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U.S. Finalizes $2.5 Billion Aid Package Amid Standoff Over Tanks; Probe Fails To Find Who Leaked Opinion Overturning Roe V. Wade; Current Guidelines Recommend Testing For Colon Cancer In All Adults Ages 45 To 75. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 21, 2023 - 07:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Buenos dias. And welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. I'm Boris Sanchez.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Boris. I'm Amara Walker. Frustration is mounting as Germany and the U.S. are locked in a stalemate over sending tanks to Ukraine. We're going to take you to Eastern Europe for a live report on why this aid is crucial.

SANCHEZ: Plus, not sharing, at least for now. The Justice Department rebuffing Republican efforts for information about its ongoing investigations -- a move that's certain to frustrate newly empowered Republicans.

WALKER: Months of investigation, in-person interviews, fingerprint analysis, and the Supreme Court doesn't know who leaked that draft report of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. What the investigator is saying about the probe?

SANCHEZ: And why one town says the crypto craze is just playing driving them crazy. Still ahead on CNN THIS MORNING.

WALKER: Good morning, everyone. And welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It is Saturday, January 21st. Great to be with you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Great to be with you as always, Amara. Up first, a plea from Ukraine in a standoff over tanks. German officials say, they will not send their leopard two tanks to Ukraine unless the United States also agrees to send its M-1 Abrams Tanks into the battlefield.

WALKER: Yes, President Zelenskyy says there is no alternative to sending tanks to Ukraine, and Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. is frustrated by the standoff.


OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, the message to all of our friends and allies to be frank, that, you know, in order, this, this capability, the tanks as, as well as the long range, and everything else we're discussing is very much needed now. So that our brave defenders can be protected. It -- also, we can maneuver, we can fire, and actually we can go back on the counter offensive and we can pre-empt these future attacks that Russia is actually planning to expand during the spring.


SANCHEZ: All of this comes as the U.S. is unveiling its massive $2.5 billion dollar defense package for Ukraine.

WALKER: CNN Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann reports now on what's in that package, and how the stealth stalemate over tanks is playing out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weapons you have provided.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the halls of Ramstein Air Force Base, the U.S. and more than 50 allies stood united on every issue, but one. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin heaping praise on countries for sending more powerful and advanced weapons to Ukraine as the war nears, its one-year mark. The U.S. with its own $2.5 billion package, that includes Bradley infantry, fighting vehicles, Stryker combat vehicles and much more. What's missing though, is at the top of Ukraine's Wishlist.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (though translation): We will still have to fight for the supply of modern tanks, but every day we make it more obvious there is no alternative to making this decision.

LIEBERMANN: Germany refuses to sign off on sending its leopard tanks to Ukraine, despite U.S. pressure and behind the scenes wrangling, Berlin, won't budge.

BORIS PISTORIUS, GERMAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE (through translation): There were good reasons for the delivery and there are good reasons against it. We cannot all say today when a decision will be made nor what that decision on the leopard tanks will be.

LIEBERMANN: On the winter battlefield, Ukraine wants modern tanks retake territory against dug in Russian defensive lines. It's a more powerful weapon for a more brutal battle. The U.S. insists it's M-1 Abrams Tank is the wrong fit. The M-1 Abrams is a heavy, fuel guzzling vehicle that runs primarily on jet fuel, making it harder to operate and maintain in Ukraine. And with few operators in Europe, spare parts are hard to come by.

Instead, the U.S. and others have been pressuring Germany for its leopard tanks. The German made leopard runs on diesel and is already used by about a dozen other countries in Europe, making it easier to get spare parts, and perhaps more tanks to Ukraine. But Germany has yet to make a decision. Even so, the Defense Secretary defended Berlin while pushing everyone to contribute more to Ukraine's war effort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Germany doing enough in order to show real leadership in Europe? LLOYD AUSTIN, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SECRETARY: Yes, but we can all do

more in the United States and every other member of the UDC can, can do more.

LIEBERMANN: More may be coming whether Germany approves it or not. On the sidelines at Ramstein Air Base, 15 countries that use leopards met about equipping Ukraine with the tanks. Poland has been the most vocal threatening to send the tanks even without German approval, a rift in an alliance that stands otherwise together.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Over my 43 years in uniform, this is the most unified I've ever seen NATO.


