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Baltimore Bridge Collapse; Data Recorder Recovered from Cargo Ship; Interview with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Biden Says Federal Government will "Pay the Entire Cost"; Cargo Ship Crew Members to be Interview Today; Diddy Briefly Detained by Investigators at Airport; 12 Palestinians Drown Trying to Retrieve Aid from Sea. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 27, 2024 - 10:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Baltimore is grappling this morning with the fallout from yesterday's catastrophic bridge collapse as the economic impact comes into view. The flow of ships in and out of the port is indefinitely halted, straining supply chains along the East Coast.

Matt Egan joins me now for more. So, Matt, how big of an impact will this have on all of us, particularly on the East Coast?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, this disaster has crippled the Port of Baltimore. It's really delivered a body blow to the local economy. This port is a major employer. We're talking about 15,000 people directly employed, around 140,000 in related services. Now, those workers are facing the threat of having their hours cut or even being temporarily laid off.

And Baltimore is a key part of the supply chain. This is a major port. It's the number one port when it comes to sugar imports, number two for coal exports, farm and construction machinery imports. And it's also really critical when it comes to autos. 850,000 vehicles went through this port last year alone. That was a record. And a lot of major companies are going to be impacted because they either rely on the port or they did rely on the bridge or both.

We've already heard from a number of companies on the auto space, Ford, GM, Stellantis, Carnival. They're moving their cruise ships to Virginia. We know that FedEx and Honor Armor, Home Depot, they have a presence. Also, Domino Sugar, they have a sugar cane refinery that is really a landmark in the Baltimore Harbor, but it's also the biggest sugar cane refinery in the Western Hemisphere.

And, Alisyn, you know, during and right after COVID, you and I spent a lot more time talking about supply chains than we ever imagined we would, and we learned that when something breaks in one part of the supply chain, there are shock waves elsewhere.

CAMEROTA: For a long time, Matt, as you and I can attest because of all of you are reporting. And so, I know it's early, but can you calculate what the impact will be to the U.S. economy at large?

EGAN: Well, so I think the early assessment here is that, yes, this is going to deal a significant blow to the local economy, but that the national economy is likely going to be spared significant damage. And that's because when you look at the map, there are other options here. Along the East Coast, there are major ports where cargo can get redirected, including the Port of Virginia, Port of Philadelphia, New York, and New Jersey. And, in fact, we're already seeing that happen.

Now, we do have to pay attention to what the ripple effects are there, right? Because we could be looking at some port congestion at some of those East Coast ports. That could cause delays. Also, it's going to cost money to get all of the cargo shipped by truck to those other ports. So, that could add to costs as well.

But right now, we're not hearing major alarm, major concern from economists. They're not downgrading their growth forecasts. They're not warning of price spikes. J.P. Morgan put out a report saying that even in the auto sector, there's probably just going to be a minimal impact when it comes to car prices.

But Alisyn, like everything else, the longer this disruption lasts, the greater the impact. And U.S. officials are warning that nothing about this is going to be easy or straightforward.

CAMEROTA: OK. Matt Egan, thank you.

EGAN: Thanks. CAMEROTA: President Biden says the federal government will "pay the entire cost" to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Joining me now on that and more is Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Senator, thanks so much for being here. I know what a busy and sad day it is in your state. So, you spoke with President Biden yesterday. What do you need exactly from the federal government right now?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, you're right, Alisyn. It has been a tragic time in Baltimore and Maryland. And we are still mourning the loss of the six construction workers that were missing and are now presumed dead. And so, we are working to help their families at this difficult time.

I want to thank President Biden. I did get a call from him before he addressed the nation. And we are going to be working with him and my colleagues in the Congress on both sides of the aisle to get the funds to, you know, replace this bridge. It's a long bridge, 35,000 vehicles a day across this bridge. And so, we're going to need to get it done.


But as your reporting just indicated, our near-term priority is opening up that channel that the ship is blocking, so we can reopen the Port of Baltimore for business.

