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Active Search For Missing People After Bridge Collapse; Most Justices Appear Skeptical Of Nationwide Abortion Pill Ban; Judge Imposes Gag Order On Trump Ahead Of Hush Money Trial; Biden And Harris Team Up For Health Care Event In North Carolina; NBC News Ousts Former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel After Unprecedented On-Air Rebellion Against Her Hiring. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, an active search by air, land and sea for at least six people missing after a major Baltimore bridge was rammed by a cargo ship collapsed into the water.


CNN teams are on the scene as the rescue operation and the investigation unfold.

Also tonight, most of the U.S. Supreme Court appears skeptical about imposing a nationwide abortion pill ban. We're breaking down the oral arguments and the justices questions in the most significant abortion case since Roe versus Wade was overturned.

And the judge in Donald Trump's hush money case just imposed a gag order on the former president as the criminal trial is set to begin in less than three weeks. The judge blasting Trump for his history of making threats and personal attacks against jurors and court officials.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the Situation Room.

Tonight, federal and local authorities say the investigation into the Baltimore bridge collapse is getting underway, but their first priority right now is the search for the missing.

CNN's Pete Muntean is in Baltimore following this breaking story for us. Pete, where does the search and rescue operation stand this hour?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're about one hour until sunset here in Baltimore, which will no doubt complicate the search and rescue operation here. We know from officials that 22 members of the crew of M.V. Dali are safe, but six crew who were on board the key bridge are still missing tonight. They were repairing potholes and doing deck repair work, and that is so significant because the search and rescue operation continues and they had maybe only seconds warning before disaster here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MUNTEAN (voice over): Tonight, the catastrophic collision and bridge collapse outside of Baltimore remains a search and rescue mission with several people still unaccounted for.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: We chose not to board the vessel today to allow some time for the search and recovery which we did not want to interfere with.

MUNTEAN: Investigators have new questions about the final moments before the crippled container ship, Dali, veered off course and into Baltimore's Key Bridge. The 911 calls to stop traffic, frantic as steel and concrete plunged into the Patapsco River below.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire Key Bridge in the harbor, I advise to hold all traffic from coming to the bridge. I advise again, the entire Key Bridge has fallen into the harbor.

MUNTEAN: Officials say the Dali set sail at 12:28 A.M. under the command of a Port of Baltimore pilot who boards large ships as they navigate the 700-foot-wide channel. Security video shows minutes before the impact, the lights on board the Dali shut off twice, then the bow swung right.

Briefed by the Coast Guard, Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger says the crew experienced power issues and a loss of propulsion, with alarms on the bridge blaring.

GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): The preliminary investigation points to an accident. We haven't seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack.

MUNTEAN: Key to investigators will be the ship's black box, mandated by international law. A voyage data recorder captures parameters like heading, speed and water depth, as well as the condition of the engines, thrusters and rudder.

The recorder also captures crew conversations on the bridge, key to investigators probing what caused the crew to apparently lose control.

HOMENDY: It will be critical. It's a critical piece of our investigation, which is why we have a recorders team here.

MUNTEAN: The latest data shows that Dali was traveling at a speed of eight knots, roughly nine miles per hour, fast enough to trigger a disaster that could have been much worse.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANPORTATION ANALYST: Undoubtedly, that mayday call from the ship saved countless lives. I mean, there have been collapses of bridges in the United States where there wasn't a mayday call and obviously many vehicles went into the water.


MUNTEAN (on camera): The National Transportation Safety Board, their investigators are hanging back right now as to not hamper the search and rescue operation here. They don't want to get involved with that. That means they have not been able to recover the data recorder on board the M.V. Dali, also means they've not been able to verify the reports that the Dali lost power before colliding with the Key Bridge here.

The ship was flagged out of Singapore and officials there say that the M.V. Dali dropped at least one of its anchors in a desperate attempt to avoid disaster here. Wolf?

