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More Than 1,200 Flights Canceled as Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc on Skies; Sources: U.S. Intel Shows Hostage-Taker Not on Watchlist; 49ers Hold Off Cowboys after Chaotic Final Seconds; How Close are Ukraine and Russia to War?; North Korea Fires Missiles Overnight; U.K.'s Boris Johnson Under Pressure to Resign. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, January 17. I'm John Berman. Brianna is working nights this week. Here with me, Kasie Hunt.


KASIE HUNT, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: It's great to see you, John. Great to be back.

BERMAN: You've had kind of an adventure.

HUNT: It has been an adventure, yes. I had brain surgery back in October. This is my first day back, and I'm thrilled to spend it with you.

BERMAN: We're so glad you're here. And I know more than anything you just want to do the news, so I won't bug you --

HUNT: Let's do it.

BERMAN: -- about anything else. Great to see you; great to have you back.

HUNT: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: This morning, more than 50 million people are facing winter weather alerts as a powerful and dangerous winter storm batters the East Coast. Thousands are without power. Freezing rain, ice and snow stretching as far south as Florida.

Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia pleading with people in his state to stay off the roads. High winds and sleet across northern Georgia making the driving there treacherous.

More of the same in North Carolina, where conditions turned deadly. A tractor trailer slid off the highway, killing two people. And multiple tornados touched down in southwest Florida.

In Lee County, 28 homes were destroyed and dozens more declared unlivable. In South Carolina, the National Guard had to be called in to assist stranded drivers. Black ice and snow. And the state remained a threat this morning.

HUNT: And the storm is expected to hit the northeast coming up next. Nearly three million people are under high wind warnings, including New York and Boston. Philadelphia could also get some snow.

And travel is, of course, being disrupted. More than 1,200 flights were canceled today. CNN, of course, has every angle covered here. Polo Sandoval on the ground in Pittsburgh. Pete Muntean is at Reagan National Airport. Meteorologist Jennifer Gray tracking the storm from Atlanta.

But let's go first to Polo. What are you seeing there?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Travel certainly treacherous. At least that's the word being described by authorities here in Pennsylvania to describe -- just many of the words. That's a word that's being used to describe many of the roadways in and around where we are here, in Pittsburgh.

In fact, you can see, behind me, plowing operations have really continued, not just on the road but also on the sidewalks here. Pittsburgh city officials have really been struggling to keep up the with the snowfall that we saw began -- really started yesterday.

And we've experienced some lulls here. But nonetheless, it still continues at this hour. And authorities, especially the National Weather Service here locally just put out an advisory saying that they still expect two to three inches today, as well.

So that certainly will make travel treacherous not just here in Pittsburgh but surrounding areas. The good thing, of course, school, just like much of the country here, has not been scheduled for today. So that at least will keep those school buses off the road.

But for of those folks who have to get to work, that's a big concern. And that's why authorities are certainly recommending that, if you don't have to head out, simply stay at home.

HUNT: Stay home. That's some good advice.

BERMAN: Yes. Travel is treacherous if you can do it at all. Let's go to Pete Muntean, the mayor of Reagan National Airport, who is there this morning, I imagine, with some unhappy constituents, Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it's so true, John. You know, a lot of people flying home today on this last day of the long weekend, a federal holiday today.

This travel chaos really not over, because the snow really came for a lot of major hubs for the airlines. Look at the numbers. According to FlightAware, 1,200 flights canceled today so far. It is early yet. Thirty-five hundred flights canceled nationwide yesterday, according to FlightAware. That is the highest number we have seen since January 3rd.

The big issue here is that the snow went for a place like Charlotte. Typically, does not get much in the way of snow. A big hub for American Airlines. Ninety percent of all flights out of Charlotte canceled yesterday. About a third of all flights canceled today out of Charlotte.

Now, the airport just posted an update. It said it is open and it anticipates resuming full operations by this afternoon. The good news here, American Airlines, United, Southwest and Delta have all issued travel waivers. So folks who are impacted by the storm can rebook free of charge -- John.

