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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

7 Killed in Tornado Destruction; Lisa Maria Presley Remembered; Biden Docs Crisis. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2023 - 05:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, the building beside us. Oh my God!



Destruction after almost three dozen reported tornadoes tear through parts of the American south, killing seven people.

The king's daughter is gone. Lisa Marie Presley, only child of the rock icon Elvis, has died suddenly.

And what might be the biggest political crisis to the Biden administration, a special counsel now appointed in the classified document scandal.


ROMANS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Good morning, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin with dangerous and deadly storms tearing across the South.

Thirty-five tornadoes reported in Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia. At least seven people have been killed. Six of the deaths in Alabama.

In Georgia, a 5-year-old child died when a tree fell on top of a car.

Selma, Alabama, one of the hardest hit areas, a confirmed EF-1 tornado leaving a trail of destruction causing widespread damages to homes and businesses in the historic city.


DEBORTH A. BROWN, TORNADO SURVIVOR: We at the tax office. Lord, look at our vehicles. Lord, we ain't worried about them. Y'all, we just -- thank God for this structure and the Lord for blessing us. Lord, we could have been gone, y'all.

We had to run. Everybody's jumping on top of each other. Y'all hear me. Lord, when I say we blessed, we are blessed. Lord, have mercy.

Oh, my god, this is the building beside us. Oh, my God, y'all.


ROMANS: The National Weather Service says the tornado that hit Selma was likely on the ground for at least 50 miles. A state of emergency is in effect this morning in six Alabama counties.

This is video just in a short time ago from Griffin, Georgia. The twisted metal remains. Georgia's governor has declared a statewide emergency there.

More on the storms from CNN's Isabel Rosales.



ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The National Weather Service confirming a large and extremely dangerous tornado tore through Selma, Alabama, Thursday afternoon leaving behind a trail of destruction. Homes and businesses have been torn apart and roads completely cut off by piles of debris.

Selma's mayor's office posting on Facebook that the city has suffered significant damage.

RICKY ADAMS, ALABAMA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Structural damage. Trees down. Power lines down and the area's very difficult to access due to debris. They're working house to house and area to area looking for people who may be entrapped and those who are injured.

ROSALES: Tornado reports growing across the south. In Mississippi, Georgia, and Central Kentucky, more devastation left behind.

JOHN GORDON, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY: We had a horrible line of storms this morning. Right here it's 100 miles an hour. You see debris going to the north, east, southeasterly direction. There were a few 2x4s embedded in the ground.

ROSALES: Weather experts say winter tornado damage outbreaks are especially worrisome for them.

GORDON: I worry more about storms in November and February than I do in the spring. Every time it's warm in the cool season, it's the worst time.

ROSALES: I'm Isabel Rosales, reporting.


ROMANS: All right. Let's get to meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, what do we know about the scope and power of these tornadoes. CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the Weather Service out of

Birmingham said debris was between two and three miles high from the suction of this tornado that rolled through Selma and eventually into Autauga County. There were 35 tornado reports yesterday. Now, the weather service will be out on the ground checking out the size of those so we don't know just yet but there's where most of those were from Selma on up towards the northeast. That's where the biggest tornado was that did the most damage and caused the most fatalities.

The storms are into Florida and not as strong as they were. Rain showers, thunder showers, not that severe type of weather. Farther to the north, we're already seeing snow on the north side. We always talk about this, severe weather on one side, snow on the other side.

One more thing to talk about, California. You're about to get your next atmospheric river. You're tired of hearing about that. I understand. The next system storms coming through today and moving out tonight but then another one back in tomorrow.

This is just that series one after the other, and this is the area here that's going to see the most, especially northern California, then it sneaks all the way down even towards L.A. by the middle of the weekend.


It's just one thing after another for these people. Now we're still in drought and the reservoirs are not full. That's how we know we're still in drought. The ground is still dry in some spots. Not the top three feet, that's for sure. That's why all the trees are toppling.

We will see the potential for this drought to break because of the flood watch. More rain coming in.

Let me take you back a few months. 35 percent here in extreme drought just a couple of months ago. Exceptional 7 percent. I move you ahead just a couple of weeks. Now I move you ahead to what we came in yesterday. There's only less than 1 percent in extreme but still 97 percent of the state is in some type of drought just not where we were.

Take the rain. I like to get this two weeks worth of rain over two months, that would help a lot more because a lot of this is just running off.

ROMANS: How much more can they take in California? This is -- the destruction has just been unbelievable. When do they get relief? Two more storms on the horizon?

