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Obama, Clinton Join Biden at Star-Studded Fundraiser That Raised $25 Million; Largest Crane on Eastern Seaboard Arrives at Bridge Collapse Site; Beyonce Drops New Album Act II, Cowboy Carter. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 07:00   ET


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: I love pickles.


Nothing goes better with free beer than a dominating win. The Orioles just soared to an 11-3 win against the Angels to start their 2024 season.

Mark, I don't know how long you've been in this area if you're an O's (ph) fan or a Nats (ph) fan. I'm a huge O's fan because my dad grew up in Baltimore. I am so excited for this season

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Did Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams play for the Orioles? It's the Red Sox. Come on, kid. We'll see you soon here.

HUNT: All right. Thanks very much to our panel. Thanks to you for joining us. I got to find some more O's fans next to me. What's this about? Nonsense. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere.

CNN New Central starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our first look this morning at what might be the biggest political fundraiser ever. T.V. cameras not really allowed inside, but we are getting the inside scoop of what happened on stage with three presidents, a queen, and a few pairs of sunglasses.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking news, the largest crane on the eastern seaboard just arrived to help clear what's left of the collapsed Baltimore bridge, as officials work to get the port moving again.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: The Beyhive is buzzing this morning. After months of anticipation, Beyonce's new album, Cowboy Carter, is here from Jolene to the Beatles. This is a Beyonce like we've never seen or heard before.

I'm Sarah Sidner with John Berman. Fredricka Whitfield is in for Kate Bolduan. This is CNN News Central.

BERMAN: So, this morning, these are images you have never seen before from an event, the likes of which no one has ever seen before. And, by the way, you will not really see it in full because television camera is not allowed inside for what the Biden campaign is calling the most successful fundraiser in American political history, $26 million.

We are, though, getting a readout of what happened behind those closed doors with former Presidents Clinton and Obama joining President Biden on stage with a host of the biggest names in entertainment.

There were protests to over Israel's war Hamas. At one point, President Obama said, you can't just talk and not listen. That's what the other side does.

As for the other side, we're just now hearing from Donald Trump for the first time about his trip to New York. He was there to attend the wake of a fallen police officer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the message to the presidents at Radio City right now, before you leave New York and go back to Florida? What did they miss today?

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they missed a very sad moment for our country, but it's a moment that they have to be a part of, whether they like it or not, that they can't skip this moment.

I've never seen so many police. I've never seen so many firemen, a lot of firemen. They view it, you know, in a very similar way, and I understand that. But they're going to have to get involved a little bit because this country is going to hell.


BERMAN: All right. CNN Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee is with us this morning.

Let's start with this event in New York and what actually happened there on that stage for all the big money donors to see.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, first of all, that total fundraising hall has actually now been updated to upwards of $26 million, obviously a result of all of the serious star power that we saw gathered in one room, the three presidents, a number of celebrities and artists, and very, very expensive tickets.

It's clear from the readouts that we've gotten so far from last night that the main overarching theme of the evening was the threat of Donald Trump. You know, given that the setting was what it was and given that it was Stephen Colbert that was moderating this event, the three presidents clearly at times used humor to talk about this, for example, talking about Trump giving himself these trophies at his own golf tournaments, President Biden at one point saying all the things that he's doing are so old, a little old and out of shape.

But I think under all of that was clearly this sober picture of what a Donald Trump presidency would look like, according to these three presidents, talking about the events of January 6th, the threats that they believe he poses to everyday freedoms and rights, including reproductive rights, President Biden at one point saying, I think democracy is literally at stake.

And I think the real force from the evening clearly came from the fact that it wasn't just Joe Biden talking about all of these things, as we've heard him do so many times over the last few months, but that these messages were echoed by two of his predecessors, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who were on stage, the idea, of course, being that they would know better than almost anybody else what really is at stake come November.

And I think the three presidents and the picture that they painted together on stage was clearly one of party unity, but also urgency about, again, the Donald Trump second term that they're trying to prevent from taking place.


BERMAN: Interesting party unity. There were protests at this event over Gaza, and those have happened around the country as President Biden has been campaigning.

LEE: Yes, that's right. You know, we were outside of Radio City Music Hall all evening and we saw probably a couple hundred protesters angry about wanting a ceasefire in Gaza, angry about the way that President Biden has handled this conflict.

And to an extent, we saw that actually follow the three presidents inside to this fundraiser. We know that it was interrupted multiple times throughout the evening. Stephen Colbert, it sounded like, led actually very substantive conversation about the situation in the Middle East, all three presidents weighing in on this issue, all three of them, of course, very familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

You know, one woman who came out of this event that I talked to briefly, she said she paid $500 for her ticket. She said she was generally impressed by the way that the three presidents responded to these live interruptions during the evening, that they tried to be not critical of the interruptions and tried to be empathetic to the situation in Gaza.

But I think this was such a clear reminder of how much the situation in Israel and the Middle East has been a political problem for President Biden, too.

