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Biden Adds $26 Million To Massive War Chest Advantage Over Trump; Netanyahu Says, We Will Not Leave Any Hostage Behind; Largest Crane On Eastern Seaboard Arrives At Wreckage Site. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 11:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: It really is a masterful work the more you listen to it and, of course, it's only a few hours old. I'm sure we'll learn more about the significance of some of the collaborations, the track selection and the lyrics as we get more time to listen to it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You have sold it. I am downloading it on my ride home. Victor, great to see you.

BLACKWELL: Likewise. Good to see you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: You can watch more with the always well-dressed Victor Blackwell tomorrow morning and every Saturday morning on First of All starting at 8:00 A.M. Eastern right here on CNN.

And stay with us. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota in New York.

This morning, Donald Trump is falling further into a fundraising deficit, that's after President Biden raked in a record $26 million last night. The New York fundraiser was a display of Democratic Party unity with former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton stumping hand in hand with the incumbent.

But President 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, as you can see, the event as hundreds outside called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

CNN's M.J. Lee and Kristen Holmes join me now. M.J., let me start with you. What's the White House saying about the whole night?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, for one, they're busy touting the $26 million that was raised from this single fundraiser last night. Of course, this comes from the star power of having all three presidents, a number of celebrities and musical artists all in one room, not to mention very expensive tickets, some that went up to half a million dollars a pop. And the Biden campaign already had an impressive war chest. Remember, some $71 million at the end of the month of February, almost double what the Trump campaign had. So, they've been able to add significantly to that dollar figure.

And, you know, Alisyn, it's rare enough to see three presidents, one sitting and two former in this case, on stage at the same time together. But it was particularly notable because they were so focused on the other former president that wasn't in the room, and that, of course, is Donald Trump.

We heard Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both echoing some of these warnings that we have heard so much from President Biden recently in terms of what a second Donald Trump presidency would look like in terms of the threat to democracy, the dangerous policies that President Biden so often talks about.

I should note, network cameras were not allowed into this fundraiser, and the campaign has been releasing some clips this morning from the event. This is a little sound of President Biden talking about what is at stake as he heads into the November election.

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, 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: Now, as you mentioned, both inside and outside of this fundraiser, we saw angry protesters really just upset about the situation in Gaza and the president's handling of the Israel-Hamas war. And one attendee I spoke with who came out of this event last night said that she was struck by how all three presidents tried to respond in real-time to interruptions to this fundraiser by showing empathy and leading into how important it is to try to understand why some of these protesters have been so impassioned.

Just fascinating, of course, because both former presidents are very familiar with the situation in the Middle East. They had to deal with all of that when they were president as well. And this is now such a big issue for the current president, Joe Biden.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So, Kristen, as we mentioned, Donald Trump is facing this major campaign cash crunch. So, what is his campaign going to do about that?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, yesterday they essentially came out and said, you know, you raised $26 million. Well, we'll do better than that. We have a fundraiser coming up and we expect to raise $33 million.

Now, whether or not they actually have done that, what that actually looks like, we're going to have to wait and see what the financial disclosures look like at the end of next month.

But it is true that Donald Trump and his campaign have really been pounding the pavement, trying to build up their own war chest.


As M.J. said, Biden just has a very significant lead. What we saw at the end of February was Biden with $71 million in the bank, Trump only with $33.5 million.

And what we've also seen is Donald Trump, behind closed doors, courting these big high dollar donors. He's been having dinners at Mar-a-Lago, going to these various fundraisers, having people for lunch at his golf club.

And I'm talking to staff who say they believe it's starting to pay off. There was a big several month-stretch in which they felt like they couldn't breathe. They were talking about how the staff was just so lean, how they were doing multiple jobs.

Now, they are building out that campaign, staffing it out. So they think that there's been some success. But in particular, what the campaign is pointing to is this April 6th fundraiser in Palm Beach. It is held at the home of a hedge fund owner. And they expect, like they said, to raise over $33 million.

This would still not make them even with Joe Biden, but it would chip away at that big financial edge that we have seen.

The other part of this that's significant is that it shows us that Republicans and the wealthy donor class of Republicans is now really coalescing around Donald Trump, which they hadn't done before.

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

Turning now to the Israel-Hamas war and a promise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he told families of kidnapped soldiers that no Hamas hostage will be left behind.

As his military prepares to enter Rafah in Southern Gaza, more than 1 million people are sheltering there. And UNICEF warns that a military operation in Rafah could be, quote, the biggest catastrophe of this war.

The International Court of Justice is now calling on Israel to do more to get critical aid and supplies to the people of Gaza, as it warns that famine is settling in.

Meanwhile, sources tell CNN Analyst Barak Ravid that several family members of hostages told Netanyahu that the White House treats them better than the Israeli government does. And Barak Ravid joins us now.

Barak, that's very interesting. So, they confronted Netanyahu, it sounds like, about this. Why do they -- first, let me start with this. Why do they say that the U.S. government is treating them better than Netanyahu?

