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Navy Veteran Rams Gate at FBI in Atlanta; Six-Week Abortion Ban in Florida; Marc Caputo is Interviewed about the Florida Abortion Ban; Iowa beats LSU; Sale of Fighter Jets to Israel; Evelyn Farkas is Interviewed about Israel. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 08:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden heading to Baltimore on Friday for a firsthand look of the wreckage of the Key Bridge. He will also meet with local officials about reopening the Baltimore port as fast as possible. Biden has said the federal government will pay to rebuild the bridge.

The mayor of Uvalde, Texas, has resigned effective immediately. Yesterday, Cody Smith announced he's stepping down to focus on his health. Smith did not reveal the nature of his medical condition. Smith was elected to office following the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, where 19 students and two teachers were killed. He left office just days before the Uvalde police chief is set to leave office. The chief announce his resignation last month.

And the Powerball jackpot has risen to a $1 billion, $1 billion. So, you still have a chance to win because nobody matched the six numbers last night. The next drawing, tomorrow.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE) are just crazy. It still means that I'm still going to buy a ticket.

A Navy veteran is now under arrest after allegedly ramming his car into the entrance gate of an FBI field office in Atlanta. And the FBI says that he was trying to follow an employee through that gate at the time.

CNN's Ryan Young is in Atlanta. He's got much more.

There's just a ton of questions about what the heck really is going on here. What more are you learning about why he did this? Do investigators know yet?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's something that investigators are keeping close to themselves right now, Kate. Of course, we're all trying to figure out that exact bit of information because you see how well that security system worked there at the FBI headquarters just outside of Atlanta. That barricade can stop powerful vehicles from moving forward. You can see the damage to the front of the vehicle. A lot of folks talking about how he tried to tailgate someone going yet and then at some point two other agents who were in that parking lot were able to apprehend the man.

Now, we know he was taken to a downtown hospital. That's where he was going to get an evaluation. He has not popped up in the jail records so far. So, that evaluation can take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours. We then believe the local police, the DeKalb County Police, will take him into custody and then move him to the sheriff's office.

What we know. Yesterday, around 12:30, that's when he tried to tailgate someone. Popped out of that small car. The bomb squad responded, looked inside that vehicle and found no weapons. And there was no weapons on the man according to the FBI.

So, at this point, it's really trying to figure out, what was the motivation? Have there been any online postings toward the FBI? Was he trying to get some sort of attention? These are all questions we want to ask.

I've already talked to the FBI about whether or not they'd released the video from that security camera that's just above that opening. They said they would probably do that. And this will probably move to not only state and federal charges, but that newer FBI building is fortified in a way that a lot of other buildings around the area or not. So, you can see all that came into place yesterday, stopping this man from gaining entry and following the other employee in.


BOLDUAN: I got you, Ryan. Thank you so much for that.



SIDNER: All right, the Biden campaign has just unveiled a new ad focusing on abortion rights after a Florida state supreme court ruling effectively allowed the state to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy when most women don't even know they're pregnant. The court's decision has paved the way for one of the country's strictest and most far-reaching abortion bans to take effect. And in another ruling released the same time, the judges allowed Florida voters to decide this fall whether to expand abortion access.

CNN's Carlos Suarez is joining us now from Miami its morning.

Give us some sense of these rulings because on the one hand the court has stuck with and the governor signing this six-week ban. And on the other hand, Floridians will have a chance to change that?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Sara. So, good morning.

Top Republicans in Florida, as you can imagine, are trying to not only tout the court's decision in allowing for this six-week ban to take effect in about 30 days.


But according to some top officials here in Florida, including the state speaker of the house, he said there is going to be an effort to try and defeat the abortion ballot amendment. Now, the court did away with years and years of precedent in that ruling yesterday when they decided that the right to privacy in the Florida constitution does not protect the right to an abortion. Now, this decision again clears away for this six-week ban in Florida to take effect in about 30 days.

