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Major Baltimore Bridge Collapses After Being Hit By Cargo Ship; Source: Sean "Diddy" Combs Target Of Federal Investigation; Now: Protests Ahead Of Supreme Court Arguments Over Abortion Drug. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 07:30   ET



MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT, (D) BALTIMORE: Wondering if these people are going to walk back in the door after they walked out to work last night.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, that's a really good point. The anxiety of all this and plus, just watching the video of what happened and how quickly the bridge failed.

Can you give me some sense of what you thought at first light this morning when you saw the pictures of actually what that bridge looks like with the barge slammed into it there? What were your initial thoughts?

SCOTT: Well, it was something out of an action movie. It's something you never think you would see. And being here, right now, looking at it is even more surreal. And it just makes you think about, again, those families -- those individuals that were on that bridge. Those folks even on that vessel even more because no one should have to endure.

And I'm going to be the first to ask that CNN and everyone else stop showing the video. No one needs to see a possibility of their family member being severely injured or otherwise over and over and over again because it's just traumatizing our community.

SIDNER: Fair enough, Mayor.

I do want to ask you about the two people who have been rescued. There are two people --

SCOTT: Um-hum.

SIDNER: -- one of which the police chief -- Police Chief James Wallace said is in very serious condition and unable to talk about any details of what happened -- trying to get medical attention. But the other person, he said, was able to walk away -- incredibly, walk away from this and refused medical services.

Is there anything else you can tell us about these two victims of this collapse?

SCOTT: No. As fire chief -- as Fire Chief Wallace said, one victim refused care and the other one is in a serious -- very serious condition at a local trauma center, and we are praying for that individual to hopefully come out on this on the other side. But we are grateful that we were able to rescue them but there are many more that we have to find.

SIDNER: I do want to ask you, and I know that you're talking about the search and rescue, just how many agencies are trying to get to people and how difficult it might be? What authorities are telling you who are involved in this how difficult it might be to get down to those cars that you mentioned that are submerged right now in the river.

SCOTT: Listen, this is an all-hands-on-deck effort. We have our partners from Baltimore County. We have Harford County, Prince George's County, Anne Arundel County fire departments, police departments. Maryland State Police. The Department of Environment. We've been talking with our federal partners.

Everybody is working together to try to, first and foremost, save souls and lives and then we'll build up from everything else that has to happen from there. But every single agency that you can think of and imagine is here.

But when you're thinking about the diving missions themselves, you're talking about water that's very cold. You can see the wind, you can see the tide, and you can see how wide of an area that we're talking about -- all of which will make the search and rescue even more difficult.

SIDNER: Mayor, have you or anyone in your circle had any contact with the folks on this ship or with the shipping company? Has anyone heard anything from them at this hour? And I know it's early in the morning and this happened --

SCOTT: We haven't --

SIDNER: -- around 1:30.

SCOTT: Yeah. We have not but other folks in the port -- and other folks have. And our understanding is that the individuals on the vessel are all safe and healthy. But we're going to continue to do our investigation as we go through the search and rescue and how we can even get those individuals off. But, of course, right now, our focus is on those in the water.

SIDNER: All right. I just want to be clear because you said -- you said something I hadn't heard before. There was concern that there were individuals that were on the deck there as this smashed into the bridge and you were saying that what you have learned so far is that the individuals on --

SCOTT: So far, yeah. That could change --


SCOTT: -- obviously, yeah. But --


SCOTT: -- the word that we got that the individuals on the vessel were OK. Now that, of course, can change just like the number of folks that were on the bridge can change. Everyone has to understand how much of a fluid situation this is. But we're going to continue to provide the best information that we have.

SIDNER: And I just want to tell you right now because you may not be able to see this -- I know you're out on the scene -- that we are looking at first light. We're looking at a very close picture of the ship where it hit that pylon with the bridge sort of crumbled around it.

SCOTT: Yeah.

