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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Cleanup Effort Underway To Reopen Port Vital To Nation's Economy; Ukraine's President Urges Congress To Urgently Pass Aid Funding; American Evan Gershkovich Hits One Year In Russian Prison; Potential Trump VP Pick Rep. Bryon Donalds Used To Bash Trump Online; Trump Appeals To Remove Fani Willis From Georgia Election Case; Researchers Baffled Why Fish Are Whirling To Death. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 16:00   ET



CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Two celestial bodies fit almost perfectly together. So, lots are going to change. I guarantee it, ten- day forecast. Is it even good on your app? So keep watching here.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN HOST: I'm so nervous about this. I've never seen one before. I'm going to be in Carville in the path of totality for this one, I'm just praying the cloud stay away because it's going to be a long time, Chad, before we get to see another one.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: So long, Chad. And we know --

MYERS: Twenty years.

KEILAR: -- every day, you'll have to do this forecast. Thank you.

All right. Join CNN for "Eclipse Across America", a special live coverage starting Monday, April 8 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, or you can stream it on Max.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Just moments ago, specifics on what will be a massive operation to reopen a critical shipping port.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Cut the bridge into pieces. That's the new plan to get that collapsed bridge off a cargo ship in Baltimore.

Plus, tug boats, barges, even more cranes with the latest on the East Coast already -- the largest on East Coast already on the scene. Who's paying for this intense mission? I'm going ask a Republican who calls himself a budget hawk about the role of Congress.

Plus, breaking in just the last few minutes, Donald Trump is making a new demand saying that if Nathan Wade is kicked off the Georgia election case. Fani Willis has to go, too. Ahead a live report on what that means, if anything, for one of the biggest cases against the former president.

Plus, what has so many fish freaked out near South Florida spinning and swimming upside down. CNN went to investigate if there's a larger problem here.


SCIUTTO: Hello. I'm Jim Sciutto. Welcome to THE LEAD, filling in for Jake Tapper today.

We just heard what it will take to move that massive bridge still blocking a critical Baltimore port. Crews say the huge crane brought in today just can't lift all that heavy metal. They'll need more.

Just listen to what the Maryland governor says is now on the way. Ten tug boats, nine bridges, eight salvage vessels, seven floating cranes, five Coast Guard boats, and that's just for starters.

Let me remind you why they need all this equipment the moment early Tuesday morning when the unthinkable happened, when a ship the size of a building slammed into the bridge. There's that moment, forcing it to fall in a matter of just seconds. It killed six construction workers who were filling potholes on the span at the time.

The remains of four of those workers are still underwater, believed to be trapped under concrete. The collapse cut off a critical shipping terminal, crippling a major economic hub that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars every single day.

Here is Maryland's Governor Wes Moore just moments ago about the difficult task of cleaning up.


GOV. WES MOORE (D), MARYLAND: To see a freight that is nearly the size of the Eiffel Tower and I see that same freight with the Key Bridge resting on top of it. To see it up close, you realize just how daunting a task this is.


SCIUTTO: Let's go now to CNN's Brian Todd live from Baltimore.

Todd -- I mean, we knew this to some degree going in. It's going to be a massive cleanup effort, but, boy, the more you hear about it, you really get a sense of it

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. You know, the governor and we have also just spoken to General Scott Spellmon of the Army Corps of Engineers. Both of them together have given us some very good information just now on the scale of this operation and what it's going to okay.

As I talk about that, our photojournalist, Harlan Schmidt, is going to kind of zoom over my right shoulder and show you what's going on at the site right now. There is a crane there. You can hardly see it because there's another bridge behind it that's kind of obscuring it a little bit, but there's a crane there right next to the wreckage of the bridge. That's one of the floating cranes that they are brought to bear, but it is not one of the heavier ones.

The heaviest crane that they have brought the Chesapeake 1000 is not right at the site yet, but it's very close by their ramping it up as we speak. It's going to be deployed shortly, but it is not there yet.

Here's what the governor said a short time ago. They're going to be deploying seven cranes, ten tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels, five coast guard boats, and one key piece of information, Jim, is that they have got to remove first that wreckage and the steel and the concrete records that is draped over the bow of the Dali, and that according to the governor, could be between 3,000 and 4,000 tons just of records that is just sitting on the boat. That's what they've got to try to remove first.

