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Masih Alinejad is Interviewed about the Plot to Kill Her; Segun Oduolowu is Interviewed about Academy Awards; NASA's to Select Moon Mission Crew. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 30, 2023 - 06:30   ET



NOUR ODEH, PALESTINIAN ACTIVIST: Right now is losing - not just losing control, but losing face.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: If you have the issue of containment only going to produce a backlash, then that plays into the hands of Netanyahu's government.

ODEH: Absolutely. I think the message will be help. It's going to be an SOS. This ship is sinking.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Expectations on all sides, low. The need for help, high.


ROBERTSON: And what could that help look like for both sides? It comes in the form of international pressure. And nobody better than the secretary of state to be delivering that.

At home, president -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does have that strong opposition on the streets, but his - his coalition is still strong. It is still powerful. So, whatever he hears from Secretary Blinken, he is -- either he's going to be in a very firm position -- firm footing at home politically.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we'll see what that message looks like when Blinken actually arrives there. Nic, thank you so much for that report.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So, let's talk about this very disturbing story now. The Justice Department announcing new arrests in what they say is a plot directed by Iran to kill journalist Masih Alinejad in New York. Now, the indictment says that the three men are members of an eastern European criminal organization with ties to Iran. One of the men had been arrested over the summer in a Brooklyn neighborhood where Alinejad she lives. Police found a load assault rifle in the back seat of his car. The suspect allegedly plotted to lure Alinejad out of her home and then kill her. The charges were announced at a press conference on Friday where the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LISA MONACO, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: This case began with our investigation of Iran's efforts to project power and to extend its he tentacles of oppression to American shores through the targeting of an Iranian American journalist who has stood up to the brutal regime, shining a light on Iran's abuse of human rights and women's rights.

The charges unsealed today show how organized crime, in pursuit of profits, and operating from a rogue nation can pose a grave threat to our national security and to the freedoms we hold dear.


LEMON: You can see her right here. There's Masih Alinejad, the target of that alleged plot, journalist and activist.

Good morning.


LEMON: First -- that's what I was going to ask you. How you doing?

ALINEJAD: Not easy, but I'm doing well because the reason that they came after me is I'm very hopeful, for the energy. I'm not going to give up.

LEMON: You found out on Friday, just before this press conference, right?

ALINEJAD: Yes, I was on my way to go to Washington, D.C. I had some meetings. And I got a phone call from the FBI. They stopped me from traveling there. And then they invite me to the FBI headquarters in New York. Twelve agents, the leadership, they were there. And they gave me the details of the assassination plot. Imagine you go there and they give you all the details of how three men were planning to kill you. I felt like, wow. I had been given a second life. I could have been killed. I cannot even believe that I'm - I'm using this word. I could have been killed if I had opened the door in Brooklyn. And we --

LEMON: I don't mean to disagree, but you've been given a second or even third.


LEMON: Like - because this is not the first or second time this -

ALINEJAD: Yes, you're right.


HARLOW: True. That's true.


HARLOW: And reading through that indictment, I mean, one man with an AK-47 outside of your home. Another saying this is going to happen today. This will be over today. And it will be a birthday present for me.

And yet what I think we all are so struck by your courage is because it's an effort to silence you and yet your voice only become louder and more prominent.

ALINEJAD: Definitely. Look, I want to be very honest with you. The details were really scary. But what scares me that this is happening right now in Iran. I mean these criminals were hired by the Islamic Republic. They were a part of a criminal organization from eastern Europe. So, you see the Islamic Republic itself is a criminal organization. And killing innocent protesters inside Iran, killing teenagers every single day.

So, I'm very thankful to the U.S. government, to the law enforcement, that they protect me. But it is scary that it has been twice that the Islamic Republic trying to challenge the U.S. authorities on U.S. soil by sending assassins to kill me.

And if nothing happened, they do -- they don't see any punishment. And there's no reason for the Iranian government to send more killers on U.S. soil. (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINS: And you're referencing the thieves and law group that they're allegedly a part of.

I looked through the indictment. It suggests that there is a connection.

HARLOW: Right.

COLLINS: But it doesn't say explicitly that Iranian officials are behind this assassination plot.


ALINEJAD: No, it says - it says - I mean if you listen to the head of the FBI, the attorney general, they both said that this is from the Islamic Republic, from the government. But they don't mention about -

COLLINS: What did they tell you about that (INAUDIBLE) -

ALINEJAD: Sorry, they don't mention about the organization. But we, Iranians, know the best. That this is all coming from Revolutionary Guards. Revolutionary Guards, which is on the terrorist list by the U.S. government, which clearly should be in the terrorist list of all the European countries, are behind all these assassination plots.

Look, in 40 years, there are more than 500 people got assassinated or kidnapped on U.S. soil and European countries.

LEMON: Masih, so many questions.

ALINEJAD: I know. LEMON: But, it sounds like you're speaking directly to the

administration right now when you say they're challenging U.S. authorities. Were you speaking to Biden right now?

