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Economic Impact of Bridge Collapse; Gallant Meets with Officials in Washington; Roberto Leon is Interviewed about the Baltimore Bridge Accident; FDA Approves Winrevair; RNC Asks New Hires Question; NBC News Cuts Ties with McDaniel. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 27, 2024 - 08:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Collecting data on children without parents' consent.

And, who's the boss? Find out which Emmy winning actor is in talks to play Bruce Springsteen in a brand new film.


FREDRIKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: On our radar this morning, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating TikTok over its data and security practices. That's according to two sources speaking to CNN on the condition of anonymity. The agency is looking into alleged violations of the children's online privacy protection rule, which requires companies to notify parents and get their consent before collecting data from children under the age of 13.


One source says they expect to see a lawsuit or settlement with TikTok in the coming weeks.

Don't mind me, I'm doing my stretches. A new study shows that people who exercise regularly sleep better. Researchers in Iceland followed more than 4,300 people over a 10-year period and found that people who exercise on a regular basis were 55 percent more likely to sleep between six and nine hours a night. Some researchers say even starting with a five-minute walk or maybe a little twist here and there can make a difference for insomnia patients.


JEREMY ALLEN WHITE, ACTOR: This is what real kitchens do. Guys, this is what real teams do, OK? Everybody takes care of their own station. They keep their own side of the street clean.


WHITFIELD: I think he's got the rhythm. From the bear to the boss, actor Jeremy Allen White, known for playing Chef Carmy in "The Bear," is in talks to play Bruce Springsteen in an upcoming biopic. That's according to "Entertainment Weekly." The film expected to focus on the making of Springsteen's influential solo album "Nebraska."


BERMAN: New Jersey will be so happy.

The bridge collapse in Baltimore, of course, has halted all traffic into and out of that major port. The closure could impact everything from imports and exports, as we just said, to the auto industry and cruises.

CNN's Matt Egan is with us now.

This is a big deal. I mean nothing's moving.

MATT EGEN, CNN BUSINESS AND ECONOMY REPORTER: Yes, John, this is a very big deal.

I mean, first and foremost, of course, this is a human tragedy. But make no mistake, there will be an economic impact as well. Hopefully that economic impact is localized because we're talking about one of the biggest ports in the country that's been affected crippled. As a major employer of more than 15,000 direct jobs, 139,000 jobs rely on this - this port here.

And again, it's been effectively shut down. This is a major hub of economic activity. It's the number one port for exports of coal. Number one for imports of sugar. It's a major port when it comes to farming and construction machinery, and also, of course, for autos. Last year alone, 850,000 vehicles went through this port. That was an all-time high. And a lot of major companies, household names, are going to be impacted because they rely on this port or the bridge or both, including everyone from Ford and BMW, GM Stellantis.

We also know that Amazon, FedEx, Under Armour, they all have facilities nearby. And Carnival, that company has moved their cruises to Virginia. Another company, Domino Sugar. That refinery in Baltimore, it's not just a landmark, it's actually the biggest refinery for sugar in the entire western hemisphere. That's being impacted here as well.

And listen, John, we all learned more than we ever wanted to during Covid about supply chains and about how if something breaks in one place, there can be stress everywhere. So, we need to pay very close attention to the impact here.

BERMAN: Yes, and, look, I mean nothing's moving in and out of that port right now.

EGAN: Right. Yes.

BERMAN: The mayor just told me in Baltimore, yes, there are some 15,000 people who work on those docks. They're loading and unloading some of the things that are stuck in there right now, but there's only so much they can do.

EGAN: Right. Exactly. When you think about the national impact here, everyone's on high alert right now for the U.S. in terms of any sort of shocks, right? Because, remember, inflation has cooled, but it remains high.

Listen to what the governor of Maryland said about the national economic impact here.


GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): We have got to get this bridge back up and we have got to get the Port of Baltimore moving. This is one of the most - one of the most efficient and effective ports that we have in the entire country. And the economic impact of the Port of Baltimore does not just its impact the state of Maryland. It's over 51 million tons of foreign cargo. It's the largest in the country.


EGAN: Now, the saving grace here when we look at the map is there are other options, right? There are major East Coast ports that traffic is already being diverted to, including the Port of Virginia, the Port of Philadelphia, and New York and New Jersey. Of course, the extra traffic in those ports, that can add to congestion. That could actually increase the shipping costs there. The truck costs as well.

