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Bridge Collapse in Baltimore; Kathy Szeliga is Interviewed about the Baltimore Bridge Collapse; Supreme Court hears Arguments over Abortion Drug; Phil Weiser is Interviewed about the Abortion Drug Arguments. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 09:00   ET



JAMILAH LEMIEUX, WRITER AND COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: Billionaires in hip hop. And for many years he was beloved by a lot of people, you know? And there have always been talks about shady business deals and, you know, whispers amongst folks in the industry about violence against women. But, again, I don't think anybody was expected for the sort of allegations that he's facing now.


LEMIEUX: Or may be facing now.

SIDNER: Yes. And we should mention, you know, there haven't been any charges filed at this point in time, but we do have sources saying that this has something to do with allegations of sex trafficking, and they are -- have already raided two of his homes.

We have not heard from him or his representatives at this point in time. But right now there have been no charges filed. And we will have to wait and see sort of how this goes forward. But it is never a good thing to have the Homeland Security Department investigators raiding two of your homes and taking out items from there.

Jamilah Lemieux, thank you so much for just giving us a look at who he is, his place in our culture, and what is happening with him right now. Appreciate you.

A new hour of CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the breaking news.

In just a few minutes we are expecting an update from the Maryland Department of Transportation on the bridge collapse in Baltimore. The entire Francis Scott Key Bridge is in the Patapsco River. You can see the footage right there. Just stunning imagery right now of this large container ship that slammed into a pylon supporting the bridge overnight. At least seven people are believed to be in the water. There are search and rescue operations underway. There were two people who were rescued soon after the collapse. One is fine. One is in serious conditions. Among the missing are said to be members of a construction crew that was doing concrete repair work on the surface of the bridge itself when the cargo ship struck.

We just got some new footage in of the damage to the ship itself. You can see the hull just crashed in their of the vessel. This is the bridge. You can see the steel truss bridge. Some of the substance there. The bridge in the water.

This is the newest footage we've seen and the closest images we've seen of the situation there. We have been told that no one on board the ship was injured.

We have CNN's Gabe Cohen and Pete Muntean both on the scene.

Pete, let's start with you. Sorry, Gabe, I should say, let's start with you.

What are you seeing, Gabe?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this search and rescue operation is still very much playing out in front of our eyes. Take a look down the river from where we're standing. We're going to push in on that cargo -- on the container ship. And you can see those massive pieces of steel, the chunks of the Key Bridge that are now laying in the water. One of them laying across the deck of that huge ship. And rounded it are several upwards of a dozen, I've counted, search and rescue boats. They have divers in the water. They are trying to find people. They've used sonar to figure out that there are cars, vehicles in the water. And as you mentioned, they think there could be at least seven people in the water as well here in the river. And so those crews are very much still trying to find them, even though things grow more bleak and dire by the minute out here, several hours after this all began.

If we pan to the left, you can see emergency vehicles that are parked along the river bank that are also assisting in this rescue. And you can clearly see where the bridge collapsed. The part of the brigs that is still standing and then suddenly its gone.

And it is a huge section, John, of the bridge that's missing, that has collapsed into the river. And so that tells you that crews are really having to search out a vast area. They are using every technology that they can, including that sonar. But it is not going to be an easy operation.

Take a listen to what one official said a little bit earlier about this search and rescue.


JOHNNY OLSZEWSKI, BALTIMORE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: The conditions are difficult, right? We're talking about a deep channel port. It's 40, 50 feet of water, strong currents. The weather is windy. The water is cold. And so we certainly worry about those who are in the water, not to mention the fall from the bridge if -- for folks who we know -- we know that there were individuals working on the bridge.


COHEN: And, John, there you can see a helicopter as well. We've seen a Coast Guard helicopter flying around. It is a lot of agencies who are assisting right now, just hoping that there are still survivors out there to be rescued.

BERMAN: All right, Gabe Cohen for us on the scene. Obviously, the Francis Scott Key Bridge a major roadway, 31,000 vehicles a day pass over the span of 695, the outer belt in Baltimore.


