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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

NY Gov. Declares Emergency Ahead Of "Extreme" Snow Event; Biden Admin: Saudi Crown Prince Immune From Khashoggi Lawsuit; VP Harris Calls Emergency Meeting With Allies After Missile Launch; Nancy Pelosi Stepping Down As House Speaker; House Republicans Vow To Investigate Joe & Hunter Biden; Twitter Mass Exodus Begins After Elon Musk's Work Ultimatum; Kevin McCarthy Faces Rocky Road To Speakership. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2022 - 05:00   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on Early Start, snow falling fast and furious over parts of the Great Lakes. We could see 3 inches an hour and zero visibility.

Untouchable. The Biden administration says the Saudi crown prince who ordered the murder of a journalist qualifies for immunity. Vice President Harris in the hot seat gathering allies overseas to confront Kim Jong-un just hours after another brazen missile launch.

All right, it's Friday. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans. Right now, 6 million people in the U.S. are under winter weather alerts with a major snow event underway. The Great Lakes especially Western New York State getting pounded.


BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK MAYOR: But I want to be very clear, this is not your normal snow fall in the city of Buffalo or in the region. This is a snow storm with potentially deadly consequences if people do not do the right thing.


ROMANS: Driving ban is in effect in the Buffalo area. Commercial traffic also banned on more than 100 miles of the New York State Thruway. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam live in the CNN Weather Center. You heard him there, this is not normal, heavy Buffalo snow.


ROMANS: This is something different. What's the latest forecast?

VAN DAM: Yes, that's right, Christine. And on any given day, we wouldn't be leading the new show with snow in Buffalo. But this one is different. This snowstorm has the potential to paralyze, actually using the word cripple, the city of Buffalo and a few other locations as well.

The -- we go back to 2014, they had a similar snow event, lake-effect snow event. And there were fatalities associated with that just from buildings collapsing from the sheer weight of the snow.

Now you can see we're not going to be measuring this in inches, we're going to be measuring this in feet, especially downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Yes, Michigan will be getting some heavy snowfall totals but I'm really going to focus in on Western New York because this is where the lake-effect snow warnings are in place. And this is currently where the heaviest snow bands are taking shape.

You can see it lining up right here. That's Erie County where buffalo is located. I found this very interesting this morning. This snow band, the heaviest one dropping the 3 inch per hour snow rates is over 200 miles long, but it's actually only about 10 miles in diameter. So the exact placement of where this let's say, quote unquote, firehose of snow actually goes is going to determine who sees the heaviest of snowfall.

And by the way those lightning strikes just south of buffalo in South towns. That is lightning, snow lightning. It just incredible to see what lightning snow and thunder during the middle of a snowstorm, right? Look at the snowfall, totals already upwards of 2 feet for Williamstown. It is the wind direction that is so crucial and that is going to determine who sees the most snow.

Will it be just to the south of Buffalo? Well, that will be determinant on whether or not we have more of a west to southwesterly wind direction. However, as the winds start to back towards the southwest, we get more of a fetch along Lake Erie, that means more open waters, warm open waters to collect the moisture and produce that heavy snow as it deposits its own land right over the Buffalo region.

As it stands, we currently have over 3 feet of snow just south of the Buffalo metro region. Watertown, you're in the bullseye, the crosshairs for the most snow. And, by the way, some of these colorings, Christine, breaking our color table over 36 inches. Never seen this in the history of my career.



ROMANS: All right. It's going to be a tough day. Thank you so much. Keep us posted.

VAN DAM: Yes, indeed.

ROMANS: All right. The Biden ministration has determined Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is legally immune from a lawsuit over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post journalist was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The CIA later concluded that Khashoggi was killed at the Prince's direction. Let's go live to CNN's Anna Coren. Anna, what have you learned?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the Biden administration had a choice not to make a recommendation but at the 11th hour decided to weigh in delivering its opinion to a federal court, that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, better known as MBS, should be granted immunity for his role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Now a short time ago, Khashoggi's fiancee Hatice Cengiz tweeted her response. Let me read this to you. She said, "The U.S. State Department has granted immunity to MBS. It wasn't a decision everyone expected. We thought maybe there would be a light to justice from the USA, but again, money came first. This is a world that Jamal doesn't know about and me."


She goes on to tweet, "Biden save the murderer by granting immunity. He saved the criminal and got involved in the crime himself. Let's see who will save you in the hereafter." She finishes this tweet by saying, "Jamal died again today."

Now, Khashoggi's fiancee and human rights group DAWN, filed a civil lawsuit against MBS and 28 others back in 2018. U.S. intelligence concluded that the Saudi Crown Prince ordered the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist who was an outspoken critic of MBS.

The State Department, Christine, says MBS now has, quote, sovereign immunity after his father King Salman made him Prime Minister back in September. They say it's based on long-standing, well established principles of common law and it's a recommendation purely a legal determination. It did, however, condemn the murder as heinous.

Now, you're looking at images of Crown Prince attending the APEC summit in Thailand. He arrived late last night, he was warmly greeted by the Thai Prime Minister. We're yet to hear from MBS or any world leaders for that matter. And I'm sure you will remember, President Biden, he was in Saudi Arabia back in July trying to convince MBS and the kingdom to undo a series of oil production cuts.

Saudi Arabia to date has refused nor has it improved its humans rights record leaving many confused as to why the Biden administration would recommend immunity for the Crown Prince, Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, Anna Coren, thank you so much for that.

Vice President Kamala Harris a short time ago calling an emergency meeting with allies at the Asia Pacific Economic Summit to immediately condemn North Korea's launch of yet another intercontinental ballistic missile.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: U.N. Security resolutions, it destabilizes security in the region, and unnecessarily raises tensions. We strongly condemn these actions, and we again call for North Korea to stop further unlawful, destabilizing acts.


ROMANS: The South Korean military says that missile flew about 620 miles splashing down in the sea west of Japan.

CNN's Will Ripley is in Bangkok, Thailand covering the region for us. Will, what's been the reaction to another in this ongoing series of test firings by the Kim Jong-un regime? We have you, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine, I'm not sure if you can hear me or see me but we're having some signal issues, but I'm going to keep talking assuming you can. The United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea, Australia, New Zealand are the countries here in Bangkok that condemned this North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile launch, a highly provocative test of a weapon that could theoretically hit the mainland of United States.

This missile traveled so far up six -- more than 6,000 kilometers, that's 4,000 or so miles up into space and came down near Japan in the waters that Japan claims as its exclusive economic zone. It did not go over Japan, unlike previous, you know, missile test by North Korea.

But certainly, it is the type of weapon that North Korea is demonstrating because they want the United States to know that pretty much any city could potentially be within striking range, whether it be New York or Washington or Los Angeles. Most of the world, in fact, can be reached by a missile with this kind of capability.

North Korea has launched some 50 ballistic missiles this year. And the countries that are not condemning them are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that is China and Russia. They have veto power. And so, the U.N. Security Council has been able to put out these statements with Western countries allied together but China and Russia are basically staying neutral on this, which basically gives Kim Jong- un permission to continue these launches unabated, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Will Ripley, thank you so much for that.

A U.S. border agent killed in a high seas shootout with suspected drug smugglers off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Another border agents was hurt. One suspect was killed. Agents on border on patrol there, encounter the suspected smuggling vessel. Three people are in custody. Officials have not released the names of the agents or any details about the suspects.

The big question on Capitol Hill this morning, who will replace Nancy Pelosi to lead Democrats in the House? The Speaker announcing she is stepping down after historic 20 years. She has been a trailblazer but also a lightning rod for Republican critics.

CNN's Manu Raju has more on what's next.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After two decades at the top of her party in Congress, ushering through massive legislation.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: The bill is passed.

RAJU (voice-over): Winning the majority twice, becoming the first woman to lead the House, and now losing the majority for the second time as Speaker.

PELOSI: The House will be in order.


RAJU (voice-over): Nancy Pelosi announced she would step aside.

PELOSI: I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. For me, the hours come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I'm grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.

RAJU (voice-over): At 82, Democrat has represented San Francisco in the House for 35 years, saying she would continue serving in the Congress whose makeup has markedly changed.

PELOSI: And I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now they're over 90, and we want more.

RAJU (voice-over): The news prompting an immediate shake up. Pelosi's current number two Steny Hoyer announcing the age of 83, he would not run for leadership. Her current number three, 82-year-old Jim Clyburn, signaling he also will let a new team ascend. Leaving the way for Hakeem Jeffries, a 52-year-old Brooklyn Democrat as the likely next Democratic leader.

REP. JOYCE BEATTY (D), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS CHAIRWOMAN: I'm very comfortable saying I believe that every member of the Congressional Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries.

RAJU (voice-over): Jeffries' top two deputies could be 59-year-old Katherine Clark, and 43-year-old Pete Aguilar, all expected to run in the November 30 leadership elections. It's a generational change some have long sought.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think she's a historic speaker who has accomplished an incredible amount. But I also think there are a lot of Democrats ready for a new chapter.

REP. MARK POCAN (D), WISCONSIN: I think the world's biggest focus group is the November 8 election for all of us. And I think people really are looking for that generational change.

RAJU (voice-over): The daughter of a Baltimore mayor who rose the ranks in our state party first became speaker in 2007, leading the opposition against George W. Bush over the Iraq War. Three years later, shepherding through the Affordable Care Act under Barack Obama.

