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CNN This Morning

6 Presumed Dead, Recovery Phase Underway in Baltimore; Today: Disciplinary Ruling Against Former Trump Lawyer John Eastman; Wet Weather as Cold Front Creeps Over East Coast. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2024 - 06:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Wednesday, March 27. Right now on CNN THIS MORNING.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not just -- not just unprecedented from what we're seeing, from what we're looking at today. It's heartbreaking.


HUNT: A search-and-rescue operation becomes a recovery mission at the site of Baltimore's deadly bridge collapse.

The Supreme Court hears arguments in a case that could restrict access to the abortion pill. What will they decide?

And former RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel forced out of another job.

Six a.m. here in Washington. A live look at Capitol Hill on this Wednesday morning. Good morning, everyone, I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

Investigators are preparing to board the crippled container ship that took down Baltimore's Key Bridge. Here's what we know at this hour.

Divers looking for survivors pulled from the river, their work deemed to be too dangerous to continue because of all the sharp, twisted metal underneath the surface.

The search-and-rescue operation now a recovery mission. Six people are missing and presumed dead. Their bodies have not been recovered yet.


REAR ADMIRAL SHANNON GILREATH, U.S. COAST GUARD: Based on the length of time that we've gone in this search, the extensive search efforts that we've put into it, the water temperature, that at this point, we do not believe that we're going to find any of these individuals still alive. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to board the cargo ship Dali at some time today in an attempt to recover its recording devices.

We're also getting new details about the ship's safety record, including a deficiency that was recently reported with the vessel's propulsion and auxiliary machinery.

CNN's Gabe Cohen has been on the scene of this disaster since early yesterday morning.

Gabe, good morning to you. What is the latest on the investigation?


As you mentioned, those NTSB investigators are expected to board the Dali a little later this morning. And they're going to be looking. They're going to talk to the crew, and they're going to be looking for those recorders or any electronics that they can get their hands on that might tell them why this happened.

We understand, having spoken with the Pilots' Association that there was basically a total blackout on the ship just before it crashed into the column of that bridge. What caused that? We don't know.

The pilot tried to regain control of the vessel, drop anchor, but just couldn't do it in time.

And we also have learned that the same vessel was held at a port in Chile last year because of another propulsion issue. So look, investigators are going to be trying to piece all of this together, Kasie, and that may not happen quickly.

But today is the first step. But of course, as you mentioned, that search-and-rescue effort becomes a search-and-recovery effort this morning, something so many people were dreading as that frantic and tragic scene played out yesterday to search for those six missing construction workers, now presumed dead -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Our Gabe Cohen for us, who has been on the scene of this since the early hours of yesterday as this all unfolded. Gabe, thank you. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on the investigation is CNN transportation analyst Mary Schiavo. Mary, good morning to you. Thanks for being here.


HUNT: So you're the former inspector general at the Department of Transportation. You have confronted many a massive transportation crisis in your career.

Can you help us understand what happens next as this turns from a rescue mission to a recovery one?

SCHIAVO: Yes. What happens next is, of course, still they want to recover the remains of those lost. But the investigation gets engaged in full swing today.

The NTSB waited for the Coast Guard to search the waters for any survivors. And so they hadn't interviewed the people on the ship or actually hadn't boarded the ship yet to see what the conditions were there and get all the evidence that they can.

But today they will do that. And that's a very important step, because ordinarily, they're the first on the scene there. They're the ones who are responsible for grabbing all the information, getting the information.

And this one will, of course, be a little different than a lot of NTSB investigations that the public's used to seeing, because they have to work with the Ministry of Transport of Singapore, which is where the ship was flagged, meaning the nations under which laws that ship sailed.

So they have to work with that Ministry of Transport, which acts like the NTSB in investigations, to get the records, the safety records, the management information, to get all the documentation and information they can out of Singapore from the ship's headquarters and flagging operation.

HUNT: So Mary, we're all pretty familiar with black boxes in the -- you know, in the instance of an airplane incident or something like that. What kind of devices are present on a ship like this? And what could we learn from them?

SCHIAVO: Well, actually, they're very similar to the black boxes that are on airplanes, commercial transport planes, and on trains and large trucks in the United States. Over-the-road truckers now have recorders, too.

They record -- in the case of the ship recording, they will record engine and and other control positions; how various gauges, operations, mechanical controls. And to the extent they have -- and they do have some -- computerized controls on the ship, it will record many of those parameters.

But it will also capture vocal recording, audio recording from the ship's bridge. So what the -- the harbor pilots were saying, what others in the ship's bridge were doing at the time that should be picked up with the vocal recorder. Like a cockpit voice recorder.

HUNT: Yes, really interesting. OK. So Mary, "The Wall Street Journal" is also reporting that people familiar with the investigation are going to look into whether contaminated fuel could have played a role in the ship losing power and crashing. Is that a possibility? I mean, what do we know about that?

