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Massive Crane Will Help Remove Pieces Of Collapsed Baltimore Bridge; Donald Trump's Team Appeals Judge's Decision On Fani Willis Case; Severe Weather Warnings In Effect In Parts Of The Country; Joe Biden Ramps Up Personal Attacks On Donald Trump; Federal Judge Criticizes Trump After Social Media Tirade; New Biden Ad Seeks To Win Over Nikki Haley Voters; U.S. Officials Cite Talks With Israel About Rafah Are Back On. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 30, 2024 - 06:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to CNN this morning. It is Saturday, March 30th. I'm Victor Blackwell.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Amara Walker. Here's what we're watching for you on this morning Saturday.

Massive mission, the largest crane on the East Coast is on the scene of the deadly Baltimore bridge collapse begin the dangerous work of clearing 4,000 tons of debris. We are live when a cargo channel that's so vital to the national and local economy could be back open.

BLACKWELL: Speaking out, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is defending her character as former President Trump tries again to get her removed from the Georgia election subversion case.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Let the haters be your motivators. They talk about me real bad in the streets.


BLACKWELL: Plus, a CNN exclusive, a sitting federal judge is stinging rebuke of Trump's attacks on a New York judge and his family.

WALKER: And a holy holiday in a war zone. Christians in Israel and Gaza commemorate Easter weekend just days before high level truce talks are rescheduled in Rafah.


WALKER: We have a live report from Israel ahead.

BLACKWELL: Plus, remembering Louis Gossett, Jr. The life and legacy of the barrier breaking Oscar winner. The biggest crane on the East Coast is now in place to start removing

debris from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Crews are rushing to find the bodies of four construction workers who are still missing. The collapse killed six people in all.

WALKER: At a vigil Friday night, a local pastor said the tragedy brought everyone together as they lost members of the community and a piece of the city's history.


ELDER RASHAD A. SINGLETARY, SENIOR PASTOR, MT. OLIVE BAPTIST CHURCH: I have members at this church who have been here for 30, 40 years, who sat on this balcony here and watched it deconstructed. It's a part of the community. A lot of our individual my congregation drive that bridge to go to work. And so, now, it's really a life changing moment.


WALKER: CNN's Michael Yoshida is joining us now in Baltimore. Michael, this is obviously a monumental, very challenging effort. What will the first step be and removing that debris?

MICHAEL YOSHIDA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning, Amara. When you talk about this process, the first step is going to be several days of analysis. Before we start seeing anything brought out of the water, they need to get a good look at all of the pieces involved. We're told more than 1100 engineers here in Baltimore across the country now analyzing the bridge and the various pieces, trying to figure out how to take it apart, usually very complex, you're on the water and if you move one piece, how might that shift other parts of that bridge structure.

So, once they get through that, that's when we'll start seeing all of that equipment that's being brought in starts this cleanup and removal process put in perspective.

It will all be happening just behind me. You see some flashing lights there. It's just past there where we saw the bridge collapsed, as well as where that ship sits out, bringing in quite a few different pieces of equipment to take part in this. So we know that there will be 10 tugboats involved, also nine barges, eight salvage vessels, seven float (AUDIO GAP) thousand that large crane there. That will be able to lift around a thousand tons.

But the trouble here is some of that equipment that's on top of the ship that's around 3,000 to 4,000 tons. So, again, they have to start taking it piece by piece apart.

As for a timeline, we're told it could take several weeks once they get to that point to clear that debris. As for how long the recovery process here will take (AUDIO GAP) on all of that.

BLACKWELL: All right, Michael Yoshida, thanks so much for the report. We took a few hits on the shot there. But let's bring it now law professor, former Navy Captain Lawrence Brennan. Thank you so much for being with us.

Listen, the great thing is you get to answer the questions about the legal liability here, and also about this recovery. Let's start here.

We took a hit. And I know the Maryland governor also said that he's not going to give a timeline on when this will be cleared. But based on your expertise and what you see here at this site, how long do you think it will take to clear all of that out?

LAWRENCE BRENNAN, RETIRED NAVY CAPTAIN: Months, if not longer. The dam you have to be careful not to cause more damage, more injury or God forbid, even more deaths. And it starts with getting the ship removed the parts of the bridge that are on the bow of the vessel and the adjacent water needs to be done and done carefully.


And those of us who have been involved in maritime casualties know that there's a great risk after, particularly in cases like this where the environment is disturbed and that's another thing. We have to look at the hazardous cargo that is reportedly onboard the ship that has to -- that has to be carefully worked with to prevent further injury and environmental damage.

BLACKWELL: More than the hazardous cargo on that ship, there are still four victims at that site. Not exactly sure where. How do you -- I want to be delicate in how I asked this question, how does the cruise clear this without disturbing or for -- or further damaging the remains?

BRENNAN: Yes, that's a -- that's an almost impossible question to answer, it's going to take great care. And they will have to be careful in looking for that. I don't know if there's any technology that would allow people or remains at this stage, unfortunately, to be located.

I know if there were people with body heat, there's technology that would allow that to be done. But unfortunately, we've passed that time. So, we'll have to hope and pray that people are careful and recover what remains. If they're in the water, that's obviously a different question.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk now about the legal fight, which is likely already begun, of course, the relatives of those killed and those injured, they have legitimate claims against the company that owned and operated the Dali.

But how broad is the universe of those who will be going primarily after insurers to be compensated for losses?

BRENNAN: Yes, the environment is -- the legal environment is massive. You have all sorts of people who have actual claims, and one of the major legal questions will be how far that can be recovered, the concept or the doctrine of remoteness they come into effect here, talking more about dollar claims, not injury or death claims, but the property damage. But the environmental claims will be substantial of hazardous cargoes

in the water, things of that nature. And I expect that this will not be as big as some of the cases I've been involved in the past such as the (INAUDIBLE) and the Sea Witch Esso Brussels collision in New York Harbor many years ago, 40 years ago or so, where a container ship lost its steerage and collided with an anchor tanker and drifted out under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, and caught fire damage to the underside of the bridge.

So, we've got a lot to look at here. And then the doctrine of remoteness, I expect that the ship owner and its insurance will petition for limitation of liability. And that matter will proceed in federal court in the district for Maryland.

BLACKWELL: I was born and raised in Baltimore. So, I know the Key Bridge, I know how important that bridge is for the economy of this area. What about the people who lose work, who can't get to their jobs for weeks or months? Do they have claims against this company?

BRENNAN: They have claims, but this is the area where we get into the legal concept of remoteness. And the law occasionally is rather harsh to certain groups or individuals and cut off claims. And that seems to me at this very early stage without doing the necessary legal research to see how that gets resolved.

But we do have a rather bold statement from President Biden about the federal government involvement and whether they'll get workers, you know, some sort of unemployment insurance type remedies. It's hard to tell at this stage and if the federal government makes these payments will obviously attempt to recover from responsible parties.

BLACKWELL: All right, Lawrence Brennan, thank you so much for being with us.

WALKER: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is moving forward with her Georgia election subversion case against Donald Trump after Judge Scott McAfee decided she should stay on the case.

But as expected, Trump and some of his codefendants have appealed with some choice words for Willis. CNN's Nick Valencia explains when he get that crucial decision from the appellate court.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Amara, after Judge Scott McAfee granted his certificate for immediate review, we had been anticipating this filing. But now it is official, the former President Donald Trump and eight of his 14 remaining codefendants including his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and his former personal Attorney Rudy Giuliani are asking the Georgia Appellate Court to overturn Judge McAfee's decision and remove Fani Willis from this case. And here's what they're saying in part of their filing which is scathing.


D.A. Willis has covered herself and her office and scandal and disrepute. The trial court's decision not to disqualify D.A. Willis under these circumstances is a structural error, a violation of the defendant's due process rights and seriously denigrates the public's confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system.

We did reach out to the Fulton County D.A.'s office, but they declined to comment. However, we should wait for the response in writing. A source with knowledge of this process says that the appellate court will have 45 days to make its decision.

But of course, all of this underscores just how much the disqualification of Fani Willis still hangs over her head in this case, even as she and her team tried to bring the focus back on the criminal charges against the former president and his remaining codefendants, Victor, Amara.

WALKER: Thank you. Meanwhile, Willis isn't letting the threat of a possible gag order in this case to slow her down.


WILLIS: Well, I'm going to talk about it anyway. Truth is, there's some challenges that come to be in blank. And I see so much greatness in this city that has so many great African American leaders. And I appreciate all of the sacrifice that you all have had to make to be in these positions.


WALKER: Well, Willis spoke at an Atlanta area that last night and appeared to reference an admonishment from Judge Scott McAfee. In his ruling earlier this month, the judge decided Willis could continue her election subversion case against Donald Trump.

BLACKWELL: But he warned that her -- warned her rather that previous comments were legally improper and could lead to a possible gag order in the future.

In January, Willis defended attacks on her then lead prosecutor Nathan Wade suggesting he was being targeted because he's a black man. Well, after Judge McAfee's ruling, Wade left the case.

This morning, winter weather alerts are in effect for parts of the country. Right now, some areas are dealing with heavy rain and strong winds, even snow.

WALKER: We're still talking about winter weather. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is here at the CNN weather center. Allison, where is this late winter weather winter storm happening?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, it's actually going to be a lot of the country. You're going to start out to the West, but then it's going to begin to spread its way across the country as we go through the next few days.

So, right now, we've got a lot of snow coming down across the Sierras and very heavy rain across the central and southern portions of California, that's going to continue to spread eastward. So, there is the potential for a flash flood threat. Again, not just for Southern California, but this will eventually spread farther east and to other states like Arizona. There's also the high wind component, you're talking winds gusting up to 50 to even 60 miles per hour. That's also spreading east too, so even states like Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, also looking at those strong winds.

Then you can take a look at where all of these places are that are still expecting some of that winter weather including the snow. Obviously the higher elevations are where we're going to see those highest total, some of these areas could be picking up six to even 12 inches of snow over the next few days.

Then by the time we get to Monday, the focus really becomes the central portion of the U.S. That means, yes, snow and even freezing rain on the northern side. Very heavy rain along the front and even the potential for some severe thunderstorms along the southern edge where you have that very warm air. Some of these areas could be looking at record high temperatures on Monday.

Then by Tuesday, we begin to see that shift a little bit over more towards the Ohio Valley and spreading into the mid-Atlantic region and into the Northeast.

That severe component we talked about really ramps up on Monday. Take a look at this damaging winds, large hail, we're talking golf balls size or even larger and yes, the potential for some tornadoes basically stretching from southern Texas all the way over into West Virginia. And a lot of the cities in between.

The biggest concern guys for that is going to be that a lot of these are going to occur in the evening and the overnight hours as well.

BLACKWELL: All right, Allison Chinchar, we made it through the A bloc, there's a lot of things going on.

WALKER: Depending on how you look at it.

BLACKWELL: And folks who look at it. If you listen on radio, you've missed a little something but that's all right. Thanks, Allison.

President Biden is raking in record donations and sharpening his campaign attacks on Trump. Straight ahead on CNN this morning, Biden's New Message for Republican voters.

WALKER: Also, a rare rebuke from a sitting federal judge and a story you will only see here on CNN, why one judge says former President Trump's social media posts about the judge overseeing the New York hush money trial are, "particularly problematic".

Also, what the CDC is saying about a concerning surge in measles in the U.S.


[06:19:32] WALKER: President Biden is ramping up his mockery of former President Trump this week in both public and private events. Now, Biden is not holding back going after not only Trump's policies, but his financial challenges and mental competency.

BLACKWELL: And all of this follows a record-breaking fundraiser hosted by Biden along with two of his predecessors, former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The Biden campaign raised $26 million in one day.

CNN's Camila DeChalus joins us now from the White House. Camila, tell us about the strategy shifts from the Biden campaign.


CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. Good morning. Biden spoke to campaign donors just yesterday where he heavily criticized Trump, calling him the most undemocratic president since the Civil War and really admonished him over his recent comments, where he warned that there could be a bloodbath if Biden is reelected in November.

Now, Biden has repeatedly gone after Trump. And it really signals how the campaign is finding that this is an effective strategy to convincing voters and donors on why they should throw their support behind Biden.

WALKER: And how is Biden -- how was the campaign hoping to peel away at Trump's base?

DECHALUS: Biden is not only hoping to just convince Democratic voters but he's also targeting voters who once supported Nikki Haley, take a quick listen to the recent campaign ad that they just put out yesterday.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's gone crazy. She's a very angry person.

She is not presidential timber.

I don't need the votes. We have all the votes we need.

She's gone haywire.


DECHALUS: Now, Trump has really -- now Biden has really just again gone after Trump, just highlighting what he has said about these voters who have once thrown their support about Nikki Haley. And Biden has repeatedly made a lot of attempts and a lot of efforts to convince those voters of why they should support him and his reelection efforts in this upcoming November election. Amara, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Camila DeChalus, thanks so much.

Still to come, an extraordinary rebuke, a sitting federal judge slams Donald Trump and his attacks on a fellow judge. Why he says those comments threaten the American legal system.



WALKER: All right. Let's get a look now at some of the other headlines we're following this morning. Gusty winds created some terrifying turbulence on a flight from Tel Aviv to New York. The flight had to be diverted to upstate New York with seven people taken to the hospital.


MICHAEL BIGG, NEW WINDSOR EMS: Multiple people on the plane complaining of nausea and chest pain from the turbulence. Just an observation, nothing was serious, no major injuries.


WALKER: There were more than 300 people on board and in a statement, United said the jet refueled and continued on to New York.

BLACKWELL: The CDC says measles cases in the U.S. this year have nearly doubled the total cases over all of last year. The agency says there are already nearly 100 measles cases, seven outbreaks so far this year, there were 58 total cases and four outbreaks last year.

Officials say almost 60 percent of the patients were unvaccinated. And more than half of the documented cases are children under five.

WALKER: Well, this morning, the rare case of a sitting federal judge speaking out publicly. His reason, Donald Trump's criticism of another judge. Now, the former president recently launched into an attack on social media against the judge overseeing his business fraud case. Even targeting the judge's daughter by name.

BLACKWELL: U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton spoke to CNN's Kaitlan Collins and called Trump's attacks very disconcerting, and a threat to America's justice system.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: COLLINS (voice over): You almost never hear from a sitting federal judge.

COLLINS: I wonder what made you speak out tonight and speak publicly.

COLLINS (voice over): But in a rare interview with CNN, Senior U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who was deeply respected in Washington's legal circles, spoke out against Donald Trump's latest attacks on social media against a fellow member of the judiciary.

JUDGE REGGIE WALTON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: I think it's important that as judges, we speak out and you know, say things in reference to things that conceivably are going to impact on the process.

TRUMP: I have a Trump-hating judge.

COLLINS (voice over): Walton criticized Trump for his latest attacks on Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the former president's criminal trial relating to hush money payments.

WALTON: It's very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge, and it's particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they're directed at one's family.

COLLINS (voice over): After Merchan imposed a gag order limiting the former president from making statements about potential witnesses, jurors, attorneys and court staff, but not him, Trump has been attacking his daughter on social media, including by name.

WALTON: We do these jobs because we're committed to the rule of law and we believe in the rule of law, and the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm.

COLLINS (voice over): Judge Walton was appointed by both Bush presidents and has spent more than 40 years on the bench, but he noticed an increase in threats once he began hearing cases of January 6th criminal defendants.

WALTON: I have received a greater number of threats as a result of that incident. This is a new phenomenon. I'm not saying that it didn't happen before, but it was very rare that I would ever receive any type of a threat, regardless of what type of cases I was handling.

And, unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

COLLINS (voice over): Walton pointing to past murders of his judicial colleagues' family members, including New Jersey Judge Esther Salas' son and former Chicago Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother.

WALTON: Unfortunately, it's a reality that it's not inconceivable that something could happen. It's a reality that we live with, but you try not to let it impact on your day-to-day life.

COLLINS (voice over): But even in the midst of these threats, Walton says the law must endure.


WALTON: Even though threats may be made against you and against your family, you still have an obligation to ensure that everybody who comes in to your courtroom is treated fairly regardless of who they are or what they've done. I think it's important, in order to preserve our democracy that we maintain the rule of law.

And the rule of law can only be maintained if we have independent judicial officers who are able to do their job and ensure that the laws are in fact enforced, and that the laws are, you know, applied equally to everybody who appears in our courthouse.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: That rare appearance from Judge Walton has really sent shockwaves beyond Washington. And it includes responses from people like former federal judges, including Judge Michael Luttig; a former federal appeals judge, and others who have been taking what he has to say seriously.

Judge Walton's warning that Trump's actions could lead to tyranny is through his point of view as a judge, not as a member of any party or supporting any campaign, and that's why he's been resonating so much, Victor and Amara.

AMARA WALKER, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Yes, sure, has been. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. Joining me now is CNN political commentator Errol Louis. I mean, Errol, it is extremely rare for a sitting judge to give an interview, a TV interview, and you know, we heard Judge Walton say though that he's even gotten threats, you know, after presiding over these January 6 cases.

What did you think of what he had to say? The fact that he did sit down and speak out, and it really does speak to the moment that we're living in, doesn't it?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, absolutely. And look, I'm so glad that the judge said something. The people involved in this case include a district attorney who I've met and interviewed a number of times, they are not walking around in a protected bubble.

We all lived together in a community, and the threats, the death threats against both the prosecutor, the judges, ultimately, this would spill over into the jury. This is very serious stuff. And for Donald Trump to try and intimidate and bully the justice system just to win his case, opens a door that we do not want opened. It's great that a federal judge spoke out, more of them need to do the same, Amara.

WALKER: Yes, issuing a really stark warning. Let's turn to the 2024 presidential race. We've been talking about this record-breaking fundraiser for the Biden campaign on Thursday in New York. And then, of course, he met with donors again yesterday.

On Friday, the Biden campaign also released this new digital ad targeting Nikki Haley voters. What did you think of the ad? And also, I mean, how does the Biden campaign hope to win over these voters? Where do they stand? Because they may not like, you know, Trump's style and tone, perhaps, but I would imagine that a lot of them are closer to Trump when it comes to policy, than with Biden.

LOUIS: Well, look, the ad itself, I think is brilliant there because it goes to the heart of what some voters don't like about Donald Trump. It has her -- it has Trump calling Nikki Haley bird brain, it has him saying that neither she nor her followers will be welcome in his camp.

And so, they're really just making him eat his words, and they're reminding people that if you'll -- regardless of what you might like about Trump or whatever policies you think he might implement, this is somebody who is juvenile, who is insulting, who said he doesn't want your vote.

You know, I wouldn't -- and I think for a certain number of voters that's going to resonate, and that's going to remind them why they voted against them in the first place.

WALKER: And this new shift in strategy by the Biden campaign, you know, Biden stepping up his attacks, much more aggressively against Trump personally and also on policy. Is this about trying to rattle Trump and, you know, letting Trump, you know, have his tantrums as a result?

Is this about trying to paint Biden as someone who can be feisty and fight that, you know, he's too old image?

LOUIS: Well, that's right. It does three things all at the same time. One is, it shows that he's got some fight in him. Number two, it possibly goads Trump into an overreaction and reminds everybody of what they don't like about the juvenile style that he displays in public so often.

And then, the third thing it does is, it sort of walls off his support. The problem Donald Trump faces and why he'd lost four years ago is that he'd never really expanded his base. He's got about 40- plus percent of the electorate that has supported him and probably will support him no matter what.

But he has to add to that, and the Biden campaign is kind of letting folks know, this is what you get. The person who mismanaged the pandemic, the person who acts in public like a five-year-old. And this is not somebody you should consider for leadership of the country.


And to the extent that they pound that message home again and again, it's going to be a sound political strategy for Biden.

WALKER: You know, we were just talking about the whopping $26 million that the Biden campaign raised on Thursday in New York. And obviously, probably more yesterday when he met privately with the donors. But when you look at the CNN poll of polls which just came out, it's an average of four polls. And there's no clear leader in this race.

Trump with 47 percent, Biden with 44 percent, but then when you look at the cash-on-hand by these two campaigns, Biden at the end of February had $71 million in cash reserves, way more, nearly double that of what Trump has, $33.5 million. Can a huge cash advantage like this for Biden make a big difference in the race?

LOUIS: Well, sure, it makes a wealth of difference, it makes a lot of difference. It pays for the people who knock on doors, it pays for the ads in local markets that remind people that there's an election coming up in 220 days and tells them the issues and how they should be thinking about that race, is all the difference in the world.

And is an additional benefit that the Democrats have, that the Republicans don't, which is that Trump is spending a lot of money on his legal expenses. It's coming out of some of the Super PACS that would otherwise be supporting his campaign. So, over time, this can make the difference.

It's going to be a very close race, and every one of these next 220 days is going to be hard fought, Amara.

WALKER: That sure is.

LOUIS: Errol Louis, great to have you again this morning, thanks so much.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Up next, what may be a new epicenter for the migrant crisis, why illegal border crossings are skyrocketing in Arizona?



BLACKWELL: Talks between Washington and Israel about military operations in Gaza are back on. They could happen in Washington as soon as Monday. That's according to U.S. officials. This comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called off the meeting scheduled for this past week.

WALKER: A holy city is preparing for Easter as the war rages on, nearing the sixth month mark. CNN senior international correspondent Melissa Bell is in Jerusalem. Melissa, what's the latest?

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are looking to see what effect, if any, these talks could have been planned, of course, as you mentioned a moment ago, these talks went ahead Monday and Tuesday in Washington. In fact, it will be a week later.

Will Washington manage to convince Israel to hold off of its ground offensive in Rafah? That is the question, Amara and Victor. There is so much at stake. We're talking about 1.2 million Gazans who are huddled in and around that southern-most parts of Gaza.

A ground operation, of course, the fear is, would lead to a bloodbath, that's why pressure is being brought to bear and will again. We heard -- notwithstanding the Israeli delegation's cancellation earlier this week, when Yoav Gallant; the Israeli Defense Minister did meet with his counterparts in Washington on Monday and Tuesday, we heard that at the end of those conversations, both the United States and Israel had agreed to continue talking about Washington.

What Washington is hoping to convince Israelis to heed, which is the avoidance of a full-scale ground operation in favor of much more targeted attack, targeting of Hamas. There are four Hamas battalions, American and Israeli officials believe in that Rafah district.

And of course, fortifying of the border with Egypt to prevent any of them from fleeing. That's what America is trying to convince Israelis to listen to for now. What we've heard from the Israeli authorities and specifically, from Benjamin Netanyahu; the Prime Minister is that Israel intends to go ahead with that ground offensive.

We heard the Israeli Prime Minister meet with American congressman on Wednesday in Jerusalem, telling them that Israel had no choice, but to invade. And again, we heard him meet with the families of hostages who have now been held as you mentioned a moment ago for nearly six months in Gaza, meeting them and telling them that it was in order to get their loved ones back, that this operation would go ahead, vowing that no Israeli would be left behind.

So, a great deal at stake when these conversations begin, we expect possibly on Monday, although for the time being, there's no confirmation of that.

WALKER: All right, Melissa Bell, thank you so much of following this story and here in the U.S., illegal border crossings are skyrocketing in Arizona.

BLACKWELL: Yes, with Texas trying to fortify the Rio Grande, particularly the Eagle Pass crossing. Migrants are finding other ways to enter the country. CNN's Rosa Flores is there in what may be the new epicenter of the migrant crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's mountainous, it's very steep.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Paul Nixon(ph) and Laurel Grindy(ph) helped migrants in distress in southern Arizona --



FLORES: Which is now the busiest migrant crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border. Three hundred thousand migrants have been apprehended in the Tucson border patrol sector from October to February? That's about 64 percent more than the number of migrants apprehended in the Del Rio sector, which includes Eagle Pass, Texas, the epicenter of the border battle between Texas and the Biden administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jamaica, welcome --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you're from Jamaica?


FLORES: Many migrants walk for miles up and down steep hills to this makeshift camp where they wait for border patrol like Metta(ph) from Guatemala. She says that her soul hurts.


The mother of seven boys, ages four to sixteen wants to go by her first name only, and says extreme poverty in her home country leaves mothers with an impossible choice.

(on camera): Decide, do you feed your younger child or your older child?

LORI LINDSAY, CATTLE RANCHER: On the ranching world, you're always around people from south of the border.

FLORES (voice-over): The camp is on cattle rancher Lori Lindsay's property. A life-long Democrat who is now an independent because she says Democrats are weak and Republicans who call the border issue --


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Soft invasion along our southern border --

FLORES: Have it wrong. She says it's a humanitarian crisis.

LINDSAY: When you say invasion, it's as if you're being attacked or if you're in danger. We're not in danger. I would just like people to not lose their humanity.

FLORES: Lindsay says she sympathizes with migrants, but worries because the camp has no sanitation facilities, and to keep warm, migrants build fires.

LINDSAY: It's not just our ranch that could go up in flames. I mean, this is our livelihood. This is it. This is our home.

FLORES: She calls on the federal government to hire more border patrol agents.

JOHN MODLIN, HEAD OF BORDER PATROL'S TUCSON SECTOR: We're inside the Arizona air coordination center.

FLORES: John Modlin leads the border patrol's Tucson sector, 262 miles of Arizona's border with Mexico. Here the border wall looks like the spine of a giant beast resting on jagged peaks.

