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Border Crisis Looms Large In Biden-Trump Election Rematch; Arizona Voters Weigh In On The Border Crisis; MD Governor Updates on Bridge Collapse Salvage & Recovery Efforts; March Madness' Elite Eight. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 14:30   ET




KRISTIN FISHER, CNN HOST: As the Biden-Trump election rematch crystallizes, the key issues in the campaign are really starting to take shape. And polls show that President Biden is facing some pretty serious headwinds on some of them, most notably immigration.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That's right. A few weeks ago, we actually saw Biden and Trump holding dueling visits to the border. You may remember that.

And then, next week, the former president hopes to keep the focus on the issue with remarks blaming Biden again for the border crisis we've seen.

And chief national correspondent, John King, joining us now on this.

You were recently out in real people land.


KEILAR: You were in Arizona talking to people who are actually dealing with -- they are experiencing the border crisis in there every day. What did you hear from them?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you're both real people. I really do.



KING: Look, it's fascinating. Every stop in this series we're doing, we're meeting Americans where they live, living the campaign through their eyes and their experience.

As you mentioned, Trump's going to do an immigration event next week in Grand Rapids, Michigan, right? Grand Rapids, Michigan, is far from the U.S.-Mexico border.

When you go to the border and listen to these people, they live there. Yes, it's a crisis they say. But they listened to the politicians on the left and the right, and they say, please come visit, stop shouting. Let's figure this out.


KING (voice-over): A wall as far as the eye can see. This is the Tucson sector, by far the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings. Smuggling is a big problem and a big business Faith Ramon knows all too well.

FAITH RAMON, MEMBER OF THE TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION: I needed money. I needed money quick. And because of my alcohol and my addiction, I just went to a party, met some friends. They offered me some quick money. I took it.

And it was so easy. It was so easy. I did it again. And I did it again. Sure enough, I was doing it for years because of it being so easy.

KING (on camera): Then you got caught.

RAMON: And then I got caught. My luck ran out.

KING (voice-over): A felony conviction set Ramon in search of sobriety. And a 2018 Tohono O'odham tribal ritual would again put the border front and center.

RAMON: A sweat lodge ceremony. And I walked in and that was the very first time I heard that there was a border wall that was going to be built on the reservation, separating and destroying some of our sacred sites.

KING: Ramon is now an activist who registers voters and is eligible to have her own voting rights restored.

Her first choice for president would be this November in battleground, Arizona.

RAMON: I will vote for Biden.

KING: Donald Trump is not an option.

RAMON: I don't like the fact that our reservation was destroyed by a racist wall.

KING : To win here again, Biden needs big margins here in South Central Arizona, Tucson and south to the Mexican border.

Air Force Veteran Melissa Cordero voted for Trump in 2020.

MELISSA CORDERO, ARIZONA VOTER: I was a small business owner at the time.

KING: Cordero works for a conservation non-profit now. And will not vote for Trump again. CORDERO: Reproductive rights, you know? As someone who was raped, sexually assaulted, I -- I had the opportunity to make that decision on terminating a pregnancy. I can't imagine, in the future years to come, if that happens to me again or to somebody else, them not having that.

KING: Likely Biden but Cordero will study third-party options.

CORDERO: You know, my biggest -- my biggest issue with Biden is the Palestine issue. You know, you fight for queer, trans, BIPOC, immigrant, access to vote, veterans being deported, access for veterans to vote while they're overseas, you know?

Then also, you just should care if people are getting killed at that -- at that rate.

KING: Ray Flores is no fan of Biden or Trump, thinks both are too old to be president.

RAY FLORES, ARIZONA VOTER: At this juncture, they both had four years and I'm just eight years more frustrated than I was before.

KING: Flores runs El Charro, a family business for 102 years, a Tucson landmark famous for carne seca and the chimichanga.

Washington's immigration paralysis hurts business.

FLORES: I mean, a clear process for work visas would be amazing. If you're a technology company, you can get an engineer and you can get them immigrated and you can get a work visa, why shouldn't I be able to do that with a chef or with a really good waiter?


KING: The immigration conversation tends to be different in places at or near the border. More polite, more nuanced, focused on solutions, not slogans.

EVAN KORY, ARIZONA VOTER: It's a unique situation where you have two countries that create a community and actually it's mutually beneficial for both countries.

KING: Walk through the Nogales border crossing and the first business you see is Kory's bridal shop. Evan Kory is fine with the wall but didn't like it when Trump added the razor wire.

