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The Lead with Jake Tapper

SUV Rams Gate At FBI Office In Atlanta; Iran: Consulate In Syria Destroyed By Israeli Strike; Israel Rocket By Protests Calling For Netanyahu's Ouster; Prosecutor Asks Judge To Expand Gag Order In New York Hush Money Case; Crews Start Removing Debris From River; Tonight: LSU Vs. Iowa, USC Vs. UConn In Women's Elite 8. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 16:00   ET



ED DAVIS, FORMER BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: They're going to look at his home. They're going to look at his cell phone. They're going to look at his online presence.

They're going to try to determine whether there was a mental health issue here or whether there's something else going on. That part of the process will be secondary to the physical assessment at the emergency room. The doctors need to stabilize him and make process will be secondary to the physical assessment at the emergency room. The doctors need to stabilize him and make sure that he survives this incident.

But after that's over very quickly, there will be evaluations.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Yeah, Commissioner Davis, thank you so much for the perspective.

We're going to go ahead and toss it to the lead with Jake Tapper with the latest on this breaking news from Atlanta.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Abby Phillip, in for Jake Tapper.

We come on the air this afternoon with huge breaking stories.

First in Atlanta, video from just moments ago showing that orange SUV right there that rammed into the gate of an FBI office. We're told at least one person is now in custody and we'll bring you everything that we know about that incident in just a few moments.

But also breaking this hour, brand new images showing the aftermath of a deadly air strike. Iran says that it is a consulate building in Syria that was hit and it blames Israel for the attack. We have brand new reporting from the region in coming up.

And back here in the United States, a news conference just wrapped up in Baltimore. Authorities there detailing plans to reopen that major shipping port after last week's catastrophic bridge collapse.

But first, let's begin with CNN's Evan Perez.

Evan what is unfolding right now outside of that FBI office in Atlanta after this really puzzling incident happened.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, it's still very much puzzling. We don't know a lot about this individual. We don't know what caused them to drive up to the FBI building just outside -- just in suburban area of Atlanta. We know it happened around 12:30 and there you can see the vehicle gets lodged against a secondary barrier that is intended to stop people from being able to drive into the unauthorized people from being able to drive into the FBI facility.

But that's what happened to person drove into that barrier and then exited the vehicle trying to enter the FBI field office complex there and they were stopped by the security people.

Now, we know that that person has been put in custody of the DeKalb County sheriffs they were taken to a hospital for evaluation and that includes a mental health evaluation. We've seen just in the last few minutes, there the tow trucks were trying to remove the vehicle from that barrier. They had sent in the bomb squad to look at it, to make sure that there was nothing -- no further threat in that vehicle, no bombs, no other weapons were found at the scene and what we're told is that he exited -- this person exited the vehicle. There with no threats. There was no -- nothing that he said that would explain why this happened, of course.

So now that means that there's going to be further investigation where that person came from. We know from looking at those pictures that the vehicle has South Carolina license plates. We don't know whether that's where this person just drove from or whether there's something else that is happening here that is related to this incident.

So at this point, the FBI and the local authorities are going to wait for that evaluation. You can anticipate that they will be facing both local and federal charges as a result of this incident. Nobody else was hurt. Nobody was hurt in this, which is of course, a thankful thing.

But, Abby, as you know, there has a heightened concern for the FBI and for law enforcement in general about threats to some of their agents. We saw in 2022, someone tried to attack the FBI office in Cincinnati. A person was killed later on in a standoff with police. So that's the context under which the concern that arises from this incident in Atlanta today, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Exactly right. Evan Perez, thank you very much for all of that.

Let's bring it now, CNN's security correspondent, Josh Campbell.

Josh, you yourself were with the FBI for several years. Can you help us understand where the investigative process now goes from here? JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So it starts with

fully identifying this individual and if that person had some type of drivers license or identification on them that obviously would make that much easier for investigators. The vehicle itself with out-of- state plates, we don't know if that vehicle belong to the individual, or it could have been a rental car. If that is the case, authorities in short order would be able to find out who was the individual who actually rented the vehicle, looking at registration records and the like.

But that is key first, to figure out who this individual is, and then authorities will be working to determine what the actual motive was. Now, if this person, obviously now in custody during the course of a custodial interview, if they utter something or provide some type of information to investigators about the motive, that obviously would certainly be helpful.


