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Tornado Strikes Houston Area, Midwest Bracing for Heavy Snow; Germany to Join U.S. in Sending Tanks to Ukraine After Standoff; Classified Documents Found at Pence's Indiana Home. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 07:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you take any classified documents with you from the White House?



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, yes, he did.

Good morning, everybody. Kaitlan is on assignment. Poppy and I are here --

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Without classified documents.

LEMON: Without any -- that we know of. More classified documents have been discovered at the home of former vice president, Mike Pence. This time, though, it is not Joe Biden. As I said, it is the former vice president leaving lawmakers stunned.

HARLOW: Also breaking overnight, a significant development for the war on Ukraine. The German government announcing plans to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. The U.S. delivering tanks as well. This could be a game changer in the war with Russia.

LEMON: And this is a big story that we're following from the southwest to New England. More than 80 million people are facing winter weather alerts. Some cities are expected to get hit by nearly a foot of snow.

Plus this --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could have been my son. It could have been you. Don't gavel me. I'm here to let you know I can speak whenever I want. We want the tape. We want the tape and we want it now.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Tensions running high after the beating death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police, what a new autopsy is revealing.

LEMON: Lots to report to you this morning, but we're going to begin with that massive and dangerous winter storm on the move after pummeling Texas with a tornado. Officials in the Houston area calling the destruction catastrophic. It flattened buildings and ripped off roofs but amazingly, so far, no reported deaths at this hour.

The tornado was so powerful, it picked up huge trailers and R.V.s and tossed them through the air. One home owner who survivor the tornado came outside to find this giant R.V. on top of her pickup truck in the driveway. Look at that, crazy.

And this morning, Alabama and the Florida panhandle are on high alert for more tornadoes. And from the southwest all the way to New England, more than 80 million Americans are under winter storm alerts.

Adrienne Broaddus is in Chicago covering all of this for us. Hello, Adrienne. Some of the heaviest snow expected to hit the Midwest.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's a sight to behold but it can be dangerous. Here in Chicago I want to show you, we are expected to get about two to four inches. Take a look, I hope you appreciate my handwriting here in the snow. This is something we haven't been able to do that much here in Chicago.

But across the country, the snowfalls have already been predicted. For example, In Arkansas, for those of you who are able to see, I want you to take a look at your screen, in Arkansas, at least 12 inches, and some parts of Texas up to 10 inches, also in New Mexico, 8 inches. And this as a result of that winter weather advisory that is blanketing much of the Midwest.

For example, I told you how much snow we're expected to get here in Chicago but that winter weather advisory is taking place for the next 14 hours, it's in effect, at least, in Kansas, Chicago, Columbus, there's also a winter storm warning in St. Louis, Missouri, Indianapolis, Detroit and Cincinnati, Don.

LEMON: All right. Adrienne Broaddus on top of the story for us, we'll continue to follow. Thank you. Poppy?

HARLOW: Also this breaking overnight, a major development in the war in Ukraine. After weeks of pressure from western allies, Germany has announced it will send the Leopard 2 tanks to the war zone.

Let's go to our Natasha Bertrand for more. Huge news, right, Natasha, for Ukraine.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, this could be extremely significant especially considering that Ukraine planning to launch a counteroffensive in the spring to kind of beat back the Russians and gain more of their territory back.

So, we're told is that, really, this diplomatic logjam between the U.S. and Germany has broken, and it comes as a result of a week of negotiations between the U.S. and Germany over how to get to this point, where Germany would send its Leopard tanks as well as allow other European countries to send their stocks of Leopard tanks to Ukraine as well as sending our stocks of our Abram tanks to Ukraine.

And what we're told is that the U.S. essentially came to some kind of an agreement with Germany here.


Germany had said that they would not send their tanks unless the U.S. also sent them because they did not want to be seen with out of lockstep with their allies and particularly with the United States. So now what we're seeing is Germany, after really months of diplomatic pressure from international allies, from the European countries who want to send their own tanks, they're finally agreeing to send around 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Ukraine, of course, very grateful for these because given our reporting that Russia is going to be launching their own offensive in the spring, these tanks could be very game changing for the Ukrainians in terms of breaking through those Russian defensive lines and again taking back a lot of their territory, Poppy.