MODLIN: By far, the most dangerous place on the southwest border to cross.

FLORES: Modlin says one of his biggest frustrations is that the cartels smuggle thousands of migrants in the most remote areas in the east side of Arizona, bugging down his border patrol agents there. While the cartels smuggled drugs and bad guys on the west side.

MODLIN: So, what we're not doing is actively patrolling for the people that are trying to get away from us.

FLORES: He says his team has identified 30,000 got-aways or people entering the Tucson sector and evading arrest so far this fiscal year. But he just doesn't have enough four-wheel drive vehicles and agents to chase them down.

(on camera): Is that what keeps you up at night?

MODLIN: Yes, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that really trap? FLORES (voice-over): It looks like a death sentence. Air and marine operations show us the trails of top mountains used by these smugglers and migrants who don't want to get caught.

MODLIN: Many times they're trafficking narcotics, it could be a criminal there or someone that possibly has mell(ph) intent towards the United States.

FLORES: All while many of Modlin's border patrol agents respond to what he calls a humanitarian mission, making repeated hours-long drives in unforgiving terrain to apprehend parents like Metta(ph).

(on camera): She says that she left her seven children in Guatemala with her dad.

FLORES (voice-over): The Guatemalan mother who like so many migrants arrived with a crushed heart in search for opportunity to feed their family.


FLORES: We met so many mothers like Metta(ph), fathers, families who want to skirt the border wall and then turn themselves into immigration authorities. In fact, the head of the Tucson Border Patrol sector says that at the current pace, migrant apprehensions this fiscal year could hit 800,000 -- now just to give you some context about the staggering figure, it nears the total number of the past three fiscal years combined. Amara, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Rosa Flores reporting for us there, thanks so much. Still ahead, we'll remember the life of Hollywood trailblazer Louis Gossett Jr., a look at the legacy that he leaves. The first black man to win a best supporting actor, Oscar, that's next.

And get ready for a debate and comedy and social discourse on Saturday night, CNN presents an encore presentation of "HBO's" "Real Time with Bill Maher" tonight at 8:00 on CNN.



WALKER: Hollywood is mourning the loss of Lou Gossett Jr. this morning. He was probably best remembered for his legendary 1982 role in "An Officer and a Gentleman".


LOUIS GOSSETT JR., LATE ACTOR: You better stop eye-balling me, boy. You're not worthy enough to look your superiors in the eye. Use your peripheral vision.


WALKER: His tough but supportive drill sergeant, One-Hand the Gold Statue, and made him the first black man to win a best supporting Oscar.

BLACKWELL: He was nominated for eight Emmys in his career. He also created a foundation to fight racism. Gossett Jr. was 87 years old. CNN's Elizabeth Wagmeister has more.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the groundbreaking star of "A Raisin in the Sun", "Roots", and "An Officer and a Gentleman" has passed away at the age of 87. Now, no cause of death was revealed, but he died in Santa Monica on Friday morning.

Now, the family of Gossett Jr. tells us at CNN, quote, "it is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning. We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time." The family also ask for respect in privacy during this difficult time.

Gossett Jr. became the first black actor to win an Oscar in a category of best supporting actor in 1983 for his role in, "An officer and a Gentleman", his co-star, Richard Gere shared a statement with us with his passing. He says, quote, "Lou was a sweetheart. He took his job very seriously. He did his research, he stayed in character the whole time.

I don't think we ever saw him socially. He was the drill sergeant 24 hours a day, and it showed clearly in his performance. He drove every scene he was in. A tough guy with a heart of gold. We were all so proud of him when he won his Oscar."


Now, Gossett was only the second black actor to win an Oscar, following just Sidney Poitier. It was later in the decade in 1989 that the next black actor to win an Oscar was Denzel Washington. Gossett was very open with his struggles with alcohol and drug abuse. He was also very open about his struggles with racism, especially when he had first arrived in Hollywood.

In his memoir, he wrote, quote, "though I understand that I had no choice to put up with this abuse, it was a terrible way to be treated, and a humiliating way to feel." Now, he also founded the Eracism Foundation to help eradicate racism. Certainly, a trailblazer and a legend who will be remembered. Victor and Amara?

WALKER: Elizabeth Wagmeister, thanks so much. Up next, a daunting task in Baltimore as crews work to clean up the debris from a deadly bridge collapse. We're going to take a closer look at what investigators are focusing on.