But this is a precarious time for the FBI. We've seen over the last several years, the FBI itself ramping up efforts to protect its own employees after agents and analysts and professional staff have faced numerous threats, there was that incident just a couple of years ago in Cincinnati where you had an individual attempted to breach the FBI field office there, investigators went back and looked at that individual and this appear to be someone's central casting, believing conspiracy theories and all of this anti-FBI vitriol that has been out there and that is something think that a certainly been of concern to law enforcement. I will note that if you look at the facility, there itself, everything that was supposed to work appear to work.

You have that secondary barrier system. What's called the final denial barrier, which receives into the ground and comes out that stopped that vehicle, obviously, thankfully, from entering that property, but we know that over the last decade or so, we've seen more and more FBI field offices moving away from having their buildings in downtown metropolitan area and more to these stand-alone type field offices, which provide them added layers of security, more standoff to prevent against some type of explosive devices.

And so, if there's any good news and what appears to be a very serious situation there is the security procedures did work, but we know just like after the August 2022 incident in Cincinnati, although that was one field office that was impacted, the ramifications certainly reverberated across the FBI's 56 field offices with officers on alert just to ensure that there isn't some type of copycat type incident. You know, that's something obviously that they are certainly guarding against.

So, a lot of things going on behind the scenes right now, not only the investigation of this individual, but also wanting to beef up security around the country just in case specifically in this wave of threats that we've seen against that agency.

The final point ill make here is that we don't yet know if this is someone who intended to go there for some type of nefarious reason, whether this was possibly someone who was suffering from some type of mental health episode. And it's important to point out as we always do, that just because someone may have mental health struggles that doesn't mean that person will become violent, but that is something that is certainly authorities will want, want to be ruling out here, ruling in, ruling out, trying to determine what that specific motive is, as I've tried to get to the bottom of this very serious situation in Atlanta, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yeah. It's an important point, certainly on the mental health front. But, of course, in an environment in which the FBI is a target of attacks, you know, public attacks from well-known public figures -- I mean, what, as somebody who is in close contact with the FBI is part of your reporting, but also someone who understood what it was like to be in law enforcement over the last several years, what is the morale like at this moment when there seems to be constant attacks against this institution that is supposed to be there to protect Americans.

CAMPBELL: Yeah. You know, it is truly baffling for a lot of people in this organization. Obviously, the FBI is an organization like many law enforcement agencies where ones individual politics has no place in the carrying out of their duties, but we're talking about a law enforcement organization that skews a more conservative than not.

And, you know, I talked to people inside the FBI nearly every single day and that has been the most baffling that so many of the most vitriolic attacks against this agency have come from the right. And again, you know, it's been point out, we don't yet know what the specific motive is here. So were not connecting those dots. So this was some type of political attack, but it is something that has certainly always front of mind for these law enforcement agencies as they do their work, as they do their work both in their offices and out in the field, just, you know, showing your badge, showing your credentials, FBI, always concerning about what type of response that is going to spur from an individual.

So its certainly a precarious time for this agency, as we've seen them at the center of so many political attacks.

PHILLIP: Yeah, and we -- absolutely, as we've seen, people who are just starved for other reasons, they're influenced sometimes by the environment that were in in this country. Josh Campbell, thank you for all of that.

I want to now bring in seeing senior national security analysts, Juliette Kayyem.

Juliette, as you're looking at the scene here, what were you concerned about when you heard that there had been a car that had rammed into the FBI offices in Atlanta specifically

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So we don't speculate, but we also don't have to live in as if there wasn't a world around us in which a couple of things are happening as Josh has been talking about. One is the increased threat environment to law enforcement, to the FBI specifically. And then of course, where we are there in Atlanta, Georgia in which

there has been a lot of public cases, the major case against Donald Trump. There has been a lot of focus in Georgia, both about the litigation, but also the general atmospherics of the election.


The third piece, of course, is that the ramming of the car is similar to other instances we've seen of domestic terrorism. And you would want to look to all of those things because that is the threat environment we live in. It doesn't mean that's what we have here. Just means that if you're going in to investigate one, you're worried about what's left in the car. And so, it's good that they've sort of isolated and deescalated anything that might be going on the car in this preliminary interview, you will want to find out what his motive is, what his mental state is, and what he -- what he might be saying.