He bristles when the former president talks about the border and Mexicans.

KORY: We've always depended on our Mexican neighbors to support our local economy.

KING: Kory, a Democrat, also bristles, though, when liberals oppose more money for the Border Patrol and other security measures.

KORY: Yes, I mean, that's equally frustrating, too, because you have to have a balance between all the needs and find a way to somehow work together.

KING: Handmade boots are a specialty at David's Western Wear. For 44 years, a favorite of customers on both sides of the border. David Moore says 99 percent of his business was from Mexico before the COVID shutdown. It's about 70 percent now.

Moore says the wall helped stop illegal crossings. He wants more agents to cut long wait times that discourage Mexicans from making day trips to shop. And he says the asylum process is broken.

DAVID MOORE, ARIZONA VOTER: I don't know how that works, that people from Africa are coming in through Mexico up through the Mexican border. I would want them to regulate that a little more.

KING: Moore is a registered Republican, but a likely Biden voter because Trump offends him.

(on camera): He said that, you know, the immigrants are poisoning our blood. What would you say?

MOORE: I'd say my mother was born in Mexico and she came across the border legally. So, you know, that's poison I can deal with, I guess.

KING (voice-over): Moore says the way Trump and allies talk about the border is exaggerated and alarmist. And he says he pays the price. Customers call and say they're worried about making the trip to Nogales.

MOORE: People from everywhere do that. Because when they say on the news that the borders are a war zone, you know, that's -- those are the images they get. They think it's unsafe.

KING (on camera): But your home is not a war zone?

MOORE: My home is not a war zone. No, we've been here for a long time.

KING (voice-over): A long time at what is now a major line of America's political divide.


KING: Just remarkable people when you meet them. And again, just listen to the common sense, right? Think about how long, for how many years, back to when I was covering the Clinton White House, politicians have been screaming about immigration in Washington and getting little or nothing done.

These people are Democrats. They're Republicans. They're really conservative to really liberal and everything in the middle. And they get along with each other.

You ask them, where should I go for lunch? They tell you to go a few steps into Mexico because that's their favorite restaurant. It's a community to them, but they tolerate the wall.

But if you put them in a room, they could figure this out, or at least 60 percent of it, in about 20 minutes or less, townsmen stuck for 30 years.

KEILAR: They do not feel represented by the discourse that we're hearing.

KING: Exactly right. They -- they just feel -- again, we find this at every stop that they listen to politicians of all stripes certain politicians on certain issues may animate them one way or the other.

But they just listed like, could they please come here and see what it's actually like instead of being in Washington yelling about it?

KEILAR: Fascinating report.

John, thank you.

Let's listen now to the Maryland governor with an update on the bridge collapse.

GOV. WES MOORE, (D-MD): All who've offered kind words, I want to say this, your kind words have been heard.

And also, I want to thank Trade Point Atlantic. This horrific human tragedy was also an economic catastrophe. In the early hours, it was Trade Point who said let us help.

The port of Baltimore is one of the busiest ports in the world. And the collapse of the Key Bridge has shut down vessel traffic to port, Trade Point Atlantic immediately began mobilizing and accepting some cargo ships from vessels that were bound from the port of Baltimore.

Immediately began preparing for those arrivals. And they accepted their first shipment of cargo bound for the port just yesterday.

We will continue working closely with their team and we are grateful for their support and grateful for their leadership.

Now today, I will provide updates on the four directives I've issued to our team. As a reminder, the directives are, first, we need to continue to focus on recovery because we have to bring a sense of closure to these families.

Second, we need to be clear, we need to clear the channel and open the vessel traffic to the port because the health of the Maryland economy and the national economy depends on it.


Third, we need to take care of all the people who have been affected by this crisis. That means the families. That means the workers. That means the businesses. That means the first responders. That means everybody.

And fourth, we need to and we will rebuild the Key Bridge.

So first, on our recovery efforts, as I mentioned yesterday, we need to do more work clearing the channel to move forward. This is a remarkably complex operation. And our focus needs to be on unity of command and unity of effort.

Every morning, we have a Unified Command briefing, which includes state police, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, our federal delegation, and other leaders who are central to this mission.

Now, during that briefing, Colonel Butler, the superintendent of Maryland State Police, discussed the conditions in the water makes it unsafe for divers. But as soon as those conditions change, his divers we'll go back in the water.

