service out of California is warning some of its residents for the upcoming weekend with this latest atmospheric river event that's about to take place.

Did you know that 12 inches of snow, on a typical sized home -- wet snow we're talking about -- is the equivalent of having three pickup trucks on top of your roof. Let's say you double your snowpack. We're talking 24 inches of heavy wet snow falling. We're talking about nearly 40,000 pounds of pressure on top of your house. No wonder there's the risk of structural collapse with this heavy wet snowfall.

We just have to investigate the origins of where this moisture is coming from. We call it the Pineapple Express because it originates near Hawaii. Pulling in a lot of deep tropical moisture and that means that this will be a mild storm, as it unleashes this kind of fire hose of water and heavy wet snowfall on the higher elevations.

Weather Prediction Center picking up on that level three of four when you see that shading of red. Sacramento to San Francisco, notice that like a very small southerly shift in that moderate risk of flash flooding for the day on Friday. So, keep that in mind. Malibu, northward.

Now, this is how much rain we anticipate, 3 to 6 inches for the most part. There will be the heavy wet snowfall that will be measured in feet, especially across the Sierra Nevada crest. But you have heavy wet snow on top of what's already fallen. And that is why we have the potential for rapid snow melt, flash flooding, landslides and mudslides. Can't forget about the potential of 70 mile an hour wind gusts on top of that for the highest elevations. Here's a quick look at the latest winter weather alerts blanketing the Western U.S. Back to you.

NOBILO: Some good news out of California, an 81-year-old man survived nearly a week trapped inside his car with only a handful supplies to keep him alive amid the snowstorms.


FOSTER: Jerry Jouret was trying to make the journey from his mountain home in California to the family residence in Nevada but didn't beat the winter weather. After his car got stuck in a snowbank, he lived off snacks and snow until police found him. His car battery died part way through the week, leaving him only a light quilt and a hotel bath towel to keep him warm.

And an amazing story in the state of Oregon, where a man used a drone to organize his own rescue from the snow. He was stranded inside a national forest, with no cell phone signal. So, he typed out a message to a friend, tied his phone to a drone and flew it hundreds of feet into the air.

NOBILO: Once the drone was high enough the phone got a signal and his message then went through. Help arrived not long after, and rescuers even a second driver in the area who is also trapped in the snow. That is like a modern-day MacGyver. That's incredible.

FOSTER: I guess if you had the drone you'd think, how can I use it? People would tie note to it or something. But he very cleverly thought of the solution.

NOBILO: He did.

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is in the hospital. A spokesman says that the 81 it tripped and fell at a private dinner in a Washington hotel on Wednesday night. McConnell has represented Kentucky in the Senate since 1985.

And in the coming hours, U.S. President Joe Biden is set to deliver remarks as he releases his budget blueprint.

FOSTER: The White House says he'll propose cutting the deficit by nearly three trillion dollars over the next ten years, and explained how the cuts will be paid for.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It proposes tax reforms to ensure the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share, while cutting wasteful spending on special interests, like big oil and big pharma. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: The opportunity to shine. Now, U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he's not seen the budget proposal, but he thinks there can be room for common ground. But he says raising taxes is not the answer. McCarthy also defended the fact that Republicans have not yet released their own proposal for cuts for a budget.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: The biggest challenge we have is the disappointment of the president being so delayed in doing his budget. That harms the economy too. So, here's Joe wanting to have all that he worked on, the president's more than a month behind. The CBO says it's going to take him time to analyze that budget once it comes out. We want to analyze his budget, based upon the question you asked to. Where can we find common ground? So, we'll analyzed his budget. And then we'll get to work on our budget. But unfortunately, with the president being so far delayed, delays us in this process as well.


FOSTER: Investigators keeping an eye out for the latest unemployment numbers due on Friday. Financial markets ended the day mixed after a second day of Congressional testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday. He hinted at a bigger than expected interest rate hike later this month.

NOBILO: The Dow finished the day down 58 points, or less than two tenths of a percent. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 manage modest gains.

A new trading day gets underway in the U.S. in just over five hours, and here's where we're looking at futures right now. So, as you can see, everything is down. Meantime, European markets are up and running already. And theirs are also down. Markets not having a good day. Let's have a look at how markets across Asia fared today as well. More of a mixed picture.

We're following developments in Ukraine, where a new wave of Russian attacks as targeted energy facilities in at least seven regions across the country.

FOSTER: In Kyiv, smoke filled the early morning sky after two missile strikes there. At least three people have been wounded and power has been knocked out around 15 percent of the city.

NOBILO: The Russian assault, reaching as far as the western city of Lviv, where at least five people have been killed.

