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Crews To Open Temporary Alternate Channel Near Key Bridge; Massive Storm System Bringing Multiple Threats Across The Country; King Charles Attends Easter Service After Cancer Diagnosis. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, happening now, an important milestone in Baltimore. Right there, you can see live pictures of the Patapsco River -- the collapsed Key Bridge there -- through the fog. What is happening there now is very important. Crews are getting ready to open a temporary alternate channel around that collapsed Key Bridge for essential traffic in and out of the port. That port, obviously, one of the busiest in the country. It has been closed to traffic for nearly a week now.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is on the shores of the Patapsco River this morning. Gabe, why don't you tell us what will be happening?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, that's a huge update that they're going to hopefully open that alternate channel pretty soon to get port traffic in and out.

Unfortunately, at this point, we really don't have a timeline because crews are still working to clear wreckage from the river. And they're doing it very carefully and methodically, trying to figure out where to cut the steel and the concrete. They describe it, essentially, like a rubber band -- this wreckage site. A rubber band that's been pulled tight. And if you cut it in the wrong place it could snap, which could be extremely dangerous for the crews that are out on the water -- the divers doing their work, scanning and surveying the wreckage trying to figure out where's the right place to start pulling at the debris.

And so, again, they want to go at this the right way knowing as well that the four missing construction workers are believed to potentially be buried under the rubble and they want to be able to recover those men and offer closure to their families, John.

And so, at this point, we don't know when they're going to have enough of the wreckage cleared to be able to open that channel. We also don't know the size of the ship that's going to be able to actually access it. Whether it's going to be able to handle, let's say, a container ship.

But thousands of jobs at the port and around Baltimore are at stake right now. Millions of dollars in local impact and lost wages to port workers as well as business operations.

And we know that the federal government is assisting. They have offered, already, this $60 million package, but it's really just a downpayment, John, handling some of these early steps of clearing the wreckage.

We've heard from Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg about his call to lawmakers to get a bigger package passed. Take a listen.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, the pitch is your district could be next. And also, this has historically been bipartisan, and I'm not just reaching back to bygone eras. Remember, the infrastructure package itself -- President Biden's infrastructure plan went through on a bipartisan basis. And a lot of people didn't think that was possible when we got here in 2021, but the president never gave up on the idea and sure enough, a lot of Republicans were willing to cross the aisle, work with President Biden, and work with Democrats to get this done.


COHEN: And John, I don't know how well you can see the conditions around us but the rain is really coming down. It is gusty. It is cold. Again, just really tough conditions for the workers out there trying to clear all of that wreckage from the Patapsco River.

BERMAN: Yeah, we can hear the rain, Gabe. It sounds like it's just pouring there and that will, no doubt, make the conditions difficult not just for today but for several days. There's a whole other issue with this storm system and how it will impact the entire Northeast. We'll get to that in a second.

Gabe Cohen, thank you so much for being there. Stay dry if you can -- Sara.


New reporting this morning on how President Biden's campaign has focused on reaching out to Black voters -- a vital bloc that could help decide the presidential election. Black voter turnout, particularly among Black men, has dropped over the last decade. This is a big effort by Democrats to reverse that trend ahead of the November election.

CNN's Isaac Dovere is joining us now from Washington. There is a primary that's coming up in Wisconsin tomorrow. Is that going to be a place where they'll sort of look to see if some of the work they've been trying to do is actually having an impact?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Yeah, it's a primary tomorrow. It's also local elections in a bunch of places around the state, and that is where they have been road-testing a lot of things in Wisconsin to see about changing up this outreach to Black voters. I was there a week ago looking at some of the things going on there.

Remember, Wisconsin is a state that went to Donald Trump by 21,000 votes in 2016 and by 23,000 votes to Joe Biden in 2020. It is going to likely be a very close state and Black voter turnout is a huge part of that, especially in and around Milwaukee. The Biden campaign is looking at a lot of ways that they can try to reach out to Black voters.

