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Gershkovich Spends One Year In Russian Detention; Russia: Ukrainian Nationalists Financed Concert Hall Rampage; Ukraine Targeting Russian Oil Refineries; World Court; Israel Must Do More To Get Aid To Gaza; Gazans Struggle To Find Food Amid Looming Famine; 45 Easter Pilgrims Killed In Fiery Bus Crash; Maryland Gov.: "Long Road Ahead Of Us" After Bridge Collapse. Records: Dali Inspected 27 Times, Had Two "Deficiencies"; Three Democratic Presidents Fundraise For Biden Campaign; Trump Wants Case Thrown Out Of Free Speech Grounds; U.S., U.K. Accuse Beijing Of Backing Cyberattacks; Queen Camilla Appears At Church Service On Behalf Of King; Japan's Rintaro Sasaki Following In Footsteps Of Greats; Controversial Prince Philip Statue Will Be Taken Down. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to all of you watching us around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN Newsroom.

A year has passed since Russia imprisoned American journalist Evan Gershkovich. How this grim anniversary is being recognized and the work to bring him home?

The International Court of Justice is demanding that Israel do more to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, citing catastrophic living conditions for Palestinians there.

And U.S. President Joe Biden shares the stage with two of his predecessors for a campaign fundraiser in New York that's raised millions of dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN Newsroom with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: It's been exactly one year since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia. The newspaper will mark the anniversary in its print edition today by leaving part of its front page blank. The space represents the missing articles Gershkovich never wrote because of his detention.

The headline says, in part, "His Story Should Be Here," the crime, journalism. U.S. presidential envoy says there's work going on behind the scenes to get him back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROGER CARSTENS, U.S. SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: We do have an open line or open channel with the Russians that we've been using to discuss these cases. It's the same channel that brought home Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner. We've been using it to discuss the return of Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich.

So there is open communication that takes place between us. As you've probably heard before, we made what we felt was a strong offer last November to the Russians. The Russians rejected it. And in that time since then, we've been trying to come up with something else that the United States can pull together and deliver that the Russians will accept.


BRUNHUBER: Kremlin says ongoing contacts about Gershkovich's possible exchange must be conducted in absolute silence or they'll be less likely to succeed.

As Fred Pleitgen reports, the journalist is still defiant in his own way.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): No media allowed at Evan Gershkovich's most recent court hearing in Moscow. Just this short clip by the court's press service. Despite a year in a Russian jail, a defiant smile from the Wall Street Journal reporter. No surprise, his detention was extended yet again through June 30th.

The U.S. Ambassador to Russia ripping into the verdict.

LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: The accusations against Evan are categorically untrue. They are not a different interpretation of circumstances. They are fiction.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Evan Gershkovich was arrested and charged with espionage a year ago while on assignment in Yekaterinburg, Central Russia.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, SPOKESWOMAN, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY: I do not know if there are any other cases, but the allegations made by our intelligence services today were not related to his journalism.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Wall Street Journal and Gershkovich's family strongly deny the allegations. Polina Ivanova of the Financial Times is one of Evan's best friends and still keeps in regular contact with him writing letters.

POLINA IVANOVA, FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTER, FRIEND OF GERSHKOVICH: He's doing remarkably well. He's absolutely staying strong. He's not allowing himself to, you know, to wallow, to get too upset by everything. In fact, he spends most of his time in letters to us trying to make us feel better. PLEITGEN (voice-over): Gershkovich faces a jail sentence of up to 20 years of convicted, but CNN has reported that Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan were part of a proposed prisoner swap with a now dead opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.

The Russian president taunted on his re-election day that he approved a swap on the condition he'd get back a high profile Russian intelligence officer in prison for murder in Germany, Vadim Krasikov.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet. I said, I agree, but unfortunately, what happened, happened.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): For those close to Evan, that means the waiting continues, outcome uncertain.

IVANOVA: When you see Putin talk about it, and in, you know, very clear terms, that this is what they want to see happen, that they are looking for a deal, you know, it just gives you hope that at some point this will -- this, you know, that he will be home. He needs to be home. He needs to be back with his family, with his friends.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


BRUNHUBER: And for more analysis, we're joined by Ekaterina Kotrikadze, news director and host at TV Rain. That's an independent Russian channel that was forced to shut down at home and now operates out of Amsterdam, and she's speaking with us from there.

Thank you so much for being here with us. So, are you surprised his detention has stretched this long already?


EKATERINA KOTRIKADZE, NEWS DIRECTOR & HOST, TV RAIN: Hi Kim. Yes. Actually I'm surprised because from the very beginning, he was absolutely obvious that Evan Gershkovich is a hostage of Vladimir Putin and that he would -- Vladimir Putin, would use him for the prisoner swap for the -- some kind of exchange for bargain, actually.