LIEBERMANN: The Polish defense minister said he's optimistic that Germany will come around on tanks and approve the transfer to Ukraine. He said, it's just the German defense minister has recently started to this, may take a bit of time. But as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, was very clear about: time is not on Ukraine side right now. Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.

WALKER: All right, let's get some perspective now on Ukraine from CNN Military Analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Great to see you as always, General. So, as you heard there, I mean, President Zelenskyy is saying look, we're you know, we're running out of time we need these tanks. How important are these tanks? And, and should we make the differentiation between the M-1 Abrams versus the Leopard?


LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first, I'll talk about, yes, does Ukraine need tanks? They do, from the standpoint of mobile armored warfare. They have some very tough fights in some terrains that require infantry carriers, tanks, artillery, engineers, military intelligence, the entire combined arms team, Amara. I'd pointed out, though, first that, that the United States in their package yesterday has so far provided 500 total armored personnel via or armored vehicles across the board. Now, the goal has always been to provide Ukraine with equipment that they can immediately put to use, and which they can easily sustain, and be trained on in a combat environment and in a very rough combat environment.

So, all of those things are part of the consideration. And one other thing that, you know, as you see the lines across the 500-kilometer frontage between you, Russia and Ukraine, in the East, and in the South, we're talking about the ability to sustain all the vehicles that are there. So many different types of vehicles have been provided to Ukraine, that it's increasingly getting tougher. And unfortunately, from my contacts in Ukraine, the operational ready rate of equipment is going down, because it's very difficult to keep the supply lines going. So, this debate about what kind of tank to provide is certainly important. And in my view, the one that would be the best for this operational environment is the German Leopard II Tank.

WALKER: So, what do you make of the stalemate in Germany saying, look, you know, we'll only send our tanks if the U.S. does.

HERTLING: Yes, I don't think Chancellor Schultz has said that, Amara. I think that's one of the things that had been bubbling up that, hey, you've got to send your tanks before we send ours. It's certainly a political decision on the part of the Germans. They have a lot of, as their defense minister said they have a lot of pros and cons. They also have a divided view of this from both the left of the German parliament and the right of the German parliament. So, you know, it is a decision that they have to make based on their own security requirements, just like every nation has to do. And hopefully, you know, the right decisions will be made in the near future because Ukraine does need vehicles very quickly.

WALKER: Yes, I think it was the German vice chancellor who made his comments in Davos this week. Look, it's getting warmer, right? So spring is around the corner. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin saying time is running out before Russia launches a spring offensive. Listen to what he had to say. First of all.


AUSTIN: This is a crucial moment. Russia is regrouping, recruiting, and trying to re-equip. This is not a moment to slow down. It's a time to dig deeper. The Ukrainian people are watching us. The Kremlin is watching us. And history is watching us.


WALKER: Will spring be a key inflection point in this war?

HERTLING: I think it will, Amara. You know I like Secretary Austin's use to the term of the Russians regrouping, recruiting, and re- equipping. The expectations for the spring, for the spring, excuse me, are that they will contribute additional mobilized forces. Although, so far, the Russian mobilization efforts have been a failure across the board. They have not been able to train, equip, or get their forces to the frontlines. And when they do, they have been slaughtered because of a lack of training. As Russia is still very active in the air. They're continuing to use missiles and rockets to harass Ukrainian citizens.

So, the point is that if Ukraine is going to retake ground, and I think they will, they have to conduct these combined arms operations both in the southeast and continue to counter any kind of Russia advances in the Donbass, in the North and the East. So, it is going to be important as you get out of the winter weather, winter slows operations down. It's tougher to conduct operations, and there had been unbelievably tough slugfest in the East and in the Southwest even during the winter. I think we're going to see things heat up quite a bit. And it will be an opportune time for Ukraine to continue their offensive operation.

WALKER: And speaking of Russia, recruiting, or I should say this mercenary organization also recruiting the Wagner Group, as you know, very well the U.S. Treasury Department is going to designate this group as a transnational criminal organization. I know and I assume you support this decision. Tell us more about their increasing influence in this war?


HERTLING: Yes, well, first of all, you know, as a professional soldier, I have watched the dynamics of the personalities between the head of the Wagner Group, a guy named Prigozhin. Mr. Putin, who Prigozhin was allegedly his chef for a while, and now he's trying to gain political prowess in Moscow, and the two key military people: Minister Choi Gu, and General Gerasimov. The two people who, for the last 10 years, have been in charge of Russia's military, which have led to this disaster. So, you're seeing a personality conflict within the Pentagon. And this Wagner Group has been, you know, it's been in other places too.