ALINEJAD: I love that because, you know, many people ask me, what do you want to say to the Iranian regime? What do you want to say to the government? My message to the government is clear. I don't want to talk to them. I want to see them on international courts. I want to see them accountable. Who can do this? President Biden. I want to talk to President Biden. I want to meet you in person.

I mean, I have been a second life in United States of America and I deserve to meet you, to thank the law enforcement and to call on you because they can do a lot. President Biden can announce Iran policy. We cannot see one day the sanction the Iranian clerics and next day they go and negotiate with the same clerics. I want them to press - to convince the EU to designate the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.

LEMON: How do you live this way?

ALINEJAD: Not easy. You know, my life is upside down. I have to watch my shoulder. My stepchildren, my husband, my friends and family, they're all worried about my life. But as you hear me, I'm not scared for my life.

HARLOW: We can't talk about this in a vacuum. We have to talk about this in the moment that exists right now in Iran. And you have talked a lot about who your heroes are. The women in Iran right now.

ALINEJAD: Right now. Look, I just put it here, because I want to talk about them.


ALINEJAD: I always use my mobile, like my weapon, to show you the reason that I'm being the target because I'm giving voice to these women. Look. They're being shot in their eyes for demanding freedom, equality, dignity. These are the values that we share in America. America is all about freedom of expression. America is all about, you know, freedom of speech. And that's why I came to the United States of America and I deserve to have, you know, safety and security to give voice to these people.

HARLOW: Masih Alinejad, we're so glad you do and we're so glad you came back to CNN THIS MORNING. Thank you very much.

ALINEJAD: Thank you so much for not abandoning Iranian people.


LEMON: Take care of yourself and thank you.

ALINEJAD: Thank you.

HARLOW: Take care. Ahead, why a top U.S. Air Force official is predicting war with China in just a few years.

LEMON: Also this, one actress's Oscar nomination now has the Academy reviewing its procedures. Entertainment journalist Segun Oduolowu is here to discuss.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Angels are falling down on me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTOR: Good Christian people raised you right. You ruined that sweet boy's life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS: And what did you do to stop me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): So don't walk away, you can count -



LEMON: So, an interesting controversy coming out of Hollywood. Is it Oscar-worthy, this performance, or reason for an award show scandal? A week after Oscar nominations were announced, "Variety" is now reporting that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is, quote, conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year's nominee. It stems from Andrea Riseborough's unexpected best actress nomination for the Indie film "To Leslie," which tells the story of an alcoholic single mom who struggles to get her life back.

Now, Riseborough had big Hollywood names backing her in the film like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Aniston. It only made about $27,000 at the box office. But Riseborough joins the ranks of Cate Blanchett, Michelle Williams, Michelle Yeoh in this best actress category, or best leading actress category.

So, entertainment journalist Segun Oduolowu joins us now.

Did I get it?


HARLOW: It was - that was perfect.

ODUOLOWU: That was - that was good.

LEMON: I say it's early.

OK, so, good morning.

ODUOLOWU: Good morning. LEMON: Good to see you.

ODUOLOWU: I get the whole gang.

LEMON: So, here's the thing. So, it has been -- isn't it sort of, you're supposed to campaign the Academy and work your sources and get the nomination? So, what is different and controversy about this? How is this scandalous?

ODUOLOWU: So, I first -- I don't want to slam Andrea at all. I thought her performance in this movie is fantastic. But this is to slam the Academy. When you are an institution that is shrouded in all of the secrecy, all of the awards that come from it feel tainted. If you throw that picture up of who was campaigning for her, what does it look like? You don't see people of color. When you look at who is being nominated for a best actress, you -- aside from Michelle Yeoh, you do not see people of color.

And what I have a problem with is, she played in - she did a movie that hardly anyone saw. There are over 10,000 members in the Academy. If all of them went to the movie, maybe, maybe then the box office would be higher. So, a movie that no one saw, right, it's like a tree falling in a forest.

And when you start judging art and say, well, this is better than this, already you are corrupting -- this isn't athletics where there's a winner and a loser and you're trying to judge art. And no one really saw this film.


But let's put that aside. She played - it's based on accounts of a true story. Well, so is "Woman King," right? So is Danielle Deadwyler -

HARLOW: Viola Davis.


HARLOW: And Till (ph) and -

ODUOLOWU: And Till (ph). So - so we're --

HARLOW: Who were not nominated.

ODUOLOWU: Who were not nominated. And with movies people actually saw. So, I do -- I have a serious problem with the way the Academy conducts its business. Her performance should stand by itself. But, yes, that was campaigning.

HARLOW: We went and looked at what the rules are because when we were talking about this last night I was like, but what are the rules? So, the lobbying rule is that you cannot contacting Academy members directly and in a manner outside the scope of these rules to promote a film is expressly forbidden.

LEMON: Rule number 10.

HARLOW: Rule number 10.

"The Washington Post" asks a lot of those big actors who nominated her why. Kate Winslet, for example, said, when I saw her performance, it floored me. I want to support her.

This is going to be tricky to prove.

