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Biden Campaign Announces $25 Million Haul Ahead Of Star-Studded Fundraiser; Sam Bankman-Fried Awaits Sentencing For Fraud Conviction; Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Discusses Bridge Collapse. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, new information about a deadly stabbing rampage in Rockford, Illinois. A man is in custody accused of killing four people, including a mailman. Seven people were injured. Their conditions range from critical to stable. The attacks included a home invasion and multiple crime scenes. No motive currently now.

The war of words between Disney and Ron DeSantis has ended with a settlement. It all started after Disney spoke out against Florida's so-called controversial Don't Say Gay law. DeSantis then asked Florida's legislature to terminate special privileges granted to Disney in Central Florida. Both have agreed to drop the various lawsuits they filed against one another and resolve their differences outside court.

Beyonce teased her upcoming country album on Instagram set to release in less than 24 hours. The track list includes the Dolly Parton hit "Jolene" and the Linda Martell show referring to the singer who became the first Black woman to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. There are also hints of collaborations with Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Today, Donald Trump is expected to attend the wake of a NYPD officer Jonathan Diller, who was killed during a traffic stop. A spokesperson for Trump says the officer's family invited him to attend the wake.

So, brand new this morning, the Biden campaign just announced that its blinged-out fundraiser in New York tonight has already raised $25 million. The event will feature former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and a huge list of others.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House. And the Biden campaign as -- is billing this as the most successful political fundraiser in U.S. history.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, and it really marks a unique moment in presidential politics as you have three Democratic presidents teaming up with one goal in mind, and that is defeating former President Donald Trump.

Tonight, they will be assembling more than 5,000 supporters at Radio City Music Hall for this first-of-its-kind fundraiser featuring Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Stephen Colbert will be moderating a discussion there. There's also a separate event that will be taking place online for those small-dollar donors.

Tickets for this event started at $225 and went all the way up to $500,000 -- with the more you pay, the more access you're getting, including one batch of supporters who will have a photo taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz of themselves and the three presidents.

Now, it come as the Biden campaign is touting this whopping $25 million figure that they're raising from this one-night event.

If you just take a look at how that compares to some of the fundraising of the president in the past, back in February he raised $53 million total and that has given him about $71 million cash on hand. Now, if you add in Democratic accounts, that number is nearly double. Compare that to former President Donald Trump who currently has $33.5 million cash on hand.

So this fundraiser will help add to that cash advantage Biden has as he ramps up his operations to take on Trump in November.

But this really marks quite a moment when it comes to having former presidents involved in the president -- in President Biden's campaign. We have seen former President Barack Obama really pick up his involvement in the campaign. He's taped these fundraisers and taped videos relating to health care.

But in speaking with Biden's advisers and Obama's advisers in recent months, they've really made clear that they want to use the former president at moments that would be of maximum impact. Fundraising is one area where they have seen that Obama has helped the operations. It's likely he won't be hitting the campaign trail until much later in the fall as this election nears.

But it does comes as Obama has said to allies that he does believe this will be an incredibly close election and believes it will be an all-hands-on-deck moment.

Of course, they're also deploying former President Bill Clinton -- a rarity out on the campaign trail. And it's really speaking to the fact that the Biden campaign is trying to tap into this Democratic star power using Obama and using Clinton to help boost Biden's campaign heading into November.

BERMAN: Arlette Saenz at the White House. That event here in New York City tonight. Thank you very much -- Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Joining us now, CNN political commentator and former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin. Thank you so much for being here.


SIDNER: We're just listening to Arlette talk about this star-studded event. We've got three former Democratic -- or two former Democratic presidents and Joe Biden all in one room with a bunch of stars showing up.

And then, in the same -- at the same time, here in New York, Donald Trump is here. He's been invited by the family of that New York police officer who was killed during a traffic stop. All the while, there is a case going on in Georgia involving Trump and the 2020 election.


When you look at all the things that are happening, how is this being used, because it always is? How are the optics of this being, sort of, used and spun?

GRIFFIN: Well, just fascinating split screens happening. So on the one hand, smart of Joe Biden. He's got a 2-1 cash advantage over Donald Trump. I also think this is deliberate to be appearing with two former presidents because no living Republican presidential ticket candidates, other than Sarah Palin, are backing Donald Trump.

SIDNER: Right.

