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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Bankman-Fried Arrested in Bahamas at U.S. Prosecutors' Request; Nationwide Winter Storm; Nuclear Energy Breakthrough. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 05:00   ET




Under arrest. Disgraced crypto boss Sam Bankman-Fried in custody, and about to be charged by U.S. prosecutors.

Tornadoes, flooding, and blizzard conditions. More than 10 million Americans bracing for the worst of a nationwide winter storm.

And, the big energy breakthrough about to be announced. Could nuclear fusion one day power your whole house?


ROMANS: Here we go.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin this morning with the founder of the imploded crypto exchange FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried. He's set to appear in court in the Bahamas this morning after his arrest there yesterday at the request of U.S. prosecutors. "The New York Times" reports charges against Bankman- Fried include money laundering, wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy.

Here is what Bankman-Fried told the BBC over the weekend, before his arrest.


SAM BANKMAN-FRIED, FTX FOUNDER, FORMER CEO: I don't think I committed fraud, I don't want any of this to happen. I was certainly not nearly as confident as I thought I was.


ROMANS: To say the least.

CNN's Ivan Watson is live in Hong Kong.

Ivan, Bankman-Fried, he was supposed to appear today before a house committee to testify about the implosion of FTX. Instead, a federal prosecutor at the Bahamas arrests him.

What more do we know?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, the authorities in the Bahamas, they confirmed they arrested Bankman- Fried. They say there are no problems picking him up, and they were doing this in conjunction with the U.S. authorities, wanting him basically brought in.

They say they have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and that they expect, when they get the formal request, that they will comply quickly, while also conducting their own investigation into the collapse of FTX, which is having an impact on the economy in the Bahamas as well. Now, the arrest was confirmed by the U.S., the Southern District of New York, saying they were expecting that the sealed indictment will be unsealed on Tuesday morning. So, we'll probably learn more about this.

And shortly after this statement went out, there was a follow-up tweet linked to this by the U.S. Security and Exchange, saying that they're going to be -- Commission -- saying that they, too, are going to be conducting their own kind of parallel investigation, and bringing their parallel charges against the former FTX founder.

As you put it, he is denying that he has done anything criminal. He was supposed to be appearing before Congress on Tuesday, and the head of the House Committee, where he was going to appear, she said that she was surprised and disappointed by his arrest, although she does want justice here, saying that, there are 1 million people, creditors who might have lost money here. But they all want answers.

In the meantime, a different FTX executive will be appearing. This is John Ray III, who was brought in to try to clean up some of the mess, to try to find some of the missing money, and give it back to creditors. He has already released, the House committee has already released his written testimony. And it is absolutely scathing about FTX.

And I will just remind you, John Ray was brought in to help clean up the Enron mess. He writes, never in my career have I seen such an utter failure of corporate controls, at every level of an organization. He blames this on absolute concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of grossly inexperienced, and unsophisticated individuals. So we will see more from him when he testifies later today -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, really remarkable, there.

OK. Ivan, thank you so much. We will stay on top of that story, for sure.

A major winter storm pounding Americans from coast to coast this morning. More than 10 million people are under winter weather alerts across 15 states, with towns buried under mountains of snow in California, closures, multiple crashes on interstates in the mountain west, an airport struggling to dig out and stay open across the Northeast. Even a strong tornado threat today in Texas and Louisiana.

Meteorologist Britley Ritz joins us at the CNN Weather Center.


Good morning, Britley. Where is the storm headed next?

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, currently, we are watching this area of low pressure, spinning over the Central Plains. On the north side of that low and the west side, dealing with snow and ice. On the front end of it, they were warm and humid, we have the threat of severe weather, which we already have been dealing with this morning. And it will be in continuance over the upcoming days.

So we watch this over here, as it continues to press further east. And the system itself will obviously begin to push in, and notice that heavy, heavy icing that's going on across the Dakotas, back into the northern part of Minnesota, the southern part of Minnesota. That is where we have that ice storm warning. That is where we can expect a half inch of ice.