SCHIAVO: You know, in any transportation accident, the NTSB and other investigators always take fuel samples. And they will take samples of fuel to see if, you know, the fuel was contaminated, if there's any problem with the fuel.

In this case, since there was not a fire, the ship didn't sink, they will have access to the -- the fuel system and be able to test that. And that's pretty routine in a kind of an accident where fuel, engine, power, control is concerned.

So they will be able to take fuel samples and see fairly quickly if there was any contamination.

HUNT: All right. And we should note that, of course, the NTSB investigation is ongoing. And they're likely to board the ship today to start trying to sort through some of these facts.

Mary Schiavo, up for us. Mary, thanks very much for your time this morning. I really appreciate it.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Up next here, Donald Trump's former lawyer facing possible disbarment.

Plus Sean "Diddy" Combs claiming he's the victim of a witch-hunt.

And another legal setback for TikTok.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Later on today, John Eastman, the former Trump lawyer who tried to help the former president overturn the 2020 election facing possible disbarment.

Eastman is best known as the architect of the plan to halt Congress's certification of Joe Biden's victory. He is one of more than a dozen Trump allies to be charged in the Georgia election interference case. He has pleaded not guilty.

Let's bring in CNN senior crime and justice reporter, Katelyn Polantz. Our panel's also here: David Frum, staff writer at "The Atlantic"; and CNN political commentators Jonah Goldberg and Ashley Allison are both with us.

Good morning to all of you. Katelyn, you've done some great reporting on this. There has already been a long trial about Eastman's conduct as a lawyer for Trump. What has the judge found in this case, and what's next for him?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's -- it's not just a judge. Lawyers really love process, and --

HUNT: You don't say.

POLANTZ: We are three years past the events of January 6.

What is happening now is there are layers and layers of process that begin with trials. So John Eastman had a trial previously. And there was a decision that came out of that trial that there was a finding that he had, potentially, some moral issues that would potentially mean now the decision could be that he will lose his license. That's what's at stake.

So we're waiting to see what a judge in California that oversees the bar there, the attorneys that are allowed to practice in that state and elsewhere. That decision is expected today on John Eastman.

There still has to be a little bit more process after that, but the findings that we're waiting for after this trial, where John Eastman testified in his own defense about his actions for Donald Trump, that is what's -- we're seeing the result of that today.

And there are not -- it's not just John Eastman who's going through proceedings like this. Jeffrey Clark is currently in his own attorney discipline trial that started yesterday in Washington, D.C.

Rudy Giuliani has already been through one, and the initial findings were that he should be disbarred. It still has to go through additional layers, and courts would have to certify that.


But the community of attorneys that is looking at what attorneys did after the 2020 election for Donald Trump, they're coming down quite harshly for the lawyers that were putting false claims in the court system and trying to use things to their advantage, to Donald Trump's advantage in a way that would be dishonest.

I mean, David Frum, doesn't seem entirely inappropriate.

DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": We haven't seen a top-down conspiracy against the constitutional order since the 1860s in the United States. And so a lot of this obviously, it feels new because it's so old.

And a lot of people are baffled. And I think whenever you see someone who's lost, there's a natural human dependency to have sympathy for them. When they're powerful, you feared them, but when they're they're weak and defeated, you don't.

But we need to keep in mind always, we're talking about a top-down conspiracy against the constitutional order, led by the president, that entered in violence. This is a very serious matter, and if it's not punished, it will repeat.

HUNT: Jonah Goldberg, this is what Eastman had to say when he was asked whether or not he regrets having worked with Trump. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret attaching your name to the former president?

JOHN EASTMAN, FORMER TRUMP PRESIDENT: None whatsoever. The president calls and ask for representation. I think every citizen in my position should be willing to stand up --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a plane to catch.

EASTMAN: -- with representation.


HUNT: So he says he has no regrets. Should he have regrets?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, he's -- he's in a place where the only people still sending him money, giving him support are people who still love the president. So as a sort of survival mechanism, he's got to stay with the -- he's got to dance with the people who brought them at this point.

HUNT: Got you.

GOLDBERG: And then he's associated with institutions that are also still very Trumpy.

I do think that one of the takeaways from this is that, for as much as we all like to beat up on lawyers, and as much as we'd like to complain about courts the judicial branch, and the legal establishment generally, are healthier institution -- are among the last healthy institutions that are willing to police their own, in a way, and hold people accountable and uphold truth, than almost any other branch. It's certainly not journalism.

I mean, the people who lied on January 20 -- January 6, 2021, in the journalism business, they've paid no consequences. But, you know, if you were a lawyer, you have paid consequences. If you were a politician, you haven't paid a lot of consequences.

But somehow, the legal profession actually takes its own integrity a little more seriously.

HUNT: Katelyn.