GRIFFIN: I think that there are some optics they're trying to lean into there.

However, Donald Trump, the master spinner, is going to say elites in New York with celebrities --

SIDNER: Um-hum.

GRIFFIN: -- are raising this high-dollar donor money. Well, I'm in New York to honor a fallen New York Police Department officer who was killed by somebody who had been arrested on 20 -- 21 times previously. To the average American -- the Trump-curious voter -- this is what they want to see from him. And it's also a distraction from his pending case in Fulton County today

I have to say Donald Trump is getting smarter. This is his third time running now. He knows what he's doing in a way that there's a sophistication that wasn't there -- and I do think this works.

But the money thing is very real. Donald Trump is raising money at the slowest clip he ever has. The RNC is doing abominantly (PH). They've got $11 million --


GRIFFIN: -- cash on hand compared to $77 million at this time in 2020. So there are still major disadvantages that Trump has.

SIDNER: I think back in February he raised about $20 million and this -- we just heard John Berman saying $25 million has already been raised --

GRIFFIN: In one night, right.

SIDNER: -- in one night for Joe Biden.

I want to talk to you about the campaigning that we're seeing Donald Trump doing. April 15, now scheduled to be his first criminal trial here in New York --

GRIFFIN: Um-hum.

SIDNER: -- which would mean, because of the law here, the defendant has to be in the courtroom for this.

GRIFFIN: Um-hum.

SIDNER: Which means he can't be on the campaign trail. But there are cameras that are going to be there --


SIDNER: -- every single day as this trial gets underway.

How does he use it? How does -- does it hurt him not being out on the campaign trail or is he able to just basically go out to the cameras and use them?

GRIFFIN: I do think it objectively hurts him to not be in key swing states, but I do think he knows how to use the media to get his message out. He is going to have every camera, every network tuned in to see what remarks he says when he leaves. So if he can have a disciplined message -- he's going to say his nonsense witch hunt stuff at the top, but if he can lean into a bit of a campaign message at each of these -- you know, these court hearings -- there's something there.

But again, the money issue is very real. He had to cancel a rally in Arizona -- a very key, important battleground state -- to be able to focus resources on Ohio. So for him to do these huge rallies that he's known for it costs a lot of money. And showing up in the key battleground states is important and he is not doing that. I mean, since he got the nomination, he's been to Ohio. That's it.

But I would argue Joe Biden should be using Barack Obama -- yes, raise money. Bring him to Michigan. Go talk to the voters --

SIDNER: Um-hum.

GRIFFIN: -- that you absolutely need to win this election. That's where this is going to be won, is in these battleground states -- not in, you know, a ballroom in New York City.

SIDNER: Right.

I do want to talk to you about this scathing ruling that has come down from a judge in California regarding attorney John Eastman, Trump's former attorney who the judge says he should be disbarred from the role in -- he tried to overturn the 2020 election, according to the judge. Here's what the judge said, in part. "Eastman conspired with President

Trump to obstruct a lawful function of the government of the United States: specifically, by conspiring to disrupt the electoral count on January 6, 2021."

You also had former Trump aide Peter Navarro going to jail a week ago.

I mean, does this give people pause for those who work around Donald Trump, looking at what is happening to each and every person?

GRIFFIN: You would think. I haven't even wrapped my head around the fact that my former colleague, Peter Navarro, is literally in jail right now because of his refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena.

We've never seen anything like this. Just the chaos around Donald Trump, his general unfitness, and the caliber or low caliber of people that he's chosen to surround himself with. And I feel like we can't lose sight of that in sort of the 24-hour news cycle and there's always a new headline with him.

John Eastman is somebody who engaged in anti-democratic behavior. He should be disbarred.

I, by the way, applaud Pat Philbin, a White House counsel under Donald Trump, who testified in this case and talked and told the truth about what he was trying to do to block the certification of the election.

SIDNER: It is remarkable. But you said that Trump has gotten smarter over these years. They've learned lessons from what happened back in 2020.

GRIFFIN: They have. They know how to use the -- they know how to gain media attention. So if you don't have the money there, he can live based on earned media. It's kind of the playbook he used in 2016.

And I think he does -- he's always had his finger on the pulse of what middle America actually cares about. A slain officer who shouldn't have -- who the person killed him shouldn't have been out -- that's something that resonates more than a bunch of celebrities at Radio City Music Hall.