BERMAN: This has been one of the most trying stretches I can remember, Pete, from before Christmas until now.


BERMAN: It's just thing after thing after thing. Thanks so much for being there for us. Appreciate it.

HUNT: Wonder how Charlotte deals with weather, compared to Washington, D.C.? We don't very -- do very well, right?

BERMAN: Everyone does it better than Washington, D.C.

HUNT: Washington, D.C.

All right. Let's go to Jennifer Gray now, who has the forecast. This storm, of course, heading up toward the northeast. I know it's freezing rain here in New York City. What can people across the country expect?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, guys, it is going to be a cold rain for many of the big cities. The heavier snowfall is really going to be in interior sections of New England, as well as the Appalachians.

Here, where the winter storm warnings are, the weather advisories extending, proportions of the Southeast, all the way up to New England.

And so you can see what's happening now. Very old rain through Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, even. And you can see the snow just on the other side of that I-95 corridor. That's where we expect for it to remain.


We could see a quick shot of some frozen precipitation for, say, Philadelphia and New York on the back side of this. But we're not going to see any accumulation from that at all.

So you can see the rain ending ending from Philadelphia for the time being, getting a little bit of a break. And then we'll see more. So we'll see some off and on rain showers. Very cold rain. And then

you can see that pink. That's the frozen precipitation. We could get a quick blast of that on the backside as we're going into this evening as this is wrapping up.

But we are going to get most of the accumulation across well-interior portions of New England. Could see anywhere from, say, two to four inches, possibly up to a foot for those higher elevations -- guys.

HUNT: Yikes. Jennifer, thank you so much.

BERMAN: It was pouring. It was pouring when I walked. It was gross and pouring and awful.

HUNT: I wasn't sure that the weather could be any worse here in New York when I walked out the door at 4:30 this morning.

BERMAN: Everything is a little bit worse at 4:30 in general. That goes without saying.

New this morning, the FBI has identified the suspect who held four people hostage at a Texas synagogue for nearly 11 hours on Saturday. Chilling new audio has been released of the gunman ranting during the ordeal.

President Biden has called the attack an act of terror. CNN's Natasha Chen, live in Colleyville, Texas, with the very latest -- Natasha.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, that audio you mentioned now, just what law enforcement sources told our colleague, Josh Campbell. That when negotiators had conversations with the suspect throughout the standoff, he seemed to not want to leave the building alive.

He ultimately died when the hostage rescue team moved in. Police recovered a gun from the suspect but no explosives.


CHEN (voice-over): The FBI has identified 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram. The 11-hour standoff ended after a hostage team shot and killed him. All four hostages are safe and unharmed.

The situation began during the synagogue's livestream of its Saturday morning sabbath. In the feed, you can hear Akram speaking. It's unclear whom he is speaking to, but Akram can be heard saying he plans to die to die.

MALIK FAISAL AKRAM, TOOK HOSTAGES IN TEXAS SYNAGOGUE: I've got these four guys with me, yes? OK, are you listening? I don't want you to cry. Listen! I'm going to release these four guys (UNINTELLIGIBLE) But then I'm going to go in the yard, yes? And they're going to take me, all right? I'm going to die at the end of this, all right? Are you listening? I am going to die! OK? So don't cry over me.

CHEN: In a statement to CNN, one of the hostages, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, said, "In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening."

He credited the security training his congregation had taken part in and getting them through the traumatic event.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE This is the first time that anyone at ADL can recall a hostage taking at a synagogue. But unfortunately, Jewish sites have been targeted again and again and again by extremists over the years.

CHEN: According to officials, Akram entered the United States legally in December. He was vetted and cleared prior to his arrival at JFK Airport in New York five weeks ago. Federal authorities do not believe that this was part of a greater plot, but they are questioning how he was able to travel to Texas.

