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Nearly 50 Million Under Winter Weather Alerts Across Northeast; EPA Selects 4 Sites to Incinerate Train Wreck's Hazardous Material; U.S.-Israeli Citizen Killed in West Bank Terror Attack; Murdoch Testifies Some FOX News Hosts Endorsed Election Lies; Sources: Energy Department Theory is Minority View in Intel Community. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired February 28, 2023 - 06:00   ET




DAN, CRESTLINE, CALIFORNIA, RESIDENT: We're running out of baby formula. We're just kind of up the creek right now if it goes on for another two days where they don't come and plow us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Letting you know that there is absolutely no gas to be found up here.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Heck. All right. Just thinking about this. Guys, can we send them some baby formula, please? What a situation to be in for so many people.

We're glad you're with us. Good morning, everyone.

Back-to-back, coast-to-coast winter storms are spreading misery across the nation. The situation is growing more dire in California mountain towns, where food, gas and, as you heard, baby formula are running out.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And this. Piles and piles of toxic dirt, dug up in East Palestine, Ohio. So where is all that hazardous material being shipped to? We're going to take you there, live.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, an American has been shot and killed as violence was escalating in the West Bank. What is behind all of the bloodshed? We're going to have a live report on the ground from Jerusalem.

HARLOW: We will get to all of that, but we do begin this hour with the dangerous back-to-back winter storms that are wreaking havoc from California all the way to New England. Nearly 50 million people under winter weather alerts here in the Northeast.

Out West the situation is growing dire in some California mountain towns. A live look now at San Bernardino Mountains, where another barrage of heavy snow has left communities stranded. Residents say they're running out of gas and baby formula. The sheriff says food and grocery supplies have reached critically low levels.

Whiteout blizzard conditions forcing the closure of an interstate and a major highway in the Lake Tahoe area.

And let's come back here to New York now. Our Athena Jones is tracking all of this in Central Park, where it is nothing like that. But I think it's the first morning I've walked out and there's actually snow sticking to the ground.

That's right. Good morning Poppy, you guys. This is the end of February, and this is the first significant snowfall New York City has seen all winter. Up until now, Central Park had only gotten less than half an inch.

And so it's going to be a messy commute for drivers in this region, but they're a lot more fortunate than elsewhere in the country, where the extreme weather left some people stranded.


JONES (voice-over): Snow and freezing rain falling from coast to coast. New York experiencing the first significant snowfall of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had, like, 70-degrees weather, almost, the other week, and now it's again cold. It's been all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snow is, like, building up on my face, just being here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enough already.

UNIDENTIFIED: Yes, exactly. Precisely.

JONES (voice-over): The storm system hit the Midwest earlier Monday, where snow and freezing rain were reported across the region. Milwaukee saw 2 inches of rainfall on Monday, breaking the daily record of 1.17 inches, set in 1948.

Some areas in Wisconsin saw more than an inch and a half of rainfall in six hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that you can't even see the difference between the street and just, like, the grass and everything is just -- it's really insane.

JONES (voice-over): In California, another storm system barreled through the state, causing more rain and high elevation snow, leaving several residents in the San Bernardino Mountains stranded.

DAN: We're just out here on our own. And usually by now, plows come by. It just seems like we're being forgotten about.

JONES (voice-over): Wideout conditions were seen in the Sierra Mountains, causing interstate closures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't have the right tires, don't know how to drive in the snow, stay home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a mess. And my car blew up. My engine blew.

JONES (voice-over): Some residents in San Jose left shocked by the amount of snow they've seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been living here all my life. I'm 22 years old. I have not seen this much snow.

JONES (voice-over): And hundreds of students in Orange County, California, are finally returning home after they were left stranded at science camps due to heavy snowfall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just so grateful to have her home.

JONES (voice-over): The Plains states still evaluating the damage from 14 reported tornadoes Sunday, nine of which touched down in Oklahoma. In Norman, some homes totally destroyed while others left barely touched, showing the tornado's brutal path.