Amara, you know, they've been in Syria, they've been in Africa. And the, the effort to block their financial assets by our U.S. Treasury Department is a long time coming. That message yesterday that was delivered by John Kirby at the -- to the American public is a very good move. And it's abetting their actions, it's showing what they're doing, getting equipment from North Korea, basically doing international arms sales, conducting criminal activities in Ukraine. So, it was a good action, because it outed them, the Wagner group, and it also outed North Korea publicly saying, hey, here's what's going on behind the scenes, and this is all criminal activity.

The announcement that they would be named a terrorist organization, or excuse me, an organization that is criminal would, would mean that they can not only go after the groups themselves, but those who fund them. The, the civilians in Russia who fund this group, because it's not part of the Russian government. So, I think all of this is very important, and it's about time, truthfully, that that Wagner Group has been called out.

WALKER: Yes, clearly a practical significance to this as well. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, always great to see you. Thank you so much.

HERTLING: Thanks, Amara.

SANCHEZ: The Justice Department on Friday signaled it is unlikely to share information about ongoing criminal investigations with a new Republican controlled House. Let's bring in CNN White House Reporter Jasmine Wright who's been following this story for us. Jasmine, what are you learning?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, this is all because of Jim Jordan, Judiciary Committee Chair, who really requested from the Department of Justice, a broad range of materials from documents, interviews, briefings, you name it. And so, effectively, this response to the Department of Justice is them saying that while we want to have an effective working relationship with the committee, there are some things that we cannot provide.

And a lot of that pertains to ongoing investigations, which would include the special inquiry into Biden's classified documents that were found in various places, also former presidents documents case. So, in their letter, the Department of Justice wrote that consistent with long standing policy and practice, any oversight requests, requests must be weighed against the department's interest in protecting the integrity of its work. Really, they're trying to lean on past precedent to say that we can't give some of these documents. Now, the Judiciary Committee did not respond in kind, they really tweeted really quickly after why is the DOJ so scared to cooperate with our investigations. Now, for the White House's side, they have not yet responded to official requests from the Judiciary Committee or the Oversight Committee.

Officials, when you talk to them, they say that we will respond to good faith inquiries. But of course, in the same breath, Boris, they say that, really, they don't feel that some of these inquiries from those two commitments are made in good faith, especially when you look at who is leading some of those committees, including GOP hardliners. So, there we have it from the White House really trying to wait on basically responding when some of those deadlines may be coming up. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Jasmine Wright, thanks so much for the reporting. The Supreme Court says it still does not know who leaked that draft document of the decision to overturn Roe versus Wade. This, as we're learning, the investigator interviewed all of the justices in the probe. What she learned from those conversations?


WALKER: Plus, the new study raising questions about whether some people can wait longer than the recommended 10-years for a repeat colonoscopy. Our doctor, Sanjay Gupta, will have the advice.


SANCHEZ: Anti-abortion advocates gathered in the nation's capital yesterday for the annual March for Life demonstration, the first since the Supreme Court's conservative majority ended the federal constitutional right to an abortion.

WALKER: Speakers of the March included Republican House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, former NFL Coach Tony Dungy, and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who won the case that resulted in the overturning of Roe versus Wade.

Well, the following new details on the Supreme Court's investigation into who leaked the draft, the landmark opinion overturning Roe versus Wade.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the official in charge of the investigation says that all nine justices were interviewed, but they still were not able to determine who the leaker was. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Amara, the lead investigator of the Supreme Court leak now revealing that she did, in fact, speak to all nine justices on multiple occasions and she found nothing to implicate the justices themselves or their spouses.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Now, this is a clarifying statement that was released from a court on Friday. It comes after the report itself left open that question of whether the nine Supreme Court justices had in fact been interviewed as part of this month-long investigation. We now know they had.


Just as it's become clear that really the public may never know the identity of this leaker. The court issued a 20-page investigative report on Thursday, it said that even after 126 formal interviews with 97 employees, they have essentially reached a dead end here and they're unable to identify the person or people responsible for that leak. The report did reveal crucial details, namely that 80 people received copies of that draft opinion early last year before it was leaked.

Some of those employees said that they even shared details of the draft decision with their spouses which breached court confidentiality. But despite all of these months of investigations and interviews and forensic work, the leaker has not been pinpointed. However, the Supreme Court says that it will now put in place new procedures and protocols to really ensure something this devastating to the court does not happen again, guys.