Now we just also spoke to General Scott Spellmon of the Army Corps of Engineers, who told us that the Chesapeake 1000, that large crane, and some of the other large cranes cannot even start to remove that wreckage from the bow of the boat until they cut it up into smaller pieces.


The Chesapeake 1000 can lift 1,000 tons of wreckage at a time. That's obviously an enormous amount but with 4,000 tons of wreckage on the boat, that means that they have to cut it up into four smaller chunks in order just to get that off the boat and that's one of the first things they've got to do.

We've also spoken to a mechanical engineer at Morgan State University, Dr. Oscar Barton who said they're going to have to survey the area first. They're going to still have to use divers. This is incredibly dangerous work. It is arduous and it's just going -- it's going to take what the governor said. It's not going to be days, weeks, or months, which gives you an idea that this is going to take a long time and it's going to be very dangerous, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. And it's going to have a huge impact on the port there as well.

Brian Todd in Baltimore, thanks so much.

There was a growing debate in the Republican Party over who should pay to fix this bridge, which is a huge, expensive and still necessary project. Federal government already giving some $60 million seen as really just a down payment toward cleaning up, and then later repairing the bridge but a heck of a lot more money is likely needed.

And to get that money, you need to sign off from the critical House Appropriations Committee.

So I want to speak now to a Republican who once to lead that committee. He's Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma.

Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time this afternoon.

REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): Hey, Jim, thanks for having me

SCIUTTO: As I'm sure you've heard, some of your colleagues are concerned about the federal government footing the bill here. I want to play Congressman Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania talking about this. Have a listen.


REP. DAN MEUSER (R-PA): It was kind of outrageous immediately for Biden to express in this tragedy the idea that he's going to use federal funds to pay for the entirety.


SCIUTTO: This is one of the country's most vital ports. It has a crucial role in the auto, the energy industries. I wonder why wouldn't the federal government stepped in to help pay for this?

COLE: Well, actually, it should, Jim. Look, this is a national disaster. It's not certainly caused by anybody in Baltimore. If there's any liability, it would rest with the foreign company and ownership, and we don't even know that yet to be fair. No investigation has been completed, but help is coming as it should. Immediately, we have that ability where are you removal and your emergency funds available at DOT.

Longer-term though, this is a major rebuilding project as you point out. It's got real implications for the national economy, in terms of the importance of Baltimore as a port. So I would expect there will be a very robust federal response here.

I certainly would be supportive that and certainly Maryland has, quite frankly, really excellent representation on the committee on appropriations, on both sides of the aisle. So we'll be looking to work with our colleagues and try to make sure that the people in Baltimore, Maryland and frankly beyond that in the region get the help they need.

SCIUTTO: I spoke to a lawmaker who's briefed today on just the scale of this, the amount of money involved, the time. Can you -- can you give us a sense of ballpark figures, but also just a rough timeline as to how long this is all going to take or do we even know yet?

COLE: It's going to take a while as you know. You know, it's going to take committee months, probably to get to the portfolio operational and every single day that which people out of work and that disrupts supply chains. You know, not dimension, obviously, there's the massive job of reconstructing the bridge itself.

There's no question this is a ten-figure kind of disaster. That means you'll run into the billions of dollars. Beyond that, I'll be a little premature to say, I've dealt with a lot of these disaster situations over the course of a long career and your dangerous to estimate too low, too early.


COLE: It usually takes a while to really do the full investigation. And so I would urge people in Maryland, I know the federal government will take their time to make sure we get it right. But I don't have any doubt that Congress is going to be forthcoming and be helpful to these people.

Again, these are our citizens that are in distress. It's a disaster. This is the role of the federal government.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about another funding issue, but one that relates to an overseas partner. That, of course, funding to Ukraine for its continuing defense against the Russian, the Russian invasion.

Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, he says that the House Speaker Mike Johnson will bring a bill for this after the Easter break. I mean, the trouble is we've heard this for some time, right? And it still hasn't happened. Will it finally happen? I mean, did you envision a vote on the floor and up or down vote on Ukraine funding and the coming days, weeks or --

COLE: I suspect we will see some sort of package. They're probably the biggest single hold up as we needed to take care of our own government first, and it took us a while. We finally got there last week. In March, we got two packages of six appropriations bills done.

