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CNN International: Baltimore Bridge Collapses After Ship Collision; Dramatic Day in court for Trump Brings Mixed Results; Netanyahu Cancels Rafah Meetings Deepening Rift with Biden; Sean Diddy Combs' Homes Raided by Law Enforcement; Putin, Without Evidence, Blames Ukraine for Moscow Attack. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 04:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world. I'm Anna Coren. Max Foster will be up later today.

It is Tuesday, March 26. We begin this hour with breaking news out of Baltimore, Maryland. A large container ship has collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse into the water below.

Video obtained by CNN shows the moment of impact. It's not clear if anyone was killed or injured in the incident. Maryland authorities say all traffic is being rerouted around the area.

The city's mayor, Brandon Scott, says on X he is aware of the incident and is en route to the bridge. He says emergency personnel are already on the scene. We'll obviously bring you more information as soon as it comes into us here at CNN.

But let's bring in CNN correspondent Gabe Cohen. He is on the way to the scene in Baltimore. Gabe, we know this is a fluid breaking news situation, but what can you tell us?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, you've covered a lot of it at this point. We do know this large container ship hit the key bridge earlier this morning, and at this point we know that rescue operations, as you said, are underway. But at this point, we don't know if there were vehicles on the bridge, how many there might have been. And we don't know, certainly, if anyone is injured.

We're hoping to get more information as we get up to the scene. They're going to be a lot of emergency crews who are there as the scene is still playing out. And bear in mind, this is a very important bridge.

This is along 695. And the videos that are emerging are surreal to see this container ship collide with the bridge. And very quickly, that bridge crumbles into several pieces down into the water. That interstate is used by a lot of commuters, not just around the Baltimore area, but for those who travel between Washington and New York, it is highly trafficked. I've taken that bridge dozens of times across the mid Atlantic Northeast region, as you're trying to cross between cities. And so this is going to impact a lot of people.

But in the short term, we're more focused on what the emergency scene looks like and who might be there needing assistance from crews needing help right now. And I think that's what Baltimore emergency first responders are trying to figure out at the scene right now as well.

COREN: Yes, I know we can't confirm this at the moment, but looking at these pictures, I mean, you can see flashing lights on this bridge, and there are local news reports that there were vehicles on the bridge at the time of this collision.

COHEN: That's -- that's the indication. But these are early reports. So we're going to have to see once those first responders can figure out exactly how many cars were there, how many people need assistance.

That is the indication, though, and it would make sense that there could be vehicles on this bridge even at that early morning hour. Because, like I said, this is a very trafficked route, a very important route. And so, yes, it's a bit early. We need to confirm these things.

And we're probably around 20 minutes from the scene. We're expected to learn more, hopefully in the next hour or so, but we can tell from these early images. Obviously, the collapse itself is unbelievable to watch, and they're going to be a lot of questions.

Look, there are shipping containers that come through this route all the time, and it'll certainly be looked at why this container ship might have been too tall, might have clipped the bridge, however it happened. It's unclear, but looking at the video, it appears there's some sort of collision, and based on how quickly the bridge collapses, it was obviously a very significant crash. So a lot of questions there.

But again, in the short term it does look like emergency vehicles heading to the scene, emergency crews heading to the scene, trying to figure out who needs help, really, in that acute emergency moment that we're seeing right now.

COREN: Well, Gabe, as you say, you're about 20 minutes away.


We will certainly check in once you arrive at the scene. Gabe Cohen, we appreciate you joining us and giving us that update. We will continue to follow this story throughout the hour.

Turning to other news, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear its first abortion case since the reversal of Roe v. Wade almost two years ago. Oral arguments today will focus on efforts to restrict access to one of two drugs used in medical abortions.

Mifepristone was first approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration back in 2000. The decision is expected this summer.

A dramatic day of legal developments for Donald Trump. He dodged financial disaster and the seizing of his assets, but could not escape the charges against him in the Hush Money case. A jury selection for that historic trial begins in three weeks, despite Trump's efforts to get the case tossed. It marks the first criminal trial of any former president in U.S. history.

Well meanwhile, the Trump team is praising a New York appeals court for slashing his bond in the civil fraud judgment. Trump's attorney calls that a great first step towards reversing a baseless and reckless judgment. The nearly half a billion dollars bond that was due on Monday has been knocked down to $175 million, and Trump has been given 10 days to post it.