BLITZER: Pete Muntean reporting for us, Pete, thank you very much. I want to take a closer look right now at how this disaster played out.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us. He's over at the magic wall. Walk us through what we know about the ship's path.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that it wasn't very long to begin with. It had just left from up here in Baltimore, a place called Breezy Point. It had left here and it came out and turned under the guidance of two tugboats.


Now, I want to go to a different version with a satellite tracker here and explain what you're seeing. As it starts out here, the ship is the red line here. There are two blue lines traveling with it. Those are the tugboats. Watch what happens as it moves forward. The tugboats split away. The ship keeps coming.

Now, importantly, by the time it gets here, shortly before it gets here, you see this tugboat has turned and is already coming back to rejoin the ship. That happens just a moment before it gets here. So, that seems to be a reaction to this call that there is some trouble coming. And then, of course, right after this happens, once it gets up here and that tugboat starts coming back, then you see other boats start coming in as well as soon as they hear about the impact trying to offer some kind of aid, no doubt.

So, that's what we know about this. What we also know now is if you look at this, what we talked about a little while ago is the idea of -- Pete was mentioning the heading of the ship. If you look at this course on satellite tracking of it, one of the things you notice is that there is a little jog right there. This would be maybe about a half mile before the bridge. If you compare it to nautical guides, if you kept going straight this way, just perfectly straight, you would be more like here. This is the channel that they're supposed to be in. So, this would have been where the shift occurred.

Why it occurred, we don't really know. But we do know that if the warning came out here a half mile away, maybe three minutes, but listen to the radio traffic. It wasn't enough.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need one of you guys on the south side, one of you guys on the north side, hold all traffic on the Key Bridge there's a ship approaching that just lost their steering. So, until we get that under control, we got to stop all traffic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) dispatch. The whole bridge just fell down. Start whoever -- everybody. The whole bridge just collapsed.


FOREMAN: So, you see, Wolf, it seems like a small amount, but out there in the open water, this is like a highway that it should be on, and it was on it, to begin with. The channel they're supposed to follow, this is exactly where it goes. Somewhere, it changes, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Tom, because the video of the ship just before it hit that bridge is pretty revealing.

FOREMAN: Yes, it really is. If you look at the video of the crash itself, you see another slight turn right at the end. You won't really quite be able to see it here because you have to watch it for a little bit of time, but there's another slight turn right before it reaches the bridge here.

Pete talked about the notion that an anchor had been dropped at some point here. Yes, there is a sign of an anchor chain down, but I will point out that the anchor chain that is down here is on the port side of the ship. If it caught on that side, it should have technically pulled it back toward the channel, but it went away from the channel.

An awful lot more still to be figured out by exactly why this happened, Wolf, and how it happened.

BLITZER: Yes, heartbreaking to see that bridge collapse, especially for those of us who have gone over that bridge so many times over the years. Tom Forman, thank you very, very much.

Joining us now, Senator Chris Van Hollen, he's a Democrat from Maryland. Senator, thank you so much for joining us. And our heart goes out to your community on this very tragic day.

First of all, Senator, what are you hearing about where the search and rescue efforts stand right now for the six construction workers who are still unaccounted for? They were on top of the bridge. They were fixing potholes. And as you know, a lot of these workers work overnight because there's a lot less traffic on the roads.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, that's right. Well, it is a tragic day here in Baltimore. And like you, I've been over this bridge many, many times. We are still hoping and praying for the six workers and their loved ones. The search and rescue operation is ongoing.

I just saw a helicopter fly by. We have the Coast Guard here. We have the state police here. We have the Baltimore City Police here. So, the effort goes on to search for those who are missing.

BLITZER: Can you clarify, Senator, if there were any additional vehicles or people for that matter on the bridge when it collapsed?

VAN HOLLEN: So, Wolf, to the best of my information, there were no vehicles on the bridge other than those vehicles associated with the construction workers, those construction workers who were there, eight of them, and we're still looking for the six.

But because of a real heads-up by some of the bridge authority folks, they stopped traffic. They got that mayday signal from the ship in time to prevent new traffic from coming onto the bridge, which is a life-saving measure and a heads-up work by those individuals.

