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Biden Takes New Swing At Trump's Stamina During Golf Joke; Sources: Trump Campaign Aiming To Raise $33M At Event Next Week; Blinken Calling On Russia To Release Evan Gershkovich; Largest Crane On Eastern Seaboard Now At Bridge Collapse Site. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: -- and it reveals a new line of attack from the president going after Donald Trump for his fitness, his literal fitness, like how in shape he is in or not.

New details on who the Russians wanted exchanged for jailed American journalist, Evan Gershkovich, today marks one year in prison. And then breaking this morning, the biggest crane on the East Coast is arriving at the scene of the Baltimore bridge collapse. When? Can it get the channel open?

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

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Anything you can raise, I can raise better. This is the rallying cry from Donald Trump this morning as President Biden bask in the glow of a historic $26 million fundraising haul in just one night and takes a brand new swing at Donald Trump's stamina.

There was no mulligan needed for a golf joke overnight that may have just teed up President Biden's newest Trump attack line. The Biden campaign excluded press and network cameras from the fundraiser, but just released a selected clip, and they chose this particular moment.


STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE-NIGHT TV HOST: Raleigh, Saginaw, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Vegas, Hotlanta, the Philly suburbs, Manchester, Dallas, and Houston. Donald Trump, as far as we can tell, has just been trying to win a third championship at his own golf course.

My question to you, sir, can voters trust a presidential candidate who has not won a single Trump International Golf Club trophy? At long last, sir, have you no chip shot?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, I'd be happy to play. I told him once before when he came into the Oval when he was being -- before he got sworn in. I said, I'll give you three strokes if you carry your own bag.


SIDNER: All right, then. CNN's MJ Lee joins us now. MJ, Biden's campaign could have chosen any moment. This was a long discussion with two former presidents and Biden himself. Why choose this particular one?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think this clip showed that there were three presidents on stage last night. But really, the overwhelming focus of the evening was a fourth president who wasn't in the room and that, of course, is Donald Trump.

You know, the force of the evening, I think, last night came from the fact that we had President Biden being joined by his two predecessors in echoing some of the themes that we've heard him talk about so much over the last few months, that he sees Donald Trump as a threat to democracy, the individual freedoms that he believes another Donald Trump presidency would be, you know, threatened by.

And I think just given the setting, it was clear from the readouts that we've gotten from yesterday evening that the tone was serious, but there was like a good dose of humor that was laced into everything, right? So, for example, we know that the president said at one point, "We're at a real inflection point in history. Things are changing. This guy denies there's global warming.

This guy wants to get rid of not only Roe v. Wade, which he brags about having done, he wants to get rid of the ability of anyone anywhere in America to have the right to choose. All the things he's doing are old. A little old and out of shape."

The other headline, of course, is just the dollar figure. The campaign saying that they've raised upwards of $26 million. That, of course, comes from just a serious star power that we saw in one room, the three presidents, celebrities, artists and very, very expensive tickets.

And this morning, we should note the president before he heads back to Washington D.C., is going to be speaking to his National Finance Committee. This just goes to show how much they're trying to shore up this fundraising and also the cash advantage of the Biden campaign currently has against the Trump campaign.

SIDNER: Old and out of shape talking about ideas that Donald Trump --

LEE: That's right.

COOPER: -- has, not necessarily going directly at him, where the opposite is true with Donald Trump. He's been mercilessly attacking Biden for his age. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

MJ Lee, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

LEE: Good to see you.

SIDNER: Fred? FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, nanny, nanny, boo boo. Oh, it's on. The Trump campaign is vowing to outrace President Biden. Sources tell CNN that they are expecting to bring in at least $33 million at a West Palm Beach event next weekend.

Some of the biggest GOP donors are expected to attend, including some who were on the sidelines or backed other candidates during the primaries.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is joining us now with more on all this. So Kristen, could this be enough to help Trump catch up and match Biden's cash reserves?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, look, we aren't going to see the actual impact of these fundraisers until the financial disclosures at the end of next month, but it does seem highly unlikely Trump could actually catch up to Biden in this short amount of time.

I mean, by the end of February, Biden's campaign had $71 million cash on hand. Donald Trump's campaign only had $33.5 million.


Now, if you just add what they got out of these major fundraisers or what they're expecting to get, Biden would still have a significant lead here. It would be $97 million to $66.5 million. Now, of course, that does not include everything they are raising. It doesn't include any of those small dollar donations. You're just talking about two significant fundraisers.