Florida now joins a long list of states across the southeast that have some restrictions, if not an outright ban on abortions. Now, Planned Parenthood of Florida told me that the impact, once this takes effect, is really going to go beyond women that just live in Florida, noting that in recent year, more and more women were coming to Florida from some of these other states with some of these restrictions to try to access abortion services here in Florida.

Here now is a physician with Planned Parenthood talking about the impact that we're going to see in the short term.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For people that live in Florida, the closest state they're going to be able to get to is Virginia. For people that are in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, they're looking at places like Illinois. They'll have to go to Illinois would be the closest access points. So, Florida is an important state, not just for Floridians, but for the southeast region of our country with all those people that need help and that are coming here.


SUAREZ: All right, so the Florida supreme court also ruled that voters will decide whether to expand access to abortion. The justices, yesterday, also approved the wording of a state constitutional amendment that would protect the right to an abortion in Florida. The ballot amendment would prohibit the restriction of an abortion before viability, which is around the 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. It is important to note here that 60 percent of voters would have to approve it in November in order for it to pass.

Now, in a statement on both of these decisions, Planned Parenthood yesterday said in part, quote, "our health centers will continue to provide the high-quality, expert sexual and reproductive health care Floridians have come to know and depend on and look forward to the day when access to abortion care isn't determined by where you live."

You can expect the issue to come up later this morning when Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra takes part in a visit to south Florida. Again, both of these decisions no doubt will impact the presidential race in November. Of course, Florida historically has been on the Republican side of things. However, Democrats believe that they can use this this issue to perhaps put the state in play.


SIDNER: The Biden administration thinks it could be the winning formula to focus on this very issue.

Thank you so much, Carlos Suarez, for your reporting.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, with us now is national political reporter for "The Bulwark," Marc Caputo. No exaggeration to say the preeminent reporter on Florida politics that lives on planet earth.

Marc, great to see you.

Surely someone of your stature had been able to get a response from the most famous resident in Florida, Donald Trump, on this monumental move on abortion. What does Donald Trump and the Trump campaign have to say about this?

MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE BULWARK": Donald Trump and the Trump campaign say, look, abortion is now a state's rights issue, and I support the right of people to decide this. So, how does Florida man Donald Trump intend to vote on Florida's abortion amendment? He's not saying.

What's his opinion about some of the language? He's not saying. In fact, it's sort of emblematic of Trump's overall approach to abortion, which is sort of a don't ask, don't tell policy. It worked for him in the primary. He got a lot of support from pro or better said anti- abortion voters. However, how long this can last into the general is anyone's guess. As you just reported earlier, Joe Biden's campaign is not going to let this issue rest.

BERMAN: He's not saying.

CAPUTO: Right.

BERMAN: And I was jesting about you getting a response from the Trump campaign because you have a terrific piece in "The Bulwark" this morning explaining how reticent Trump is and the Trump campaign to say anything concrete about this. Why? Why are they being so murky on this?

CAPUTO: It's a - well, Donald Trump privately actually doesn't even like to say the word abortion. He actually uses the phrase "the a word." He believes it is a toxic issue for Republicans. He looks at the 2022 performance of Republicans in the midterms. And in addition to that you see whenever abortion has been on the ballot it has passed.

Now, Florida's a little different. It's got the 60 percent threshold. So, who knows?

But the reality is, is when you have the issue tree of things that voters say is most important, when it comes to abortion, that is an issue that Donald Trump loses on. [08:40:01]

He wins on inflation over Joe Biden, according to the polling. He wins on immigration, also a top issue on voters' minds. Abortion is farther down, but on that issue he loses to Biden. So, obviously, Biden wants to talk about it and Donald Trump doesn't. He'd rather talking about immigration and inflation.

BERMAN: So, Biden doesn't just want to talk about it. The Biden campaign wants to air ads on it, including this one, which they just released this morning. Let's play just a little piece of it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because for 54 years they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated, and I did it. And I'm proud to have done it.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2016, Donald Trump ran to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, in 2024, he's running to pass a national ban on a woman's right to choose. I'm running to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land again so women would have a federal guaranteed to the right to choose. Donald Trump doesn't trust women. I do.