And right now, we are witnessing the, you know, kind of a market dealing process. Evan is a very valuable asset for Putin. And from the very beginning, it was obvious that Evan has not committed any crimes, that he has not been involved in any kind of, I don't know, treason or espionage or something like that.

It was ridiculous. Everyone knew that, including people around Kremlin, including people inside Kremlin. But this is the part of the game. They needed this high ranking American citizen, journalist, because it's a very valuable asset.


KOTRIKADZE: And they would try to trade them as, yes, as better as possible.

BRUNHUBER: His case was the first time that Russia had brought a spy case against an overseas reporter since the Cold War. Why do you think he was targeted in this particular way?

KOTRIKADZE: Well, in the circumstances that we're witnessing right now, after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine there is nothing left to be, you know, afraid of. He doesn't have any kind of red lines left. So this is -- the Evan's story tells us that Vladimir Putin is not leader of civilized state anymore, that with him, there should not be any kind of rules that are being used with the normal civilized leaders.

So this is something different. And yes, I think that it's important to remember that there is still a chance to have a prisoner swap. He is ready, Putin is ready. He's giving signals to the world that he's ready to get this prisoner swap. But there's going to be others and others and others. We need to be ready for that. This is something very different from what we have been seeing in Russia after 1999, for example.

BRUNHUBER: In the meantime, do you know what conditions are like in prison -- in a prison like Lefortovo where he's being held?

KOTRIKADZE: Yes, Lefortovo, it's a strict rules prison. They don't have the opportunity to get, for example, meetings with their relatives. It's a strict five -- as I remember, 5:00 a.m. in the morning wake up. They don't have a lot of opportunities, for example, to write or to read.

Very strict rules, very small time to have a walk. I mean, this is Russian prison. Russian prison is not a good place to be. And it's a very tough experience for anyone. And, of course, for Evan, who is just a journalist, and who is just -- I mean, he is just a professional.

He was working, as I work, as you work, doing nothing out of this. Just no crime at all. And for this, he is in prison. This is how Russian state works right now. And it's important to remember that Vladimir Putin is not a person who you would negotiate with, you know, as you do with -- I would repeat, as you do with normal leaders.

This is something very different. And after he killed Alexei Navalny in prison, it is even more complicated because Evan was supposed to be a part of the deal in which Alexei Navalny was supposed to be. Right now, it's not -- we cannot understand whether -- I mean, how kind -- what kind of prisoners swap we should see after one of the very important parts of it is killed by this regime in penal colony.

So, it's important to fight for Evan Gershkovich and I'm sure that the U.S. is fighting, but they're also Russian political prisoners. Alexei Navalny is killed, but there are others, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Ilya Yashin, and others. So it should -- this process should keep on going and I really hope that someone is doing this, really.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely right. And, you know, I'm wondering what message you think his continued detention sends to reporters who want to cover Russia.

KOTRIKADZE: It is really complicated. And I admire people who are still there in Russian Federation in this circumstances.


I know that a lot of journalists left the country, I mean, foreign journalists after Evan was detained. Because it's a pretty much clear signal to the world that nothing can stop Vladimir Putin and anyone can be there with Evan in a jail.

But, you know, there are still people who are covering Russia who are very careful, and this is the right behavior, absolutely right behavior. You need to be categorically careful to control every word that you say, to control every step of your way, not to shoot any kind of object that can be theoretically seen as a military object or object of state interest or something like that.

You just need to, I mean, you need to control everything you say or do. This is crazy, right? But it's important to be there, not to live it just in a vacuum, this poor country of mine, you know?

BRUNHUBER: Yes. Well, listen, you are sending a very important message of solidarity with Evan. Important to get that message out there. Really appreciate getting your expertise on this.

Ekaterina Kotrikadze, thank you so much.

KOTRIKADZE: thank you very much.

BRUNHUBER: Russia says it has evidence that Ukrainian nationalists financed last week's terror attacks near Moscow. That's even though ISIS has claimed responsibility for the shooting and arson attack which left more than 140 people dead. But Moscow now says the suspects received cash and cryptocurrency from Ukraine without revealing any of the alleged evidence.

Ukraine has denied any involvement in the massacre. And the U.S. dismissed Russia's claim as propaganda and nonsense. It says it warned Russia more than two weeks in advance that a terrorist attack could be in the making.

Meanwhile, the London-based investigative group Dossier Center says Russian security services knew about an ISIS threat days before the attack. The group says it obtained a Russian internal intelligence report.

The White House isn't ruling out a plan in the House of Representatives that would structure aid to Ukraine as a loan. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson has been working with Republican backers of Ukraine aid on a package that also includes restrictions on the U.S. border with Mexico.

He spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday. Zelenskyy says he reminded Johnson of the dramatic increase in Russia's air terror over the past few weeks. And he urged quick passage of a new aid package.