And one thing to note about that $33 million number. That came from the campaign. They say they are expecting to raise it, but obviously, we're going to wait and see what happens. They gave those numbers out on a day that Biden's campaign was saying they were going to raise over $25 million.

So, there's some competition there. Now, this is significant for Donald Trump for a number of reasons. One, it will help chip away at Biden's financial edge. He is significantly ahead. This will help with that. The other part of this that is important for Trump is that you're seeing these GOP donors, as you mentioned, really coalesce behind the former president.

Many of them were sitting on the sidelines. Many of them were trying to support an alternate to Donald Trump. Now you are seeing them line up behind the former president saying, we're not just going to give you our support, but we're also going to help you financially.

Oh, and I think my lights just went off.


HOLMES: So I think that means that that was the hard rap that they just gave me. So, he's significant for those reasons.

WHITFIELD: Hard rap. But we love you.

All right, Kristen Holmes, thank you so much.

John, let's keep the lights on.

BERMAN: That was really dramatic. That was like dramatic mood lighting for Kristen Holmes right there. I want to get out. I can see some of that action right there. It'll make the rest of the show very dramatic.

All right. I just want to replay the video that the Biden campaign released from the fundraiser overnight. A note, they did not allow press cameras in which was actually very unfortunate. This is from the campaign. Keep in mind. This is clearly what they want you to see.


COLBERT: Raleigh, Saginaw, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Vegas, Hotlanta, the Philly suburbs, Manchester, Dallas, and Houston. Donald Trump, as far as we can tell, has just been trying to win a third championship at his own golf course. My question to you, sir, can voters trust a presidential candidate who has not won a single Trump International Golf Club trophy? At long last, sir, have you no chip shot?

BIDEN: Well, look, I'd be happy to play. I told him this before when he came into the Oval when he was being -- before he got sworn in. I said, I'll give you three strokes if you carry your own bag.


BERMAN: So, the reason we played that again is it's not unlike another comment from the fundraiser from Biden that sounds a lot like it. He said of Trump, quote, "All the things he's doing, they're so old. A little old and out of shape."

With me now is Democratic Strategist and former Chief of Staff for Senator Joe Manchin, Chris Kofinis, and former Romney Presidential Campaign Chief Strategist Stuart Stevens. And Stuart, I don't really want to mince words here. President Biden is making what amounts to fat jokes about Donald Trump going after his literal fitness as a way, I think, to maybe mitigate the overall age issue. How effective do you think it will be?

STUART STEVENS, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think that Donald Trump is a dog that chases every car, so he'll respond to this. I mean, that's something in the Lincoln project that we've dined out on to great effect. Anytime that you're distracting somebody from a positive message like that, it's a good day for your campaign.

And, look, this is a good line of attack for Biden. Both of these are going to be our last president who were born in the shadow of World War II. Both are going to be our oldest president. The real question here is, who has new ideas versus old ideas?

And I think that's an axis that the Biden campaign really needs to drive because Biden, yes, is the oldest president, but his best group of voters in 20 were under 30 voters. He has one of the youngest administrations in history, and his ideas are stocked that actually help people in the future from, you know, having a better life if you're on insulin to infrastructure and rural broadband, all of these things.

And what ideas really does this party I used to belong to have now? What is any sort of policy that Trump is, other than sort of ranting about the border that he didn't fix? And I think that this is a vacuum in the Republican Party that is going to become increasingly obvious as this campaign goes on.

BERMAN: So, so Chris, I have heard debates among strategists. There are some, the Democratic Party, who want to go after Trump as a threat to democracy. You know, this apocalyptic threat to democracy. And there are others who say, do what President Biden did overnight at this fundraiser, which is in a way, make him seem ridiculous. Where do you come down?

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I'm not sure it's an either or I'm not sure. Actually, either one is right. I mean, if you look at the polls right now, I mean, nationally, it's -- race is tightened a little bit, battleground polls don't look great.


You know, when you dig into the polls, what do you find? Voters have a lot of concerns about President Biden's, you know, economic record, his positions on immigration, you know, all these kind of key issues where he has a record that he can actually, you know, talk about, but voters haven't heard.

So, part of the challenge here, and this is where I kind of get a little uneasy when, you know, everyone loves, you know, the mudslinging back and forth. Political operatives love it. It's, you know, makes them all, like, gleeful. Voters don't, right?