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, first, because those families are families of hostages who are dual U.S.- Israeli nationals, and they were in contact with the White House since October 7th, and they met with President Biden. They spoke with him on the phone. They met with several other senior U.S. officials, Secretary of State Blinken, CIA Director Burns, National Security Adviser Sullivan.

And what they told Bibi yesterday when they met him in Tel Aviv is that, listen, you know, we get a lot of support from the White House. We get a lot of updates from the White House. They're keeping us in the loop, and we're not getting the same treatment from our own government, from the Israeli government. And Netanyahu didn't really like to hear that.

And he went -- in response, he went on a rant about how, you know, the U.S., over history, told Israel, pressed Israel on many, many issues. And it's important for an Israeli prime minister to say no to the U.S. president.

It wasn't clear to those families how is this connected to the hostage deal, but I think it made -- it was very clear that Netanyahu didn't like to hear it.

CAMEROTA: You also report that these families say they're being attacked by Netanyahu supporters. What does that look like?

RAVID: Yes. Yes. Well, you know, it's both online and physically. There were several cases where doing demonstrations of the families, calling for the release of their family members and calling on the Israeli government to do more to bring them back home.

Several of those family members were attacked physically by people who either identified or suspected to be Netanyahu supporters. And I think more than that online and in the pro-Netanyahu media, there are constant attacks against the hostage families. And, you know, this is something that's been going on for quite some time.

CAMEROTA: And still, we learned that Israeli negotiators will soon restart these hostage talks. Is this time different?

RAVID: Well, it's unclear. I mean, earlier today, the Israeli prime minister's office put out a statement that the delegation of Israeli negotiators, the working level one, not the head of Mossad, as has been the case in previous times, will go to Cairo for talks with the Egyptians on seeing how we can get out of the current deadlock in the talks.

But many people I speak to think that this is more of a sort of a spin for domestic consumption because Netanyahu is under a lot of pressure to move forward in those talks.


Just as an example, yesterday in the security cabinet, most of the ministers from Netanyahu's own party, the Likud, told them that Israel needs to be more flexible in the negotiations in order to get a deal, something that Netanyahu didn't really expect to hear.

And I think this is what we saw today, his statement about the delegation going is more of a response to domestic pressure than something meaningful in the talks.

CAMEROTA: At that fundraiser that we've been talking about right before your segment last night, President Biden said that Arab nations are prepared to fully recognize Israel for the first time. So, what's your response to that?

RAVID: I think we might pretty soon get to the point where the Biden administration will come to Prime Minister Netanyahu and tell him, look, there's a deal on the table. This deal can get your normalization of Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries, but in return, you need to agree to move forward on a two-state solution. And Netanyahu will be in a decision point. And if he says yes, then this is one route. And if he says no, this is a completely different route. And I think we're getting very close to this decision point.

CAMEROTA: Barak Ravid, thank you very much for the insight.

RAVID: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Coming up, the largest crane on the East Coast has arrived in Baltimore, new details on the complicated cleanup efforts at the collapsed Key Bridge.

Plus, an incredible new discovery on Mars, a volcano bigger than Mount Everest. Why are we just now seeing this?

And, hold your horses, it's Cowboy Carter. Yes, Beyonce's highly anticipated country album is finally here, we'll play you some, here in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CAMEROTA: At this hour in Baltimore, a sign of progress. The largest crane on the eastern seaboard is now at the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge. This crane will help crews remove the wreckage, clear the channel and reopen the port.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is on the scene for us. So, Gabe, what's the latest at this hour?

Gabe, if you can hear us -- yes, I'm not sure that Gabe can hear us right now. Gabe?

Okay, we'll get back to him as soon as we can for an update on what's happening at the port.

But joining me now is Nick Sloane. He is a marine recovery expert and salvage master. He led the removal of the Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, in 2012. You'll remember that it ran aground and capsized off the coast of Tuscany, and 32 people died in that accident.

Captain Sloane and his crew of roughly 500 people managed to refloat that massive ship. The Concordia was then towed to a port and scrapped. So, Captain Sloane, thank you very much for jumping in and joining us.

So, what needs to happen in Baltimore to get that huge ship, the Dali, out of port?

NICK SLOANE, SALVAGE MASTER: Yes, good morning, Alisyn, and thank you for having me. Yes, obviously, this is a tragedy, one that people hoped would not happen, but obviously these ships are getting bigger and bigger, and when things go wrong, they go wrong spectacularly.

So, there's a large amount of debris that's on the bow of the ship at the moment, it's on the forward section, and that's where the hazardous cargo is stowed as well. So the salvers (ph) are going to be working on identifying exactly what sort of hazardous cargo has been damaged or breached. They'll have marine chemists and taking air samples and water samples on board and around the vessel. Then they've got to make sure that they've got the right sort of chemical resistant suits and breathing apparatus to actually respond in that environment.

