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NTSB to Board Cargo Ship; Divers Resume Recovery; Gov. Wes Moore (D-MD) is Interviewed about the Accident in Baltimore; Peter Boynton is Interviewed about Recovery Effort in Maryland; Misty Marris is Interviewed about the Combs Raids. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2024 - 09:00   ET



OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: The problem for them is they're now facing a fresh crisis where they're being criticized by the right. So, you saw Donald Trump come out and basically characterize them as intolerant, woke leftists. You're seeing that among the Fox News crowd. And so now NBC News is going to have to deal with attacks from the right as it tries to emerge from this crisis.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Oliver Darcy, thank you so much.

All right, a new hour of CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning, the black box from the ship the cause the deadly collapse in Baltimore has been recovered. We are standing by for new updates on what it tells investigators.

And for the first time since the federal raids on two of his homes, entertainment mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs is speaking out.

Two former presidents, one late night talk show host, and all kinds of stars. The Biden campaign's new effort to excite the base.

Kate and Sara are out. I'm John Berman, with Fredricka Whitfield today. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

This morning, the black box from the cargo ship that triggered the deadly collapse of the bridge in Baltimore is now off the ship and in Washington, D.C. A short while ago the NTSB chair broke the news right here on our show.


JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: Right now we do have the data recorder, which is essentially the black box. We've sent that back to our lab to evaluate and begin to develop a timeline of events that led up to the strike on the bridge. And we hope to have that information to share with the public later today.


BERMAN: That information, again, due later today.

They are also beginning to interview people both on the vessel and on shore.

According to "The Wall Street Journal," officers on the ship say it experienced a total blackout, engine failure and they say the smell of burned fuel was everywhere.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is live on the scene where we do also know that divers just got back in the water, Gabe.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, that's right. And I just spoke with the team of Maryland Governor Wes Moore. We're expecting him to come over and give you a live update here in the next couple minutes. But I can tell you, they just relayed to me that so far this morning no update on that recovery operation. They still have not located any of those six missing construction workers.

And their teams are really dealing with brutal conditions out there. It is cold out here. There have been winds whipping. There are serious waves in the water right now, choppy waves. And so it is very difficult for the crews that are out on the river trying to find them.

And as you mentioned, this investigation is really ramping up today with the NTSB, their investigators finally boarding the Dali, getting that black box off, as you mentioned. We are expecting to get a timeline from them later this afternoon. Hopefully that black box will tell them what went wrong that caused that near total blackout on the ship just before the collision.

And we are learning much more about the six construction workers, their lives. They were members of various communities here in Maryland. For some of them, over many years. We have learned about 38- year-old Maynard Yasir Suazo Sandoval. He was an immigrant from Honduras who had been in the United States for the past 18 years. A married father of two, an 18-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter.

And, John, I can tell you, you could feel the heartbreak here in Baltimore over the past 24 hours. And it's only grown since we are learning more of those stories. It is just brutal for so many people to think about the lives that are most likely lost in this terrible tragedy.

BERMAN: It is such a tragedy. And those people, they may have been heroes as well.

Gabe Cohen, thank you very much.


WHITFIELD: All right, John, this morning, divers are back in the water as they continue the somber and difficult search for the bodies of those missing construction workers. CNN's correspondent Tom Foreman is with us now.

So, Tom, they suspended some of the searching overnight. They're back in the water now. How difficult are the conditions?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're still not great. Obviously working in the dark is harder and they have a lot of tools at their hand. They have divers. They have side-scan sonar, which is used for a lot of underwater searching. They had that right from the beginning. But they have to do with changing currents out there, high tide, low tide, low water temperature. The air temperature and the water temperature were virtually the same at one point this morning, in the high 40s.


Not a comfortable temperature to work in. Difficult to be there for a long time. Poor visibility, even in the daytime under the water there.

And there is a lot of debris in the water. A tremendous mountain is how authorities described it last night. Not only in the water, they've even been worried a little bit about the containers hanging off the ship overhead and how they could fall down. These things could obviously hurt a diver. They could cut air supplies. They could do all sorts of things. So, very serious, very difficult work going on there.

