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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ice Storm Chokes Road, Cancels Flights in South and Central U.S.; Nikki Haley Expected to Announce Presidential Run on February 15; Today: High Stakes Debt Limit Showdown Between Biden and McCarthy; Ukraine Escalates Public Pressure for U.S.-Made F-16 Fighter Jets. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 01, 2023 - 05:00   ET




The big chill. Deadly accidents, scrubbed flights, an ice storm creating chaos for millions.

A woman in Oregon kidnap and tortured, now they suspect founded after an extensive police search.

And the first Republican ready to officially take on Donald Trump in 2024 and it's not Florida's Ron DeSantis.


ROMANS: Here we go. Welcome to our viewers in the United States, and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

A crippling ice storm canceling, flights wreaking havoc on the roads and at least eight states all the way from Texas to West Virginia.

That crash was in Memphis. The National Weather Service urging everyone to avoid driving if possible. Two people have died in Texas accidents, as sleet piled up on top of ice makes roads a very -- sending cars sliding. Vehicles backed up but at least ten miles down at this Texas highway on Tuesday, and seven checks on the roadway blocking both lanes of traffic.

Flight Aware says more than 1,300 flights are already canceled today. The freezing rain still threatening parts of south and central U.S., for at least another day.

CNN's Chad Myers is here with the forecast.

The video just tells the story. Those roads are icy, where are we seeing the hardest hit areas?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right now, I-35 all the way from about Waco on the way down to San Antonio, the heart of the rain swarms up a little, bit but 31 degree in rain right now in Austin, they do not go together very well. Farther back out to the, west more freezing rain, the purple is freezing, rain the pink is sleet, and the white would be snow.

Notice, there is a big lack of snow with, this is a freezing rain event. It is about 38 degrees, 2,000 feet in the sky, but it is 31 degrees at the surface. So it wants to rain down through, when it rains into temperatures that do not like it.

Fifty thousand without power already in Texas, and that number is growing rapidly. Big-time rapidly here. Dallas, you are now in the ice storm warning, this pink probably the worst, we will see all the way down to Waco, San Antonio, Palestine, all the way over towards Tyler, very, very difficult travel, if not impossible travel today with this rain coming down at this rate, at this temperature.

There is even a little bit of slick spots here, in D.C. we had snow overnight, watcher bridges and overpasses, they're they probably does not sneak into the afternoon, because things will warm up. Here is that we will work our things through the day. Dallas, San Angelo, all the way over to El Paso, that is where the ice is this morning. Moving farther to the north, even towards Little Rock, the -- other way through the Ozarks will be a real tough drive today.

It is that up and down, and you need to keep your momentum, if you do not you will be on that -- very long time. Notice, though it does warm, up and that is some good news. Unless there's ice on the, road and that is begins to melt because what ice is one of the worst things you can possibly drive on, one of the most slippery surfaces on the road, and there is the ice. Some spots could pick up one half inch of ice, already building up on some of those trees, and the power lines.

And obviously, power lines are coming down right as we speak, literally. The numbers are just growing exponentially for power outages across parts of Texas this morning.

ROMANS: All right, be careful out there, folks. This is really slick.

All right. Nice to see you, Chad. Thanks.

MYERS: Good to see you.

ROMANS: A suspect in the kidnapping and torture of a woman in Oregon is dead. Thirty-six-year-old Benjamin Foster pronounced dead at the hospital from a self inflicted gunshot wound after an hours long standoff with police. The search for Foster began last week after officers found a woman bound, beaten, and unconscious in a Grants Pass home. Police had said Foster may have been using dating apps to lure new victims, and evade capture.

All right, to politics now. Nikki Haley is expected to announce she is running for president on February 15th. That announcement in Charleston, former South Carolina governor would be the first Republican to ever enter the 2024 race this year, and the first to challenge Donald Trump for the nomination. Sources tell CNN, Haley is preparing to send an invitation to her supporters, announcing details of the special event in the coming days.

Show me yours and I'll show you mine. [05:05:01]

That's a message from President Biden to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, ahead of today's high stakes meeting in the White House.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, in Washington, is there a meeting that is higher profile with higher stakes, and, yet such low expectations attached to it. That is the reality here at the White House as President Biden is scheduled on Wednesday to meet for the first time with Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Now the two do have a relationship, they have interacted in the best both by phone, and a meeting. When Biden was vice president, McCarthy was majority leader, they would have breakfast at times and his home in the Naval Observatory, but their relationship is at best according to advisers described as cordial, professional to some degree, and now, extraordinarily important.

