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Phil Weiser is Interviewed about the fight over an Abortion Drug; Weather and Water Temperatures in Baltimore; White House Monitoring Bridge Collapse; Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD) is interviewed about the Bridge Collapse. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 09:30   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Ban or severely restrict access to abortion. How is this ruling, you think, how will it affect your state, whatever they decide?

PHIL WEISER, COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Taking the most reliable and a well demonstrated safe drug off the market is a reckless act for a court to do. It's the FDA's job to make expert judgments about the safety of drugs, like Mifepristone. That's what they did here. Coloradans rely on this. And to force Coloradans to go either to a medical abortion or to a drug that's less reliable or effective, it's just wrong. And it goes against what the court said in Dobbs, which is, this will be up to the states. That's why we're fighting so hard for this reproductive freedom. We know that the battle joined in Dobbs is not over. This is one other example of fighting for reproductive freedom. Coloradans care deeply about it. That's why I'm fighting in this case.

SIDNER: Can you tell me what that fight looks like because you've joined a case, how involved you are, what you will be seeing and hearing as far as arguments go?

WEISER: When you get to a case at the Supreme Court, there's a chance for a range of different actors. So, for example, the pharmaceutical industry has also gotten involved filing what I hope to be an influential amicus briefs saying that this destabilizes the whole pharmaceutical industry to have courts making these judgments.

I'm working with a coalition of states that believe in reproductive freedom, making the point that you can't just take this drug off the market because it's a medication assisted abortion drug. That's actually taking choice away from states that want abortion to be legal.

So we're committed to protecting the people of our states, protecting our rights as states to push for reproductive freedom. And if this decision is allowed to stand, it's going to be a huge setback for reproductive freedom.

SIDNER: I want to go over what's happened within the last two years. Telehealth visits where the drug can be prescribed, have substantially increased since the Dobbs decision. A decision reversing the safety of Mifepristone could seriously undermine the FDA's approval process and invite conservative judges to second guess the agency's guidelines.

What are your worries among some of those things that you have been seeing, that there is an increased use in this?

WEISER: My worries are several fold. We need to be very clear about why reproductive freedom matters. When a woman says to a doctor, I'm worried about my pregnancy for any number of reasons, the ability to manage your pregnancy with one's life and one's mental health, the potential that maybe the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, health concerns, whatever those conversations are, that's between a woman and a doctor. You remove the most reliable, effective way to provide abortion care. You're making life harder on people. That has a real impact. It makes it harder for someone who might then have to go for a medical procedure.

So, we're really concerned about a huge step back for reproductive freedom. We're also really concerned because the drug industry in the United States of America is one of the most innovative in the world. We've got a system to evaluate the safety and the efficacy of drugs. This would append that whole system by giving judges the ability to make, for whatever reasons they might think, determinations, no, we don't want this drug on the market, that could have applications in a range of areas.

So, this case is a really big deal. It's important for reproductive freedom. It's important for our pharmaceutical industry. And it's important for the rule of law.

SIDNER: Attorney General Phil Weiser, we will leave it there. Thank you so much for coming on to talk through this really important issue. Appreciate you.

WEISER: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we are standing by a new press conference at the site of the bridge collapse in Baltimore. What new information they have learned. And what is the status of the search and rescue investigation and the efforts going on in that frigid water right now.

And new updates overnight. CNN learned that Sean Combs is the target of a federal investigation. Federal officials storming, raiding, his homes on both coasts.



BERMAN: All right, we are standing by to hear from officials in Baltimore for the latest update on the search and rescue efforts surrounding the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, you're looking at live pictures where we're going to hear that news conference very shortly. One thing we do expect to come up in this investigation, maybe even

soon, is the power on this vessel. Now, I just showed it to you very quickly. I want to push in and show it to you again.

