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CNN This Morning

Severe Weather in U.S. South Causing Cancelation of Several Flights; New York City Not Yet Receiving Snow; Three Memphis Fire Department Employees Fired for Violating Policy and Protocol in Case of Tyre Nichols; Manhattan District Attorney Presenting Evidence to Grand Jury about Hush-Money Payments from Former President Trump to Stormy Daniels During 2016 Presidential Election. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 31, 2023 - 08:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. The first wave of a winter storm underway for millions across the U.S., and it's already canceled 1,000 flights. We're live on the ground.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: In Memphis, two more officers and three EMT workers all off the job this morning for their response in the beating of Tyre Nichols. This as we are hearing Nichols in his own words for the first time.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of State Antony Blinken walking a diplomatic tightrope this morning as violence is escalating in the Middle East. Right now he is in the West Bank is meeting with the Palestinians.

LEMON: Another suspicious incident at the Dallas Zoo. Two monkeys believed to be stolen just weeks after fences were cut and a vulture died mysteriously. Also this.




HARLOW: Hollywood losing another TV icon. "Laverne & Shirley" star Cindy Williams dying at 75. Her family remembering her as kind and generous with a, quote, brilliant sense of humor.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

LEMON: We are going to begin with the dangerous ice storm freezing the south right now from Texas all the way to West Virginia. Nearly 40 million Americans under winter weather alerts. This is a live look in Arkansas where the governor has declared a state of emergency. The National Weather Service says this is going to be a prolonged and significant ice storm which will last until at least Thursday. Nearly 1,000 flights already canceled, including hundreds of flights out of Dallas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a flight this morning at 9:20 and they canceled that flight due to weather.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were taking a trip to a conference in Orlando, and I looked at the weather before we left and I told my wife, I said, I have a feeling flights might get canceled. Should I do this or not? But I went ahead and did it anyway. And lo and behold, flights got canceled.


LEMON: CNN's Ed Lavandera starts us off in Dallas this morning. Ed, good morning. People are bracing for serious travel chaos. What's the latest?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be several days of these treacherous conditions on roadways all across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas as well as into the upper Midwest as well. These winter weather warnings and advisories are stretching from all the way down as far as south as San Antonio. We are hearing of about 1,000 flights that have already been canceled. We expect that to continue to worsen throughout the day. And we are hearing a number of reports of accidents and rollovers all over roadways across north Texas.

So emergency officials, traffic officials really urging the public to stay off the roadways. If you don't have to be out, they are telling, asking people to please stay off the roadways, because what you see behind me is many of these people taking those warnings to heart. This was 7:00 a.m. normal rush hour traffic time of day. But you can see the traffic very light here on the roadways in the Dallas area where we are this morning. And that is in large part because so many school districts across the region canceled schools well before this morning in anticipation of the worst of this storm.

So right now, the area is expected to see sleet and freezing rain falling off and on sporadically throughout the day but sustaining for perhaps well into tomorrow as well. So, Don, that is what so many millions of people here across the north Texas and Oklahoma and Arkansas region are preparing for over the next 48 hours.

LEMON: Ed Lavandera in Dallas, Ed, thank you.

HARLOW: Meanwhile, here in New York City we are apparently breaking records for doing nothing. A live look outside right now shows a lot of fog. We could see some snowflakes soon. But we have been snowless for far too long, in my opinion. Senior data reporter Harry Enten is here. Come on with the snow.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: Come one with the snow. OK, this morning's number is zero inches of snow have accumulated in New York City, D.C., Philly, and Baltimore, zero inches this weekend. And in New York City, as you were hinting at, we have broken the all-time record for latest measurable snowfall dating all the way back to the 1869-1870 winter. It is going to be after January 30th. When it will be, who the heck knows? The previous record was January 29th from 1972 to 1973. So we broke a 50-year record.


And if we look at latest snowfalls in other major northeast cities or mid-Atlantic cities, we're on our way, baby. We could be breaking records all over the place. So if we look at the latest first snow measured if any since the 1800s, all these records occurred in 1972- 73. We have got to get to February 21st in Baltimore, February 23 in Washington, D.C. Philly, we can't break the record, we can only tie it, because it was snowless in the 72-73 winter.

