Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

State Police: At Least One Large Vehicle Detected Underwater, Enclosed By Bridge Superstructure And Concrete; New Video Of NTSB Investigators On Container Ship That Hit Bridge; Largest Crane In The Eastern Seaboard Expected To Arrive Tonight; Biden Fundraiser Underway In NYC With Former Pres. Obama, Clinton; Campaign: Star-Studded Event To Rake In "Historic" $25 Plus Million; Trump Tries To Get GA Election Case Tossed On First Amendment Grounds; Defense Lawyer For Trump Co- Defendant In GA Election Case Asks Judge To Strike The Term "Fake Elector" From Case; What Arizona Voters See At The U.S.-Mexico Border That National Politicians Don't; Michigan GOP State Lawmaker Posted About "Illegal Invaders" At Detroit Airport, But It Was Gonzaga's March Madness Team. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 20:00   ET


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And while also cautioning that, at any point, Melania could make the decision to hit the campaign trail on her own accord. Sources here also emphasize that she's still grieving the death of her mother, who died in January, as well as taking care of her son, Barron, helping him, Brianna, to find the right college he will attend this fall.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you for the very latest on that and thank you so much for joining us this evening. AC 360 starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360 breaking news, the first video of investigative teams on the container ship Dali and all we're learning about the final five minutes before it took down a bridge killing six.

Also tonight, presidential politics, campaign fundraising and a police officer's wake, as President Biden and three former presidents converge on New York. We'll look at what it all signals for the race ahead.

And later, CNN's John King all over the map, this week, talking to voters in the swing state of Arizona.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight with breaking news, new video from aboard the MV Dali. It was taken by NTSB investigators documenting damage to the vessel, but it also shows the sheer bulk of twisted steel beams and girders from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the waters off Baltimore, surrounding the ship, blocking entry to the port and likely encasing the remains of four fallen workers.

According to Maryland's governor, the largest crane on the eastern seaboard is due in Baltimore tonight. And a Navy salvage and diving unit is now serving as the lead for salvage operations. In a moment, we'll speak with a former salvage diver about what crews are up against. But first, with all we've learned in the last 24 hours, here's how the disaster unfolded minute by minute. CNN's Pete Muntean has that.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Around 1:23 AM, we get a first glimpse of the Dali. It's on the left side of your screen. Auto traffic on the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is still moving in both directions.

At 1:24 AM and 59 seconds, numerous alarms are recorded on the Dali's bridge audio.

1:26 and 39 seconds, the ship's pilot makes a call for tugboats in the area to help.


JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: That's the indication of the first sign of needing help. The tugs help it - help the vessel leave the dock, leave the port and then get into the main ship channel and then they leave. Once it's on its way, so there are no tugs with the vessel at that time.


MUNTEAN (voice over): At this point, the Dali appears to have power issues. Video shows the lights on the ship go out, and it's heading directly toward one of the columns supporting the bridge.


MARCEL MUISE, MARINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR, NTSB: At 01:27 and four seconds, the pilot ordered the Dali to drop the port anchor and additional - ordered additional steering commands.


MUNTEAN (voice over): The pilot said he called for hard rudder to port as far left as possible, that according to the head of the Pilots Association. Twenty-one seconds later, at 1:27 and 25 seconds, the pilot issues a radio call saying the Dali has lost all power and is approaching the bridge. Transit authorities work quickly to stop all bridge traffic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need one of you guys on the south side, one of you guys on the north side, hold all traffic on the Key Bridge. There's a ship approaching that just lost their steering, so until you get that under control, we've got to stop all traffic.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MUNTEAN (voice over): From this CCTV atop the bridge, traffic stops in

both directions about 90 seconds before impact. Then, the Dali can be seen on the bottom right of the screen. It's moving at just under eight miles per hour.

Around 1.29 AM, it hits the Francis Scott Key Bridge.


MUISE: From this moment until approximately 1:29 and 33 seconds, the VDR audio recorded sounds consistent with the collision of the bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole bridge just fell down. Start, start, whoever. Everybody. The whole bridge just collapsed.

MUISE: At 1:29 and 39 seconds, the pilot reported the bridge down over the VHF radio to the Coast Guard.


MUNTEAN (voice over): From the first warning signs to a deadly disaster, all in less than five terrifying minutes.


COOPER: Pete Muntean joins us now.

So, I understand investigators used the boat's data recorded to build out this timeline, but they're looking for more data to learn exactly what happened.

MUNTEAN (on camera): Well, yes, and NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy says there's a bit of an issue with the voyage data recorder. The data it recorded is very bare bones, engine RPM, movement of the ship's rudder, heading of the ship's bow, that is about it. Not like a commercial airliner that records about a thousand points of data.

The good news here, Anderson, is that the data recorder also captured audio from the ship's bridge. So, that is what investigators are relying on right now. Also, interviews with the crew of the Dali, all 21, are still on board tonight.


COOPER: Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

Eight workers were fixing potholes on the bridge when it collapsed. Now, according to another worker at the company who requested a last- minute shift change, the men were likely on a break when the ship hit the bridge. As you know, six of those men died. Only two have been found.