One family is lucky to be alive after a tornado ripped through their home, demolishing everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't even know how we survived it. Like, how did we survive? Everything we have is gone. We have each other. I have my kids. That's all that matters to me.


JONES (on camera): Cue me. Cue me, cue me, cue me.


JONES: Now, winter weather advisories or storm warnings will remain in effect in parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine until this evening.

Here in New York City, we're under a winter weather advisory until 1 p.m. They're saying we could see three to five inches of snow. Right now, guys, it's looking more like a freezing drizzle or mist, but we'll see -- Poppy.


HARLOW: All right. People, be careful when they step out this morning.

LEMON: Yes. Obviously, Athena lost communication there.


LEMON: Asking her crew to cue her. Live television.

HARLOW: This happens.

LEMON: What a pro. What a pro.

So we're going to move on now and talk about Ohio. Crews are working to clean up the toxic train disaster in East Palestine. But where can all of that contaminated waste go? That is a question. And what will he do when it finally -- wherever it finally ends up?

The EPA has approved four sites for incineration: three in Ohio, one in Ins.

Miguel Marquez joins us now, live from East Liverpool in Ohio at one of those sites.

So Miguel, you were here yesterday, and you were talking about this sort of pool of water or whatever. But there is so much to deal with beyond water. What are you seeing on the ground there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So they have both water and soil that is contaminated. They have to be dealt with.

This is one of the locations where the soil will be dealt with. This is East Liverpool, the Heritage Thermal Services, part of a big conglomerate that has plants all over the country that deals with ways.

Everything from PFA firefighting foam to the sort of stuff, you know, the vinyl chloride that was spilled in East Palestine.

They have removed thousands of cubic yards of soil so far. Some of it has been treated in Michigan. Some of that has been set back now to East Palestine. And the rest of it will be brought here and these other plants that they are going to start shipping it to, the EPA Saying that this was a plant that was out of compliance with EPA regulations back in 2015.

There was a settlement in 2018, and today it is in compliance with the EPA And they say that they will bring that soil here to be processed.

It's raised some concerns in town, but this is a plant that processes a lot of waste of all sorts and has been since 1993.

LEMON: No doubt. They've got a long way to go.

Listen, there's been all this consternation about who's visiting from the administration. What's being done. The EPA administrator, Michael Regan, heading back to East Palestine for his third visit to open a community center. What do we know about the resources it will have?

MARQUEZ: They are bringing everything they can. I mean, the EPA, the state of Ohio and Pennsylvania and the county -- Columbiana County, where East Palestine is, have all coordinated pretty heavily. They are not only drilling those wells -- those holes around the most contaminated areas so that they can chart where -- if and where the groundwater is moving, but they are monitoring the air on a constant basis. They're monitoring water on a constant basis. He's meeting with everyone from business owners to students and

teachers today to try to bring the entire community into this. There's a lot of concern in East Palestine, because this is certainly a black eye on the community. Businesses are very concerned about people not shopping there. And even high school sports being canceled, with other teams coming into this area.

So I think they want to get back to life as usual, and they're very curious as to when that will happen. They're hoping that he will have some answers for them.

LEMON: Miguel, thank you. Appreciate that.

And I should tell you, straight ahead here in the 8 a.m. hour of CNN THIS MORNING, we're going to talk more about this with the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg. He'll join us live.

COLLINS: And now we go to the West Bank, where an American Israeli citizen has been killed while the violence shows no signs of slowing. Israeli officials say that the 27-year-old man died at the hospital after he was shot during what is being called a terror attack.

The State Department has condemned the violence. And just moments ago, we learned new details about the person, about the 27-year-old man.

Our Hadas Gold is live in Jerusalem for CNN THIS MORNING. Hadas, he was there visiting for a friend's wedding. What more do you know about this man who's been killed?

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan. We've been spending the morning talking to Elan Ganeles's friends. They say that he grew up in Connecticut. He moved to Israel and joined the Israeli military before returning to the states. And he actually just last year graduated from Columbia University.

