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CNN This Morning

Millions Under Snow Alert as Historic Storm Looms in Northeast; V.P.: Korea's New Launch is 'Brazen Violation' of U.N. Resolutions; Mass Exodus at Twitter after Musk Demands 'Hardcore' Work; Race to Replace Nancy Pelosi as She Steps Down as Top Dem; Obama: Dems 'Thumped' Election Deniers in Key Midterm Races; Justice Department Grants Immunity for Saudi Crown Prince in Khashoggi Murder. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2022 - 06:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, look at that in the wall. Did you see that? Good morning, I'm going to explain to you, everybody. Good morning. It's Friday, but it may not be happy Friday for people in Buffalo.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: It's going to be a cold Friday.

LEMON: A cold Friday.


LEMON: And probably a snowy one. Happening right now, a massive lake- effect snowstorm is bearing down. It could bury Western New York. Millions of people are under snow alerts. We're on the ground for you in Buffalo.

COLLINS: And they made good on Elon's ultimatum and quit. He closed the remaining staff, locking them out of office. We'll tell you -- we'll ask where Twitter goes from here.

HARLOW: Also overnight, North Korea launching another missile. How close it landed to Japan and why it sent Vice President Kamala Harris and her aides scrambling.

LEMON: It is Friday, but it is a big news day. First to that monster snowstorm that's bearing down on Western New York right now.

This morning a state of emergency is in effect in 11 upstate counties. Buffalo, in particular, could be paralyzed by this massive storm and buried by snowfall.

Normally, snow in Buffalo, it's not usually a headline, but the mayor is telling residents, this time it is different.


MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: But I want to be very clear. This is not your normal snowfall in the city of Buffalo or in the region. This is a snowstorm with potentially deadly consequences if people do not do the right thing.


LEMON: So let me tell you where we stand at this hour with this storm. Six million people will be impacted by the historic snowfall here.

Buffalo may see a month's worth of snow in a matter of hours, up to 5 feet in and around that city. The intense narrow snow bands would produce near zero visibility, meaning it would make it nearly impossible to travel.

Driving has already been banned to keep people off the roads. Airlines have cancelled flights in and out -- into and out of Buffalo. And Sunday's NFL game between the Browns and the Bills have been moved to Detroit.

The heavy lake-effect snow forecast is -- continues to -- is going to continue throughout this weekend.

I want to get straight now to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He's in the thick of it now. He is live for us in Buffalo.

Polo, where do we stand right now? It is coming down.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So -- so Don, that snow band, it's actually just South of here. That's the only reason why you're able to see me, only about 15 feet separating the camera and I, because last night, those black-out conditions, basically, led to zero visibility when it started to come down.

Right now, though, a slight break, though meteorologists expecting the worst will still be ahead in the coming hours or so. Really, if anybody knows how to do this, it's Buffalo officials. Right?

What they did overnight, they basically cleared this tram route. So what we've seen is a tram make its way up and down this clearing right here for those who do have to go to work this morning to have a way to get to work.

But largely, though, officials here in Buffalo and, really, throughout Western New York have been encouraging folks to simply stay home. This should be a snow day for those who aren't able to make it a snow day. But like, if you have ever heard thunder snow? That's exactly what woke me out of bed this morning.

That's what meteorologists here have been warning some of the residents here. It's like, look, snow in Buffalo, like you said, typically not a headline. But according to New York Governor Kathy Hochul and the experts that she's -- she's hearing from, this is still going to be a treacherous storm.

We are still expected to see many more feet in the coming hours here in Buffalo. LEMON: It's interesting to hear. You sound so clear, and it's because

that snow is acting like a natural sound barrier, because the only thing that we can hear is your voice. I mean, you've got a ton of snow on the ground and a ton more expected.

Polo, be safe. We'll see you soon. Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Also new this morning, the U.S. and its allies are condemning North Korea's latest launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, one of its most powerful yet. And its launch disrupting an overseas trip by Vice President Kamala Harris, causing her to call an emergency meeting with allies on the sidelines of an economic summit in Thailand.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: This conduct by North Korea most recently is a brazen violation of multiple U.N. security resolutions. It destabilizes security in the region and unnecessarily raises tensions. We strongly condemn these actions, and we again call for North Korea to stop further unlawful, destabilizing acts.


COLLINS: According to South Korea's military, the missile flew some 620 miles, splashing down in the sea West of Japan.