That's detrimental. We can put a stop to all of traffic, at that point in time. Highway warnings also in place, we have wind gusts over 60 miles per hour, that's where we have the blizzard warning. We are likely to lose visibility. So, travel is not advised in this case.

Winds gusting over 60 miles per hour, sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour at times, getting higher across the Dakotas, as we move over the next 24 hours. Forecast snowfall totals over the Rockies, expect Pine Ridge to pick up almost 30 inches of snow fall over the next three days time.

And the system, but only bringing this snow, we talked about the ice, we already picked up ice about a tenth of an inch in parts of the Dakotas as of this morning. And again, another half inch is expected in areas highlighted in purple. And this will be a widespread issue across the upper Midwest. The severe weather threat holds across the south. That will track east through Texas into Louisiana, parts of Mississippi, Alabama and then back into Florida here in the upcoming days, where we can expect not only flooding rains but strong winds and tornadoes -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Britley, thank you so much. Keep us posted there. Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is heading to El Paso, Texas, today to get a firsthand look at the stream of migrants entering the United States. His visit follows with border officials described as a surge over the weekend.

As many as 2,400 asylum seekers a day entered El Paso from nearby Mexico. Officials fear hundreds of migrants are hunkered down in Ciudad Juarez, making entry into the U.S. where a Trump era policy expires at the end of the month.

A prosecutor in France has formally opened an investigation into the disappearance of an American college student. Kenny DeLand, Jr., has not been seen or heard from in more than two weeks. More now from CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris.


CAROL LAWS, SON WENT MISSING IN FRANCE: He was looking forward to coming home for Christmas.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kenny DeLand Jr., a college senior from Upstate New York who's studying abroad in France hasn't been towed heard from in more than two weeks according to his family.

KENNETH DELAND, SON WENT MISSING IN FRANCE: We're waiting. We are worried, we don't know where he is.

BELL: This is DeLand, caught on a storage security camera December 3rd in the last known footage of him. And missing persons report was filed getting local police involved when he didn't return to his host family or show up for classes.

LAWS: I haven't heard anything from him.

BELL: That store DeLand was seen at is about an hour's train ride south of the University of Grenoble Alpes, where he was studying. A Grenoble prosecutor confirmed to CNN that DeLand appeared to leave school of his own accord, adding: The young man reportedly told several people that he arrived in France underprepared and was having difficulty making friends. He also mentioned that he wanted to go to Marseille before leaving for the United States.

LAWS: I feel like I'm not receiving any information, it has been very difficult. Someone else has been stuck in the middle to the speaking for us.

BELL: DeLand's school back in the U.S., St. John Fisher University, released a statement saying that the college will continue to do all it can to assist in the investigation to find Kenneth DeLand.

But now, the 22-year-old's family is asking for the community's help.

DELAND: We don't understand why he is not reaching out to us.

BELL: His parents say they last heard from him on November 27th, and his mother is worried that he could be in danger.

LAWS: When you don't know, you just don't know. I haven't heard from him.

BELL: They set up, asking the public if they see him stating, we fear the worst, and want him to be located.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kenny is a real good kid.

BELL: The State Department told CNN it is aware of reports of U.S. citizens missing in France. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to U.S. systems in need and their families. But DeLand's parents' message for their son is --

DELAND: We love you, and we hope you can --

LAWS: We're waiting to hear from you and we're waiting for you to come home.


DELAND: Exactly.

BELL: Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


ROMANS: All right, the court will your second challenge to President Biden's student loan forgiveness program, to plaintiffs who did not qualify for full debt relief, claiming they were denied the chance to comment on the debt relief program. Justice is also planning to hero challenge brought by a group of states, the program of course is on hold while all this plays out in court.

President Biden will sign the bipartisan Respect for Marriage bill into law at the White House this afternoon. It adds federal protections for the unions of same-sex and interracial couples.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in Washington for us.

Jasmine, good morning.