And then the last pieces of course, everyone needs to be on defense. This is 2024, we know what this year is going to be like, especially for law enforcement. And this idea of like the final denial that Josh was talking about, that's the way that these buildings are now constructed. Most people won't see it because they're often planter but, but that's a way in which you protect these buildings.

I just want to say one thing which I never thought I would ever say, after 9/11, we call -- that we talked about the militarization of our embassies throughout the world our embassies went from being an urban areas to more suburban areas because you need it to protect them through a lot of means. And as we noted, the FBI headquarters, FBI divisions have been doing the same thing for the same reasons because its easier to protect the facility when it's isolated from downtown are isolated from other areas.

PHILLIP: Yeah. It's an important point just looking at the scenery there. It's a little bit outside of the dense urban core for a reason, as you point out. But we've -- we've been talking a bit about this idea of what we don't know about the mental health of the person, but we do know according to the reporting that this individual was taken directly to a hospital.

If you believed that there was its an ongoing acute threat, would that be the first course of action? What does it tell us?

KAYYEM: Yeah, what we also -- we don't know if he suffered injuries from either the ramming or some altercation that happened after including during the arrest. This is -- these are high adrenaline moment, so lots of things as are going on that that would have been easy, I think to be able to capture him.

So he might have some physical injuries that they are watching. They also may be nervous about his mental state and want him to be in a medical facility. So that would be totally normal. It would also not preclude these preliminary discussions with him to determine what his mental state is. He's -- and whether he's an ongoing threat because of course, the car is still there and you want to make sure he didn't have others that might have been involved. I just want to make clear here about this sort of like no one does

this who doesn't have an agitated mental states. That is -- of course, that could be true. We don't know what is going on here, but I think it's misleading and I'll be careful here to say, well, if there's mental issues or previous mental issues, then that's excused because as we know many people with mental issues would never do this.

But we also know that the vulnerable contend to listen to things, listen to the noise and the violence and the incitement and act in ways that you and I and others would know, well, that's not actually what we're going to do. So that's going to be part of the investigation as we learn more about his motive.

PHILLIP: Certainly, it's true. We have lot more to learn about this incident. Juliette Kayyem, thank you for all of that as well.

And there's breaking news overseas happening right now. New images show the aftermath of a deadly airstrike today in Syria, Iran blames Israel, saying that it's constantly building was hit. But here what the United States is saying about all of this.

Plus, massive protests holding in Israel. Demonstrators are calling for Benjamin Netanyahu to step down right now. How the prime minister is reacting, next.



PHILLIP: And we're back with breaking news in our world lead. You're looking here at the aftermath of a deadly airstrike reportedly targeting Iranian diplomatic and military officials.

Iran is now blaming Israel for all of this, saying at least seven people have been killed in an airstrike on what Iran is saying is its consulate building in Syria. Two senior commanders in Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Quds Force, are reportedly among the dead.

Let's go straight to CNN's Natasha Bertrand now.

Natasha, what more do we know about this blast and it's raising fears right now about escalation in the war between Israel and Hamas?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Abby. This appears to have been an attack on Iran's consulate in Syria in Damascus. And according to Iranian officials, they are placing the blame squarely on Israel. They say the two senior IRGC, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders were killed in the strike, along with five other IRGC officials. And they are vowing decisive retaliation. So that is where the fear, of course, comes in a potential escalation of this conflict between Israel and Iran.

Now, when asked about this attack, the IDF declined to comment. They say they're not going to comment on any foreign media reports.

However, a spokesman for the Israel defense forces raised doubts about the idea that this was even a consulate at all. Here's what he told CNN's Jim Sciutto earlier today.


DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESMAN: According to our intelligence, this is no consulate. And this is no embassy. I repeat, this is no consulate. And this is no embassy. This is a military building of Quds forces disguised as a civilian building in Damascus.


BERTRAND: So the U.S. for its part now saying that they're trying to get a handle on what exactly happened here. The State Department saying that they are in conversations with regional partners and allies to try to figure out what happened, but they are very consistent and that they do not want to see this conflict escalated, not something that state department spokesperson Matt Miller reiterated earlier today when asked about this.


PHILLIP: And, Natasha, you have some exclusive reporting that's new today about the Biden administration close to approving a major sale to Israel. What do you know?

BERTRAND: Yeah. We're told that the administration is set to approve an $18 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets to Israel. That will be the largest foreign military sale to Israel since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted on October 7th. And it comes, of course, at a very delicate moment when U.S. transactions and sales of military equipment to Israel are really under a microscope here.

