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Today: Biden Holds NYC Fundraiser With Obama And Clinton; Former Sen. Joe Lieberman Dies At 82; NTSB: Key Bridge Had No Structural Redundancy Built In. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a live look at New York City on this Thursday morning. Good morning. Thanks for being up with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

President Biden will be in New York today to attend a huge fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall. He's going to be joined by former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton as well as musical guests Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo, and Lea Michele. More than 5,000 supporters are expected to attend.

And the Biden campaign just announced they've already raised $25 million from the event, widening the fundraising lead that he has over former President Trump. President Biden ended February with $71 million available in cash, more than twice the $33.5 million the Trump team has.

Joining me to discuss all of this, Seung Min Kim. She is White House reporter for the Associated Press. And Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe. Good morning to you both.



HUNT: Thank you for being here.

So, quite a scene, right -- these three presidents. This is an exclusive club, right? In this case, of course, it's Democratic presidents but Trump also has never really been an accepted member of this club even when it has included George W. Bush, for example.

Jackie, what do you see kind of in all of these three men getting together to put this on tonight?

KUCINICH: I mean, this is a fundraising juggernaut is what this is. I mean -- and truly, I mean, I think that's one of the things -- one of the big things that both of these men can lend to the Biden campaign. Because let's be honest, surrogates can only do so much for a candidate. But when it comes to these surrogates -- some of the most famous, most prominent men in the country or the world -- that is really going to -- it's going to make a mark tonight.

HUNT: Yeah.

What do you make of Obama coming back onto the stage because he's sort of picked his spots pretty carefully?

KIM: Right. I think he knows that this is really the time to deploy the political power that he still has in his own party, whether it's his popularity among Democratic voters or his fundraising -- or his fundraising prowess --

HUNT: Um-hum.

KIM: -- that he still has as being Barack Obama.

And, you know, there's -- he's been -- he's been concerned in private, particularly about the threat of a second Trump term in office and that's why you see him going to these places. He has indicated privately that he would be more involved in the campaign as he -- as the campaign season goes along. There's always been a little bit of friction between the Biden camp and the Obama camp but it looks like they're setting that aside for now to really bring the Democratic Party together to be able to beat Trump this fall.

HUNT: You know, that friction, Jackie -- can we dig into that a little bit because it does seem like Biden, himself, is often comparing himself to former President Obama in a way?

KUCINICH: You know, Biden and former President Trump for that matter. But no, you're right. There is -- there is -- there is that friction but I think Seung Min is absolutely right that they're going to have to set them aside. But they don't want to -- I think there is a sensitivity that Obama is going to ride in and save Joe Biden.

When -- and -- but that said, I think the most important thing for them is that he does come out and that he does -- I mean, they've indicated that Obama really is going to be on the campaign trail -- getting out there, particularly, with younger voters who probably don't remember an Obama presidency because a lot of them have grown up in the era of former President Trump. So that dynamic I think is going to be at play as we go forward.

HUNT: Yeah.

So, Seung Min, the Trump of it all, right -- so there was an email that went out yesterday from Donald Trump clearly sort of focused on this. He says, quote, "Barack Obama wants to spit in your face and Bill Clinton wants to utterly humiliate you." That is very, very sharp language --

KIM: Right.

HUNT: -- and it does seem to speak to the theme that Donald Trump has really tried to stoke in terms of resentment around the Obama past, but also the establishment and elites, right?

What do you make of the language that the former president is using in this email?

KIM: I mean, president -- former President Trump has evoked Barack Obama so many times, surprisingly, on his -- on the campaign trail so far. Whether you think it's by mistake by calling what Biden has done in office -- attributing that to Obama or whether you think that's intentional -- kind of this, sort of, insinuation that Obama is somehow, like, pulling the strings on Biden's presidency, he is trying to evoke some sort of fear that exists when it comes to Barack Obama.


But I do think that Obama still remains very popular in the Democratic Party. There is a reason why at the end of the 2020 campaign the Biden campaign strategically deployed Barack Obama to a lot of these key swing states --

HUNT: Yeah.

KIM: -- like Georgia and pushed Democrats to the finish line there. And they see just that -- the broader coordination as a huge asset to the Democratic Party.

And again, that contrast between the unity of the Democratic presidents and the Republican presidents is so stark. You would never see Donald Trump doing a joint fundraiser with George W. Bush or other sort of big Republican figures. So I think that's the -- that's the -- that's the split screen that the party wants to present right now.

HUNT: Right.

Well -- and Jackie, there's also, of course, when you start talking about Obama, this sort of conspiracy theory on the right about Michelle Obama --


HUNT: -- to the point that she had to put out a statement saying I'm not running --


HUNT: -- for president, to be clear.