Not easy either dealing with the depth. Forty to 60 feet in this area with that low water temperature.

So, this is a big challenge down there. And remember, because of the shifting currents and the water and the wind, your search area is not necessarily just here. Not only do you have the whole length of the bridge, but as the currents move, your search area can be moving out. And an area you searched is not necessarily the same area in two hours as the water moves around, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. And then, Tom, I also understand the White House has pledged support for a robust, very quick recovery assistance in any manner in which it can. What do we know about that?

FOREMAN: Well, you know, the goal here is to open what really is a major artery, not just the road, which is important, important on the East Coast here, but also the waterway below. Look at how long it has taken in the past, though. 1980, the Sunshine Bridge over Sunshine Skyway near Tampa was also hit, by a freighter in that case, and it failed. In that case, it took seven years before they were able to get that all fully re-establish there.

Usually though, and that bridge looks very nice now - usually, though, it doesn't take quite as long. I-35 in Minnesota, 11 months when it collapsed. Pittsburgh, ten months when it collapsed. I-95 in Pennsylvania, the roadway messed up there, took two weeks to get a temporary roadway into place.

So, the question will be, how fast can they do it here? Hopefully very soon for a lot of people involved. Again, right now, still dealing with the human tragedy. But you know the plans are in the works here. And what the White House is saying is, look, this is a federal priority. This isn't a state issue. This isn't just for Maryland. The country needs this to be working again, and fast. So hopefully that makes a very fast recovery effort.

WHITFIELD: Yes, very important transit area.

All right, thank you so much, Tom Foreman.


BERMAN: All right, with us now is the governor of Maryland, Wes Moore.

Governor, thank you so much for being with us. We do know how busy you've been.

We have heard from you that divers are back in the water today, engaged in these recovery efforts for those presumed to have been lost. Any updates on those efforts this morning?

GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): Yes. Well, first, are our hearts go out to these families. They are living a nightmare right now. And so, you know, I told them that we would exhaust - we would exhaust every single option for the search and rescue, to try to bring them - bring back survivors.

Now that we've transitioned into a recovery mission, I promised them the same, that I will exhaust all options to be able to bring them a sense of closure. And that includes these heroic divers who literally as we speak are right now in the water trying to - and working in pitch dark conditions, in frigid temperatures, in high tides and high winds, with mangled metal all around them, who are looking and still searching for, you know, for these individuals.

So I'm thankful for these first responders for the heroic work that they're doing.

BERMAN: Have you had a chance to speak to the families of those presumed lost?

MOORE: I have. Yesterday I had the chance to spend time with them and prayed with them prayed for them, and just praying that God can give them a sense of peace. And so that's what we're - we're hoping for right now, that in this moment that we can just bring them a sense of, a sense of closure after this - after this horrific incident.

BERMAN: These are people who may have lost their lives as heroes, Governor.

MOORE: Yes, well, the thing that we know is that these are people who went to work to fill potholes and had no idea that this was going to turn deadly. And for the family members who, when they left for the - for the - when they left their homes had no idea that this was going to be the final conclusion. And I think about the heroic work of these first responders who, as soon as that mayday call came in, these first responders went to work and they were - began to alert the people who were working. They began to move people off of the bridge. They closed off the roads to keep other cars from coming on. These first responders saved countless lives and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude is a state.

BERMAN: Governor, I know the effort right now is on recovery. And then as soon as that's done, the effort is going to be on opening the channel.


There is the issue of accountability though. As the governor of Maryland, who represents the people of Maryland, and those people who were lost, what do you need in terms of accountability, if there were warning signs missed or ignored here?

MOORE: We need to know exactly what happened. That's why I believe there needs to be a full - a full and thorough investigation of what led up to this. What made that - the ship lose power? What made it - what made them lose the ability to be able to steer the ship? Do we have the right infrastructure that's in place to be able to protect the people of our state? So, I think there needs to be a full reckoning, a full accountability. And I think we need to go wherever the investigation takes us to make sure that the people of our jurisdictions are safe.

BERMAN: What explanation have you been given so far about why this vessel appears to have lost power?

MOORE: Well, we don't - we don't have anything - anything yet. And I know the investigation is still in its - in it's preliminary stages. And this is going to be a long investigation. As we also know, it's going to be a longer recovery process. But it's something that we are all fully committed to making sure that we see through to completion. And we see through to the end and then have something that we can act on.

BERMAN: What do you want from these companies who run the shipping company? I know it's a complicated web here because one company owes the ship, another license it, the cargo on-board may belong to somebody else. But what responsibility do they have if something truly was missed here?

MOORE: I want accountability I want - I know that in everything that we do, there's accountability. That someone or something has to - has to be accountable and responsible for what happens. And so we just want to make sure that we are getting - that we are healing what is broken, that we are fixing this type of systems and we're getting the Port of Baltimore up, back and going again, that we can bring a measure of closure to these families and there needs to be accountability to make sure that these things do not happen again and that we have the systems in place to make sure that they don't.

BERMAN: So, some 15,000 workers directly involved on those docks, in that port. How long can they keep coming to work if this channel's not open? MOORE: And over 140,000 that are indirectly impacted by the Port of Baltimore. And the Port of Baltimore has such a significant economic impact, not just on my state, not just on the state of Maryland, but we're talking about 51 million tons of foreign cargo. That's the largest - so we're the largest port in the country for foreign cargo. We're talking about, you know, cars, heavy trucks, agricultural equipment. We're the number one port in America for that. It's a top ten port in the country.

So, this isn't just about the impact this is going to have on Maryland's economy. This is the impact it's going to have on our country's economy. This is the farmer in Kentucky. It's the auto dealer in Michigan. And so we've got a prioritize being able to get that bridge rebuilt, to get those port and get this channel reopened, and having the Port of Baltimore be the gifts to this country that the Port of Baltimore has always been.

BERMAN: Anyone been able to give you an estimate as to when ships may be able to move in and out?

MOORE: Not yet. And we're - but we're prioritizing and focusing on how we are coordinating efforts. I mean it's the reason that I've been on the ground marshalling the resources and marshalling and the efforts and why we're going to stay here, to be able to make sure that we can get this thing open and get things going again.

And, by the way, making sure that we're protecting the workers in the process as well.

BERMAN: Maryland Governor Wes Moore, we do appreciate you taking the time to speak with us this morning. Thank you very much.

MOORE: Thank you. Thank you so much.

WHITFIELD: All right, John, let's continue this conversation now with retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain Peter Boynton.

Captain, good to see you.

We understand the divers are back in the water trying to recover the six that are missing. Also the Coast Guard has been instrumental in other facets of the investigation. What do you believe the priority is today?

CAPT. PETER BOYNTON, U.S. COAST GUARD (RET.): Well, they're obviously working on the recovery. And let me even proceed that by saying, you know, the victims, families, and the first responders front of mind. It's an incredibly hazardous situation they're dealing with there. And as they go forward with that recovery, of course, the investigation. The chair of the NTSB had laid out the incredibly complex task they have.

But when we talk about priorities, one of the things that I've really admired to see so far, using the example of the leadership of the NTSB, is they had virtually all of their team onsite very early.


They understood that the immediate priority was the search and rescue. But to some degree, they were able to proceed in parallel, having their investigators on scene and ready to go. So, as we move forward with recovery, it's very important that the investigation proceed in a manner that does not prevent recovery actions also moving ahead. And that includes clearing that channel. The governor's absolutely correct, it's of tremendous value to Baltimore. But as a top ten port, that is of tremendous value to the country.

So, a great mark of resilience is, how do we prioritize. How do we move ahead. And how can we expedite recovery and clearing that channel.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it's a hugely important port. But, of course, clearing the area is going to take a very long time. We mentioned earlier today, the divers are back in the water. Talk to me about the obstacles. Because you look at this scene and that's all you think of are obstacles. You've got this mangled steel. It's cold. The water is deep. It's murky. And they're trying to recover bodies. So, talk to me about the barriers, the obstacles. I mean there is a lot in jeopardy here.