But he still complained bitterly, and without evidence, accused President Biden of orchestrating the cases against him.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every single one of them is run by Biden and his thugs. The only way they think they can get elected, and I think so far it's backfiring because the people of this country understand it. It's backfiring. But they're being run and they're running all of these different cases. So ridiculous, the cases. Every one of them is ridiculous. You take a look at any one of them and you say any one of them, it wouldn't make any difference. This is all weaponization of DOJ and FBI.

They raided my house in violation of a thing called the Fourth Amendment. Not allowed to do that. They raided my house in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. No notice, no nothing. They raided it. I can't believe it. Nobody can believe it.


COREN: Well, Trump's legal triumph and disappointment came within an hour of each other. CNN's Paula Reid is following both cases and has this report.


PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump narrowly spared from possibly having his assets seized by the New York Attorney General.

TRUMP: We had a lot of things happened today. This is all about election interference.

REID (voice-over): An appeals court granting Trump 10 additional days to post a $175 million bond, less than half the original amount, to cover his appeal of the $454 million judgment against him and his company in the New York Civil Fraud trial for inflating the value of his assets.

TRUMP: I greatly respect the decision of the appellate division and I'll post either $175 million in cash or bonds or security or whatever is necessary very quickly within the 10 days.

REID (voice-over): The temporary reprieve coming just in time for Trump who had seemingly been unable to come up with the nearly half billion dollars.

If that bond is posted, any enforcement of the financial ruling against Trump, his sons or their company will be on pause until after the appeal is decided this fall. Trump blasting the judge who oversaw that fraud trial.

TRUMP: Why should I let a crooked judge make a decision to give $450 million? That allows me to spend very little money on my campaign if I so choose.

REID (voice-over): Now, Trump has not spent his own money on his campaign since 2016 --

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

REID (voice-over): -- but he was not successful in further delaying his first criminal case. Judge Juan Merchan ruled the New York hush money case will begin on April 15th. Trump faces 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump's former attorney and so called fixer Michael Cohen, a key witness in the case claims Trump reimbursed him for payments made to Daniels to keep the alleged affair secret.

TRUMP: They're running all of these different cases. So ridiculous. The cases, every one of them is ridiculous.

REID (voice-over): Before the trial date was set, the judge heard arguments from Trump's lawyers accusing the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of widespread misconduct. The judge, however, seemed skeptical of the allegations and at one point even raising his voice, saying you are literally accusing the Manhattan District Attorney's office and the people assigned to this case of prosecutorial misconduct and of trying to make me complicit in it. And you don't have a single site to support that position?


Trump has long denied having an affair with Daniels and has pleaded not guilty. Trump claimed he would have no issues testifying in the case.

TRUMP: I would have no problem testifying. I didn't do anything wrong.

REID: Trump is required to attend this trial. It's expected to go for about six weeks, four days a week with Wednesday's off. Now, if it wraps in early June, that still leaves five months for

those other three criminal cases. But at this point, it's unclear if any of those will begin before the November election.

Paula Reid, CNN, New York.


COREN: One legal expert we heard from called the decision to reduce Trump's bond highly unusual. But former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin says the appeals court got it right.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's not supposed to be punitive. And it was, it seems to me, unreasonable to make him sell real estate in a very difficult environment to make a bond. It is not required under the law that the bond be exactly the same as the reward, the award. $175 million is still a lot of money.

It will be snapped up by the state of New York if and when the appeals are confirmed. But I, you know, I do think, you know, Trump was right that this was excessive.


COREN: And in a bizarre twist, while all of Trump's legal cases are costing a fortune, regardless of who's paying for them, he now stands to earn a fortune, possibly billions of dollars as his social media platform Truth Social gets ready to go public in the hours ahead. Bloomberg estimates Trump's net worth spiked by $4 billion on Monday alone. But experts warn the market may be overvaluing Trump media since it's been operating at a loss and the number of active monthly users has plunged year over year.

Israel's defense minister is expected to meet the U.S. Defense Secretary at the Pentagon in the coming hours as the rift between the leaders of the two nations deepens. Yoav Galant was already in Washington meeting with top U.S. officials on Monday when the U.S. abstained from a U.N. Security Council vote on a Gaza ceasefire, clearing the way for the measure to pass. Here is the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. explaining why.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We did not agree with everything in the resolution. For that reason we were unfortunately not able to vote yes. However, as I've said before, we fully support some of the critical objectives in this non-binding resolution and we believe it was important for the council to speak out and make clear that our ceasefire must -- any ceasefire, must come with the release of all hostages.