If you're think why have we had no snow, I think this gives you a pretty good understanding. New York City consecutive days with an above normal temperature, look at this, Poppy, 34 and counting. That is a record set back -- basically this is the record, folks. This is the record. I walked yesterday, Poppy. Felt so nice outside.

HARLOW: I know. My kids had no jacket on when I picked them up at school. Whatever. You know I want the snow.

ENTEN: I went the snow, too. That why I went to weather camp I went to school in New Hampshire. I love the snow.

HARLOW: I didn't know you went to weather camp.

ENTEN: I did go to weather camp at Penn State. State college. I'm not kidding.


HARLOW: Back to you guys.

COLLINS: We want to take you back to Memphis this morning where the fallout is continuing as three Memphis fire department employees have now been fired for violating policy and protocol in their response to Tyre Nichols. Two more Memphis officers have also been relieved of duty. And last hour you heard for the first time from Tyre Nichols' brother. This is what he told Don about what he thinks should happen to the officers who brutally beat his brother.


JAMAL DUPREE, TYRE NICHOLS' BROTHER: I hope they meet the same fate as my brother. That's just how I feel. You know, I mean, I don't know what the laws is in Tennessee or whatnot, but for me, I believe they deserve the death penalty.

If I was there, they would have to kill me, too, because I would have fought all of them. My brother was trying to cooperate with them. I would have fought back with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: CNN's Ryan Young is live in Memphis with more. Ryan, I mean, obviously, those are powerful words from his brother, but what were we learning about the fallout that we are seeing continue about these additional officers, they have now been relieved from duty? What's behind this?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Investigators said they would continue this investigation, but I feel like you can't move on from those words that you guys heard last hour. That was a powerful interview that Don did. Sometimes you say you understand how family members feel. I don't think any of us can understand that pain that that family is going through. And then of course Don asking that question to Ben Crump about all the rumors that have been flying around about these investigations, and Ben Crump pretty much saying there is no connection between Tyre and any of these officers so far they've been able to find out.

But going back to this investigation, we have seen this move at lightning speed in terms of the police department looking at the videotape, of firing the five officers and then charges coming, and now we see two additional officers being relieved of duty. Preston Hemphill, his is the white officer who fired his taser and can be heard making a comment on that taser, hoping that they stop him. That was the person relieved of duty yesterday.

So we are starting to see investigators make those further moves, and three EMTs have been released. There's one thing that's still under question that we will have to ask investigators and police about today is that seventh officer who has been relieved of duty, that person's identity hasn't been released just yet. But everyone has been scouring through that video looking at the actions of the people on the scene. And when you watch that video, it's so heartbreaking to see no one really responding to Tyre as he's on the ground.

COLLINS: Yes, and we see this fallout going. Ryan Young, thank you so much for that update.

LEMON: We have heard from Tyre Nichols' mother and his stepfather. We've heard from his brother. We've heard from his friends. But the one person we can't hear from is Tyre himself. We barely know what his voice sounds like. The body cam video it's only the second, the sound of distress that you are hearing. Listen.


TYRE NICHOLS: You guys are really doing a lot right now. I am trying to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't lay down --

NICHOLS: I am on the ground!


LEMON: He was just trying to go home. Tyre Nichols will be remembered for how he died, but we should also remember how he lived and what he sounded like outside of that deadly beating. And this business reporter -- in this business, reporters, I should say, sometimes do the man on the street interviews. We talk to people on the street about what they are doing, journalists asking real people about their experiences. Five years ago Tyre Nichols happened to be one those real people who someone spoke to. He spoke to a reporter in Sacramento about his six-hour wait at the DMV. It's mundane but very relatable topic. But here is Tyre in his own words.


TYRE NICHOLS: I have been here since 10:00, well 9:45. And the experience has been a very long wait. It's been very agonizing and very agitating waiting here and having everyone go in front of you with appointments, and you're hear stuck. So that was my experience. It's a really bad one, actually. I haven't been here in five years. This is probably the worst time ever.



LEMON: And the reporter who spoke to him that day said Tyre was upbeat and remarkably patient.