KUCINICH: Well, right. And again, that's what you're seeing former President Trump trying to foment that -- you know, Obama as like the scary guy behind the curtain who is going to take over and Michelle Obama is going to step in when Joe Biden goes away. It's not going to happen. Michelle Obama has said as much. And it just -- it is -- but it is just designed to sow that sort of rage on the right.

HUNT: Right. It just says a lot about where we are that they felt like they actually had to put out an on-the-record statement saying nope, this isn't happening. KUCINICH: Totally.

HUNT: Let's change gears. I want to talk a little bit about this Alabama special election. It was for a State House seat, so a relatively kind of small example but still significant. And the woman who won there, Marilyn Lands, spoke with one of my colleagues at CNN earlier this week. I want -- I want you to watch what she had to say there.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: But what do you think it was that allowed you to flip this seat in deep-red Alabama? Do you believe it was purely your focus on abortion, and IVF, and reproductive rights or was there something more?

MARILYN LANDS, (D) NEWLY-ELECTED ALABAMA HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I believe that was certainly a big part of it and I think we really saw the message resonating with the voters. I think it -- this victory really also signals that this state is ready for change.


HUNT: So, Seung Min, this doesn't change the balance of power in the overwhelming Republican Alabama legislature but it is something that Democrats are looking at and seeing -- saying hey, this is another data point -- another example of how our messaging, particularly on reproductive rights, potentially has a huge impact in the fall.

KIM: Right, and not just in swing states but we're talking about deep-red areas like Alabama, Kansas, and Ohio where this message has proven to be, over and over, effective. And I also do think it speaks to the broader issue -- or the broader fact that fear and anger is such a powerful motivating factor for voters.

The AP had a really fascinating poll this week looking at the Trump- Biden race, in particular, where it said seven out of 10 Democrats are really angry or fearful about a Trump presidency compared to four out of 10 Republicans who feel the same about a Biden presidency. And that's the kind of dynamic that the Biden campaign is hoping to capitalize on.

They know the popularity rankings of President Biden. They see the approval ratings. So they're just trying to say look at the other guy. Look at what the other guy is going to do -- not just on abortion but on a whole litany of other issues. And they hope that works for them in November.

KUCINICH: But, I mean, particularly on this IVF issue. I mean --

KIM: Right.

KUCINICH: -- remember, in the aftermath of this you have the National Republican Senatorial Committee --

KIM: Right. KUCINICH: -- telling their candidates to get out there and say we support IVF. IVF is great. They know -- Republicans know how toxic that particular issue will be for their candidates and the Democrats are going to grab and run with it.

HUNT: Yeah. And this, again, just another -- to underscore it.

Seung Min, I'm really interested because I was reading this story that your colleagues at the AP wrote about seven in 10 Democrats using the words angry or fearful. Whereas, only 56 percent of Republicans say the same thing about President Biden.

Is -- this strikes me that this is basically the Biden campaign's theory of the case.

KIM: Right, right.

HUNT: But that said, they're still having trouble pulling together their coalition of young people, in particular. The Gaza war has become a major issue.

How are they thinking about these two things -- convincing pieces of their base that they really need to show up who may be disillusioned when the reality is voters that do back him do feel this way about Trump?

KIM: Right. Well, I think, especially on the Gaza issue, when you talk to the activists who are angry about the administration's handling of the war they are saying -- even as the Biden campaign says well, look at the policies that President Trump would put into place when it comes to this. The fact that he's remained silent about and now said much about the matter is very telling, first of all. But a lot of these activists are channeling -- channeling their anger to the fact that Biden is the one in charge right now.


And I think the Biden campaign is hoping that when it comes to that binary choice in November -- because it is still March. It is still fairly early. When it comes to -- when it comes to the polls and when it comes to facing that binary choice, that voters will make that binary choice.

And a lot of people who supported the uncommitted efforts in Michigan and elsewhere said we won't oppose Biden in November; we just want to send a message now that there are -- is a smaller minority where they say we have abandoned him and we're not going to support him. But the Biden camp is certainly hoping that there's more in that former camp when it comes to people disillusioned over Gaza.

HUNT: Yeah.

Jackie, just briefly before we go, former Sen. Joe Lieberman -- former vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman passed away. He was kind of one of these characters of the older version of Washington that kind of seems to be on its way out. Tributes have poured in for him. I think you covered him at some points --


HUNT: -- in the Senate briefly.


HUNT: What do you think -- what are your reflections as -- I mean, quite honestly, it feels like his brand of politics is very out of favor in Washington right now, potentially to the detriment of the country.

KUCINICH: You know, in his later years and just recently, he had joined up with the no-labels folks. But I think that -- and when you look at Joe Lieberman's career he really was someone that did try to bridge the partisan divide not only because he was a political independent after -- what was that -- 2012 --

HUNT: Um-hum.