CAMEROTA: And Senator, are you confident that Congress will agree to pay for all of this reconstruction, the entire price? I mean, you know, pardon the skepticism, but some of us have seen that Congress can get a little stuck in the weeds.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think people will come together across party lines as Americans. We have come together in the past with major disasters like this, like the one in Minneapolis back in 2007, 2008. And look, I think this is one of those moments that people recognize that we've got to help states when they are really hurting through no fault of their own.

So, we may be able to recover, of course, some funds from the shipping company. Ultimately, we obviously are awaiting the report from the National Transportation Safety Board. I talked to the chair of the board yesterday. So, there are other sources of revenue that could support the bridge rebuilding effort.

I will say, Alisyn, that on this immediate issue of clearing the channel, the president has already ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to begin work. They're working with the Coast Guard. They'll probably bring in some Navy assets. That obviously needs to happen very quickly for all the reasons that you just reported in terms of the economic impact on workers in Baltimore, the region, and then the ripple effects beyond that.

CAMEROTA: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was on CNN earlier this morning and he talked about the economic consequences of this event. So, here's what he said.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The impact of this incident is going to be felt throughout the region and really throughout our supply chains. We're talking about the biggest vehicle handling port in the country that is now out of commission until that channel can be cleared and a bridge that took five years to build. This is going to be a big, long and not inexpensive road to recovery.


CAMEROTA: So, is there something that has to happen for the local economy in particular right now?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the most important thing is getting this channel cleared because as your reporting indicated right now, the port of Baltimore has stopped operations. I believe there were four ships in port when the bridge collapsed. There were 20 waiting to get into the port. They'll have to be diverted elsewhere. But that is the issue.

I mean, there are about $80 billion worth of cargo that comes into the port of Baltimore every year, 15,000, you know, direct jobs over any more beyond that. So, clearing that channel. You know, this is a dredged channel. It's a deep channel to take these supertankers. I mean, this ship was about, you know, more than three football fields long. So, that has got to be the priority for the economy of Baltimore, Maryland, and the region. And so, getting the Army Corps of Engineers in there, getting it evaluated quickly, that has to be the priority as we do the longer- term work through building the bridge.

And I want to thank Secretary Buttigieg. There's a fund, Alisyn, called the Emergency Relief Fund. It's within the federal highway administration. The state is going to be taking the urgent steps to access those funds right away.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what caused this. So, as you know, the ship that struck the bridge was held actually in Chile last year over a propulsion issue. Something was wrong at that time with the propulsion. So, do you think that Congress needs to investigate this?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, first and foremost, the National Transportation Safety Board needs to investigate it. That's an independent body. We'll obviously be overseeing that effort, watching very closely what the conclusions are. Because as I said earlier, it may very well turn out that the ship owners are liable. And that would help, you know, cover some of the costs.

But again, it's too early for me to know exactly what happened. The ship did lose power somehow. There were reports that it actually lost power twice. In other words, it was coming out of the inner harbor, lost power, regained it, got it back. Again, all of this needs to be subject to further investigation, and then plowed into one of the piers, the supporting columns of the bridge.


So, this is why the NTSB will be conducting an investigation. But -- and we will obviously be following that closely in kindness.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Also, the owners of this ship, the Synergy Marine Group, they've had other ships that have apparently been involved in at least three deadly accidents since 2018. So, is that a red flag for you?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, this is, you know, part of a pattern of past problems and violations. And again, all of this has to be subject to, you know, confirmation, but that obviously is a red flag. And that will go into the assessment of fault, and of course, ultimately, who has to pay some of the costs here.

But, you know, in the immediate term, I'm really glad the president ordered the Army Corps to clear this channel so Baltimore Port operations can resume. And then ultimately, of course, as the president also said, rebuild this bridge that, you know, carries over 35,000 vehicles a day.

Right now, vehicles, commercial vehicles that have hazardous material have to be rerouted along the outer beltway in Baltimore because they cannot go through the tunnel, the Baltimore Tunnel, which would be the other ways to, you know, get through this harbor area underwater.