The one thing I will tell you in all the research we've done over the last year plus is voters are tired of this kind of ugly back and forth. Trump's not going to stop that. That is his modus operandi he cannot change.

I'm not sure engaging with it is really the solution. It may make Democrats feel great, but it doesn't really, I think, address the challenge here, which is voters, you know, need to feel better about where the country is and where the country is going to go under Biden. If they don't, the race is going to stay close and that is not a good place to be.

BERMAN: Stuart, you want to weigh in there?

STEVENS: Yes, look, I think that the difference here is the candidate. You have someone in Trump who has absolutely no discipline. And it gives you a great ability to manipulate him. And I think that the Biden campaign can do both. I think they can go high and low at the same time. I think you can go out and give big speeches about democracy like you did at Valley Forge. And I think that you have to make this not a normal race. You know, on Election Day when Obama ran against Romney, we lost, by the way, but both candidates had 50 percent favorables on Election Day.

You're never going to see that for a long time, given what's happened to the Republican Party. So I think you can do both. I think you can do both effectively. And I think there's different roles for different areas of the campaign.

I mean, in the Lincoln Project, we know how to get to Trump and Trump responds. And that's a big, big difference.

BERMAN: Chris, I want to ask you this because you were sort of -- Joe Manchin was in sort of the No Labels world, at least dabbling in it for a little while. Chris Christie was dabbling in it for a while, considering maybe a third party run with No Labels. He now says he won't do that, his reasoning is he thinks anything that can help Donald Trump he says he doesn't want to get involved in.

Our friend Jonathan Martin wrote in Politico, he said that Christie considered a third party bid at all is, in part, an indictment of Joe Biden. What do you think of that?

KOFINIS: Well, here's what I think is really clear. And again, I'm going to go back to all the polls that we've seen for months now. Voters are dissatisfied with both of these candidates for different reasons, right?

Now, people always will argue, well, that's false equivalence. It's not fair to make that judgment. I get it. But there's a reality about how voters perceive and feel right now that if you ignore, you're going to make really bad decisions.

So, there is a, you know, so-called opportunity, you know, for a third party, and it hasn't materialized because it's not really a viable, you know, candidate. That doesn't mean, however, and this is where it gets really problematic, that doesn't mean that a third party candidate, for example, like RFK, cannot have an impact on some of these key battleground states.

If he's on the ballot, he's going to have an impact. Now, we're going to debate for months what kind of impact it's going to be, but it speaks to a larger dynamic here. And the larger dynamic is, yes, Trump is a terrible candidate. He's a terrible president. We don't want him back in office. That's the democratic mantra.

But there are voters that are very uneasy about President Biden. We can ignore that and pretend it doesn't exist, or we can confront it. And to me, confronting it is going out there, communicating a very clear, positive vision about what you've done, and where you're going to go, you know, in the -- over the next four years, if you win.

Simply getting into this back and forth is going to make everybody happy. I'm not sure it's going to change fundamentally the dynamics of that race. And, you know, where I don't want to be and I don't think most people want to be is, two weeks before an election and we are exactly where we are right now, because that's not a great place.

BERMAN: Chris Kofinis, Stuart Stevens, great to see you both this morning. Thanks so much.


STEVENS: Thank you.

KOFINIS: Thank you.

SIDNER: All right. Still ahead this morning, wrongfully detained in Russia for a full year now, accused of espionage for doing journalism. Is the U.S. any closer to freeing journalist Evan Gershkovich?

Also, clearing the massive debris of an entire bridge. We'll get an up close look at all of the damage, including on that huge container ship.

And one of the biggest stars in the world takes her turn at country music. Some folks around here have been listening to Cowboy Carter. We'll talk about it coming up next.



SIDNER: This has just in, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling on Russia to immediately release American journalist Evan Gershkovich on the one year anniversary of his wrongful detention. In a newly released statement, he says, "To date, Russia has provided no evidence of wrongdoing for a simple reason. Evan did nothing wrong."

Also, in a new interview published by the Wall Street Journal, his mother talks about the first image she saw of her son being arrested.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you look at that photo, how does it make you feel? It was hard to look at it when it just happened.

ELLA MILMAN, EVAN GERSHKOVICH'S MOTHER: It was so hard to look at it when it just happened. It was so hard to admit. If you admit it, you make it real. And I don't want it to be real.


MILMAN: So that's still painful.



