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Biden Adds $26 Million to Massive War Chest Advantage Over Trump; Largest Crane on Eastern Seaboard Arrives at Wreckage Site; Wall Street Journal Reporter Gershkovich Detained in Russia for One Year. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 10:00   ET


CACHE MCCLAY, BEYONCE REPORTER, USA TODAY/GANNETT: That, you know, she's not bound to these constraints that people so badly want to put her in.


And she's shown that even within the collaborations and crossover artists in the album.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Cache McClay, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

There's a Beyonce reporter. She is a reporter just on Beyonce. There's a lot to say, a lot to say.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And CNN's continuing coverage of Beyonce's new album will continue.

This has been CNN News Central. Thank you so much for being here, Fred, all week with us.

Beyonce up next on CNN Newsroom.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Alisyn Camerota in New York.

We begin with a display of party unity in the 2024 race, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton stumping for President Biden at a star-studded campaign event in New York. That bolstered President Biden's already sizable war chest. He raked in more than $26 million for just that event and set a fundraising record.

This is the latest sign that former President Donald Trump is facing a formidable fundraising adversary. Trump has raised $20 million for the entire month of February.

But Biden's big night also highlighted one of his biggest challenges, winning over progressives who are angry with how he's handling the Israel-Hamas war. Multiple protesters interrupted the event as hundreds outside called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

CNN's M.J. Lee and Kristen Holmes are joining me now. So, M.J., let me start with you. How's the campaign responding to the president's big night?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, it's hard not to be thrilled when you're raising some $26 million from a single fundraiser. And keep in mind, the Biden campaign already had $71 million at the end of February, which was double what the Trump campaign had. So, they were able to grow that campaign offer really by a serious amount last night.

And the scene of the three presidents on stage together was rare. And I think it was especially striking because it was so clear that the overwhelming focus for these three presidents was the fourth president, who was not in the room, and that, of course, was Donald Trump.

By all accounts, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton spent the evening echoing many of the lines that we have heard so often from President Biden recently about the threat of a Donald Trump second term about his -- him being a threat to democracy, that he has dangerous policy ideas.

And, clearly, you know, that issue and that topic was serious. But there were moments where the presidents tried to inject a little bit of humor and sometimes some mockery. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We're at a real inflection point in history. Things are changing. This guy denies there's a global warming. This guy wants to get rid of not only Roe v. Wade, but -- which he brags about having done, he wants to get rid of the ability of anyone, anywhere in America, to ever choose. I mean, all the things he's doing are so old. Speaking of old, and, you know, a little old and out of shape anyway.


LEE: And both outside and inside of that hall was a pretty familiar scene for President Biden these days, protesters angry about the situation in Gaza. One attendee I spoke to afterwards said that all three presidents extensively talked about this issue, which is fascinating, because of course, all of them are very familiar with the issue and the conflict in the Middle East. And this is an issue that President Biden, of course, is really having to grapple with these days.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Kristen, also let's talk about the fundraising. So, Donald Trump is facing this campaign cash deficit. Are they worried? What's the campaign doing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, they've been worried. I mean, there is a huge financial edge that Biden has right now, and Donald Trump's team is very aware of that. That's why for the last several weeks, Donald Trump has been on the phone with donors. He has had them for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. He has had meetings with them at his golf club. He has been working this, trying to raise those campaign dollars. If you look at what we saw at the end of February here, the Biden campaign had $71 million in the bank. The Trump campaign, only $33.5 million.

Now, we are told there is a big fundraiser on April 6th with some of the biggest GOP donors, and they are expecting to raise more than $33 million. This will still not catch up to Joe Biden's huge war chest, but it will give them some ability to chip away at that number.

Now, the only caveat here is that we haven't seen what exactly these donations look like. It is still very early.


Obviously, we'll have to wait until the end of next month to see how these various fundraisers actually play into their financial situation.

But it is fair to say that when I'm talking to Trump's advisers and his aides, even just the campaign staffers, they do feel like this tactic is working. They say that they feel like they can finally breathe again. The campaign is starting to staff up. So, even though he is significantly behind Joe Biden, they are feeling better about the financial situation than they were several months ago.

CAMEROTA: Okay. M.J. Lee, Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for the update.

Let's discuss this with CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona and CNN Political Commentator and Republican Strategist Alice Stewart. Ladies, great to see you.

Okay. So, Maria, let me start with you. So, President Biden, Obama, Clinton, they all did address the protesters during the event last night. And President Obama said, quote, you can't just talk and not listen. That's what the other side does. Is that going to quell these protests? I mean, should they be taking a different tact?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you're going to continue to see these protests. But what the Biden administration and what President Obama was saying is that you actually look at this and the way that you approach it is by talking. And what he was trying to underscore is that it has been all three presidents on that stage, including obviously President Biden currently, they are pushing for a two-state solution. And those protesters know that that's exactly what is needed and that's what they want. And so that's the kind of conversation that President Obama was talking about that is needed in order to get to a solution.

But, look, the bottom line is, Alisyn, that this president and the presidents that were on that stage were focusing on where this country is going, where it has been, frankly, with the progress that has been made with all of those three Democratic presidents who, by the way, during their tenure, they saw huge economic expansions after they took over literally the Republican predecessor in each of these administrations, handed them an economy that was in the tank. And it took Democratic presidents to pull it out and to expand it. That's exactly what's going on now.

And so the message that they were sending to America is not just that Donald Trump would be an existential threat to our democracy and to our rights and freedoms, which is absolutely the case, but to continue an economic expansion. It's Democratic presidents and Democratic administrations that have proven time and again that that's what happens under their leadership.

CAMEROTA: Before we get to the campaign cash, which I do want to talk about, Alice, does President Trump have a more defined solution for the Middle East?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think what we've seen consistently with Republicans is, number one, first and foremost, our support for Israel. Israel has been our greatest ally in the region for years, and we continue to show support for Israel. And that's been steadfast.

And, look, there have been conversations on how best to handle this moving forward, but most importantly, we need to free the hostages. We still have a handful of Americans being held hostage there. We need to make sure that aid gets to those that are in the region. And we need to try and find a solution to try and bring this to a peaceful resolution. And we don't need to do so by just automatically saying a two-state solution without addressing the other issues.

And, look, I think it's important, you know, Biden, as well as, you know, the star-studded gala last night, they didn't just have a problem out there on the sidewalk with the progressive wing of the party. And they have other issues with the party in terms of Hispanics and African-Americans that are pulling away from the Democratic Party. They like to say things are united, but you have progressives, you have Hispanics, you have African-Americans that are really pulling back from Biden administration. They've got a lot of shoring up to do just to get the base of their party, let alone the independent voters that are going to decide the election in November.

CAMEROTA: And yet, I mean, there was this record-setting fundraising. It's just interesting that against whatever division there is, they've had this massive windfall in terms of fundraising.

But it's interesting, Maria, because Donald Trump gets so much free press, he gets so much media, maybe that doesn't matter to their campaign as much.

CARDONA: Well, I think what you're seeing in the massive fundraising for the Democrats, and I do think it matters for the Trump campaign, and you just saw Kristen talk about how the fact that they are absolutely worried, and they should be, but what you're seeing on the Democratic side is, you know, regardless of all of the polls, you see this massive grassroots support for President Biden and for Vice President Kamala Harris.

The vast majority of the people who are giving that massive amount of donations are grassroots supporters, 97 percent of whom are giving less than $200. You're also seeing overperformance from Democrats in all of these special elections.

There is an underlying understanding among the grassroots that there is incredible support for this ticket.


And the fact that this administration is the one that is going to protect our rights and freedoms, let's remember reproductive freedom was an issue that no one thought was going to be an issue in 2022 when everyone thought the red wave was going to hit. There was no red wave.

This is going to be another incredibly potent issue that Republicans, frankly, this is political and electoral kryptonite for them and they have not found a solution to that. That is going to be front and center in addition to rights and freedoms, the strengthening of our democracy, and as we're seeing in the economic numbers, those are getting better as well.

CAMEROTA: Alice, you can respond to that, but I do want you to respond to, do you think that the deficit in terms of fundraising and how much Biden has pulled in is going to be a problem for President Trump?