Now, these fighter jets would not be sent to Israel until about four to five years from now because they need to actually be produced. But really this underscores the fact that the administration is not prepared at this point to start limiting, restricting, or conditioning military aid to Israel really at any point, despite the growing calls for them to do so because of all the devastation that were seeing in Gaza as a direct result of Israel's war there.

PHILLIP: Yeah, this will not have an effect right now, but it's certainly will have a political impact in the coming months.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much.

Also, in our world lead, stunning video out of Jerusalem where thousands of protesters filled the streets. It's calling for the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many of the demonstrators are expressing their anger at his government for not having secured the release of all of the hostages who were kidnapped during the October 7 attacks.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live for us in Jerusalem.

Melissa, you're with the protesters right now. What are they telling you? MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the many

protesters who were out here earlier are now headed home. But as you can see, what they've left behind is this row of tent, some of them camping out all night and that row of tens goes all the way out, Abby, write down in front of the Knesset.

The plan of this protest, which began last night, this is day two. It should go onto Wednesday morning is to keep up the pressure on the Israeli government. What we saw when there were many hundreds of protesters out here last time, many thousands last night was, Abby, that there's a great deal of anger that nearly six months on, more than 130 hostages remain in the hands of Hamas and that this war we've been hearing repeatedly from protesters aimed because it wasn't releasing the hostages has failed on that front, but also they say is failing in terms of Israel's long-term security interests.

And there's a great deal of anger out there about the images that are seeing coming out of Gaza as well.

What you saw after October 7, there's a great deal of political unity, really the country got behind the idea of this military intervention. Nearly six months on, all of the papered over cracks that we'd see in the political spectrum here in Israel appear now to be reappearing, that unity, looking much more fragile, Abby, than it was.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it's very significant at this moment for these protesters to be making their voices heard, as you said, six months later, dozens of hostages still in the hands of Hamas. Melissa Bell, thank you very much.

And this just in, new request to expand a gag order involving Donald Trump and his New York hush money case, just as the former president wages a series of verbal attacks against prosecutors and also a judge.

Plus, breaking sports news. Former NFL player Vontae Davis has been found dead. What investigators are now telling us about this case.



PHILLIP: Just in to CNN, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is now asking Judge Juan Marshawn who is overseeing Donald Trump's hush money trial to amend a gag order in that case, to include family members of those involved in Trump's trial.

Now, this comes after Trumps stepped up his verbal attacks against the judge and also singled out the judge's own daughter. Those comments about Marshawn and his family were part of a flurry of posts from the former president over the weekend.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is over in frigid Wisconsin where Donald Trump is about to bring his rhetoric back to the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump is set to return to the campaign trail Tuesday with visits to the critical battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin.

But his focus appears to be on his impending criminal trial in New York.

DONALD TRUMP, FOPRMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is all about election interference.

HOLMES: Pumping his combative rhetoric, Trump spent the Easter holiday attacking perceived enemies in a series of social media posts, writing, quote: Happy Easter to all including crooked and corrupt prosecutors and judges, and going after the judge, overseeing his New York hush money case and his daughter by name, as he seeks to discredit the case against him.

TRUMP: I have a Trump-hating judge, with the Trump-hating wife and family.

HOLMES: The remarks come as judges around the country are voicing concern over Trump's attacks on the men and women assigned to hear his cases.

JUDGE REGGIE WALTON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We do these jobs because were committed to the rule of law and we believe in the rule of law and the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm.

LADORIS CORDELL, RETIRED JUDGE, SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA: I've presided over thousands of hearings and trials during my nearly 20 years as a trial judge and never did any defendants in my courtroom show such disrespect for the court system as what's shown by Donald Trump.

HOLMES: Trump also sharing a video that featured an image of President Joe Biden tied up in the back of a pickup truck.


The former president saying in the Friday social media post that the video was filmed a day earlier on Long Island, where Trump attended the wake of an NYPD officer who was recently killed during a traffic stop.

TRUMP: We have to get back to law and order.

HOLMES: The Biden campaign responding in a statement, quote, Trump is regularly inciting political violence and it's time people take him seriously. Just ask the Capitol police officers who were attacked protecting our democracy on January 6.