Again, as you mentioned, this is not just about getting people to vote for Biden or Trump. This is about getting people to vote at all. Black voter turnout has been in a real decline over the last couple of elections. And Black men, especially, a huge focus for the campaign to get them to show up for President Biden, connect with what he has been doing, and to be there in November when they think that they will need those votes to win the state.

SIDNER: Isaac Dovere, thank you so much for your reporting -- John.

BERMAN: There's an interesting twist in all of that. New this morning, Axios reports that if Donald Trump wins the election there are plans to focus the Justice Department on what they call anti-white racism, as Axios puts it. This would be an attempt to radically alter the government's interpretation of civil rights laws.


With me, the host of "THE BIG DEAL WITH ERROL LOUIS" on Spectrum News, CNN contributor Errol Louis. And senior politics reporter for Axios, Eugene Scott.

And, Eugene, let's start with you. This is Axios reporting this morning. Anti-white racism will be a major focus of a new Trump Justice Department?

EUGENE SCOTT, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: It will. There have been a number of organizations -- Trump-aligned organizations, such as America First Legal headed by former Trump aide Stephen Miller, that have gained traction over the last few years, albeit quietly, in trying to overturn a number of policies and programs that they believe discriminate against white people. This is -- should be viewed as a continuation of the Supreme Court's overturning of affirmative action.

And one of the things they really are hoping to do is to attack landmark legislation, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and just get it removed or at least make it prioritize white people who feel like they've been discriminated against.

BERMAN: It's pretty interesting in the context of what Isaac was just reporting, Errol, that President Biden is trying to reach out to Black voters who may be leaning toward maybe not voting. But here you go with the Trump Justice Department focusing on whites?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "THE BIG DEAL WITH ERROL LOUIS" ON SPECTRUM NEWS, HOST, "YOU DECIDE" PODCAST: Yeah. Well, look, the Republican Party -- the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, got eight percent of the Black vote four years ago. It sounds like they are writing the script for that to be repeated.

There have been a couple of outlier polls suggesting that Trump might get 23 percent of the Black vote. That's sort of a thing. But I think some of your reporting and some of what we've seen in past elections suggests that they're going to revert to type. That they're going to be divisive. That they're going to try and polarize the electorate, organize white voters, and try and pull out one more victory that way.

It's a -- it's a risky and, in some ways, undignified strategy but it sounds like that's what the Trump folks are prepared to do.

BERMAN: Is this just a policy plan, Eugene, or does the Trump campaign plan to highlight that this is something that they would do if he's elected again?

SCOTT: Well, I think they're going to be more vocal about it as the election moves on -- as the campaign moves on. The reality is the main strategy that we've seen from the Trump campaign right now is to lean in and hopefully turning out their base. And the reality is that this is a concern of many of the voters in their base. It's not, obviously, a huge concern of people outside of their base and swing voters who they need to attract if they're going to be successful in a number of states.

And so, how they're going to figure out a way to communicate this and keep the people they need to turn out without alienating the people who would be offended by this remains to be seen.

BERMAN: Let's shift gears now to House Speaker Mike Johnson who will be down to a single-vote majority shortly, which is just next to nothing, Errol. And both Politico and Punchbowl out this morning and Johnson, himself, did an interview last night where he highlights this, basically saying the speaker is in a fight for his job. A new fight for his job just five months in.

I want you to listen to what he said last night about this effort from Marjorie Taylor Greene to basically have a new vote for House Speaker. This is how he feels about it.


TREY GOWDY, FOX NEWS HOST, "SUNDAY NIGHT IN AMERICA WITH TREY GOWDY": How does this motion to vacate help win back the majority or win a bigger majority?

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I don't think it does, and I think that all of my other Republican colleagues recognize this is a distraction from our mission. Again, the mission is to save the republic and the only way we can do that is if we grow the House majority, win the Senate, and win the White House. So we don't need any dissension right now.