HARLOW: Natasha Bertrand reporting for us from Washington, thank you very much.

LEMON: And this morning, a call for justice in Memphis, Tennessee, over the death of Tyre Nichols. Tensions running high at a city council meeting demanding the immediate release of the police body camera footage from Nichols' arrest and for the officers to be charged with murder. Nichols was beaten by officers for three minutes on January 7th after they stopped him for reckless driving.

Our Shimon Prokupecz live in Memphis this morning with more. Shimon, good morning. Preliminary results of an autopsy were released. What are we learning now?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. That autopsy, Don, was done at the request of the family. The family did their own independent autopsy. And what they found, according to their attorney, Ben Crump, was that Tyre Nichols died from severe bleeding as a result of a beating.

Now, Don, I want to take you out here to the scene. This is where it all started. This is the intersection that police say that Tyre Nichols was first stopped by police and then he ran. There was a pursuit along this road here all the way -- just about under a mile near where his mother lives, and that is where ultimately he would die, where investigators say police wind up catching up to him and then something happened. And according to the family, which has viewed body camera footage, they say that he was beaten in that location, ultimately was taken to the hospital where he died.

Now, Don, most of what we know about what happened here is not coming from the police. They have refused to release any information, basic questions to the police about were these officers in uniform? What time exactly was Tyre Nichols taken to the hospital? All those questions have remained unanswered by the police. As we know five officers were fired, two EMTs here were placed on leave as a result of this incident. And now we wait. We wait for the district attorney to make his decision on whether or not he's going to pursue charges. And, of course, ultimately that video, the body camera footage and other footage that police have, Don.

LEMON: Can we talk, Shimon, about that emotional, right, fiery community meeting that happened last night? What are residents saying about the body cam not being released? They want it done out there.

PROKUPECZ: Absolutely. Absolutely, they want it out. They want more information because the police have been refusing to give any information. So, they want the body camera footage released. They want other information released.

Take a listen at some of the community members who spoke at a city council meeting.


P. MOSES, MEMPHIS RESIDENT: As you know, there was a murder that took place here on January the 7th, I believe, Mr. Tyre Nichols. He was murdered at the hands of the Memphis police. I'm very upset with everybody on this city council because you are our representatives, you are our checks and balances. And not one of you have come out publically and demanded that that tape that we paid $3 million, correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Wade, when we paid for the body cams, we the taxpayers paid for.

This is about transparency and damn it we are going to have it or we need a refund on our tax dollars that we pay.

The public want to see what happened. We want to know are we really employing people that think it's okay to beat the shit out of folks.

AYANA WATKINS, MEMPHIS RESIDENT: What we heard before, we paid for the cameras, we want to see what is going on. Do I want to see the video? I don't know. I'm a mama too, so many of us are. We're brothers, sisters and children, sons and daughters. But what we want to see is justice for Tyre and everyone else like him walking these streets.


PROKUPECZ: And so, Don, now this is all in the hands of the district attorney here. We're waiting to hear more from him. He says this video will come out once his investigation is complete, once they're done interviewing witnesses. He says the reason why they don't want to release it is because they don't want to in any way, sway witness testimony. If they see this video, they may change their testimony and that is the reason why this video has not been released.

[07:10:05] But I can tell you, community members certainly are not buying that. They want the information. They want the transparency that they certainly feel they're not getting. And so now, Don, we wait for the D.A. and ultimately what he decides in terms of charges for these officers.

LEMON: And Shimon will be following this for us. Shimon, thank you very much.

HARLOW: Well, more classified documents have been discovered, now, these at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence, not in Wilmington, Delaware but in Carmel, Indiana. That is where his home is. An attorney for the former vice president discovering about 12 classified documents in that home. They were immediately turned over to the FBI. The revelation first reported late yesterday on CNN, and at least lawmakers on both sides of the aisle just shaking their heads.

Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Lauren, another former vice president, another set of classified documents.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, lawmakers both surprised and stunned yesterday at this news. Lisa Murkowski telling me just, wow, when she heard the revelations. Mark Warner, who is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he reacted, holy heck, and then told reporters, quote, I would have thought a year ago when this started coming that anyone who had one of these jobs would go back and check. Check your closets, he implored folks who have held these jobs as the president, vice president.

Lawmakers are now weighing is there something they need to do? Is there an investigation that needs to happen? Is there some kind of legislative solution? You heard Lindsey Graham yesterday talking about the fact that perhaps this country has an overclassification problem. Here's what he said.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I don't know how this happened. We need to get to the bottom of it. I don't believe for a minute that Mike Pence is trying to intentionally compromise national security. I think that about Biden and Trump, but clearly we have a problem here. So, hopefully, when this is all said and done, maybe we're over classifying things, that may be part of the problem. But count me in for getting this fixed.


FOX: And one of the concerns that lawmakers have up here on Capitol Hill is the fact that when they look at classified documents, they do so in a SCIF. Mark Warner told me he never has looked at a classified document outside of a SCIF, outside of a secure location on Capitol Hill. I think that is one of the reasons why lawmakers are so stunned about how this could be happening.

HARLOW: Yes, I think we all are, Lauren. Thank you very much for the reporting.

LEMON: So, there's a new poll out in all of this. It shows that the majority of the Americans approve of the appointment of a special counsel to investigate classified documents found at President Joe Biden's residence. We want to note this poll was conducted before the revelations of Mike Pence and his classified documents.

So, joining us now with the numbers, CNN Political Director and Host of CNN Political Briefing podcast, that is Mr. David Chalian. Good morning, Mr. Chalian.


LEMON: So, what do Americans think here?

CHALIAN: Yes. You just showed that number, that first top line number, just huge, right? The vast majority of Americans, 84 percent approve of the appointment of a special counsel looking into the Biden classified documents situation. Only 16 percent disapprove.

Look at that broken out by party. This is something you don't see in American politics very often, guys. Broad agreement, 88 percent of Republicans approve of the appointment of a special counsel, 84 percent of independents, 80 percent of Democrats. So, that's pretty broad agreement across party lines.

We also asked people how serious of a problem do you think this is? 30 percent of Americans say very serious, 38 percent, somewhat serious, 27 percent, not too serious, 6 percent not at all. So, you have rougly got two thirds of Americans think this is a serious problem, a third say not so.

And look at that broken down by party, among those who think it is a serious problem, this you might expect, right? Republicans, 89 percent of them think the Biden classified documents situation is serious, 68 percent of independents. But look here. Democrats, a slim majority of them, 54 percent say this is not serious. 46 percent of Democrats say it is a serious situation.

LEMON: I'm just wondering, quick question, do Republicans feel the same way about the Trump documents as they feel --

CHALIAN: We are going to get there. Why are you getting ahead of our thinking?

HARLOW: To get you out of order on your slides.

CHALIAN: What are you doing to me, Don?

LEMON: I'm sorry. We don't have to go ahead.

HARLOW: David Chalian can do it.

CHALIAN: Yes, I'll show you ahead here. We asked folks if indeed they think either president was dealing with illegal behavior, behaved illegally here. And if you ask the country, a majority of Americans, 52 percent say Trump's situation with the documents, he behaved illegally, only 37 percent of Americans say that about Biden.


And to your question, Don, look at this by party, okay? You see here, of course, 79 percent of Democrats think Trump did something illegal. Go to the other side, 64 percent of Republicans down here think Biden did something illegal. But I think what is really fascinating, look at their own partisans. So, only 8 percent of Democrats think Biden has done something illegal, okay, you might expect that, but a quarter of Republicans, 25 percent, think that Trump did something illegal. So, there is more belief that Trump did something illegal here across the board than did Biden.

HARLOW: That is really fascinating. I'm going to get you back on track on your slide deck.

CHALIAN: That's okay, Poppy. I can jump around however you want.

HARLOW: We know you can. But I wonder, though, David, what you showed us has to do a lot with how Americans feel about who the Biden White House has responded to this versus how the Trump team, no longer the White House, but the Trump team lack of immediate response, shall we say?