BERMAN: All right. M.J. Lee here in New York, great to see, M.J., thanks very much. Sara?

SIDNER: And a special treat. We've got CNN's John King joining us live and in person this morning here on CNN News Central.

Just what are your thoughts about these three presidents, two former presidents, the current president, coming together, but also facing some real issues while at the same time the former president is at a funeral of an NYPD officer and those juxtapositions that are happening there?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. There're several important pieces there. Number one, the Democrats are trying to say that all of our top guns are on the same field, all-hands-on-deck. And, look, President Biden needs that. He's struggling right now and he needs all the help he can get financially. They need that money.

Fundraising does not win campaigns. But if you spend that money wisely, you can win a campaign because you have the money and he has an advantage right now.

You will not see George W. Bush raising money for Donald Trump. You will not even see his own vice president, Mike Pence, raising money for Donald Trump. So, it does tell you that the big heavy hitters in the Democratic Party are going to try to help President Biden.

Now, President Biden is underwater on the economy, underwater on immigration, underwater on other issues, has a historically low approval rating. He has a lot of problems. So, he needs that money. He needs that money. They're already on television. It costs more money if you're an incumbent president because Air Force One costs more than another plane.

What is Trump doing? Number one, he's playing to the base. Crime here in New York, he's going to Michigan next week to do immigration. That plays to the base, but it also plays to the suburbs. Biden has a lot of cracks in his coalition. Trump has one giant problem, which is the suburbs. That's his kryptonite. And crime and immigration can play in the suburbs. The issue plays well. Sometimes Trump overdoes it with his tone. So, we'll see how that goes.

And the crime debate is interesting because, overall, the violent crime is down. But personal property crime is up, motor vehicle thefts are up, and it gets a lot of attention on local news and on a certain network that is clearly trying to help the former president. They play it up more than maybe out of context a bit.

SIDNER: That's fair enough. Let me ask you about this poll of polls that is coming out. The four polls have come out. How tight are we? How close are these two men running for president at this point in time?

KING: If you look at that right there, 47-44, so we would say no clear leader because you're averaging the latest three or four national polls, which is a smart way to do it. Don't focus on any one poll. I would also argue as we get closer to the election 200-plus days away.

Now, national polls are less meaningful and you want to look at the battleground states. However, if you look at that 44 percent for President Biden and our poll of polls just at the beginning of the month, he was at 46 or 47 percent.

So, again, his share of the vote is down a little bit. He's struggling right now. I would argue that we need to pay attention to the third party candidates increasingly, not just Trump versus Biden. Because if Trump is at 47 and Biden is at 44, where's the rest of that vote, right?

And so you look at that, number one, the third party candidates. And then, again, the most important thing, where do they get on the ballot, which states are they on the ballot, and then try to study who they're helping or hurting, as you look at that.

The general thinking is, if you lower the bar, you can win with less than 50 percent, that helps Trump. But I think state-by-state, it's going to be complicated.

SIDNER: You say some of the other candidates, RFK, we know that the Biden administration has said, or the Biden campaign has said, they're going to start going on the attack when it comes to that particular candidate.

KING: Right. And don't forget the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. Ask Hillary Clinton, Michigan, Wisconsin, 2016. Ouch.

SIDNER: Yes, that's one way to put it. John King, it's always a pleasure. Thank you so much for being here this morning. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, crews have started the difficult job of dismantling the twisted wreckage of that collapsed Baltimore bridge. The challenging work ahead in one of the nation's busiest ports.

And a grim milestone, it has been one year since American Journalist Evan Gershkovich was wrongfully detained in Russia.


How his family and coworkers are pushing for his release.

And, an eight-year-old-girl is the sole survivor of a deadly crash that sent a bus full of Easter worshippers off a bridge and down a ravine.


WHITFIELD: Right now in Baltimore, the largest crane on the eastern seaboard is very near the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and that collapse to help clear the channel and then reopen the port.


It is going to be a painstaking process as officials work to pull debris piece by piece out of water.

The NTSB has released new video from onboard the huge container ship, the Dali, that crashed into the bridge.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is in Baltimore for us. So, Gabe, tell us more about what is expected to happen today and the fact that last night the Baltimore Orioles honored the victims and the first responders during their opener.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Yes. So, Fred, that first crane vessel has arrived at the scene. It's the biggest crane vessel on the East Coast. That is a major development. It is just arriving at the scene, we should say. The work has not begun. We understand that two more of those vessels are on their way right now, according to the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg. But this is going to be a process.

Right now, even before those vessels can start removing the bridge. Coast Guard officials, engineers from the Army Corps of Engineers are trying to figure out how they're actually going to cut that bridge into pieces so that it can be safely removed by these vessels.

And as we've watched them come into the channel this first one, it is clear what a project this is going to be because it is so small in comparison to this massive container ship the size of the Eiffel Tower that has a huge bridge still laying across it, Fred.