BLITZER: It certainly is and we are grateful to them.

You spoke, Senator, with President Biden today, I know that. He's assuring all of us that the federal government will fully pay for rebuilding this important bridge.


How are you working with Congress right now to start to accomplish that goal?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, you're right, I did speak to the president shortly before he spoke to the nation and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was here. The first thing we want to access is something called the Emergency Relief Fund, which is an existing fund within the Federal Highway Administration. The state of Maryland needs to submit some of its requests. I'm sure they will do that promptly. And that will help allow that money to flow to the State of Maryland.

That will not be enough to finish the job in terms of rebuilding the bridge. That will be long and expensive. So, we will be working. Senator Cardin, myself and the delegation have already been in communication with other of our colleagues in the Senate. We'll work with the House. I hope we can move something on an emergency basis.

We faced a similar situation nationally around 2007, 2008 in Minneapolis. We hope the country will come together and support Baltimore at this time.

BLITZER: It is so, so critically important. Senator, how much could this potentially strain Maryland's economy, and even the broader U.S. economy for that matter, what steps are you taking now to support immediate help for people whose livelihoods have been affected?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Wolf, you're exactly right. This is the immediate issue beyond the search and rescue, is opening up that channel that the ship was supposed to be going through. Because the ship is stuck there, there's debris in the channel, and that has put a stop temporarily to the port of Baltimore.

I understand there are about four ships in a port that can't get out. I understand there were about 20 ships that were waiting to come in. So, until we clear that channel, the port of Baltimore can't operate, and there are thousands of workers at the port of the Baltimore, just the folks who are unloading and offloading the ships, and then tens of thousands more depend on what is one of most vibrant ports in the country, the biggest port for automobiles rolling on and rolling off and other kinds of cargo.

So, this is the most pressing issue after search and rescue, to get that channel open. That's why the Army Corps of Engineers is here. That is why President has also asked the Navy to look at what assets they can bring to bear on that issue, so we can get ships getting through that channel again.

BLITZER: Yes, it's so, so important, all these ships that are made, whether in Germany or France or Italy or the U.K., they almost all come through Baltimore, but that's closed, at least for now.

Senator Chris Van Hollen to Maryland, thank you very much for that update. Good luck to all the folks there.

Just ahead, the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a nationwide ban on a widely used abortion pill. We're digging into today's arguments for clues about how the justices might rule.

BLITZER: Plus, Donald Trump now faces a gag order in his New York hush money case. What it could mean for the criminal trial, that's upcoming.



BLITZER: We're expecting another major U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision this summer. The justices hearing arguments today about a potential nationwide ban on a medication used in more than half of all abortions here in the United States.

Our Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is taking a closer look.


PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hundreds of protesters gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court today as the justices considered the most significant abortion case since they overturned Roe v. Wade.

This case focuses on expanded access to Mifepristone, one of two drugs typically used in the process known as medication abortion, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of abortions in the U.S.

But during Tuesday's arguments, a majority of the justices appeared likely to maintain the expanded access to the drug, which was first approved by the FDA in 2000.

JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH, U.S. SUPREME COURT: We've had, one might call it a rash, of universal injunctions or vacatures. And this case seems like a prime example of turning what could be a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly on an FDA rule or any other federal government action.

REID: Shortly after Roe was overturned, a conservative group of anti- abortion doctors and advocates sued the FDA over its approval of Mifepristone, and the case now focuses on FDA approval of expanded access to the drug. But during the hearing, justices from across the ideological spectrum pressed the group challenging the drug as to whether it had standing or the right to bring the case, asking their lawyer about what harm the group faced.

JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT: May I ask, Ms. Hawley, about your basic theory of standing? I mean, you're just saying even FDA admits that there are going to be some adverse events, people are going to show up in emergency rooms, people are going to come face-to- face with one of our doctors who objects to some aspect of the treatment.

JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Just to confirm on the standing issue, under federal law, no doctors can be forced against their consciences to perform or assist in an abortion, correct?

REID: And Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson pressed on why the group believes restricting everyone's access to the drug is necessary given that doctors can raise religious objections under federal law.


JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I mean, it makes perfect sense for the individual doctors to seek an exemption. But as I understand it, they already have that. And so what they're asking for here is that, in order to prevent them from possibly ever having to do these kinds of procedures, everyone else should be prevented from getting access to this medication. So, why isn't that plainly overbroad scope of the remedy the end of this case?


REID (on camera): We expect this decision to come in late June. Of course, that will be the heart of presidential campaign season. So, whatever the justices decide to do here could play a factor in that critical race. As you know, after Roe was overturned, Democrats have used abortion to galvanize their supporters.

Now, former President Trump has taken credit for Roe being overturned. He's also said, look, there have to be some concessions because we want to win elections. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Paula, thank you, Paula Reid reporting.

I want bring in CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero right now and CNN Medical Correspondent Meg Tirrell.

Carrie, let me start with you. What's your takeaway from today's oral arguments that we heard?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I wonder whether the justices are ever going to actually get to the merits of the case, because it sounded from the argument today that they're inclined to potentially just rule on standing, that is whether the group of doctors who brought the case even has a justification to bring this lawsuit at all. And the justices -- several of the justices across the spectrum really were pointing to that particular issue, questioning whether or not these doctors can demonstrate that they're harmed at all by the fact that this medication is available to women across the country.

BLITZER: Great point, indeed. And, Meg, you're our medical correspondent. Mifepristone was approved, as we heard, by the FDA, what, 24 years ago in 2000. How widespread is the use of this drug right now?

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's increasingly widespread. It accounts for 63 percent of all abortions that were obtained in the United States in 2023. There are more than a million abortions in that year. So, that's more than 600,000 people who are accessing this medication.

This is one of two that are used in this regimen, Mifepristone and Misoprostol. They've been around since 2000. Their efficacy is 95 to 98 percent. And in terms of serious risks that occur to patients taking this medication, it's about 0.3 percent that they have seen in major studies.

BLITZER: As we all know, Carrie, the court has already overturned Roe versus Wade. So, why potentially could this decision be different?

CORDERO: Well, this decision is incredibly important in light of the fact that, in the Dobbs case, they overruled Roe versus Wade and Casey, the follow-on case, because this is the mechanism, medical abortion. Based on listening to the statistics that Meg is citing, this is a method through which women all across the country still can obtain this option, given the fact that in certain states now obtaining a surgical abortion is not possible, the gravity of this particular decision.

And I think this is one of the things that Justice Gorsuch was pointing out in the piece that Paula highlighted, which was that, in this case, you've got a few doctors who bring this litigation, and yet the district court issued a nationwide injunction, potentially preventing access to the medication for women all across the country. And Justice Gorsuch's question and, I think, point that he was trying to make in the oral argument was that this should just be a small litigation case, not something that potentially affects women all over the county.

BLITZER: How would a ruling against Mifepristone impact the availability of medication abortion? There's medication abortions and there's surgical abortion.

TIRRELL: Of course. And what's really interesting right now, of course, is you were just talking about the impacts of overturning Roe v. Wade, which presumably returned the decision about abortion access to the states. But what this would do is actually impose a restriction on access to medication abortion across all states.

So, right now, we know there are 14 states that have banned abortion almost completely, where people are not supposed to be able to access medication abortions. We know they potentially can through certain means. There are also 15 states have restrictions. But if the Supreme Court were to agree with the appeals court, this would re-implement restrictions on how people can access medication in all state. It would not necessarily remove it from the market, but it could make it harder to get through things like telemedicine, which is increasingly important.

BLITZER: Very important, indeed. All right, guys, thank you very, very much, Meg Tirrell, Carrie Cordero, I appreciate it.

We're going to take a closer look at Donald Trump's new gag order just ahead of his hush money trial, and whether he'll abide by it.