SANCHEZ: Jessica, thank you so much. We want to dig deeper now with Gabe Roth, he's the Executive Director of the non-partisan Supreme Court reform group, Fix the Court. Gabe, thanks so much for sharing part of your Saturday morning with us. First, what did you think of the findings in this report? Was the investigation thorough enough?

GABE ROTH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FIX THE COURT: I think it was as thorough as it could have possibly been with, with a few exceptions -- I want to give a caveat there. But the top line thing here is that we were never really going to find the leaker. Tons of resources were wasted; tons of time were wasted. And we ended up with these unsurprising results. It's possible that the Supreme Court might have called in the FBI or some other investigatory body to help them. It's still unclear if they did, they said they fingerprinted, had a fingerprint that they did some forensic evidence on.

And they said they had some security I.T. forensic work that was done by an outside organization. So, that might have been the FBI, the Supreme Court itself doesn't really have an investment depository body. So, the idea of doing it internal is a little weird, but my overall picture here is we were never going to find this person and wasting countless resources on something that was never going to be answerable going on this wild goose chase wasn't a really good use of government resources.

SANCHEZ: Gabe, what makes you think we were never going to find the leaker? ROTH: I think it's the person who did this was very likely incredibly careful. It's very easy nowadays through signal and other apps to get encrypted communications going. And this is something that I think the person will probably take to their grave. The other thing is, and one of those caveats is that the justices maybe they were interviewed, but how closely were they interviewed? How deeply were their interviewed? I mean, I still think there are a lot of questions. The initial report that came out, did not mention the justices. It just said employees were interviewed.

And there had to be a clarification, given how many people had access to this document. And that's, I think, a valid question how many people should have access to this document, it's probably fewer than the 82 people who had access to it. It's just the justice could have been investigated a little more thoroughly. But overall, I think the leakers given the incredible nature of this the unique nature of this, they were going to cover their tracks. And there are plenty of ways to do that. So, it's very difficult to think that we'd ever figure out who he or she was.

SANCHEZ: You previously referred to some of the efforts by investigators as intrusions, things like examining supreme court employee's search history, asking them to turn over their call and text message logs, fingerprinting. Why are those intrusions?

ROTH: I think that's, you know, you do sign away some of your rights when you come to the Supreme Court and are a judicial assistant or a clerk, clerks work for one year. A piece, there's about 40 of them, and then judicial assistance can work longer than more career employees. I mean, you just sign, you know, some confidentiality rights come with your job. But the idea that we're going to be searching Google history to maybe try to figure out who did leak.

I mean that come on, like, what is this like? This is not that's not a serious investigatory tool. Having confiscating phones, you know it maybe if you have a Supreme Court issued phone, fine, take that but your personal phones going into your personal life, you only have the situation where you know some of the clerks and this is reported by CNN's Joan Biskupic first, I think, were hiring themselves lawyers, are talking about hiring lawyers when they were being questioned.

It's a really sticky and messy situation. And this institution that you want to see is this paragon of impartiality and, and paragon of just following the law, the idea that, you know, we're having these interviews, and very likely, there are no lawyers present for the people who are being interviewed. I don't know, it just sort of, you know, reeks is outside of the, the basic legal structures that we have in this country.

SANCHEZ: Notably, Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana says that he's going to reintroduce legislation to try to criminalize leaking information from the Supreme Court. Isn't it possible that a series of issues could arise from that kind of legislation?

[07:25:15] ROTH: Yes, that's something that -- and this is on the last page of the initial report, page 23, that I found a little bit curious. They, the court mentioned that it was potentially going to support legislation that would criminalize this sort of thing. But then earlier in the report, they cite eight different federal laws that might have been violated by the leaker. I don't think we're in this place where we should be adding a length and statutes to the, to criminal law in this country.

I think they're, you know, if the D.C., if the U.S. attorney of D.C., you know, they found the leaker and U.S. Attorney wanted to press charges there, eight different ways to do it. Having a ninth way of doing it, you know, I think that doesn't make a lot of sense. And, and the fact that the Supreme Court would support a bill or suggest that they support a bill that only has Republican co-sponsors, again, is kind of ridiculous. It's supposed to be seen as this nonpartisan, apolitical institution and it's saying, hey, this idea that Republicans had is a good one when it's frankly redundant again just smacks me is this tone deaf.