Take a listen. This is how a Coast Guard official talked about the project ahead when he spoke to media yesterday.


REAR ADMIRAL SHANNON GILREATH, COMMANNDER, FIFTH COAST GUARD DISTRICT, U.S. COAST GUARD: We are doing those assessments right now with underwater surveys, with engineering teams back in the unified command, with our Army Corps of Engineers, with our Navy Supesov (ph), with Coast Guard, with all of our partners that you see up here. That is our number one priority, is to reopen the port of Baltimore as fast as we can and do it safely.


COHEN: And it is so critical, Fred, for them to get the port reopened. We are talking about thousands of jobs on the line, millions of dollars in salaries and impact to the economy here in Baltimore. And then, of course, there is the ripple effect within the supply chain for the U.S. economy. So, there are major implications.

The federal government approving that first $60 million dollar package, but in reality, Fred, that's just a down payment here. $60 million is going to help them in these first stages of demolition, even rerouting traffic, some of the little stuff that's happening in the days ahead. In terms of the weeks and months ahead, it's going to cost a lot more money than that.

WHITFIELD: It will indeed. All right, a very tough time. And, Gabe Cohen, thank you so much. Of course, later on, we'll be able to show some of those pictures of that tribute at the Orioles opener game.

All right, John.

BERMAN: Thanks. This morning, a new explanation from Republican insiders about why the national committee is asking potential hires this question, was the 2020 election stolen?

And breaking overnight, the new album from Beyonce is out this morning. An in-depth analysis of each melody, each key change, each lyric, and how they very well could change life as we know it.



SIDNER: So, you've heard that song, but you've never heard it like this, not with those words. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl. The highly anticipated second act to Beyonce's Renaissance Project, Cowboy Carter dropped last night. Hold your horses because it's a ride through the black roots of country music.

The album features queens of country music like Linda Martell and the woman, Dolly Parton, including Queen B's rendition, as you just heard, of classic Jolene.

CNN anchor and Beyonce fan also, as you can tell, he is -- you understood the assignment, Victor Blackwell, this morning. You understood the assignment. What was your reaction? I know you've already dropped this. I know you've already gotten it. You were listening to all the songs. What's your favorite?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Alarm went off this morning, and I started playing the album. I've listened to it twice so far through. My favorite so far is Sweet Honey Buckin. It's 27 tracks and interludes, including some of the legends we know, like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson and those interludes, but also some names that maybe most folks don't know, like Shaboozey and Willie Jones and Tanner Adell as well.

You play Jolene in Texas Hold'em, which has been number one on Billboard Country chart for six weeks now. Other tracks, like Just for Fun, are easily, I guess, identifiable as country, but there are also some that play with this question of genre and where does this music live.

Here's my early favorite, just a portion of Sweet Honey Buckin, and you'll understand what I'm talking about.


So you hear the Patsy Cline reference there, you hear the beats kind of mixing through genres, and, certainly, Sara, Beyonce fans will hear a Beyonce they recognize, but also here in the country genre, those fans would hear that music that they love, too.

SIDNER: The mix there is incredible. You wouldn't, as just a regular old plebeian, put those two things together. Beyonce does it with absolute beauty.

You know, when she does something, Victor, there's always though a deeper meaning, sort of a personal journey and broader themes to society. What broader cultural or social commentary is she trying to say with Cowboy Carter? BLACKWELL: Well, in addition to the genre, she also addresses the question of race in music. There's a track, Spaghetti, that starts with Linda Martell saying that genres are a funny little concept.

Now, if you never heard the name, Linda Martell, she was the first black female country singer to have real commercial and chart success. First to sing at the Grand Ole Opry, first to perform on that old show, Hee-Haw, and she was pilloried from moving from gospel and R&B into country and faced issues on plantation records, if you can imagine, in the 1960s, a black woman singing on that label.

There's a track also on this album called Blackbird, which is a play- on and using the original lyrics of the Beatles' Blackbird. And Paul McCartney back in the 60s, he said that he wrote this thinking not about a Blackbird but a woman in the civil rights era. Well, in this version Beyonce sings it with three other black women in country.

Listen to a portion of Blackbird here.

Sara, there is a lot on this album. She says that it's not a country album. It's a Beyonce album, but I am here for the country.

SIDNER: Yes, you are and you are dressed for the part.

Just FYI, Blackbird is my alarm in the morning, the original one. So, maybe I'll change it to the Beyonce version. It's beautiful.


SIDNER: All right.

BLACKWELL: It is beautiful.

SIDNER: Victor Blackwell, thank you so much. And watch more with Victor Blackwell. He will probably not be wearing that hat, but you can't guarantee, tomorrow morning and every Saturday morning on First of All starting at 8:00 A.M.

All right, John.

BERMAN: All right. Police say he was paranoid, on drugs. Will new charges be filed against the suspect in a stabbing rampage?

And today, Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich is waking up in a Russian prison for the 365th time. Remember, journalism is not a crime, at least it's not supposed to be.