COREN: Well the move prompted immediate reaction from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who cancelled a trip by two of his top advisors who were expected in Washington this week to discuss the situation in Rafah. American officials say they were perplexed by Netanyahu's decision calling it overreaction. Well CNN's MJ Lee has the details from the White House.


MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Tensions are running incredibly high between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Remember it was about a week ago that the two leaders spoke on the phone and President Biden had personally asked the Prime Minister to send an Israeli delegation to here in Washington to discuss all things related to the war including the imminent incursion into Rafah that Israeli officials continue to talk about.

The Prime Minister abruptly cancelling that delegation's trip here to Washington after the U.S. abstained rather than vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution essentially allowing that to pass.

Now U.S. officials on Monday saying that they were perplexed by this reaction and saying that it was an overreaction by the Israelis. Take a listen.

JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: We're kind of perplexed by this. It does not represent a change at all in our policy. It's very consistent with everything that we've been saying we want to get done here and we get to decide what our policy is. The Prime Minister's office seems to be indicating through public statements that we somehow changed here. We haven't.

LEE: The White House is essentially saying that it's too bad that U.S. officials now don't have this opportunity to meet in person with some of their Israeli counterparts but they are also making clear that Ron Dermer who is somebody who would have been a part of that delegation who is no longer coming to Washington later this week but he's somebody that U.S. officials are in constant touch with including on Monday and that those conversations are going to continue.


One U.S. official also suggesting that domestic politics might have been in play and may have been a factor in Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to cancel that delegation's trip.

MJ Lee, CNN at the White House.


COREN: Still ahead, the latest on the breaking news out of Baltimore Maryland and the major bridge collapse that happened overnight.

Plus, federal agents raided the homes of rapper Sean Diddy Combs. We have new details about what they were searching for.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin finally says the Moscow terror attack was carried out by radical Islamists but he still found a way without evidence to blame Ukraine.


COREN: We are following breaking news out of Baltimore, Maryland, where the Francis Scott Key Bridge has collapsed into the river below. This happened about three hours ago when a large ship collided with one of the bridge's supports. We don't yet know if anyone has been injured or killed.

The city's mayor says emergency crews are on the scene. Again, a large ship has collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, causing it to collapse. We'll bring you more information as we get it here at CNN.

Well, federal agents raided the Miami and Los Angeles homes of musician Sean Diddy Combs on Monday. Senior law enforcement sources tell CNN the search is related to a sex trafficking investigation. And federal agents were authorized to search for documents, phones, computers and other electronic devices.

This comes after months of controversy for the rapper. He's been the subject of at least four lawsuits that include allegations of rape and sex trafficking, all of which he has denied. Well, CNN's Carlos Suarez has details of the raids.


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The search warrant activity at both of the homes belonging to Sean Diddy Combs is related to an ongoing sex trafficking investigation. A law enforcement source tells CNN agents with Homeland Security Investigations searched two homes belonging to Combs, including an 11,000 square foot mansion here in Miami Beach.

Monday night, agents were spotted carrying a cardboard box and several bags from the second story of the house. An official with Homeland Security Miami said that agents arrived at the property at around three in the afternoon. And a neighbor here tells CNN that 30 to 40 law enforcement personnel lined the street out here.

Now, across the country in Los Angeles, Homeland Security agents there were spotted walking the grounds of Combs home. Mobile command vehicles were visible in both locations.

It is likely that it will take some time to locate and process evidence given the substantial size of both properties. Now, CNN has reached out to representatives for Combs for comment.

Carlos Suarez, CNN, Miami Beach.


COREN: In an earlier interview, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson shared his thoughts on why federal officers raided the rapper's home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Whenever you have a raid and an investigation, these things need to be really predicated upon, right? The precursor for this to happen would be some probable cause.

What is that probable cause? We don't know. But before authorities can get into the home or property of anyone, you have to establish some firm basis to do that. And that is what at least we can conclude, that they had reason to believe that there were crimes involving sex trafficking, apparently, and that these areas potentially can give more information with respect to the specifics.

And I think they would be looking for computer devices and other devices which would seem to indicate or give information as to whether there was any criminality. Very early in the process but certainly we know that these have been carried out and we'll see what, if any information is gleaned, to be suggestive of any criminality.


COREN: Russian President Vladimir Putin says the horrific terror attack on a concert hall near Moscow was carried out by radical Islamists. But he's also without evidence blaming Ukraine. Mr. Putin held a conference call with government officials on Monday and during the discussion said the attack fit into a series by Ukraine against Russia.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): And the question immediately arises, who benefits from this? This atrocity may be only a link in a whole series of attempts by those who have been fighting our country since 2014 at the hands of the neo-Nazi Kyiv regime.