I want to bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann, who is live at the Pentagon for us this morning. Oren, what is the United States saying so far about this missile launch? I know it's another provocation in a series of the ones that we have seen coming from North Korea just this year.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Not the first launch coming from North Korea. In fact, there was a short-range ballistic missile launched just one day earlier, but certainly, intercontinental ballistic missile launch is a much more provocative action and perhaps a much more escalatory action.


Not just traveling 600 miles and landing very close to Japan. But also reaching an altitude of nearly 4,000 miles and hitting Mach 22, according to South Korea.

So you see the progress they're making, that North Korea is making, in its own ballistic missile program. As you pointed out, Vice President Kamala Harris in the region convened an emergency meeting with U.S. allies to respond.

We saw at least part of that coming from South Korea, whose defense minister was here at the Pentagon not long ago. They launched a series of four stealth F-35 fighter jets to carry out a low-level undetected raid. They did that with the U.S. flying four F-16s.

You see the effort they were talking about here, to have a quick response and a response that shows that the U.S., South Korea, Japan and the allies in the region are ready when North Korea carries out what we see as these escalatory, provocative actions.

And we'll see what more we learn about the launch itself and the response throughout the day here.

COLLINS: Yes, and it comes as there's really been that silence between the Biden administration and Pyongyang.

Oren Liebermann, thank you for that update.

HARLOW: It is an understatement to call the last 24 hours chaotic for Twitter, or the whole time since Elon Musk bought the company.

We are witnessing what could be an epic meltdown in real time. Twitter employees have rejected Elon Musk's, quote, "hardcore" ultimatum, and there's a mass exodus going on at the company this morning.

In response, Twitter closed its offices, all of them, suspended employee badge access, leaving the company's future completely thrown into uncertainty.

And take a look at this. This is the company headquarters in San Francisco last night. Someone took it upon themselves to troll the mogul with a number of projected messages, such as "bankruptcy, baby" and, quote, "worthless billionaire."

Joining us now Sara Fischer, CNN media analyst and Axios media reporter. I mean, like, you can sort of laugh at the jokes of throwing that up on the building.

But the reality is, these are thousands of people's livelihoods, 3,700 have already been let go. What happens to the rest? And a medium that is imperfect but that many people rely on for a lot of important news.

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: And outside of the United States, especially where freedom of the press and freedom of speech isn't a given. People all around the world have been relying on Twitter for the past decade plus to be able to call out, you know, autocratic regimes or times when they're trying to fight for democracy.

That could be over if Twitter shuts down.

And as of this morning, what you're hearing from sources inside Twitter is that the people responsible for keeping this app alive, developers that are making sure you can sign into the app, you can address problems, they're gone.

LEMON: I was just going to say, now what? What happens now? Because I'm sure people are checking their Twitter to see if it's even up and running.

FISCHER: Yes. And the most concerning part is, if you log out of Twitter, sometimes it might be hard to get back in Twitter because two-factor authentication, the people and teams running that are no longer there, a lot of them.

So what happens next? Now, Elon Musk says he's not worried. He says all the best people who

are there remain. And sources inside Twitter tell me, we should be worried.

The critical response teams that manage both the back-end code and the front-end code have been completely gutted. All trust and safety teams, people that are monitoring misinformation, disinformation, they are completely gutted.

Even design teams and engineer teams working on Elon's new project, like the new verification tools, most of them have resigned.

COLLINS: So people are -- can't even get back into Twitter because of the two-factor authentication, which I have set up and everyone should have set up, is not working?

FISCHER: Yes. For some people, it is not working. And that's one of the biggest issues right now, is if you have a critical problem, for example, a friend of mine is a journalist, and her account has been hacked. There's no way to address these problems.

COLLINS: There's no one there.

FISCHER: There's no one -- there's no safety response team.

HARLOW: There is no communications team for journalists to ask questions.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh.

COLLINS: And if you were on Twitter last night, as I was, way too late, all of these people were tweeting, like, basically their good- byes. Like, the Titanic is sinking. They think that Twitter is not going to be operable for much longer.

Is that realistic? Are people getting ahead of themselves? Like what do you -- what's your sense?

FISCHER: These are inside engineers who believe that. So I think it's absolutely realistic.

And one of the challenges is, for people who did click "yes" on Elon Musk's form, saying, OK, I'm going to commit to the hardcore Twitter, they're not committing for long. What sources tell me is that I just hit yes, because we're heading into the holidays, and I still need health insurance, and I still need to make sure I can have a job.

There's no even guarantee about these severance payments. People aren't getting emails from any sort of H.R. department explaining what's going on.