BERMAN: He's sort of saying that with a smile, Errol, but I feel like he may not be smiling inside. LOUIS: Well, that's right. The thing is he's going to have to bear his fangs. He's going to have to snarl a little bit and really, finally push back against this group that seems determined to wreck the Republican majority. I mean, they've done everything they could to show that they care more about their issues or their fundraising, or whatever it is -- their personal agenda is than in, sort of, supporting the team, supporting the party, and holding on to the majority.

So they're down to one vote. If they're going to wait until they're underwater when Democrats could, in fact, simply take control of the House, that would be extreme. But that's really where they're heading.

Mike Johnson is going to have to face down Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and the rest of the radicals in his caucus and tell them we're not going to do this or you're going to have to find another speaker.

BERMAN: You know, Errol brings up a good point. He was sort of half- smiling there but that was more snarling than I feel like I've seen from Mike Johnson.

SCOTT: Absolutely. I mean, he's incredibly frustrated. He's working with a party that is actually a little more diverse than people realize when it comes to purpose in Washington.

There are people who get elected from Republican districts who are sent to Washington just to throw bombs, and that's what they're doing. There are other people who realize that they are in districts where voters want to see them work with the people on the other side of the party or, at the very least, people within their party. Getting those two groups to get on the same page and to move legislation forward has been incredibly difficult for Johnson and, quite frankly, every speaker that's come recently before him.

BERMAN: Eugene Scott, Errol Louis, great to see both of you. Thanks so much for coming in.

SCOTT: Thanks.


SIDNER: All right.


This morning, the Men's Final Four is set. One-seed Purdue will take on 11-seed North Carolina. The Wolfpack took down Duke in a shocker. Rounding out the Final Four, the top overall seed, UConn will face off against number-four Alabama.

CNN sports correspondent Carolyn Manno is joining us now. Wow, this was a nailbiter but you've got the 11-seed in there. It's going to be fun.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I know. Hey, Sara. It is going to be fun.

UConn has overwhelmed everybody that they've faced so far. A lot of people expected Purdue to make it this far. But it is fun to see something of a Cinderella get this far. I'm not sure that they view themselves that way. But it's been a very tough road for the 11-seed NC State to get to this point.

Led by a pair of super seniors in DJ Burns and DJ Horne pulling off yet another upset against Duke. Burns bullying his way to a team-high 29 points. Horne had 20 against the Blue Devils in this 76-64 comeback win.

Remember, the Wolfpack needed to win five games in five days to win the ACC Tournament just to get invited to the dance, and now they have somehow managed to rattle off nine in a row heading to the Final Four for the first time in 41 years.

Purdue, meanwhile, Final Four-bound for the first time in 44 years. You had Tennessee All-American Dalton Knecht absolutely brilliantly leading the Vols. He had 37 points.

But in the end, it was the Boilermakers' big man Zach Edey proving why he is a frontrunner to win his second-straight National Player of the Year award. He came up so big. He scored a career-high 40 points. And then with the game on the line, he came up with this huge block to help seal the six-point win.

And when you looked at him after the game it was so fun, too, because he's seven foot-four and did not need a ladder to cut down the nets. And he said this is for the haters that had doubted him all season long.

So you can watch Saturday's Final Four, as well as next Monday's National Championship game on our sister channel TBS and also streaming on Max.

But it was such an exciting weekend.

And you've got the women's Final Four that will be set later today. Paige Bueckers and the UConn Huskies taking on JuJu Watkins' number- one USC.

First, all eyes are going to be on this rematch of last year's blockbuster national title game featuring Caitlin Clark's Iowa Hawkeyes looking to avenge this loss to Angel Reese and LSU -- this rivalry that has been well documented. That game last year had a ton of trash talk. Nearly 10 million people watched it.

But both Clark and Reese do want to make it clear that when they're not playing there is not a lot of bad blood between them.


CAITLIN CLARK, GUARD, IOWA HAWKEYES: It's so good for women's basketball. And to be honest, I've watched a lot of LSU games and what they're doing for women's basketball, and the way their fans support is tremendous. And it's been fun to watch and they've had a great season. So I know it's going to be a great game and both teams are going to be ready to go.