HARLOW: We have a big development this morning in New York that could put one more hurdle in the way of former President Trump's new White House bid. "The New York Times" is reporting the Manhattan district attorney has begun presenting evidence to a grand jury about hush- money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election. Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen served three years in prison for charges tied to those payments while working for then candidate Trump. The development signals that District Attorney Alvin Bragg is nearing a decision about whether to potentially charge Trump. Here is what he told us on CNN THIS MORNING just last month.


HARLOW: Is that correct that you are looking to jumpstart that criminal inquiry?

ALVIN BRAGG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: So far I take issue with the word "jumpstart."

HARLOW: It's the "Times'" word, not ours.

BRAGG: I know, I understand. We have been continuously working with rigor throughout the year, and you are going to be maybe displeased with the answer because we have not confirmed or denied. As you said, that's the "Times" reporting. We are working on a number of pieces and perspectives with this. I guess this is one chapter, an important chapter, but there are a lot of tentacles, if you will, we are following the facts where they go.

LEMON: You said to "The New York Times" and also in other interviews I've heard you saying that this was just a chapter and people shouldn't read ahead in the book. I'm wondering what that means, because that sort of looks like people are saying -- like you are saying to people, stay tuned, there is something on the horizon.

BRAGG: What I'm saying is, let's pause for the moment as we are. I think it's very consequential the work that went into this, how ably the people of the state of New York were represented. But as I said back in April, there is other work going on, and we are continuing that. It wasn't paused. We have been doing it.


HARLOW: So let's talk about all this with Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and senior political correspondent for "The New York Times." This is a big deal, Maggie, because his predecessor, Cy Vance, had brought together a grand jury to look at Trump's broader business practices. The D.A. who our viewers just heard from, Alvin Bragg, stopped that, got a lot of criticism, now started this, which hinges on likely the cooperation of Allen Weisselberg, the form Trump CFO, if they can get that, and a difficult legal theory. But it could come with a significant toll to the former president.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. As you note, it's not a slam dunk. It's not clear this case will definitely end in charges. But the mere fact of the existence of this special grand jury, which means it's meeting over six months as opposed to a 30-day grand jury, is significant and is yet another legal threat to the former president who is a facing, Poppy, a number of them.

This is also on a topic that he gets very, very sensitive about. We saw him posting on his social media website about it yesterday. This relates not just to payments but to his family. And so we will see where it goes.

LEMON: There's other work. He said in the interview there is other work going on. He said that a number of times. I think it was during that interview related to the first question because they were wrapping up. Remember, it was the investigation into Trump, right, into the Trump Organization. And then I followed and asked a question, Poppy asked a question, then we followed again. And he just kept saying I would not get ahead. There is there is other stuff going on. So I'm just wondering what this means in Trump world for the entire investigation. A lot of this, Maggie, we should remember, stemmed from Michael Cohen's testimony to Congress, in front of Congress.

HABERMAN: Yes, look, Michael Cohen is at the center of a bunch of investigations that have taken place over the course of the last several years, but particularly in New York where he is a key figure. He is a key figure here. He was the key witness in an investigation in Trump's business. And its worth remembering on that investigation, as you note, the district attorney did not -- the current district attorney did not end up bringing charges. One of the prosecutors who worked on the case was very upset about it, wrote a pretty angry resignation letter and is now writing a book. So I can't totally divorce what Alvin Bragg is saying about ongoing work from the fact of the upcoming book. But I do think that Alvin Bragg wants to signal very clearly to the public and certainly to Donald Trump, you are still under scrutiny.

COLLINS: Yes. And Michael Cohen, they could say he is a convicted criminal, he's not a reliable person for this. But what is your sense, Maggie, as we talk to people in Trump's inner circle all the time of how he is viewing all of these investigations, all of this as he's now actually doing events on his 2024 run.

HABERMAN: This is, Kaitlan, the closest that he has come to facing any kind of criminal liability. And I don't just mean this case. I mean across the board, he is facing an investigation, as you know, in Georgia. There are two Justice Department investigations. There is this blitz of civil litigation. There is the Letitia James fraud lawsuit that he is facing, the attorney general in New York -- that one's not criminal, but it could still really grind him down.