After a party was swept into the minority, becoming speaker again in 2019, where she battled Donald Trump, making him the only president impeached twice. Including after January 6, with pro-Trump riders stormed the Capitol and targeted the Speaker.

(on-camera): Mr. Nadler, can you imagine a caucus not run by Nancy Pelosi?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Well, I hope that we don't have to see that.


RAJU: And there are still questions about the next House Speaker in a Republican majority come January. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader is still moving behind the scenes to lock down the 218 votes he will need in order to get the gavel. Two members of the hard right Freedom Caucus told me on Thursday that McCarthy is not there yet. They said that he does not have 218 votes and he has a ways to go.

Andy Biggs, one of those Republican members said that there should be a, quote, consensus candidate who should emerge after some negotiations between the two sides in order to unite the warring wings of their conference.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

ROMANS: All right, Manu, thanks for that.

Republicans preparing to take control of the House are gearing up to launch investigations of Joe Biden and his son Hunter.


REP. JAMES COMER (R), KENTUCKY: In the 180th Congress, this committee will evaluate the status of Joe Biden's relationship with his family's foreign partners and whether he is a president who is compromised or swayed by foreign dollars and influence. I want to be clear, this is an investigation of Joe Biden. And that's where the committee will focus in this next Congress.


ROMANS: That's Kentucky Congressman James Comer, soon to take over as chair of the House Oversight Committee. Comer says his team has reviewed Hunter Biden's laptop and heard from whistleblowers who say they were involved in schemes connected to the Biden family. The White House says the plan to GOP investigations are politically motivated and a waste of time.

The Trump organization's former chief financial officer testifying that companies stopped several illegal tax practices just about the time Donald Trump became president. But Allen Weisselberg told the New York court the Trump family was not involved. Weisselberg said it was his own, quote, personal greed that led to this. Trump's company faces nine counts of tax fraud, grand larceny and other charges. Trump himself is not a defendant.

All right, new Twitter boss, Elon Musk gave his workforce a now famous ultimatum, go hardcore or go home? We're learning a lot of workers have made their choice now. CNN's Clare Duffy joins me. She's been following all of these.

Musk gave them a 5:00 p.m. Thursday deadline, told them essentially, they were going to have to work harder, and they were going to have to work hardcore and then maybe they would get a passing grade if they were really excellent. What's happening with the company right now?

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: Right. As you said, we're seeing a lot of employees have made their choice. We don't have exact numbers yet, but it looks like many, many employees have opted to leave the company, have decided not to take Musk up on this offer to work extremely hardcore and work extra-long hours and return to the office.

And, you know, it could have a significant impact on the platform. You know, employees who took care of the infrastructure like made sure this platform was actually showing up online have opted to leave.


And, you know, a number of other folks leading up to the deadline, we saw people tweeting that they were leaving the company.

ROMANS: Right.

DUFFY: Internal slack messages showed that people were, you know, announcing that they were leaving the company. And, you know, employees are really sort of like saying this is -- seems like an end of a chapter. People --

ROMANS: Right.

DUFFY: -- really loved working for Twitter, but we're not willing to continue. One employee told us yesterday, he wasn't willing to continue working for a boss who he said was poisoning the platform from the inside out.

ROMANS: Wow. And that's after he had already just gone and fired half the people anyway, and then had to go out and rehire some people because he realized, oh, no, some of these people have real skills that we need.

DUFFY: Right. I think he was really scrambling yesterday too. You know, we heard that he was holding sort of last-minute meetings with crucial people, trying to convince them to stay. And, you know, I think he's also seems like he's worried about people trying to harm the platform on the way out. I don't know how much of that is a real concern but --

ROMANS: Is that what -- they locked the offices, right?

DUFFY: They locked the offices last night. They announced -- as soon as people had started to sort of announced their resignations, that they would be closing the offices until Monday.

ROMANS: But, I mean, he's sort of getting trolled in on -- I mean, he's trolling on Twitter, and he's being trolled on Twitter, and Twitter is being trolled on Twitter. I mean, it's really chaotic. DUFFY: It is really -- I mean, it's been chaotic for a few weeks. But this is just the latest iteration of that. You know, he was tweeting last night, of course, it's the only statement he's made so far. He made this joke about how much he's paid for the platform saying, "How do you make a small fortune in social media? You start with a large one."

He also posted this meme sort of getting at people joking about the death of Twitter, talking about the death of Twitter. On Twitter, he seems to think that the platform is going to be just fine, because everybody's talking about its demise on the platform itself. But I don't know that that's really, you know, a reality. A, there could be sort of technical problems with the platform. And I think you'll also see a lot of users starting to talk about jumping to other platforms.

