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Biden's Three Presidents Fundraiser Brings in $25M for Campaign; Soon: Underwater Search to Resume in Baltimore; Major Storm in West, Fire Danger in Parts of New Mexico, Texas. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 06:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday, March 29. Right now on CNN THIS MORNING.


Battle for the Benjamins. President Biden raising a boatload of cash, with Donald Trump hoping to catch up next week.

In Baltimore, the salvage operation begins. How officials plan to clear tons of twisted steel and debris from the Patapsco River.

Plus "Wall Street Journal" reporter, we are marking one year for Evan Gershkovich behind bars in Russia.

All right, 6 a.m. here in Washington, here's a live look at New York City, where Joe Biden and two other former presidents were last night.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us. I'm going to get to our top political story in just a second.

But I actually want to start with this. This is "The Wall Street Journal" this morning. As you can see, they have left an enormous portion of their front page blank for the journalist Evan Gershkovich, who as of today, has been in Russian prison, has been detained by the Russians for 365 days.

It's also an occasion to remember Paul Whelan, who has been detained by the Russians, as well. For, in Gershkovich's case, from what we can tell, the only crime he has committed is committing real, actual journalism in Russia.

So we are going to talk about him throughout the show this morning. But, as someone who has committed myself to this career and believes deeply in the importance of a free press, not just here, but around the world, I wanted to make sure that we did that right here at the beginning as we start our Friday and head into this weekend.

All right. Let's get now to our political story of the day, which is a tale of two campaigns.

Yesterday in New York, President Biden, and President Obama, and President Clinton, all onstage at the iconic Radio City Music Hall, raking in $25 million from people who'd paid up to half 1 million to sit in the audience, listen to jokes from late-night host Stephen Cobert, watch Lizzo perform.


LIZZO, SINGER: We've got three presidents in the building tonight. That sounds like a party to me!


HUNT: The most generous donors even had a chance to pose with the three presidents and get that photo snapped by famed celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Still, the president was repeatedly interrupted by protesters inside the hall, as protesters clashed with police outside.




HUNT: They were, of course, demanding that the Biden administration stop funding Israel in its war with Hamas.

Meanwhile, though, a few miles, but still a world away on Long Island, Donald Trump was attending the wake for slain NYPD officer Jonathan Diller, and he spoke to reporters after the event.



We have to stop it. We have to stop it. We have to get back to law and order. We have to do a lot of things differently, because this is not working. This is happening too often.


HUNT: Trump is hoping to hold his own glitzy fundraiser at his private club in Mar-a-Lago next week, with the goal of raising $33 which would be an all-time record and be ahead of that 25 million Democrats brought in last night.

Our political panel is here: Democratic Congressman Don Beyer of Virginia is with us; CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston; Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton; and Democratic strategist, Meghan Hays, all at the table this morning.

Preston, I actually want to start with you.


The -- well, let me just show you how the Trump campaign and also FOX News is picking up on this, in terms of the nature of the events that we saw play out in New York, and the difference between them. This is Greg Gutfeld last night.


GREG GUTFELD, CO-HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S "THE FIVE": I look at the fundraiser, and it reminds me of Live Aid. Except, instead of trying to save a starving nation, they're trying to save a starving presidency.

I don't think you've ever seen a more perfect example of the sparkling, obscenely aloof elites in your life.


HUNT: Is he right?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: When it comes to the split-screen moment, he is right in the sense that it doesn't necessarily look good.

But the reality is, is what they're not telling you is that Joe Biden has been to these funerals in the past. In fact, back in 2014, he had gone to an officer, slain -- who was gunned down just sitting inside his patrol car.

The fact of the matter is, this fund -- fundraiser was put on. Yes, people in middle America look at New York, and they look at L.A. And they say, Look at the glitz. Look at these limousine liberals telling us what to do.

But that's the reality is. And at the same time that the Trump campaign comes out and says, Look, he's going to raise $25 million, three hours later, they come out and said, We're going to raise $33 million.

So you can't have it both ways. But in this political world, unfortunately, you can.

HUNT: Yes. Well, I mean, I think it is -- it is important, Congressman, to underscore, I mean, the fundraiser that the former president plans to hold is going to be at a glitzy private club that he owns. He is clearly in the same -- I mean, the way he lives his life is way different than many of the Americans.

Now that said, many -- most Americans. That said, for some reason, voters do seem to give Donald Trump some credit for being -- they identify with him somehow as he stokes what -- I mean, it's essentially a culture war that they're stoking here, right?

REP. DON BEYER (D-VA): Very much so.

HUNT: Is working? I mean --

BEYER: So much of the politics of the last ten years has just been about culture war stuff. You know, we identify based on where we live and what kind of cars we buy. E.V. or not and things like that.

HUNT: We were just about it before we came on the air.

BEYER: Rather than on the politics itself.

It's interesting right now that, for example, there are -- there are no gun safety Republicans in the House. And every Democrat is pro-gun safety. They differentiate on Second Amendment.

Same with abortion. Absolutely black and white on either side of the political divide.