MYERS: I think Thursday this finally brings in a high pressure system that kind of cuts this off for a couple of days so that's helpful. Rivers are still all running high. There's no place for the water to soak in because it's just mud. Every rain shower we get is going to be a flood possible event.

Also now something else that's going on here, there's been so many burns, so many scars, so many fires over California over the past couple of years. When you sear a steak on the grill you do that to keep the juice inside the meat. When you sear the ground, it stops the moisture from soaking in. Same idea. It's called hydro phobic.

Now the next surfaces we're worried about the burn scars turning into mudslides because now the ground is obviously all wet. There's no place for the water to go.

ROMANS: All right. Chad, thanks. We know you'll keep on top of it.

MYERS: Yeah.

ROMANS: All right. This news in overnight: Lisa Marie Presley has died after suffering an apparent cardiac arrest. She was the only child of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Just this past Tuesday, Lisa Marie was there at the Golden Globes supporting the film of her daughter's life.

She was born at the height of Elvis's popularity. She was just nine when he died. Later she made her own mark in music.

Lisa Marie lived much of her life in the spotlight. She was married several times including to Michael Jackson in the mid-1990s.

In a 2005 interview, she talked to Larry King about the pressure of growing up Presley.


LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: The mainstream media, the tabloids, they've been rough on you. The tabloids have been rough.

LISA MARIE PRESLEY, CELEBRITY ARTIST: They are rough. They are really rough. I have to say that I don't know if they liked that the record was successful because they went on a campaign.

As soon as I got on my first tour, they were pretty quiet through all of the last media. When I got on my first tour, they started doing this whole slander campaign came out to try to make me look like -- I guess ultimately like my father in the end.


ROMANS: In a statement, Priscilla Presley said her daughter was the most passionate, strong, loving woman I've ever known. Lisa Marie Presley was 54.

All right. New details about classified documents found at President Biden's former office and his Delaware home prompting Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel to take over that investigation. Sources tell CNN that misleading statements by the White House reinforced the need for a special counsel.

The Biden administration facing many questions but offering few answers. We get more this morning from CNN's Phil Mattingly.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm here today to announce the appointment of Robert Hur as a special counsel.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For President Biden, the dramatic escalation of a perilous moment.

GARLAND: It was in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.

MATTINGLY: Attorney General Merrick Garland appointing former U.S. Attorney Robert Hur special counsel to investigate the possible mishandling of classified documents and revealing a lot more detail about an issue Biden and his lawyers kept quiet for weeks and have desperately tried to manage since the story broke four days ago.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People know I take classified documents and classified materials seriously.

MATTINGLY: The special counsel announcement coming after Biden's second public statement about a second set of classified documents found at a second location.

BIDEN: As part of that process, my lawyers reviewed other places where documents from my time as vice president were stored and they finished the review last night. They discovered a small number of documents with classified markings in storage areas in file cabinets in my home in my personal library.

MATTINGLY: But Garland's detailed timeline underscoring at the time of Biden's first statement on the issue earlier this week --

BIDEN: And were cooperating fully, cooperating fully with the review in which I hope will be finished soon.


MATTINGLY: -- his lawyers had been aware of the second set of documents discovered at his Wilmington home for nearly a month. It's a timeline that started with the November 2nd discovery of ten classified documents in a former think tank office, which led Garland to appoint U.S. Attorney John Lausch to investigate the matter less than two weeks later. On December 20th, more documents discovered.

GARLAND: President Biden's personal counsel informed Mr. Lausch that additional documents bearing classifications markings were identified in the garage of the president's private residents in Wilmington, Delaware.

MATTINGLY: All key factors for what Lausch would recommend to Garland last week.

GARLAND: On January 5th, 2023, Mr. Lausch briefed me on the results of his initial investigation and advised me that further investigation by a special counsel was warranted.

MATTINGLY: The recommendation that came four days before the initial discovery of classified documents leaked and before days of White House statements that intentionally avoided key details or obfuscated key matters all together in part out of an effort to avoid this very moment, sources said, and to follow strict limits set by his lawyers.

BIDEN: I'll get a chance to speak on all this, God willing, soon.

MATTINGLY: As a due diligence search for any more documents was still ongoing.

GARLAND: This morning, President Biden's personal counsel called Mr. Lausch and stated that an additional document bearing classification markings was identified at the president's personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware.


MATTINGLY (on camera): While the investigation has moved into a very new, very potentially dangerous phase, at least based on historic precedent, the White House counsel is stressing they will continue to cooperate and they've cooperated and worked closely with the justice department up to this point. Something they don't think will change.

They said in a statement after the special counsel was appointed, that they believe when this is all said and done they bleach this was an inadvertent issue, something that was clearly a mistake. That, they believe, should exonerate the president. Very clearly a president who thought he was entering the third year in office with a clear path and a very, very different economic situation.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.

ROMANS: All right. Phil, thank you for that.

As the search for Massachusetts mother Ana Walshe intensifies, we are learning new disturbing details about her husband, Brian Walshe. According to a 2014 police report, Ana said Brian threatened to kill her and her friend. It was filed when she lived in Washington, D.C. Police say the case was closed because the victim refused to cooperate.

Ana has been missing since New Year's Day. Brian Walshe was arrested for misleading investigators about her disappearance.

University of Idaho murder suspect Bryan Kohberger will remain jailed without bond until a preliminary hearing in June. The man accused of killing four college students in cold blood appeared in court on Thursday.

We get more from CNN's Josh Campbell in Moscow, Idaho.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The suspect in the murders of four university of Idaho students almost two months ago, escorted by a police caravan to his court appearance Thursday. Twenty-eight-year-old Brian Kohberger walked into the courtroom for a

status conference with his feet shackled, his hands free, dressed in prison orange, appearing with cuts from shaving his face, according to the sheriff.

JUDGE MEGAN MARSHALL, LATAH COUNTY DISTRICT COURT: Are you waiving your right to a speedy preliminary hearing and agreeing that that hearing can be held outside the 14-day period?


ANNE TAYLOR, KOOTENAI COUNTY, IDAHO, PUBLIC DEFENDER: And he's willing to waive the timeliness to allow us time to obtain discovery in this case when we prepared.

CAMPBELL: It was Kohberger's second appearance in as many weeks after he waived extradition and was returned to Idaho to face charges of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. He has not yet entered a plea.

Kohberger is a sole suspect of the brutal stabbings of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin. Police still have not released any indication they have a murder weapon or a motive connecting the suspect to the victims. Kohberger's Pennsylvania attorney said the suspect told him he believes he will be exonerated.

The nearly seven-week manhunt ended last month in rural Pennsylvania, where authorities arrested Kohberger at his family home. The horrific cases captivated the country and rocked the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, where students returned to campus this week after the winter break. Many students say the suspect's arrest now makes the community feel safer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got somebody who they think did it, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I'm pretty sure that my mom did the same thing.

CAMPBELL: Others say they remain vigilant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hanging out with some more people. Definitely staying in groups.


CAMPBELL (on camera): The next hearing is set for June 26th. That will be the so-called preliminary probable cause hearing. We could get new details from prosecutors about their investigation. Until that time the judge has ordered the defendant remain in state custody without bond.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Moscow, Idaho.

ROMANS: All right. The FAA blames human error for a computer system error that set off a wave of flight delays.

[05:15:02] The agency says the preliminary analysis shows a data file was damaged by personnel who failed to follow procedures. The no tam database gives out pilots important information before they take off. The meltdown resulted in more than 10,000 flight delays. database gives out pilots important information database gives out pilots important information before they take off. The meltdown resulted in more than 10,000 flight delays. That system is more than 30 years old and is still six years away from an update.

Still ahead, eggflation in America, 7 bucks a dozen. What's behind that?

Plus, the new Arkansas governor scrubbing the word from the official state papers.

First, how documents are supposed to be handled to keep special prosecutors away.


ROMANS: A special counsel will investigate classified documents found in President Biden's home and former private office. Experts say there are important laws governor how presidential administrations handle these types of documents, but the process is not fool proof.


CNN's Brian Todd explains.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Experts on White House document preservation tell CNN the sensitive papers from the Obama administration discovered at President Biden's Wilmington, Delaware, home, and at his former think tank simply shouldn't be in those places.

TIM NAFTALI, FORMER DIRECTOR, RICHARD NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Vice President Biden's team didn't do a careful job of segregating his private materials from his public materials, so that's a problem.

THOMAS BLANTON, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE: Even an ex- president can't take documents like this home because they belong to the American government. They belong to the American people. Under the presidential records act.

TODD: All documents from presidents and vice presidents are supposed to be saved for posterity by the National Archives. Experts say the Archives has people dedicated to helping a presidential administration preserve those documents from the beginning of each presidency to the end.

What if a president or vice president wants to take an important document with them when they leave office?

Who do they have to clear with the National Archives? NORM EISEN, FORMER DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL, OBAMA-BIDEN TRANSITION:

There's a process within. You would work within the White House. There's officials who are there who are in charge of document handling. They consult with the National Archives.

TODD: And experts say it's really up to the staff of a president or a vice president to comb through their documents carefully and coordinate all this with the archives toward the end of each administration because the Archives itself doesn't have a list.

NAFTALI: So it's not possible for the National Archives on January 20th of inauguration year to have a checklist and say, okay, we've got them all.

TODD: Anything work related a president or vice president writes, signs, or even jots a little notation on is supposed to be saved for posterity and turned over to the archives.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Little posties, a hand written note to somebody, writing on a note card at the national security meeting, these belong to the American public.

TODD: Analysts say the documents found in President Biden's stash marked top secret could compromise national security if they fell into the wrong hands, but they also say this kind of mistake likely isn't unprecedented.

NAFTALI: Given the amount of our paper that our presidents and vice presidents have generated, it is always possible that interfiled with unclassified private papers, there might be a classified record or two.


TODD (on camera): Is there a way to make the transfer of presidential and vice presidential documents air tight at the end of an administration?

Former Nixon library director Tim Naftali says one reform that's been discussed is to mandate that the process of a White House staff working with the archives begin sooner in year three of a presidency so it's not rushed. He said he'd also like to see the archives itself add more people to its ranks, people who would have the soul task of helping to preserve White House documents.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

ROMASN: So that's helpful. Thank you, Brian.

What could be the fallout for President Biden? What could it mean in the case against his predecessor?

Let's bring in CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She's also director of the Syracuse Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship Institute.

So nice to see you.

So the appointment of a special counsel, does it show that garland is treating both Biden and Trump investigations apolitically? Compare for me these two situations.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Christine, that's clearly what Attorney General Garland is trying to do. We're now in this kind of seesaw of (INAUDIBLE) investigating the investigators. Ands you got AG Merrick Garland tapping Jack Smith in the case of Trump's handling of those classified documents, and now the appointment of Robert Hur.

It's interesting, we were talking with swing voters in Florida this week for "Axios" for an ongoing focus group panel we do, that group, it's very early still. They think the problem with Biden's documents having the classified documents is a serious problem. They still think Trump's handling of his much larger array of classified documents is a bigger problem, but he thinks this is a bigger problem. He thinks if Biden wants to distinguish himself politically, legally he's handling things appropriately and cooperating. Politically he's running for president again, so is Donald Trump.

Biden has to get ahead of this publicly and be more transparent and forthcoming than he has been so far.

ROMANS: Let's talk about this. Santos still refusing to step down, this new congressman from New York. Our Manu Raju tried to get answers from him. Listen.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why did you lie to your voters about your qualifications, your past, being Jewish? Why did you lie to them? Don't the voters deserve an explanation about your widespread lies?


Are you saying in Congress because you're concerned about losing the seat, Democrats picking up the seat? What has the speaker said to you, Mr. Santos? Has he told you to stay in office?

Why would you respond to any of these questions about your past?


ROMANS: First of all, props to Manu Raju for staying on it. He is a dogged reporter.

What is your reaction I guess to the pressure that is still on George Santos over all of the lies of his resume?

TALEV: Well, what you're starting to see now in Congress is all of the freshmen Republican congressmen other than George Santos and other lawmakers now calling on him to resign. So the pressure is rising politically. Republicans have to stand for re-election. They don't want to get

painted with the George Santos brush. I think Mr. Santos's much bigger problems are in the legal arena. He doesn't care about the political pressure. That's another headache for Speaker McCarthy to figure out, how to message that given his very, very narrow majority and pressure.

ROMANS: It's fake it until you make it on such an epic scale. Fake it until you make it right into Congress. Just unbelievable.

Margaret Talev, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning. Have a great weekend.

TALEV: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: Quick hits across America, 25 Haitian migrants under arrest in the Florida Keys. They traveled for days on a boat crammed with a hundred people.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has banned the word Latinx in state documents, calling it ethically inappropriate. The word is gender neutral signifier for the Hispanic people who don't identify as male or female.

In-N-Out Burger moving east of Texas for the very first time, setting up in Nashville. The famous California chain rejected calls to expand for years, but now says it plans to establish an eastern territory. Love In-N-Out burger.

All right. Just ahead, the country that just picked an oil executive to lead a global conference.

Plus -- Ukrainian forces say they're holding the line in a town besieged by Russian troops. We're live in Ukraine.