We've got urgent business around the world. It's not just Ukraine. Obviously, Israel, we're worried about also the western Pacific.


So I would envision a package, but there's a variety of ideas. A couple of the ideas that have been put forward in addition to aid to Ukraine have been that the ability to seize Russian sovereign wealth by the Ukraine, by ourselves, by other countries to help defray the cost.

There's some discussion of a lend-lease type loan. We've had that provision in previous packages of aid for Ukraine. That basically meets part of it is a loan, but it's an interesting free loan with no, you know, definite time to repayment. And frankly, or the loan can be forgiven as appropriate.

So again, I -- look, there is a robust debate about Ukraine. I respect those who have a different point of view, but I've been consistently supportive of assistance for Ukraine and I'll continue to do so. They're a victim of pretty naked Russian aggression, they fought back valiantly and quite frankly, I don't think if they were not to be -- if they were unsuccessful, I think we would see more of this behavior from Russia.

So we have a stake in the outcome of this struggle and we ought to be helping them. SCIUTTO: Do -- do you find that some of your Republican colleagues -- how do they respond when you make that argument to them? Because as you know, some of them are quite publicly against this.

The former President Trump, now the GOP nominee for reelection he -- he has said -- he doesn't have much interest in this aid. In fact, he claims that he could end -- end the war on day one as president. What do you say to them about this aid and how necessary it is?

COLE: Well, you know, look, I think a lot of my -- my Republican friends are frustrated. They think were here in part because of the disastrous pull out from Afghanistan by the Biden administration, which we think said Putin all the wrong signals, and we think played a role in this, and we think -- I do. And not everyone would share my view we were actually slow to get aid to Ukraine beforehand when we could have sent a message to the Russians that we were serious about this.

But that's water under the bridge. It didn't change the reality now. I would say in the house, our leading being foreign policy experts are actually Mike McCaul, the chair of foreign relations, Mike Rogers who's the chair of the House Armed Services Committee. And Mike Turner, who's the chair of the Defense Intelligence Committee or excuse me, the Intelligence Committee. All of those experts are in favor of aid to Ukraine.

So there's substantial Republicans support. I recognize some of my colleagues have a difference. I respect that. They're trying to keep America out of being entangled and what they like to call legitimately forever wars.

But again, I think we have a big stake in this. I think the Ukrainians have resisted heroically and but they've done so not just with our health. They're -- I mean, Europe is in this, in a big way. We actually have 11 countries that have contributed larger percentage of their budget and of their GDP to this effort, and then the united (INAUDIBLE).

So that's something I think some of my colleagues aren't aware of. This is not America being asked to act alone. This is we're acting in concert with our friends, with common values and common interests. And frankly, the Ukrainians are not only -- have done extraordinarily well on the battlefield, much better than expected.

This has pushed Finland and Sweden into NATO. I think it's a big strategic defeat for Russia and for Putin. But again, I think American assistance is going to be required, going forward, and I'm supportive of that.

SCIUTTO: Well, we'll see if that warning is heated.

Representative Tom Cole, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon.

COLE: Hey, Jim, great to be with you.

SCIUTTO: Right now, a so-called social media storm coordinated by staff at "The Wall Street Journal" is encouraging the world to support their colleague, Evan Gershkovich. Today marks one year since the reporter has been detained in Russia. A close friend of Gershkovich is going to join me next.

Plus, word of a new group of journalists detained in Russia just this week.

Plus, CNN's KFILE unearthing the not-so flattering messages about Donald Trump from a Republican some people say is now on Trump's shortlist for VP.



SCIUTTO: In our world lead, quote, journalism is not a crime and reporters are not bargaining chips. That pointed message in a rare joint statement by the Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, marking today exactly one year since American journalist Evan Gershkovich, his arrest in Russia. He's the first journalist since the Cold War charged with espionage in Russia, charges the U.S. government and his employer vehemently denied.

And it's not just Gershkovich. U.S.-Russian dual citizen and journalist Alsu Kurmasheva is also behind bars. And just this week, six journalists working for independent media outlets in Russia were arrested, according to Reporters Without Borders.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports from Russia as Gershkovich's family and friends remain cautiously hopeful for a prisoner swap.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was our latest brief glimpse of Evan Gershkovich appearing in a Moscow court this week.