Some Republicans taking issue with Trump's posts, but falling short of condemning the former president. REP. DON BACON (R-NE): I want us to raise the bar of civility and how we treat the other side of the aisle for sure. Now, I don't think he was inciting violence, but it is representative of the political dialogue we have today.


HOLMES (on camera): And tomorrow, we're going to see Donald Trump in both Michigan and Wisconsin. It's the first time we've actually seen Donald Trump on the campaign trail in a number of weeks. These two states, ones he won in 2016 then lost in 2020, they are viewed as critical on the pathway back to the White House. Abby

PHILLIP: All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for that.

And my panel is here with me now to discuss it all.

Alencia, let's start with you. You can't be surprised, right, that Trump is back here again, attacking another judge, attacking a judge's family in this hush money case. But, you know, not surprised, but still, its something that we should not get used to.

ALENCIA JOHNSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Obviously, we should get used to, and as Kristen said in our package, it's interesting this came over Easter weekend, the weekend after Donald Trump decided to sell bible as a fundraiser. Let's clear that he's never opened a bible which says do not provoke others to anger, do not seek revenge.

There are so many pieces of Christianity that he does not follow as he is hypocritical of what it means to be a leader here. And so, it is interesting to see that there's those doublespeak coming from his campaign, the one that insights violence, the one that cause January 6, as we all remember, 2021. And yet they want to say that they are the side of law and order.

It's actually -- I would be frustrated if I was law enforcement that he goes to the wake of a slain police officer, and yet he dismisses what happens to the police officers at the Capitol on January 6. And so I'm really concerned and the numbers show and prove that violence has increased since he became a political figure. And unfortunately, this rhetoric means that it's only going to continue.

PHILLIP: Joe, the courts have been battling Trump on this now for many months, trying to respect his First Amendment rights, but also curtail his really unhinged attacks on the judicial system. Is it even working at all? Are they failing to rein in this kind of behavior? Or is he just successfully ramping up the rhetoric for political reasons?

JOE WALSH (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, ILLINOIS: Abby, I think every institution has failing to rein in his behavior and hold him accountable. I mean, here we are in three years removed from January 6 and that son of a gun, the guy who incited that day, still hasn't been put on trial. He does this stuff because he believes he can get away with it.

And Abby life is too short and there's too damn much at stake to dance around what Donald Trump, the horrible things he says and does. We're so numb to it. Think about what he did before the weekend started.

He shared an image of the president of the United States, bound and gagged, the president of the United States being kidnapped and possibly assassinated. That's the image Donald Trump shared and I think the Biden administration, Abby, needs to forcefully pushed back on stuff so that as you said, we don't just gloss over this.

PHILLIP: I mean, it's an important point. I mean, that image of literally anybody I think would be outrageous, but certainly when it comes to the sitting president of the United States, it's something else.

Alex, I do want to play for you how a Republican Congressman Mike Lawler responded on State of the Union yesterday with Dana Bash when he was asked about Trump's Truth Social post from the weekend. Listen.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): I think everyone needs to tone down the rhetoric, the language and obviously social media has become a vehicle by which to bludgeon people. I just think at the end of the day the former president, current president and on down, all of us have a responsibility to check our language.


PHILLIP: Yes, that time that Joe Biden tweeted an image of Donald Trump gagged in a pickup truck, I don't seem to remember that, Alex. What do you make of this response?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that's a pretty familiar set of notes to hear from Republican who's trying to do a pretty careful dance between a district that he represents that's a pretty moderate district and the Republican Party that is really not very moderate when it comes to things like this.


Abby, it reminded me of after January 6, and first you may recall Kevin McCarthy said that Donald Trump bore responsibility for what happened and then subsequently, he sort of fight that and said, well, we all bear some responsibility for it, something to that effect, right -- in the big, we all have skin in the game here.

I don't know if that's going to be super satisfying for voters to here as we get closer to the election, I do think that its bit of a preview of the discomfort that Donald Trump is likely to cause. Most members of his party in politically contested parts of the country because we can -- there are a lot of things are unpredictable about a campaign like this one, a Donald Trumps behavior is really not one of them, the precise shape of his conduct and comments day to day maybe unpredictable.

But we all basically know what kind of space its going to be in. And it's not going to make life easy for the Mike Lawlers of the world. PHILLIP: Yeah. And I mean, I think that for the Mike Lawlers of the world, Trump is always going to be pushing on the boundaries of what he can force vulnerable Republicans like that to defend.