SIDNER: You are seeing some of the smaller boats from the Coast Guard out there searching and trying to rescue people.

Can you give me a sense of what you have been seeing where you are, and what really strikes you about all of this as you're looking at these pictures that you describe look like something out of an action movie?


SCOTT: Yeah. Listen, I can see it, so I'm not too far away. We're out -- our command center is here on the other side of the water. We can see that. I can see the boat. I've been down there looking and seeing the devastation and it's just something that's very surreal. But for me, it just makes me think about the people -- the souls, the lives -- the folks that will be impacted by this for not just today but for many, many years to come and for the rest of their lives.

SIDNER: We are also seeing just as you are speaking there, Mayor, looking at this just awful picture knowing that there are people who have their vehicles slammed into the water. We are also seeing the Coast Guard helicopter that they mentioned is out there and how important that is to try and search and rescue.

Mayor, thank you so much for taking the time this morning as this tragedy unfolds. I know this is difficult for you, I know it's difficult for the families, and for the city at large. Please take care of yourself and we will be -- if you have time and you learn more information, please bring it back to us when you can. I really appreciate your time, Mayor.

SCOTT: Absolutely. Thank you.

SIDNER: All right.

Our breaking coverage of the Baltimore bridge collapse continues in just a bit. Also this hour, sources are telling CNN Sean "Diddy" Combs is now the target of a federal investigation into alleged human trafficking. This is connected to that raid that we all saw in his homes in L.A. and Miami. What we are learning about this investigation this morning.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. These are live pictures now from Baltimore. What you see there is the Francis Scott Key Bridge -- a bridge that normally carries 31,000 vehicles a day. That bridge is in the water. It collapsed overnight. It collapsed when that ship you're looking at -- a huge container vessel called the Dali -- crashed into one of its pylons a little bit after 1:30 a.m. in the morning and the entire bridge fell into the water.

It is believed that there were some cars and perhaps some workers -- repair workers on the bridge at the moment it collapsed.

Authorities say right now, there are search and rescue operations underway for as many as seven people who could still be in the water this morning. The water temperatures are 48 degrees so you can imagine how urgent that search is this morning.

We do have some video of the moment it collapsed we can show you here on the wall. We're sensitive to the fact that we're showing you a moment that maybe people did fall and perhaps lost their lives, but it is important to see this moment. You can see the ship right there moving slowly all too close to that pylon before crashing into it.

All right. With us now is senior law enforcement analyst and former deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe. Andy, great to see you this morning.

One of the things that everyone who has talked this morning -- all the officials have made clear is there's absolutely no indication whatsoever that this was intentional or that there was any kind of terrorism involved. Nevertheless, the FBI is on the scene. Why?


The first is because when you have an event like this that calls for massive response and resources all of the local law enforcement entities -- federal entities -- whoever is in the area because of mutual aid agreements will show up and contribute whatever resources they have.

The FBI has an accomplished, very experienced dive team. It's called the Underwater Search and Rescue Team. And I would expect that they are helping with this massive scene.

You know, you've got a bridge that's over a mile in length. It's, as you said, in the river. You've got a -- that's a lot of divers, a lot of side-scan sonar equipment that they're going to use to try to locate vehicles and people, and things like that. So they're probably engaged in that.

And secondly and more traditionally perhaps, the FBI is probably helping make that initial determination of intentionality. They will look through all of their intelligence holdings to see if there's any chatter talking about plans or targeting about locations like this. To see if there is anything in the background that we should have been aware of and watching for. Obviously, we've heard from numerous officials that is not the case at this point.

And then finally, I think they'll likely participate in ultimate interviews of the crew in an effort to really put a final seal on how this happened. In all likelihood, we're talking about some sort of a mechanical failure or potentially, human error -- operator error that was involved here, but not something intentional.

BERMAN: No. But even if it wasn't intentional, criminal -- I mean, operator error or human error could ultimately lead to some kind of criminal charges, even if it was not terror-related. Perhaps the FBI could be involved there as well.