The reason why, is a deadline just a few months, away the that limit deadline is now looming over Washington at this moment. President Biden saying explicitly, day after day, there will be no negotiations. McCarthy saying, that's what this meeting should actually start. White House officials saying, that's not all what this meeting is about.

So you get a sense of how complicated dynamic is right, now in fact, when you ask President Biden, will be there negotiations at all, this is his response.

REPORTER: Will you negotiate with McCarthy?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Show me his budget. Show me his budget.

MATTINGLY: And what that response is a window into both the political and the policy push by the White House at this moment in time, again, saying there will be no negotiations on the debt limit, but willing to have a discussion, willing to have a negotiation on deficit reduction. That would involve both sides laying out their budgets, at the White House on March 9th.

House Republicans have not yet set a date. But White House officials want him, to not just to start negotiations, but also to lay out some -- whales officials making very clear, they are ready to attack anything Republicans put on the table in terms of cuts, whether on programs, any type of domestic spending, this is not something that will necessarily launch full scale devastation reduction agreement. Instead, it's mostly going to launch political attacks, and that is probably the best window you can get into where things stand right now.

With months before that June deadline, this is now about politics. This is about positioning, to some degree about posturing. That is where we are going to see in that meeting behind closed doors, at least after that meeting when Speaker Kevin McCarthy comes and speaks to reporters, and President Joe Biden does the same likely after as well.

The reality right now, when you talk to officials, there is no clear roadmap to get out of the divot they are currently sitting in, and likely won't be anytime soon. Instead, both sides will try to use politics to at least swear the country towards their side, as they move closer to potential catastrophe.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


ROMANS: Yeah, the clock is ticking, or the bomber sticky depending on what metaphor you want to use. Thanks for that, Phil.

Vice President Kamala Harris will attend a funeral of Tyre Nichols in Memphis today. She'll be joined by other senior level Biden administration officials at the service. Harris spoke by phone yesterday with Nichols mother and stepfather to offer support, weeks after their son was beaten to death by police after a traffic stop.

Prosecutors in new Mexico filing formal charges against Alec Baldwin in the shooting on the set of the movie "Rust" in 2021. The film's armorer has also been charged.

We get more this morning from CNN's Josh Campbell.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine, that's right. Alec Baldwin now criminally charged. The acclaim actor and a former colleague now both facing involuntary charges for their alleged roles in the 2021 fatal shooting on the set of the movie "Rust" which claimed the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

In the charging documents filed Tuesday against Baldwin and the set armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the district attorney at Santa Fe describing an atmosphere of unsafe practices on the movie set, alleging that Baldwin was negligent both as the actor was holding the gun when it went off, as well as in his role as the movie's co- producer. Just one example of alleged unsafe practices, the da claimed a training session for at least an hour or more, likely scheduled.

But the actual training consisted of only approximately 30 minutes. It was according to Reed, Baldwin was distracted, talking on a cell phone to his family during training. The D.A. also claimed that Baldwin failed to connect industry standard safety checks on the gun he was holding, before manipulating the weapon.

Although Baldwin has maintained he did not press the trigger on the weapon, charging documents filed Tuesday indicated FBI analysis on the kind of clearly show that the weapon could not accidentally fire, that the weapon to, fire the trigger had to have been pressed. Now attorneys for both Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed say the respected

clients are innocent. They intend to fight the charges. The Santa Fe district attorney told me earlier this month, once charges are filed, the two defendants will receive a summons to appear before court in New Mexico and will have the opportunity to former internally a plea. If convicted, Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed could face up to five years in prison -- Christine.


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

With violent escalating between the Israelis and Palestinians, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says people shouldn't get hung up on peace negotiations. In a CNN exclusive, Netanyahu says he will circle back to the Palestinians once the Arab Israeli really conflict ends.


He also describes the type of non two-state solutions he wants.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What are you willing to give? Are you willing to let people in the West Bank vote? Are you willing to let the 300,000 Arabs who have residency in East Jerusalem vote?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm certainly willing to have them have all the powers they need to cover themselves, but none of the powers that can threaten us. And this means that Israel should have the overriding security responsibility.

TAPPER: Is it a two-state solution?