In the past, we've been kicked out of the courtroom.

You see Evan Gershkovich is in there. Hi, Matthew from CNN. Are you holding up, all right?


CHANCE: What he wants to do?

This time, journalists weren't even allowed in, as the detention of "The Wall Street Journal" reporter on espionage charges was extended for another three months.

LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: This verdict to further prolonged Evan's detention feels particularly painful as this week marks the one-year anniversary since Evan was arrested and wrongfully detained near Ekaterinburg for simply doing his job as a journalist.

CHANCE: U.S. Officials say they're negotiating with Moscow for his release, even the Kremlin confirmed this week contacts on a prisoner swap are continuing for the Russian president, the 32-year-old American newspaper reporter is a valuable bargaining chip.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We're willing to solve it but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels.


I believe an agreement can be reached.

CHANCE: The Kremlin knows painful agreements have been reached in the past. In 2022, U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner convicted of possessing cannabis in Russia, was swapped for Viktor Boot, a notorious Russian arms trafficker.


CHANCE (on camera): Jim, Russia is also holding other Americans behind bars, including former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who's been in jail convicted of espionage since 2018. But Gershkovich and Whelan, I'd like you to stay behind bars unless another deal with the United States can be agreed.

SCIUTTO: Until the next hostages taken.

Matthew Chance reporting from Russia, thank you.

Evan Gershkovich's year-long detention has also brought immeasurable pain on his family and close friends. His friend and former roommate, Jeremy Berke, recalls waking up a year ago today to his partner saying, quote, they got them.

And Jeremy Berke joins us now.

Jeremy, thanks so much for taking time on a day I know it's got to be difficult for you.

JEREMY BERKE, FRIEND OF EVAN GERSHKOVICH: Yeah. Thanks so much for the time and attention to Evan story, Jim. I really appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Well, we're doing our best to keep in the headlines. I want to get your reflection from that day, and particularly this year later. Did they realize your friend was taken by the FSB?

BERKE: Yeah. Look, it was a really emotional day and obviously on a year anniversary, it brings up those emotions again. You know, the way I like to talk about it is I woke up around 8:00 in the morning. I'm a late riser and there was a push alert on my phone that a reporter had been detained in Russia.

Your mind obviously goes to the absolute worst place when that happens. I rushed over to the TV and their Evan was with this image seared into my mind. It was him get a yellow hood drawn close around his head. There was a gloved hand on the back of his head and he was getting shuffled into a waiting please vehicle. You know, I think about that image every night I go to sleep for the

past 365 days and I will until he's home.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, you must and we're showing the image now of human glass box in the courtroom in Russia. The front page of "The Wall Street Journal" was blank today.

This is to symbolize his silence reporting, his family says reporting is his dream job. I wonder how you think he's managing while he's in prison. How does he manage to keep sane and hopeful?

BERKE: Yeah, look, I mean, we are hearing from him. It's stilted communication, but he's writing letters and, you know, we are trying to insert some measure of levity into his life. He's confined in a cell for 23 hours a day. And I think he's okay. But he's okay through sheer force of will.

He has a unique ability to remain okay in these situations, I don't believe he was naive to the risks of reporting in Russia, but he's in there and he's meditating. He's watching Russian TV. He's writing letters. He's reading books and he's still practicing the Russian language, which is what he went over there as a reporter to do.

And so, look, he's maintaining a sanity and it's quite impressive. But we're trying our best to ensure he stays connected to us here at home. For people watching now, who want to help do their best to help -- I wonder how you would recommend they do that.

There's a few things people can do. Number one, I'd say, look, Evan is an extrovert. He wants to hear from you. Please write him a letter.

You can do that on It will get to him. We can assure you of that.

The second thing I would do is share his story both him as a person and also his recording. He wants nothing more than for his work to be shared, for his mission to tell the stories of both the Russian people and to explain what's happening in Russia to us here at home. He wants nothing more for that to be shared with all of us.

And so, please go ahead and do that. You can find his byline on the Wall Street Journal.