Second, on clearing the federal channel and opening vessel traffic to the port, as of this morning, I've been briefed by the Maryland Department of Transportation on clearing wreckage and moving forward.

Our team went out with the Coast Guard just a few hours ago, including the Coast Guard commandant, to survey the damage, to see the wreckage up close, to see if freight that is nearly the size of the Eiffel Tower and see that same freight with the Key Bridge resting on top of it.

To see shipping containers that we're ripped in half as if they we're Papier Mache, to know that, out there, you have to navigate high winds and electric wires.

To go out there and to see it up close, you realize just how daunting a task this is. You realize how difficult the work is ahead of us.

With a salvage operation this complex and, frankly, with a salvage operation this unprecedented, you need to plan for every single moment. And every time you take action to move a piece of wreckage, you understand that that requires you to reassess the situation.

So when I led soldiers in combat, I knew that preparation was everything. You do not go into the field of battle without getting the intelligence that you need first.

So as the mission continues, you need to stay frosty, you need to reassess, and you need to adapt. That's the mindset the Army Corps is applying with their partners in Unified Command.

We have the best inspectors, the best surveyors, and the best engineers in the world working and setting up an executing a plan of action right here in Maryland.

And I've been informed by the us Navy that they are supplying us with for heavy lift cranes. Two have already arrived. One arrives tonight. And the fourth is arriving on Monday.

One of the cranes is called the Chesapeake 1,000. And it can lift about 1,000 tons. But the big part and one of the challenges is that the Key Bridge, which sits on top of the vessel right now, that that weight is somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 tons.

So our team needs to cut that truss into sections in a safe and responsible and in an efficient way before it can lift those pieces out of the water. This crane that we're looking at is massive. The thing we also know is this, is the challenge ahead of us.

So in the coming weeks, we expect to have the following entities inside of the water, seven floating cranes, 10 tugs, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats.

I've said it before I'll say it again and I will keep on saying it, this is not just about Maryland. This mission is not just about Maryland. And what we're talking about today is not just about Maryland's economy. This is about the nation's economy.

The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other port in this country. At least 8,000 workers on the docks have jobs that have been directly impacted by this collapse.


Our economy depends on the port of Baltimore and the port of Baltimore depends on vessel traffic. Maryland's economy and Maryland's workers rely on us to move quickly.

But that's not just Maryland. The nation's economy and the nation's workers are requiring us to move quickly.

Third, on taking care of our people. I want to talk a little bit about the work that we're doing with the Maryland legislature.

I want to thank Speaker Adrianne Jones, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and Minority Leader Steve Hershey. They have been in touch with our team since day one.

I also want to thank Delegate Luque Clippinger (ph), Senator Johnny Ray Saline (ph), and other members of the District Six and District 46 teams.

And I want to thank all of the Maryland legislators who have reached out and offered their support, legislators, frankly, on both sides of the aisle.

And I want to thank our federal delegation, too, to include Jamie Raskin, who was here earlier. But unfortunately not here now.

But to the members of the Maryland General Assembly, we know this. We are 10 days away from the conclusion of this legislative session, and there is a lot of work to do.

The top priority in that work is going to be finalizing our budget. My administration proposed a responsible budget that makes important investments in housing and childcare and environmental protection and transportation.

So now it is vital that the House and the Senate find compromise as soon as possible, pass the budget and provide certainty at this challenging and uncertain time. We also need to ensure that we pass legislation to support the families and the victims of the bridge collapse and everyone else who's been affected by this emergency.

I'll be proposing the creation of a permanent state scholarship for the children of surviving spouses of transportation workers who lost their lives on this job.

We'll continue to push for legislation that seeks to protect workers, like the six victims of the Key Bridge collapse.

I've also asked in assembly to ensure that any legislation we work on provides the flexibility our administration needs to support port workers' businesses and our transportation network.

We cannot possibly find every answer to every problem in the next few days before the session ends. But we can give the state the ability to respond over the coming months.

Fourth, on rebuilding, as I said yesterday, we cannot rebuild the bridge until we have cleared the wreckage.

I've always believed that you never learned anything about anybody when times are easy. If you really want to understand someone's metal, watch them when it's hard, watch them when it's difficult, watch them when the stakes are high. Well, that time is now.

And we're going to rise to meet this moment. Because we are Maryland Tough and because we are Baltimore Strong.

So in this moment, I'm going to hand it off to the U.S. Coast Guard, over to Admiral Gilreath.