COLLINS: They're concerned because -- I wonder what -- the thing is, he sent that email saying you're -- say yes or no, you're committing to hardcore work, and then he closed the offices. FISCHER: Yes. And also, there was no "no." There was just a "yes." So

it's either you sign "yes," or you don't do it.

And the reason -- yes, and the reason he, by the way, closed the offices, we are hearing, is because there's a little sense of paranoia right now. He doesn't want the Twitter employees who are remaining to rebel against him.

LEMON: What would they do? You mean, just sabotage him? Shut the site down?

FISCHER: Shut the site down. Mess with the code. Mess with the office.

But that is probably the worst situation that you can be in if you're, you know, Elon Musk right now. Of the 2,900 employees that were left going into this, you know, 5 p.m. deadline yesterday. We've heard that hundreds have decided that they're leaving the company.

Many have tweeted publicly that they're leaving the company with the emoji salute sign, which has sort of been the sign for "I'm leaving Twitter after many years."

And so it just looks like chaos from here.

HARLOW: I -- I just keep thinking about the fact, guys, that this was -- you know, when you're a public company. you have more checks, right? You have a board of advisers, and the board can oust an ineffective leader. And that's all gone.

FISCHER: All that is gone. The board has been gutted. There's no accountability. And the people inside Twitter are Elon's close confidants.

HARLOW: His friends are running it.

FISCHER: His friends. And some of them I know, and they're sources. And they're great, and they're smart people. There were a lot of former Twitter people in the beginning who came in to do some of this work.

And I think the curious thing is going to be who sticks with Elon as they watch this ship move in this direction. Do you want to have your reputation being staked on what really looks like a mass destruction of this app?

LEMON: Can I ask you, is this money, too much money, or too many yes- men? People -- men, because it's not a lot of women. That's what I hear.

HARLOW: Or all of the above.

LEMON: All of the above. Just -- you know what I'm saying?

FISCHER: I think it's -- all this is -- I think it's a lot of ego. I think there has been this mentality in Silicon Valley that, if you push fast, move fast and break things, you're going to be more effective. But there is a tipping point, and I think that we have crossed that line at Twitter.

HARLOW: I think Icarus, flying too close to the sun. And remember what the Airbnb CEO told us yesterday? It's like a nightclub and all the lights just came on.

LEMON: I can't even remember yesterday. OK. Thank you, Sara. Good to see you.

COLLINS: After an historic run as House speaker, Nancy Pelosi is stepping down and making way for a newer, younger generation of Democratic leaders.

One of the longest serving Democratic leaders in the House received a standing ovation yesterday after she made her announcement setting off a rapid shift in the top ranks of Democratic leadership.

New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is the frontrunner to succeed her. He would make history of his own, actually, as the first black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress.

This decision was somewhat expected after she said in 2020 she wouldn't seek re-election for a leadership position.

Let's bring in CNN's Jessica Dean, who is live on Capitol Hill. Jessica, I know yesterday people were kind of looking at this. They were waiting to see what she was going to announce, and it seemed to be a packed chamber in there as Pelosi made this announcement.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly was, Kaitlan. And I'm right outside in the chamber where this -- where this position is right here.

And these halls were packed yesterday. There was a real sense, truly, of history being made. A real energy in this room and certainly on the House floor as people waited to see what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would say.

And she certainly was tipping her hat to the history of it all in that speech, as well, talking about how much had changed since she first came to Congress in 1987, of course wearing white, the color of suffragettes, as she does -- as we often see her in these big moments.

And talking about going from a homemaker to speaker of the House. We asked various Democrats wiping tears from their eyes. It was a very emotional moment.

And then, of course, once that happens, all eyes turn to the future. And we saw the number -- a number of the top leaders, the one, two, and three, all likely, Steny Hoyer definitely not running for leadership. He's her No. 2.

And then -- and then Jim Clyburn likely not to run, as well. And that makes way for a whole new next generation of leadership.

What was interesting, though, is publicly, all of those starting with Hakeem Jeffries, who you mentioned is likely to be the next speaker, publicly were making it about Speaker Pelosi. Privately, Kaitlan, there's a lot of machinations happening behind the scenes as Democrats get ready for a whole next generation of leadership. A real sea change here.

HARLOW: And you know, Jess, I'm reminded of what she said in that speech announcing that she would not remain in leadership. She said, "When I first came to Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now there are over 90, and we want more."

What else can you tell us about the reaction on the Hill?