He was living in the states. He came back to this region for a friend's wedding, was visiting friends, and when he was -- what happened was last night he was driving along this road. It connects Jerusalem to Jericho and down to the Dead Sea. It's actually usually a pretty quiet route ,and a lot of tourists use it to reach places like the Dead Sea.

Israeli authorities say attackers began shooting at passing cars. Elan was shot and killed. The attackers then fled and then burned their vehicles. There is now a manhunt underway for these attackers.

And it follows a very violent day on Sunday that claimed the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians in a different part of the West Bank -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: So what's being done in response? You know, you said this manhunt is underway. What is the investigation looking like right now?


GOLD: Well, right now we know that Israeli authorities, Israeli military are just trying to search the area to find the attackers.

I should also note that they also have yet to find the attackers in that attack on Sunday that claimed the life of two Israeli brothers. And actually, a similar attack, where they were also shot and killed while they were driving in their car.

And then, after that attack, there were essentially revenge attacks by Israeli settlers. They set fire to Palestinian homes and cars. They claimed the life of one Palestinian man, and others were injured.

All of this actually happening in the wake of a summit -- an unusual summit in Jordan between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The Americans were there, as well. And while they issued a communique about trying to find ways to calm the situation, on the ground, the situation is not calm at all. The Israeli military sending extra battalions into the occupied West Bank, not only to find these attackers but they also say to try and keep the peace; keep Israeli settlers separate from Palestinians -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. Just so awful. We're thinking of this man's family. As you continue to learn more, Hadas, let us know. Thank you.

LEMON: Well, straight ahead, what we're learning from the now-public deposition from FOX Chairman Rupert Murdoch. What he said about his on-air hosts and the election lies they pushed.


LEMON: OK. Pay attention to this. It has a lot to do with our democracy and the First Amendment.


The billionaire owner of FOX News exposing the depth of the dishonesty at the network, thanks to Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit.

Rupert Murdoch admitting in a deposition that his hosts were pushing lies to his audience. This is a portion now of the deposition, compared with what the hosts were actually saying. OK, so and I quote here.

"Question. You are now aware that FOX endorsed at times this false notion of a stolen election?"

Murdoch says, "Not FOX, no. Not FOX. But maybe Lou Dobbs. Maybe Maria as commentators," meaning Maria Bartiromo. As commentators.

"Question. We went through FOX host Maria Bartiromo, yes?"

Murdoch says, "Yes, come on."


MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS HOST: Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software. I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that. SIDNEY POWELL, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: That's to put it

mildly. The computer glitches could not and should not have happened in -- at all. Those -- that is where the fraud took place.


LEMON: Actual evidence from their air.

OK. Then Murdoch is asked, "FOX host Jeanine Pirro?"

He says, "I think so."


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: The president's lawyers alleging a company called Dominion, which they say started in Venezuela with Cuban money and with the assistance of Smartmatic software, a back door is capable of flipping votes.


LEMON: More evidence from their air.

Now the deposition. "Question. FOX Business host Lou Dobbs?"

Murdoch's answer: "Oh, a lot."


LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS HOST: This president has to take, I believe, drastic action, dramatic action to make certain that the integrity of this election is understood, or lack of it. The crimes that have been committed against him and the American people.


LEMON: OK. So next question: "FOX host Sean Hannity?"

Murdoch answer: "A bit."


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: It will be impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results.


LEMON: So in a statement to CNN yesterday, a FOX News spokesperson said, and I quote, "Dominion's lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny."

OK. Well, let's talk about all of that now. CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig is here. And CNN's media analyst, Sara Fischer, here as well. Good morning to both of you. I know we've been following this Murdoch trial a lot. This is the

Murdoch trial, not quite to trial yet, that I am interested in. So Sara, I'm going to ask you this.

Some of FOX biggest names called out by their boss in this filing. As someone who was followed the case, what was your first thought?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, my first thought is that this is particularly damning, because if you look at the Dominion lawsuit, what it's alleging is that FOX knew intentionally that lies were being spewed, and they did nothing to stop them.