The company says it's in the process of putting together compensation packages for their families, two of the eight survived.

CNN's Danny Freeman has been finding out more about them. He joins us now. So, what more do you know about the two survivors?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I'm going to be honest. There's still a lot of questions that we have about exactly what happened to these - two of those eight people who were on the bridge who were lucky enough to survive. I mentioned last night, though, that I spoke with Jeffrey Pritzker. He's the executive vice president of that construction company, Brawner Builders.

He said that one of their workers was able to survive likely because he was able to swim and tread water before, ultimately, he was rescued. Now, he was taken to a local trauma center after he was rescued from the waters below. But Pritzker told me that that worker is "very, very upset." He does have injuries and he understands that he's very stressed and suffering from stress.

When it comes to the second person who was able to survive this bridge collapse, though, there is still a little bit less known. I will say, though, that the governor said last night during his press conference that he was able to speak to likely that survivor, saying, and I quote, one of those survivors was moving off the bridge and literally saw the bridge fall right after he moved off and it was because of a first responder who was telling him to move off the bridge just moments before that bridge behind us came tumbling down.

Now, we asked the governor for a little more clarity about who exactly that survivor was, because the construction company says that that survivor was actually not part of their crew, so we're still waiting for answer from both the governor's office and the Maryland Department of Transportation and Transit Authority, Anderson.

COOPER: And what have authorities said today regarding the four men who died, whose bodies haven't been recovered yet?

FREEMAN: Yes, when it comes to authorities, that press conference just wrapped up. The mayor of Baltimore says that he is still hopeful that they will be able to find those four people who are presumed dead, presumed to be underneath the water. But one of the questions that we still had that were - was answered earlier tonight is that there is still at least one larger vehicle that they believe is trapped under the rubble of the bridge wreck behind me.

And I'll quote now from the police here. There's at least one larger vehicle in size that's completely encapsulated by the superstructure of the bridge and concrete. And they said it's going to take some time to get to that.

Anderson, I just want to add one more note, if it's all right, about both the survivor that we spoke about, the worker and some of the victims. We actually learned tonight from Mexican officials that the surviving worker who managed to live after falling down into the water, he's actually related to two other workers who died on that bridge or are presumed to be dead.

So, Anderson, just to put that into context, three of the eight people who were on that bridge earlier this week were all family members, two of them died and one was able to survive, Anderson. COOPER: Danny Freeman, thanks very much. As we mentioned, the Navy

salvage and diving unit is now serving as the lead for salvage operations. Joining us is a former FBI special agent, Bobby Chacon. While at the Bureau, he served as team leader of the New York dive team.

Bobby, thanks so much for being with us. What exactly is - what would be the priority for that Navy salvage and diving unit? How do they work?

BOBBY CHACON, FORMER TEAM LEADER, FBI NEW YORK DIVE TEAM: So number one, they work with, obviously the big diving helmets and surface- supplied air systems. That's at a minimum. They go down there, probably first look at the sonar data. That's probably how they know there's a large vehicle encased in the wreckage. This - they take sonar data and that can guide them. They do a survey of what the bottom looks like.

And then what you do is you figure what pieces, it's a puzzle that you have to take apart. What piece comes first, what piece comes second. Those divers are going to have to go down there with cutting instruments and cutting tools, start to cut away some of this larger debris and then rig it so that a crane can lift it off the bottom.

So it's got to be done piece by piece by piece. They have to figure out what to cut first, how to lift it. And every time you move a piece off the bottom, it changes the puzzle. Things move around. So it's very treacherous for the divers down there.

COOPER: So we had heard just yesterday, it was too dangerous for the local divers. This unit, you were saying it's surface air. So these aren't divers with air tanks, this is air being pumped down to them so they can stay underwater for long periods of time.

CHACON: Yes. My longest dive was probably five hours when I was at the FBI ...


CHACON: ... because we used a similar system. We trained with the Navy dive salvage people down at Panama City Beach all the time. And yes, they'll stay down there forever. That umbilical gives them the ability to use pneumatic tools. It gives them camera and lights down there. And obviously and primarily it gives them their breathing air.


They will have a small tank on their back usually and that's what we call a bailout bottle. That's in case the main system fails, they can go to that and they can get to the surface while they breathe that emergency air. But normally under normal conditions, they don't use that. It's just an emergency tank on their back.

COOPER: Given ...

CHACON: And so yes, they'll be breathing air on the surface. They'll be using cutting tools and topside we'll be able to see and hear everything they're doing.

COOPER: This is probably a dumb question, but I mean given how treacherous underwater is with all that metal and debris and jagged edges, isn't having a line to the surface with air - isn't that a vulnerability for them?

CHACON: Well, you have umbilical management and you train to do this kind of stuff. And so oftentimes, if you're penetrating like into one of these underwater, kind of now a cave in the debris, you have a second diver that's managing your umbilical as you go in. But normally you drop down away from the debris and you walk in. You don't have fins, you have weighted boots that keep you on the bottom and you walk in from a safe distance and the umbilicals are long enough to do that, to drop away from the wreckage.