KUCINICH: -- or 2008 -- whatever year.

HUNT: Yeah. He endorsed John McCain in 2008.

KUCINICH: But -- yeah, he did. But when he -- when he -- I'm sorry, when he left the party --

HUNT: Right.

KUCINICH: -- on --

HUNT: Six.

KUCINICH: Six -- thank you. It's early. But, yes, he endorsed John McCain and was very close with John McCain and one version of Lindsey Graham.

And I think that reputation as a centrist and really trying to meet in the middle will -- is his legacy.

HUNT: Yeah.

All right, Jackie Kucinich, Seung Min Kim. Thank you guys both very much for being with me this morning. I appreciate it.

Coming up next here, Shohei Ohtani not letting a gambling scandal stop him from playing in today's home opener for the Dodgers.

Plus, new concerns about bridge safety in the wake of the Baltimore disaster.


[05:46:37] HUNT: This morning, there are lingering questions about the structural integrity of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The head of the National Transportation Safety Board saying this at last night's press conference.


JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: It's a fracture-critical bridge. If a member fails, that would likely cause a portion of or the entire bridge to collapse. The preferred method for building bridges today is that there is redundancy built in, whether that's transmitting loads to another member or some sort of structural redundancy. This bridge did not have redundancy.


HUNT: All right. Joining us now is structures engineer and spokesman for the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, Troy Morgan. Troy, good morning. Thanks for being here.


HUNT: So can you help us understand what she means by structural redundancy? Why was it not present in older bridges? And is it -- is it the standard now? Are new bridges being built that way?

MORGAN: Yeah. So, redundancy really refers to the ability of the bridge to transfer load to other elements if one of those elements happens to be damaged or destroyed. And a lack of redundancy doesn't mean a lack of safety. It just means that there may be a higher probability of collapse under certain conditions. But it doesn't necessarily imply a deficiency of the -- of the bridge itself.

HUNT: So, Troy -- I mean, when you look at these pictures and you see the size of this ship -- we're talking a ship the size and weight of a skyscraper, basically.


HUNT: I mean, is there any way to build a bridge that would survive an impact like that?

MORGAN: It's not really practical to design a bridge pier to absorb the impact of a vessel such as this traveling at, really, any speed. I mean, these things weigh -- you know, 1,000 feet in length and up to 200 million pounds of dead weight. So the idea is not to really design these bridge piers to absorb that kind of direct impact. It's just not -- it's not feasible and it's not economical. But usually, there are other protective measures that can be taken to kind of limit the exposure of the piers to the -- to the ship itself.

HUNT: Yeah. Can you talk me through kind of what those measures are? I do know there were some kind of pilings in the water that, in theory, were designed to take some of the impact or, like, bump the ship into a different course. They obviously didn't work. I mean, what other ways are there to protect bridges from this kind of thing?

MORGAN: I mean, really, the main ways you can do it without trying to strengthen the pier itself is, like you said, pilings or what are called dolphins, which are basically concrete elements out in the water that will deflect or absorb some of the impact of an oncoming vessel.

You could also build things like a berm or a hill -- small hill of rock and soil around the pier that will act to slow the ship down as it approaches.

And then a common approach is to make the span large enough to where the piers are located sufficiently outside the shipping channel so that they won't be exposed to oncoming vessels.

HUNT: Yeah, that's an interesting way to think about it.

I want to show our viewers this chart that has been circulating that shows how these ships have grown in size over the decades. I spent a bunch of time looking at this yesterday. It goes from the 1950s at the top to 2019 and onward there -- 24 bays. The ships have just exploded in size -- I mean, even since 2000 if you look at the letter C on your screen. That's kind of what these ships used to look like.


I mean, is there an argument to be made that the ships should be limited in size in some way? I mean, what are the regulations around this, or is that also totally impractical?

MORGAN: Well, I think we have to recognize the size of the ships that are being used in the industry. And then, with any bridge that's exposed to shipping traffic, it makes sense to do a risk analysis and to look at the structure itself, the foundations, the size of the ships, the speeds at which they may be traveling. And then perform an assessment of the likelihood of collapse given those -- the size of those ships and the frequency that they're traveling by the bridge. And then --

HUNT: Yeah.

MORGAN: -- that risk analysis can then inform engineers and owners as to whether or not some additional protection should be -- should be added through a retrofit or other rehabilitation.

HUNT: Yeah.

Looking at the Key Bridge, the Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigiegs -- Pete Buttigieg, excuse me, is suggesting it could take upwards of two years to replace the span -- to fully rebuild it.

Do you think that's a realistic timeline here? And what changes do you think -- how should the bridge look different when it's rebuilt?

MORGAN: Yeah, I think the timeline probably is measured in years just because there needs to be both the removal of the wreckage itself and then reopening the shipping lane, and then design and construction of the new bridge. So all that does take time and is kind of a carefully considered process.