And then after that, we'll be briefed by Colonel Pinchasin from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland State Police, the Maryland Department of Transportation, EPA Administrator Ortiz, Congressmen Kweisi Mfume, and county executive, Johnny Olszewski.

Admiral Gilreath?


Good afternoon. I'm Admiral Shannon Gilreath, speaking on behalf of the Unified Command.

As I mentioned last night, our number-one priority of the Unified Command is to reopen the port of Baltimore. And to do that, we've broken that into three phases.

The number-one phase is reopen the shipping channel. Number two is remove the ship. And number three is to remove the debris from the bridge, from the rest of the waterway. We are beginning to make progress on those phases.

[14:49:59] In the phase one, we talked about that we need to do the assessments of the bridge, both above the waterline and beneath the water. Those assessments continue.

As the governor said, we we're out there today and we could see the engineers and the divers in the survey boats out there on the water in these difficult wind conditions doing their job, doing their work to assess

that bridge, to figure out how we can cut it up into the pieces we need to be able to lift.

And back at the Unified Command, the governor, the commandant, all the elected officials, they could see those engineers working on those very plans.

Engineers from the Army Corps of Engineers, Navy's supervisor of salvage. We had state engineers there. There were some private engineers helping us.

KEILAR: We're listening to an update on the bridge collapse outside the port of Baltimore. We heard -- we're hearing here from the Coast Guard.

We heard just a moment ago from Governor Wes Moore saying we're going to rise to this moment because we are Maryland Tough and Baltimore Strong.

He said this is a human travesty, but also an economic travesty.

And that is where so much of the focus is right now as he detailed that there will be seven cranes, 10 tugs, nine barges, eight salvage vehicles, and five Coast Guard boats that are involved in what is it going to be an incredibly arduous process of getting this port back up and running, getting that bridge collapse cleared.

We're going to get in a quick break and monitor this press conference. We'll be right back with more.



FISHER: Alabama is rolling into the Elite Eight after making North Carolina the very first number-one seed to get sent home from the big dance.

Coy Wire is with me now.

And you know, Coy, we have Kaitlan Collins coming up in a few minutes. Maybe I should ask her. But I don't know, I thought Alabama was a football school.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Oh, no doubt about that. But look out, here they come on the hoops court. One of the most exciting parts, Kristen, of March Madness is just never know in which teams and which players are going to step up. For Bama, a hero emerged. Senior Grant Nelson, a 6'11" transfer from North Dakota State, under 40 seconds ago, he gets the bucket and the fowl. It puts the tied up two. And then watch the vicious block, rejecting R.J. Davis as the Heels looked to come back.

And then with just a second to go, Nelson, watch another block to steal the win. Nelson finishing with 24 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks. Bama upsetting North Carolina 89-87. And they're headed to the Elite Eight for the first time in 20 years.

Coach Nate Oats had some words for Charles Barkley.


NATE OATS, ALABAMA HEAD COACH: Charles Barkley call us frail. I don't think he was frail tonight. He showed up tonight. But, yes, next up, begging in the second half.


WIRE: All right. Bama will play Clemson, who is Elite Eight bound for the first time in 44 years. This is just the second time ever the Tigers will make the Elite Eight. A 77-72 win over two-seed Arizona. It seems back at Clemson also elite.




WIRE: Meanwhile, UConn just continues to dominate the Huskies, slowing out San Diego State in a rematch of last year's title game, winning by 30. They're the first defending champs to re-seal eight since Florida did it '07.

In no small part, thanks to Coach Dan Hurley's superstition, wearing the same lucky underwear every game.


DAN HURLEY, UCONN HEAD COACH: My wife, Andrea, who never gets enough TV time, by the way, it's -- it's always others, she's got to get the -- the handwasher going to get these dragon underwear clean for a quick turnaround.


WIRE: All right. Finally, we have this to show you, Illinois Coach Brad Underwood celebrating his team's win over Iowa State. Suns out, water guns out. Burst him in the locker room, shirtless, with a super soaker.

They're making their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2005. Four more games tonight to see who will join them, including a doubleheader on our sister channels, TBS and TruTV. Also streaming on MACS. At 7:30, it's Purdue, Gonzaga, followed by Creighton and Tennessee.

Kristin, back to you.

FISHER: A quick turnaround for the lucky underwear.


FISHER: You've got to -- you've got to get them cleaned before the big game.

Coy Wire, thanks so much.

WIRE: You've got it.

FISHER: And we will have much more news ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We'll be right back.