SCIUTTO: That's great to hear that the letters actually do get to him as well. Jeremy Berke, we wish you the best. We hope that good news about your good friend come soon.

BERKE: Thank you so much, Jim

SCIUTTO: Back here at home and named floated as a VP pick for Donald Trump, has not always had the highest praise of the former president and businessman. CNN's KFILE, has the receipts and that's next.

Plus, a new demand from Trump just this afternoon in one of the most consequential cases against him.



SCIUTTO: In our politics lead, Florida Republican Congressman Byron Donalds is an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, and at least according to Trump one of several candidates on his VP shortlist. But the two haven't always been so chummy.

In fact, back in 2011, Donalds celebrated Trumps decision not to run again, then President Barack Obama. Trump won't run. Thank God, exclamation point, Donald said.

CNN's KFILE unearthed numerous examples of Donalds directly criticizing Trump in social media posts. In 2011 and 2012 when he was running unsuccessfully, then for a seat in Congress.

Andrew Kaczynski, senior editor, of CNN's KFILE joins us now.

Andrew, tell us how extensive his comments were.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Well, that's right, Jim. Donalds is a Trump loyalist and he is one of the former president's most trusted surrogates.

But during his time as a Tea Party candidate and activist more than a decade ago, Donalds was harshly critical of the former president. He strongly condemned those birther claims from Trump in 2011 about Barack Obama, comparing it in Facebook post to Democrats' claims that the Bush administration orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


And in posts, he called him a, quote, self-promoter, yelling about 25 percent tariffs on China, and a, quote, huge distraction who cares more about himself than the country, in my opinion.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. And he's still talking about those tariffs on China, by the way.

He didn't just criticize Trump himself. He also took aim at a lot of Trump's policy ideas.

KACZYNSKI: Yeah, that's absolutely right. Donalds was staunchly opposed to tariffs and trade restrictions during his Tea Party years, and that failed run for Congress. He actually said while hosting a radio show that we shouldn't be manufacturing things in Michigan, he said we should make you be making them in China because its cheaper for consumers and that's obviously something that is so incredibly different from what Trump has been saying.

But it wasn't just trade. Donalds supported raising the retirement age and the privatization of both Social Security and Medicare Democrats, people might remember at that time were disparaging Republicans over Medicare, saying that they were going to turn it into a, quote, voucher system.

But Donalds, unlike a lot of Republicans, actually embraced that term during that campaign. Take a listen to this


BRYON DONALDS (R-FL), THEN-CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: When it comes to Medicare reform, I think what Paul Ryan (INAUDIBLE) is correct. We do have to go to two up to a -- to a payment subsidized system where we give that voucher if they want to call it, I'm not afraid to call it a voucher. That's exactly what its going to be, a voucher to that person, to that person who was on Medicare.

Here is the amount of dollars we have allocated towards, you know, is your responsibility to allocate those dollars effectively.


KACZYNSKI: So, Jim, we did reach out to Donalds office to ask about those clips, how they square what he said then with what he's saying now. And they told us in a statement, quote: President Trump is considering Byron as his running mate because of the congressman's steadfast support for the 45th president and his historic policy agenda. The fact that these decade-old posts are now resurfacing in the middle of running mate deliberations is weak, but typical CNN.

So it's going to be really interesting to see how all of this plays out and how it goes into the VP considerations -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. Of course, the statement did not address the existence of those statements themselves, as often happens.

Andrew Kaczynski, thanks so much.

Just in to CNN, the blistering words from Trump's legal team as the former president makes another attempt to unravel one of the most significant cases against him.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news in our law and justice lead, Donald Trump and his legal team are launching a new attempt to get Fani Willis removed from the Georgia election fraud case.

Nick Valencia is here with the latest.

Nick, tell us exactly what they're arguing this time.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, remember that Judge McAfee had granted that certificate for immediate review, and so we had anticipated this filing to happen and now its official. Steve Sadow, the former president's attorney here in Georgia, has filed this along with eight other attorneys for co-defendants in this case, eight of the 14, including the former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and the personal attorney for Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani.

And what they're saying here is they're asking the appeals court to overturn Judge McAfee's decision and some really scathing language in this legal filing.