But my thought on the $25 million last night is that's going to go to what -- where Joe Biden already has an advantage, in actually doing the grassroots. Building out door-knocking teams and getting field offices everywhere and campaigning everywhere.

Whereas Donald Trump is, you know, giving himself golf awards at Mar- a-Lago and appearing in court.

HUNT: And spending the money on legal fees.

Shermichael, as the Republican at the table, I mean, what do you see here when you watch the pictures from -- and we can put up on the screen kind of the faces of the -- the stars that were there. Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Mindy Kaling, Ben Platt, Lea Michele. Stephen Colbert moderated the event. You know, this -- when you hear Republicans talk about it, they'll say, well, these are these elite people. They're out for themselves. They're not out for you. Is that true or not?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, I think, generally speaking, Democrats have always performed well culturally. They've always had the best celebrities, the best actors and actresses.

And I have to be honest, on the Republican side, I've worked in a lot of campaigns. And sometimes, I've had candidates say, well, why can't we get some of those folks at my dollar events?

Because there is a recognition that there is a connection to people, because they look up to some of these individuals.

With that said, however, when you think about the fact of the slain officer, as someone with alleles (ph) in my own family, Americans want to make sure that police officers are protected when they're on the job. It's a very, very dangerous job.

And I think it's an interesting dichotomy here. They have the former president going to the funeral of that slain officer, telling law enforcement officers, I stand with you. We want to make sure that -- not only that you're paid well, that you're protected on the job.

And you showcase the current president hanging out with the stars, having a good time. It's a glitzy moment. It is a very obvious difference. HUNT: Meghan, let's talk about the event itself, because it is pretty

remarkable to see these three former presidents on stage: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden.

They were, though, repeatedly interrupted by protesters. I actually thought the responses were interesting. We don't have video of this, because it was limited. The video was -- the campaign limited press video.

But both Biden and Obama responded to them and basically saying that they should be allowed to have a moment. President Biden said, That's all right. He told them -- told people that were escorting them out, let them go. There's people -- there's too many innocent victims.

And then Obama responded and he said, No, no, listen. You can't just talk and not listen. That's what the other side does. It's possible for us to understand that it is possible to have moral clarity and deeply held beliefs, but still recognize the world's complicated and it's hard to solve these problems.

What do you make of how these two men handled this last night?


MEGHAN HAYS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I think, you know, President Biden has done extremely well handling protesters. He's protested quite frequently on this issue. It's something that's going to plague the campaign, I think, moving forward.

But I do think that the president is trying to do everything he can. He understands that there's a real humanitarian crisis, but he also understand where -- that Israel's -- you know, their need to act in the way. And obviously he's had some complicated conversations with Netanyahu on that.

But I do think it's unfortunate this is going to continue to happen, but I think that this is the way that they are to handle it. And with dignity and respect. I mean, that's the way the president moves forward, and that's obviously the way former President Obama does, too.

HUNT: All right. Our panel is going to come back.

Congressman, thank you very much for spending some time with us this morning. I really appreciate it.

Coming up next here, an underwater discovery at the site of the Baltimore bridge collapse.

Plus --



(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: Beyonce's country album dropped overnight. All we can say is "yee-haw."


HUNT: Welcome back. Search operations resume following Tuesday's collapse of the Key Bridge. As the people of Baltimore recover from this tragedy, my beloved Orioles paid tribute to those lost before opening day at Camden Yards.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we sing our national anthem, written by Baltimorean Francis Scott Key, let us join together in a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in the tragedy at the Francis Scott Key Bridge early Tuesday morning.


Thank you.


HUNT: All right. Joining me is Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. Mr. Executive, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate it.

JOHNNY OLSZEWSKI, BALTIMORE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Yes. Good morning, Kasie. What a moving moment yesterday in Baltimore.

HUNT: Yes absolutely. Remarkable. And my dad actually grew up in Harford County, which is where my -- my Orioles fandom comes from originally. Really remarkable to see everyone at what is -- I think is the best ballpark in baseball. But as the community comes together.

What more can you tell us about how the recovery efforts are going to go this morning?

OLSZEWSKI: Yes. We know this is going to be an elaborate operation. We've got four priorities here.

First and foremost is continuing to support the families. I had a chance to meet with them two days ago and supporting them in this difficult time.

Obviously, opening up the ship channels to the port of Baltimore; helping those who have been impacted: all the dock workers, all those who are impacted downstream by the closures.

And of course, rebuilding the bridge. I can say it's going to be a long road to go. This is a very difficult, involved conversation. I'm with the governor, having daily briefings. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in there doing the work.

We want to make sure we're taking our time to do this safely. We can't yet give a timeline. We know it's going to be a long period of time, because there's so much involved.

We're basically talking about a ship the size of the Eiffel Tower with a bridge on top of it. Debris in 50-foot water. Currents, wind, power lines nearby. This is a very difficult, involved situation. But I know that we have some of the world's best experts on it right now.

HUNT: So we've talked a lot about the overall timeline for rebuilding the bridge. Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, put that around two years.

