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CNN This Morning

Today: Lawyers to Try to Get Fulton County Case Thrown Out; Trump's Georgia Trial Could Be Televised; Joe Lieberman Dead at 82; Bodies of 2 Workers Recovered, 4 Still Missing. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 06:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Thursday, March 28. Right now on CNN THIS MORNING.


Donald Trump's election interference case back on track in Georgia. What the former president's lawyers plan to ask the judge today.

Plus what investigators have found so far on that data recorder of the ship that hit a Baltimore bridge.

And two former presidents getting behind the sitting president to try to defeat Donald Trump.

All right, 5 a.m. here in Washington. A live look at Atlanta where all those courtroom dramas can start unfolding again today.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

Court is back in session in Donald Trump's case in Georgia. D.A. Fani Willis is still spearheading the prosecution, the judge deciding not to disqualify her for her romantic relationship with the special counsel.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY D.A.: I'm not embarrassed by anything I've done. You know, I guess my greatest crime is I had a relationship with a man.

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.


HUNT: At Today's motion hearing, Trump's lawyers will object to the criminal solicitation counts that he is facing, claiming that they violate the former presidents First Amendment rights.

When this trial does eventually begin, you will be able to watch it. Judge Scott McAfee announcing he will allow the proceedings to be broadcast live on the court's YouTube channel.

Let's talk about all this with CNN national security and justice reporter Zachary Cohen; columnist Josh Rogin of "The Washington Post". CNN political commentator Karen Finney is with us; and Matt Gorman, who is former senior advisor for Tim Scott's presidential campaign.

Good morning to all of you. Thank you, guys, for being here.

Zach, let's walk through your latest reporting on what we're going to see here. And I got to tell you, I think the big-picture question for a lot of people is just whether or not we're going to see this trial start before the election.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That really is the biggest question, and Fani Willis doesn't even know the answer to that at this point.

And Judge McAfee has not set a trial date, and my reporting is that Fani Willis might re-up her request. She's already asked for a trial to start on August 5th. That obviously would put it before the 2024 election.

But McAfee has not answered her request. He has not said one way or the other whether or not he will schedule something, put it on the calendars if Fani Willis is pushing him and might push them again publicly to put something on the calendar.

HUNT: Yes. Matt Gorman, how do you see this playing out for the former president? Obviously, Fani Willis, you know, she says her -- her mistake was having this romantic relationship. She has defended herself very aggressively.

But on the other hand, there was an opening given to the Trump team; and they tried to take full advantage of it.

MATT GORMAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR FOR TIM SCOTT'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Absolutely. Look, you are prosecuting the former president of the United States. And you need to be holier than thou, or cleaner than possible.

And she's showed extraordinarily bad judgment through this entire process. And then she was she was caught on that.

And it has given an opening, because again, the audience here for Trump isn't necessarily the jury. It's, in a lot of ways, the American voter. And so helping to muddy the water and give a possible taint to this trial, which I think, if you asked a lot of Republicans eight months ago, this was one of the ones they were more worried about. Less so, say, the Alvin Bragg one starting up a little -- next month.

This, and maybe the documents case were always ones they didn't really feel that great about. Now, we go into it with a little bit a little more confidence and feeling a little stronger.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I would say two things. No. 1, I think what Fani Willis didn't understand, it's not just that she's going up against Trump. She's going up against the whole right- wing machine and having been up against that, that is mighty.

And they will go through your trash. Whatever there is to find, they will find it. I mean, everything that is knowable is knowable. And they will find it, and it will be front page news.

I hope she gets that now, that she has to be beyond reproach going forward because of the seriousness of this case, how important it is to the country.

That being said, I think if she can get the case started, you know, one of the things we're starting to see in polling is that people are interested to know, is he convicted? What's -- and what information is going to come out.

If they don't have that answer by the time we're at election day, I think the president, the former president thinks that's good for him. I don't think it necessarily is.


HUNT: Interesting.

Josh Rogin, the aspect of this potentially being televised. How does that cut?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, on my foreign policy beat, what I find is that people around the world are following this. Every step. Kind of out of amazement, some out of fear and loathing and concern for what would would happen to American foreign policy if Trump is re-elected.

So you have two sets of countries. You've got the allies, who are just mortified that they could be living in a world where the president of the United States is either convicted or facing a trial or in the business of looking out for his personal interests over the interests of the country.

And we saw this recently in the TikTok debate when it seemed that Trump flip-flopped on TikTok, because at the same exact time that he got some money from a donor because he needs to pay his legal bills. So that's one thing.

The other thing is that it really damages America's ability to project the values of sort of a good governance, democracy around the world. Because all of the dictators look at this spectacle, and they say, oh, look, democracy is messy. Our system is much better. We've got an authoritarian system. We don't -- we don't have to deal with all this stuff.

So I think, you know, basically, putting this on TV is just taking the sort of disaster that is American politics and broadcasting it to the world in real-time. It can't really be a good thing. I mean, it's good in terms of transparency, but in terms of America's reputation, it's really a tragedy.