BOYNTON: That's absolutely correct. They really are operating in a very hazardous environment. There's also currents, and it's both the current caused by the tide surging in and out of the harbor, and also the current coming from the Patapsco River. So, that's a very complex, underwater situation. And the big hazard is all of that debris and the ship itself. There's no guarantee that that will not start moving at some point. And with those divers in the water, it's just incredibly dangerous. Hats off to those brave and incredibly skilled first responders who are in that environment. As you have pointed out, visibility is very low. And because of that current, whatever they're looking for, victims or areas of debris that will be important to the inspection, it may very well have moved. So, search planning, taking into account the effect of the current and where those objects may now be is also critical. And that makes it even more hard for those divers underwater because it becomes a larger area.

WHITFIELD: Right. So many incredible people at hand and involved here. Thank you so much Captain Peter Boynton. Appreciate it.

All right, and now new details about where Sean "Diddy" Combs was headed before federal officials stopped him as they rated his homes.

Just hours from now, Hunter Biden and his attorneys will try to dismiss several felony tax charges against him.

And will it be another blockbuster day for former President Trump's social media stock?



WHITFIELD: All right, new this morning, Sean "Diddy" Combs was briefly stopped as authorities searched two of his properties. Diddy was just about to leave Miami for a pre-planned trip with his daughters when law enforcement stopped him at the airport. This comes as his lawyer is slamming raids on his properties in Los Angeles and in Miami, calling it gross overuse of force.

Defense and trial attorney Misty Marris is joining me right now.

Good to see you.

So, does it seem like this was excessive or is this tantamount to a sex assault or sex trafficking allegations kind of investigation.

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE AND TRIAL ATTORNEY: So, the reason that you see this type of a raid, number one, it's to make sure that evidence isn't destroyed. We see a coordinated effort, Miami, Los Angeles. That's to make sure that everything is preserved. You're kind of taking them by surprise.

Now the second piece of this, going in with guns, the amount of agents, that indicates that they might have anticipated some resistance. We know in some of these civil lawsuits there have been allegations raised about gun use, gun trafficking. Perhaps they thought there could be guns at the homes and that there would be a threat or a risk. And that's when you see this type of, you know, tremendous amount of police force with arms going into these properties.

So, I think that under the circumstances it really depends on what that underlying warrant says, but that's approved by a judge.

WHITFIELD: So, among the things reportedly seized, computers and cell phones. But what does this tell you about the phase of the investigation, you know, involving homeland security investigations in New York, Miami Los Angeles?

MARRIS: Yes, so this starts in New York and it tells me that these are federal crimes, of course, because this is federal jurisdiction. So we're looking at the sex trafficking type of crimes. We're looking at those relating to federal as opposed to state-level crimes, which would be sexual assault. So, there's something more to this than the allegations that we've seen in these civil lawsuits.

Now, interestingly enough, in both Cassie's lawsuit and in another lawsuit brought by Rodney Jones, they referenced a lot of video. They said that there were videotapes, that there were videos in the home that were capturing some of these acts which they called sex trafficking in those civil complaints. P "Diddy" was stopped the airport. His phone was confiscated.


MARRIS: This tells me that the electronic footprint is something that the federal government is very, very interested in and is looking at very closely in this investigation, determining whether to take next steps. WHITFIELD: Does this indicate to you that there was a federal

investigation prior to the Cassie allegation and her settlement because if not then this happened really quickly.

MARRIS: Right. Right. So, it's hard to tell when this began. They've said it's an ongoing investigation. What we know is that at least five people, according to a source, have been interviewed.


Now, was it spurned by something that became public, so then the feds became interested, started conducting those interviews, it's definitely more, Fred, than a civil complaint. A civil complaint isn't going to trigger all of this.


MARRIS: So that means that there's additional evidence.

Now, what - how will we know? When we see that affidavit that was presented to a judge as the probable cause for the basis for these raids, that's when we'll have more detail about when this investigation began.

WHITFIELD: All right, Misty Marris, great to see you.

MARRIS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

All right, John.

BERMAN: All right, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Lizzo. The all hands on deck situation. The Biden campaign's new push to excite the base.

And the new question the RNC is using to vet its staff. They're now asking perspective hires whether they believe the 2020 election was stolen.