I'm Joe Biden, and I approve this message.


BERMAN: It is worth noting that Donald Trump hasn't officially weighed in yet on whether he would back of 15 or 16 week abortion ban.

CAPUTO: Right.

BERMAN: But, obviously, the Biden campaign looking for political gains here.

And it does beg the question in Florida, if abortion is on the ballot, where abortion has been on the ballot, abortion rights has one. How much of an impact could that have in a presidential election in Florida, Marc?

CAPUTO: It's a good question. Florida has had a history of voting for liberal leaning or Democratic-sponsored amendments to the constitution, minimum wage, medical marijuana, anti-gerrymandering. And at the same time that they supported those left-wing charitably speaking, or those Democratic or liberal leaning ideas, Florida voters at the same time voted in right-wing politicians, Trump. Rubio, DeSantis, Rick Scott. So, if past is prologue, it's hard to see how that's going to change.

You also have to look at the past of Florida and the present. And the past, in 2008, the registered Florida Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans in Florida by about 655,000. 2008. Now, Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in the state by 850,000. The state has become much more Republican. There's also a small, potential problem for the abortion rights

supporters. In order for this to pass, as we've said before, it takes 60 percent. That means they not only want a majority of - a super majority of Democrats, a super majority of independents, they're going to need at least a majority of Republicans. If the race becomes too partisan, they run the risk of turning off Republican voters and having them vote no if they think it's a stalking horse for Joe Biden.

Now, whether that happens or not, we're going to see. This is why campaigns matter. But there is sort of an internal tension that can be at play here by turning this into much more of a partisan issue than some of the sponsors would like.

BERMAN: Marc Caputo, it is great to see you on this issue this morning.

CAPUTO: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: As I said, your piece, which is up on "The Bulwark" this morning is a terrific read. Everyone should go look at it as soon as we go to commercial.

Thank you.

All right, the breaking news just moments ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just responded to the airstrike that killed seven workers from the World Central Kitchen. He said, the IDF unintentionally struck innocent people. We are standing by for a response now from World Central Kitchen.

And the market set to open shortly. Donald Trump lost a 1 billion yesterday on paper. This morning, futures for his social media company are down again. So, how much more might he lose today?



BERMAN: All right, it was a rematch for the ages. Caitlin Clark and Iowa in the final four after beating the 2023 champs LSU.

CNN's own hoops star Brynn Gingras is with me now.

And, Brynn, I have to say, that - the first half of this game especially was one of the best halves of basketball I have ever seen.


BERMAN: Both teams just going at it.

GINGRAS: Yes, I mean, John, I heard you say that earlier in the show. I mean it just shows you how much passion they had for playing this game. This entire game, as we know, was being hyped up as a repeat of the national championship between these two teams last year. And it did not disappoint. As you just said, it just had so how much grit, so many points were scored, I mean so much action. And, of course, these two standout stars and their teams. You know, everybody's talking about the 41 points that Caitlin Clark scored. Let's also remember she had 12 assists. It was so clear watching her play how much she elevates her teammates. And that is what ultimately led to them winning against LSU.

But it also, guys, when you compare it to last year, it had the same drama between those two standout players, Angel Reese from LSU and Caitlin Clark. We saw Angel Reese put a crown on the bench while Caitlin Clark was warming up at the beginning of the game. When Caitlin Clark would hit a big three, she would point right at Angel Reese. I mean it had all of this sort of drama that everybody was sort of expecting from those two big players.

But ultimately it was Iowa and the Hawkeyes who were able to cut down those nets, heading to the final four after beating LSU. And I've got to say, I wanted you to hear from Kim Mulkey, the coach of LSU, and what she said to Caitlin Clark at the end of this game.


KIM MULKEY, COACH, LSU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: She's just a generational player and she just makes everybody around her better. That's what the great ones do. I think they had a kid that scored 21 and 18. She had 12 assists.


Caitlin Clark's not going to beat you by herself. It's what she does to make those other teammates better that helps her school points and them score points to beat you. What did I say to her. I said, I sure am glad you leaving.