HUNT: Yes. Exactly what, in terms of the fact this will be watched all over the world, right? If it actually -- especially if it starts before the election.

ROGIN: By friends and foes alike, for different reasons.

COHEN: I think it's clear Fani Willis has maybe learned that lesson coming into the last two months. She's very aware that this is something that's being tried in the public eye, as much as it is in the courtroom.

And you know, you're seeing her talk to reporters for -- maybe if it gives her advisors heartburn. She's out there in front of cameras. She's trying to shift that conversation back to Trump, back to the criminal charges against him, rather than her personal life. So you're seeing her do that.

HUNT: Yes. Yes.

GORMAN: And --

FINNEY: Go ahead.

GORMAN: Look, I think also I guess I have shades of O.J. Simpson and the trial, not necessarily in a particular way. We're going to have a lot of small moments and small characters suddenly become household names, suddenly become things we all talk about around this table and around a lot of other tables across the country.

And look, let's face it, if this thing happens before the election, it's hard to break through, if you're Joe Biden or you're really anyone else trying for oxygen. Good or bad, that's a huge challenge.

HUNT: Yes, and let's just be -- I do want to be clear, so we're not misunderstood. You are comparing those two.


HUNT: That particular instance, the Simpson instance, in so much as they were both or potentially are both televised --

GORMAN: Televised.

HUNT: -- proceedings. That's the only comparison we are making at this table.

GORMAN: Televised, only. Only comparison, exactly. Absolutely. Yes.

HUNT: Karen.

FINNEY: Look, two things. One, I think it will be important for people to be able to see it, because that way, when Trump comes out and says whatever he's going to say, well, we can say, Well, let's go to the tape and see what actually happened.

And I actually think with someone like Donald Trump, we need that.

That being said, Fani Willis, I think, has already made herself a character in this saga. She's got to bring it down and stay focused on doing the job of prosecuting this case. I wish you would stop doing interviews and really focus on just prosecute the case, just -- and be very serious in the courtroom. No flare, nothing fancy, just the facts, ma'am.

HUNT: Very interesting perspective.

Our panel is going to stick around. Zach, thank you very much for bringing us your reporting.

We've got six hours of data that were retrieved from the cargo ship that collided with Baltimore's Key Bridge. We're going to get a live report with the latest on the investigation ahead.

Plus, a fundraiser with firepower. Two former presidents getting behind President Biden.

And the pandemic still impacting our politics four years later. We'll dig into how.




JOE LIEBERMAN, FORMER U.S. VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is America a great country or what? Yes, it is. God bless America, land that we love.

There's an old saying that behind every successful man, there's a surprised mother-in-law.


HUNT: That was former Senator Joe Lieberman at the Democratic convention back in 2000. He was accepting the nomination to become Al Gore's running mate.

Liebermann passed away Wednesday at the age of 82, suffering from complications from a fall.

He had a distinguished career here in Washington. He was the first Jewish vice-presidential nominee of a major party. And he was something of a maverick. He paved his own path.

He was a Democrat with an independent streak. He had to break from his party in 2006 and wasn't afraid to break from the pack generally.

Tributes have been pouring in, including from his old running mate, Al Gore. Gore says Lieberman "was a truly gifted leader whose affable personality and strong will made them a force to be reckoned with. That's why it came as no surprise to any of us who knew him when he'd start singing his favorite song, Frank Sinatra's 'My Way.' Doing things Joe's way meant always putting his country and the values of equality and fairness first." Our panel is back with us. And Josh Rogin, you actually spent time with Liebermann in what turned out to be some of his final months. What was he like?

ROGIN: Well, that's right. Well, I knew Joe Lieberman for the better part of two decades as a reporter; traveled with him around the world. He was part of what they once called the Three Musketeers, with Senator McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham.

After Senator McCain passed away, Senator Kelly --

HUNT: The Three Amigos, too, right?

ROGIN: The Three Amigos, Three Musketeers, different versions.

And, you know, on the international stage, he was a towering figure who for decades stood for human rights and democracy and the forceful assertion of American values and interests abroad.


And I was with him at the Munich security conference, where at 82 years old, he was in the mix: in the meetings doing everything that the senators were doing and more. So just a month ago, he was being his full international self.

On a more domestic level, I remember him as being someone who constantly looked for the center and looked to make the center more powerful.

And, you know, we just talked about his time as President Gore's vice- presidential candidate. A lot of people don't remember that in 2000, he was very nearly John McCain's vice-presidential candidate. In fact, John McCain wanted to choose Joe Lieberman; was talked out of it and talked into choosing Sarah Palin.

And if you just think about that -- that moment in the history of politics --

HUNT: Wow, yes.

ROGIN: -- and the history of the Republican Party, sort of set the Republican Party on a specific trajectory that sort of ends where we are now with Trump.