Andy, I'm going to shift gears here in a major way. And just so people know, we are watching very closely what is happening in Baltimore and we will be watching it all morning long and back to it in just a few minutes.

But there was major law enforcement news overnight on a different front, and that is two federal raids of homes -- of homes owned by Sean "Diddy" Combs -- one home in L.A., one home in Miami Beach. And overnight, CNN was told by a source that Combs is a target of a federal investigation.

What does that mean to be a target of a federal investigation?


MCCABE: Yeah. So that is -- that is not a good place to be.

So, Mr. -- we now know -- from what we observed yesterday, it's clear that Homeland Security investigators went to a federal judge and convinced that judge that there was probable cause to believe that there was evidence of a crime -- we're not sure which one -- but evidence of a crime in both of Mr. Combs' residences -- the one in Miami and the one in L.A. And it is so enormously likely that he is -- because it's two of his residences, he is the subject of that investigation. We've confirmed that now.

Their -- Homeland Security Investigations also -- there was indications yesterday that what they're investigating might involve some sort of sex trafficking allegations. We don't know that for a fact. They've been pretty careful about not sharing too many details.

But we also know -- as potentially related or maybe unrelated matter -- Mr. Combs has been the subject of several civil allegations of that sort of activity over the last several months.

So it's shaping up to be a very, very serious situation for Mr. Combs to be facing.

BERMAN: As you said, he has been the subject of some civil action and allegations over the last several months involving some kind of sex trafficking. And the fact that it was Homeland Security that was doing these raids, I guess at the direction of the Southern District of New York -- but Homeland Security involved in these raids. What does that tell you?

And as people saw in some of the other footage as well, fully armed -- heavily prepared as they went in for these operations. Why?

MCCABE: Sure. So, HSI or Homeland Security Investigations -- that's the primary investigative force for the Department of Homeland Security. And they derive their legal authority from DHS' responsibility around the borders -- you know, maintaining and policing our borders and transportation systems.

So, Homeland Security Investigations has a -- has a large investigative kind of jurisdiction around the illegal or illicit transportation of all sorts of things -- people, goods, contraband, technologies that we don't allow to be exported from the United States, and things of that nature. So it fits with this idea of a sex trafficking investigation which, of course, is the transportation of people for immoral purposes. So that kind of explains the Homeland Security angle.

As for the large armed presence, both of these residences are very, very big so it takes a lot of people to be able to go in there and clear that space and make sure there are no threats -- things like people with guns inside -- before the searchers can enter.

And then secondly, any kind of a search of someone or the residence who is known to have carried a gun or been associated with a weapon in the past -- as we know is the case with some prior criminal investigations of Mr. Combs -- that's going to be considered an armed and dangerous situation. So that always bring out a very strong kind of security presence to make sure things don't go poorly.

BERMAN: Andy McCabe, great to have you on this morning on several fronts. Thank you so much. Stand by. We may have many more questions for you about the major story of the day which, of course, is this bridge collapse.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge -- the outer bridge in Baltimore Harbor is in the water this morning. Investigations are underway. We have much more on that coming up.

Also, a huge day at the Supreme Court. In just a couple of hours, the fate of a widely used -- the most widely used abortion pill hangs in the balance.



SIDNER: All right, back to our breaking news at this hour. The urgent search and rescue operation underway right now after a cargo ship slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore overnight, collapsing it into the Patapsco River below. At least seven people may still be in those frigid temperatures in the water.

Joining me now is former U.S. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood. Sir, thank you so much for coming on this morning as Baltimore deals with what is clearly a major disaster -- a potential tragedy -- not knowing what's happened to at least seven people that they are looking for.

Can you give me some sense -- we're getting new information just now about what happened before that major cargo ship slammed into that pylon that the lights flickered on the ship and it veered off course. What does that tell you about how this may have occurred?

RAY LAHOOD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, this is a terrible tragedy for Baltimore and for the people who are trapped in the water. And our prayers are going out for the first responders who are trying to find them and for the families.