And then when you think about the situation in Baltimore, of course, there's a lot of trucks and cars, more than 30,000 every single day that went over the Key Bridge. Now, most of that can get diverted. It can go to the tunnels. But not all of it because some of this is hazardous material. That can't go through the tunnels.

I think that when we zoom out and we think about the big picture in the economy, it looks like the national economy, right, can be spared here because there are other options to this. Options. There's contingencies. We're not hearing about economists downgrading their growth forecasts or warning of price spikes. But listen, like everything else, the longer this is shut down, the bigger the impact.

BERMAN: I asked the secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, when he thinks - do they have an estimate of when the channel - when they may be able to get a channel open to get in and out there, and he just doesn't know.


I mean, I don't think there is an answer right now. I think he would love to have an answer, but right now they just can't be sure.

EGAN: They can't be sure because, John, I mean this is something that was on nobody's radar until 24 hours ago. And here we are.

BERMAN: Matt Egan, great to see you.

EGAN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.


WHITFIELD: All right, this morning, a new push by the U.S. for Israel to take a different approach in Gaza. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with CIA Director Bill Burns and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday.

And CNN's Natasha Bertrand is at the Pentagon with more on what we're learning.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, it was a jam-packed couple days of meetings for Gallant here in Washington, D.C. He met with White House officials, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. He met with the secretary of state. He met with the secretary of defense. And he met with CIA Director Bill Burns, where the two discussed a potential plan to release - to get Hamas to release around 40 hostages in exchange for Israel to release about 700 Palestinian prisoners, something that Hamas really has yet to respond to and that the Israelis are waiting to see how - how it unfolds.

But in terms of his meetings with Secretary Austin yesterday, look, the two sides still seem relatively far apart on how this operation in Rafah, in southern Gaza, is going to play out. Secretary Austin really emphasized the need for some kind of alternative to the plan that Israel appears to be weighing right now, which is kind of an all-out assault on Rafah, which would endanger the over a million Palestinian refugees who have taken shelter in the south as a result of Israel's campaign in Gaza. Austin really emphasizing that the Israelis need to think about a more sequential plan in terms of targeting senior Hamas leaders there, getting the refugees to a safe place, as well as fortifying the border between Egypt and Gaza so that Hamas terrorists cannot escape there.

So, Gallant, of course, he told reporters last night that Israel still believes that there are about five Hamas battalions in Rafah and they need to eliminate them. And that is something that Israel has been extremely firm on. And so the two sides, we are told, they agreed to keep talking. They agreed to keep these discussions ongoing at a working level between the U.S. and the Israeli sides to figure out the best way forward here because, of course, really the safety of the hostages in Gaza and the safety of those, you know, 2 million Palestinians all across the Gaza Strip really depend on how this all plays out.

And, of course, the U.S. and Israel, their relationship really he hit a new low point this week after Netanyahu canceled another Israeli delegation to the U.S. in objection to a U.S. Security Council vote that the U.S. did not veto. And so they're still trying to figure out the best way forward here. But as of right now it seems like they're just going to keep talking and hope, of course, that the Israelis take the U.S.'s advice about the best way forward in Rafah.


WHITFIELD: All right, Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much.

All right, and now let's dig deeper into how the Baltimore bridge collapse may have happened. We're learning a lot more today about potentially the timeline will be presented. The NTSB and officials say they are going to be able to board the vessel for the first time and actually interview the crew. A lot can be learned as a result.

With us right now, Roberto Leon, professor of construction engineering at Virginia Tech, is joining us right now.

Great to see you.

So, with the NTSB and other investigators able to board the vessel for the first time, ask questions of the crew, what do you believe among the first questions ought - that ought to be asked, in your view?

ROBERTO LEON, PROFESSOR OF CONSTRUCTION ENGINEERING, VIRGINIA TECH: Well, I think the NTSB is going to be interested in what essentially trigger this event, why they lost power, and why typically there will be several backup systems in situations like this. And so why those didn't come into play at all, and why they lost control completely over the vessel. And so I think that in the end what they are looking for is how to improve procedures in navigation and in port activities so that this accident does not happen again.