According to law enforcement, British intelligence officials tell their U.S. counterparts a preliminary search showed no derogatory information on Akram.

Once Akram arrived in Dallas, he spent several nights at a local homeless shelter. The Union Gospel Mission Dallas CEO, Bruce Butler, told CNN in a phone call that "We were a weigh station for him. He had a plan. He was very quiet. He was in and out."

Now the FBI is conducting a global investigation to try to determine a motive.

MATTHEW DESARNO, FBI DALLAS SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: I'm not ready to add any more -- any more about the demands. They were specifically focused on -- on one issue.

CHEN: According to two law enforcement sources, one possible motive was a desire to free Aafia Siddiqui. Siddiqui is serving an 86-year sentence in federal prison in Texas for the attempted murder and armed attack of U.S. service members.


CHEN: The FBI is working with U.K. and Israeli authorities on this case. Akram's family also released a statement saying they do not condone any of these activities and wholeheartedly apologized to the people here.

They also mentioned Akram has mental health issues but did not elaborate on that, John.

BERMAN: Natasha Chen, what a story. My heart goes out to the people who went through it all and just so glad that they're all OK this morning. Thank you so much for being with us. We're going to have much more on this ahead.

CHEN: Thanks.

HUNT: And of course, so many Jewish synagogues have to plan for these kinds of things to happen to them. And that says a lot about where we are as a country. [06:10:05]

But let's turn now to something a little bit lighter than that. Berman's Patriots, my Eagles, both out of the NFL play-offs.

BERMAN: It wasn't even close. I will say it took some of the sting out of it, knowing that at least the Patriots never had a chance.

HUNT: Yes. Well, I mean, look, I think, as an Eagles fan, we were all happy just to be there. You know, I don't think at the beginning of the season any of us thought we would make it. But hey, I will take this. No one is more heartbroken this morning than Dallas Cowboys fans after their chaotic final few seconds.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes here with the "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, guys. If you have a Cowboys fan in your life, I would say be extra nice to them today.

HUNT: Why?

SCHOLES: It's rough for them this morning. They've had a lot of brutal playoff losses over the years, but even their owner, Jerry Johnson, after this game, he can't remember a time where --

BERMAN: Andy, the Cowboys froze him. What happened was it came down to the last few minutes of the game. Dallas had the ball with, like, 40 seconds left. No time outs. And they were driving toward the end zone.

The second to last play, Dak Prescott runs the ball. They have no time-outs left. They can't stop the clock. They've got to get another play-off, but they can't, because the ref can't get to the ball.

It's not a play unless the ref touches it? So the game just ended. The game just ended. And the Cowboys lost 23-17. Jimmy Garoppolo, former New England Patriots, and the San Francisco 49ers win the game. And you can just tell how disappointing it all was. Listen.


MIKE MCCARTHY, DALLAS COWBOYS HEAD COACH: I've never seen that come down, you know, the way it came down, it was the collision between the umpire and the quarterback. You know, we were trying to, you know, get inside the 30 yard line to set up the last play. Mechanics were intact from our end of it. You know, the communication that I was getting on the sideline. But they were reviewing it. They were, you know, time back on the clock. And the next thing I know, they're running off the field.


SCHOLES: All right. Thanks for filling in there for a second, Berman. I'm back.

Now, the 49ers, they're going to play the Packers next weekend. The Chiefs, meanwhile, they're down 7-0 to the Steelers in the second quarter.

But then they flipped the switch. Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdowns passes in less than 11 minutes of game time. Chiefs scored 35 unanswered, would win the game easily, 42-21. And with the Steelers eliminated, that means Ben Roethlisberger has likely played the final game of his career.

Now, Tom Brady and the Bucs, meanwhile, beginning their title defense with a dominant performance over the Eagles. Brady looking for his eighth Super Bowl title. Hooked up with his old buddy, Rob Gronkowski, in the third quarter for a scoring 105th time they've hooked up for a touchdown.