POLANTZ: Yes, that's one of the things that the legal profession loves to say is they shouldn't be regulated elsewhere, because they're so good at regulating themselves.

And it really is astonishing to see that there are criminal charges coming out against all of these people. John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, Rudy Giuliani. Those people are all charged in Georgia.

But in this circumstance, the trials are happening first, and these aren't like blip trials. They are -- they are substantial trials where witnesses are called. The same type of people who may be called to testify against Donald Trump.

Yesterday on the stand in the Jeffrey Clark attorney discipline proceeding, we heard from Richard Donoghue, testifying under oath, the former deputy attorney general, who was one of the voices pushing back against Clarke and Trump most strongly.

Patrick Philbin also was testifying yesterday. And so this is a precursor to the criminal trials that we are very likely to see.

HUNT: And of course, Ashley, we're heading into an election season where Trump has sort of already previewed him. He's -- he's saying to his supporters, this needs to be too big to rig. My victory needs to be too big to rig.

Like, we're -- we're heading for another round of legal challenges if Trump loses here. Are there going to be any lawyers left for him?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look I think one of the things about the legal profession is that everyone deserves representation. And so, including Donald Trump, no matter how much you despise.

But for a lawyer, I don't know if there's going to be enough lawyers, any lawyers left for Donald Trump.

But when you were in law school, one of the first, like, standard tests you take is about a code of ethics. Because they want you to understand that there are certain rules as a lawyer that, when you practice, that you have to follow.

And I think that is one reason why the legal profession actually is still able to have some form of accountability.

HUNT: Yes.

ALLISON: And it's clearly, I mean, you don't have to regret representing Donald Trump, but you do need to follow the rules of the law. And that's the only way to ensure, to David's point, that the Constitution stays in places there has to be some checks and balances for all these institutions. And this is what we're seeing play out today.

HUNT: I'm sort of wondering, do -- are these people ever going to be considered to be, quote, unquote, "hostages," as the people who were held accountable for January 6th are, according to the former president, Donald Trump? It's where we are.

Katelyn Polantz, thank you. I always appreciate having you.

Coming up next here, over 1,000 specialists set to begin the process of clearing the Baltimore channel.

Plus, why Hunter Biden's lawyers have to be in court today.



POLANTZ: All right. Coming up on 24 minutes past the hour. Five things you have to see this morning.

New images from the Army Corps of Engineer [SIC] from the surface of the Patapsco river. They are deploying more than 1,100 specialists to help clear the Baltimore channel after Tuesday's Key Bridge collapse.

The I-35W bridge in Minneapolis was lit up in red, white, yellow, and black -- those are Maryland colors -- last night. They're on the state flag. The Minnesota bridge collapsed while it was under construction in 2007. Solidarity there.

Two major cocaine busts for Colombian officials. They seized five tons of the drug after a high-speed boat chase. And then another 1.7 tons of coke were found hidden in crates of avocados.


Hmm. Hope those aren't on the shelves of my grocery store.

And then there's this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the pain extends, turned back by Davis. And the Lakers shut the door again.


HUNT: The Lakers with an impressive comeback and double overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Big plays for Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves secured the 128 to 124 win.

And Iceland's most recent volcanic eruption with a backdrop of the Northern lights. How's that for a picture? The ethereal colors taking over the skies because of a geomagnetic storm.

All right. Time now for your weather on this Wednesday morning. Rain, colder air moving across the East Coast, just as recover -- recovery efforts begin this morning for the six victims in the Baltimore Key Bridge tragedy.

Our meteorologist, Derek van Dam, joins us with more about this. Derek, what are they looking at this morning?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning. We were talking about this yesterday about this time, just what the conditions are for the recovery efforts and that there was an approaching cold front.

And it has arrived, and now were seeing the increase in shower activity around the nation's capital, right through Baltimore, as well.

So temperatures right now, 44 degrees. We anticipate the range really settle in right around the 9 to 10 a.m. hour. So just after rush hour.

But here's the Chesapeake Bay. Of course, the Key Bridge located right there along the Patapsco River. We still have our coastal flood advisory in place across this region.

Temperatures today will top out around the lower 50s.

This is all part of a larger storm system bringing wet weather to much of the East Coast today and particularly into the day tomorrow, if you're located near New York and Boston.

Focusing on today, though, the heaviest rainfall will be located across Eastern sections of North Carolina, clear and cool for the rest of us.

The good news: I'm going to end up on a good note here. We are warming up nicely for all the spring breakers heading out. Look at that: above-average temperatures settling in right where we want it, near the Sunshine State.

HUNT: Love to see it. Happy spring.

VAN DAM: All right.

HUNT: Our Weatherman van Dam. Derek, thank you. I really appreciate it.

Just ahead here, access to a widely used abortion drug now in the hands of the Supreme Court.