Joe, I want to go to Capitol Hill here because over the weekend the speaker, Mike Johnson, had an interview with Fox where he discussed one of his members, Marjorie Taylor Greene's efforts to kick him out of a job.

Listen to how he responded.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He and I exchange text messages even today. We're going to talk early next week. Marjorie's a friend. She's very frustrated about, for example, the last appropriations bills. Guess what? So am I as we discussed, right? These are not the perfect pieces of legislation that you and I and Marjorie would draft if we had the ability to do it differently. But with the smallest margin in U.S. history, we're sometimes going to get legislation that we don't like.


PHILLIP: So, Joe, as someone who has spent a lot of time in Congress, you were a member just like Marjorie Taylor Greene is when you listen to what speaker Johnson is he saying there? What do you hear? I mean, he doesn't seem all that concerned about Marjorie Taylor Greene here.

WALSH: No, and, Abby, I think it's good news. I think the speaker realized a few days ago that he has to put this vote for aid to Ukraine on the floor. I mean, he can no longer keep it away and there's almost like a piece, a peaceful resignation in his voice, and I think the calculation, Abby, that he's made is that most of his caucus does not want to go through that hellish chaos of another fight to find and pick another speaker.

So I think he's politely just daring her, but he knows he's got to put this boat to the floor.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, including the people who kicked out the last many of those people are saying they're upset, but they're not willing to go through that whole song and dance all over again.

Joe, Alencia, Alex, thank you all very much.

And next, the plans now set for the Biden to visit the scene of what was that bridge in Baltimore and the massive collapse that unfolded.



PHILLIP: In our sports lead some sad news out of south Florida. Former NFL player Vontae Davis found dead inside a home in Broward County today. Authorities say no foul play is suspected, but an investigation is ongoing. Davis played with three teams over ten years in the NFL. His last was with the Buffalo Bills, where he abruptly resigned half- time. And what would be his final game in game in 2018?

In our national lead, we just got an update from Maryland officials about the next steps for the deadly bridge collapse in Baltimore. The news comes as the White House has announced that President Biden will visit the site on Friday.

CNN's Pete Muntean is live near the collapse site in Baltimore.

Pete, officials at that press conference just confirmed that they have started moving some of the debris from that river. What does that look like?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They've moved some of the debris and now, they're able to move some tugs and barges through this alternate shipping lane that Maryland officials along with the United States Coast Guard just announced that it just opened, and that is significant, maybe the most substantive update yet almost on the one- week anniversary of this dramatic and disastrous collapse and collision here at Baltimore's Key Bridge.

That means that boats like that could go to the port. I can get through in an 11 foot deep channel really pales in comparison to the 50 foot-deep channel that used to be here still blocked by the 4,000 tons of debris here, also the MV Dali, which is still in place. The operative now is trying to cut pieces of that debris of the Key Bridge, then lift it out of the way and move it out of the way.

That is so significant because they're just going to do this piece by piece bite-sized chunks will enable them to clear the port of Baltimore, even though there is no definitive timeline on that, just yet. I want you to listen now to the Coast Guard admiral who is leading a significant part of his operation. He calls this really dangerous work for his crews in the murky Patapsco River here in the port of Baltimore. Listen.


REAR ADM. SHANNON GILREATH, U.S. COAST GUARD: These are steel girders, unlock the steel girders that you can see that above the waterline still, which have significant damage.


Below the water line, along the bottom, it's very challenging because these girders are essentially tangled together, intertwined, making it very difficult to figure out where you need to eventually cut so that we can make that into more manageable sizes to lift them from the waterway.


MUNTEAN: As far as the salvage operation goes here on Saturday, crews were able to move about 200 tons of debris here. They say, by the end of today, they will move another 350 tons of debris. The goal is to open up some more alternate shipping lanes. Two more on the horizon here, but still no real timeline just yet on one the port of Baltimore will fully reopen for those 8,000 jobs on the line here, Abby.


Pete Muntean, thank you very much for that.

And a new turn for abortion rights in America. We'll have the ruling just in, from the Florida Supreme Court.

Plus, there is trouble for Donald Trump's claim to fame of his net worth, taking a major tumble just days after the parent company of his Truth Social media company went public on the stock exchange.



PHILLIP: We're back with more breaking news now on the lead.