This is what they're saying in part: D.A. Willis has covered herself and her office and scandal and disrepute. The trial court's decision not to disqualify D.A. Willis under these circumstances is a structural error, a violation of the defendant's due process rights and seriously denigrates the public's confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system.

We did reach out to the Fulton County D.A.'s office. They declined to comment, but we should expect the response in writing. And so once the Georgia appellate court has both those responses, they'll have 45 days to decide what to do next. But obviously, this really underscores just how Fani Willis's disqualification still lingers over this case, even as the D.A.'s office is trying really desperately to get the focus back on the criminal charges against the former president and his remaining co-defendants -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Nick Valencia, thanks so much.

Let's dive in now with our panel.

Ashley, I mean, this has been a typical strategy of the Trump team. They have the right to appeal. They often lengthen those appeals and appeal everything, right? Does this one have any chance?

I mean, the judge considered this issue already said remove Nathan Wade, Fani Willis can go forward. Does this latest appeal have a chance of -- if not delaying, forcing her out?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it will delay the trial, which is part of Trump's strategy to continue to have it going longer and longer to go past the election with the hope that he wins and then all of these things fall apart.

The only difference is this is the state case, and so, this cannot be overturned by the president of the United States. It's not federal law. This is also an attempt to continue to smear Fani Willis's reputation and undermine her and undermine that office.

So regardless of what the outcome is of the case, people and voters, particularly voters that support him, feel like whether he is convicted or not, because a lot of voters have said, if he is convicted of a crime, they would find it hard for an impossible to vote for him. They don't think you should be elected president.

This is another attempt to say, even if I am convicted, it's not enough not to consider me, not to vote for me because she's not a credible source or a credible attorney to been prosecuted in the first place.

SCIUTTO: Right. Doug, this has been a consistent strategy but by the Trump team and beyond what he says, calling himself a victim, et cetera.


Fact is, I mean, we've seen them in court. We're going to see him in court again.

Is he -- is it so working for him four Republican voters, certainly for base voters, is working for him for independent voters?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: For independent voters, that's an entirely different conversation, but for his base which is what he's trying to hold on to the most, not only does this strategy work for him but what we've seen over the past couple of weeks strengthens that case form. The ruling that the judge made in this was not exactly complimentary to the district attorney. In fact, said serious lapse of judgment. That plays into Donald Trumps case if they're out to get them at the systems rigged and all that.

The other thing that this does is it allows them to raise money. We spent a lot of the conversation this week talking about how Biden's raised a ton of money and Trump and the RNC haven't.


HEYE: The longer this goes on, the more Trump can pump out emails to his door to a small dollar donors and help -- help with some of those shortcomings that he's had thus far. That's important to him.

SCIUTTO: The trouble is he's still has shortcomings as we saw in this Biden's big fundraiser last night in New York. I do want to play one of the videos, the Biden campaign released from the event.

Have a listen, and get your reaction.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Donald Trump, as far as we can tell, has just been trying to win a third championship, but his own golf course.

My question to you, sir, can voters trust a presidential candidate who is not won a single Trump international golf club trophy? At long last, sir, have you no chip-shot?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, I'd be happy to play -- I told them once before when he came into the oval, when he was being before you go sworn in -- I said, I'll give you three strokes if you carry your own bag.


SCIUTTO: I mean, that fact in dollar terms, he's still far outpacing Donald Trump so far. But what you also see there is an attempt to kind of laugh at Trump, just to a degree.


SCIUTTO: Yeah. And that's deliberate, I imagine.

THOMPSON: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, you're trying but -- the Biden team has been a little bit all over the place here because sometimes they're mocking him, sometimes they're saying he's the greatest threat to -- you know, the republic is going to fall if he's elected in November.

It was also interesting about that comment, you know, I've covered Joe Biden for like five, four or five years now, I've never heard him tell that story and it just sort of interesting to bringing this out now. You know, Joe Biden certainly doesn't lie as much Donald Trump has a habit of telling some tall tales. I think that was interesting.

And I want to just follow up on one thing that you -- you all said in terms of how these appeals affect the campaign. You know, Donald Trump, when he was elected, didn't really know a lot about government, but he may have known more about how to delay trials than any man in America. He's one of the most litigious men and all of American history. And that's -- you're seeing this now on a presidential election on stage with every trial. And he's -- you know, Fani Willis gave him a little bit of an opening here.