Plus, we'll share the first response from an attorney for Sean Diddy Combs after the federal raids on his properties.



BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump is under a new gag order just ahead of his first criminal trial. The judge overseeing Trump's hush money case taking the action just a little while ago after reviewing Trump's public statements during some of his other legal battles.

We're joined now by CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez along with former federal prosecutor Ankush Khardori.

Evan, what does this mean for Trump?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it means that he has to watch what he says. You know, the judge pointed out that there was an uncontested record, he said, and that for him it establishes a sufficient risk to the administration of justice.

And what he was doing is not only referencing the previous statements of the former president in some of his other legal cases but he was paying close attention after yesterday's hearing where the former president went and spoke to the media at 40 Wall Street.


I'll read you some of what the judge wrote. He says his statements were threatening, inflammatory, denigrating, and the targets of his statements ranged from local and federal officials, court and court staff, prosecutors and staff assigned to the cases, and private individuals, including grand jurors, performing their civic duty.

He raised a particular concern about witnesses, Wolf. Of course, that includes Stormy Daniels, who this case revolves around, and, of course, Michael Cohen, who the former president has repeatedly attacked.

The judge goes on to say, notably, within hours of the court appearance on March 25th, setting the trial date of April 15th, 2024, the defendant targeted an individual prosecutor assigned to this case. That's Matthew Colangelo, who is a prosecutor who's been leading this case. The clear implication here is that he has to cease his attacks against people like Matthew Colangelo. He can, however, attack the judge and the district attorney, Alvin Bragg.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Ankush, you're a former federal prosecutor. Do you see this gag order in this particular case appropriate?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, I'm actually generally not a big fan of gag orders, restrictions on the speech of criminal defendants in the run-up to a trial. In this particular case, though, it is hard to argue with the judge's assessment.

Trump has largely sort of walked himself into this position through this series of inflammatory statements he made across all of these cases. And the judge, obviously, he has an overriding imperative, which is to make sure that this trial is decided appropriately within the confines of the courtroom and not as a result of some truth or something that Trump sends out attacking someone.

So -- and it's in line with the other gag orders that have been implemented, so I would expect it to stay in place subject to any kind of attack he might try.

BLITZER: Let's see how that unfolds.

You know, as we know, there have been other gag orders against Trump in earlier legal cases. He seems to have ignored them. What happens if he ignores them this time?

PEREZ: Look, I mean, you can have a resolution like, for example, in Judge Engoron's case, where -- you know, the previous -- the civil case, where he was fined a couple of times for violating a gag order. He's been warned in the federal case here in Washington, the case overseen by Judge Tanya Chutkan.

So I think there's going to be a great reluctance by judges to take the ultimate punishment, which is to throw him behind bars, right? That is a thing that we've seen done in other cases. But I think you're going to see judges really, really try to make sure that he abides by these rules, that most defendants have no trouble abiding by.

BLITZER: Can Trump appeal, his lawyers appeal this gag order?

KHARDORI: He can certainly try. I mean, he's a big fan of trying to appeal things even when they're ordinarily not appealed. And even though he has a, I would say, pretty low odds of success, he does have a political objective here too. So even fighting over this in the courts may ultimately be something he's quite happy to do because it furthers his narrative of being attacked and restrained by prosecutors.

BLITZER: You've got a lot of experience in this area. What does this gag order suggest, if anything, to you about how the judge is likely to approach the trial that's coming up next month? KHARDORI: Well, it sounds like the judge wants to hold them on a pretty tight leash, for lack of a better word, and to make sure that this trial proceeds in an orderly way without a lot of circus and nonsense outside on the courtroom or digitally in the online sphere.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Ankush Khardori, thank you very much. Evan Perez, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, we're getting the first response from an attorney for Sean Diddy Combs after the federal raids on his homes. We're going to share that with you right after a quick break.



BLITZER: All right, there's breaking news. An attorney for rapper and producer Sean Diddy Combs is maintaining his innocence in the first public statement since yesterday's federal raids on his homes in Florida and California.

CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is joining us now from Los Angeles with more. Josh, give us the latest.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Well, an attorney for Sean Combs blasting federal agents who were at both residences yesterday in Miami and here in Los Angeles, blasting what they're calling a show of force by armed tactical agents, the attorney describing this as a witch hunt, saying that this was a gross overuse of military level force. Still, he says that Combs is cooperating with investigators.

I'll read you part of the statement. He goes on to say neither Mr. Combs nor any of his family members have been arrested, nor has their ability to travel been restricted in any way. There has been no finding of criminal or civil liability with any of these allegations. Mr. Combs is innocent and will continue to fight every single day to clear his name.

Of course, Wolf, the law enforcement action that that attorney is criticizing involved dozens of federal agents showing up yesterday at these residences, this team of federal agents, Wolf, responsible for investigating very serious federal crimes.


CAMPBELL (voice over): Sean Diddy Combs, music mogul, now the target of a federal investigation carried out by a team that specializes in human trafficking crimes.

Two homes belonging to Combs, one in Los Angeles and one in Miami Beach, were searched Monday, according to a law enforcement source briefed on the investigation. A second law enforcement source familiar with the search warrants tells CNN agents were authorized to search his homes for documents, phones, computers and other electronic devices. Armed vehicles descended on the property simultaneously, a precaution related to armed private security teams employed by Combs. His homes research by HSI, the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security with personnel stationed across the globe, which specializes in countering human trafficking, focused both on rescuing victims and identifying and prosecuting suspected traffickers.

This investigation coming on the heels of several civil lawsuits.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: All of them were incredibly graphic accusing Diddy of rape, grooming, sexual assault, drugging women.


There's a lot of similarities in these lawsuits.

CAMPBELL: One of those from a former girlfriend, Cassandra Ventura, who goes by the stage name Cassie, alleging rape and physical abuse, was settled in November. In a December statement, Combs responded to the claims in all the lawsuits saying, sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday. Let me be absolutely clear, I did not do any of the awful things being alleged.

Cassie's attorney responding to Monday searches and the investigation, hopefully, this is the beginning of a process that will hold Mr. Combs responsible for his depraved conduct.

Another lawsuit filed in February by a former employee, producer Rodney Jones, who goes by the stage name Lil Rod, accusing Combs of, among other things, sexual assault.

The musician was not at either home at the time, his whereabouts still unknown.

WAGMEISTER: This is a huge stain on his reputation to say the least and this really feels like a fall from grace for one of the biggest stars and moguls in the music world.


CAMPBELL (on camera): Now, of course Wolf the big question, what if anything did investigators find at either residents in Miami and here in Los Angeles and how might that information factor into this ongoing criminal investigation? As of right now, Wolf, investigators aren't saying.

BLITZER: All right. Josh Campbell reporting for us, thanks for all that.

Let's bring an Attorney and Legal Affairs Commentator Areva Martin right now. Areva, what's your read on this defiant statement from Diddy's lawyer?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's something that I expected. And, Wolf, when you look at the statement that Diddy himself made in December, he has been pretty consistent in his statements that these allegations against him are not true and that those individuals that have filed lawsuits are doing so only to try to extort money from him. That was one of the statements that was made after Jones, the producer, filed his lawsuit in February. So, I think it's consistent with what we're hearing from Combs' legal team.

BLITZER: Where does this investigation, Areva, go from here? Could Diddy actually be criminally charged anytime soon in this federal sex trafficking probe?

MARTIN: Well, one thing we do know, Wolf, is that in order for this law enforcement agency to raid both of his homes in a way that they did, they had to get a warrant. And to get that warrant, they had to present a probable cause statement before a magistrate judge. So, they have to produce some evidence that they were going to find evidence of criminal activity in his homes. Otherwise, they would not have been able to get those search warrants.

So, we do know, despite not hearing directly from these law enforcement agents, that, clearly, there is a criminal investigation underway, and that, believe that there would be evidence of crimes in one or both of these homes.

And if you read that Rodney Jones lawsuit, it is replete with very, very serious and salacious allegations, including allegations that Combs had cameras throughout his homes where he videotaped himself and others having sexual activity with sex workers and in some cases even underage girls.

So, there are some very seriously allegations that have been made against Sean Combs.

BLITZER: Out of these previous lawsuits, Areva, against Diddy, alleging sexual misconduct, possibly informed this new investigation?

MARTIN: Well, you know, one thing, Wolf, that I was always curious was, as these civil lawsuits were being filed, the question was also looming as to whether these same individuals making claims in civil law suits were also talking to law enforcement agents.

If you're claiming in a civil lawsuit that you've been raped, that you've been a drugged, that you have experienced sexual assault, one would imagine that you've also made those same complaints to some local district attorney, FBI, or some kind of law enforcement agency.

So, I'm not surprised, and I don't think many people are surprised that there is some criminal investigation that is running parallel to these civil lawsuits, particularly when you look at the nature of the allegations.

And, again, they're allegations, nothing has been proven in court, but they are very serious allegations.

BLITZER: Yes, they are. Do you expect, Areva, we may actually hear from Diddy himself anytime soon? MARTIN: I do not think so. He gave that statement on social media in December, but now that his homes have been raided by federal agents, I don't think we're going to hear anything from him. We will continue perhaps to hear through his attorneys his continued denial of the allegations that have made against him. But I have to imagine that his lawyers are telling him that anything he says at this moment could be used against him if these criminal charges ultimately result in some kind of prosecution and trial. So, I do not expect that we will hear anything from him either in person or on social media.

BLITZER: Areva Martin, thanks for that analysis. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, President Biden and Vice President Harris are touting Obamacare right now in North Carolina.


Why Democrats are betting healthcare is a winning issue to help them turn that state blue in November.


BLITZER: This afternoon, President Biden and Vice President Harris took the stage in Raleigh, North Carolina, to promote the Affordable Healthcare Act to contrast their record with Republicans just ahead of November's election.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obamacare and as many of you know, I thought it was a big deal, huh?

Donald Trump and his MAGA friends are nothing but persistent. They've tried to repeal it 50 times, not a joke.


BLITZER: Democrats are optimistic they can flip the state after Donald Trump narrowly carried it back in 2020.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has this report on the crucial battleground.



DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, making a rare joint appearance in battleground North Carolina.

BIDEN: I see a future where health care is a right.

GALLAGHER: Tuesdays stop in Raleigh to talk about health care in a state that only expanded Medicaid last year is just the latest sign of ramped up efforts from the Biden campaign in the Tar Heel State. ANDERSON CLAYTON, NORTH CAROLINA: I considered very lucky that we're getting to see that this early in the campaign.

GALLAGHER: Anderson Clayton, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party says, Democratic voter priorities are clear.

CLAYTON: Education, jobs, and health care. I mean, health care -- abortion is health care access, right?

GALLAGHER: Biden campaign officials are calling North Carolina a critical piece of his path to reelection. One of the fastest-growing states in the nation with exploding diverse populations in cities and suburbs of Charlotte and Raleigh. It's investing early with state- level staffing, spending time and money here.

Biden has been up with ads on air in North Carolina since the start of the campaign.

BIDEN: I'm Joe Biden. And I approve this message.

JONATHAN FELTS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The best is when they actually start cranking it.

GALLAGHER: But Republicans like strategist Jonathan Felts, who advises a super PAC supporting GOP gubernatorial nominee Mark Robinson believes that the early investment is actually a sign of weakness.

FELTS: I think the fact the president and the vice president have come here in March is the reflection of they know they've got a base of voter problem.

GALLAGHER: North Carolina has been something about white whale at the presidential level for Democrats, the so-called swing-state has only swung to the Democrats once since Jimmy Carter in 1976, and the party has been unsuccessfully trying to recreate that 2008 Obama campaign magic ever since.

In 2020, Biden came close, losing to Donald Trump by just about one point. It was Trump's slimmest victory on the map.

CLAYTON: Biden's campaign here got started late in 2020. I think they finally had to organizers on the ground late June, late July, and we've got people that are coming out to canvasses right now that hadn't knocked doors since 2008.

GALLAGHER: Now the Trump campaign doesn't yet have advanced staff on the ground, though he did make a campaign stop in Greensboro days before the March 5th primary. But Felts isn't worried.

FELTS: Nothing can lay up in 2024, I don't think for either party, but I think Trump has the significant advantage.

GALLAGHER: Felts believes one of those advantages is a competitive down-ballot, even though the state often splits tickets, the governors race between the current Democratic attorney general, Josh Stein, and Republican Lieutenant Governor Robinson is expected to be tight. Popular with the GOP, Robinson's long list of past bigoted and inflammatory remarks have made national headlines.

FELTS: Mark Robinson and Donald Trump, they helped turn out Democrat votes and Joe Biden, Josh Stein, they helped turn out Republicans. But the difference is Mark Robinson, Donald Trump, they really helped turn out Republican votes as well.

GALLAGHER: But Roy Cooper, the twice elected term limited Democratic governor, believes the Republican candidates will turn off the unaffiliated and moderate voters that both sides are chasing.

GOV. ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Republicans have nominated a real slew of extreme candidates for governor, attorney general superintendent of public schools, that are probably the most extreme slate in the country.

GALLAGHER: In Wilson, a purple patch in the swingy state, we found undecided voters like Gynnorris King, who voted for Trump in 2020, but is open to hearing what Biden has to say about health care and the economy.

GYNNORRIS KING, UNDECIDED NC VOTER: If he sticks his word, yes. But as some lot of words and big shoes to fill when it comes to North Carolina. North Carolina, you know, they believe in action.

GALLAGHER: Health care is a top issue for Letecia Perez, too, along with education and immigration, once Biden now undecided voter, she's underwhelmed with what she's seen so far.

LETECIA PEREZ, UNDECIDED NC VOTER: I wish it would have been enough for me to say, hey, you know what, I got you this time. But I don't, so I don't know. I'm not even vote. I'm just waiting and seeing and watch it and see, you know, listening to what's going on.


GALLAGHER (on camera): Now, both Harris and Biden attended a high- dollar fundraiser here in Raleigh tonight as well, Republicans in North Carolina insist that Donald Trump is taking their states seriously and they point to his recent hand-picked elevation of the NC GOP chair to the Republican National Committee, leading that as well as along with his North Carolina native daughter-in-law.

Now, look, they also point to path polling that had Donald Trump ahead in the state, but, Wolf, a Marist poll conducted this month found there was no clear leader between the two of them one thing that is clear is that both sides believed that the path to the White House likely leads, but likely goes through North Carolina.

BLITZER: Yeah, good point. Dianne Gallagher, thank you.

Coming up, NBC News just took action in response to the backlash from its on-air talent over the hiring former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel. We have details. That's next.



BLITZER: This just in to CNN, NBC News has ousted former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel just days after hiring her as a paid political analyst.

CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, is joining us right now.

Oliver, what more can you tell us?


The McDaniel mess is over her ouster from NBC News coming after an unprecedented on-air rebellion from NBC's top anchors over Ronna McDaniel's role in subverting democracy in 2020.

I want to read to you, Wolf, a statement that just went out from NBCUniversal News Group chair Cesar Conde. In the note she sent to staffers, he says: After listening to the legitimate concerns of many of you, I have decided that Ronna McDaniel will not be an NBC News contributor. No organization, particularly a newsroom, can succeed unless it is cohesive and aligned over the last few days and has become clear that this appointment undermines that goal. I want to personally apologize to our team members who felt let down.

This comes after again, a unprecedented really on air revolt from NBC talent objecting to this appointments. And now, it appears that she's no longer going to be an NBC News employee.

BLITZER: Well, she's gone.

All right. Oliver Darcy, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues on CNN right now.

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