ANGEL REESE, FORWARD, LSU TIGERS: I don't think people realize, like, it's not personal. Me and Caitlin Clark don't hate each other. Like, I want everybody to understand that it's just a super competitive game and, like, I just wish people would realize that. Like, once I get between those lines, there's no friends.


MANNO: Sara, these two 22-year-old women have done so much to elevate the game's popularity. They both talk a lot of trash. They're both excellent teammates. Millions are going to be watching them tonight and it's just going to be -- it's going to be fun.

SIDNER: They're great ballplayers. And I might just say that the women's game is going to be the most exciting of all the games. I'm sorry. It is going to be a --

MANNO: I would agree.

SIDNER: -- lot of fun -- yeah?

Carolyn Manno, thank you so much. Appreciate it -- John.

BERMAN: I would agree. It's going to be a huge game --


BERMAN: -- game tonight.

All right. An intense storm working its way across the United States. Tornadoes, flooding, and more. Remember, it's April and this system could bring a foot of snow to the Northeast.

And convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh will face a judge this morning. How a failed polygraph test could make a huge difference.



BERMAN: This morning, police in Indianapolis are investigating after seven children were shot and wounded -- the youngest, 12; the oldest, 17. The victims are in stable condition. Police believe multiple weapons were involved. This is the third weekend in a row the city has seen shooting like this.

Former Detroit Lions quarterback Cameron Sutton has turned himself into police in Florida nearly a month after a warrant was issued for his arrest. The NFL veteran faces domestic battery allegations. Police responded to his home in early March and have been searching for him since then. Sutton was released by the Detroit Lions on March 21.

In California this morning, half a million workers are getting a big pay bump. The state's minimum wage for fast food employees jumped to $20.00 per hour. That's a 25 percent raise for many. The new law will impact big restaurant chains, including McDonald's, Starbucks, and Subway. Many business owners have already raised prices to accommodate the new law, they say, and some are cutting jobs and using automatic technology to replace workers.

Happening now, severe weather alerts in effect from Texas to Virginia. Some areas could see hail, strong winds, tornadoes. This is an intense system that's already savaged the west and it could eventually drop up to a foot of snow or more in some parts of the northeast.

CNN's Elisa Raffa is with us now. This is just hitting a ton of people.

ELISA RAFFA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's going to keep us busy today and it's got multiple hazards that will pack it.

This is what we've got right now to start this morning. A couple of showers and storms up towards Omaha. You can see the snow starting to kick in the Dakotas. This will really start to flourish as we go through the day today and ignite strong and severe storms.


We have this level three out of five enhanced risk in the orange from St. Louis down through Springfield, Oklahoma City, and Dallas. This is the spot where we're going to be looking out for damaging winds up to 70 miles per hour, large hail -- very large hail up to the size of tennis balls or greater -- and a couple of tornadoes.

Now, some of these tornadoes we are afraid could pack EF-2 intensity or more there in that orange kind of hatched area. We're worried about that EF-2 strength of some of the very strong tornadoes.

Now, this risk is going to shift to the east as we go into Tuesday from Lexington to Nashville. We are looking at that threat shifting into the Ohio River Valley as the storms continue to progress east.

So here is a look at these storms kind of blowing up today. We could be looking at a flooding risk as well across Missouri. Any of the storms that organize into a line can pack a punch with those winds. We'll find these storms working their way east as we go into Tuesday. And again, that will continue to pack that severe weather.

Now, we could have some flooding rains with this as well -- maybe up to two to four inches of rain. Today, that risk is from Springfield all the way to West Virginia. And then tomorrow, it stretches even towards D.C. and Philadelphia where we could find some of the heaviest rain.

Now, we also have some dry air packing this from the -- from the side -- from the south side, and that can pack some fire weather conditions in a part of the country that already has some burn scars from previous fires. So something that we'll have to watch closely as we go through the day today -- John.