And that was sort of the last moment where you could really envision a bipartisan ticket that might have had a chance of winning.

And Joe Lieberman was uniquely qualified for that, because he was so respected in both parties and had the gravitas and the wherewithal to handle that situation.

But not only was he, in that sense, rejected by the Republican Party, he was later rejected by his own party, which is why he went to independent and left the Senate and started No Labels. And all of this other stuff that we know about his later career. But in short, he will be remembered as one of the few senators who

made a huge difference with decades of service. And also for being a good human being.

HUNT: It is sort of a punctuation mark on a period of time in our political history that, as you point out, has honestly -- we have evolved very much away, if not completely broken, with the politics that Joe Lieberman represented.

The former President Barack Obama wrote a condolence statement. He opened it by saying, "Joe Lieberman and I didn't always see eye to eye," but he did say it was an extraordinary career in public service.

Obama has come in for some criticism for starting it out that way. It almost does kind of underscore that we are in this world right now that our, you know, condolence statements -- now they they didn't see eye to eye specifically on the Iraq War, which is of course, the defining feature of Barack Obama's presidency, candidacy back in 2008, if we remember back that far.

But Karen, even this sort of just demonstrates that we are past Lieberman's era.

FINNEY: Agreed. I think our politics have become more polarized. I think, frankly, the pandemic actually further polarized us, unfortunately, around you know, vaccinations and what have you.

But Joe Lieberman, I remember the Three Amigos? And it was kind of cute and kind of funny.

HUNT: Yes.

FINNEY: And at the same time, I think it was important for the country. It was important to see that kind of cooperation which has now become an attack line, not actually a positive feature.

And look, there's a lot of things I disagreed with Joe Lieberman on, but he was someone who, which I respected, did what he believed.

And when he spoke at the convention in 2008, the Republican convention, that was a big deal for Democrats. We were furious about it.

But there were others in the party who said, look, this is him doing what he does. And he and John McCain were very dear friends, and he believed in his candidacy. So --

HUNT: And Lindsey Graham did write a statement: "The bad news is that John McCain is giving him an earful about how he screwed things up. Rest in peace, my dear friend, from the last amigo." Lindsey Graham saying -- saying that.

All right. Our condolences, thoughts, prayers with the family of Joe Lieberman today.

Coming up next here, new details on the investigation into the deadly bridge collapse in Baltimore. Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton joins us to talk about bridge safety.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Authorities in Baltimore are moving from a recovery operation to a salvage operation after Tuesday's deadly Key Bridge collapse. The NTSB recovered six hours of voyage data from the container ship, but they say that the investigation and rebuild could take two years.

The bodies of two construction workers were recovered. Four others still missing. They are presumed dead. Bad weather and dangerous conditions underwater hampering the search efforts.

CNN's Gabe Cohen joins us live from Baltimore. Gabe, good morning to you. What is the latest on the investigation?


Federal investigators are now offering a little bit clearer of a timeline of those five minutes or so leading up to this catastrophe. And they figured it out, based on that voyage data you referenced.

They took that data recorder, essentially a black box, off of the ship. They analyzed it. And what it told them was that, in the minutes leading up to the collapse, there was some sort of power outage on the ship.

It describes audible alarms going off on the boat; that the pilot was asking the crew to steer right; was calling for a tugboat for assistance. But they had lost steering. They had lost propulsion.

And really in the end, they -- there was little they could do, which is why that mayday call went out and transit authorities attempted to stop traffic to the bridge. They were able to accomplish that.

But they weren't, unfortunately, able to reach that construction crew, the eight people who were on the bridge at the time, who of course, ended up in the water. Six of them now, presumed dead, Kasie. Two of those bodies found yesterday.

And look, as this investigation moves forward, we have heard from state police that said this recovery effort had to pause for the moment, because things are just too unstable. The debris, the pieces of steel in that water.


And so now at this point, the focus turns to getting all of that out of the river, Kasie.

HUNT: Yes, very, very difficult.

Gabe, the NTSB also says there were 56 containers of hazardous material that were being carried by the ship. Has that been contained?

COHEN: It really hasn't at this point. It is not a threat to the public, the Coast Guard says.

But take a listen. This is the NTSB's chair, explaining what exactly that material is.


JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIRMAN: He was able to identify 56 containers of hazardous materials. That's 764 tons of hazardous materials, mostly corrosives, flammables and some miscellaneous hazardous materials, Class 9 hazardous materials, which would include lithium-ion batteries.


COHEN: So that is just going to create another obstacle for these crews as they're trying to move forward in this recovery. It is not going to be easy. It's likely to take days, Kasie, as they're bringing in equipment to get it out.

HUNT: All right. Gabe Cohen, live for us in Baltimore. Gabe, thanks very much for your reporting.

Coming up next here, four years since COVID changed the world. How the memory of the pandemic could impact the 2024 election, ahead.

Plus, three presidents with one goal tonight: defeating Donald Trump.