In terms of the new bridge, I mentioned a longer span that might locate the piers further towards the -- towards the shore and away from the shipping lane. That's one option that might be considered. But whatever options that are considered, I don't think that the bridge itself will be designed to sustain a direct impact from one of these vessels.

HUNT: Fair enough.

Structures engineer Troy Morgan. Troy, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

MORGAN: Thank you.

HUNT: All right, time now for sports.

Opening day is going to be bittersweet in Baltimore as the Orioles plan to honor the victims of Tuesday's tragic bridge collapse.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, good morning, Kasie.

You know, the Orioles ballpark, Camden Yards, only about 10 miles away from the Francis Scott Key Bridge. And the team is going to hold a special moment of silence before today's home opener against the Angels to honor the victims and their families and to share in appreciation for the city's brave first responders who immediately stepped into action.

The first pitch there at Camden Yards -- that's live pictures that we're seeing right now -- is set for 3:05 Eastern today.

Now, 26 teams will take the field for opening day, including the Astros hosting the Yankees. The Cardinals taking on the Dodgers. Every team would have been in action today but the Mets-Brewers and Phillies-Braves games both postponed due to rain.

All right, James Harden, meanwhile -- he was playing in his first game back in Philly since being traded and he was booed heavily by those Philly fans every time he touched the ball. He finished with 16 points and 14 assists in this one.

And this was a really good game. The Sixers were up two with 20 seconds to go and Kawhi Leonard is going to get the bucket here plus the foul. He'd made the free throw to take a one-point lead. Then there'd be a jump ball with five seconds left. Philly is going to get it. Kelly Oubre Jr. -- then going for the win -- gets hit by Paul George and blocked by Kawhi. No call.

The Clippers would win 108-107.

Sixers coach Nick Nurse was not happy with the refs nor was Oubre. They had some words. After the game, the refs actually admitted Oubre was fouled on that last play. But nevertheless, Oubre apologized for confronting the officials.


KELLY OUBRE JR., FORWARD, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: I just asked for forgiveness. But I saw Coach Nurse getting riled up and if our coach is going to fight for us and he's going there, then I'm right behind him. So -- but at the end of the day, it wasn't cool so I'll take whatever penalties come with that and, you know, you have to move on. But I've got to be better in a sense.


SCHOLES: All right, Draymond Green, meanwhile, was ejected less than four minutes into the Warriors game against the Magic. He was arguing with one of the officials about a call and during a timeout he just kept chirping at him. And that got him ejected, which left Steph Curry kind of shaking his head.

This was Draymond's second first-quarter ejection this season. He's the only player with multiple first-quarter ejections in a season over the past 20 campaigns.

Golden State, though, would still pull out the win over the Magic 101- 93.

And that was important because the Rockets just keep on winning. Jalen Green with some huge buckets in overtime against the Thunder. First, he hits the step-back three right here. Then moments later, he would take on the entire Thunder team and gets the up-and-under layup to go. Green at 37 as the Rockets win 132-126 for their 10th straight win. They're a game behind the Warriors for that last West spot to play in the tournament.

All right, March Madness, meanwhile, back tonight with the men's Sweet 16. We've got a rematch of last year's national championship game between UConn and San Diego State. The Huskies trying to become the first team to back-to-back since Florida did it in the 2000s.

Coach Dan Hurley says his program is built for March.



DAN HURLEY, HEAD COACH, UCONN: We truly believe deep down in some place that this is what we're supposed to do this time of year. Plus, we did it last year. But then we didn't carry the complacency that other national championship teams carry with them because, since June, we've learned -- like, we haven't one anything. And that's -- I think that's the secret sauce.


SCHOLES: Yeah, tip-off set for 7:39 Eastern on our sister channels TBS and truTV. They've got four games on that schedule tonight and four more on deck tomorrow night.

All right. And finally, Iowa star Caitlin Clark -- you know, the biggest name in college basketball and the odds-on favorite to be the top pick in next month's WNBA draft -- but she's got options. Ice Cube confirming that his BIG3 has made an offer for Clark to play in his league. And TMZ reporting that offer is for $5 million for just 10 games.

So, Kasie, I -- you know, that would be a tough offer, in my opinion, to turn down. But the WNBA and BIG3 kind of going on at the same time during the summer. We'll certainly wait and see what Clark decides to do. But it would really be fun though if she could do both.

HUNT: Yeah, it would be. I certainly -- I certainly would watch that.

Andy Scholes, thank you very much --

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: -- for that. I really appreciate it.

All right. Ahead here, Donald Trump now targeting the judge's daughter in his New York City hush-money case. And Congressman Seth Moulton, of Massachusetts, is going to join us live next hour. We're back in just a moment.