And you know this by the sonar images that you have, where to drop down and then where to walk into the wreckage.

COOPER: And so they have - they will be mapping out what they have to deal with and then figuring out locations that do they actually do cutting, do they use explosive devices to break up the pieces of the bridge?

CHACON: Yes, probably not explosive devices, but they have plasma cutters. They have a lot of different cutting devices that they use. That's what they used in Minneapolis on the bridge collapse. You can use a plasma cutter, you can use other cutting things, tools, and they're very powerful. And like I said, you have to be ready to rig it so that a crane can then lift it off. The divers will get out of the way before the crane starts to lift that stuff and probably come to the surface before the - because that - there's always a chance that something could snap and that could go pump - down towards the bottom again.

So you want the divers out of the way and the crane will lift piece by piece by piece. It's a very long process, but you have to do it slowly to be doing it carefully.

COOPER: In terms of the chances of being able to recover the remaining victims and what do you think the likelihood of that would be?

CHACON: It all depends on where they were. They could be under some of this debris. They could be crushed. Unfortunately, they could be - have - they could have drifted away along the bottom by now. It's really - it's really hard to tell what the chances of finding them are. If they're encased in that debris, then they will find them. We found people in Minneapolis that way as we were cutting, as the Navy was cutting deeper and deeper into the wreckage, they would find people and they may do that here. It's just - it's just unknown right now. But I think there's a chance they'll find several of them entangled in that debris.

COOPER: Yes. It's dangerous work.

Bobby Chacon, thank you so much. CHACON: Thanks for having me, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, more breaking news, the Biden-Obama-Clinton triple bill tonight at New York's Radio City, expected to pull in record campaign cash for Democrats.

And later a new twist in the former president's Georgia trial and his latest effort to stop it. That's when we come back.



COOPER: More breaking news tonight, it began with a site that triggered members of the Obama administration almost eight years ago, which likely was the point, now former President Obama descending the stairs of Air Force One with now President Biden on their way to meet former President Clinton for a joint appearance in New York's Radio City Music Hall, which has just started.

These are live pictures of the scene outside, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Obama and the president celebrating what the campaign says is a record $25 million - or plus, a million dollar haul. It's also expected to be just the beginning of President Biden's predecessors campaigning on his behalf.

Now, the reasons seem pretty obvious why. It's underscored by the latest CNN poll, a poll showing no clear leader, but President Biden facing a three point deficit. That and chronically low job approval numbers are part of the reason why Democrats tonight and ahead in the campaign hope to press the fundraising advantage they've had so far over the Trump campaign.

Former president, meantime, drawing a contrast to the glitzy fundraiser spending his afternoon just the east on Long Island at the wake of a murdered New York police officer. We'll have more on that in a moment.

But First CNN's MJ Lee outside the Biden-Obama-Clinton event.

What is the scene that you're seeing out there?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. As you can imagine, Anderson, just tons of security. And at one point earlier in the evening, probably a couple hundred protesters. These are pro- ceasefire, pro-Palestinian protesters who are clearly taking issue with President Biden's policies when it comes to the Israel-Hamas war. The mood inside, obviously, is going to be very, very different, fitting for the venue that this fundraiser is being held in. This is going to be a highly-produced, very glitzy fundraiser.

Three presidents are going to be sitting down with comedian Stephen Colbert for a shared conversation on stage. A lot of celebrities and artists that are expected to be in attendance as well. Mindy Kaling is going to be emceeing the event. Queen Latifah, Lizzo are among the other artists that are going to be there. And all told, the campaign announcing earlier today that they raised

some $25 million and counting. I wouldn't be surprised if that figure ended up ticking up by the end of this evening. Coming from both the high dollar tickets from this event, as well as some lower dollar, less than two hundred dollars grassroots donations that made up about a third of that $25 million.

And you'll remember the campaign did announce at the end of February that they had some seventy one million dollars of cash on hand. So this is going to help widen that gap that they have between their fundraising and the cash that the Donald Trump campaign has right now, Anderson.

COOPER: And is the Biden campaign planning more of these kind of joint appearances ahead or is it more likely former presidents Obama and Clinton will be dispatched separately onto the campaign trail?

LEE: Well, certainly this is not going to be the last that we see of the two former presidents and particularly, I think, former President Barack Obama. The President probably is going to be hitting the trail a lot more, especially as we get more into the fall.


Our reporting is that he is likely to visit college campuses, for example, and also choose these key cities and key battleground states with the goal, of course, of helping to drive up enthusiasm among younger voters, as well as other key demographics like black voters and Latino voters.

These are two men, Anderson, as you know very well, who have been friends and obviously went through a lot together in their eight years together. So you can imagine that the time that they spent together this time around this afternoon, a couple of hours that they had a lot to talk about.

And we were told by aides that they were catching up a lot and enjoying themselves, talking about a lot of the professional things, but also just their personal lives as well.

COOPER: MJ Lee, thanks very much.