We are hearing both politicians and some reformers will be here at this event. What do you expect?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christine, I think we can expect to see some legacy cementing here on President Biden's part, as folks in his orbit will say, this has been a long time coming. Remember, it was just ten years ago and then Vice President Biden kind of shook Washington, D.C. when he came out in support of same-sex marriage, even ahead of then President Obama.

I want to take a look at that clip now, from 2012.


JOE BIDEN, THEN-VICE PRESIDENT: What this is all about is a simple proposition. Who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person you love? And that is what people are finding out, is what all marriage is, at their root, are about. Whether marriages of lesbians, of gay men or heterosexuals.


WRIGHT: So, there, we have a trip down memory lane for the president, something that he called inevitable. I think we will see a south lawn ceremony that is extravagant, and reflects that legacy being made. So, you are right, the White House said they will receive bipartisan

lawmakers, that we will see advocates as well as plaintiffs, marriage equality cases around the country, and musical guests. They would not say in advance who those were.

Now to be clear here, Christine, to be clear, this bill, although historic, it does not safeguard, it does not set a national requirement that all states must legalize same sex marriage. Of course, what it does as you see on the screen, it does require individual states recognize other states legal marriage.

Now, the White House hopes this will bring peace of mind to those in the LGBTQ community after we have seen rights being restricted from abortion as well as from the rights, some kind of restriction or, at least the thought there could be restrictions on same-sex marriage going forward. So I think at the White House we will see some legacy cementing, we will see extravagance, and we will see that President Biden will talk about something that he called, inevitable just a few years ago -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yeah. Jasmine, nice to see you. Thank you so much.

All right. Parents in Uvalde, Texas, reeling this morning after another painful school shooting revelation.

Plus, Vladimir Putin skipping his annual marathon news conference this year. Does the war have anything to do with it?

And next, endless clean energy through nuclear fusion. Scientists in the U.S. about to announce a big breakthrough.



ROMANS: All right. Today, the Energy Department is set to announce what could be a major breakthrough. Scientists in California say they successfully created a nuclear fusion reaction that produced slightly more energy than it consumed. That is a major first, but the reaction only lasts a few seconds, the process is wildly expensive. So, scientists have more work to do to make it commercially viable.

Let's bring in NYU journalism professor, Charles Seife. He's author of the book, "Sun in a Bottle: A Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking".

So great to have you on bright and early this morning.

So this is capturing the process that powers the sun, in the hopes that one day, we will be able to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and use this kind of energy to power our homes?

CHARLES SEIFE, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Yes. So fusion is the process of sticking light mattered together and releasing energy. So if the rumors of what is happening today are true, then this is really the first defensible claim that scientists have been able to do this, generating net energy through this fusion process in the lab, in something so viable like a nuclear explosion. However, this announcement does come with a couple of caveats.

ROMANS: OK. Like what?

SEIFE: Well, the first thing is that even though it is net energy, the energy that they calculate is based upon the amount that is in the laser. So they have more energy from the fusion capsule then is shined on the capsule.

But, it takes about 100 times more energy to make that laser beam in the first place. So even though it looks like net energy, it is really not losing 99 percent of his energy, whether that's producing doubly, increasing by about 20 percent. So that means we are a long way away from generating something that could be in a power plant, something like this.

ROMANS: So a lot of work to do. The results are brief and very expensive, right? Clearly, scientists have more work to do.

But what is it? What's the goal here for the future of clean energy, powering homes and factories?

SEIFE: Well, interesting question. The idea is that if we can generate this energy without using fossil fuels, we might have a solution to climate change.

However unfortunately, again, there are so many issues here that prevent this from really being an energy solution, that it is more of a symbolic victory than a real move towards solving the energy crisis. There are a bunch of projects going on, that are advancing, and it might not be that fusion is the answer at all.


Renewable is maybe a better answer, other things as well.

ROMANS: Is there a stigma? You know, obviously, nuclear power can carry a stigma in some places, right? You talk about accidents, when you talk about the proliferation of nuclear, nuclear weapons. Is that something that could be a problem for this new fusion technology, the adaptation of it, ultimately?

SEIFE: Yes. It is less dangerous in some sense than nuclear fission, the nuclear we already have, there's no risk of meltdown.

However, there is radioactive waste. And depending on the design of the reactors, there are novel problems that can occur, like, you need to create what is called a trivial, a radioactive version of hydrogen to fuel the reactor. That process itself might cause environmental damage, or leak out into the environment.

So it's not a perfect solution. But, we need in imperfect solutions, because we've got a big problem on our hands.

ROMANS: Yes. Indeed, Professor Charles Seife, thank you for walking through this with us partner live is warning, some science to get you started today. Thank you.

SEIFE: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now.

A review finds the Uvalde County Sheriff's Office did not have an active shooter policy in place prior to the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary. Nineteen children and two adults were killed.

New Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass would declare a state of emergency is declared on homelessness. Bass says you want to boost the city's ability to find resources, for the estimated 40,000 people living on the streets.

Richmond, Virginia, is removing its last remaining confederate statue. The mayor says the city that once had more confederate statues than any other has become a more inclusive, and welcoming place.

Just ahead, what the Israeli defense forces now say about the shooting death of a Palestinian teen.

And a high stakes contest between Croatia and Argentina at the World Cup Semifinals.



ROMANS: Israeli forces confirming they shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian girl in the West Bank, they called unintentional. Hundreds of mourners through the streets on Monday to protest the teens death.

CNN's Hamas Gold is live in Jerusalem for us.

Hadas, what else is the IDF saying about this girl's death?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's a tragic story. We understand it on Sunday night, there was an Israeli military raid in Jenin, this is become a common occurrence, especially the past year. The Israeli military carrying out almost nightly arrest raids, they say, to get militants before they carry out attacks against Israelis.

From what we understand happened, according to her family, Jana Zakarneh is the name of the 16-year-old see on the screen here, her family says after the raid began the heavy shooting, and that Jana decided to go up to the roof of the building to see what was happening. And then 20 minutes or so after the soldiers left the area, her family went looking for her, that's when I found her on the roof of their building. They say she had been shot four times.

Now, the Israeli military says what happened, they were firefights between them, putting their soldiers and militants. This is what they said, following an initial inquiry, determined the girl who was killed was hit by unintentional fire, aimed at armed gunmen on a roof in the area from which the forces fired upon. This is according to the Israeli military. They say they regret harmed involved civilians.

But her family speaking to CNN, they deny that. They say it wasn't a mistake. They say they were militants in the area. They say quote, there's no way this was a mistake, you can be mistaken with one bullet, but not with four.

Now, Israeli officials like the Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the Prime Minister Yair Lapid have expressed condolences, but the prime minister says they have complete trust in the soldiers of the IDF, and the most to prevent harm to bystanders.

The Palestinian authority, he's calling on the United Nations to investigate this and put this, put on a black list. Keep in mind, in the context of what is happening. This has been a record deadly year for both the Israelis and Palestinians, especially when you look at the numbers in the occupied West Bank, and across Israel. Now there's a right-wing Israeli government coming into power, there are many, in the international communities, that this new government could potentially spark violence -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Hadas Gold for us, thank you so much for that this morning.

A political upheaval and violence is spreading in Peru. Former President Pedro Castillo was impeached, ousted and arrested last week, is now demanding his release. His supporters are staging protests that have left dozens injured, including police.

CNN's Isa Soares has more.



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chaos and confrontation in the streets of Peru, as thousands gathered to demand a fresh general election, and the release of the ousted former president, Pedro Castillo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Betrayed because we voted for Pedro Castillo, and want our vote to be respected.

SOARES: This outrage has violence from the capitol, Lima, to southern Peru, where protesters have stormed the regional airport, forcing it to close.

In this mostly stronghold, the violence has already turned deadly, with at least one person killed over the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The right-wing today has shown us that it is brutal and violent, but it does not see the masses. It is not aware that the people the longer believe in these politics.

SOARES: At the center of it all, this man, former President Pedro Castillo, who only last week, attempted to dissolve Congress to avoid impeachment. Hours later, though, he was impeached and arrested.