And when they say FOX, it's not just the personalities, Don. It's the people who govern the network. It's Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of the network. It's Suzanne Scott, the CEO.

And so I think what's important to note here is that this testimony, this defamation testimony gives Dominion's lawsuit a lot of weight. And legal experts like Elie will tell you, you know, it's a pretty compelling case.

Typically, with media and defamation cases, the First Amendment covers them pretty broadly. It's tough to make a case like that. But in this one I think that the plaintiffs have something really going on here that could be strong.

LEMON: She invoked your name, Elie.

HARLOW: Can we ask you about that? She makes a great point. Because the bar is really high for defamation in terms of a media organization. But this takes it even further, because this is Dominion asking for a summary judgment. And that is, we think the evidence is so compelling here we don't even think this needs to go to trial.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. They're asking the judge to rule in their favor before a jury even sees it. Now, that's a long shot.

But Sara's right. I mean, the First Amendment is very broad, especially for media organizations, but it's not without limit. The line here, the legal line is what we call actual malice. We get that from a Supreme Court case from 1964 involving "The New York Times." And that means the plaintiffs, here --

HARLOW: Sullivan.

HONIG: -- Dominion, they have to show -- right. Sullivan. Very good, Poppy. Seems like you went to law school.

HARLOW: But it's like the basis for this argument, "New York Times" v. Sullivan.

HONIG: Yes, exactly. So the plaintiff has to show either that there was an intentional lie told --

LEMON: Reckless disregard. HONIG: -- or that a lie was told with reckless disregard for the truth. I mean, think about the words that we now see FOX News anchors and executives using to describe the election fraud claim. Ludicrous, crazy, nuts, insane, B.S. I mean, it really doesn't get much more clear than that.

COLLINS: Yes. And against even, you know, the perception of what was being said on texts and emails and what was actually being said publicly, Sara, what I'm interested in is the defense here, because the lawyers are arguing that it did not amount to defamation, because they say the host did not actually endorse the falsehoods.

But Rupert Murdoch, in his deposition, said that yes, some of them, the ones that we just played the clips from, did actually endorse them. He says that they did endorse.


So how does that work, based against what they're actually arguing in court?

FISCHER: I think it's just a weak defense, Kaitlan. And if you talk to folks -- I have sources inside FOX in the C Suite level. They'll tell that they think that they're going to likely lose this case. And that's because of this discrepancy you called out.

They might say that there was a newsworthiness in covering what Donald Trump was saying. But there's a clear difference in newsworthiness versus peddling and having the people who are peddling those lies on your show.

You saw what those Jeanine Pirro interviews with Sidney Powell, Donald Trump's lawyer. Even the fact that they booked her to let her spew these types of lies, knowing that that was what she was going to say, in my opinion -- I'm not, you know, a lawyer in this case -- to me seems like a little bit more of an endorsement than just observing what Donald Trump is saying and reporting the news.

COLLINS: But Sara, you're hearing from sources they think that they're going to lose this?


FISCHER: I am hearing that. And look, I think that Rupert Murdoch's deposition, which was unsealed yesterday, kind of concedes that.

And FOX's lawyer, if you take a look at what FOX's chief policy officer said, and legal officer said yesterday, the plaintiff asked and the lawyers asked, do you think FOX had a responsibility to tell the truth here? And he said, yes.

And you have your own executives admitting that there was a discrepancy between what the hosts were saying, what they knew, what was being aired and what the responsibility was. I don't see how any person with their right mind can look at this and say that this is going to be easy for FOX to win. LEMON: A couple of things here. Because I mean, this has so many

tentacles. There was another lawsuit, remember, with Tucker Carlson. And they were saying that he's not -- it's not an actual news program and no one should believe that it's facts. Right? So you have that.

Then you have Rupert Murdoch, which is sort of the tippy top. Right? Not the sort of. He is the tippy top.