SIDNER: Alyssa Farah Griffin, you always bring some really interesting points and some good insight. We appreciate it. Thank you -- Fred.


Right now, the inability to move cargo in and out of the Port of Baltimore is costing the state millions. Fifteen thousand workers at the port alone depend on ships moving for their income.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And many of us longshoremen live paycheck-to- paycheck like many other people in this economy. We have to work 60 and 70 and 80 hours a work -- a week to make a decent living.


WHITFIELD: Maryland leaders say emergency bipartisan legislation is already in the works to provide immediate and direct aid to those families.

In addition to the loss of six lives following the Key Bridge collapse, one Baltimore union leader describing the loss for the state's economy is also catastrophic.


SCOTT COWAN, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN'S ASSOCIATION LOCAL 333: The Port of Baltimore is one of the biggest economic engines for the state. It -- the impact alone is $191 million a day when that shipping channel is closed.


WHITFIELD: Baltimore is the main port in the U.S. for cobalt imports used to make lithium-ion batteries. It's also the top exporter for thermal coal. Prior to the collapse, Baltimore had already exported almost 4 1/2 metric tons of thermal coal this year -- most of it headed to India and the rest on its way to other countries like China, the Netherlands, and Canada.

All right. New this morning, the White House announces plans to protect you from the dangers of AI.

And he defrauded investors out of billions. Today, FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried will find out how many years he'll have to spend behind bars for carrying out one of the largest white-collar crimes in history.



WHITFIELD: All right. New this morning, the Biden administration has announced new rules to help protect Americans from potential government abuse of artificial intelligence. This will impact everything from TSA screenings at airports to agency decisions affecting health care, employment, and housing.

CNN's Brian Fung is joining me right now. So how will these rules, Brian, protect the public?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Yeah, Fredricka. This is really the first time that the U.S. government is going to have a policy across the government designed to prevent AI from being abused by U.S. agencies. And so, what are some of the things that it does? Well, it requires

federal agencies, by December 1, to implement things like steps to verify that they -- these AI tools don't endanger Americans' rights. They'll also have to publish a complete list of the tools that they use that are powered by AI, as well as why they're using these tools.

They'll also have to complete risk assessments to ensure that the public is aware of the potential risks that these AI tools could pose. And then, finally, these AI -- these agencies will have to appoint a chief AI officer to oversee the use of some of these tools.

Now, this is kind of been years in the making. We've already seen hundreds of AI use cases in the federal government. We've seen agencies like NASA using artificial intelligence to track volcano activity all around the world. Agencies like NOAA use AI to track wildfires and to count seals and whales.

And this is really all just the beginning of what's going to be a much larger engagement with AI, Fredricka, because agencies like the Department of Homeland Security just recently announced last week it's going to be using artificial intelligence to train immigration officers. It's going to use it to enhance law enforcement investigations. So this is really the tip of the iceberg.

And the federal government is trying to get out ahead of it before anything goes awry because until now, we've not had a single policy and agencies have been basically doing -- going -- doing basically their own thing. And now, we're going to have some single standard guidelines here -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, very good, Brian Fung. Thanks so much for bringing that to us -- John.

BERMAN: This morning, baseball is back. After a long winter, stateside opening day is here for Major League Baseball, although a few games have already been postponed because of rain.

CNN sports anchor Andy Scholes is with us. The Red Sox tied for first; the Yankees tied for last. This is my favorite day of the year, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Oh, I always love it, too, John. You know, today is when the Astros begin their quest to get to a record- extending eight straight American League championship series. And I know you're locked in on that since your Red Sox are picked to finish last in the AL East again.

But today always great because almost every fan base gets to be excited about their teams opening their season -- maybe not you so much. But your second-favorite team, John, the Yankees -- they're going to be in Houston for opening day. You get to see Juan Soto make his debut with the Bronx Bombers.

Today also will be Shohei Ohtani's debut with the Dodgers. L.A. is hosting the Cardinals today. How is Ohtani going to perform with the gambling scandal still hanging over him? And, well, the Dodgers -- they are the betting favorites to win the World Series this year, followed by the Braves, Astros, and then the Yankees.

You've got 13 games on tap today. Everyone was supposed to be in action but unfortunately, as you mentioned a moment ago, John, due to rain, the Mets-Brewers and Braves-Phillies -- they were postponed until tomorrow.