ROMANS: Yes, I've seen a lot of, you know, established, you know, writers and thinkers who are talking about where they're going to go because, you know, I mean, it's just kind of a mess.

All right, Clare Duffy -- I mean, he bought it, he took it private, it's his to play with as long as he wasn't breaking the labor laws. And in California, we know, there's already, you know, a lawsuit about that.

DUFFY: Multiple, yes.

ROMANS: Yes. OK. Clare Duffy, thank you so much.

All right, still ahead, Nancy Pelosi, who's likely to succeed her in leadership? Plus, another Republican governor considering a run for the White House. And the Swifties not happy. Today's public sale for Taylor Swift tour tickets canceled.




PELOSI: For me, the hours come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I'm grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.


ROMANS: Nancy Pelosi after a legendary run as House Speaker announcing she is stepping aside to make room for a new era in Democratic Party leadership. House Democrats appear likely to choose New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries to replace Pelosi as their leader. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and California's Pete Aguilar in position for the other top leadership positions.

Let's bring in Lindsey McPherson, CQ Roll Call's Senior Congressional Reporter. Nice to see you this morning. Sort of an end of an era for Democrats. She will stay, of course, and serve her constituents in Congress, but not as the leader. I feel like there -- you can see the strategy here looking to a younger generation and sort of a new chapter for Democrats.

LINDSEY MCPHERSON, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, CQ ROLL CALL: Right, this younger generation of leaders has been -- you know, the desire for it has been brewing for a very long time. And Pelosi agreed four years ago as promised to some members who didn't initially want to vote for her for speaker that she would not run again this cycle. So for four -- you know, four years would be her last four years as Speaker.

And so she kind of indicated then that she would be willing to pass the torch. But there was some question about it prior to her announcement yesterday. So certainly, those who are looking for that next generation to be able to step up, were very pleased with her announcement while everyone respects her leadership, especially the results she was able to produce in this midterm getting close to -- actually getting the majority of Republicans are holding it narrowly or flipped it narrowly.

But yes, that people are ready to move aside for the next --


MCPHERSON: -- generation, that looks like that -- you said that it's going to be Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar.

ROMANS: Yes. How do you see them together as a team? I mean, I guess they will have the consultation and the wisdom of the former House Speaker there. She is remaining in Congress.

MCPHERSON: Right. Well, they certainly -- they're already a part of the leadership team just below Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn. So they're already in lower rung spots. So they're just moving up. They've worked together, Katherine Clark and Hakeem Jeffries, actually entered the leadership in a very lower run position as the communication and policy committee chairs where they lead the caucus messaging back in 2016 before they started moving up in 2018. And they've kind of risen in leadership together.

Pete Aguilar joined them in 2018. And they've been on the rise together. And they've learned to work together as a unit. And I think that's one of the things that Democrats say is so important about them as they already had that experience working together.

ROMANS: Yes. Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy now faces a challenge. He needs all 218 votes from the majority to become the House Speaker in January. Can he get them?

MCPHERSON: Well, I don't know one way or the other yet, it is going to be very difficult. He lost 36 votes, 31 for Andy Biggs, another five right ends in the conference vote this week. And he's only going to have about a four-seat margin, give or take. We have some races still to be called when things are settled, so he can't -- he's got to win a lot of those over.

He had compared it to Paul Ryan's private private conference vote, Speaker Pelosi, they both had similar margins. But when they went to the floor, they had much bigger majorities to work with.


MCPHERSON: So they sought a lot of affection. So he has a lot more to win over. And the Freedom Caucus has long been skeptic of Kevin McCarthy as whether he's a true conservative.


And they also want some House rule changes that will kind of decentralized power away from the Speaker and the leadership team and give the rank-and-file member power to have influence over legislation and other things that go on in the House. And they say, Kevin McCarthy has not been an agreement to most of that yet. And that's one of their major concerns.

ROMANS: All right. Always fascinating when a new Congress comes to town. Lindsey McPherson, thank you so much. Nice to see you.

MCPHERSON: Thanks, Christine. Have a good one.

ROMANS: You too. All right, quick hits across America now. A driver plowed into a group of LA County Sheriff's recruits who were out jogging. 25 were injured, five of them critically. The driver, 22- year-old Nicholas Gutierrez faces attempted murder charges.

Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson says he's very seriously considering a run for the White House in 2024. He tells CNN the midterm results weren't a rejection of Republican values but a rejection of specific candidates.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we're going to have to figure out how to live together, or we will destroy each other.


ROMANS: Former President Obama offering a post-election warning about escalating polarization and the spread of disinformation that he says threatens democracy in the U.S.

Still ahead, fans gearing up for soccer in November in the Gulf. And a major international airport bracing for workers to strike.