SANCHEZ: Gabe Roth, we got to leave the conversation there. But as always, we appreciate your perspective.

ROTH: Thank you.

WALKER: It's one of those vitally important things that no one looks forward to but a new study now shows that some people may be able to stretch out that time between colonoscopies. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will take a look at who might be eligible next.



WALKER: Let's take a look now at some of the stories we are following. Home prices had a record high last year, even though the real-estate market took a downturn. The median price of a home in 2022 was a little more than $386,000, the highest on record going back to 1999. And that is according to the National Association of Realtors.

But home sales have their weakest year since 2014. With just over 5 million homes sold, which is down nearly 18 percent from the year before. Every region of the country saw a decline in sales in December, but economists say they expect sales to pick up again soon.

SANCHEZ: Respiratory illnesses seem to be making it -- seem to be slowing down for the first time since September.

With COVID-19, flu, and RSV numbers dropping to the lowest levels seen in three months. New CDC data tracking E.R. visits shows respiratory viruses continue to trend downward across the country. And health officials say that is a good indicator, but not a reason to drop precautions just yet.

WALKER: Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. But it's also one of the most preventative cancers when effective screening tests are used.

SANCHEZ: And now, a new study suggesting that some people may be able to go a little longer between getting colonoscopies after an initial negative screening.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has that report.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Amara and Boris, I have to say that no one looks forward to getting a colonoscopy. I think I can say that with a fair amount of certainty. So, this might be some welcome news overall when looking at screenings.

First of all, who should get a primary screening? That first screening. There is nothing that's changing here with these recommendations. People between the ages of 45 and 75. As you see there, they lowered the age recommendation a few years ago. It used to be 50, now, they say 45. What this study was really looking at was trying to figure out what about people who had a negative screening test, and now they're going for their 10-year follow up? How likely is that to return some positive results or to catch something?

And they did 120,000 -- about 120,000 colonoscopies in Germany, and this what they found, that at 10 years, women, about 3.6 percent of the time with a previous negative screening would now catch something. With men, it's a little bit higher. If you went to 14 years, it was still a bit higher. But you get a sense of the numbers here in terms of just how many times you're going to catch something on that interval screening.

This is a study that came out. Again, nothing is changing in terms of a recommendations. But I think the question might be, should the interval be spread out a little bit more, particularly, in women and younger people? So, we'll wait and see on that.

Again, I want to emphasize that the value of the primary screening is still really high. No one is suggesting that people should not get that first screening. In fact, let me just show you the numbers that we polled, a 40 percent risk reduction for getting colon cancer. I mean, if you found a polyp or something preventing a cancer, 68 percent risk reduction from dying from colon cancer.

And again, keep in mind, this is the third leading cause of death in the United States, cancer death. About 50,000 people die every year of colon cancer. So, though that's what's sort of being considered right now in terms of looking at the screenings, looking at the interval, looking at the studies, and we'll see if this translates into a change in the recommendations. We'll keep you posted. Amara, Boris?

SANCHEZ: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

The Treasury Department now is being forced to take extraordinary measures after the United States hit the debt ceiling. How could a potential default impact Americans, including our country security, and infrastructure?


We're going to hear from a former DHS official, next.


WALKER: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the widespread global effects that could be felt if the federal government exhausts extraordinary measures and fails to raise the debt ceiling.

Yellen's warning comes after the United States, on Thursday, hit its $31.4 trillion debt limit set by Congress. More than two dozen House Republicans have laid out their demands to avoid the nation's first ever debt defaults. Those range from new immigration policies to imposing deep domestic spending cuts. And those cuts could have profound implications for infrastructure spending.

Joining me now is Brian Harrell. He is the former assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security.

Good to see you. Good morning. Let's just start with this.


WALKER: What would the implications be for our ageing infrastructure for protecting our infrastructure as the U.S. gets close to potentially defaulting?

HARRELL: Well, you know, I think there's two universal truths here. And I think the American people know this. So, our spending is out of control, and the interest that we are paying on that debt is significant. I mean, $31.4 trillion, is a huge number.


But number two, and equally important. Not raising the debt ceiling could have a dramatic effect on markets. And what we don't want is an alarm to market.

From a private sector perspective, who is investing in infrastructure every single day, what we don't want is there to be a pullback on infrastructure spending on security, and resilience.

And what we've seen over the last, really, just number of weeks is a number of critical infrastructure attacks, here in the United States.

Whether it's in the Carolinas, it's in Florida, it's on Ohio, it's in Washington state, there are individuals, domestic violent extremists on both sides that are looking to destroy the power grid, and critical manufacturing, the major water systems.

And so, now is the time to continue to spend on infrastructure.

WALKER: Yes. I mean, just looking at the past incidents, I mean, there have been dozens of them, right? From Florida to North Carolina, to Oregon. I mean, I guess it just goes to show and underscores how vulnerable, you know, our energy, infrastructure really is. Can you talk about that?

HARRELL: Well, there's a number of domestic violence extremists right now that have the power grid as an example. And other critical infrastructure sites squarely in their crosshairs.

If you go to some of the Facebook chat rooms and some of the dark corners of the web right now, you can see these plans kind of starting to materialize with respect to how to destroy critical infrastructure.

And so, I like to say that critical infrastructure owners and operators have made a really concerted effort to make good investments. There's a real return on these investments with respect to making critical infrastructure more secure and more resilient. But the enemy is out there. And right now, they are very focused on infrastructure.

WALKER: Why are these substations, I mean, seemingly easy targets, though? Because I was just reading up on the details of, at least, they have the case in Moore County, North Carolina.

I mean, they were to power stations that were targeted with firearms. I mean, what more investments, what more could be done to prevent these kinds of attacks from happening again?

HARRELL: Well, again, you go to the dark web, and you can see plans really starting to materialize, surrounding this particular method of attack.

You go back to 2013, with the Metcalf substation shooting. That Pacific Gas and Electric in California. You know, $15 million in damage. And so, again, this is squarely in the playbook.

And in terms of protections, a lot of investment has been made. But a lot of these substations are remote. They're not manned in terms of people being on site.

There are some protections as some of your larger critical substations. The things that are pushing electricity from point A to point B. There's a lot of protections associated with those. But some of the smaller distribution level substations, the ones that are kind of feeding your house, if you will. There's not as many protections associated with those. And so, there is -- those have become somewhat easy targets recently.

WALKER: There was a DHS intelligence memo last year, right? That warned of credible, "credible" specific plans by these domestic violent extremists who are plotting to attack more electrical infrastructure.

I mean, what are your biggest concerns when it comes to the future, the near future, and coordinated attacks?

HARRELL: You hit the word. It's coordinated attack. It's one thing to lose one substation, maybe two substations. But when you start this idea of a coordinated attack, with respect to generation facilities. Large wind farms, hydro facilities, in addition to the transmission infrastructure, which is essentially the backbone of the electric grid for the United States.

When they become coordinated attacks is when you start to see interdependency issues and you start to see the system kind of collapse onto each other.

And so, this is heightened concern, obviously, for the industry. And I think they have done a very good job of addressing this.

The best partner that industry has right now is our government and national security partners. You mentioned the DHS memo, it was spot on, it really highlighted the need for greater resilience, more vigilance when it comes to this.

And so, having more law enforcement patrols, adding more protections to our critical infrastructure (INAUDIBLE). And making the right investments.

And let us -- let's assume now that attacks are going to happen. And so, let's build resilience into the system now.

WALKER: Yes, probably smart to just operate on that assumption. And look, you know, Congress has to tackle this debt ceiling because there are, you know, wide ranging implications to the markets that have close the global economy. But of course, security as well as we speak about infrastructure.

Brian Harrell, appreciate your time. Thank you.

HARRELL: You're very welcome. Thanks for having me.

SANCHEZ: Up next, it is one of the most peaceful spots in North Carolina. But crypto mining is changing that for homeowners.



MIKE LUGIEWICZ, RESIDENT, MURPHY, NORTH CAROLINA: When it's at about 75-80 decibels, I'd say a jet engine. A jet engine that never leaves.



SANCHEZ: For the residents in one Appalachian town in North Carolina, a new and different type of pollution is disrupting their lives. Noise pollution.

WALKER: And crypto mining is to blame for it. Banks of servers run all day, every day, consuming massive amounts of electricity from coal and natural gas, making a lot of noise in the process.


CNN's Bill Weir takes a closer look at this latest type of environment pollution. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is the sound of Green Mountain Farm. Certified by Quiet Parks International as one of the most peaceful spots in North Carolina. Thanks to their rare local enforcement of laws against noise pollution.

Meanwhile, about 90 minutes away, beautiful Cherokee County sounds like this.

It is stack upon stack of computer servers and the fans needed to cool them.

This is what's known as a crypto mine. And it makes the sound of people in San Francisco trying to make virtual money.

WEIR: How do you describe that noise?

LUGIEWICZ: We are probably sitting at a price 65 decibels right now. When it's at about 75-80 decibels, I'd say a jet engine. A jet engine that never leaves.

WEIR: (voice over): 16 months after the mine fired up without warning, Mike Lugiewicz put his house up for sale in frustration.

TOM LASH (PH), RESIDENT, MURPHY, NORTH CAROLINA: There would be turkeys out in the field and deer by the hundreds.

WEIR: Yes.

LASH: You don't have that anymore.

WEIR: While Tom Lash (PH) misses the wildlife --


WEIR: Phyllis Cantrell says she feels trapped.

CANTRELL: You can actually lay your head on the pillow and hear it hum up through the walls.

WEIR: No way.

WEIR: Have you thought about moving?

CANTRELL: We're 73 years old. Where are we going to go?

WEIR: Imagine a game where the dice have a billion sides and the first person to roll a ten wins. That is essentially crypto mining. And to play that games these days, you need computers, thousands of computers running 24/7, 365.

And after China outlawed crypto currency and crypto mining, more and more mines like this began popping up in Appalachia, places where the power is cheap, and the regulations are either nonexistent or unenforced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's all pray.

WEIR: (voice over): But in this deep red Republican pocket --

BOB MURRAY, RESIDENT, MURPHY NORTH CAROLINA: If they got noise 24/7. Noise, it sounds like do nothing to help this people. What are you guys going to do to help?

WEIR: The mine has upended local politics.

JUDY STINES, MURPHY RESIDENT: I like to be behind the scenes, and I like to stir the pot. And I knew that we needed to win an election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forget the noise --

WEIR: Outrage over the mine helped flip the balance of power in November's county election.



Congratulations --

WEIR: With the new board of commissioners now asking for federal help in ending American crypto mining.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To introduce a champion legislation through the U.S. Congress to ban and or regulate crypto mining operations in the United States of America.


WEIR: When asked over LinkedIn for reaction, Chandler Song, one of the mine's co- owners wrote, "Oh, boy, they wanted us so bad a year ago."

As for the proposed ban, "It is unconstitutional to say the least."

Song and his crypto mining co-founder made Forbes 30 under 30 list a few years ago. And recently claimed quarterly revenues of more than $20 million.

But when asked follow-up questions, Song went silent. His mine in Murphy has not, so far. But the county attorney is looking for a legal way to shut it down. A cautionary reminder that the next time you hear a place as peaceful as Green Mountain Farm --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're playing roulette with their lives.



WEIR: Chances are someone got loud and fought for it.

Bill Weir, CNN, Murphy, North Carolina


WALKER: Wow, what a story. Thanks to our Bill Weir for that reporting.


We'll be right back after this.


WALKER: A storm system and central U.S. is bringing snow and rain to the region this morning. Winter weather alerts stretching from New Mexico to Missouri.

SANCHEZ: More snow is also on the way for the area later this weekend. Meantime, heavy rain showers could mean flooding across some Gulf Coast states.

Let's get a check with your forecast now. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is live for us in the CNN Weather Center.

Allison, a mixed bag.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, really. You have got two different systems both producing different types of scenarios.

The one along the Gulf Coast, that's really going to be the biggest threat for flooding. The secondary system, the focus there is going to be the snow.

A lot of the heavy snow right now. You've got a few light -- snow showers around the Denver suburbs, but the bulk of that heavy snow is across areas of Kansas.

Wichita, right now, its rain. But you're going to go back and forth between a rain snow mix for much of the day. Same thing with Kansas City, as well as St. Louis.

On the southern edge, this is where we're talking rain. Very heavy rain from Baton Rouge over toward Hattiesburg and into Montgomery. But that line is going to shift north and east as we go through the next 24 to 48 hours.

So, all of this area here. You see by late Saturday night you're talking Atlanta. Huntsville, stretching down into Birmingham, looking at some of those heavier showers. By tonight we start to see that transition to snow in St. Louis and even some snow showers up around Chicago.

By Sunday, those two systems, their energy really merges into one large system that will end up pushing into areas of the Northeast, bringing for them, Boris and Amara, the addition of rain and snow is well by Sunday night.

[08:00:04] SANCHEZ: Allison Chinchar, thanks so much for the forecast.

Stay with us. The next hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.