STEWART: It could be potentially long-term. But as you said, Alisyn, he gets -- Trump gets a lot of free-earned media just by being Trump, whether that is on social media or every time he goes into the courtroom, he makes a statement.

But, look, I would much rather be in the camp of Biden raising $26 million in one night, but the reality is those kind of numbers cash on hand, $71 million, for the Biden campaign, and $33.5 million for Trump, that's not ideal for the Trump campaign.

But, look, the Biden campaign needs every bit of that money to try and sell what they're trying to sell to the American people. They're trying to say that the economy is good, the border is secure and people are safe. But people don't feel that way.

And as much as my dear friend, Maria, likes to say that things are going good in the economy, people don't feel that. And the polls show time after time that people feel as though they are not better off now than they were when President Biden took office.

And the reality is much more important than what any kind of spin that the administration puts on. And Biden can go out there and say things are good, but people don't feel that, whereas Trump can go out there and say, under my administration, people did feel better about the economy, people did feel better about the border, and people did feel safer, and those numbers are ideal for him taking on the campaign trail.

CAMEROTA: And, I mean, I do have to go, but it is interesting how we define reality because is it how people feel or is it what the data actually says, and all of that is changing as we know by the day.

CARDONA: That's right. Consumer confidence is up today. CAMEROTA: And we're going to talk about that as well. Ladies, great to see you. Thank you, Alice and Maria, very much.

CARDONA: Thanks, Alisyn.

STEWART: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right. Coming up, the largest crane on the East Coast is now in Baltimore as the complex job of clearing the collapsed Key Bridge is only just beginning. The key priorities, next.



CAMEROTA: New this morning in Baltimore, the largest crane on the eastern seaboard has now arrived at the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge. Its mission is to try to remove the twisted, heavy debris, clear the channel and reopen the port of Baltimore.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is still on scene for us. Gabe, what's the latest?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, I just got off the phone with an official at the command center who told me, they are hoping that crane, the largest on the East Coast, is going to get to work later today to start clearing the debris here from the Patapsco River. And we understand that two more cranes are also on their way, according to the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg.

But, look, this is going to be a massive project that takes many days, and that is because the scale of what we're talking about. The Dali, this ship, is the size of the Eiffel Tower just turned on its side. Then, of course, there are those huge pieces of steel, the sections of the bridge, you can see part of them above the surface of water, but most are down below. And so engineers right now are trying to figure out how they're going to cut that into pieces and start clearing away the debris.

But bear in mind, it is going to have to be done in a very delicate and sensitive way because officials fear that the four missing construction workers are likely buried under that wreckage. And so once they have cleared all the debris, they're still hoping that divers can go in and recover those four remaining men, Alisyn. They're very focused on that, bringing closure to the families, but they do want to move forward with the salvage operation today. Again, the news being that that huge crane should be getting to work in the hours ahead.

In terms of the NTSB investigation, we still don't know what caused that power outage, that total blackout on the ship where the pilot lost steering, lost the ability to control the vessel just before colliding with the bridge. We may not know that, Alisyn, for quite some time.

CAMEROTA: Gabe Cohen, thanks for explaining all the complexities here. All right, joining me now is Abe Eshkenazi, he's the CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management.

Mr. Eshkenazi, tell us what all of this is doing to the country's supply chain.

ABE ESHKENAZI, CEO, ASSOCIATION FOR SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT: Oh, I think we've got to really take a look at overall the supply chain and in terms of the supply and inventory levels that we had compared to the pandemic and some of the other disruptions that we have.

This one is not as significant. This is a logistical issue. I don't want to downplay the impact that it has the Baltimore and the port. Obviously, you've got 15,000 workers at the port, 100,000-plus individuals and support systems that are connected to the port.

However, the other disruptions that we've experienced, unfortunately, have prepared us. We have higher inventories today. We have greater capabilities to respond to challenges. And this is a logistical challenge. This isn't similar to what we experienced in the pandemic with the demand shifts and the demands surges on a rational bind. The logistical issue should be able to be handled by the ports.

CAMEROTA: That's very good to hear how this differs from what everybody experienced during the pandemic. Is there a way to tell which products or goods will be most affected?