This is the worst sort of spate of legal problems that he has faced in a very, very long time. And he's not happy about it. Now, remember, he tends to look at things, strictly through the lens of either how much money he's paying, or whether anyone is facing criminal charges. And right now, those are two very real threats to him. So, he is not happy. He's focused on the presidential campaign -- are much more pleasing to him. But that has its own potential hurdles because his support is not where it was.

COLLINS: Yes. And he and that attorney just got that massive filing by the massive --


COLLINS: -- fee that they have to pay as well. That's something that has bothered him, I'm told. Maggie Haberman, thank you so much.

HABERMAN: Thanks, guys.

COLLINS: All right, show me your plan. Those are President Biden's words. That's his message, he says for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. They are going to have their first face-to-face since McCarthy became speaker tomorrow at the White House, to talk about raising the national debt limit to avoid a potentially crippling default. The White House says it is refusing to negotiate, and is skeptical of McCarthy's position, he says, cuts to Medicare and Social Security are off the table. CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill with more. Lauren, you know, this meeting is going to happen tomorrow. It's shaping up to be pretty tensed based on what Biden has said going into this meeting and based on what McCarthy has said going into this meeting.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this meeting right now is all about posturing for the next several months. That's how long negotiators will have to come up with some plan to increase the debt ceiling. The White House has made it clear that tomorrow Biden intends to simply ask Kevin McCarthy, will he increase the debt ceiling as leaders have done in the past, and as was done three times under former President Donald Trump? Meanwhile, Kevin McCarthy is going into this negotiation, struggling really to have a plan coalesced between Republican members of his own conference.

One of the challenges for Kevin McCarthy, and the White House as well aware of this, is the fact that any cuts to domestic spending, any cuts to the military, are going to be hard to get agreement on within the Republican conference. And that is going to be the challenge for McCarthy, not just tomorrow, but going forward. And that is part of the reason you are hearing from Biden, show me your plan, and I'll show you mine. Because there is a feeling that Republicans may not be able to coalesce around one spending plan. And that is going to be, really, the challenge going forward for McCarthy.

COLLINS: Yes, many challenges going forward. Where are those cuts going to come from? Lauren Fox, thank you so much.

LEMON: President Biden is planning to end the COVID-19 emergency declaration on May 11th. This major shift in response to a pair of Republican measures before the House to end COVID national and public health emergency. CNN's M.J. Lee joining us now live from the White House. Good morning, M.J. So, why is Biden ending this now?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, it certainly tells us that the government believes that we are entering a new phase of the pandemic. Remember, this public health emergency has been in place since January of 2020. So, this is going to be a huge turning point, both for this White House and the country. And there are going to be some serious practical implications, too. You know, a lot of people across the country have been able to get things like free tests, free vaccinations, free treatments as a result of this. So, all of those things are not necessarily going to be guaranteed once this goes away.

And that's also why the administration wanted to make sure that there were a couple of months of a transition period, so people can really prepare for this to go away. Now, there were also some politics at play, for sure, too. We are told that House Republicans because they were planning on voting to get rid of the public health emergency this week. House Democrats wanted to make sure that they weren't going to vote against that, without first understanding what exactly the White House's plan was. And they felt like it was important that the White House weigh in.

LEMON: So, you have some brand-new reporting, as I understand, on the current president is going to focus on GOP extremism as he nears an announcement to run in 2024. What are the implications here?

LEE: Well, Don, basically, if you take a look at President Biden's travels, his speeches, his events over the last few weeks, you get a pretty clear roadmap of not only his state of the -- State of the Union speech coming up next week. But also, for his 2024 reelect pitch. You know, you look at how his schedule has been crafted, and White House officials will say, there are several things that they really want him to do. To help the economic progress from the last two years for example, that's something that has been really important to him. Really focusing on the implementation of the legislation passed over the last two years. And a big, big part of this is also just the political messaging, and trying to paint House Republicans as extremists, and lawmakers who are going to undo some of that economic progress. So, expect to see more of that coming from the President, particularly as we head into next week and that big speech Tuesday night.