Florida Supreme Court has just ruled that the states six-week abortion ban soon will go into effect. But the court is also allowing a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the right to an abortion to go on the ballot as well in November. That amendment will need approval from about 60 percent of voters to pass, but similar amendments have passed in other conservative states, including Kansas.

And just moments ago, we are learning the former President Donald Trump Trump's net worth has plunged by more than $1 billion. Now, this is after shares of Trump's Media and Technology Group, the company behind Truth Social, lost cost about 21 percent of its value just today. The stocks tumbled came after the company announced it lost $58 million last year and generated very little revenue. The company's accountants warned, quote, substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.

And starting today, California's minimum wage for fast food workers is $20 an hour. That applies to about half a million people. For some, that is a 25 percent pay raise in just a week, $20 an hour. It may sound like a lot.

But just keep in mind, California's cost of living is one of the highest in the country. But many local franchisees do say the paying workers more could force them to raise prices even more.

And we are just a few hours away from a thrilling and to the Elite 8 round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament. First up, the widely anticipated rematch between LSU and Iowa. Iowa's Caitlin Clark seeking revenge after losing last years championship to LSU.

Then, we've got UConn versus USC. Can USC freshman Juju Watkins take her team to the next level?

CNN's Brynn Gingras is in Albany, New York, where LSU and Iowa are about to battle it out for a final fourth spot.

Brynn, this is going to be a huge double feature tonight.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this is going to finalize, right, Abby, who is going to the Final Four on the women's side for the NCAA tournament. Here in Albany, the excitement is intense. I got to tell you, there are fans who had been waiting thing outside this MVP arena in Albany, where we are right now in the atrium, just trying to get in several hours before the game is ready to start.

And that's because they all have their eyes fixed he did on this rematch that's about to happen. Remember last year, the NCAA championship game, it was between these two teams, The Iowa with Caitlin Clark and also, of course, LSU with Angel Reese and there was so much rivalry between those two players, the trash talking, the intense passion with those two players play for each of their teams and is about to go down yet again here in Albany.

Now I got to say a lot of people were a little disappointed that this is not the national championship game, but nonetheless, by the end of the night, one of these key James is going to be cutting down those nets headed to the Final Four.

It is very exciting, atmospheric to be here. I got to tell you, talk to a few of the fans who are waiting to come in. Some driving several hours overnight, through the night into today, just to make it to today's games. It's going to be an exciting night, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, what a moment. I feel like were living through for women sports. There is so much excitement for these teams and you can see why, because as you just pointed out, there is so much conversation about the narrative, the story line behind what's going to happen tonight on the court.

GINGRAS: Yeah, look, Abby, I was talking to some people, you know, people that are about the same age as me, you know, who grew up playing basketball just like I did. And you know basketball really wasn't shown on TV, you didn't have these star players that were just showcased on television.

And now that's what you see. Little girls are able to look up to women who like Caitlin Clark, like Angel Reese, who have so much passion and so much competitiveness and so much drive, it's exciting to see. And you know what? The numbers are showing, Abby, if you look at the tickets that are being sold just for the Final Four of the women's, they are way more expensive then how much the tickets are being resold for the men's Final Four.

So, the women's games are finally catching up. And everyone who I've talked to said, it's about time -- Abby.

PHILLIP: I love it. I got to say I love it. Brynn Gingras, thank you very much. Albany, New York.

GINGRAS: All right.

PHILLIP: And the hype is already building for another big event coming up next week. We'll be back in a moment.



PHILLIP: In our out of this world lead, less than one week to go until next Monday's total solar eclipse, the path of the great North American eclipse will cross the United States, hitting 13 states, starting in Texas and heading all the way up to Maine. Cities and states along the path are preparing for an influx of travelers hoping to witness this once in a lifetime event.

Like Maine, where today the governor welcomed tens of thousands of visitors who are expected to flock there, she shared several common sense tips for both residents and visitors. The big one being obviously, do not look directly at the sun without safe solar viewing glasses.

And join CNN for special coverage of that big moment. We're calling this one "Eclipse Around America". Coverage starts next Monday at 1:00 Eastern on CNN and streaming on Max.

And you can join me in just a few hours on CNN "NEWSNIGHT": That's tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, right here on CNN.

Jake Tapper will be back here on THE LEAD tomorrow. And if you ever miss an episode of the lead, you can listen to the show wherever you get your podcasts.

The news continues on CNN right now. Thanks for joining us.