SCIUTTO: You could say the DOJ gave him an opening to by taking time to appoint special counsel, et cetera. But to your point about the combination of humorous messages and serious messages, I want to play this other moment from the Biden event last night. Also released by the campaign, have a listen.


BIDEN: This guy denies there's a global warming. This guy wants to get rid of not only Roe v. Wade, but which is you prepare -- brags about having done, he wants to get rid of the ability of anyone anywhere in America ever choose all the things he's doing are so old, speaking of old.


SCIUTTO: That's a laugh line at the end, actually, but that's the other side of the message here, right? Is that not only threat to democracy, but threat to all these things that you hold dear.

ALLISON: Yeah, absolutely. I think it is the weight of what people are feeling right now, everyday voters is real. And so I think weaving in some humor is important because we can't always be on edge and tense. We won't -- we'll break like that.

But we also have to actually acknowledge the fact of what a risk of a second term of Donald Trump is. And I think that's what campaign has continued to do and will do. And it's not a theoretical conversation. It is actually using the words in the action of the former president.

He did appoint the three justices that overturned Roe. He said the litmus test to be appointed as a Supreme Court justice was that you would overturn Roe. And so, here we are in a world where Roe is overturned.

So, again, it's not a theoretical question of what would happen. We've seen it for four years and he's making promises for another four. SCIUTTO: Doug Heye, as Jonathan Martin reported, we know that there

are independent voters who don't like Trump, but we also know that Republican voters who have even said, and some of the -- some of the -- some of the polls following the primaries. Nikki Haley voters who said, I'm never going to vote for Trump.

And yet, Jonathan Martin reporting that Biden has not reached out to the Republican leaders who are also at a minimum, Trump skeptical, I'm talking about Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, Todd Young, Bill Cassidy, Lisa Murkowski. Is that a missed opportunity for him or is that just a fundamentally difficult thing to do -- a Democratic president for candidate to seek the allyship of senior Republicans?


HEYE: Well, it's a tough thing to do. But remember this part of Joe Biden's core promises that I'm the guy that can do all of this.

And I say that because my first political job I was an intern for Jesse Helms. He worked very closely with Joe Biden. My last political job, I worked for Eric Cantor. He worked very closely with Joe Biden.

I know that Joe Biden, his DNA is sort of hardwired to do that, but he's not doing any of that. And you also hear that surprisingly from congressional Democrats as well.

SCIUTTO: Well, we'll see if that changes as we get closer to Election Day. Thanks so much to all of you for joining.

This programming note, this Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION", Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York, and Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, that's Sunday morning, 9:00 Eastern Time, and again at noon here on CNN.

And coming up next on THE LEAD, this hour, or something rather fishy happening in the waters off the Florida Keys. The mystery has more than scientists heads spinning. CNN went to ask, what has the fish so, well, loopy? That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: There is an underwater mystery in the Florida Keys. Fish are swimming in circles until they die.

CNN's Bill Weir is in Marathon, Florida, where researchers are racing to figure out what exactly is causing this bizarre behavior and how they could stop it.


GREGG FURSTENWERTH, FLORIDA KEYS LIFETIME RESIDENT: Started diving when I was eight years old with my mom, so I've been in the water for a very long time. BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gregg

Furstenwerth has seen a lot in his life spent underwater around the Florida Keys, but he'd never seen anything like this.

FURSTENWERTH: I noticed the fish were spinning, and so I started taking video of that that I really had no idea what I was looking at.

WEIR: Since last fall, he's seen stingrays moving upside down, goliath groupers flailing on their sides, and dozens of other species swimming and tortured flailing loops.

FURSTENWERTH : Well, I mean, I've said that, you know, its like I'm in the middle of a disaster movie and I'm that guy yelling from the mountain top, trying to get people to pay attention.

WEIR: State Fish and Wildlife officials, and Florida's Bonefish &Tarpon Trust have logged nearly 200 incidents with over 30 species acting this way, mostly in the Lower Keys but as far north as Miami.