As mentioned, the former president was on Long Island attending a wake for a New York Police Department Officer Jonathan Diller, who was shot dead during a traffic stop Monday evening. His alleged killer, who was charged today with first-degree murder, has a lengthy criminal record, a sign, Mr. Trump said, of a dysfunctional criminal justice system.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to stop it. We have to get back to law and order. We have to do a lot of things differently because this is not working. This is happening too often. We've got to toughen it up. We've got to strengthen it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: President Biden spoke today with New York Mayor Eric Adams,

offering his condolences on the tragedy. New York's governor ordered flags in all state office buildings flown at half-staff to honor Officer Diller.

We have more now from CNN's Kristen Holmes, who joins us. So what more do you, can you tell us about the former president's visit to the wake of Officer Diller?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, he was invited by a local county executive whom he has a relationship with for the family. The family was the one who wanted them to reach out. And he didn't end up meeting with the family. Officer Diller is survived by his wife and his young child. And we saw Donald Trump, without mentioning President Biden, say that things needed to change. Call for law and order.

And his campaign really was trying to make a contrast of these two trips to New York, President Biden's as well as former President Donald Trump's, framing this as - Trump going to see the family of the slain NYPD officer, while Biden was going to a glitzy and what they called elitist, star-studded fundraiser. They wanted that to have kind of a juxtaposition as they're really launching their general election.

COOPER: And the Trump campaign is looking to hold their own fundraiser, where they hope to raise more than the expected $25 million tonight. What do we know about that?

HOLMES: Yes. So this is what they are saying right now. So just to take one caveat here, which is we have not seen the numbers. It is still early. That fundraiser is supposed to be April 6th. And they're telling us that they expect to out-raise this $25 million and expect to get around $33 million for their fundraiser that's going to be in Palm Beach.

So talk about elitist, glitzy fundraisers. It's going to draw really some of the biggest names in Republican fundraising, the Mercer family, oil magnate Harold Hamm. Some of these names, people who didn't want to donate to Donald Trump, originally, who were kind of sitting on the sidelines or looking for an alternative. This really signals a movement, at least in the donor class, towards the former president.

And it comes, as you heard MJ say, he is still chipping away at a significant financial edge that Biden has. They are looking for every opportunity to get as much money as they can flowing into the campaign.

COOPER: Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.

Joining us now from the left and the right, respectfully, CNN political commentator Van Jones and Alyssa Farah Griffin.

So Van, how much of tonight's show, of course, is about money? How much is sending a message that the Democratic Party is united and, I guess, ready to campaign hard? VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's about both. First of all,

it's sort of like the Super Bowl of fundraisers, I mean, to have $25 million raised. And don't forget, President Obama, during his midterm, he was battling in the polls. He was weak. He was wobbling. And then Bill Clinton came out at our convention and gave an incredible speech and helped to turn the tide for Obama.

So there is this tradition of the last Democratic president taking the stage, helping the existing Democratic president do well and so now you've got two. You've got Bill Clinton, who's a rock star for a certain part of the party. Bill Clinton - and Bill Clinton's a rock star, Obama's a rock star getting behind Biden. And it's not just about the money. It's about reenergizing this party, bringing people together. It's a big deal tonight.

COOPER: It's so interesting, Alyssa, because, I mean, no one's going to see former President Bush or former Vice President Cheney campaigning with Donald Trump. If anything, he wouldn't probably even want that.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's what's actually very interesting. I think by design, of course, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama draw out energy and money, but it's also a show of force. Whereas right now, no living candidate who's been on a GOP ticket other than Sarah Palin is backing Donald Trump. And I think that that's something that the Biden campaign is going to want to draw out to say he's actually just not somebody that even previous candidates approve of.

But here's the thing, Joe Biden has a major cash advantage at this point. He's outracing Trump two to one. This is a huge win for him tonight. But we remember 2016, Hillary Clinton massively outraised Donald Trump, and still he was able to edge her out.


And this was smart politics today. I don't like the idea of going to a slain officer's memorial and making it political. But to a lot of people in the middle of this country, they say, that's a guy who's focusing on my priorities. He's putting police officers before Hollywood celebrities. And it shows the Trump campaign's a bit more sophisticated than it previously was.

COOPER: And Van, I mean, do you think this is a warning sign that the Biden campaign is concerned? I mean, the fact that normally - I'm not sure when President Obama got involved with the campaign the last time, but it seems to me it was much farther along in the campaign. This seems obviously very early in the campaign.

JONES: Well, we're going to have a longer general election campaign than we've had in living memory, so it is early and it is necessary. Biden isn't doing as well in the polls as he needs to be and so you do have people coming forward. As far as President Trump going to honor the police officer, I think that's good. And I think that anytime a police officer loses his or her life, that's a tragedy. People should show up. But the reality is that there is a big machine that has to be cut on

for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party cares about police. We can show that. But we've got to get this party to pull together. And if anybody doubts, Barack Obama in particular, his ability to get some of the people back in this party, you've got men leaving this party, you've got young African-Americans leaving this party, he can reach them in a way that nobody else can.

COOPER: Do you think he really will - I mean, be out there a lot?