NETANYAHU: Well, I would not call it necessarily, that it because I do not think that, you know, I have a discussion with my friend of 40 years, I'm noticing that friend of 40 years Joe Biden, I mean that personal friend of 40, as a friend of Israel, a real champion of Israel and of Zionism, and I told him what I just told you. I said, look any final agreement between Israel and Palestine would have Israel controlling security, overriding the security responsibility in the area west of the Jordan, that is that inclusive, both the Palestinian and the Jewish areas, the Israeli areas. It is by the way the size of the Washington beltway, the width of the Washington beltway.

I said you cannot divide who controls the airspace, you have to cross it. It takes two minutes for -- so, one minute is your controls, it is the other minute the Palestinians. Of course, it's not workable.


ROMANS: Fears growing the conflict will spiral out of control. Thursday was the deadliest day for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank nearly two years. Jerusalem says a synagogue shooting lost one of its worst terror attacks in recent years. All right. Top Ukrainian officials are escalating their public

lobbying campaign for U.S.-made of F-16 fighter jets. They argue the F-16s are urgently needed to defend against Russian missile and drone attacks. The request is being met with skepticism by the Biden administration, as well as Western allies.

Scott McLean is in London for us, tracking the latest developments this morning.

Scott, nice to see you. Why is the West so reluctant to provide the Ukrainians F-16s?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDETN: So, first, of course, Christine, the door is not completely shut, here is President Biden said very clearly no, the German chancellor has said no, but the Dutch prime minister said his country was open to it, the French have also said anything is on the table, at least in principle.

Ukrainian defense minister is actually in France at the, moment and said yesterday he was optimistic about his country's chances of getting these new jets, these new weapons, saying that he is heard no before, before eventually hearing yes. The HIMARS system, the Patriot missile defense system, and most recently tanks, they were all know before they were a yes from western allies, in some cases they have come around remarkably quickly.

Case in point, it was just three weeks ago that not a single country would commit to sending tanks to Ukraine. Now, there are 12 of them committed to sending at least 120 tanks in the first shipment, but nationally even more to come. Whatever we have a station and part of the West is that they do not want to send anything that may inadvertently escalate the conflict. Ukrainians are all so asking for long which missiles that could strike up to 300 kilometer's away. And, well, that would allow them to strike deep inside of Russian held territory, Russia itself and Ukrainians say, these are defensive, but British prime minister's office pointed, out perhaps one of the most practical reasons, that is fighter jet are extremely complicated, would take months and months of training for Ukrainians to actually get pushed up on to be able to fly.

Though remember, Christine, the Americans give a similar reason for not providing the M1 Abrams tanks, now they are on the way.

ROMANS: All right. Scott, nice to see you. Thank you.

All right. George Santos telling us Republicans to remove him from his two committee assignments, saying it is his issues resolved. New York congressman is facing calls to resign for lying about his professional experience, his education, his identity, just about everything on his resume. Despite all, that he was still given on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, on small business.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I have made my sincere apologies multiple times. I've earlier said it that I thoroughly apologize for lying about my education and abolishing resume, I have made that very, very clear. I do not know what more can be said other than admitting -- is there anything more humbling, humiliating, then admitting that on national television?


ROMANS: Santos claims the decision to step down from the committee was his and nobody tells him what to do. Federal prosecutors are currently investigating Santos personal and campaign finances.

Still ahead, a German woman an accused of killing her lookalike in an effort to fake her own death.

Plus, the press region around the globe for the pandemic, and two missing monkeys from the Dallas zoo are found, but is the mystery solved?



ROMANS: A new study published in the "Nature of Human Behavior Journal" finds children lost about 35 percent of a typical school year's worth of knowledge during the pandemic. This study includes data from 15 countries, and finds learning deficits immersed early in the pandemic and persisted overtime.

Let's bring in Anya Kamenetz. She's a former NPR education correspondent, and author of the book "The Stolen Year: How COVID Changed Children's Lives", and where we go now.

Anya, you are not surprised that children lost nearly one third of a school year, and as a parent, I can tell, you this is the only story my friends have been talking about for the past couple of days here. We know they lost ground, we don't know that there maybe was an alternative, everyone is trying to figure out where to go from here. What are your thoughts?

ANYA KAMENETZ, AUTHOR, "THE STOLEN YEAR": Well, you know, I'm glad you have me back on to talk about this, because the point here is that the learning has not started to be recovered. So, this isn't just about what happened three years ago in March of 2020, this is about the last couple of years of disruptions, of quarantines, of absences, and tripledemic just this past few months.


So, I think it's just really important that we continue the eye on the ball, which is not only our children's scores and tests, but also their general wellbeing. We have too many kids who have fallen out of love with school and who may have other priorities take over because of economic necessity for the past couple of years.

ROMANS: You write in your book that during the pandemic, the United States ever failed to prioritize children. The decision on opening schools was determined by political officially issued more than the local course of the disease.

In hindsight, what did we get so wrong?

KAMENETZ: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head there colonization of schools and the political use of it as a football. This is happening right now right with certain candidates taking aim at school, saying we need to attack teachers, we need to make this political.

Countries who managed to get their schools open in the fall of 2020 did not do, that you made statements that school and childcare or essential services, that teachers were health care workers, essential workers, and if we needed to get infections under control, we should have closed bars and restaurants. Those things adults can be without. Children cannot do without safe places to learn.

ROMANS: What is troubling, too, you point out, is the inequality worsening for students with disabilities, poor students, Black and Hispanic students. Talk to me a little bit about inside this learning loss, what else we know?

KAMENETZ: That's right. So what the study found was all around the world, as well as the U.S., it is not just about the average across the board, it is about the widening of the gaps. So what that means practically for teachers, when they have students coming to the costume that might be out four or five different grade levels, all in one classroom, it becomes that much harder to serve every kid, and give every kid the learning they deserve.

So we have to tackle these inequalities had on. In the U.S. they correlate with race, they correlate with where you live, and you need to make sure that kids get exactly the combination of services they deserve.

ROMANS: Is there something we can, do either the public school system, or parents or what do we do moving forward here? This is happening right now. It's not just three years ago. It's happening right now. What do we do to fix it?

KAMENETZ: Yeah. I mean, I know there are a lot of communities around the country where parents are working hand in hand, including PTAs, local organizations, to make sure that teachers get the support, they need it is not about to make sure that schools continue to get the funding that they need, because we know that we have a good amount of federal funding that sunsets in 2024, and there's a limited runway when you think about the fact that kids still need extra learning time. They need summer school, they need tutoring, and they need all of this to continue to catch up to get to where they would have been.

ROMANS: All right. Anya Kamenetz, thank you so much for coming back in talking more about what is a really important issue. Thank you.

KAMENETZ: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now.

Police say a gunman who opened fire inside a Target store in Omaha, Nebraska, was killed by police. No one was injured.

Minnesota's Democratic governor signing a bill into the law codifying the fundamental right to access abortion. The state is the first to codify abortion through legislative action since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Two emperor tamarin monkeys that went missing from the Dallas two found alive in the closet of an abandoned home, police have not said how the monkeys got there. No arrests have been made yet.

All right, next, the province in Canada that just decriminalized hard drugs like heroin and met, and a woman in Germany suspected of killing a doppelganger to fake her own death.



ROMANS: Pope Francis condemning wealthier nations for exploiting African countries during his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo Tuesday.


POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): Hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hands off Africa. Stop choking Africa.

It is not mine to be stripped, or a terrain to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny.


ROMANS: The 86-year-old pontiff will meet with victims from Eastern Congo today where a file and conflict is ongoing between rebels and government troops.

CNN's Larry Madowo joins me live this morning from Nairobi, Kenya.

Larry, so nice to have you on the program this morning.

You know, wealthy nations have been plundering Africa's national resources for centuries. I mean, this -- the history books have been written on this. Why is the pope calling them out now?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, because the Catholic Church is a highly influential in the Congo. It is the largest nation with the Catholic Population about 45 million people. In fact, the DRC is the sixth largest Catholic population in the entire world, and it has also been beset by a lot of conflict.

The pope was initially supposed to go to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but he can't make the trip because of a violent conflict going on there between government forces and M23 rebels, and that is why it's important that the pope himself in person in Kinshasa, speaking in front of the country's leadership tells them about this poison of greed that he says feels conflict in that part of the country.

He's just wrapped a mass in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, more than a million people attended that mass, according to local authorities. So, you see that influence and the importance of the pope being there in the DRC.

He canceled his trip initially back in July because of knee problems, but has now made this trip, and will be meeting a short while ago with the victims of the conflict in the Eastern DRC, and later on, this Friday, he goes to South Sudan, in Juba, where again, he will be trying to bring the leaders there to some sort of agreement and a way forward, because that country since it become independent in 2011 has suffered so much conflict that killed so many people, thousands, and that's why the Holy Father, as he's called, is adding his voice in.