Now Ukraine isn't taking Russia's increased attacks lying down. Its forces are stepping up their drone campaign against Russian oil refineries with the help of artificial intelligence.

CNN's Clare Sebastian has details.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flying straight for Russia's biggest moneymaker. This precise hit. One of more than a dozen Ukrainian drone strikes reported on Russian oil refineries since the start of the year.

VASYL MALYUK, HEAD OF SECURITY SERVICES OF UKRAINE (through translator): We've already reduced both production and processing by 12 percent. So we continue to work while the gas station country continues to burn.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Attacks like this which CNN has geolocated to the high capacity Ryazan oil refinery may experts say do more harm than sanctions to Russian energy.

HELIMA CROFT, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS: From the beginning of the war, we made -- the U.S. made the decision to try to keep Russian oil on the market because no one would support Ukraine in a winter of discontent.

SEBASTIAN: And now the weapons have stopped coming?

CROFT: Right. That is the question. Has the bargain broken down because aid for Ukraine is being held up in the United States Congress? And then does this mean that Ukraine has a limited window to try to change dynamics on the ground.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Russia has admitted oil refining output is down, and it's temporarily banned gasoline exports to preserve supplies. Meanwhile, global oil prices have risen around 12 percent since the start of the year. A U.S. official telling CNN these attacks are now being discouraged.

CROFT: If it wasn't an election year, there might be more willingness to endure this. Like, that's why Washington is calling Ukraine right now.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Two years ago, Ukraine would not have had the technology to do this. Some of the refineries hit are over 1,000 kilometers from its territory, a big leap in terms of range. This puts around three quarters of Russian refinery output in Ukraine's reach, according to RBC Capital Markets.

As to their ability to avoid this fate, being downed by Russian jammers, a source close to Ukraine's drone program telling CNN, artificial intelligence is now in use in some of the refinery attacks.

NOAH SYLVIA, RESEARCH ANALYST, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: They have this type of thing called machine vision, which is a form of A.I. to our understanding. All you have to do is you take a model and you have it on a chip and you train this model over time to be able to identify images, geography and the target.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): It also allows for a high degree of precision. Look at this strike geolocated again to the Ryazan oil refinery. A second hit on one specific tower.

SYLVIA: From what we've seen, some of it is, they're striking targets that need a lot of Western technology. And Russia has a much more difficult time procuring this technology.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): And yet experts say Ukraine is still exercising some restraint. These blue dots are Russia's key Western oil export terminals. Around two-thirds of its oil and oil product exports passed through these ports, according to RBC.

CROFT: If we simply had one major export facility hit, I think the impact on markets would be substantial.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): For Ukraine, the risk here is not just U.S. disapproval, but Russian revenge amid signs Ukraine's own energy sector is once again in its sights.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


BRUNHUBER: The International Court of Justice says the catastrophic conditions in Gaza continue to deteriorate with famine setting in. It's demanding Israel do more to get humanitarian aid into the territory, and that includes access to food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.

Israel's criticizing the decision as cynical and blames Hamas for the situation in Gaza. It accuses the group of commandeering, hoarding, and stealing aid.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman joins us now from Rome with more. So Ben, the ICU is saying Israel has to do more to allow aid in. Is Israel likely to listen here?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Israel says the foreign ministry put out a statement saying that they are trying to facilitate initiatives to bring more food in. But what we're hearing from the ICJ, basically they're saying that not only -- that before basically there was a danger of famine in Gaza, but now famine is setting in.

And what we've seen so far is that according to doctors in Gaza, at least 30 people, 24 of them children have died as a result of hunger and malnutrition. In fact, the latest victim, a six-year-old boy, we heard from a doctor in Gaza today at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, that this six-year-old boy died of malnutrition and dehydration. Now, there are efforts underway. We've seen these air drops to bring food into Gaza, but clearly that is not enough. And, in fact, it's resulting in deaths as we've seen. 12 people drowned trying to retrieve food that was dropped into the Mediterranean.

Now the U.S. is doing rather ludicrous efforts flying or moving 1,000 troops across the Atlantic to the eastern Mediterranean to try to set up some sort of seaport to provide food to Gaza, whereas, it would be very easy if the Israelis would allow hundreds of trucks to go into Gaza every day to provide the necessary food, water and other supplies. But by all accounts, that's not happening at the moment. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right. And Ben, the issue continues to resonate domestically here in the U.S. Many Democrats don't see eye to eye with President Biden. So take us through that and the comments he made last night about Israel at a fundraiser.

WEDEMAN: Yes, this was his fundraiser in New York, also attended by presidents, former presidents Clinton and Obama where he did say that the United that he is currently in talks with the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Qataris, the Egyptians and others to somehow work out a formula whereby for the first time he said, Arab states would fully recognize Israel in exchange for some sort of peace agreement, lasting peace agreement.