DEAN: It was -- it was really interesting to see, because again, Poppy, she's been here for so long, since 1987. She's been in leadership for so long. This is the only leader that most Democrats, most House Democrats know.

So a lot of people really looking to her to set the tone. And, of course, a lot has changed to her point in terms of women, people of color.

We also had a lot of bipartisan support coming out. Senate majority -- minority leader, Mitch McConnell, even putting out a statement, you guys, saying that, while they've "disagreed frequently and forcefully over the years" he's "seen firsthand the depth and intensity of her commitment to public service" -- Poppy and Kaitlan.

HARLOW: That's good to hear. Thanks very much. Reporting on the Hill, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And as Jessica was noting, Nancy Pelosi spent two decades as one of the most dominant figures in her party. She didn't get started in Congress, though, until she was 47. She had been surrounded by politics her whole life.

Visiting the Capitol for the first time as a young child, she met JFK in 1961 with her dad, who was the mayor of Baltimore.


She was first elected to the House in 1987 after she beat a crowded field of candidates in a special election.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Never would I have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to House speaker.

When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now there are over 90. And we want more.


COLLINS: While on Capitol Hill, Pelosi was an outspoken critic of China's human rights abuses. She visited Beijing in 1991, where she stood alongside a banner that read, quote, "To those who died for democracy in China." She climbed to the ranks of Democratic leadership, joining in 2002,

becoming the first and only woman so far to serve as House speaker in 2007. She led the opposition against then-President George W. Bush over the Iraq war.

And after three years, after she became speaker, she was crucial in President Obama's success in passing the Affordable Care Act.


PELOSI: We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it. Away from the fog of the controversy.


COLLINS: Pelosi had been criticized for those comments.

Then years later, when former President Trump was elected in 2016, Democrats went into the minority. Under Pelosi's leadership, the Democratic Party, though, gained a whopping 40 seats in the 2018 midterms.

That's when she retook the role of speaker in 2019, facing off against Trump many times, but one that stood out in the Oval Office after the election.


PELOSI: Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats.


COLLINS: The tension between those two only escalated from there. During Trump's 2020 State of the Union address she did this, ripping up Trump's speech after he finished it.


PELOSI: Article I is adopted.


COLLINS: Pelosi and the Democrats impeached Trump for the first time in December 2019 over allegations that he threatened to withhold U.S. security assistance to Ukraine unless the country investigated his political rivals.

During the January 6th Capitol attack, she was one of the main targets of the rioters. She blamed Trump even before the attack began for what happened.


PELOSI: I just want him to come, I want to punch him out. Waiting for this. For trespassing on the Capitol grounds. I'm going to punch him out, I'm going to go to jail, and I'm going to be happy.


COLLINS: Of course, it got much worse in the hours that followed there. Also, that day resulting in Trump's second impeachment while he was in office.

Of course, it was just weeks ago when Pelosi's husband was attacked by a man who broke into their San Francisco home looking for Pelosi.


PELOSI: For me this is really the hard part, because Paul was not the target, and he's the one who's paying the price.


COLLINS: And now, after more than three decades in Congress, she is passing the torch when it comes to leadership.


PELOSI: For me the hour's come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.


LEMON: Nancy Pelosi there.

So new this morning, the former president, Barack Obama, issuing a stark post-midterms warning over democracy while congratulating Democrats on successfully defeating a handful of election-denying Republican candidates.

He also cautioned Americans could destroy each other. CNN's Athena Jones joins me now with more. What do we hear from the former president, Athena?



ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Barack Obama delivering a stark warning.

OBAMA: Democratic ideas are currently under assault around the world.

JONES (voice-over): The 44th president citing Russia's brutal, unjustified war on Ukraine and backsliding in what were well- established democracies as threats to global stability.

OBAMA: We see it in the escalating polarization and disinformation that's so evident in recent elections, whether it's in Brazil, the Philippines, Italy, Sweden, right here in the United States.

JONES (voice-over): Obama stressing the need to detoxify political discourse, rebuild Democratic institutions, restore faith in government and in elections, and to develop a more sustainable and inclusive system of capitalism.

OBAMA: We need to create a space for our differences while insisting that our politics and our governmental institutions uphold the overarching principles of equality for all people.

JONES (voice-over): That coming as part of the Obama Foundation's first ever annual Democracy Forum in New York.

The former president also joining "The Daily Show," where he applauded the midterm defeat of a string of election deniers.


OBAMA: They got thumped. They -- they got beat.