So, obviously, lots of disruption. We're going to be dealing with that in terms of diverting traffic. But again, priority right now, clear the channel, reopen the Port of Baltimore.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And I'm sure we'll get some more answers from the NTSB today as well. Senator Chris Van Hollen, thank you very much. Great to talk to you.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to talk to you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: A source tell CNN investigators briefly detained. The music mogul, P. Diddy, as he was leaving for a spring break trip with his kids. We have details on that and the latest on the raids of his homes and what they turned up.



CAMEROTA: New this morning, a source close to the rapper Sean Diddy Combs says the music mogul was briefly detained by law enforcement agents on a Florida airport tarmac on Monday. That's the same day that Homeland Security teams raided Combs' houses in Miami and Los Angeles as part of a federal sex trafficking investigation. CNN Entertainment Correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister joins us now.

So, Elizabeth, what happened when Combs was stopped by police?

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn. So, I am hearing from a source close to Diddy that he was traveling with his two twin daughters. They are 17 years old and they were on their way to a pre-planned vacation out of Miami where Diddy owns a home when he was briefly stopped by authorities. He cooperated with them and then was released.

Now, there were no arrests made. And as -- according to Diddy's attorney, they think that this was a completely overzealous operation. I am hearing from this source close to Diddy that they were shocked by the scope of these raids on his homes. And we have a statement from his attorney. I want to read part of that to you, Alisyn. He says, "Yesterday, there was a gross overuse of military level force as search warrants were executed at Mr. Combs' residences. There is no excuse for the excessive show of force and hostility exhibited by authorities or the way his children and employees were treated."

Now, they go on to say that Mr. Combs is innocent and will continue to fight every single day to clear his name. They are calling this a "witch hunt," and they believe that this was a coordinated effort.

I hear that Diddy's team believes that the media was tipped off on the raid on his Los Angeles home because there was a local news chopper hovering over the home before the breach into Diddy's property.

Now, of course, as this investigation is going on, this comes at a time that Diddy is facing five different lawsuits. This all started back in November, 2023, when the singer Cassie, who is Diddy's ex, they were in a long-term relationship. She sued him in November. Now, they settled overnight. But then soon after, there were two more lawsuits that came, and now Diddy is facing five suits total. Now, he denies all of the claims in these suits, but they are very serious. Cassie has accused him of rape and sex trafficking, among others. So again, very serious claims that Diddy is denying.

CAMEROTA: OK. Elizabeth, thank you for the latest. And we'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: New developments out of Gaza, airdrops there turned deadly after Palestinian authorities say at least 12 people drowned this week while trying to retrieve parcels that landed in the sea. Hamas is now calling on countries to end the airdrops, saying they're "inappropriate and useless."

CNN's Melissa Bell joins us now. Melissa, these airdrops contain supplies that Palestinians urgently need, like food, water, medicine. So, of course, people are risking their lives to get them.

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and it's not the first time that tragedy has struck. Alisyn, with regard to these airdrops, we'd seen earlier this month five Palestinians killed when some of these parcels landed on them in the camp that they were seeking refuge in.

So, Hamas now calling for these airdrops to stop. It wasn't just the United States that had been dropping some of these parcels over Gaza on Monday, many other countries as well, Egypt, the United Kingdom, amongst those trying to get some of that aid so desperately needed by the 2.2 million Gazans that the U.N. reckons are now at risk of famine.

But what Hamas say is that these deliveries are offensive, useless and inappropriate. And of course, even beyond that, Alisyn, we've been hearing from the humanitarian aid organizations about the fact that the amounts of aid that can be gotten in this way are simply nowhere near enough, and what needs to be focused on is getting much more aid through the crossings.


Israeli authorities pointed the fact that the food aid that's been getting in has doubled in the last month from 100 trucks to 200, but that is, of course, nowhere near what is needed. And I think these images coming to us from the waters of Gaza yesterday are a really important measure of just how desperately that aid is needed. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, indeed. Melissa Bell, thank you very much.

And the next hour of "CNN Newsroom" starts after a very short break.