This is the boat as it's approaching the bridge. But when you push in, and I rerack it here, you can see the lights are on, on the cargo ship. The lights are off. One more time. The lights are on. The lights are off. On. Off. The power appears to have gone out for a time in this - on this cargo ship as it approached the bridge here. Whether or not that played into the situation is one of the very key questions they are looking into.

Also, in terms of the collapse itself, there are some questions right now about the construction of this bridge over time, whether or not there should have been barriers by these pylons holding up the entire bridge.


That's an overall issue. Evan Perez, our friend, pointed that out to us and something that they deal with in bridge construction quite frequently. Some of the things we do want to hear about at this news conference.

In the meantime, we do know that search and rescue operations continue in the Patapsco River here. Very cold water temperature.

CNN's Derek Van Dam joins us now to give us an update on what that situation is most likely like right now.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the cold water temperatures is an understatement. It's around 48 degrees right now across the Patapsco River, near the Baltimore Harbor, and near where the bridge collapsed at 1:30 in the morning. And you've got to think about water temperatures roughly between 40 to 50 degrees. That can be downright dangerous and downright deadly for anyone exposed to that type of water for a certain period of time. Your heart rate can increase. You can see changes in your breathing. You can also see a rise in your blood pressure leading to a heart attack. So, these are all the concerns for this active search and recovery efforts that is still ongoing. Remember, cold water drains body heat by about four times that compared to cold air. So, that is really saying something for the potential of survivability out of this tragic, tragic incidents.

The other thing that we have to consider in this very fluid and dynamic situation is what's happening above the water. So - and also right at the surface of the water as well. So, we have these search and rescue boats that are navigating these waters, which, by the way, are very choppy, made more choppy by increasing winds. But we have just gone through a high tide cycle, which is now changing into low tide. And because we have a full moon right now, we have exaggerated tidal cycles. So, whether or not that's impacting currents or perhaps that choppiness of the waves across the Chesapeake and more particularly into the Patapsco River, that still needs to be figured out exactly.

However, with this change in the high to low tide, we anticipate those currents to be difficult to navigate and challenging for these search and rescue operations. On top of that, we have an approaching cold front that will come through. That's going to increase the winds and also bring in precipitation to the area in the next 24 hours. Right now it's dry. Visibility is clear. Not a problem. But the winds will pick up out of this system as it approaches from the west.


BERMAN: And, Derek, just to situate people so they know the area we're talking about here, I can show it here on my map. This is downtown Baltimore. This is the inner harbor. This is likely where a lot of people have been in the city.

VAN DAM: Right.

BERMAN: Fort McHenry right there. "The Star Spangled Banner" written as Francis Scott Key was gazing out in 1814 over the harbor right there. And the Baltimore Washington Airport is down here. You're talking about the current in and out a Baltimore Harbor, where the Francis Scott Key Bridge was. How strong would that current be right about now?

VAN DAM: OK. So, that's the question that we still are trying to get some clarity from the National Weather Service. But if we just kind of broaden out, look at the larger map here. This is the Chesapeake Bay. Here's the Delmarva Peninsula. The East Coast of the U.S. And more particularly, we've got the Patapsco River that is flowing out from Baltimore. So, both of these working together. As the tide starts to go towards low tide, do we start to change the currents from not only the ocean, but also the river? Does that impact what's happening near where the collapse of the bridge occurred last night at 1:30 in the morning? Or does that just make the waters more choppy, more murky, more difficult to navigate for these search and rescue boats that are trying to harbor themselves within this area in a safe proximity to the collapsed bridge.

So, a lot of questions still need to be answered. One things for sure though, we do have these special marine statements in place from the National Weather Service in terms of the winds on the open water throughout this area. We also have our coastal flood advisory because of these exaggerated floods I mentioned with the ongoing high tides that we have right now. Spring tides, actually.

BERMAN: Such a great explanation.

All right, Derek Van Dam, thank you so much for all of that. Again, we are standing by for an update out of Baltimore. There's a press conference set to begin any minute. We'll bring it to you the minute it happens.