JONES (voice-over): All this a day after his predecessor held an event emphasizing similar themes in Dallas.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You study the history of the world, democracies don't war (ph). It's the long-term consequences of freedom. Yield peace.

JONES (voice-over): Former President George W. Bush making a forceful case for defending and promoting democracy as the best way to ensure peace, prosperity, and freedom. And arguing the U.S. must remain engaged.

BUSH: An isolationist America makes the world much more dangerous.

JONES (voice-over): The 43rd president highlighting the fight for human rights in Iran and for national sovereignty in Ukraine, saying U.S. support for the former Soviet republic is essential.

BUSH: An unstable Europe, a Europe in which a tyrant is on the march, is going to affect our national security. If the United States doesn't keep the lead on Ukraine, it's less likely the European nations will want to support the Ukrainians.


LEMON: Athena Jones joins us now. It's interesting to see them come together. We've seen past presidents do it, but a Republican and a Democrat. It's interesting.

JONES (on camera): Well, you've seen past presidents come together for things like hurricane relief, all on the same stage. And while presidents bush and Obama weren't on the same stage this week, and their teams did not coordinate these events. It was a coincidence.

They were aligned in their messages. And it's a sign of the growing concern across the political spectrum about the health of the world's democracies. LEMON: Athena Jones, good to see you. Thanks for joining us this


Well, the Biden administration moves to shield Saudi Arabia's crown prince from lawsuits in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We have CNN reporting coming up.

HARLOW: Also, American basketball star Brittney Griner has been moved to a penal colony in a remote part of Russia. We'll tell you what we're learning about the conditions there.



HARLOW: Well, new this morning, the Biden administration has determined Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, should be granted immunity. This is in a lawsuit against him by murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee.

Of course, we all remember Khashoggi, who was murdered in 2018. His remains have never been found. A U.S. intelligence report concluded that bin Salman approved the operation to kill him.

Of course, he was a journalist for "The Washington Post."

And in July, President Biden stunned the world when he went to Saudi -- and there you see it -- fist-bumped with the crown prince, following a promise to make the kingdom a pariah on the national stage. As a candidate, remember this?


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will make it very clear we are not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.


HARLOW: Let's go straight to our colleague, Alex Marquardt. He joins us in D.C.

Alex, I've got to tell you, waking up to this headline and reading through this, I was really stunned. Can you explain to our viewers why this was the decision of the administration?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the administration, Poppy, says that this is long-standing practice, that this is international law, that foreign heads of government are granted immunity from prosecution.

Now, normally, Poppy, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia is not a head of government. He's simply the son of the king. But a couple of weeks ago, the king, King Salman, gave his son, the crown prince, the title of prime minister. So then he technically became the head of the Saudi government.

Now experts and activists who I've spoken with said that that was a ploy in order to get this immunity, and now it has worked. He is technically the head of the Saudi government, and that is what the Justice Department pointed to in their filing late last night, that they made in this case that was brought by Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee.

That filing made at the request of the State Department. This is what a State Department spokesperson told me: "This suggestion of immunity does not reflect an assessment on the merits of the case. It speaks to nothing on broader policy or the state of relations. This was purely a legal determination. Across administrations, there's an unbroken practice of the United States, recognizing immunity for heads of government while they are in office."

So it's not because they believe he's innocent. It's because of what they call this unbroken practice.

Now guys, I did hear from Khashoggi's fiancee overnight. She called this the devastating day. She said that Biden himself betrayed his word, betrayed Jamal, and that history will not forget.

LEMON: So just to be clear here, because you said it was -- it's an unbroken practice. Was this a choice? Did the administration have a choice?

MARQUARDT: You're absolutely right, Don. This was a choice. This was not required. This filing was made at the invitation of the D.C. District Court.

The Justice Department had until last -- had until yesterday, and they waited until the very last minute to make this filing. Again, State Department saying that this is because of international law, not because of the merits of the case.

You're going to hear a lot of anger today. Already I heard immediately from a senior congressional aide, a Democrat, saying that this is yet another disappointing chapter in a series of failures -- guys.

LEMON: All right. Alex, thank you.

HARLOW: Alex, thank you.

COLLINS: WNBA star Brittney Griner has been moved to a women's penal colony in Russia. One former inmate said you were forced to do things there that no normal person should have to do. We are live in Moscow.

LEMON: Can you even imagine?

Also ahead, with Republicans winning the majority in the House, a GOP lawmaker says the House Oversight Committee will subpoena Hunter Biden but not the president. The CNN exclusive interview is straight ahead.