MICHAEL ROLPH, CAPTAIN, MYKEYS TOURS: Yeah, this is crazy. I was out on a six-hour charter. I had two people on the boat and we were down off a ligament by the bank, and we've happened to see a fish floundering on the flats and then so we got close to him where he wants to see if there was a problem and we can obviously tell that he was in distress.

WEIR: It turned out to be a sawfish, a critically endangered species that might lose four or five mature adults a year. But in just a few months, at least 27 had beached themselves or died after intense episodes of what anglers are calling the spins.

MIKE PARSONS, PROFESSOR, FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY: So typically when we think of fish acting strangely are dying, we think of low oxygen conditions in the water for or red tide. And so, we saw neither.

WEIR: At the water school at Florida Gulf Coast University, Mike Parsons' team is part of a statewide effort to solve the mystery three of the spinning fish. And while tests for most toxins have turned up empty, the most promising suspect is found living off seaweed at the bottom. A tiny critter named Gambierdiscus.

PARSONS: This is the highest we've seen of the Gambierdiscus in the Keys. We don't know if it's the main cause.

WEIR: The single-cell algae can produce various neurotoxins and is showing up at record high levels but it's just one more stressor on marine life already reeling from pollution, overfishing, and off the charts, ocean heatwaves brought by climate change.

PARSONS: So there's concern and curiosity I guess on could the hot -- hot temperatures in the summer cause some changes that may be led to the fish behavior. Now and we just don't really have all the pieces together to try to link one to the other.

FURSTENWERTH: They really have no idea what is happening. There is no concrete conclusive proof of what is happening yet. And that is still to be determined, which is quite terrifying.

WEIR: It is scary, isn't it?

FURSTENWERTH: It is because if it continues, its going to be the end of this ecosystem as we know it.


WEIR (on camera): Off the charts ocean temperatures are, of course, just one of the massive stressors on marine life down here these days. There was a three-year study recently in which 100 percent of the bone fish that were tested in the Keys turned up at least seven different pharmaceuticals from opioids to antidepressants, Jim.

And so this behavior is not been seen before, but it is sort of an attack from 1,000 different angles for the creatures living down here, and maybe a warning for the rest of us.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, we're going to listen to those warnings. Our thanks to Bill Weir.

The high praise just in for Beyonce on her new album dropping today.



SCIUTTO: In our leads around the world, we mark the passing of an actor whose career included memorable actors in the movies and on TV.

Lou Gossett Jr. won an Emmy for playing the fiddler in the blockbuster TV mini-series "Roots". He is best remembered as the tough drill sergeant in the film "An Officer and a Gentleman", a role for which she became the first Black actor to win an Oscar for best supporting actor.

Gossett died today at 87.

Buyers beware, and that all the excitement around the upcoming solar eclipse, fraudsters are trying to cash in by polluting the marketplace with fake eclipse glasses. Reminder, looking directly at a solar eclipse without proper protection can lead to severe eye damage, even blindness. Regular sunglasses, they do not cut it. The American Astronomical Society has a list of approved eclipse glasses and you can find that on

Even if you do get the right eclipse glasses, you might not be able to see it. Sadly, we're getting an early sense of the forecast for April 8. Weather models indicate clouds potentially raining on excited spectators. So keep hoping for sunny skies, eclipse only by that passing minute.

And high praise moments ago for Beyonce on her new album "Cowboy Carter". Vice President Kamala Harris posted on X, quote: Thank you for reminding us to never feel confined to other peoples perspective of what our lane is. You have redefined a genre, and reclaimed country music's Black roots. Your music continues to inspire us all.

The album features guests including Post Malone, Miley Cyrus, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, even her six-year-old daughter, Rumi

And there's a story behind the vinyl cover addition with Beyonce's name intentionally, as you could see there, misspelled. Her mom once talked about it in a podcast.


TINA KNOWLES, BEYONCE'S MOTHER: We asked my mother when I was grown, I was like, why is my brothers name spelled BEYINCE? You know, it's all these different spellings. And my mom's replied to me, it was like, that's what they put on your birth certificate. So I said, well, why didn't you argue when make them correct it? And she said, I did one time -- the first time -- and I was told be happy that you're getting numbers certificate because at one time, Black people didn't get first certificates.


SCIUTTO: Well, how about that for remembering exactly where you came from.

Thanks s much for joining.

The news continues on CNN.