GINGRAS: And, yes. And, I mean, Angel Reese, you know, said to her, keep elevating the game. Angel Reese has done that too for young girls. And, John, that was my favorite part of being at this game last night is just seeing sort of everyone erupt in the stands when these girls were - women were just playing with their teams and having a good time and scoring and just loving what they do. And at the end of the game, I got to tell you how many young little girls and boys were waiting for Caitlin Clark's signature. I mean that just shows you how much these players have elevated the game.

Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso himself, was in the stands wearing a sweatshirt that said, everyone watches women's sports. I mean that is just sort of the exclamation point of the night. And, of course, now Iowa is going to be facing UConn, who has their own standout stars in the final four, as well as NC State and South Carolina. So, it's going to be an exciting final four there in Cleveland, John.

BERMAN: It really is. What a moment it was. I am so glad you got to be there.

Brynn Gingras, great to see you this morning. Thank you very much.

GINGRAS: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: And could there be a higher compliment here from an - like the opposing coach? Like, one of such statute of be, I'm just glad you're leaving.

BERMAN: I'm just so glad you're out of here.

BOLDUAN: There's nothing else we can do but wait you out. It's so good.

All right, let's turn now to this. The Biden administration is expected to greenlight a major sale to Israel of U.S. fighter jets. Sources say the deal includes up to 50 F-15 fighter jets and could be worth upwards of $18 billion. It'll be the biggest weapons sales to Israel since the war with Hamas began after the October 7th terror attack.

Let's go to our CNN's Jennifer Hansler. She's got much more on this.

Jennifer, what more are you learning about this sale?

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Well, Kate, this is a really significant moment because we have heard from the Biden administration that they are concerned. They have said they are concerned about the humanitarian civilian toll. But this sale just goes to show that they are standing by Israel militarily, even despite those concerns.

Now, what we know about this sale is that it includes upwards of 50 fighter jets, as well as their engines, their gun systems, their radars, and their navigation systems, as well as the support that is needed to maintain those jets. We do not expect that this sale will be expedited is what a U.S. official told me. So, Israel wouldn't get these jets for about five years.

But, still, the timing is very significant and likely to cause a lot of debate in Congress. We have seen more and more Democratic lawmakers call on the Biden administration to enact restrictions or conditions on the military aid as the toll in Gaza continues to grow. We have not seen the Biden administration signal that they are willing to put any conditions on at this point, though, of course, that could change if Israel goes into Rafah. But at this point we are hearing from administration officials that they are standing by their longstanding commitment to Israel's security and what they say is Israel's need for self-defense among a number of what they say are enemies and opponents that surround them.

Now, another key aspect of this sale, Kate, is we know they are about to give it the approval because they have taken the first step in this process. They have let both the top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee know about this sale. We know that the top Republicans on both of those committees have given their go ahead to this sale, but the Democrats on both of those committees could put a hold on this. So, we'll be waiting to see what the lawmakers do about this massive

$18 billion sale.


BOLDUAN: Yes, and if they really do move to put a hold on this or block this, that would be a huge moment to see that happen. But let's see.

It's great to see you, Jennifer. Thank you so much.


SIDNER: All right, back to our breaking news. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying now that Israeli forces unintentionally struck innocent people in Gaza. That strike killed seven workers with World Central Kitchen, an aid group that works around the globe feeding people in war zones and disaster areas. Netanyahu is calling this a tragic incident and saying it will be thoroughly investigated.

Joining me now is Evelyn Farkas. She is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Evelyn, let me start with this.

Jose Andres, the chef who founded World Central Kitchen, said this before the admission by the prime minister because his organization believed it was an Israeli airstrike that killed seven of their aid workers. He said, "the Israeli government," in part, "needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now."

Now we have heard from Netanyahu, who has confirmed it was the Israeli military.