Pete Muntean, talk to us about how this investigation will be conducted.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN TRANSPORTATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're probably going to hear some more -- new information here in a little bit, John. We're standing by for Maryland Governor Wes Moore to address the cameras here on the Dundalk side of the bridges. This is the east side of the Patapsco River.

You can see essentially the bridge to nowhere behind me now. That is the normal portion of the bridge up to the suspension portion that collapsed into the Patapsco River there.

To give you an idea of where we are, this is the mouth of the river that goes into Baltimore's inner harbor and Curtis Bay. This is right essentially in the center of the channel there. As you heard, about 50 feet deep. On the other side of that bridge, about 20 feet deep.

A lot of big questions that investigators will ask here about the collision and why this container ship flagged out of Singapore apparently lost control and went into one of the pilings of the Key Bridge here, completed in about 1977. So, it is getting on the aging side of a bridge.

The big question they will want to know is, why the bridge, when this collision happened, folded so easily. But then also why this boat essentially went out of role. By Maryland law, a pilot needs to be on board the boat with local knowledge of the channel and the harbor itself, going into the Port of Baltimore here, one of the busiest ports on the East Coast. You can see the container ship still in the Patapsco River, off in the distance there, filled up high with containers. This was going to Sri Lanka.

The timeline here is really interesting. And we've been able to interpolate a few different things, not only from maritime tracking data, but also from the surveillance video of this bridge collapse and the moments leading up to it.

At 1:25 in the morning, we know that there was a puff of smoke that apparently came from this container ship. At 1:26, the lights on the ship itself flickered. And then at 1:27, the lights flickered again, followed by the collision only about 60 seconds after. So, there are some big questions here about the reported power failure on board the boat and what the implications on board that ship and the power failure were. Was the pilot, or were the crew, able to control the boat? And what did they lose? What were they able to still control, or did they completely lose the impetus of control of this boat as it was careening toward that piling in the Patapsco River here. Some really big questions and some really big questions about who will investigate this.

The National Transportation Safety Board tells me that they're gathering early information right now in conjunction and in tandem with the Coast Guard. Likely that they will launch an investigation here because there's so many things that they want to know about what led to the collision with that bridge that ultimately collapsed. Really an incredible scene here.

BERMAN: Yes, they're going to have to pieces this together. Pete Muntean and our thanks to Gabe Cohen as well.

And just to reiterate what Pete was saying there, this is the moment before the bridge was struck by the vessel. Obviously, the cargo ship should not have been there. This is where it should have been right there, in the center of this span. That is the deepwater channel. Why wasn't it there? Why was it all the way over here? That will be the subject of the investigation.


SIDNER: And that is a question that I'd like to now ask CNN transportation analyst and former inspector general at the Department of Transportation, Mary Schiavo.

What could it have been? When you look at the scenario -- we don't have all the facts, we don't have all the details, but we have a few things like the lights were flickering on this cargo ship before it hit this pylon, it was sort of moving to one side, it should have been more in the middle. When you look at this, what are you thinking could have occurred here?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, when I look at it, and also with the great information Pete just gave us, I mean those are really important clues. It says to me that indeed there was something on this ship that caused a steering problem because river pilots are highly trained individuals. They know the channels. There's an old saying, safe passage requires local knowledge, in the maritime industry, and they had that. And they had that on board. You don't get out of the channel when you're doing a maritime passage because you could run aground, not just you could hit something, hit a bridge. But the pilots -- the pilot on that ship would have known this, would have been very experienced. You have a lot or training. You have a background check. So, that was a really important piece of information.

The fact that it was out of the channel for a couple of minutes before the hit is also important. Along with the lights. So it does sound like the ship had some sort of a problem. And a ship that large and that heavy would be very difficult without the steering and you -- most likely they lost the thrusters, the underwater, you know, they call them bow thrusters. And they can move the ships sideways as well. So, if they lost the steering capability, they might have lost those as well. They could not avoid something.


So, that was a lot of really useful information that we just got.