JONES: I don't think Barack Obama is going to sit this out. I don't think - by the way, I think we have two Obamas, two Clintons and two Bidens who are not going to sit this out. I think you're going to see a full court press from the top of this party to the bottom because the consequence of a Donald Trump presidency, part two, is so catastrophic in the minds of a Barack Obama or a Bill Clinton or anybody in this party, it just can't be allowed.

And so, yes, it's unusual - this unusual time that we're in, but anybody who doubts Barack Obama's ability, yes, well, who cares, no, no, Barack Obama can talk to people who are leaving this party and get them back and he's got six months to do it and he's going to play a tremendous role going forward.

COOPER: What do you think - I mean, do you think that's a - do you think he's going to be that involved, Alyssa?

GRIFFIN: I think there's nothing Barack Obama would rather do less than this, but I agree with Van that I - he doesn't like to be in politics anymore. He's enjoying his life. He's got a million projects. But I think he does realize the stakes are high.

I would argue, listen, tonight, great cash haul. The best place to use him, put him in Michigan. You're losing the Arab vote there. You're losing young African-American voters. There are battleground states where I think he's going to resonate the most. Biden has proven himself a formidable fundraiser. Use Obama with the key coalitions that are falling apart for Democrats right now.

JONES: I agree.

COOPER: And Van, President Biden has recently pointed to FBI data that shows crime was down in nearly every category across the United States in 2023. It's interesting. A lot of people probably either don't believe that or don't feel that. But according to the FBI, those are the numbers. Do you think that's going to ultimately sort of get felt in this campaign?

JONES: Well, I think that reality, actual reality and emotional reality, have not lined up for Biden on a number of issues. The economy, actually, on paper, is doing a lot better than people think. Unemployment is down. Gas prices are relatively low. Stock market's up.

A lot of things that have - should have people feeling good, food prices being sticky at the top, housing prices being sticky at the top, make people feel the whole thing is terrible. And crime has been coming back down. But a few sensational instances make people feel we're all unsafe.

And so there's an emotional reality and an actual reality that have not lined up for Biden yet. It's going to be job one for him to get those things lined up.

COOPER: Yes, Van Jones, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thanks so much.

Coming up, a new hearing in Fani Willis' election interference case against the former president in a Georgia courtroom almost two weeks after he failed to get her disqualified. The new argument from his legal team to get the case tossed. That is next.



COOPER: It was two weeks after Georgia Prosecutor Fani Willis survived a disqualification challenge. Her election interference case against the former president and 14 others resumed for the first time today. Now at issue, whether the former president and a co-defendant could get the case thrown out on First Amendment grounds.

Sara Murray has more on that.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The criminal case against Donald Trump in Georgia --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This whole witch hunt should be put out of its misery and dismissed immediately.

MURRAY (voice-over): -- inching ahead today. Trump attorney Steve Sadow arguing the indictment against the former president should be tossed, claiming Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, like his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

TRUMP: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes.

MURRAY (voice-over): -- were protected under the First Amendment.

STEVE SADOW, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Statements, comments, speech, expressive conduct that deals with campaigning or elections has always been found to be at the zenith of protected speech. Take out the political speech, no criminal charges.

MURRAY (voice-over): Prosecutors batting back at those arguments.

DONALD WAKEFORD, FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: What he is not allowed to do is employ his speech and his expression and his statements as part of a criminal conspiracy. To violate Georgia's RICO statute, he's not being prosecuted for lying, he's been prosecuted for lying to the government. MURRAY (voice-over): It's the first hearing after months of delving into the propriety of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' romantic relationship with fellow prosecutor Nathan Wade.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You're confused. You think I'm on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.

MURRAY (voice-over): Wade has since resigned from the case, while Willis was allowed to remain. But Trump's team is appealing that decision, as Judge Scott McAfee moves the case ahead.

SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUSTICE: Some crimes can be achieved solely through speech though. Why is that not what's happening here, as alleged?

MURRAY (voice-over): McAfee didn't rule on whether he'll allow the indictment to stand, but other defendants in the case have tried similar First Amendment arguments and fail. Willis, who did not appear in court today, still angling for Trump and his remaining 14 co- defendants to go to trial before the presidential election, perhaps as soon as August.


WILLIS: I don't feel like we've been slowed down at all. I do think that there are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.

MURRAY (voice-over): But today's hearing wrapped without any discussion of a potential trial date.

MCAFEE: And we'll be adjourned.


COOPER: Sara Murray joins us now. Is it clear when the judge might rule on Trump's motion?

MURRAY (on-camera): Anderson, the judge did not lay out a timeline today for when he was going to rule on, you know, whether he should toss the indictment entirely. Obviously, from the district attorney's perspective, they want the judge to make swift decisions on these pretrial motions that are out there.

They have Trump and 14 other defendants to deal with if they want to go to trial by this summer. Again, still no trial date set. Trump's team, of course, is happy to let the judge take all the time he wants there. They want to keep punting this and hope that there's no chance of a trial date before this presidential election, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Perspective now from Michael Moore, a former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. Also two former federal prosecutors, Temidayo Aganga-Williams, a former senior investigative counsel on the January 6th Committee, and Elie Honig. Is there a chance, Elie, that the former president succeeds on this First Amendment grounds?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Realistically, no, Anderson. And here's why. On the surface, the arguments that we heard Donald Trump's lawyers make today have some superficial appeal. They said, well, you're allowed under the First Amendment to make false statements. You're allowed to make politically unpopular statements, and that's all he did.