Obviously, to have the port of Baltimore closed for that long would be absolutely devastating. What are you hoping for in terms of a timeline, not for the bridge rebuild, but for getting the port open again?

OLSZEWSKI: Yes. So one -- I always say one of our priorities is getting that shipping channel open. And we think that can be done a lot faster.

And we have to be calling for bold action, not just for the bridge rebuild. We have to be calling about bold action and all hands on deck to clear that shipping channel and doing the salvage work of pulling the bridge out.

So I don't know the timelines. I'm not an expert. But we have to find a way to make sure that that is done as quickly as possible so that we can have terminals open again in the port of Baltimore, as well as supporting, you know, the associated areas.

So in Baltimore County, we actually have Tradepoint Atlantic, which is another large maritime industrial site. We're using that both for bridge clearance but also potentially to help take some of that load that would otherwise be going to the port of Baltimore, one of the largest roll-on roll-off for vehicles.

But Tradepoint has some of that ability there. We're looking at all hands on deck to figure out how how we can keep things moving.

HUNT: Briefly, Congress is looking at an emergency request to get some money out the door to help you. These things have more recently -- in more recent years gotten held up by politics sometimes.

Can you just help us understand the nationwide impact of the closure of this shipping channel?

OLSZEWSKI: Yes, we're talking about billions of dollars of commerce at the port of Baltimore. Automobiles, health goods. And this is affecting far beyond just the Baltimore area. This is affecting the world's economy.

So, you know, I'll say, I've heard from colleagues all over the country, county executives and mayors, who are small, large; rural, urban; Democrat, Republican, you know, but for the grace of God, this could be any of us.

And I hope this doesn't become something that's partisan and logged up. I'd like to see Congress move quickly. I appreciate that the governor put in and the president has already accepted some of the emergency relief to say this is eligible for that. And I just hope that our colleagues and friends in Congress see this as the national tragedy that it is, come together and help support the Baltimore area in this time.

HUNT: All right. Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. I think they call you Johnny O. Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.

OLSZEWSKI: That's right. Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: See you soon.

All right. Ahead here. Donald Trump escalating his attacks against the daughter of the judge overseeing one of his trials.

And well show you the moment the good Samaritan -- Samaritans rushed to help a driver whose car had flipped over.



HUNT: All right, 23 minutes past the hour. Here's five things you have to see this morning.

Traffic cam video showing critical moments on Baltimore's Key Bridge just before the container ship, which you can see on the right, hit the bridge. The flashing lights are from the construction crew that plunged into the river?

Good Samaritans rushing into a busy Daytona Beach intersection to offer assistance after a driver flipped his vehicle. Surveillance video shows they banded together to flip the SUV upright, remarkably, no serious injuries were reported.

Very nice.

SpaceX delaying its launch of 22 more Starlink satellites until tonight. The Falcon 9 rocket was set to blast off from California on Thursday, but the launch was called off just before fueling.

And there's this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To put him up three. But he missed it. Oh, yes, he got the ball! Game over!


HUNT: Alabama beating North Carolina in the Sweet 16. A painful two- point loss in the final seconds with the No. 1 seeded Tarheels.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Punxsutawney Phil!


HUNT: Punxsutawney Phil -- you may remember him as the weather- predicting groundhog -- welcomed two new babies with his wife, who is called Phyllis, of course.


The Pennsylvania group that handles the critter says the baby groundhogs are doing just fine.

It's cute.

All right. We've got a major storm, ramping up in the West with more rain and snow while the fire threats increasing across New Mexico and Texas. Our Weatherman van Dam, Derek, is tracking all of it.

Derek, good morning to you. Happy Friday. What do we got?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, I mean, I was just thinking about that last story, Punxsutawney Phil. What a distinguished lineage that is. I mean, my goodness. To come from that. That's about as good as it gets, right?

Look, you -- you talked about the storm over the West Coast. That's our big story, but let's at least get to the more immediate threat first and foremost, right? What's happening across New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.

This is where we have critical fire danger today. Winds picking up, dry conditions. You know the drill. Do not burn any open fires within the area.

So what about the big story? This is the storm system that's going to bring a deluge of rain into Southern California. It's going to ramp up tonight and into the day on Saturday. So that's the main concern, Los Angeles to Ventura, as well as Santa Barbara, eventually into San Diego, as well.

Another piece of energy kind of slides inland towards the intermountain west, but the rainfall totals here right along Santa Barbara, just those mountains that are basically perpendicular. Or I should say, parallel to the coastline. Could see three to six inches locally, but upwards of one to three inches near downtown L.A. and San Diego.

So flash flooding a concern. Snowfall in feet and plenty of wind associated with the system, as well -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Our Weatherman, Derek van Dam. Derek, thank you very much. Have a wonderful weekend.

VAN DAM: OK. You, too.

HUNT: All right. Former President Trump attacking the judge presiding over his criminal hush money case in New York. And his daughter.

Plus how "The Wall Street Journal" is marking one year since reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia.