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Bodies of Two Bridge Workers Recovered from Submerged Truck; Georgia Judge Hears Motions to Dismiss Trump Charges at 10:00 A.M. ET Hearing; Israeli Delegation Could Travel to D.C. as Soon as Next Week. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, that will lead us to another World Series Championship in the very near future.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Hell, yes, David. We do have some hopeful news, that is the game out of Baltimore, of course. Our city saw unthinkable tragedy this week. My family has deep ties. Baltimore has been really wonderful to us.

Like David said, let's win another World Series Championship.

Panel, thank you guys very much for being here. I hope you're going to get out and see some baseball this weekend. And thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Don't go anywhere. CNN News Central starts right now.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the final moments before the collapse, the crew frantically trying but failing to control the doomed ship, and the new dangers the massive recovery mission is now up against.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis back in a Georgia courtroom this morning, coming face to face with Donald Trump's lawyers for the first time since their failed efforts to disqualify her. Trump today hoping to get his case dropped, the free speech fight about to play out.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just in what Politico calls a money bomb. The huge hall announced moments ago by the Biden campaign for an unprecedented fundraiser tonight.

I'm John Berman with Sara Sidner, Fredricka Whitfield in for Kate today. This is CNN News Central.

SIDNER: New this morning, investigators are zeroing in on the five minute scramble before that massive container ship slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing it to collapse into the river. According to the NTSB, the first alarms went off at 1:24 A.M. The ship's crew dropped an anchor called for tugboats, sent a mayday out, but things developed so quickly they never really had a chance to stop it from taking down the bridge at 1:29 A.M.

Today, the search for the victims has been paused due to the sheer amount of debris in the water. Dive teams pulled out the bodies, however, of two construction workers. Their bodies were found submerged in a truck surrounded by concrete.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is live with us from Baltimore. Gabe, what else have investigators discovered from the ship's black box that they were able to obtain?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you laid out there, Sara, it describes a really frantic few minutes as the ship experienced that total black out, the pilot losing power, the ability to steer, audible alarms going off on the ship as he called for those tug boats calling for his crew to steer left, trying to get any help he could. Eventually, though, that made a call went out, which helped police on land stop traffic to the bridge.

Though, look, it's really hard to hear these details heartbreaking, knowing that those eight construction workers weren't reached throughout all this, six of whom are believed to have died in the river. And as you mentioned, Sara, the recovery effort has stopped today because of the conditions that those rescue and recovery crews are dealing with out there on the Patapsco River.

Take a listen. This is how the chief of state police described it yesterday.


COL. ROLAND BUTLER JR., SUPERINTENDENT, MARYLAND STATE POLICE: Because of the superstructure surrounding what we believe are the vehicles and the amount of concrete and debris, divers are no longer able to safely navigate or operate around that. We have exhausted all search efforts.


G. COHEN: And so, Sara, now a lot of the focus turns to getting the bridge, all of that steel out of the water and getting that ship moved.

What is going to be a major problem or at least another roadblock here is the hazardous material that's also been discovered, 56 containers of it, more than 700 tons. And it's making it difficult because it means that crews, in large part, can't get on the bow of the ship where the bridge came down because some of those containers have been breached.

There is a bit of a spill into the river, although the Coast Guard says it's not a public health concern at this point, but it's creating more problems for those crews that are still bringing in equipment and are trying to figure out how to move this massive bridge.

You can see a lot of it when we look at the pictures above the water. There's even more of it below the water, Sara. And any little bit, any piece of concrete could be a hazard for ships coming in and out in the future. So, they have to get it all out.

SIDNER: And it's hampering the recovery efforts of those bodies still in the water. Gabe Cohen, thank you so much for that update. John?

BERMAN: All right. CNN's Maria Santana has been talking to the families of the victims. She is in Baltimore for us this morning. Maria, what are you hearing?


MARIA SANTANA, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hi. How are you, John? Well, it has been an incredibly heartbreaking to speak to these families throughout every stage of this. First, the initial shock of what happened, then those that were clinging on to hope, hoping that a miracle would happen. And, of course, the realization that, as the hours and days went by, that just seemed less and less possible.

What we know is that two bodies were recovered. Authorities have identified one of them as Dorlian Castillo Cabrera. He is a 26-year- old from Guatemala. CNN has been able to speak to his family members. They say that he had been working for this construction company for three years and that he absolutely loved his job. He was one of two Guatemalans killed in this incident.

The other body that was recovered was that of Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes. He's 35 years old from Mexico, one or two Mexicans killed. We do not have that much information about him. We spoke yesterday with the press secretary for the U.S. embassy here in Washington, and they said that these families have asked for privacy and that they are trying to respect those wishes.

The other immigrant worker that was killed is Miguel Luna. He is from El Salvador. He is a father to three children, but his family also told us that he has three stepchildren.

Maynor Suazo Sandoval, he is a 38-year-old from Honduras. He has two children, and we were able to speak to his family members. He was a construction worker, but also an entrepreneur who had established several businesses here and in Honduras.

And we spoke to this brother, Carlos Suazo Sandoval, yesterday, and he told us why it was so important for these families that the recovery efforts continue. Let's listen.


CARLOS SUAZO SANDOVAL, BROTHER PRESUMED DEAD AFTER BRIDGE COLLAPSE: They have found cars, but they have not yet moved any cars because there is a lot of steel framework. And they must be careful because they are human beings. Even if lifeless, we, the family members, need them to rescue the bodies, at least to see them and have them handed over to my family, his entire family.

He was the breadwinner for his children right now. God is going to provide for us too, so we can get together as a family and see how we help each other because, at this moment, his wife is left with his girl and everything.


SANTANA: And, John, most of these families have been gathering at what has been established as a family reunification and support center there. They have been getting updates. I was able to go in yesterday, and I can tell you that you can feel the grief and the sadness to the point where it just overwhelms you as a mere observer, so I cannot even imagine what these family are going through, John.

BERMAN: Are these families getting any financial assistance, Maria?

SANTANA: Well, as we heard, a lot of them are the breadwinners for their families. We have heard from state and federal officials that they are going to do all they can to support these families, that is going to mean financial assistance at some point.

As many immigrants, as you know, John, they were not only supporting family members here, but also in their home countries. Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, his dream in coming to the United States was to help his mother.

So, there are a lot of people that are being affected by this. And as, you know, the days and hours go on right now, they haven't thought about the economic repercussions but this is going to be a long, long road for so many families, John.

BERMAN: All right. Maria Santana, great to have you there speaking to these families, this must be such a difficult time for them. Thank you. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Incredible. All right, and this neighborhood nightmare, multiple crime scenes in just a matter of minutes after a deadly stabbing spree.

And for the first time since their failed attempt to disqualify Fani Willis, Donald Trump's lawyers will be back in a Georgia courtroom this morning, their latest plan to have his election subversion case thrown out.

And Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Beyonce, new clues about the singer's country-themed music album ahead of tomorrow's big release.



WHITFIELD: All right. We're standing by this morning for Donald Trump's lawyers to square off with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis inside a Georgia courtroom. For the first time since an effort to disqualify her failed, D.A. Willis will be back in court making the case to keep Trump's indictment intact, as the former president's lawyers will try to use the First Amendment to get all of his charges dropped.

Cameras in court for the pre-trial hearing, so you'll get to see a lot of it. That's set to turn on just before 10:00 A.M. Eastern Time.

CNN's Zach Cohen joins us now with more on this. Zach, what do we know about what could unfold today?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Fred. Judge Scott McAfee making good on his promise to keep this case in Georgia moving forward, even as an appeals court is still deciding whether or not it wants to review his decision allowing Fani Willis to remain on the case in Georgia.

And, look, today we're going to hear oral arguments on several motions, including one filed by Trump's lead attorney, Steve Sadow, where he is arguing that the indictment in Georgia, the sprawling RICO charge, the conspiracy case violates his First Amendment, his protected speech under the First Amendment.

I want to take a look at what Sadow wrote in his motion that was filed to the court before today's hearing. It says, the First Amendment in affording the broadest protection to political speech and discussion regarding governmental affairs not only embraces but encourages exactly the kind of behavior under attack in this indictment.


Obviously, prosecutors in Georgia disagree with that. They view these criminal charges as a broad conspiracy. You look at the top charge in this indictment. It is the racketeering charge, which really is the big one here. It's really the one that Trump's attorneys are going to try to knock down, convince the judge again today violates his First Amendment rights, while Fani Willis' team will argue that Trump oversaw a broad conspiracy to try to overturn the 2020 election.

And, look, this comes as Fani Willis is really trying to refocus people's attention on the case itself, on the criminal charges against Donald Trump and his remaining co-defendants.

We actually caught up with Fani Willis last weekend at an unrelated event in Atlanta. Take a listen to what she said when asked about the state of the case in Georgia.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: That's not something that I find embarrassing in any way. And I know that I have not done anything that's illegal.

There are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.


Z. COHEN: So one of those efforts, in Willis' opinion, seems to also be coming from Trump's allies in Congress. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan did subpoena Willis a few weeks ago. She responded to that subpoena yesterday in a letter that also hit back at Jordan for trying to wage what she calls a political investigation against her.

She wrote, in her letter to Jordan, nothing that you do will derail the efforts of my staff and I to bring the election interference prosecution to trial. My family and my staff and I have been threatened repeatedly by people making violent, often racist attacks. Neither those threats, nor anything your colleagues, and you say or do, will deter us from fulfilling our duty to bring this case to trial.

So, obviously, today's hearing is the first moment where we will hear from Fani Willis' team and Trump's attorneys since that disqualification effort you mentioned largely failed. The appeals court could still take that up, but now Willis really trying to move the case forward and McAfee has agreed to allow that to happen.

WHITFIELD: Okay. And, Zach, we're also learning that one of Trump's co-defendants in Georgia just got cleared to work for the 2024 Trump campaign. What can you share about that?

Z. COHEN: Yes, Fred. Harrison Floyd, as you mentioned, he's charged in Georgia alongside Donald Trump as part of this RICO case brought by Fani Willis. He actually only realized that the judge gave him permission a month ago to work for Donald Trump in Trump's campaign in 2024, only realizing it this week. He posted the letter from McAfee on Twitter.

It's interesting because the terms of his bond agreement, Floyd cannot have any direct contact with any of his fellow co-defendants, including Trump. But the judge is making an exception a little bit here saying that he can have indirect contact with Donald Trump about the employment on the campaign.

So, it's sort of a bizarre scenario, one that we haven't really seen happen before, where two co-defendants, one of them working on the other one's presidential campaign.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it is unusual. All right, Zach Cohen, thank you so much. John?

BERMAN: All right. Three presidents and a queen, if you count Queen Latifah, that is who will be at this unprecedented fundraiser in New York tonight, and we just learned how much money it will bring in.

Also, we're getting new reporting in after multiple deaths in a stabbing spree.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, we don't have a clear motive in regards to what caused this individual to commit such heinous crimes.




SIDNER: New this morning, a meeting between Israel and the U.S. is back on, after Israel canceled the meeting over the U.S. failing to stop a U.N. Security Council vote approving a resolution for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Israeli officials could be in Washington as soon as next week.

Meeting over Israel's contentious plans for a military operation in Rafah comes as Prime Minister Netanyahu is now saying victory in the Gaza is, quote, a few weeks away.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is joining me now. Natasha, what are you hearing about this meeting and what all will be discussed?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, U.S. officials are very pleased that this meeting has been rescheduled because they want to have a more fulsome conversation with Israeli officials about this plan that they have for an offensive into Southern Gaza, into Rafah, where there are over a hundred -- there over a million Palestinians seeking shelter after months and months of Israel's bombardment of Gaza in the north, many of them have moved south.

And so the question that the U.S. has had for the Israelis is, how are you going to launch this ground invasion into Rafah and still protect the millions of civilians who are there taking refuge?

And so that is one of the main points of discussion that's going come up during this meeting between U.S. officials and Israeli officials, which is expected to happen as soon as next week. Israeli official said that they're still kind of working to figure out the best date for that.

But this also comes after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, he spent a few days here in D.C. meeting with White House and Pentagon officials talking about this very thing, talking about the Israeli plan for what they're going to do to eliminate the remaining Hamas battalions inside Rafah, something Israel says that it has an imperative to, but that the U.S. is urging them to think twice about, saying that they need to find some kind of alternative option, because any kind offensive there is really going exacerbate the already horrific humanitarian situation there.

And so, Gallant, he agreed, according to officials, to take back the U.S. recommendations to Israeli officials, discuss them. He says that he has an open mind about them. But, still, the U.S. remains concerned here that if there is no ceasefire in conjunction with, of course, the release of hostages that Hamas is still holding inside Gaza, then it could be potentially weeks before Israel decides to move forward with this invasion.

And so right now, the question is how much influence, how much leverage is the U.S. going to have over Israel during these conversations, and, of course, keeping an eye on that second track here, very important, which is the release of the hostages.


Hamas just yesterday rejected the latest U.S.-Israeli proposal for the release of those hostages. They're continuing to go back and forth here. But the talks right now are stuck even if they are not completely over. Sara?

SIDNER: All right. Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much for your reporting. John?

BERMAN: All right. Dolly Parton suggests the perfect song to listen to while you wait for Beyonce's album to release, why she is digging out the classic.