Now, this isn't really the first time for perhaps President Biden has forgotten the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the work of the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, whereby, there would be full normalization of relations between Israel and all Arab states in exchange for the withdrawal of Israel from all territory, Arab territory and occupies, including the West Bank, Gaza, parts of Lebanon and Syria.

Now, this was agreed upon at an Arab summit back in 2002, and that agreement was renewed several times afterwards. So there have been such initiatives, but they haven't obviously come to fruition.

Now, also at this fundraiser in New York, President Biden did talk about the need for a post-war plan for Gaza. That clearly needs to be worked out given that Gaza at this point has been essentially turned into dust.


And it doesn't seem that, at this point, there's any hope that the war is going to be ending any time soon. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much. Ben Wedeman in Rome. Appreciate that.

The U.N. humanitarian group is calling on Israel to expand supply routes into Gaza so that large scale aid can be delivered to Gazans who are starving.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has more on their daily struggle to find food. Now we just want to warn you, some of the images in this report are disturbing.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video filmed 11 days ago at a northern Gaza hospital, captured little Mohammed's final days. His labored breaths and all that staff tried to do to keep him alive. On Thursday, 6-year-old Mohammed became the 24th Palestinian child to die of malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza.

And the fear is many more vulnerable lives could be lost. Hunger is in every corner of this besieged territory. The pain visible in the eyes of mothers like Najla (ph), who's helplessly watched her children go hungry for months. Her husband, Mahran (ph), has thought the unthinkable, throwing his children in the sea, he says, to spare them this torture of an existence.

Dante's family endured months of bombardment in northern Gaza. But it's a looming famine there that's pushed them out of their home.

If you grab a bag of flowers, someone can kill you to take it, Mahran says. Our daily meal for our children became things we hadn't heard of before, like ground soybeans and a wild plant that we'd never tasted before. Food that animals refuse to eat, we ate.

What they'll do, where they'll go, they don't know. All they want right now is to feed their little ones.

My children were crying every night asking for a piece of bread, Najla says. We were dreaming of white bread. We were eating animal food.

For the first time in five months, they say, the children are having real food, even if only plain bread.

This is what Dante's family left behind in the north, scenes that tell of the desperation of so many who also just want to feed their children as they rush the little aid that's made it into this part of Gaza.

More than 1 million Palestinians are now facing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to a U.N. backed report, with famine projected to arrive in the north any day now. In this manmade crisis, where Israel's been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, something it denies.

People every day find themselves scavenging for food, forced to pick wild plants to boil and eat.

This grandmother can't hold back her tears as she washes weeds and leaves. It's today's meal. What else can we do, she says. It's the indignity of hunger. Avoidable suffering as the world watches on.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


BRUNHUBER: An Easter pilgrimage turns deadly for dozens of Christians in South Africa. We'll have details on the devastating bus crash that killed all but one young passenger. That's next on CNN.

And a salvage operation gets underway after the Key Bridge collapse in Maryland. And the governor admits the state has a very long road ahead. We'll have more on that after the break. Please stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: In South Africa, an eight-year-old is the sole survivor after a bus fell off a cliff. She's said to be in serious condition and is receiving medical treatment. The accident happened Thursday on a mountain pass in Limpopo province. Crews are working to recover the bodies of the rest of those on board.

45 people were traveling to a conference to celebrate Easter. Officials say the bus driver lost control and collided with some barriers on the bridge. And that reportedly caused the bus to go over the edge, falling some 50 meters to the ground below where it caught fire.

Maryland's governor is admitting the state has a very long road ahead as a salvage operation gets underway after the collapse of the Key Bridge. Governor Wes Moore told reporters that recovery efforts for those still missing is the main focus as divers battle murky water conditions. Officials are also working to reopen the channel and restart traffic to and from the port before of course ultimately rebuilding the bridge.


WES MOORE, MARYLAND GOVERNOR: The Dali is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower. And the Dali has the Key Bridge on top of it. We're talking 3,000 to 4,000 tons of steel that's sitting on top of that ship. So we've got work to do.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. federal government says it's giving the state $60 million as a down payment for cleanup work and rebuilding. And the Army Corps of Engineers is bringing in the largest crane on the eastern seaboard to help clear debris.

Brian Todd has more from Maryland.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New video into CNN showing the final moments before the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on Tuesday, killing six people. This surveillance footage caught the last vehicles to dart across the bridge before the cargo ship rammed into one of its supports.

Officials are now focused on getting the port back in business. Longshoremen Union head Scott Cowan says the closure will hurt all of Baltimore and beyond. SCOTT COWAN, INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN'S ASSOCIATION: The warehouses, the trucking community and all the stuff around the city that is connected to the port. It's 100,000 jobs that are indirectly not connected to the port and 15,000 to 20,000 jobs directly connected to the Port of Baltimore.