WHITFIELD: And we heard initially from officials that there was a loss of steering. That that's something that they experienced. On this vessel you would have a local crew that would help navigate this vessel under the bridge. It has a better proficiency and knowledge of the Patapsco River and how these vessels should traverse that area.

But what's the coordination between the local crew that's going to get on board and help navigate that vessel, as well as the existing crew on this Singapore vessel and its knowledge of the vessel? How do they work together? What do you believe some of the lapses might have been or perhaps some of the gains?


LEON: So, it's way too early to speculate even as to what the lapses might have been. Really the important thing is here, why was there some sort of electrical or mechanical failure? And why they were not able to recover from that. In the end, I think, you know, the questions will be asked about whether the crew had been trained for an event like this and so on.

From my experience, you know, the issue of how ports handle ships in and out is very much a local thing. So, I'm not familiar with the Baltimore ones. But you did see that there were tugboats that took it out and basically put it on its way. And at that point, you know, the ship seemed to be in the right course. And it was a few minutes later that they lost control very close to the - to the bridge and that's where the accident occurred.

WHITFIELD: The NTSB also says today that it has the data recorders in their possession. Typically what will be learned from those data recorders? These are similar to say like the black boxes of an aircraft. But what's the kind of information that will be retrieved from this vessel?

LEON: So, there is an enormous amount of information in these black boxes. And, of course, the NTSB, in any investigation of this type, is very much interested in correlating what's in that box with what people are telling them because sometimes there are contradictions there or in congruencies in the testimonies. And, in fact, try to track down exactly the source of the initial failure. And what human actions could have led to a worse result or to a better result.

One of the things that we learned in accidents of this type is that human intervention is extremely important. An initial accident of this type could be mitigated very much if the humans are trained and have the knowledge as to what to do, or the situation can be made much worse.

WHITFIELD: All right, Virginia Tech Professor Roberto Leon, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.


BERMAN: New FDA approval for a drug the can treat what doctors call a ticking time bomb.

And, applicants who want to go work at the RNC must now answer this question, do you think the 2020 election was stolen? Spoiler alert, it wasn't.



WHITFIELD: All right, new this morning, the FDA has approved a new drug that could be a lifeline for a rare high blood pressure disorder. It's called Winrevair. And it can help stop even potentially reverse a deadly disease known as pulmonary arterial hypertension. Without any treatment, patients typically live just two to three years after their diagnosis.

CNN medical correspondent Meg Tirrell has details on this.

So, Meg, tell us more about how this new drug works. It sounds amazing.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think one of the best ways really to illustrate both the perils of this disease and sort of the miracles of medicine when you get one that really works is to look at one of the patients who enrolled in the clinical trial of this medicine.

Her name's Katrina Barry. She was 25. She was spending the summer in Greece when she suddenly got severely short of breath. She jumped on a plane home. It turned out when she was seen by doctors she had had a heart attack at the age of 25. She had to have open heart surgery and they discovered that she had pulmonary arterial hypertension. Now, a while later she enrolled in a clinical trial of this medicine,

who's experimental name was sotatercept. And she found over the course of a few years taking this medicine, she really started to feel like she improved, even dramatically. I think we have a photo here of her back in Greece a few years after starting this medicine, hiking up a volcano. So, she really credits it with this dramatic improvement in her outlook.

Now, the FDA has approved this medication. This disease is a rare disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension. About 500 to 1,000 people in the U.S. are newly diagnosed with it every year. It typically affects women between ages 30 and 60, although not exclusively.

This drug actually goes after what is sort of causing this disease. The arteries in the lungs start to become thicken and narrow, and that puts pressure on the heart trying to pump blood. And ultimately, over time, the heart starts to weaken. So, this actually goes after a protein that's important in that sort of narrowing of the arteries.

There is a hope that potentially this could reverse the disease. We need more data on that. So far in the clinical trials we have seen that very many - fewer patients either died or had their disease worsen than placebo in the study. And, of course, they'll continue to watch the progress of this medicine as it gets out there on the market, guys.

WHITFIELD: All right, mostly impacting women or exclusively impacting women?

TIRRELL: I don't believe its exclusive.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. So, I wonder, you know, this is a very rare disease. I mean we know that drugs can be especially pricey. Is this on the costly side or is this fairly accessible?