And with respect to the cargo ship, I would assume that this is a route that's used by cargo ships on a very regular basis, and obviously, something happened. Whether it was mechanical or human error will have to be determined through an investigation by authorities.

But clearly, this is a widely-used, very frequently-used route for the delivery of cargo into the Baltimore area. And to have this kind of occurrence take place is, at the moment, inexplicable.

SIDNER: Yeah, it's really hard to look at these pictures.

I do want to get a sense of what you thought when you look at that video of the bridge collapsing. To us layfolk, as you look at that it seems like it crumbled like it was a bunch of popsicle sticks. It happened so quickly.


Can you give us some sense of why it collapsed the way it did?

LAHOOD: Well, I do think that you have to take into consideration the bridge was built in 1977. It probably is not built to the standards that we build bridges today. For example, the one that was rebuilt in Minnesota when it collapsed. The one that was rebuilt in Pennsylvania more recently. These are built to very high standards.

And I'm just saying that this bridge is -- was not built recently. It was a bridge that was built some time ago. And as you can see from the cargo ship hitting it, it all really came down at one particular time. So the investigation will help us figure out where we go from here in terms of the construction.

SIDNER: I just want to remind people we are looking at a live picture from the sky down on the disaster this morning as we're seeing it in the morning light. And we're watching as the Coast Guard is out there with several small boats and also a large cutter just trying to see if they can find any people who have fallen into -- plunged into the depths of that very frigid water.

I want to ask you because we just learned this from the mayor in the last few minutes that there were workers that were doing maintenance on the bridge. Do you think that could have played any role in how this all went down?

LAHOOD: Probably not. This was routine maintenance that I'm sure was going on overnight while there's very little traffic on that bridge during the hours that they were working. And I doubt if the work that they were doing had anything at all.

I think it was more under the command of the -- of the cargo ship and whether it was human error, mechanical error. Those are the questions that have to be asked in order to determine why the ship hit the bridge.

SIDNER: Yeah. The investigation -- obviously, a lot of agencies looking at why this happened and how this happened. The mayor pointing out, rightly so, that his concentration is on those who may be -- who need to be rescued who may still be in the water and the vehicles that they have detected on sonar that are in the depths of the water.

But I do want to ask you because you're the former transportation secretary how long does something like this take to fix -- to rebuild? Are we talking years here?

LAHOOD: Well, if you look at what took place in Pennsylvania with the reconstruction and the replacement of the bridge -- a much, much smaller structure, of course. But -- and then if you look at what happened several years ago in Minnesota when they replaced the bridge. These bridges are built to very high standards today. It's very costly.

Congress will have to be involved. DOT -- the Department of Transportation will have to be involved. And obviously, the state and other local governments will have to be involved also. So we'll have to -- obviously, all of these agencies will have to deal with the timetable.

But the important thing, as you noted and the mayor has noted, is all of the concern now is for the people that are trying to save people in the water and that should be the main concern for now. Rebuilding will obviously take place later on.

SIDNER: Absolutely.

Former U.S. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood, thank you so much for your analysis of this --

LAHOOD: Thank you.

SIDNER: -- really desperate situation.

All right, we are switching gears now. Protesters and protests happening outside of the Supreme Court ahead of the most important abortion argument since Roe versus Wade was overturned. In just a few hours, justices will consider whether to limit access to the abortion drug Mifepristone. The medication was approved by the FDA nearly 25 years ago and research has shown that it's overwhelmingly safe and effective.

Joining us now, CNN's Meg Tirrell. Give us some sense of how important this drug is to be used by patients.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara, medication abortion now accounts for the majority of how people access abortion in the United States. New data just out show that it accounted for 63 percent of all abortions in the U.S. in 2023. There were more than a million abortions in that year, so that's more than 600,000 people accessing this medication.

Now, the case today is focusing on one of two drugs used in this regimen.