Could this be a catalyst to get Israel to rethink its tactics, especially since it's been in talks with the United States, who has been warning them not to advance into Rafah?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEP. ASSISTANT SECY. OF DEFENSE, RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: Sara, I think this is another pressure point right now coming at a time when Netanyahu is witnessing multiple days, I think we're on day three or four maybe a protest in Israel itself, where the families of the hostages being held by the Hamas terrorists are demonstrating to try to get Israel to accept a ceasefire with Hamas so that the hostages can be released and so we can, frankly, go on a glide path to some kind of diplomatic settlement.

I think that Jose Andres is absolutely right, and I think our government has been trying, you know, increasingly to put more public pressure on the Israeli government to do as is suggested, put the people, the civilians and the food needs first, because there is an artificial starvation occurring right now, especially in the north of Gaza.

SIDNER: Which is why the Central Kitchen was there.

I do want to ask you about these pressure points because on the one hand the Biden administration is telling Israel not to invade Rafah, where there are a million plus Palestinian who have taken refuge. And on the other hand, though, you just heard Kate's report, the administration is set to sign off on the largest U.S. foreign military sales to Israel, including F-16 jets, since the start of the war. I mean, how can they square this?

FARKAS: I don't think it's contradictory, Sara. You know, we stick with Israel. Israel is our ally. We defend the right of Israel to its sovereignty. We defend the right of Israel to, frankly, go into Gaza and take out those Hamas fighters. It's the way that they're doing it that we are now objecting to and we're trying to get them to change. (INAUDIBLE) jets and everything that we do to give Israel what we call the qualitative edge against all of its enemies right there in the Middle East is really important.

So, I think these are two separate things. It does mean that we're backing Israel. We're your friend. We're giving you this weaponry. That's the signal, you know, that we're still on Israel's side, but you have to listen to your ally who is giving you all this weaponry.

SIDNER: So far that has not been the case, and we'll have to see what happens.

I do want to stay in the region. Speaking of enemies. There is an airstrike that destroyed an Iranian consulate in Syria, leaving seven people dead. That number, I think, is starting to rise. Including top Iranian commanders. Iran and Hezbollah both vowing revenge. And there are reports the U.S. told Iran that it had no involvement or advanced knowledge of this. But there are reports that Israel is behind this strike. Could this be an inflection point to escalate a wider conflict in the region?

FARKAS: Well, first, Sara, I think it's disputed whether this is really a consulate. The Israeli government has said that this is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard posts. So, these are the folks who are conducting attacks against Israel and its allies all over the world, including United States personnel. So, you know, I think we should make sure to be careful not to give the Iranians the benefit of the doubt on what kind of building this was.

Second, Israel has been conducting strikes inside of Syria on Iranian proxy. And even sometimes Iranian installations, like this one, for years. And, frankly, Russia, Iran, we, you know, the international community has sort of looked the other way. I don't expect this to change anything radically, although I will say they did hit some high- ranking military officers and Iran does tend to respond to that. But again, it's usually a tit for tat. So, they will probably try to target some high-level military or some other kind of installation.

Iran is not interested in getting in a direct war with Israel. For them, it's perfectly convenient to have their - their proxies, whether it's the, you know, Hamas fighters, the Hezbollah, or the Houthis fighting against Israel, but they don't want to get in a direct war.

SIDNER: Which they've been doing.

I just want to quickly ask you about Ukraine. Secretary Antony Blinken is in France discussing Ukraine and the war in Gaza. You were in Ukraine last week for the Kyiv Security Forum and met with Ukrainian officials. Speaker Johnson, Mike Johnson, seems to be signaling a vote potentially on Ukraine aid, but says he has some alternatives that he's looking at. Nothing is guaranteed. What do you hear from the Ukrainians?

FARKAS: Yes, I mean, look, Sara, the Ukrainians are incredibly frustrated. They don't know what to make of the fact that a very slim minority of, you know, one party in - is holding up the entire U.S. foreign policy, which is the vast majority of members of Congress, and, of course, the administration agree should allow for assistance to Ukraine. So, the Ukrainians are really frustrated and upset.


Having said that, I think, you know, we have tried to reassure them that Speaker Johnson is - does intend to do something to help.