BERMAN: All right. This will be hitting a lot of people all week long.

Elisa Raffa, thank you so much for being with us this morning -- Sara.

SIDNER: All right. Today, convicted murderer and disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh will be entering a courtroom for another sentencing hearing -- this time for financial crimes. Murdaugh will be sentenced this morning at a federal court for stealing millions of dollars from clients and his own law firm. He's already serving two life sentences without parole for the murders of his wife and son.

Murdaugh pleaded guilty to 22 federal counts and a plea deal with prosecutors. But now, those prosecutors are asking a judge to revoke that deal after Murdaugh failed a polygraph test.

Joining me now is CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson. So, in my years of covering court -- and I know you know this ad nauseam -- polygraph testing is not admissible in court, generally speaking. However, it has been a part of this plea deal.

How unusual is this, in the first place?


Unusual and particularly unusual as it relates to this defendant, right? Why do I say that? You heard him testify in connection with the murder charges. Different case, different time. But certainly, the judge in that case and I think the jury certainly rejected, in all respects, anything he had to say. And so, to place reliance upon someone and for prosecutors even to condition, right, the truth upon anything he may say is somewhat troubling.

Now, having said that, I think what prosecutors wanted to do, Sara, is they are trying to recoup money for these victims, right? You have two dozen victims. You've got millions of dollars. And so --

SIDNER: I think there's $6 million unaccounted for at this point.

JACKSON: Yes. And so, what they're trying to do is say hey look, dish to us about where this money is, who, if anyone, helped you, and we will work with you. At the end of the day, though, what's the incentive?

As you noted at the outset, he's serving two life sentences.

SIDNER: Right.

JACKSON: He's got 27 years on top of that, right, and it -- because he pled guilty, let's remember, last November --

SIDNER: Right.

JACKSON: -- to state federal crimes.

And so, yes, it's unusual. Polygraph, particularly unusual as to Murdaugh. I'm not surprised there's an issue with the polygraph test. SIDNER: I do want to ask you what happens if the judge looks at this -- looks at the fact that he failed a polygraph test and blows up the deal -- the plea deal that he's made? What happens then?

JACKSON: Right. So under normal circumstances, it would be very concerning. Plea deals are something that, right, a person takes accountability for. You go in and you know what the expectations are. You know what the parameters are. In this case, the federal government is saying we'll run your sentence concurrent to the state time and we'll limit it to 22 years.

In this case, again, what's the incentive? You have a person already serving these multiple life sentences. And so, the judge could, right, give him a harsher sentence. So what? You're in already. The judge could delay the sentencing until they get more information with respect to the polygraph.

But at the end of the day, it doesn't have the gravity, Sara -- the consequence that it would be on someone else because of his past history.

SIDNER: I do want to ask you about what Murdaugh's attorneys are saying about this polygraph test and him failing it. They said, quote, "It appears that the polygrapher designed the relevant question in such a way to ensure that Murdaugh would fail the final exam."

What do you think of that --

JACKSON: And so --

SIDNER: -- defense.

JACKSON: And so, the --

SIDNER: Is the judge going to buy this?

JACKSON: Perhaps not. And maybe the judge -- and they're also, Sara, saying -- they, being the defense attorneys -- that we want to underlie -- we want to evaluate the underlying issues and questions and the polygraph itself.

What the defense is alleging is that they tricked their client -- that is, Mr. Murdaugh -- by talking about Joran van der Sloot, right? You might remember him --

SIDNER: Right.

JACKSON: -- in connection with another case, Natalie Holloway. Talking to him about other things -- that is, the polygrapher tricking the client. To what extent did that influence a polygraph test?


At the end of the day, if any other people are sought in connection with these financial crimes and there's not corroboration other than Murdaugh -- SIDNER: Right.

JACKSON: -- prosecutors are in trouble anyway. Let's see what the judge does and we'll know soon.