[09:48:42] SIDNER: All right, an urgent search still underway for survivors of that terrible bridge collapse in Baltimore this morning. The White House says it is closely monitoring the situation involving that bridge collapse. A White House official telling CNN, "the president has been briefed on the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and the ongoing search and rescue efforts. He will continue to receive updates from his team throughout the day."

Biden is scheduled to leave D.C. in just a few hours for North Carolina.

CNN's Kevin Liptak is with us at the White House.

Kevin, what can you tell us this morning?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, certainly White House officials keeping a very close eye on this. And I think the most important thing that you're hearing from officials here and across the federal government is that they do not see any signs that this was a nefarious act. You heard the Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, saying there was no indication that that was intentional. And so as federal officials begin to take stock of what exactly happened and how this could have happened, they are making very clear that this was an accident and that there was no terrorism involved.

But certainly President Biden, as you mentioned, was briefed on this earlier today. White House officials and other administration officials have been in close contact with members of the Maryland government and with the local government.


We did hear from the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, who said he had spoken with the Maryland governor, Wes Moore. We also understand that he spoke with the mayor of Baltimore. And I wouldn't be surprised if we also see the transportation secretary on the ground there in Baltimore before long.

Now, as you mentioned, President Biden is scheduled to depart midday for a stop in North Carolina. He'll be talking about health care. He'll be joined by the vice president, Kamala Harris. Certainly the Biden campaign and the White House, very interested in making this stark contrast with Republicans on this issue. That trip is still on. And so we will see President Biden doing that today.

But what officials say, of course, is that he'll be continually updated on this incident. And as certainly the White House begins to take stock of what happened, their focus now is on the search and recovery, but eventually it will also have to shift to the reconstruction of this bridge and this very important thoroughfare in Baltimore.


SIDNER: Kevin Liptak, thank you so much. I want to just give you guys a look, quickly, at the area where we are

expecting there to be a press conference very shortly now from authorities about an update as to what is happening with the search and rescue, for example, in that Baltimore bridge collapse.

Joining me now is Representative Kweisi Mfume. The Francis Scott Key Bridge is in his district.

Thank you, sir, so much for - for ringing us and giving us some of your time this morning.

When you look at what has happened here, especially since we've been watching this for - for several hours now, just give me your thoughts on what happened here and what your biggest concerns are at this hour.

REP. KWEISI MFUME (D-MD): Well, my first thought is, like everyone else, that this is indeed an unthinkable kind of horror. There's nothing to suggest that this is a terrorist act in any way at all, but everything points to some sort of error. I - we don't know if it was in the navigation system or with the people who were guiding the ship in, but the pilots who guide these ships and who are on the phone all the time directly with whoever the captain of the ship is, is a very trained individual. So, something must have really gone wrong here to cause this.

I've spoken directly with Secretary Buttigieg this morning, spoken with the White House. They are responding with all of the assets at their disposal.

Our prayers right now are obviously for the missing individuals and the victims of this tragedy. And we are very appreciative and thank God for the effective service of our first responders.

Above and beyond this becomes what happens next. And it's kind of hard to think about that right now until we have able - are able to secure this situation, particularly to determine any loss of human life.

But it's going to have a huge, economic impact on the area. The Port of Baltimore is one of the busiest ports in the nation. The on/off docks down at the Dundalk Terminal bring in and take out more cargo than most people could ever imagine. This particular ship was on a 27- day journey to Sri Lanka. I'm not exactly sure whether or not its cargo was diversified or it's just a single product. But in any event, it cuts off that portion of the port. It's right at the foot of the Chesapeake Bay. And so this is going to require a great deal of effort from city, state and, obviously, our federal government. And I'm - I'm pleased, at least, that the White House has expressed every interest in trying to get this done.

It's a - it's an unfolding situation and so I think the better thing right now is to listen in to the press conference. The governor wanted to, after declaring a state of emergency, bring people up to date with the very latest.