FOSTER: Our Salma has been following all of this. And this is a real onslaught, wasn't it, overnight?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are describing it, Ukrainian officials are describing it as a massive attack. 81 different missile of different types and eight different drones used to attack seven different regions of Ukraine. Expanding from Odessa all the way towards the east, on the coast, of course, to Lviv.

And Lviv is significant because that's been considered a safe haven. We have not seen people killed by Russian attacks in Lviv. I think since last year, spring of last year, that's very much a place families go to get shelter. And this morning, it's under attack. And we know at least five people killed in Lviv when the neighborhood was struck by Russian missile.

So, all across the country, officials sounding the alarm, telling people this morning to take shelter, terrified families, of course, fleeing for their lives. These scenes that we see playing out. And again, the same strategy that we've seen in the past from the Kremlin, which is that energy facilities have been struck, right. So, the impact of that, that 15 percent of Kyiv is without power, concerns about electricity getting up and running again.


The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as well has been impacted by these hits for the sixth time in this conflict. That nuclear power plant disconnected from power, now in blackout mode. Of course, major concern when we talk about a nuclear power plant of course.

But I want to give you a sense of the scope and scale of this by pulling up some of the weapons that Ukrainian officials say were used just this morning in this attack. Again, 81 different types of missiles. If you look at that list, I mean, you have cruise missiles, you have missiles that were launched by sea from the Black Sea, you have anti-aircraft missiles being used. Ukrainian officials say on neighborhoods and civilian infrastructure, you have these Iranian-made drones. Give you a sense again of the scope and scale.

But it also indicates, you might ask the question, why would Russia use some of these weapons? Why would they use anti-aircraft missiles to attack a neighborhood, for example, if that's what took place? And experts say this also shows that maybe Russia is running out of the right types of weapons to use. So, it might be an indication of where their arsenal is that at this stage in the conflict. But for right now, of course, emergency services on the ground fanned out across these areas, trying to provide help and assistance that these families need in the wake of this attack.

NOBILO: And you've just laid out very clearly the scale of the attack from the air from the sea. Let's talk about what's happening on the ground. Of, course we keep discussing Bakhmut with you. Reporters that it could fall in perhaps a number of days to the Russians. Talk to us about what we know now, and also these concerns that we're hearing that it could precipitate a domino effect of other towns and cities falling.

ABDELAZIZ: So, very much Bakhmut is the flash point right, now. Is the frontline right now. Is the focus for President Zelenskyy and his men. The latest we know on the ground is that Prigozhin's troops, so that Wagner mercenaries, aligned of course with Russia's troops on the ground, say they've been able to take the eastern part of the city. We saw that video the other day of them hoisting their flag on a monument in the city.

But Ukraine, for its part saying that it's repelling near constant attacks, dozens of attacks by the hour from Russia. They say they've also been able to kill dozens of Russian troops again in the last couple of days. You have to think about the enormous amount of loss that is over one city here, where thousands of troops have been killed.

NOBILO: The population, I think before the war 70,000 or so.

ABDELAZIZ: I mean, that's what's so extraordinary. If you take a step back, it's the senselessness of this, that I think really is mind- boggling, right. Over one little city, that President Zelenskyy says is tactical, is important to Ukraine. Because potentially, Russia could use it as an open road, as a launching pad to push further into the country.

But experts will tell you, if you look at the amount of loss, if you look at the amount of cost to Russia to gain this one city, they don't really have the means or the ability to capitalize on that gain of Bakhmut if they get Bakhmut anytime in the near future.

FOSTER: OK Salma, thank you very much indeed.

NOBILO: As Salma was just mentioning there, NATO secretary-general now says that he can't rule out the battled city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine may eventually fall in the coming days. Ukraine's military has said it's still holding off Russian forces in several areas there.

FOSTER: In an exclusive interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Moscow wants Bakhmut a symbolic victory to rally the nation around Vladimir Putin's war of choice.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We understand what Russia wants to achieve there. Russia needs at least some victory, a small victory, even by ruining everything in Bakhmut, just killing every civilian there. They need to put their little flag on top of that to show the society it's not a victory for them, it's more like, you know, like to support, to mobilize their society in order to create this idea of they have such a powerful army. For us, it's such different. This is tactical for us. We understand that after Bakhmut, they could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, to Sloviansk, it would be an open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine, in the Donetsk direction, in the east of Ukraine. That's why our guys are standing there.