The problem with that argument, as the D.A.'s office pointed out, is there's that doesn't jive with the facts here. He did much more than just engage in speech. For example, Donald Trump had official documents submitted to government entities. That's going beyond. That gets into the category of conduct. He arranged and coordinated with others to try to steal this election.

And so I think this judge is going to reject this. It's worth noting that Trump made a similar First Amendment argument in the federal Jack Smith case that was rejected by the federal judge. That's not binding on the state judge, but I think the state judge is going to come out the same place.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Temidayo, he's talking about Judge Chutkan in the -- in that case, who rejected this argument. Does that have any bearing? I mean, would the judge in the Georgia case take that into account?

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, JAN. 6TH COMMITTEE: For sure. I mean, it's going to be persuasive. And today, in the arguments, the Georgia prosecutor asked the judge specifically to look at Judge Chutkan's analysis. He said, you know, I don't think I can do better than she did because it was persuasive.

And what she really did was separate the argument of corporate (ph) speech and whether that is being moderated by the government versus criminal conduct. So, for example, you can have a right to have a gun, possess a gun. But what you can't do is take that gun and use it in furtherance of a crime. Just because you have a gun legally, doesn't mean you can rob a bank with it.

Same way with political speech. Just because you're allowed to say something under our First Amendment, it doesn't mean you can then say those exact statements in furtherance of a crime. And that's what Donald Trump is being charged with here. It's speech that he's using in furtherance of a crime. It's not speech for the sake of speech.

And on top of that, there's more than pure speech. If you're entering into a conspiracy, it's not that you said something political is why you're in a conspiracy. It's because you and your co-conspirators entered into an agreement to do something illegal. So, again, it's not pure speech is at the heart of the indictment here.

COOPER: And Michael, I mean, does it strike you it's just another delay tactic from the former president's team on this? MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with all of you. It is really a delay tactic, but it's a very standard practice in a criminal case to have these kinds of motions. So the fact that they had pre-trial motions, that they tried to get the indictment dismissed, that they've challenged parts of the indictment, that's normal.

This is what normal court looks like in a, criminal case, except that it happens to be involving a former president. So I do think it's going to delay things. I think this -- the judge probably had his order halfway written because he has sort of ruled on this before. And there is some precedent out there in other courts.

He's not bound by that has been said, but I think that it just -- is part of the routine process. What he's really waiting on and what's delaying the case is that there's a pending appeal in the Georgia court of appeals from his disqualification order. And, of course, you've got the issue of immunity that's pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. Those things are -- what are going to put the brakes on the case as much as anything else.

COOPER: How much time, Elie, do you think he'll take to rule?

HONIG: He's been pretty prompt, so I think we'll see a ruling certainly within a month, maybe a couple weeks. And I do think Michael is exactly right. Watching that proceeding today, it was the most normal pre-trial motions that you'll see.

It happens in every case, and it was sort of refreshing after all the drama that we've seen happening in this case to just see lawyers making the same arguments you would expect to see in any case, arguing them fairly and reasonably and rationally. It was a dignified court proceeding, and I think this case needed some of that.

COOPER: Temidayo, any chance you think this gets to, I mean, actually start before the election?

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: I think it's incredibly unlikely, and that's always been true. I mean, this --

COOPER: The complexity of the defendants involve here.

AGANGA-WILLIAMS: Exactly. There's so many defendants here, and we saw in some of the prior hearings we had, when you have these many defendants and each defense lawyer gets to ask a question and stands up, this all just takes a long time.

You also have jury selection here, which will take probably months and months and months. Even get a jury chosen here, I think it's unlikely we have a trial.


And on top of that, the judges indicated that he may split this up even further for multiple trials. And I suspect the former president will be in one of those later groups, not an early one. So if I were a betting man, I would say we don't have a trial before the election.

COOPER: Michael, an attorney for Trump's co-defendant David Shafer, who's the former chair of the Georgia Republican Party, he asked the judge to strike the term fake elector from the case, saying it was a, quote, "legal conclusion". What do you make of that argument?

M. MOORE: I don't think he's going to get very far with it. I mean, you don't always want to have conclusory statements in an indictment. Those things should be technically up to the jury. It's not like they're being told now, here you go, he's actually the fake elector or whatever.

I don't know that he'll get far. I will say this, I've watched this trial judge and he seems to like to split the baby, if you will, and sort of parse some language. And I -- it wouldn't surprise me. He said, well, this might be a better term. I'm going to strike this the end of this sentence or something like that.

But it's certainly not going to throw the indictment out. There's just -- that's just not going to happen. I don't believe it at this point. This is sort of nitpicking and cleaning up parts of the indictment. And take an issue with some language that the D.A. chose to put in before the grand jury.

COOPER: All right, Michael, thanks very much. Temidayo, Elie as well, thank you so much.