Then you have Paul Ryan, who is a board member of FOX Corp, now saying that he will not attend the Republican convention if Donald Trump -- and this is all based on Donald Trump's election lies that FOX, right, spewed, as well. Saying he's not going to attend the convention, the Republican National Convention if Donald Trump is the nominee. Let's play your sound bite. I want to get your response.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come 2024, the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where will you be?

PAUL RYAN, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It depends on who the nominee is. I'll be here if it's somebody not named Trump.


LEMON: So he, being a board member, he wants to move on.


LEMON: Right? They're saying that they -- possibly going to lose this case. What does this all mean as it relates to this lawsuit? Republicans ready to move on from Trump. Someone who's a board member, Rupert Murdoch saying, yes, I kind of did it.

This is a big deal when it comes to FOX News. Not just the money they're going to lose but possibly credibility, as well.

HONIG: Yes, I think that's an issue, for sure. I mean, Paul Ryan is in the evidence, sort of begging some sort of restraint here.


HONIG: And Rupert Murdoch's testimony is disastrous. Because what the defense was going to be, or what I thought it was going to be, is we were covering this because it was newsworthy. It's what the president at the time was saying. But we weren't endorsing it it.

And in this testimony he says, Oh, we did endorse it. But he tries to draw this artificial line. He goes, well, it's all our anchors but not us. I mean, what is FOX, if not their anchors? That's not going to work.


HARLOW: Just big picture. There have been, for years now, some of the more conservative justices on the Supreme Court wanting to revisit "Times" versus Sullivan and the malice standard. Not for this reason; for other reasons. Trying to potentially change where the bar is. Could this case change that precedent overall?

HONIG: It's possible, but I don't think that's going to happen. The movement over the years, the chatter has been why don't we make it easier --


HONIG: -- to sue -- to sue media organizations?

HARLOW: That's what I'm saying.

HONIG: Right. But I don't think, ultimately, the Supreme Court is going to want to go down that path. This is a First Amendment issue. I think the bar is high. It's been high for 50 years, and we want to keep it that way.

And frankly, I think that regardless -- right, left, conservative, liberal -- I think the Supreme Court wants to keep it high, as well.

LEMON: They had a responsibility to keep election lies off the air. They were trying to get them not to put Rudy Giuliani on the air. And I think that is probably a lesson from everyone in the media about platforming election liars and -- and liars.

HONIG: And repeatedly without pushing back, which leads to endorsing.

HARLOW: Endorsing, yes.

Thank you both, Elie Honig, Sara Fischer, very, very much. We'll stay on this.

Meantime, the Department of Energy now thinks a lab leak was the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. China this morning pushing back. Our own David Culver reported from Wuhan at the beginning of the pandemic. He shows us what China's response is looking like.



HARLOW: Welcome back. So the U.S. Energy Department's new report about the origins of COVID-19 is stirring plenty of controversy. The report on a Wuhan lab leak offers little evidence to back up the theory.

The Chinese are pushing back, accusing the U.S. of politicizing the issue. Our David Coulter [SIC] has reporting from Washington. Of course, you'll remember, he reported from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan at the beginning of the pandemic. Watch this.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wuhan, China. You know it as the city from which COVID-19 first emerged. But how exactly it started depends on who you ask and who you believe. NICHOLAS BURNS, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: We're going to have to push

China to be more honest about what happened three years ago in Wuhan with the origin of the COVID-19 crisis.


CULVER (voice-over): China's foreign ministry Monday calling on the U.S. to "stop smearing China and stop politicizing the issue of the virus origin."

Our first of three trips to Wuhan investigating the virus's outbreak was in January 2020, when COVID-19 was still a mystery illness.

Security outside the original epicenter, the Huanan Seafood Market, told us to leave. Chinese officials linked some of the first cases to this market, suggesting it might have started naturally, jumping from animals to humans.

But as the virus went global, the U.S. and other democracies further questioned its origins.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China is a very sophisticated country, and they could have contained it.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The claim of a lab leak. But the focus and scrutiny on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a 30-minute drive from the market. The high-level bio safety lab sits on the institute's sprawling campus, a four-story structure.