TODD (voice-over): The port's commerce will remain at a standstill until hundreds of millions of tons of twisted steel and concrete are cleared from the Patapsco River.


TODD (voice-over): Damian Tucker has been loading shipping containers onto cargo ships at the Port of Baltimore for 20 years.

TUCKER: Many of us in Longshoremen live paycheck to paycheck like many other people in this economy. We have to work 60 and 70, 80 hours a week to make a decent living.

TODD (voice-over): Cowan says the work at the port is going to dry up soon.

COWAN: There's a little bit of cargo left that some of our people are working, some of the processors are still working. But that cargo and that processing will eventually dry up and they will be out of work as well.

TODD (voice-over): But it's not just in the port.

TODD: We're here on the Chesapeake Bay south of Baltimore, just across from Annapolis, Maryland, where, as you can see, there are several tankers, cargo ships and other vessels just anchored here waiting for guidance on where to go.

TODD (voice-over): The National Transportation Safety Board laid out a dramatic timeline.

MARCEL MUISE, MARINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR, NTSB: Audible alarms were recorded on the ship's audio -- bridge audio.

TODD (voice-over): Just two minutes elapsed between the ship's pilot making the mayday call until it crashed into the key bridge. And the 21 member crew has been on board since the collision.

COWAN: The ship needs to be maintained and they have to have people aboard that ship at all times.

TODD (voice-over): It was carrying roughly 4,700 cargo containers including 56 with hazardous material.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: 700 and 64 tons of hazardous materials, mostly corrosives, flammables and some miscellaneous hazardous materials, class nine hazardous materials, which would include lithium ion batteries.

TODD (voice-over): NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said some of those containers spilled into the water.

HOMENDY: We have seen sheen on the waterway.

TODD (voice-over): CNN has identified some of the six workers who were killed Tuesday. A fellow construction worker who was scheduled to work Tuesday night but had swapped shifts told CNN the men were likely taking a break from filling potholes on the bridge when it collapsed.


TODD (on-camera): While officials have said some hazardous material did spill into the water, both the EPA and the Coast Guard say there is no threat to drinking water and no airborne contaminants.

Brian Todd, CNN, Baltimore.

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: And joining me now is retired Royal Navy Commander Tom Sharpe and he joins us now from London. Thank you so much for being here with us. So, as someone who's commanded and handled ships and analyzed this accident, I mean, you've had a couple of days now to digest the news, to learn more about how this happened and why. What surprises you from what you've seen so far?

TOM SHARPE, RETIRED ROYAL NAVAL COMMANDER: Yes, I mean, first to acknowledge the terrible tragedy and loss of life. It's very easy in these instances to zoom in on what I call the precipitating causes, what happened on the ship, what happened next and how it hit the bridge. But -- but it's important, I think, to always just sort of sit back from that a little bit and look at the intermediate causes and the deep causes.

And if you look at the deep causes, that's the thing that surprises me here is the resilience of that bridge or the lack of it. Now, that would have been known about in the port area. At some point, someone's done a risk assessment on the vulnerability of that bridge.

They've looked at measures to ameliorate that lack of resilience and have decided to not do it for the reasons of cost. And I think when the investigation digs into the layers of this investigation -- of this terrible accident, I think they'll look very closely at the decision chain to not provide greater resilience in and around the bridge and or knowing that take tugs when ships pass under it.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. So two of those things, I mean, they could have been done. It costs money, but obviously, you know, I have experience in California, they reinforce those, you know, supports for the bridge. So if a ship were to hit it, it wouldn't have this catastrophic damage.

And the tugs specifically, I mean, they were around, they do exist. So why weren't they used, do you think, especially given, you know, the conditions, we're talking about night, for instance, why do you think that wasn't used?

SHARPE: Yes. So this is the middle layer of sort of causal factors. There'll be policies in Baltimore port, as there are in any major well run port that -- to mandate the use of tugs, there'll be conditions where it's optional and there'll be conditions where perhaps you don't need them.

Clearly, tugs got the ship off the wall, they did the little northwest leg before doing a 180 and then they're heading out to sea and at that point the policy said tugs not required and that's the kind of decision that will come under scrutiny. Well, firstly was that the policy and secondly was it right?


SHARPE: And clearly, after the event, we can now say it wasn't, but, you know, that's -- it was an hour between leaving the wall and hitting the bridge. So that's an hour you would be using a tug for. And if you multiply that across every movement, perhaps even around the world, you can see why the commercial pressures that shipping companies operate under, they don't do it.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. I want to widen this out a bit. I mean, you've had experience yourself navigating near and under bridges before, and as you said, things do go wrong. It is rare, but we might be surprised how often boats do strike bridges.