SIDNER: Wow, I hope you're able to hear it as well. This is the press conference. We're hoping to get some updates now on what happened with the Baltimore bridge collapse.

This is the governor.

GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): Thank you all for being here.

This morning our state is in shock. And I want to take this moment to speak directly to the people of our state.

To our first responders, I'm in awe of you. I'm in awe of your courage, I'm in awe of your strength, I'm in awe of everything you do for each and every one of us. You saw a crisis and you said, what can I do to help. And our response teams are doing everything in our power to rescue and recover the victims of his collapse literally as we speak. People who, as we speak, are out there, our divers, our air assets, people right now working to save lives, and are doing it because the state asked. And we will update the public as the work continues.

To our partners inside and outside of government, I know this has been a long night.


We started coordinating immediately after the Key Bridge collapsed. We've been standing together every step of the way, from our county leadership, to our city leadership, to our state leadership, to our federal leadership. And I'm grateful to call each and every one of you, not just colleagues, but I'm grateful to call you friends.

And to the people of Baltimore, and each and every one of the 6.3 million Marylanders who call our state home, I recognize that many of us are hurting right now. I recognize that many of us are scared right now. And so I want to be very clear about where everything stands.

We are still investigating what happened, but we are quickly gathering details. The preliminary investigation points to an accident. We haven't seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack. Our administration is working closely with leaders from all levels of government and society to respond to this crisis. And not but - just by addressing the immediate aftermath, but also by building a state that is more resilient and a state that's more safe. That is our pledge. And that's our commitment. And we're going to keep that commitment.

And lastly, to the victims of this tragedy and their loved ones, all of our hearts are broken. We feel your loss, we're thinking of you, and we will always be thinking of you. We pray for the construction workers who were on the Key Bridge, and we pray for everyone who has been touched by this tragedy and their families and all of their loved ones.

But, Maryland, we will get through this, because that is the Maryland spirit, and that's what Maryland is made of. We are Maryland tough and we are Baltimore strong.

So, in the face of heartbreak, we come together, we embrace one another, and we come back stronger. That's what we've always done. That's what we'll continue to do. And that's what we're going to get done together. And we're going to pray for Baltimore.

And I'd like to turn this over to Senator Van Hollen, who's done a remarkable job in our fellow (ph) delegation in providing support. So, thank you, Senator.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Thank you, Governor.

As the governor said, we come together. We come together in Baltimore. We come together in Maryland.

First of all, our hearts go out to all those who were on the bridge and their loved ones. We pray for them. Our gratitude goes out to the first responders who, as we speak, are out there continuing to conduct search and rescue operations. I want to thank the governor, the local -- the mayor, county executive, all the people gathered here as part of team Baltimore and team Maryland. And the federal government is with them as a partner. The Coast Guard, as we speak, is also part of this mission. Coast Guard cutters, Coast Guard aviation assets.

I spoke twice today with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Pete Buttigieg has pledged that they will do everything they can to very quickly release emergency response funds for this important project. The National Highway Transportation Administration administrator is on his way to Baltimore, if he's not here already. They will be releasing those early funds once all the parties are fully engaged.

Second, the National Transportation Safety Board, I talked to the chair this morning. She and her team will be conducting an investigation of what happened.

And finally, the Army Corps of Engineers naval assets for looking below the surface and clearing. All of this is going to be part of the effort.

The governor is leading team Maryland, the mayor and the county executive, of course, team Baltimore. But I'm just here to say, together with Ben Cardin, Senator Cardin, and Congressman Mfume and others, the federal government is your partner in this effort.

Thank you. And again to the people of our state and the people of this great city, we're with you, we love you, we will get through this together.

Thank you, Governor.

PAUL WIEDEFELD, SECRETARY, MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Good morning again. Paul Wiedefeld, secretary of transportation.

Just a few updates since our meeting this morning.