Now, the first game today -- it's going to be in Baltimore as the Orioles host the Angels. And that's certainly going to be an emotional pregame ceremony as the team holds a moment of silence for the victims of the bridge collapse. Camden Yards only about 10 miles away from that Francis Scott Key Bridge. There are some live pictures there at Camden Yards.


So, John, sports always has a way of bringing people together but I'm sure it's going to be emotional there for those Orioles fans --

BERMAN: Yeah, emotional I think --

SCHOLES: -- before the first pitch.

BERMAN: Yes -- special, though, I imagine for the people of Baltimore.

Andy, shifting gears quickly, she's still playing in the tournament but Caitlin Clark getting an officer -- an offer, I should say, maybe she can't refuse here?

SCHOLES: Yeah. You know, they do say some offers are too good to refuse and this might be one of them, John. Because we know Caitlin Clark likely going to be the first overall pick in the WNBA draft next month going to the Indiana Fever.

But Ice Cube, of the BIG3, confirming to CNN that he has made a lucrative offer to Caitlin Clark to play in his league this summer. Now, you might be asking could Caitlin Clark do that because the WNBA and the BIG3 -- they kind of go on at the same time during the summer. There would be a few conflicts but this certainly would be fun, John.

And the offer, according to TMZ, was for $5 million and there's only 10 games to play. So like we said, I'm not sure you can turn that one down.


SCHOLES: We'll have to wait and see. But we could see Caitlin Clark playing in multiple leagues come this summer.

BERMAN: Look, the -- I think most fans would say the more the better. We'll see how it all works out.

Andy Scholes, great to see you.


BERMAN: As you said, good luck to the Red Sox -- Sara.

SIDNER: No one is happier that baseball season has started than our John Berman. I can say that --


SIDNER: -- with absolute clarity.

BERMAN: But this may be the only day that I'm happy all season long. Let's be clear.

SIDNER: As a fan --

BERMAN: All right.

SIDNER: -- yes -- true. All right.

This morning, the man once dubbed the king of crypto, Sam Bankman- Fried, will be back in federal court for sentencing that could land him in prison for the next half-century. The FTX founder was found guilty of committing one of the largest white-collar crimes in history, stealing more than $10 billion from his crypto customers' accounts.

CNN'S Kara Scannell is here with the very latest on the story. What can we expect to hear in court day?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Sara -- I mean, a big day for Sam Bankman-Fried. He's 32 years old and he is facing a possible sentence of decades in prison. Federal prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 40 to 50 years in prison, as you said, because he was convicted of stealing more than $10 billion from investors -- from customers of FTX, as well as from lenders from its sister hedge fund Alameda Research.

And prosecutors also say that he spent $150 million to bribe Chinese officials, and made more than $100 million in illegal political donations to politicians and to campaigns.

Now, prosecutors are saying that in their filing to the judge, "...his life in recent years has been one of unmatched greed and hubris; of ambition and rationalization; and courting risk and gambling repeatedly with other people's money." They've also said that his lack of contrition has been galling.

Now, his team is pleading with the judge, saying that he should get no more than 6 1/2 years in prison, saying that he is not like other fraudsters, like Bernie Madoff who stole money from pensions. That he was not intending to enrich himself by this, pointing to his look of often wearing t-shirts and shorts.

They have said to the judge that a sentence that either the prosecutors want or the probation department, which has asked for a 100-year sentence -- they called that, "A medieval view of punishment to reach what amounts to a death-in-prison sentencing recommendation. Crushing Sam in this way is unnecessary." They've also sent to the court dozens of letters from friends and supporters of Bankman-Fried. The prosecutors have also provided the judge with what looks like hundreds of pages of letters from victims in this case. And we may even hear from one of them today who will speak before the court -- Sara.

SIDNER: There is a huge difference between what the prosecutors and the defense timewise are asking for in prison. We will see what the judge does.

Kara Scannell, thank you so much -- John.

BERMAN: All right. We got some new video just into CNN. This is from a traffic camera on the Francis Scott Key Bridge. This is the first time I'm seeing it as well. It shows the moments just before the ship crashed into the bridge causing the bridge to collapse.

In the distance, what you can see there is a flashing light. That is believed to be of the construction crew. Then there it is on the right side of the screen. You can see the boat slowly beginning to approach the bridge. Ultimately, as the boat makes contact with the bridge, the video is just completely lost. The video goes out.

But you can see an empty bridge here at this point because police were able to clear it and stop drivers on each side. But you do see the lights of what is believed to be that construction crew.

With us now, Democratic senator from Maryland, Chris Van Hollen. Senator Van Hollen, thanks so much.

As I said, that was just the first time I got a chance to see that video. You can see almost eerily that ship moving so slowly -- although moving at 10 knots isn't that slowly -- toward the bridge and the flashing lights of that construction crew. It's sad to see that.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD) (via Skype): John, it is sad. It's been a tragic time in Baltimore and our focus has been really putting our arms around the family and loved ones of the six construction workers who died after the ship hit the bridge and they fell into the water. That has been our priority as we then look forward to rebuilding.


BERMAN: So, putting your arms around the families of those six people, I think you feel you need to start putting your arms around the families of the some 8,000 workers who work at the port right now, directly working at that port on those docks, loading and unloading the vessels there.

What's going to happen to them as this port is all but closed right now?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, you put your finger on our priority now that recovery efforts are wrapping up, and that is the fact that the Port of Baltimore is one of the busiest ports in America. The biggest port for cars unloading and offloading. And as you say, thousands and thousands of workers directly employed there, and then tens of thousands who are -- whose livelihood depends on it.

So, opening the channel is the priority. That's why we are so honored and pleased that the President of the United States followed through on his promises. The Army Corps of Engineers will be -- is on its way right now to clear that channel. And we've got to make sure that we do that so that ships can once again start coming in and out of the port that where, as I understand, four ships in the port that were stocked. There were 20 waiting to get in.

So the reality is that for all those docked and for all the commerce that goes through the Port of Baltimore opening that channel is the priority.

BERMAN: I do understand that there is some kind of direct aid to the shipworkers and dockworkers being proposed or being discussed in the Maryland State Legislature. Is that something that you are supportive of, and is it something that you would like to see even at the federal level, too? Some kind of direct aid payment plan until they can get back to full-time employment.

VAN HOLLEN: Yes, I support the efforts in the Maryland General Assembly and we're looking at whether or not we have to supplement that effort at the federal level.

The most important thing, though, John, is, of course, to clear that channel just as fast as possible and the federal government will be picking up the bill for that -- whatever it costs. And it has to happen just as soon as possible. It may be, John, that we open up one of the passageways. That area is designed so you can have two-way ship traffic but obviously, if we can open one of the lanes sooner, then that obviously would allow ships to come in and out of the port.

BERMAN: What's the earlier estimate you've heard as to when that could happen?

VAN HOLLEN: Nobody wants to put an exact estimate on it. But I -- look, I -- everybody recognizes that given everything we just talked about -- given the jobs at stake, given the small businesses that will lose money, and others, we've got to make this a priority. And so, that is the real laser focus right now. I don't want to guess but, you know, I mean, it's not going to take a long, long time but I hope that it will be done in a matter of weeks. That's my hope.

BERMAN: Let's hope. I mean, these are miracle workers -- the Army Corps of Engineers and the people working there. Hopefully, they can get this done quickly.

Senator, what do you want to see -- or what needs to happen in terms of bridge safety around the country? What questions does this raise for you as it does not appear that this bridge had the so-called fenders around the base and other instances might have -- might have kept this type of catastrophe from happening?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, look, the National Transportation Safety Board is conducting its investigation of everything that happened. I spoke to the chair of the NTSB the day of this accident. So we are going to await their findings.

Their findings will hopefully, I think help with two things. Number one, find out exactly what caused this. And I should say that if there is liability on behalf of the ship owners, they are going to certainly have to contribute to the cost of rebuilding this bridge. But the other purpose is to make sure that we learn lessons to try to avoid this going forward.

I can't comment at all, John, on the structure of the bridge. I mean, this was a ship that is three football fields long. Even going 10 knots, that's a lot of momentum. So, you know, I don't know if I want to guess it anyway about structural issues. The bridge itself was to all accounts -- by all accounts very structurally sound.

BERMAN: Mm-hmm.

VAN HOLLEN: People are talking about different things that might be done in the future -- tug boats. You know, you have tug boats in the inner harbor that help turn around these ships. Tug boats were not accompanying the ship as they passed under this other bridge.