SHARPE: Yes, it's happened 35 times since 1965, 18 times in the U.S., some of which have been very well publicized, others haven't. So you can definitely see that there's a reluctance to learn lessons from this. If those other 35 lessons have been learned, then the Baltimore Bridge would have had dolphins or piles or an island built around the pillars.

So, again, this comes down to money, foresight and leadership, and all of these appear to have been missing in this instance.

BRUNHUBER: There's so much more shipping these days. Ships are getting bigger and bigger. So you've mentioned a couple of things there. What more needs to be done in order to make things safer? And, I mean, should the U.S. be engaging in a massive review of all of the bridges that they have?

SHARPE: Every single element of international shipping resilience needs to be reviewed on the back of this. I'm, I'm a bit cynical. I'm pretty sure it won't be. I think a lot of people will carry on with business as usual. For example, the Suez Canal, the Ever Given grounding there, a few reports came out, but fundamentally the conditions that led to the Ever Given running aground in the Suez Canal haven't changed.

So I'm slightly skeptical, but yes, I mean, this is our lifeblood, right? The maritime environment is the lifeblood of the planet. And the ability to move large quantities of materials around it is being challenged all over the world in various, in various -- for various reasons. And that all needs to be reviewed, but I'm afraid I'm slightly cynical. I'm not sure it will be.

BRUNHUBER: Well, let's hope it does indeed lead to change.

Tom Sharpe in London, thank you so much. Really appreciate your expertise.

SHARPE: Thank you.


BRUNHUBER: Well, three American presidents on stage together to raise funds for the battle against Donald Trump. We'll have details on the big fundraiser.

Plus, Trump camp tries to get the criminal case against him in Georgia thrown out. That story just ahead. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN Newsroom.

Three U.S. presidents took the stage to raise huge sums of money for the Biden campaign. The scene, Radio City Music Hall in New York. The star-studded Democratic fundraiser starred Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, taking part in what was billed as an armchair conversation with Joe Biden, and it ended with his predecessors doing their best impressions of him.

The three presidents took plenty of digs at Donald Trump throughout the evening without referring to him by name. At one point, Clinton wise cracked that Biden's predecessor had a few good years, quote, "because he stole them from Barack Obama." A list entertainers like Stephen Colbert, Lizzo, and Mindy Kaling rounded up the lineup.

Tickets ranged from a few hundred dollars to about half a million. It's believed the fundraiser brought in a staggering $25 million. And the Trump campaign is trying to top that figure with its own fundraiser early next month. Sources say they hope to rake in at least $33 million. Donald Trump was also in New York on Thursday attending the wake of a police officer killed this week.

During brief remarks, Trump called for a return to law and order. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The police are the greatest people we have. There's nothing and there's nobody like them and this should never happen. I just visited with a very beautiful wife that now doesn't have her husband. Stephanie was just incredible. Their child, brand new, beautiful baby, sitting there, innocent as can be. Doesn't know how his life has been changed.

But the Diller family will -- you'll never be the same. You can never be the same. And we have to stop it. We have to stop it. We have to get back to law and order. We have to do a lot of things differently because this is not working. This is happening too often.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER: Officer Jonathan Diller was killed during a traffic stop on Monday. New York's governor ordered flags on state buildings to be lowered to half-staff.

Georgia judge will decide whether to throw out the election subversion case against Donald Trump based on the First Amendment right to free speech. CNN's Sara Murray has details.



SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The criminal case against Donald Trump in Georgia --

TRUMP: This whole witch hunt should be put out of its misery and dismissed immediately.

MURRAY (voice-over): -- inching ahead today. Trump attorney Steve Sadow arguing the indictment against the former president should be tossed. Claiming Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, like his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger --

TRUMP: All I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes.

MURRAY (voice-over): -- were protected under the First Amendment.

STEVE SADOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Statements, comments, speech, expressive conduct that deals with campaigning or elections has always been found to be at the zenith of protected speech. Take out the political speech. No criminal charges.

MURRAY (voice-over): Prosecutors batting back at those arguments.

DONALD WAKEFORD, FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: What he is not allowed to do is employ his speech and his expression and his statements as part of a criminal conspiracy to violate Georgia's RICO statute. He's not being prosecuted for lying, he's been prosecuted for lying to the government.

MURRAY (voice-over): It's the first hearing after months of delving into the propriety of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' romantic relationship with fellow prosecutor Nathan Wade.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You're confused. You think I'm on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.

MURRAY (voice-over): Wade has since resigned from the case, while Willis was allowed to remain. But Trump's team is appealing that decision, as Judge Scott McAfee moves the case ahead.

SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: Some crimes can be achieved solely through speech though. Why is that not what's happening here, as alleged? MURRAY (voice-over): McAfee didn't rule on whether he'll allow the indictment to stand, but other defendants in the case have tried similar First Amendment arguments and failed. Willis, who did not appear in court today, still angling for Trump and his remaining 14 co-defendants to go to trial before the presidential election, perhaps as soon as August.