Our new all over the map report tonight from the key swing state of Arizona is next with our John King.



COOPER: Throughout the campaign this year, John King has been traveling the country, speaking with Americans about the issues that matter most to them, especially the polls. His series is called "All Over the Map," and the location this week is Arizona, and he's back now with what he's found there. John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we went to two counties in South Central Arizona, absolutely critical to President Biden. They also happen to be the counties right at or near the border. The immigration issue also is a big issue.

What's surprising there is you find people who live there, who live the immigration issue every day, they listen to the national conversation and they are lost. Yes, they say it's a crisis, but they listen to Trump or they listen to liberals and they say all this shouting has so little to do with the actual problems right here where we live.


KING (voice-over): A wall as far as the eye can see. This is the Tucson sector, by far, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings. Smuggling is a big problem, and a big business Faith Ramon knows all too well.

FAITH RAMON, MEMBER OF THE TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION: I needed money. I needed money quick. And because of my alcohol and my addiction, I just went to a party, met some friends, they offered me some quick money, I took it. And it was so easy. It was so easy. I did it again, and I did it again. Sure enough, I was doing it for years because of it being so easy.

KING: Then you got caught.

RAMON: And then I got caught. My luck ran out.

KING (voice-over): A felony conviction set Ramon in search of sobriety. Under 2018, Tohono O'odham tribal ritual would again put the border front and center.

RAMON: A sweat large ceremony. And I walked in, and that was the very first time I heard that there was a border wall that was going to be built on the reservation, separating and destroying some of our sacred sites.

KING (voice-over): Ramon is now an activist who registers voters and is eligible to have her own voting rights restored. Her first choice for president would be this November in Battleground Arizona.

RAMON: I will vote for Biden.

KING (voice-over): Donald Trump is not an option.

RAMON: I don't like the fact that our reservation was destroyed by a racist wall.

KING (voice-over): To win here again, Biden needs big margins here in South Central Arizona, Tucson, and south to the Mexican border. Ray Flores is no fan of Biden or Trump, thinks both are too old to be president.

RAY FLORES, ARIZONA VOTER: At this juncture, they both had four years, and I'm just eight years more frustrated than I was before.

KING (voice-over): Flores runs El Charro, a family business for 102 years. A Tucson landmark famous for carne seca and the chimichanga. Washington's immigration paralysis hurts business.

FLORES: I mean, a clear process for work visas would be amazing. You're a technology company, you can get an engineer and you can get them immigrated and you can get a work visa. Why shouldn't I be able to do that with a chef? Or with a really good waiter?

KING (voice-over): The immigration conversation tends to be different in places at or near the border. More polite, more nuanced. Focused on solutions, not slogans.

EVAN KORY, ARIZONA VOTER: It's a unique situation where you have two countries that create a community and actually it's mutually beneficial for both countries. KING (voice-over): Walk through the Nogales border crossing and the first business you see is Kory's bridal shop. Evan Kory is fine with the wall but didn't like it when Trump added the razor wire. He bristles when the former president talks about the border and Mexicans.

KORY: We've always depended on on our Mexican neighbors to support our local economy.

KING (voice-over): Kory, a Democrat, also bristles though when liberals oppose more money for the border patrol and other security measures.

KORY: Yes. I mean, that's equally frustrating too, because you have to have a balance between all the needs and find a way to somehow work together.

KING (voice-over): Handmade boots are a specialty at David's Western Wear. For 44 years, a favorite of customers on both sides of the border. David Moore says 99 percent of his business was from Mexico before the COVID shutdown. It's about 70 percent now.

Moore says the wall helps stop illegal crossings. He wants more agents to cut long wait times that discourage Mexicans from making day trips to shop. And he says the asylum process is broken.

DAVIN MOORE, ARIZONA VOTER: I don't know how that works, that people from Africa are coming in through Mexico, up through the Mexican border. I would want them to regulate that a little more.

KING (voice-over): Moore is a registered Republican, but a likely Biden voter, because Trump offends him.

KING: He said that, you know, the immigrants are poisoning our blood. What would you say?


D. MOORE: I'd say my mother was born in Mexico and she came across the border, legally. So, you know, that's poison I can deal with, I guess.

KING (voice-over): Moore says the way Trump and allies talk about the border is exaggerated and alarmist, and he says he pays the price. Customers call and say they're worried about making the trip to Nogales.

D. MOORE: People from everywhere do that. Because when they say on the news that the borders are a war zone, you know, that's -- those are the images they get. They think it's unsafe, but --

KING: Your home is not a war zone.

D. MOORE: My home is not a war zone. No, we've been here for a long time.

KING (voice-over): A long time, at what is now a major line of America's political divide.


COOPER: and John, it's so great to just hear from people all across the country. Where does immigration rank among the top issue for voters?

KING: It's fascinating. If you listen to those voters, Democrats and Republicans, they say it's a crisis. As I said, Anderson, they want to have a conversation. They want the shouting to stop about this. They want to have a conversation about solutions, not all the slogans.