SIDNER: This case just keeps going and going and going. So many crimes. So little time.


SIDNER: Thank you so much, Joey Jackson.

JACKSON: Always.

SIDNER: I appreciate you coming on.

JACKSON: Thanks, Sara.


BERMAN: All right. New exclusive reporting this morning about a stunning security breach in Russia. Hackers claim to have stolen the information of more than 800,000 prisoners in Russia hoping to find out what happened to Alexei Navalny. The day after the opposition leader's death, the anti-Kremlin hackers broke into a database and found the names and contact information of prisoners held in the same penal colony as Navalny, but they did not stop there.

Let's get the very latest. CNN's Sean Lyngaas has this exclusive reporting. Sean, tell us what happened.

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: John, this was a very interesting case. As you know, in the aftermath of Navalny's death, there was condemnation from Western leaders -- leaders around the world -- various people reacting in different ways.

The vigilante hackers that I talked to decided to act in the way that they knew they were capable of doing, and that is compromise the security of the Russian prison system's computers. Basically, they hacked into an online food store where prisoners and their families can buy food that they can't get in detention. And in there they found data on some 800,000 people, including the prisoners themselves, and including the penal colony where Navalny was held -- the Arctic penal colony way up there north in Russia.

So this was a stunning breach and it was fairly trivial for the hackers to get into the system. They provided compelling evidence to CNN that they were able to do that. They plastered Navalny's photo on the website of the prison system and said this is our revenge.

Now, it's somewhat symbolic, however, as you alluded to, they're sharing data with CNN and perhaps other journalists after this in a hope to find out more about what happened to Navalny. We parsed through a lot of the data and were able to confirm its authenticity, but it could be a while before we have more clarity on what the data holds exactly. But this is the latest, John, in a long line of so-called hacktivism incidents during the Russia-Ukraine war where politically motivated hackers decide to make a statement and often have an impact on the discourse around the war.

Around the time of the invasion -- shortly after the invasion two years ago, I interviewed a Ukrainian man who leaked a lot of data on a Russian cybercriminal gang in retaliation for their support for the Kremlin.

So this is the latest in a series of politically motivated hacking incidents, John.

BERMAN: Yeah. Russia under attack in this case.

Sean Lyngaas, thank you very much for that reporting -- Sara.

SIDNER: All right.

A rare public appearance for King Charles who is undergoing treatment for an unknown type of cancer. He led the royal family to Easter church service at Windsor Castle on Sunday, but two major senior royals were not there. Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales missed the service, both sticking close to home as they said they would after she announced last month she's undergoing chemotherapy after her own cancer diagnosis.

Let's get right to CNN's Max Foster who is in London for us. There were a few surprises. This most significant outing that Charles -- King Charles made since his diagnosis. And he looked quite well as he's going along.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: He really did. I met some of the, sort of, royal well-wishers who normally gather outside these events in the hope of catching a glimpse of the king. But we weren't expecting to see him at all. It was meant to be a very restricted service because he's going through this treatment and they want to protect him.

In the end, clearly, the doctors' advice had changed because a few members of the public were actually invited inside and you can see quite a group of them by the end there, so they were able to see him. And then he came outside the church afterwards and went over and shook hands with them, noticeably without gloves.

I know this sounds very detailed, Sara, but he's been told by doctors he cannot expose himself to potential illnesses and they're clearly confident enough to let him do that. So it really does show that he's recovering well.

A source actually said to me this was, of course, a very encouraging sign of how treatment is progressing as we head towards the summer and how the road ahead is looking very positive.

So I think it was a very positive side to the royal family right now. And as you say, Kate couldn't make it. But the showing of the king is, indeed, strong.

SIDNER: It is. It's nice to see this happening. As someone going through chemotherapy, it is a heck of a lot on your system.

Thank you so much, Max Foster. I really appreciate it.

A new hour of CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.

BERMAN: House Speaker Mike Johnson -- his job on the line. Will he last the month? Overnight, he went on the offense for the first time.