WILLIS: I don't feel like we've been slowed down at all. I do think that there are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.

MURRAY (voice-over): But today's hearing wrapped without any discussion of a potential trial date.

MCAFEE: And will be adjourned.


MURRAY (on-camera): Now, a federal judge presiding over the election interference case here in Washington D.C. has already heard a similar First Amendment argument from Donald Trump's team and rejected it. Now we wait to see if the Georgia judge comes down on the same side of that issue or perhaps surprises us with a different ruling.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

BRUNHUBER: China's lashing out at the U.S. and Britain for imposing sanctions over alleged Chinese government-backed cyberattacks. Beijing's accusing the Western allies of engaging in political manipulation. Our Will Ripley has details.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China in the crosshairs, the U.S. and Britain accusing Beijing of cyber espionage, hacking into the heart of Western democracy, targeting critical military and civilian infrastructure.

CHARLES LI, CHIEF ANALYST, TEAM T5: The Chinese government, they have intentionally developed their cyber capability for the past day decade, and we are tracking (ph) like hundreds of threat actor and some part of them, we can trace them back to a military unit belonging to PLA.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The Peoples Liberation Army, linked to ongoing Chinese cyber warfare, says the U.S. director of national intelligence.

AVRIL HAINES, U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: We expect the PLA will field more advanced platforms, deploy new technologies, and grow more competent in joint operations.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The latest accusations from the U.S. and the U.K., claiming elite Chinese hacking units are infiltrating America's power grids, stealing voter registration lists for tens of millions of British citizens, working on behalf of China's powerful security ministry, the accused hackers now facing sanctions in both countries.

Just months ago at their summit in San Francisco, Chinese leader Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden, China won't interfere in the November elections, two people familiar with the conversations tell CNN. But U.S. intelligence believes Beijing is improving its ability to spread disinformation and may try to use social media platforms like TikTok to sow doubts about U.S. leadership, undermine democracy and extend Beijing's influence.

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: Director Haines, you cannot rule out that the CCP could, again, just like they did here, use TikTok as a platform to influence 2024 elections, right?

HAINES: We cannot rule out that the CCP could use it, correct.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Beijing's malware may also be designed to wreak havoc on America's food, water, and power supplies. The New York Times reports citing U.S. intelligence, part of a plan to create chaos and distraction if the U.S. tries to defend Taiwan from a hostile Chinese takeover.

TSAI SUNG-TING, FOUNDER AND CEO, TEAM T5: I think the purpose of this kind of cyberattacks, especially targeting critical (ph) infrastructures, I mean, the goal is probably to cause some disruption.


RIPLEY (voice-over): The U.S. Justice Department also indicting individual hackers working for Beijing for what the attorney general calls a 14-year global campaign to target and intimidate critics of China's communist party.

Beijing's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, "This is purely political manipulation. We urge the United States and the United Kingdom to stop politicizing cyber security issues, stop slandering and smearing China.


RIPLEY (on-camera): Beijing has long accused the West and especially the U.S. of hypocrisy and digital deception, waging countless campaigns of cyber espionage against China. Experts say hackers on both sides are likely silently searching for online vulnerabilities with the potential to paralyze and disrupt daily life during times of geopolitical crisis.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

BRUNHUBER: The founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, who carried out one of the largest white collar crimes in history, has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. Sam Bankman-Fried, once known as a crypto whiz kid, was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy last year following the collapse of FTX.

He was convicted of stealing $8 billion of his customers' money. His sentence, far less than the 110 years allowed by sentencing guidelines, and also less than the 40 to 50 years prosecutors wanted. That didn't stop his lawyers from calling the sentence medieval, but the judge said Bankman-Fried never showed, quote, "a word of remorse for his terrible crimes and that there's a risk he could do something very bad in the future."

Up next, for king and country, Queen Camilla stands in on behalf of her husband in a traditional Easter time service. Well, that story and more after the break. Please stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: As King Charles received treatment for cancer in the U.K., his wife Queen Camilla stepped in to take part in the traditional Easter time Maundy Thursday service. She handed out specially minted coins to honor those who've helped the church and their local communities.

King Charles recorded an audio message for the event in which he hailed the power of friendship during times of need. It also marked his first public statement since his daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales, was diagnosed with cancer.

The King's statement was recorded last month, and while it didn't refer directly to the health of himself or Princess Catherine, he made a point to recognize the work of public health and welfare services in the U.K.

CNN's Nada Bashir has more on why his message feels so poignant right now.

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, typically, the king would be in attendance at this church service himself, but he is, of course, undergoing cancer treatments who has instead shared an audio message. Now, this message was recorded in mid-March, and while it did not directly address his cancer diagnosis nor that of the Princess of Wales, it did address the importance of acts of friendship in times of need and hunched on the king's gratitude for welfare services and organizations in the country.