ESHKENAZI: When you take a look at what's the inventory at that port, obviously you've got finished goods, obviously the inventory of automobiles coming in, as well as a whole host of other products and services.

But when we take a look at the types of products that we have, predominantly finished goods coming into that port, we have higher inventories today. Unfortunately, we've had to work in a just-in-case environment. And that indicated higher inventories, greater visibility into our supply chains.

So, we're probably better off today to handle this type of disruption. I'm not minimizing the impact that it has, but, collectively, as a supply chain, we should find alternative ports, whether a New York, Virginia, Charleston. There are other opportunities for us to enable the logistical part of this to get back into the supply chains.

CAMEROTA: So, are you willing to say that this -- consumers won't feel this, really?

ESHKENAZI: It's hard to see how this will impact like the other disruptions that we have. While we may see some spot shortages, I don't think we're going to see the extent of the impact on inflation or prices that we've seen in the past with other disruptions.

CAMEROTA: Abe Eshkenazi, great to hear, thank you very much.

ESHKENAZI: Thank you, Alisyn. CAMEROTA: One entire year has passed and American journalist Evan Gershkovich is still in prison in Russia. Is he closer today to getting his freedom? We have an update, next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that he is innocent of what he is being accused of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son is -- I miss my son.




CAMEROTA: Today marks one year since Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia and accused by the Kremlin of spying. Gershkovich, his employer, and the U.S. government all forcefully deny that charge.

Here's how The Wall Street Journal marked today's anniversary, a blank front page with the headline, quote, his story should be here. It reads, quote, a year in Russian prison, a year of stolen stories, stolen joys, stolen memories, the crime, journalism.

On Tuesday, a Moscow court extended Gershkovich's pre-trial detention by three months.

CNN National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood joins me now. Kylie, what does the White House say this morning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden called today a painful anniversary. And as he doubled down on U.S. commitments to get Evan Gershkovich home to the United States, he also reflected on the last year and interactions that he has had with Evan's family.

I want to read to you a portion of the statement that he put out this morning, saying, shortly after his, of course, Evan's, wholly unjust and illegal detention, he drafted a letter to his family from prison, writing, I am not losing hope. I've told Evan's parents I will never give up hope either. We will continue working every day to secure his release.

We also have a statement out this morning from the top four congressional leaders. That's on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, all of them doubling down, saying that Russia must immediately release Evan and also Paul Whelan, another American who has been wrongfully detained in Russia now for more than five years.

And, Alisyn, when you talk to U.S. government officials, it's hard to know just how far along these efforts are to get these two Americans who are wrongfully detained back home. But one noteworthy note from earlier this week was the special hostage envoy, Roger Carstens, said in an interview with Christiane Amanpour that he views the next 90 days as a potential hopeful period of time.

And the reason for that is because Russia actually extended this pre- trial detention period for Evan, as you mentioned in the introduction there, and he believes that that might be an opening for the United States and Russia to come to some sort of agreement. Because when the trial starts, typically, Russia wants to actually move through the trial, which would make it much harder to come to any sort of agreement.

So, we'll be watching to see what the next 90 days look like. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Kylie, do we know how Evan has been spending this past year, what's been happening in prison?

ATWOOD: Yes. What we know is that he's been writing a lot of letters to his friends, to his family members. We heard from his parents in an interview with The Wall Street Journal saying that he's been doing a lot of working out. He's been doing a lot of reading books, studying Russian culture, which is something that he has always loved, and also meditating.

And one of the interesting things that his parents said is that they wait up to see every court appearance that Evan has, to look at those pictures. And his father said that he looks for the jovial laughter from Evan, because that is his nature. And his mother said that she's really looking at his attributes physically. She wants to see if he looks skinnier than he looked last time, if he looks stronger.

And she did note that it does look like he's working out, because he looks like he's doing well right now, but they are holding on to every image that they see of their son in Russian prison.

CAMEROTA: And it's very hard to know what's really happening through that window and that door in those pictures.

Kylie Atwood, thank you very much.

So, The Wall Street Journal is sharing that new interview, as Kylie said, with Evan's parents, in particular, about what this past year has been like for them.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you look at that photo.