Once that's safe, then they've got to cut away that damage on the bow section, and then get the ship re-floated and get her out of the way. The actual parallel operation will be to identify exactly what part of the bridge sections are lying in the channel, the orientation on the seabed, and, of course, with very poor visibility and cold water, and also you've got leaking hazardous cargo in that water, that makes it a lot more difficult and challenging for the divers as well.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And, of course, the four bodies of four of the victims are still there that they're also trying to get to.

Captain, if you don't mind sticking with us for one second, we have reestablished our connection to our reporter, Gabe Cohen, who's on the scene and has the latest for us there.

So, Gabe, what are you seeing?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Alisyn, from our vantage point, if you look over my shoulder, you can actually see that crane that they've brought in in the distance there. It is not operational yet. I spoke with an official at the command center a little while ago who told me they're hoping that it's going to begin its work later today, pulling debris from the water.

We know two more cranes are on their way as we speak, according to the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg. But, look, this is going to be a massive project. [11:20:00]

You may be looking at that crane in the distance, thinking, well, it doesn't look that big for being the largest crane vessel on the East Coast, and it speaks to the scale of this operation that that vessel is the size of the Eiffel Tower just on its side, plus the scale of that bridge, all of the steel and the concrete.

And so it is going to take a lot of work. And right now, engineers are still trying to figure out how they're going to cut the bridge, those sections, into smaller pieces so they can safely and effectively remove it to the water -- from the water, I should say.

And bear in mind, again, they need to do this in a very delicate and sensitive way because they still believe it's very possible that those four missing construction workers are buried down there somewhere under all of that rubble and they still want to send divers down once this operation is complete and recover those four men and offer that closure to their families. So, the more this moves forward, it does seem that this could take several days, if not weeks.

And it is critical, Alisyn, that they get it done because the port of Baltimore is still shut down today. Thousands of jobs at risk millions of dollars and lost salaries and business operations here in Baltimore. So, major effects happening to the local community is this operation really gets underway.

CAMEROTA: Okay, Gabe, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Let's go back now to Captain Nick Sloane.

So, what about that, Captain, just what Gabe was saying, that, you know, they believe that there are four bodies of the construction workers, the victims, still under there, and just how delicate an operation it is to try to make it through all of this, you know, dangerous tangled metal and debris?

SLOANE: Yes, exactly. So, the visibility is going to be critical. You've got quite strong currents, cold water, and then you've got the threat of this chemical release from the damaged hazardous cargo that was knocked over. I believe there were some 50 containers that were knocked off the bow, and most of those will be presumed to be leaking.

So, they've got to do what they call as a high definition survey, size scan survey, to get a picture of the underwater orientation of all the steel. Once they do that, then they'll put in ROVs, those are remote operated vehicles, like cameras, with baby robotic cameras, and then they can try and see if they can then confirm what the size scan survey and the drawings indicate, and they can then search in more detail.

But the visibility is going to be pretty poor, so those cameras will really battle to find the bodies. And there might be a parallel operation where you move one piece of steel and then do another survey, remove the next piece, and then do a further survey. And as was mentioned, this is going to be a slow operation. It's not something that's going to take hours, days, but certainly we're looking at a week or two before that channel is open.

CAMEROTA: Well, what about that? How long do you think, from your experience, it will take to remove that ship?

SLOANE: So, there will be several different agencies working in parallel. So, you'll have the salvers focusing on the ship itself, and you'll have other agencies working on the debris in the channel. But I would imagine that it's going to take three, four, five days to get the ship removed, because, obviously, they've got to see how safe it is to actually start cutting up that structure.

And then, obviously, there's only one large crane that's big enough to actually remove that. So, that will be the priority is to get the ship out the way. And I think that's going to take four, five days, maybe even a week.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Nick Sloane, we really appreciate your expertise. Thanks for being here.

SLOANE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Paranoid and on drugs, what police are now saying may have fueled that deadly rampage in Rockford, Illinois. That's next.



CAMEROTA: This morning, we're learning more details about a vicious stabbing rampage in Illinois that killed four people and injured several others. Rockford Police say the suspect claims he was under the influence of marijuana laced with some kind of narcotic.

22-year-old Christian Soto faces multiple charges, including first- degree murder.

CNN's Veronica Miracle joins us now from Chicago. Veronica, what have you learned?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Allison, we've learned that 22-year-old Christian Soto was covered in blood when investigators arrested him and even admitted to some of the crimes that he is accused of committing, including stabbing two people that he knew very well, Jacob and Ramona Schupbach. They're two of the four people that he is accused of killing.

Investigators say he stabbed those two people in their homes, then went outside, saw a mailman who was on his route, started attacking him, stabbing him, and then ran over him twice with a pickup truck.

The brutality does not end there. They're accusing Soto of then breaking into a home where three children were home alone. They say he beat them with a baseball bat, including one to death, 15-year-old Jenna Newcomb.

In a very emotional press conference yesterday, the mayor of the city of Rockford said that Jenna died a hero.


MAYOR TOM MCNAMARA, ROCKFORD, ILLINOIS: Jenna's mom wants the community to know that Jenna died saving her sister.