KING CHARLES III: In this country, we are blessed by all the different services that exist for our welfare. But over and above these organizations and their selfless staff, we need and benefit greatly from those who extend the hand of friendship to us, especially in a time of need.


BASHIR: Now this was the King's first public address since Catherine, the Princess of Wales, shared her shock cancer diagnosis last week. At the time, the King said he was proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did, and confirmed that the two have remained in close contact over the last few weeks.

The King, of course, revealed his own diagnosis in January, and has since taken a step back from public facing royal duties as he undergoes cancer treatment. Thursday's church service marks another engagement in which Queen Camilla has appeared on behalf of the King, but he is expected to be at the Easter's church service on Sunday morning at St. George's Chapel in Windsor. There will be a smaller event, with the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children not attending.

Nada Bashir, CNN, London.

BRUNHUBER: Well, from British royalty to future sporting royalty, we meet the rising Japanese baseball star who's poised for global fame. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: ?Two major upsets to tell you about in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Fourth seed Alabama came back from a half time deficit to beat the top ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Senior Grant Nelson led the Crimson Tide with 24 points. They'll face number six Clemson who knocked off second seed Arizona.

Chase, Hunter led the Tigers with 18 points and seven rebounds. Now there was no upset magic for the San Diego State Aztecs. Top ranked UConn dominated from start to finish with an 82-52 victory.

Well, the 2024 Major League Baseball season is finally underway here in the U.S. And Shohei Ohtani didn't disappoint in his first game as a Dodger in Los Angeles. Fans greeted the Japanese superstar with a standing ovation in his first at bat. He finished the day with a walk, a single, and a double, as the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7 to 1.

Ohtani is the highest paid player in the major leagues with a 10-year $700 million contract.

And from an icon of baseball today to a rising star of tomorrow, teenage Japanese slugger Rintaro Sasaki is following in Ohtani's footsteps in a way that's very close to home. Ohtani's high school coach is Sasaki's dad. The team recently signed a letter of intent to play for Stanford.

Hanako Montgomery reports.


HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At just 18, Rintaro Sasaki is a baseball phenomenon, hitting a record 140 home runs in high school, far surpassing Japanese baseball legends Shohei Ohtani and Yusei Kikuchi. Both graduates of Sasaki's alma mater and icons he grew up with.

MONTGOMERY: Right now, I'm in Hanamaki Higashi, a high school known for its elite baseball team. It's been the birthing ground of some of the biggest Japanese baseball stars in recent years, including Shohei Ohtani, Yusei Kikuchi, and soon to be Rintaro Sasaki.

RINTARO SASAKI, BASEBALL PLAYER (through translator): I was a big kid in elementary school, so I used to wear hand-me-down from Yusuke (ph). Shohei san also gave me a lot of baseball equipment to use, which I really appreciate.


MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Sasaki is the projected number one pick in Japan's professional baseball draft, but this slugger is forgoing all of it to go to Stanford. A decision his father, who's coached Ohtani, Kikuchi, and now his son, advised him to make.

HIROSHI SASAKI, HEAD COACH & RINTARO'S FATHER (through translator): In Japan, people tend to focus more on shortcomings, but in the U.S., they develop individuality. I think this is a very good choice for him.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): This unassuming high school tucked away among Japan's snowy northern mountains, now boasts three baseball stars. So what's the secret? Coach Sasaki tells me it's not about the power in the arm, but in the mind.

H. SASAKI (through translator): I think the most important thing is to not blame others or to make excuses. Once I stopped doing that, my life changed. And the other thing is to set a firm goal.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): And, of course, practice, practice, and more practice. Still, Sasaki has a way to go before reaching the heights of Ohtani, his dad tells me.

H. SASAKI (through translator): I'd never seen such a level of athleticism before. From the moment they joined the team, I knew they'd be tremendous athletes once they got stronger.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Ohtani and Kikuchi, forever legends for this Japanese high school. And a source of motivation for Sasaki.

R. SASAKI (through translator): One day, I want to be playing on the same field as Ohtani and Sasaki. That's what's driving me.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Hanako Montgomery, CNN, Hanamaki City.


BRUNHUBER: And finally, a controversial statue of King Charles' father, the late Prince Philip, is set to come down. Cambridge Don, the faceless bronze statue, is 13 feet or nearly 4 meters tall. It was intended to commemorate Prince Philip's 35-year tenure as Chancellor of Cambridge University.

Now, have a look here, side by side comparison with what Prince Philip actually looks like, or looked like. The statue wasn't only branded as ugly, it also failed to receive planning permission, according to the local council.

All right, thanks so much for joining me. I'm Kim Brunhuber in Atlanta. CNN Newsroom continues with Anna Coren.