LEMON: M.J. Lee, thank you.


COLLINS: All right, did Alex Murdaugh confess to murdering his son as he was sobbing to investigators, or was it just a misunderstanding? Coming up, we're going to let you listen to the audio yourself that played in court yesterday.


HARLOW: Day seven of the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial set to begin in about an hour. Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and his youngest son in June of 2021 at their low country South Carolina hunting estate. On Monday, Murdaugh's defense floated a theory, that maybe there were two shooters, while prosecutors played an interview that took place just days after the killings. In the recording, you hear Murdaugh break down while telling investigators about his son. Watch this.


ALEX MURDAUGH, ACCUSED SUSPECT OF MURDER: It's just so bad, I did him so bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You asked the defendant about --

CREIGHTON WATERS, PROSECUTOR: Traumatic picture that he saw of Paul and Maggie. What did he say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just so bad. I did him so bad.

WATERS: I did him so bad.


MURDAUGH: He's such a good boy, too.


HARLOW: Joining us now to talk about this, all these developments is criminal defense attorney Molly Palmer. Molly, great to have you, good morning. For our viewers, people who may be listening in the car on their way to work and they couldn't see what we just played, that was Murdaugh during the trial mouthing, that's not what I said. This happened at the end of the day before defense counsel could cross. You're a criminal defense attorney, how would you cross-examine this witness?

MOLLY PARMER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, we know that we have this Special Agent, Paul Croft on the stand. He's with the state's law enforcement division. So, we know he testifies a lot, right? We know that he's been prepared by the state, by the prosecution for his testimony. And we know, that after yesterday when we saw Alex Murdaugh mouthed to his lawyers, I didn't say that, that certainly they conferenced about what they are going to do in this cross-examination.


They're going to pin him in and ask questions, very short, one fact per question cross-examination, where they're going to get him to say that perhaps, Alex Murdaugh said something else. Now, are they going to say that what he said was they did him so bad? That seems to be one theory out there, or something else entirely? We'll have to see.

HARLOW: So, let's play this theory that the lead defense counsel Dick Harpootlian is floating now that maybe there were two shooters. He asked the forensic analyst, Melinda Worley, about the collection of evidence, and then he goes in and he introduces this theory. Let's play that question to her. Here it was.


DICK HARPOOTLIAN, ALEX MURDAUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: -- but one explanation of this data would be two shooters. One explanation, not be the one.



HARLOW: They went around a little bit on that. But then eventually, she said that is, quote, reasonable explanation. Do you think defense counsel made inroads that way?

PARMER: I do. I think that this case has been so interesting because throughout the defense attorneys have kind of weaved their theme of look there were multiple shooters. But I think what's always tricky here is that you have to explain to a jury that the defense has no obligation to put on an alternative theory. They just have to show that there's reasonable doubt. And so, the prosecution has their theory, and we see Dick Harpootlian, asking these questions about the two-shooter theory. Is that enough to convince the jury that there's doubt here?

HARLOW: Right.

PARMER: Or is the jury expecting something more cohesive and complete from the defense?

HARLOW: Let's finally talk about the guns because prosecution entered into evidence, a 300-blackout rifle, and a 12-gauge shotgun. We also saw body camera footage inside the Murdaugh home in terms of the guns, and then we also saw footage of investigators picking up bullet casings from outside. What's key here is that they are saying there are key pieces of evidence, but what prosecution is not saying is that this was -- or these were the murder weapons. So, why put them into evidence this way now? PARMER: Well, you know, they put them into evidence, but that wasn't without the defense attorneys standing up and objecting. Now, the judge ultimately allowed them in, but they were very careful not to say that these are the murder weapons. I think the prosecution is trying to create this feeling that with all these guns, there is the likelihood that Alex Murdaugh knew how to use a gun, knew how to be the shooter, and therefore he was.

HARLOW: Molly, thank you. Molly Parmer, we appreciate it. We'll have you back soon. Thanks. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Such a fascinating case happening there. Also, today, dozens of migrants say they don't want to be moved from a New York City hotel to a new shelter at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. CNN is there live with a look at the conditions. We'll bring it to you next.