The goal, as I already said, is to sow panic in our society, and at the same time show our own population that all is not lost for the Kyiv regime.


COREN: Well, after those comments, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Putin, quote, sick and cynical. Ukraine has strongly denied any involvement in the attack and ISIS has claimed responsibility for it. The death toll now stands at 139.

Well, CNN's Fred Pleitgen has covered Russia extensively and joins us now from Berlin. Fred, despite, I guess, the overwhelming evidence suggesting that Islamic State carried out this attack, Putin is still trying to pin the ultimate blame on Ukraine.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he certainly is. And I think we have a situation here, which is actually quite interesting, where ISIS has now, on two occasions, actually, first of all, claimed the attack and then offered evidence to show that they were behind the attack. And yet Vladimir Putin still keeps bringing up Ukraine.

And I think one of the interesting things that we gleaned yesterday from the comments that he made after a National Security Council meeting in Russia is that while he's now acknowledging that radical Islamists, as he put it, were behind the attack, he still does not use the term ISIS. He's still not saying ISIS is behind the attack, even though ISIS has by now even released body cam video of the attackers that they apparently managed to send back to ISIS while they were conducting the attack. Nevertheless, Vladimir Putin still bringing that link towards Ukraine.

I think one of the things that we just saw in that clip that we just played is quite interesting, where he says that there are still questions as to why the attackers wanted to go to Ukraine. And he seems to believe that the Ukrainians were the ones who could benefit from all this because they're doing badly on the battlefield right now.

He also actually ripped into the U.S. a little bit asking why the U.S. was working so hard to try and make sure that the world believes that ISIS is indeed behind the attack.

So Vladimir Putin still pushing that narrative, even, of course, as many Russians are still mourning those who were killed in the attack. Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): As search and rescue crews sift through the charred remains of the concert hall, outside a sea of flowers continues to grow as thousands mourn the victims of the worst terror attack to hit Russia in decades.

No one should remain indifferent in such moments, this woman says. We must honor their memory and understand we are all facing this tragedy. I say tears flow, but we're all here together.

Eyewitness videos show the brutality as the attackers swept the Crocus City Hall entertainment complex. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. The terror group released this video through the ISIS- affiliated Amaq news agency, allegedly filmed by the attackers themselves as they killed more than 130 people.

Also, setting the building on fire, leading to a massive blaze that caused the roof to partially collapse.

The U.S. says it has no reason to doubt ISIS's claim, and Russia has been at war with the group during Moscow's brutal aerial campaign in Syria supporting the Assad regime. I traveled to Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria with the Russian military in 2017 as the battle raged.

PLEITGEN: Even though the Syrian and Russian armies have managed to push ISIS back, there still are a lot of ISIS fighters here in this area. That's why taking the helicopter is the safest way to get to Deir ez-Zor. PLEITGEN (voice-over): The alleged gunmen, all of them from

Tajikistan, are now in Russian custody. Three of them pleaded guilty in a Moscow court this weekend.

But the Russians still won't acknowledge an ISIS link, Vladimir Putin instead claiming the attackers had ties to Ukraine.

PUTIN (through translator): We know that the crime was committed by the hands of radical Islamists, followers of the ideology that the Islamic world itself has been fighting against for centuries. Of course, it is necessary to answer the question why, after committing the crime, the terrorists tried to go to Ukraine.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The suspects bore signs of abuse as they were arraigned, one seemingly semi-conscious in a wheelchair. And this video on social media seems to show Russian security services mistreating another one of the men.

When confronted with questions about possible torture of the detainees, the Kremlin refusing to reply.

No, the spokesman said, I leave this question without an answer.


PLEITGEN (on camera): So there you can see that the investigation still is ongoing there by the Russians.

Meanwhile, the court there in Moscow has ordered the arrest of three additional individuals. One of them, the former owner of the getaway car that the alleged attackers used as they were trying to escape from the scene. Of course, we have learned today that they apparently actually rammed a family with some small children as they were trying to leave that venue in Moscow.

The Russians and Vladimir Putin specifically, of course, and continuing to push the narrative that they were heading towards Ukraine -- Anna.

COREN: Fred Pleitgen, good to see you. Thanks for your reporting.

More to come on our breaking news out of Baltimore, Maryland, where the Francis Scott Key Bridge, a major highway link in the city, has collapsed after being struck by a large ship. We'll bring you the very latest.

And the first public comments from baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani on accusations of theft and gambling against his former interpreter.