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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

200+ Million Under Wind Chill Alerts Across U.S.; Putin Calls Russia's Invasion of Ukraine a "War"; January 6 Committee Concludes Trump Should Be Barred from Office. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 23, 2022 - 05:00   ET




Two hundred million people coast to coast are under snow, ice, wind chill alerts. Parts of the Midwest bracing for blizzard conditions.

Plus, the January 6th Committee just released its final report recommending Donald Trump be barred from ever holding office again.

And for the first time in public, Vladimir Putin says what the world has known all along, he's waging war on Ukraine.


ROMANS: It is Friday. Welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

Let's begin with this. A Christmas gut punch from Mother Nature as a once in a generation storm blasts across the country with the worst yet to come. Right now, more than half the U.S. population is under some kind of weather alert from the Canadian border to Mexican border. From Florida, all the way west to Washington state, more than 200 million people are under wind chill alerts. More than 80 million under winter weather alerts. More than 40 million under a hard freeze alert. And other 10 million bracing for high winds.

Needless to say, it is a mess for holiday travelers. This is video just in from Detroit metro airport, thousands of flights were canceled Thursday. Nearly 2,700 flights already canceled today with hundreds more delayed. And look at power outages already. Tens of thousands in southern states like Texas, Georgia, Tennessee.

Let's get to meteorologist Britley Ritz.

What's the latest on this monster storm, Britley?

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine. Yeah, that cold air rushing down from Canada, that arctic blast dropping temperatures below zero, actual temperatures. Then we factor in the wind and that's what counts. What it feels like.

Your wind chill, if you will, Des Moines, 36 below. The wind gusts in the Ohio valley 45 miles per hour. In Indianapolis, sustained winds of 32 miles per hour. Hence why we have wind chill warnings. From the northern plains down to Texas, all the way up into the mid-Atlantic and other areas dealing with advisories.

Regardless, it's dangerously cold. It will stay that way for several hours. 84 hours for Jackson, Mississippi. When that happens, now we're talking about your pipes freezing. Make sure you're keeping them warm. Make sure your house is 65 degrees and the pipe is dripping. Make sure the faucet is dripping. Water needs to move.

Frostbite comes into play. It only takes five to ten minutes to get frostbite. If you don't have to go outside, don't. We have wind chills going to last below zero for several days in Minneapolis Friday, 22 below, 25 below in Chicago. And not only that, but the snow continues to fall and blow around.

Blizzard warnings still in effect for the Northern Plains, across the Great Lakes, and now up for parts of New York around the lakes where visibilities are expected to drop down below 1/4 of a mile for many hours. The Great Lakes, that's where you can expect most of the snowfall, especially back over towards Watertown and Buffalo where we could pick up nearly two feet of snow when it's all said and done -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Britley, thank you. Keep us posted.

Cities across the country are seeing temperatures plunge like never before. In Chicago, it's not just cold, it's dangerously cold. Near 40 below with the wind chill.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is on the ground in the windy and frigid city.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not just snow, it's wind and cold descending onto the U.S. just days before Christmas. Over this week more than 80 percent of the country's population will see at or below freezing temperatures. Some places way below like Denver where the temperature dropped nearly 40 degrees in just an hour hitting negative 15 by Thursday morning.

Or Wyoming, where a state trooper took this video, zero visibility and temperatures 60 degrees below zero. Elsewhere, parts of the Midwest are doing what they can to keep up.

One of the biggest concerns in a winter system like this is the roads and this dome is part of what it takes in a city like Chicago. You're looking at 50,000 tons of salt inside that crews come in and out of over the course of the day to try and help keep these roads somewhat manageable.

The city has about 400,000 tons of salt and more than 300 vehicles in its arsenal to fight back on the second official day of winter.


OLE STALLARD, COMMISSIONER, CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF STREETS AND SANITATION: The goal is to keep up with it. We're going to be fighting the wind. If you can have a conversation with the young drivers, first-time drivers, kids coming home from college trying to get home. Just have that conversation with those young drivers because this is a little different type of event.

JIMENEZ: Cold temperatures and snow are nothing new to places like Chicago, Minneapolis and Buffalo.

MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Some meteorologists are calling this a once in a generation event.

JIMENEZ: Even Atlanta is forecast to have wind chill in the negatives on Friday.

GOVERNOR BRIAN KEMP, GEORGIA: Communities are about to see temperatures that they haven't experienced in a decade or more.

JIMENEZ: The message is the same, even for places used to telling with bad winters. It's the combination of snow, wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour and the demand to get home for Christmas that could mean disaster especially on the roads where AAA estimates the majority of those traveling this holiday week will be driving.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not like you're a snow day when you were a kid. Dangerous and threatening. This is a serious weather alert here.

JIMENEZ: Now, you can see the snow but you can also see me. The fear for officials here is as this snow subsides in the overnight hours and basically just lays on the ground looking very pretty like it does behind me, the wind is going to turn things ugly pretty quick whipping around in winds that are supposed to pick up in the overnight hours and through Friday. The again, officials hearsay reduced visibility significantly, especially on the roads you might be taking to try to get home for Christmas.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Chicago.


ROMANS: All right. Omar, thank you for that. As those record cold temperatures move south to the U.S./Mexico border, the city of El Paso, Texas, has opened up government run shelters at hotels and several unused schools. But officials say they will turn away any migrants who don't have the proper paperwork from Customs and Border Patrol.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Migrants on the streets of downtown El Paso are facing a very dangerous night. Temperatures will dip close to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit and many of them will be sleeping on the street. There's been a dynamic that has changed out here. Many migrants that

we have spoken with, and they're lining up to get into the shelter at this church here in downtown El Paso, what we've noticed is that many migrants are now telling us that they've gotten through the border without turning themselves in to border patrol officials, which means they don't have the immigration paperwork to be able to travel into the country and that means they're also not allowed to enter many of the shelters here in El Paso that can help keep them warm throughout the night.

So, this is a situation that is becoming very tenuous, very distressful here in the overnight hours. The city of El Paso says that many of the migrants who do not have the proper paperwork cannot go inside the convention centers. Out here, there are no signs of heating lights or lamps. Many migrants will be left on their own in the horribly frigid temperatures.

You can see just how many people are out here tonight. One gentleman who runs one of the shelters in El Paso said he is extremely worried that tomorrow morning on the streets of El Paso, there might be some migrants who don't wake up.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso, Texas.


ROMANS: Wow. All right. Ed, thank you for that.

In Washington, the hard work of funding the government. The House set to vote on a bill to avert a shutdown after the Senate passed it on Thursday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amendment is agreed to.


ROMANS: Lawmakers are racing the clock to pass the $1.7 trillion bill with government funding set to expire at the end of the day today. The big spending bill is more aid for Ukraine, funding for prosecutions related to the January 6th attack. What's not in it, an extension of the enhanced child tax credit, more funding for COVID-19 response, and no help for licensed cannabis businesses.

All right. Did Vladimir Putin finally say the quiet part out loud? The Russian president used the word war. He said war for the first time publicly when talking about fighting in Ukraine Thursday.

It's a word the Kremlin has avoided using calling it a special operation. A U.S. official tells CNN for now, they believe Putin's comment was not intentional.

Let's bring in CNN's Nada Bashir.

So interesting, intentional or not, I mean, Russian citizens and journalists are censored and can be jailed for using the word war.


It is illegal. Putin used it on the heels of Zelenskyy's U.S. visit.

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is significant, and it is, of course, very interesting considering the fact President Putin is someone who chooses his words very, very carefully. He has done so over the course of Russia's invasion referring to this as a special military operation.

This is the first time he has publicly referred to this as a war. Of course, there are harsh penalties doing this. The question is whether this was intentional. Take a listen to how he put it just yesterday.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Our goal is not to spend the flywheel of military conflict, but on the contrary to end this war. We have been and will continue to strive for this.


BASHIR: Now, of course, we have heard from one U.S. official saying this may well have been a slip of the tongue but officials are looking to see whether or not this may mark a shift from President Putin and the Kremlin. And, of course, this does come after a landmark meeting between President Zelenskyy and President Biden in Washington, D.C. And, of course, importantly, this comes after the announcement of the first ever transfer of the United States to Ukraine of the Patriot air missile system. So, clearly, a significant development.

Now, we have heard reaction from President Putin in response to that. He has described them as old systems. In his words Russia will always find be the antidote to that. We've heard from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying this will go no way towards settling some sort of resolution between Russia and Ukraine but, rather, this will only increase the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

And, look, we've already seen the Russian armed forces stepping up the bombardment. Kherson coming under heavy bombardment, according to Russian officials -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nada, thank you so much for that. Thank you.

All right. Ahead, the missing woman found alive, the woman suspected of kidnapping the baby now in custody.

Plus, was his resume fake or fudge? An incoming New York congressman plans to tells his story this week.

And what we're learning from the just release January 6 Committee's final report?



ROMANS: After an 18 month investigation that included more than 1,000 witness interviews, the House January 6 Committee releasing its final report. The 800 plus-page document lays out a diamond case against the former President Trump, including his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol and suggesting Trump should be barred from ever holding public office again.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nearly two years after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, that committee tasked with investigating all aspects of that attack has finally released its report. It comes nearly two days after the committee expected to release, it all because of typographical errors and printing issues. But it is nearly 900 pages within comprehensive narrative of what occurred, before,, during and immediately before January six.

Most importantly here, it also lays out 11 specific recommendations from the committee about how the various agencies and Congress can move forward. And key among those recommendations, is the committee is pointing to a section of the Constitution, the 14th Amendment, section three. That clearly states that anyone who is engaged in an insurrection can be disqualified from holding office.

The committee says that that constitutional provision should be enforced, and while they don't see it directly, the takeaway here is that they believe that Donald Trump should be barred from holding office again, especially because he is now announced his plan to run in 2024.

The committee separately is also pushing for passage of the Presidential Election Reform Act, that had made clear that vice presidents do not have the power to overturn elections, of, course as Trump pressured Pence to do, and the committee is also recommending that federal intelligence and security agencies, really take a much closer look to the dangers of violent extremism, especially since members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were at the forefront of the Capitol attack.

Plus, there's a host of new details in this 800 plus-page report, including about how John Eastman, the first contacted Donald Trump at the White House, December 23rd, almost two years ago, to fill Trump in on his plan to overturn the election, of course, Pence refused to do that. And, of course, how a little known attorney named Kenneth Chesebro, allegedly came up with that plot to appoint fake electors in battleground states, to try to claim that Trump had actually won in those states.

And crucially here, that fake elector plot is exactly what is now being investigated by state prosecutors, including in Georgia, also federal prosecutors for the special counselor's office. And those prosecutors from the special counselor's office, they have even served subpoenas to election officials and several background states, as part of its ramped up investigation.

So, the committee ramping up its support. But still potentially a long way to go on the criminal side.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right. Let's bring in Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and historian, and a professor at Princeton University. And his new book, "Myth America: The Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past". That new book comes out January 3rd.

Congratulations. Can't wait to read that, Julian.


ROMANS: All right. Julian, let's look at the statute. I want to put it up here. Here's the insurrection statute that you hear the committee talking about today.

Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists or engages in any rebellion or insurrection gets the authority of the U.S., the lines, thereof or gives aid or comfort thereto, will be disqualified from holding office, or could be in prison for more than ten years.

Look, Trump has already announced his 2024 campaign, what could happen next year?

ZELIZER: Well, this is about implementation. You know, some of these, that part of the report and others will fall onto the shoulders of the attorney general, some of it will fall on the shoulders of Congress, and the committee is making very clear that they don't think that he should be allowed to hold office again.

But it is a very difficult political position, and like with impeachment of sitting presidents, this gets into the realm of politics as well in terms of how this is implemented. But it is a pretty strong charge, obviously, and they have provided mountains of evidence to support their case.

ROMANS: The support also calls on Congress to overhaul of the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which is, by the way, included in the spending bill that the Senate passed yesterday.


So, the investigation of January 6th is certainly bigger than holding Trump and his allies accountable, right? I mean, there are actual changes being made to prevent this from ever happening again. What are your thoughts?

ZELIZER: Yeah, I think it's very important to deal with the former president and his allies but also to deal with the holes and weaknesses in the system that were exposed, and Congress is on the cusp of passing this reform which would really limit the ability of that actors essentially to overturn the election results. The report points to more forms including security on the day of Congress meeting to deal with the electoral count, and more reforms will be needed. We need to look at the system, not just the individuals to make sure that this never happens again.

ROMANS: Yeah, Republicans, in the meantime, are focusing in on security failures not what led to all of those people going into the capital and certainly Republican control the house could mean in different kind of investigation next year.

Julian Zelizer, thank you so much. Nice to see you. Have a great weekend.

ZELIZER: Yes, have a nice holiday.

ROMANS: All right. Now to the curious case of George Santos. The New York congressman-elect won his seat before it was revealed that his resume and bio were full of discrepancies. Santos Thursday broke his silence on the matter. He says he will come forward next week to address all of these questions surrounding his claims about his background.

We get more from CNN's Jessica Dean.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Incoming Congressman George Santos finally acknowledging the growing scrutiny surrounding many apparent discrepancies in his biography tweeting, quote: I have my story to tell and it will be told next week.

One part of the New York Republican's background now in question, his family history.

GEORGE SANTOS, (R), NEW YORK CONG.-ELECT: You know, my grandparents survived the Holocaust.

I'm very proud of my Jewish heritage. I'm very proud of my grandparents' story. My grandfather fleeing Ukraine, fleeing silent persecution, going to Belgium, finding refuge there, marrying my grandmother, and fleeing Hitler, going to Brazil.

DEAN: But those claims are contradicted by sources reviewed by CNN's KFILE including family trees, records on Jewish refugees and interviews with multiple genealogists.

SANTOS: As I always joke, I'm Jewish. I come from a Jewish family. My mother's family, Jewish. I grew up and I was raised Roman Catholic.

DEAN: Megan Smolenyak, an author and professional genealogist who helped research Santos' family tree at CNN's request said in an e- mail, quote, there's no sign of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage and no indication of name changes along the way.

SANTOS: Today, I live that American dream. DEAN: It's just the latest development since "The New York Times"

first reported and CNN confirmed that Santos may have misrepresented parts of his resume regarding his college education and employment history, saying he attended schools and worked at companies that have no records of his attendance or employment.

While some are calling for an investigation and potential consequences --

REP.-ELECT DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): This is what is clearly a serial effort to defraud voters in his district. And if George Santos did that -- and he certainly appears to have made false statements in his disclosure forms to the FEC -- I think it's worth the U.S. attorney's office looking into this.

DEAN: On Capitol Hill Thursday, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to answer any questions about what may happen to Santos or if anything should be done.

Santos is part of a very slim four-seat majority Republicans will hold when they take over the House in January.


DEAN (on camera): And so, the looming question is really what happens next especially here on Capitol Hill.

Will they seat Santos as a new member? Will House GOP leadership do anything about this? As I mentioned in the story there, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy didn't answer any questions about this as he was going on and off the House floor earlier today. Will the House Ethics Committee get involved?

These are all the questions we will have to see play out over the next several weeks. Jessica Dean, CNN, Capitol Hill.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now.

A missing five month old in Ohio has been found safe, the woman suspected of abducting a baby and his twin brother faces felony kidnapping charges. The other baby was found earlier this week in an abandoned car.

A North American black their shot and killed after it escaped from an exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida. The animal had attacked a staff member.

The pitcher Trevor Bauer reinstated after an independent arbitrator produced his domestic violence suspension from 324 games to 194 games, the Dodgers have 14 games to decide if they want to keep him on their roster.


Coming up, a German intelligence officer accused of passing state secrets to Moscow and global outrage over what the Taliban is doing to women.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the door is closed and university are closed for women, we're half of society, it means the process of human evolution development is paralyzed.



ROMANS: The Taliban minister of higher education defending his recent order to ban women from universities, a decision that has, of course, triggered a global backlash. He blames it on the failure to observe Islamic dress and values, saying, quote, there was an issue of interaction between male and female students which is not allowed in Sharia law.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour has more.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Another week, another dramatic reversal of women's rights in Afghanistan. The Taliban's new edict suspending university education for females is a major setback for millions of women there, and the ministry of education says the rule will take immediate effect.

KAYANAT HASTI, AFGHAN STUDENT BARRED FROM ATTNEDING UNIVERSITY (through translator): There is no life for women in Afghanistan anymore, since they have closed all the routes of success for women. When the door is closed and universities are closed for the women who are half of the society, it means the process of human evolution and development is paralyzed.

AMANPOUR: Young women showing up to class and universities across the country are now being told to go back home. Even worse, fears the ban could expand to elementary schools, the principals of three Kabul girls schools tell CNN the Taliban have written to them telling them to shut down. Students quickly showed their opposition to the new law, both men and women.