NOBILO: Lawmakers in Tbilisi, Georgia, are withdrawing a controversial foreign agents bill that sparked days of protests. The measures would have forced groups like charities and news organizations to register with the government as foreign agents if more than 20 percent their funding came from overseas. FOSTER: Protesters compared to the law Russia uses to stifle the

freedom of press and expression. Police used water cannon and tear gas to try to clear the tens of thousands of protesters and at least 150 people have been arrested.


And we'll see whether or not they come out again.

NOBILO: This is topical as well in relation to Ukraine. Because Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova all applied to join the European Union right after Russia invaded Ukraine. And essentially are saying we've made a European choice, we don't want to be in Putin's fear of influence. And in all those countries, he's full scale invaded Ukraine. There's a peacekeeping troop presence in Moldova and around 20 percent of Georgia is actually occupied by Russia. So, you can see that it's a thorn in Putin's side to have these countries wanting to side with Europe rather than Russia.

FOSTER: Absolutely. Still to come, a scathing federal critique of the Louisville, Kentucky police department nearly three years after a botched raid killed an innocent women.

NOBILO: Plus, a final homecoming for two Americans killed after being kidnapped in Mexico. We'll have the latest on the investigation of their death, and how the survivors are faring.

FOSTER: And later, new allegations against Fox News in the $1.6 billion lawsuit brought by Dominion voting systems.



FOSTER: The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution that would block a controversial Washington, D.C. crime bill, the Republicans called dangerous and irresponsible. But the U.S. president has said he will not veto the Republican-led legislation. They issue divided Senate Democrats and put some who are considered vulnerable on the spot.

NOBILO: The crime bill was initially vetoed by Washington's mayor, who said that reducing penalties for robberies, carjackings, and home invasion burglaries does not make the district safer. But the city council overrode the veto.

Two major announcements from the U.S. Justice Department, as well, both on policing, after the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis officers, the federal government will now investigate the practices of the city's entire police department.

FOSTER: And U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday revealed the findings of the federal investigation into, Louisville, Kentucky police. The report comes just days before the three-year anniversary of the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot dead during a no-knock police raid on our apartment. Garland said her tragic death was a symptom of long festering problems within Louisville police department. And those problems include widespread discrimination and excessive use of force.

NOBILO: The report also found that the department specifically targeted black people and the vulnerable. CNN's Jessica Schneider explains.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A scathing review of the Louisville Metro Police Department documenting persistent problems, abuse and even blatant racism.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars, insulted people with disabilities and called Black people monkeys, animal and boy.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The two-year investigation from DOJ found Louisville police officers practiced an aggressive style of policing that it deployed selectively, targeting black people and vulnerable people throughout the city.

GARLAND: This conduct is unacceptable. It is heartbreaking. It erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Specifically, DOJ lists a number of findings, including the use of excessive force, unjustified and dangerous neck restraints, discrimination and conducting searches based on invalid warrants.

The review began in 2021, one year after Breonna Taylor was killed during a botched police raid at her apartment in Louisville. Officers are accused of falsifying information to get a search warrant, failing to properly announce themselves, and one officer allegedly fired blindly into Taylor's apartment.

TAMIKA PALMER, BREONNA TAYLOR'S MOTHER: I don't even know what to think, to know that this thing should have never happened, and that it took three years for anybody else to say that it shouldn't have.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Four of the officers are now facing federal civil rights charges. But the DOJ is clear in its report, the unlawful conduct by Louisville police didn't start with Breonna Taylor in 2020.

GARLAND: Shortly after we opened the investigation, an LMPD leader told the department, Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): DOJ has now entered into an agreement with the city of Louisville to reform its police department. Already, training has been revamped, no-knock warrants are now prohibited and more mental health professionals will accompany police on 911 calls.

CRAIG GREENBERG, LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY MAYOR: We will reform how we recruit, train, equip, support, supervise and deploy the more than 1,000 public servants whose job it is to serve as guardians of the public safety every day and every night. (END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBILO: U.S. lawmakers held an emotional hearing on Wednesday into the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August 2021 after 20 years of war. Among those testifying where two U.S. service members who are in Afghanistan during those final hectic weeks leading up to the withdrawal.

FOSTER: A suicide bombing struck the Kabul airport at the height of the airlift, which was teaming with thousands of Afghans frantic to escape the Taliban. The U.S. Marine Tyler Vargas-Andrews was badly wounded and recounted what he experienced.


SGT. TYLER VARGAS-ANDREWS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I'm thrown 12 feet onto the ground but instantly knew what had happened. I opened my eyes to Marines dead or unconscious lying around me.


FOSTER: Vargas-Andrews characterized the airlift as a catastrophe, with, quote, an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence. 13 U.S. service members and more than 100 Afghans were killed in that blast.