And I think that the NTSB, as Pete said, will be the lead agency, but the Coast Guard works very well and as does the Maritime Administration. They will be working with them too.

SIDNER: Yes, and we should update you on some of the new details that we got in the last few minutes, which is that the port authority is saying that back in 2016 this is -- when this particular ship is reported to have an incident. So that's been a while. And that the crew on the ship, that no one was injured. We now know that from the company itself. There was concern about the crew being on the deck there where you see the bridge collapsed and sort of strangling it, if you will, after it hit that pylon. So, everyone on the ship, OK at this hour.

I want to switch to now the search and rescue. That is the urgent thing ongoing now. We have -- we are now more than eight hours after this collapse. The water is frigid. But we are hearing that divers have been able to get in the water from local officials.

What does this look like when you look at the expanse of -- of area and the depths of the water about -- I think it -- they said about 50 feet, to -- to try and get to, for example, someone who might be submerged in a car or get to someone who may have survived this somehow?

SCHIAVO: And that's right. And add to that the currents. The, you know, the tides going in and out and very strong currents. It's not like searching in an -- in a lake or other kinds of bodies of water. And so they won't have a lot of visibility. Earlier they said that they were aided by sonar to help find the vehicles were -- that were submerged. For the persons they've already rescued it sounds as though, obviously, they could, you know, make it to the surface or they were on the surface. But for underwater, the visibility is going to be getting bad. It's going to be very cold. Hypothermia, you know, sets in. So, they're going to have, you know, they're going to have a problem locating and then freeing people.

But, you know, there are cases where a submerged vehicle does have air pockets. So, they are going to be searching very earnestly and frantically because it is possible for people to survive if hypothermia does not get them first. So, they're doing all that they can, but visibility is going to be real tough.

SIDNER: Yes, I think we're still looking at live pictures of -- from above. If we can bring that up.

I do also want to just sort of bring up a picture of when the collapse happened. And what -- so these are live pictures now, 9:12 this morning, looking down on that ship. You're noticing that there are -- you know, there's an awesome cloud cover coming in at this time where that aircraft is. But there are other aircraft in the area.

Now you're seeing that awful picture of the collapse of the ship.

Mary, what are investigators asking themselves? What questions do they need to be considering as they are going through this, inch by inch, trying to figure out how all of this happened?

SCHIAVO: Well, you know, as the things we've already talked about with the ship and the pilot and what went wrong on the ship, I mean that -- right now that is the number one person who can provide information. But there also is likely cameras on board the ship. Many modern ships have camera surveillance footage that shows the bow of the ship as they're, you know, transversing the waters and any other video from the area.

But, you know, they're also going to turn their attention to this bridge. A 1977 bridge. Standards have changed. And one of the most important things we can see from the video are that the stays, the attachments of the bridge to the support pillars did not fail, just in the place where it was hit. But other places did not seem to be robust enough to withstand the jarring, the vibration, et cetera.

Of course, this is a huge ship that hit it.


SCHIAVO: And then also what -- what protections were in front of the -- the bridge to keep this from being hit? Were there, you know, cement pilings and things like that? And they'll be looking at that as well.

SIDNER: Those are really, really good questions. Only you would know to ask as you're looking into an investigation like this.

And I do just sort of what to mention just how big this is. This is a -- this is a 1.6 mile bridge going over the river there.


SIDNER: So, it's a -- it's a huge expanse. And the heft of that cargo ship, it's not easy to maneuver. You, you know, it's just going very slowly. But 100,000 tons, Tom Forman reporting, is likely how heavy that ship is as it tried to maneuver its way around that pylon. Didn't happen and here we are looking at this absolute destruction of this major thoroughfare there in Baltimore.

Kathy (ph) Schiavo, thank you so much this morning for just giving us such great detail about what investigators are dealing with and what they're dealing with as they try to search and find anyone who has survived.


With me now is Kathy Szeliga. She's a Republican member of the Maryland State House of Delegates. Her district covers Baltimore County.

First, let me say to you that I am very sorry to see what is happening in Baltimore and the suffering that families have to be going through at this hour because now we are eight hours or so in. Families have not heard from their loved ones, wondering what is going on. So far we've heard up to seven people or more are missing at this hour. And there are searches going on now.

Can you give us any update? What are you hearing, any identities, or if there are more people that you're hearing may be missing at this hour?

KATHY SZELIGA (R), MARYLAND STATE HOUSE OF DELEGATES: Well, thank you for covering this. And your prayers and thoughts for those who are missing, it is just a tragedy of epic proportions. To lose a bridge like this and the loss of life, which we hopefully will not see, but, you know, we know there are some folks that are still missing.

Maryland's port is the largest for specialized cargo on the East Coast with specialized roll-on roll-off cargo. We're one of four deepwater ports that can handle the larger panamax (ph) ships. We have a cruise terminal. So, you know, this -- getting through this is going to be really hard. We have a state of emergency. All hands-on deck. Federal, state, local partners. You know, everybody working together right now to look for and hopefully save any of those that are in the water.

SIDNER: I'm curious if you've been able to see some of these images that we're looking at right now from the Baltimore City Fire Rescue One. They are showing just the close view of how bad this was. Everything mangled. You see the bridge just submerged into the water. And you see the power of all this as it fell into (ph) the ground. What are your thoughts on what you are seeing when you look at the view from the sky, when you look at the view of the collapse? How did this affect you this morning?

SZELIGA: Yes, it -- it -- it's just so surreal to watch the video of this landmark bridge, major thoroughfare of transportation, collapse. We understand there were some people working on the bridge last night at 1:30 when the bridge was struck. We, fortunately, know that one person actually walked away from this unharmed. Someone is at Shock Trauma, our world-class trauma center here in Baltimore City. But, you know, it's -- it's just -- it's like a movie. I mean you just can't imagine this bridge that I drive across regularly. My seatmate, the other delegate that represents my district with me, drives across it every day. This is a major thoroughfare to get from one side of the Patapsco River to the other. You either have to go through one of two tunnels are across this bridge.

So, you know, it is not just a landmark, but the gateway to our port. And, you know, a major thoroughfare. It's just heart-wrenching to see this bridge collapse and the fear of life that might be lost.

SIDNER: Yes. Can you give us some sense of any idea how you will go forward this morning -- now the search and rescue obviously the biggest priority -- but how you will go forward, what commuters needs to know, how long this may take, what this is doing, for example, to the port. I mean this has to do a lot with the economy of Baltimore as well and everything is stopped at this hour, correct?

SZELIGA: Right. We -- you know, again, we have one of the -- we have the largest specialized port here in the U.S. right here in Baltimore. So, you know, that's -- the port is shut down. Everything has stopped. We have a cruise ship terminal that we have cruise ships come in generally on the weekends. So, you know, that's all affected. The traffic today -- I've spoken with friends that usually commute over the Key Bridge to go to work. Traffic through the tunnels are at a standstill. You know, clearly the waterways are closed.

I will also say that every ship that navigates through underneath that bridge into the Port of Baltimore is driven by a bay pilots. They are a Chesapeake Bay pilot, highly trained, very skilled, really the best of the best. So, I feel confident that the people that were on that ship navigating through the ship were -- you know, were the best.


You know, it's certainly, at this point, no one wants to speculate, but the video that we've seen showing power outages, you know, seems to point to a failure of equipment. But, you know, our bay pilots not -- it's not just anyone that can navigate a ship up the Chesapeake Bay and to the Port of Baltimore. It is a very skilled and specialized trade.

SIDNER: Those bay pilots, as we heard, know the lay of the land. They -- this is their specialty. They know what they are doing. Something just went terribly wrong at 1:30 or so in the morning.

Kathy Szeliga --

SZELIGA: Terribly wrong.

SIDNER: Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for taking the time. I know you are busy. I know you are watching all the developments. If you hear anything new that you think we need to know, please do. We will stay in contact with you. Appreciate it.

SZELIGA: I will reach back out and please continue to share your thoughts and prayers for those that we're looking for and our wonderful first responders that have been there since about 1:30 this morning, reacting and responding and trying to save as many lives as possible.

SIDNER: Absolutely. Thank you, ma'am.

Next hour, the battle over the abortion pill heads to the Supreme Court. It's the first major case on abortion since the court overturned Roe versus Wade.

Plus, a rare joint campaign appearance. President Biden and Vice President Harris on the campaign trail together.

And Sean "Diddy" Combs now a target of a federal investigation after DHS officials raided two of his homes, one in Miami, the other, Los Angeles. Details on that case, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BERMAN: All right, happening now, there are protesters outside the Supreme Court in advance of hearings which begin very shortly. Oral arguments on one of the most important abortion cases in years, probably the most important since the court overturned Roe versus Wade. This is a case that could limit access to a widely used abortion drug, Mifepristone. It could limit use even in states where abortion is still legal. Last year, Mifepristone was used in 63 percent of all abortions in the United States.

CNN chief legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is with us this morning.

These are arguments people are watching very closely, Paula.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. As you said, this is the biggest abortion related case before the high court since it overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago. But here they are focused on Mifepristone, a drug used in a process called medication abortion, which, John, a lot of people don't realize counts for the majority of abortions in the U.S. Two-thirds of them, in fact.

Now, today's case began shortly after Roe was overturned. A group of anti-abortion doctors and advocates sued the FDA over its approval of Mifepristone. Now, that drug was approved back in 2000. But as the case has gone on, they have instead started to focus on additional approvals the FDA granted that expanded access, both in 2016 and 2021, that allowed Mifepristone to be available through a telemedicine appointment and then be mailed to an individual.

Now, the FDA insists they followed the appropriate procedures when they made these approvals and they emphasize that this is one of the most studied drugs in the country and that it has a demonstrated record of safety. So, in a short time, the justices will hear arguments from both sides, but so much at stake here, John, not just for people seeking access to this drug, but also for the FDA and other medications that it has approved.

BERMAN: What will you be listening for here, Paula, as these sides make their arguments, whether it is about the issue of medicated abortion in general, or about issues of things like standing, which so often come into play at the court.

REID: Yes. Well, look at you, you Supreme Court nerd, my fellow -- my fellow legal nerd. That's exactly -- exactly what we're looking for because there's this issue of standing, right? Does this group that sued, do they have the authority to file this lawsuit? There has been a lot of scrutiny about the extent to which these folks work with -- directly related to this drug. They certainly haven't personally been harmed. So, the justices may look for this off ramp to just say, look, we're not even going to get into the FDA's approval of this. Instead, were going to say this group doesn't have the authority to bring this case. That's one off ramp. But some legal experts are sort of surprised that this case has made it this far, but I'm definitely looking for any indication that there's a majority of justices willing to decide this on standing because we expect this decision to come in late June, where all the big decisions come, but that's also, John, as you know, the heart of campaign season. And depending which way this case goes, I mean this is something that could galvanize voters on either side, depending on how it turns out.

BERMAN: Paula Reid at the court. I think what you meant to say was, looking at the big brain on brad when you were talking to me there.

Appreciate -- appreciate it very much.


SIDNER: John Berman, always making us laugh no matter what the subject.

All right, joining us now, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

Thank you so much, Mr. Weiser, for coming in to talk about this really important issue.

I do want to start by asking you, why is it that you found it really important for you to join this lawsuit?

PHIL WEISER, COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Dobbs decision says, whether abortion care is available is up to the states. In this case, involving Mifepristone, that could be taken away. As we just noted, two-thirds of abortions provided in states like Colorado are provided through Mifepristone. That becomes illegal. You're de-stabilizing reproductive freedom. Something Coloradans care deeply about.

This case doesn't only affect states that might want to ban or limit access to abortion care. It affects every state.

SIDNER: I do want to talk about that because Colorado has laws that protect abortion rights. As you mentioned, it's an important issue there. But some Republican-led states have moved to ban or severely restrict access to abortion.