But as we know, it's a big issue in the campaign. Where's Donald Trump going next week? He's going to Michigan, to Grand Rapids, the suburbs, right? Kent County, Joe Biden won it in 2020. Donald Trump won it in 2016.

Donald Trump is trying to get back on the immigration issue to help him in the suburbs. Why? If you look, this is where we were down in Arizona. If you look here, two of the border counties are red, two of them are blue. These two here is where we visited. Absolutely critical to Biden.

The president has a problem at the moment, and that's an understatement. First, let's just look at Joe Biden's approval on the issues. This is a new Fox national poll, and look at this. The president's underwater on the big issues in the country. Economy, inflation. Look at this on immigration.

30 percent approved, 67 percent disapprove. In Fox News polling, Anderson, this is a new low for the president on approval on immigration, just 30%. So the president has a big problem there, and here it's exacerbated when you factor in this.

This is a new poll from Quinnipiac this week. They asked voters, they listed 10 issues, and they said, which is most important to you as you cast your vote this year? 26 percent said immigration, 20 percent said economy, 18 percent said preserving democracy. This is the first time in Quinnipiac polling that immigration has been issue number one.

So if you talk to those voters, they say, let's have a conversation. If you listen to the campaign, Donald Trump's not interested in that. He's interested in using the issue saying Joe Biden has blown it at the border. We'll see how it plays out, but that's a problem for the president.

COOPER: Yes. John King, thanks so much.

Coming up, CNN fact check, a Michigan state lawmaker claims that Illegal invaders, in their words, were on buses spotted at a Detroit airport. Seems he doesn't follow college basketball. We'll explain the connection next.


[20:56:49] COOPER: Well, March Madness is living up to its name in ways you'd never expect. Earlier this week, Michigan State Republican lawmaker Matt Maddock posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, photos from Detroit's airport with the caption, quote, "Three buses just loaded up with illegal invaders at Detroit Metro. Anyone have any idea where they're headed with their police escort?"

The key phrase highlighted there, illegal invaders. Maddock got a ton of responses and he's fired back with replies which have gone viral. But the answer to his question has nothing to do with the so-called illegal invaders far from it.

CNN's Daniel Dale joins us, keeping him honest with a fact check and the March Madness tie in. So what is going on here, Daniel?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: What's going on, Anderson, is that this claim about illegal invaders is completely made up. It is absolute fiction. And the airplane and three buses seen in Mr. Maddock's tweet there were actually used by NCAA men's college basketball teams that were landing at Detroit's airport to play in, as you said, March Madness.

So let me walk you through how social media users, including me, solve this extremely easy to solve non-mystery. If you go back to that tweet by Mr. Maddock, you'll see that the plane picture there is an Allegiant airplane. And if you go to online flight tracking sites, you'll see there was only one Allegiant Air flight that landed at Detroit's airport.

It was a charter flight from Spokane, Washington. So why would there be a charter flight from Spokane, Washington? Well, as people on social media figured out, the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, who are playing Purdue tomorrow night in Detroit, are located in Spokane, Washington. And then, if you go to Gonzaga's men's basketball Twitter page or X page, you'll see a photo they posted themselves of them boarding their flight on that Allegiant plane to Detroit.

So I contacted a spokesperson for the Gonzaga team. They're like, yes, we took an Allegiant plane. We landed in Detroit. Yes, there were buses waiting. Yes, we got a police escort. I contacted the local -- the county airports authority that runs this Detroit airport. They said, yes, these buses were for NCAA basketball teams and their traveling parties.

So, in summary, Anderson, nothing happened here. Like, sports teams arrived at the city where they were going to play their sport --

COOPER: Right.

DALE: -- the end, but somehow a lawmaker turned this into an immigration scandal on social media.

COOPER: So I hesitate to even ask, but what is this legislator's response now that we know more of the facts? Is he backing down?

DALE: He is calling people kommies who -- so he is a -- COOPER: Yes.

DALE: -- Trumpy -- Trump endorsed and quite Trumpian lawmaker, who has done such things to try to --

COOPER: Kommies, it's so original. I mean --

DALE: Kommies with a K, the K is original. So he's --


DALE: -- done things like try to overturn the 2020 election, promoted COVID misinformation. And so people said, hey, this is probably NCAA basketball teams landing in Detroit. He said, you know, you're kommie. Thanks, kommie.

And then he expanded on that today after fact checks had come out saying, you know, the fake news won't investigate, illegals arriving in our cities, so citizens have to investigate. But I have to say, if this is his citizen investigation, I don't think he's going to be hired for too many private investigator jobs anytime soon.

COOPER: And he's an actual legislator, like an actual person?

DALE: He's an actual -- he's a state representative in the state of Michigan, elected official indeed.

COOPER: Wow. Daniel Dale, God bless you. How long did that take you, Daniel, a loose calls (ph)?

DALE: A very little time -- I mean, you know, it took an hour or so to write, but to actually figure out what happened, a few minutes.

COOPER: It took an hour or so to write. Yes.

DALE: Yes.

COOPER: A few minutes, wow, to do. Daniel Dale, amazing. Thank you. Appreciate it.

DALE: Thank you.

COOPER: The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now. Thanks for watching.