SIDNER: They have been suffering through this for a year now. CNN National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood is joining me now. Kylie, we just heard from the Secretary of State. What can you tell us about the ongoing efforts to try and free Evan Gershkovich?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Sara, U.S. officials are always wary to get into the details of those efforts. They don't want to put any, you know, goals on the calendar or be overly hopeful because those efforts are just so incredibly delicate and they could be smash at any moment.

But I do think that there is an important moment this week for us to look at pretty closely. And that is that earlier this week, Evan Gershkovich's pre-trial detention was extended for a fifth time, we should note. This time by 90 days. The U.S. ambassador in Russia came out and said that it was a particularly painful extension, just given how many times this has happened, of course, called the charges against him categorically untrue.

But then we also heard an interview yesterday with Christiane Amanpour speaking with the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens. And what Carstens said was that he's hopeful that the Russians actually see the next 90 days as a potential opportunity to come to an agreement with the U.S. to secure Evan's release.

And the reason for that is that once the trial actually begins in Russia, typically the Russian system wants to get through that trial. And so that could be nine, 10, 11 months, where it's actually really incredibly challenging to come to an agreement to secure Evan's release. So we'll be watching these next 90 days incredibly closely.

We had a press -- a statement from President Biden this morning on Evan Gershkovich's one year behind bars, calling this anniversary particularly painful, and of course, committing to U.S. efforts to get him out.

SIDNER: Yes, we've heard from his colleague and friend also today saying that he is actually able to get some messages and that keeps us hooked up. Really appreciate it, Kylie Atwood, for that update. Appreciate it.


BERMAN: We have new video this morning from on board the ship that caused the Baltimore bridge collapse. And a candid new interview. Larry David sits down with our Chris Wallace and he's pretty, pretty blunt when it comes to Donald Trump.


LARRY DAVID, AMERICAN COMEDIAN AND WRITER: He just couldn't admit to losing. And we know he lost. He knows he lost. And look how he's fooled everybody. He's the greatest con man we've ever produced. Yes.



WHITFIELD: The largest crane on the East Coast is now at the site of the key bridge collapse in Baltimore. It will be on scene to help with the painstaking process of removing the bridge debris. Also this morning, new video from the NTSB on board the huge container ship, the Dali, that crashed into the bridge.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is in Baltimore and joins me now with the very latest. Gabe, so what are we expecting today now that that huge crane is in place?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Fred, that's a major update on this salvage operation, getting the biggest crane on the East Coast into the wreckage scene. We know two more cranes are on their way, according to the Transportation Secretary.

But as you look behind me, just getting a sense of the scale of the wreckage that they're dealing with this, the Dali, this container ship is about the size of the Eiffel Tower, just turned on its side. And then you can see that massive bridge and there's more of it below the surface of the water than what you can see above it.

And so they're going to need much more than those cranes. And so, right now, engineers with the Army Corps of Engineers are trying to figure out how they're going to be able to cut that bridge into pieces and then slowly remove it.

But bear in mind, they're going to have to do it in a really delicate and sensitive way because there are concerns that those four remaining construction workers who are still missing may be trapped under some of that debris. And they still want to send in divers to recover those men once they can pull all of that wreckage out.

And so this could take days, Fred, as we know that this has been a very difficult time with the port of Baltimore shut down thousands of jobs really in question right now. Workers wondering how they're going to make money. Millions of dollars of the local economy at risk here in the Baltimore area.

And then, of course, there is the emotional side of this, Fred. Last night, we saw the Orioles, the Baltimore Orioles, the baseball team, here in the city, have a hold a moment of silence for the victims here, as well as honoring the officers who stopped traffic, perhaps saving lives in the moments before that crash.

You know, investigators, Fred, are still trying to figure out what caused that power outage, that total blackout on the ship. The reason that pilot lost steering, lost the ability to actually maneuver the vessel just before hitting the bridge. The NTSB may not have those answers, for weeks. They spoke with the pilots again yesterday.

But, again, the focus now is getting all of that debris taken care of. But there is just so much of it. And there's concern that even chunks of concrete in the water could be a hazard to ships coming in and out of the channel in the future. So it could take days, Fred, for that to get clear.

We're keeping an eye out to see if any of those cranes get to work today. But a lot is happening behind the scenes.

WHITFIELD: Right. So very delicate situation.

All right, thank you so much. Gabe Cohen. John?

BERMAN: All right, a federal judge speaks exclusively to CNN in a rare interview after Donald Trump went after the daughter of the judge presiding over --