TIRRELL: Well, it is a rare disease. And typically that business model is to price drugs very high. And so this drug costs $14,000 per vial. Merck, the maker of the medicines, says it's priced via patients weight. And the average patient will probably use enough to make this cost about $243,000 per year. That's not out of step with other drugs for rare diseases. And a lot of insurance coverage will have to come into play, obviously, to make that accessible to people.

WHITFIELD: Indeed. All right, Meg Tirrell, thank you so much.


BERMAN: All right, this morning, what is the RNC asking perspective hires now the Trump loyalists and the Trump family have taken over the party apparatus? They're asking would-be staffers, do you think the 2020 election was stolen? Of course, it wasn't. So, why are they asking?

With us, CNN's Alayna Treene. This is your reporting. What's going on here?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right. Well, you're exactly right, John, over the past few weeks Trump advisers have been asking current and potential employees at the RNC what their views are of fraud surrounding the 2020 election. And essentially, was the election stolen? And that's according to sources familiar with the interview questions. And they told me that they viewed it as an apparent litmus test for potentially being hired. And some of these people also described it as unusual for a job interview question. And, if course, it seems to - the impression they had is that it seems to be, are they questioning their loyalty to Donald Trump.

Now, this new hiring question comes shortly after the Trump campaign and the RNC effectively merged their operations according to my conversations with Trump campaign advisors, as well as RNC officials. They essentially argue that they are now operating as one and the same.

And I do want to just read for you what RNC spokeswoman, but an also a Trump spokeswoman she operates as well on both sides of this, told us regarding this reporting. She said, quote, "candidate who worked on the frontline in battleground states or are currently in states where fraud allegations have been prevalent were asked about their work experience. We want experienced staff with meaningful views on how elections are won and lost and real experience-based opinions about what happens in the trenches." And that is from Danielle Alvarez, again, an RNC spokesperson, as well as a Trump spokesperson.

And I do just want to take a step back here and give you some context around this, John. This comes as the RNC, one of their key focuses ahead of the 2024 election, is going to be on what they call election integrity and really focusing on potential claims of fraud in the upcoming election.

Now, we know that Donald Trump, one of his key issues with the RNC over the past few years is that he did not like the way that they handled his false claims of fraud surrounding the 2020 election. And we know that that was part of the reasoning that he really, you know, his relationship with former RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel fractured. It was largely over this issue and how she handled that. And so, it's definitely a key focus for the new leadership at the RNC. People who were hand-picked by Donald Trump, including his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, who's now the co-chair, as well as Michael Whatley. They're going to be leading some of these efforts.

And again, a big focus for them as they look ahead to November.

BERMAN: Yes, fascinating. Election denialism now seemingly the price of admission to work at the RNC.

Alayna Treene, thank you so much for your reporting.


WHITFIELD: All right, John, in fact, NBC News is now cutting ties with the former RNC chair, Ronna McDaniel, days after hiring her as a contributor because of major backlash from some of its biggest anchors. McDaniel was a significant promoter of Donald Trump's 2020 election lies. Sources tell CNN that she is already interviewing attorneys prepping for a potential legal battle with NBC.

CNN's Oliver Darcy joining us right now.

So, Oliver, I mean the backlash was so strong within the network that the NBC News president really didn't have a choice, did he, or at least that was his feeling?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: He didn't really have a choice. I mean this was a huge disaster where you had some of the biggest stars, like Rachel Maddow, Chuck Todd, going on the air and rebelling against NBC News' c-suite saying they made the wrong decision in hiring McDaniel, who not only was an election denier, but actively worked to subvert the 2020 vote alongside Donald Trump. And that did not sit well with the NBC News journalists, with the MSNBC hosts. And you saw them come out and protest on NBC's own air until NBC reversed the decision.

I'll read to you what Cesar Conde, the NBC Universal News Group chair, the real big boss over their, emailed to his employees announcing this yesterday. He wrote, "I want to personally apologize to our team members who felt we let them down. While this was a collective recommendation by some members of our leadership team, I approved it and take full responsibility for it." So, NBC hoping to sweep this under the rug and move on.


The problem for them is they're now facing a fresh crisis where they're being criticized by the right.