Bucs win now easily, 31-15. They'll host the winner of tonight's game between the Rams and the Cardinals.

And as we mentioned, the only team that probably looked worse than the Eagles this weekend was the Patriots. The Bills played the first ever perfect offensive game on Saturday.

And not just the playoffs. I mean, I'm talking about ever. No punts. No field goals. No turnovers. All touchdowns until they took a knee at the end of the game.

Berman, how in the world does this happen to Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the playoffs, no less?

BERMAN: I don't have an answer.

HUNT: Karma.


HUNT: Karma is the answer.

BERMAN: I mean, every decade it happens. They have to lose. They have to lose once, and then they'll win, you know, six more in a row. Andy, it was terrible. It was just terrible. But not as bad as the way Dallas lost. So as Kasie said, I take some solace in it.

HUNT: I didn't even know you could play a perfect offensive football game. I mean --

SCHOLES: The Bills did it to the Patriots. But like you said, Berman, the silver lining is at least you're not a Cowboys fan this morning.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, thank you.

HUNT: This is why we can be friends.

BERMAN: That's right.

HUNT: Because you're not a Cowboys fan.

BERMAN: So this morning a test of loyalty. Long-stewing resentment wielding the knife. We go behind the rising tensions between Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis.

Plus --


GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): We're not going to teach our children to view everything through a lens of race.


BERMAN: The new governor of Virginia ruffling feathers, invoking the words of Martin Luther King to mandate what he thinks should not be taught in school.

HUNT: And President Biden ending his first year with so many challenges. Why that's leaving Democrats panicked and frustrated.



BERMAN: This morning, who is the King of Florida? Is it Donald Trump or Governor DeSantis?

"The New York Times" reporting the tensions between the two are rising and rising fast over whether DeSantis will run for president in 2024 or if he'll step aside let Trump go the Republican nomination relatively unopposed.

Joining us now, journalist and host of the "Run Tell This" podcast, Mara Schiavocampo. Great to see you this morning.

"The Times" has a great take on this this morning. We've been seeing this brewing for some time. Trump made that comment about people who wouldn't say whether they're boostered or not with the COVID vaccine, calling them gutless for not admitting he was clearly talking about DeSantis.

DeSantis over the weekend talked about how Trump wouldn't listen to him in the early days of the pandemic. The fact that DeSantis isn't backing down from this fight, I think, is interesting. Your take?

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, JOURNALIST, HOST OF "RUN TELL THIS" PODCAST: Yes. So especially when you talk about these back scene issues. I mean, it's interesting to see DeSantis has moved now to the right of Trump himself.

And it's not surprising that there would be a clash with these two men. Because they're very similar in terms of temperament and political position and the kind of voters they appeal to.

And now we have this added layer of DeSantis refusing to say whether or not he intends to run in 2024, essentially, presumably challenging Trump for the Republican primary.


And also in terms of Trump and the way that he's seeing this, you know, DeSantis could present a middle ground, an acceptable alternative to those who are committed to Trumpism but perhaps turned off from some of the more toxic elements like the association with the insurrection and QAnon.

So you can definitely understand why Trump's ego has a problem here. And he likes to claim that he made DeSantis. And so we know that Trump is very, very big on loyalty.

So the fact that he won't say whether or not he intends to challenge him is really apparently getting under the former president's skin.

HUNT: Yes. And there are very few others who are talked about as potential Republican presidential hopefuls who haven't been willing to go out there and say, Oh, well, of course I would defer to Mr. Trump.

Mara, let's talk a little bit, though, about the current president of the United States, Joe Biden.

Democrats, of course, sometimes mocked for worrying too much. But now the worry is so pervasive that it's made it all the way to "SNL." Let's take a look.


COLIN JOST, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Well, just like everybody else, President Biden's New Year's resolutions fell apart in the third week of January.

The Supreme Court struck down his vaccine mandate, the voting rights bill got blocked, and his approval level is so low it's gone into power save mode.

So I think Biden just needs more time. He might be more of an acquired test. Unfortunately, most Americans recently lost their sense of taste.


HUNT: Pretty rough. Pretty rough. Pretty rough. And also hitting right at the -- you know, hitting the nail on the head, right? Americans very unhappy with how things are going right now with COVID, which of course, the president ran on the idea that government competence could get us out of this pandemic.

Where does Biden stand right now, and what do Democrats need to be doing as they face the 2020 midterms and then, of course, the 2024 election?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes. There is a lot of frustration here over what Biden has not been able to accomplish. I mean, think of where we were around the inauguration roughly this time last year and the promises that he was making, to get COVID under control, to restore a sense of national unity and some stability after four years of chaos. And to pass this really ambitious legislative agenda consisting of

infrastructure, social spending programs, and voting rights.

Now, look at where we are today. COVID continues to run rampant. The Supreme Court just struck down part of that vaccine mandate. Inflation is at a 40-year high. And Build Back Better and voting rights are all but dead.

Now, there have been some really significant accomplishments. We can look at the bipartisan support for infrastructure which passed. We can look at the stimulus bill.

But the failures have been pretty spectacular, as well. I mean, the failure of Build Back Better, I think, is going to be the most consequential when it comes to the midterms.

Because that is the one piece of legislation that could have had an immediate positive impact on people's lives.

When we look at the handling of COVID recently, it has been just abysmal. We have had two years to figure out how to get testing right to make it widespread, and free and rapid.

And the best that the White House can do is say, Well, you could get reimbursed by an insurance company, if you have insurance, and if you can find the test. Or you can order a test from us, but the web site isn't up yet, and it might take you 12 days to get to you.

I mean, some of these failures can be attributed to Republican obstructionism and to Manchin and Sinema, but a lot of it, Biden has to own.

HUNT: Well, there was a decision in the White House to focus on vaccinations, not on testing. That, of course, led partly to where we are.

And I know a lot of the Democrats that I have been talking to are throwing up flags, especially those who have to run for re-election in 2022, that they just weren't talking enough about the economy and inflation. And of course, I think that makes it even less likely Build Back Better gets passed.

Mara, thank you so much for being with us.

Coming up here next, North Korea conducting a fourth missile test this month, signaling a rise in tensions in the Korean Peninsula.

BERMAN: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he's survived a whole bunch of scandals, but this one might be different. It just isn't going away. Why his leadership position is getting more vulnerable by the second.


[06:28:24] BERMAN: Overseas this morning, pressure mounting on Boris Johnson. North Korea launches yet another missile, and disturbing signals out of Russia. CNN has teams around the globe.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. As the Russian government says it's still completely open whether or not security talks between the U.S. and Russia will lead to some sort of agreement.

However, in an interview with CNN, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that right now the U.S. and Russia are, quote, "on two completely different tracks." And he calls that, quote, "very disturbing."

The Russians say they want security guarantees from the U.S. and from NATO. The U.S., of course, accuses Russia of amassing troops near the Ukrainian border and says that any sort of attack on the Russians will lead to massive sanctions.


Since the start of the year, North Korea has sent a strong message to the world by conducting several missile tests. The most recent took place early Monday morning, local time, and is the fourth missile test by north Korea so far in January alone.

While the United States, South Korea and Japan are analyzing details from the launch, based on the estimated maximum altitude and distance the missiles traveled, Japanese and South Korean officials believe North Korea's test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles, each landing in the waters off the East Coast of the Korean Peninsula.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Nina Dos Santos in London, where staff here at Downing Street are desperately mounting an operation to save Boris Johnson's faltering premiership after fresh allegations of yet more lockdown-busting parties, including at a time when the nation was mourning the death of Prince Philip and the queen was about to attend his funeral on her own.

That has many voters up in arms and the opposition party yet again demanding that Boris Johnson step down. To try and reset the --