NOBILO: The state of California is pushing back against drug retailer Walgreens after the company said that it would no longer provide abortion medications in more than 20 Republican led states, even ones where abortion is still legal.

FOSTER: The announcement prompted California's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom to declare his state was ending all business Walgreens and pulling back on renewing a contract valued at $54 million. Walgreens said is deeply disappointed by the decision.


The contract with Walgreens was primarily to supply specialty prescription drugs to California's prison system.

NOBILO: This is quite remarkable, so, apparently around 20 attorneys general from conservative states had written to Walgreens and CVS, citing among other things, this late 19th century law which prohibits the sending of abortion medication in the mail as one of the reasons why they might one afoul of the legal system if they continue this.

FOSTER: Yes, I think -- I mean, there's a lot of explaining to do from Walgreens, isn't it. Just explain why they've done what they did.

NOBILO: Absolutely.

FOSTER: And on what grounds.

NOBILO: A South Carolina church held a vigil last night for four Americans kidnapped in Mexico over the weekend. All the victims are local residents and church leaders asked the

community to pray for their families during this difficult time.

FOSTER: The pastor told mourner, quote, if we ever need to hear from God, this is the time. These are our children. They could be mine or yours.

Certainly more prayers in store for that community after finding out that the two of those residents were killed during that trip.

NOBILO: In the coming hours, their bodies will arrive in Texas for a second autopsy. CNN's Rosa Flores has more on the story from Texas.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two of four Americans kidnapped in Mexico, seen in this disturbing video, are now in the U.S. and preparing to return home, Latavia Washington McGee, a mother of six, heading to South Carolina today, according to her family who spoke to her by phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I did was say, hey, and tell her that I missed her.

FLORES (voice-over): The other survivor, Eric Williams, remains in Brownsville, Texas, undergoing treatment for three gunshot wounds to his legs. For now, one person has been detained, linked to the kidnappings, a 24-year-old male who Mexican authorities said was watching the victims. Mexican officials would not confirm whether he is linked to a criminal organization.

The U.S. is now working to bring home the remains of Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard, the two people found dead after the kidnapping in the Mexico border city of Matamoros. Their autopsies were completed today. Mexican authorities say they are still investigating what happened after the four Americans crossed the border from Brownsville, Texas. We do know the group was driving a rented minivan and got lost enroute to a clinic where McGee had a medical appointment, according to a close friend.

FLORES: We just left the hotel where the Americans stayed, and it's about an 11-minute drive to the international bridge where Mexican authorities say that the Americans crossed into Matamoros at about 9:18 a.m. on Friday.

FLORES (voice-over): McGee's mother says she spoke to her daughter about the kidnapping.

BARBARA BURGESS, MOTHER OF LATAVIA WASHINGTON MCGEE: A van came up and hit them, and that's when they started shooting at the car. The other ones tried to run and they got shot at the same time. She watched him die.

FLORES: The four Americans were ultimately found by Mexican authorities here on Tuesday. Officials here say that Americans routinely go into Mexico for medical care, using ports of entry like the one that you see behind me, but officials urge them to go directly to their destination.

FLORES (voice-over): According to Patients Beyond Borders, Mexico is the second most popular destination for medical tourism globally, and millions of people travel there each year, expecting to save anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent on major medical procedures, including cosmetic surgery.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's risky having any kind of medical procedure done outside of the United States. You run the risk of going to a doctor or facility that is not accredited. You run the risk, if there are any disputes over the money that you've been charged, or if the procedure doesn't go well.

FLORES (voice-over): And there are concerns beyond the medical and legal risks. Officials urge caution when traveling. The U.S. State Department has issued its highest warning, do not travel to several regions in Mexico, including Tamaulipas state where the group was abducted.

MARTIN: You're not only risking your life, but you are also risking the possibility that you may not make it home.

FLORES: According to a source inside Mexico's Attorney Generals office, telling CNN that the American who died will be repatriated on Thursday. They will be crossing over here to Brownsville, Texas, where I am. Once on U.S. soil, a second autopsy is expected to be performed.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.


NOBILO: The CEO of the embattled railway Norfolk Southern will be grilled by U.S. Senators today.

FOSTER: His testimony follows the company's two freight train derailment in Ohio in a little over a month. That includes this incident in East Palestine in early February, where chemicals were released and residents fear long term toxic contamination.

NOBILO: CEO Alan Shaw wrote in "The Washington Post" on Wednesday that Norfolk Southern is firmly committed to helping those affected communities.

Another railway company says that there's no danger to the public after a separate derailment in West Virginia on Wednesday.

FOSTER: A freight train owned by CSX hit a rockslide before jumping the tracks.