CHALIAN: Well, let's just look at the Biden situation. How has this White House handled this? 57 percent of Americans disapprove of the handling of this situation from the Biden White House. When you look at that by party, as you would expect, 85 percent of Republicans disapprove of the way Biden has handled it, 62 percent of independents, but only 26 percent of Democrats. It's not an insignificant chunk of his own party, it's a quarter of it of his own party that disapproves with his handling, but the vast majority of Democrats think Biden has handled it well.

And I'll just show you guys in terms of impact on Biden's overall standing, we're not seeing much of it. His approval rating overall, 45 percent. That's about where it was in December before any of this came to light. So, we're not seeing an actual political damaging moment necessarily for him. And look at where Biden sizes up among his modern era predecessors with that 45 percent approval. He's right here between Clinton, who was at 47 percent, got elected to a second term, Carter at this point of his presidency was at 43 percent, we know he did not get elected to a second term, Biden sitting right there between them.

LEMON: Are you in my text messages? I was going back and forth with -- you know L.Z. Granderson, right, yesterday, about -- he's like this isn't going to affect his approval rating the diehard Biden supporters, my mom is just one of them, I want to find out what happened, he shouldn't have had them, but it doesn't affect her support for him. And she is a church lady who goes to the polls, rain, sleets, snow or shine, and she's going to vote.

CHALIAN: Maybe she's a respondent in our poll, Don.

HARLOW: You never know. LEMON: David Chalian, that was very good information. Thank you, sir, I appreciate it.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

HARLOW: Well, ahead for us, the Fulton County district attorney in Georgia has revealed that she's weighing whether to bring charges against former President Trump or his associates for their efforts to overturn the election results in her state. Audie Cornish and the former lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, both here to talk about it.



HARLOW: Welcome back to CNN This Morning. This morning, Atlanta area District Attorney Fani Willis says decisions on possible charges against former President Trump and his associates are, quote, imminent. She has suggested that a special grand jury is recommending multiple indictments against Trump after investigating his efforts to overturn the state's 2020 election results.

Sara Murray is live in Atlanta with more. Good morning, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Look, we do not know yet whether the district attorney is actually going to pursue charges, what those charges are going to look like or who she could pursue charges against. But when she was in court, Fani Willis did appear to signal that the special grand jury had recommend charges for someone. She was talking about how the report should be kept under wraps and she was repeatedly referring to how important it is to protect the rights of future defendants, especially the right of future defendants to get a fair trial. And she said decisions are imminent on whether or not she brings the charges.

Now, we don't know exactly what imminent means. It probably doesn't mean overnight but it does mean that she is working toward making a decision about whether the former president or any of his associates should face charges for these efforts to overturn the 2020 election here in Georgia.

HARLOW: Sara Murray, thank you very much.

LEMON: All right. So, let's bring in now the former lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, he is now a senior political commentator, and CNN Anchor and Correspondent Audie Cornish. Good morning to both of you.

HARLOW: He just added a little bit of something on the end there.

LEMON: Just a little fanciness here. Thank you for joining us.

I want to ask you because you're a witness in the grand jury probe of Fani Willis. I want to talk to you about that and what's going to happen. But let me just ask you about these documents that we have been reporting about. What is your take on this? We had the former defense secretary on and everyone is sort of saying, you know, different things about different folks. What do you think about Mike Pence?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the system is broken for checking documents out. I mean, that's obvious. And so I think we need to figure out away to tighten that up for just national security purposes. But it's cringe worthy, right? I'm sure Mike Pence, when he answered that question on T.V. a few weeks ago, he honestly believed he didn't have documents in his possession.


But unfortunately for him, he did, and now he has got to unwind those statements. I think from a political standpoint, it's kind of negated the issue as far having the documents.

Now, the reaction to that, I mean, that's really the visceral response that Trump had versus President Biden and now Vice President Pence, who works with the authorities who is quick to say, I'm sorry I shouldn't have had those and who isn't, I think, is what the public eye is going to judge.

LEMON: Do you think the public sees a difference and they're able to calculate the difference in these?

DUNCAN: Yes. I mean, yes, to some extent but I do think its political partisan corners are going to take sides and one is going to defend the other. And that's really kind of what's wrong with where we're at today. Everybody is chasing ten second sound bites to try to pick on the other team instead of standing up and talking about the fact that the Futures are down a couple of hundred points again today, more people in America are worried about having a job tomorrow than they are about these documents. That's where I think the real leadership and real opportunity for Republicans going forward is to really tackle these big, tough issues.

HARLOW: So, let's talk about what's going on here, because you were one of, what, 75 witnesses that testified over seven months to this Georgia grand jury and Fani Willis, as Sara reported, is saying, don't put it out there, don't put this out there for public transparency. Media organizations, including CNN, want it out there for public transparency. You have an interesting take on the D.A.'s tone and what it indicates about how soon we may see indictments.

DUNCAN: Yes. Fani, yesterday, I listened to her reaction in the courtroom to Judge McBurney, her wanting to keep the report sealed for the time being to kind of preserve the integrity of her investigation. She was serious. I read that as the indictments that are going to come down are going to be measured in days and not weeks. I think it's very imminent.

And, look, this grand jury worked hard. There were 75 witnesses that came forward, and when I sat in that room, there were 23 jurors that well prepared to ask a lot of tough questions. Fortunately, I felt like I had honest, authentic answers and I was on the right side of history during all those events, but they did their work.

LEMON: Everyone is looking to this. They're saying the Fani Willis -- this may be the one thing finally that holds the former president accountable. Where do you stand on that?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, I understand that there is a kind of hunger for that symbolism. Is it possible to prosecute a former president, like what is the sort of standard, what are the venues where that is possible? We don't have an answer to that yet. But we do know that Georgia is important to watch because there's specific crime, there are statutes that you can look at and say this was violated.

We have this phone call that the president made that was very straightforward and they were able to do things that the January 6th committee couldn't do. The people who blew off testimony, all of a sudden, they had to sit in that room before the grand jury. It's a different ball game. And that's why this thing is important. I don't know if we need to see that report before they hand down their indictments but this is a different case to look at.

HARLOW: Let's take a look -- because Brookings, which is bipartisan, laid out, took a deep dive on this investigation, laid out some of the possible charges we could see, solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, interference with primaries and elections, conspiracy to commit election fraud, and then with Fani Willis, who I find so fascinating, the way she's used racketeering to go after a number of people in the state of Georgia in terms of enterprise engaging in criminal conduct, in terms of the big, standardized test in school takedown that she did. They're saying she could bring racketeering charges potentially.

CORNISH: I mean, I think you know better than every -- like racketeering charges can be used in many different context. It will be interesting to see if that is a potential charge here. But it does speak to the idea that the former president did not act alone in his activities around the 2020 election.

And I think one other thing I want to mention is the atmosphere in Georgia politically is very different, the lieutenant governor can speak to this. Brian Kemp very much was not going down the road of election denialism. So, I think that there is this kind of leeway where if someone is doing an objective, it's a not political process, it's like this criminal process that I think the public will have a slightly different view of it. Maybe you can tell me if that's right or wrong.

DUNCAN: No, I think you're spot on. I mean, the political climate is to be on a fact-finding mission and as well as Fani Willis continues to be on that journey of finding facts.

It is interesting that there're three unique lanes that are being investigated. Most focus on the phone call, the dreaded phone call that was just cringe worthy with Brad Raffensperger. But there's also this whole basket of conspiracy theories and this deluge of misinformation. And if they're going to use the racketeering charge, they're going to be able to see was it an intentional, coordinated effort to mislead the population to try to re-steer the election. There is also a third lane of this fake electorate crowd, right?

HARLOW: And how involved was Trump in soliciting them.

DUNCAN: And the reality is he was involved in all three of those. .And is there enough facts to get over the hump to --

CORNISH: Did you get the sense the January 6th committee information was informing what this investigation, I don't know, from your testimony experience?



I think it validated the lanes to pursue. And like I said, I mean, there were 75 witnesses.