ODUOLOWU: Yes, listen, I'm not going to call these actresses and actors liars, but Edward Norton, Oscar nominated numerous times, Charlize Theron, Oscar nominated and a winner, Kate Winslet, numerous Oscar nominations and a winner. You remove Jennifer Aniston and everyone that was in that picture has either been nominated for an Oscar or has won one. And all of a sudden they just - they just spontaneously decided to speak on Andrea's behalf? Again, this is the Academy. This is why -- the Academy loves nothing more than us talking about it because we talk about the controversies more than we talk about the actual show, right? If you think about the last couple of Oscars, it's more been about the controversy than it has been who actually won.

LEMON: Segun, I don't feel like you answered the question though.


LEMON: It's not out of the ordinary for people to campaign. It's not out of the ordinary for Indie films, for independent films, for films that don't get a lot of attention, that a lot of people to - for people to campaign and for them to be nominated or even win.

So, the question is, is she actually doing something wrong? Are people just not happy that they feel that bigger actresses or minority actresses should have been nominated? Do you understand my question?

ODUOLOWU: Yes, no, I got you. But they don't campaign like this.


ODUOLOWU: They don't campaign like this, right. You might have the studio say for your consideration. In Los Angeles you will see billboards all over town that say for your consideration please consider x amount movie, x actress, et cetera.


ODUOLOWU: But you do not see an Oscar winning actress do a Q&A with the - with the actress to give her a bigger push. You don't see Oscar winning actresses go on the record and say she should be nominated. It's one thing to campaign and everyone do a wink-wink and a nod-nod. This was so -- this was so - this was obvious that it offends is my only point.

LEMON: All right.

ODUOLOWU: And, again, if there wouldn't -- if there's a rule for it, let there be a rule for it.

COLLINS: Segun, thank you so much. I mean we'll wait to see what this all happens and what it looks like, but there are those (INAUDIBLE) nominated.

HARLOW: I am going to watch it now. I didn't even know about it.

ODUOLOWU: If you can find it. If you can find it. If you can find it in the theater, I - I --

COLLINS: It grossed nothing at - yes.

HARLOW: Yes, that's a good point.

ODUOLOWU: Yes, you know.

COLLINS: All right, Segun, thank you so much.

All right, up next, we're going to talk about, what does it take to board the first rocket headed to the moon in more than 50 years? We have a CNN exclusive on the secretive process of picking the astronauts for NASA's next historic mission.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to dedicate the first step of Apollo 17 to all those who made it possible.


COLLINS: That was the last time that Americans were on the moon. This morning, the next big question is, who is going to be the next ones? NASA is gearing up to announce the four person crew it's going to send to the moon for the first time in 50 years. CNN has an exclusive inside look at the secret selection process. We were even able to whittle down a list of possible candidates who may be going.

CNN's Kristin Fisher joins us now.

Kristin, I know I'm not on this list, but tell us why is this such a - such a secretive process? You know, how do they actually make these decisions? And when do we actually find out who it is?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: It's so secretive, Kaitlan, because there's no good way to do it. There's no truly objective, transparent and equitable way to do it when you're dealing with 41 active astronauts who have already become the best of the best. They've already beaten out thousands of other applicants. Most of them they already flown in space. These are people at the prime of their careers, the top of their game. And they're all competing for just six seats on the Artemis II and Artemis III crew. Now, Artemis II, we believe that crew is going to be announced

sometime this spring. And, you know, one of the big decisions for a program this important, a program that, you know, has so many close ties to Washington and abroad is how much is Washington's leadership, NASA's leadership, going to have in this process? And NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told CNN that, quote, we stay out of the selection of the crew. That is done by the people at JSC, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. They will make the decision. I do not know if they have decided who the crew is, nor should I.

So, this decision is going to come down to three key people at the Johnson Space Center. And, Kaitlan, I interviewed more than a dozen current and former NASA astronauts and officials. And based on their list of best guesses and top contenders, here is who we believe is really sitting and has the best stand to chance -- the best chance of getting assigned to that Artemis II crew. Randy Bresnik, Victor Glover, Jeremy Hansen, Christina Koch, Anne McClain, Jessica Mere, Stephanie Wilson and Reid Wiseman.

Reid Wiseman, I'll point out to you, Kaitlan, because he was the former chief astronaut, stepped down just a day before that first test flight, Kaitlan. And so a lot of people believe he's at the top of the list to be assigned to that Artemis II crew.

COLLINS: All right. We'll see if he makes the list.

Kristin Fisher, thank you so much for that reporting.

FISHER: You bet.

COLLINS: All right, in just moments here on set, Shimon Prokupecz, who's been reporting in Memphis, is going to break down the biggest questions he still has and the ones that remain after the Tyre Nichols police beating.


LEMON: And straight ahead here on CNN THIS MORNING, we're going to be joined by the former police captain and current New York City mayor, that is Eric Adams. Why he says he feels betrayed by those officers' actions.



GLORIA SWEET-LOVE, TENNESSEE NAACP PRESIDENT: We've come to call for action (ph) for Congress. By failing to craft and pass bills to stop police brutality, the blood of black America is on your hands.


So, stand up and do something.


LEMON: Good morning, everyone.