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The Situation Room

Awaiting Judge's Ruling On Trump Motions To Toss G.A. Charges After First Hearing Since DA Willis Allowed To Stay On Case; Defense Argues Trump's Statement About 2020 Election Are Protected Under First Amendment, Even If Claims Are False; DA Fani Willis Does Not Appear At First Hearing In Trump Prosecution Since Effort To Disqualify Her From Case; New Video Shows Final Moments Before Bridge Collapse; Dozens Of Ships Diverted As Port Of Baltimore Remains Closed; Maryland Requests $60 Million In Federal Funds For Bridge Collapse Response; Biden Turning To Obama & Clinton Tonight To Help Build Dem Enthusiasm And Widen His Campaign Cash Edge Over Trump; Critics Warn Alabama Bills Are Chipping Away At LGBTQ Rights; Six-Year-Old Palestinian Dies From Hunger, Lack Of Treatment In Gaza. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Referred to as, quote, rather ugly, will finally be taken down. The 13 foot kind of grim Reaper of Voldemort looking monstrosity is supposed to honor the late Prince Philip and his tenure as chancellor of Cambridge University. Today, the Cambridge council told CNN it was installed in several places on the campus over the years without proper planning and discussion.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the judge of the Georgia election subversion case is weighing Donald Trump's newest attempt to try to avoid criminal prosecution. We're breaking down the first hearing since district Attorney Fani Willis was allowed to stay on the case and why she was a no show today.

Also tonight, federal investigators are back on board the cargo ship that slammed into a Baltimore bridge seeking answers as we're seeing the ship heading toward the deadly collision from a new angle.

And the Biden campaign is touting a historic $25 million haul from a fundraiser tonight featuring former presidents Obama and Clinton. President Biden getting ready to attend the event as Donald Trump is also in New York trying to grab some of the spotlight and send a get tough message on crime.

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

We begin this hour with the criminal prosecution of Donald Trump in Georgia moving forward after District Attorney Fani Willis's successful battle to remain on the case. Both sides now awaiting the judge's ruling on a new attempt by the defense to make the charges go away. CNN's Nick Valencia reports from Atlanta.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump's criminal case in Georgia back underway. Trump's attorney in the sprawling racketeering case arguing in court that the indictment must be thrown out.

STEVE SADOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Statements, comments, speech, expressive conduct that deals with campaigning or elections has always been found to be at the zenith of protected speech.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Steve Sadow objecting to the charges against Trump, arguing his client was protected by the First Amendment when he spread lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election being stolen.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Noticeably absent from Thursday's pre-trial motions hearing. Fani Willis, who spoke out Saturday at a community event.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm not embarrassed by anything I've done.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The Fulton county DA narrowly survived staying on the case after more than two months of hearings and court filings on an effort to disqualify her over her romantic relationship with a former lead prosecutor on the case Nathan Wade.

WILLIS: I do think that there are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.

VALENCIA (voice-over): But today, the focus was back on the facts of the case. In the first hearing since those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, Her team, minus the recently resigned Wade, arguing Trump was not being charged for lying, but rather because the lies he told incited a crime under Georgia law.

DONALD WAKEFORD, FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: An act which is illegal because it does harm to the government. There's nowhere to go because all of the speech is pled as integral to criminal conduct and therefore it's not protected by the first.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Attorneys for Trump co-defendant David Shafer also argued to get his charges dismissed. The former Georgia GOP chair was charged with multiple counts, including for impersonating a public official when he and others showed up to the Georgia Capitol in December 2020 to act as so called fake electors for Trump. Shafer's attorney argued the term should be dropped, calling it, quote, "really nasty."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a just a pejorative saving it. VALENCIA (voice-over): Shafer argues he was not participating in a shady scheme when he tried to cast a vote as an elector, saying Trump won the 2020 election in Georgia. Instead, he argues he was simply following novel legal advice to give his candidate legal options to challenge the election.


VALENCIA (on camera): Court ended without a decision today. And we should mention that previous First Amendment arguments by former co- defendants in this case have failed before Judge McAfee. Even still, big questions remain around this case. Not just how Judge McAfee will rule on these motions, but will Fani Willis be able to get this case back on track for an August trial start? Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nick, stay with us. I also want to bring in our legal experts, including Jennifer Rodgers right now.

Jennifer, this is the first hearing since the scandal with Willis and Wade. Has the district attorney's office gotten this case back on track? What's your assessment?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It sounds like they have, Wolf, and sounds like the judge is on board with that. Judge McAfee is not waiting to see what happens with this appeal. He's going ahead. He's deciding motions that are pending before him. And that's really good news for the DA's office here because it shows that he's ready to go.


And as soon as they set a trial date, it sounds like he's got things on track to meet that date. So we're just waiting for that date now, the trial date, and we'll see how things develop until then.

BLITZER: Amy Lee Copeland is with us as well. Amy Lee, very similar arguments, as you know, from Trump's attorneys, already failed in the federal election subversion case. So why are they making them here?

AMY LEE COPELAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Wolf, I've asked myself the same question, I think they just want to preserve the arguments in case somebody changes their mind. It's just not going to happen. You know, Judge McAfee said to defendant Chesebro, listen, you know, anything that you have concerns about needs to be resolved at trial. I can't do this pretrial. Judge Chutkan issued her order saying this doesn't protect criminal conduct.

And as recently as last night, the California bar rejected John Eastman, one of the attorney architects of this whole thing, rejected his First Amendment claim. So, this isn't going to go anywhere. This first amendment argument.

BLITZER: Important information.

Jennifer, Trump's attorney claimed his false statements in the indictment are protected by the First Amendment and can't be prosecuted. How do you see it? RODGERS: Well, he's right in the sense that false statements can be protected by the First Amendment. They're not unprotected just because they're false. But it's also the case that speech can be part of a crime. And you can't say just because words were coming out of your mouth that you're protected from committing that crime. I mean, think about a bank robber who walks into a bank and says, stick them up, I'm here to rob the bank.

You can still charge him with bank robbery. And it's not like he can say, well, you can't use that statement against me because I was speaking words out of my mouth. It's sort of the same thing here. So, Trump statements are unprotected because they were part of a criminal scheme and that evidence will come in at trial against him despite these arguments his lawyers are trying to make now.

BLITZER: Nick Valencia, let me bring you back. The district attorney, Fani Willis, didn't appear during today's hearing. What do we know about that?

VALENCIA: Well, defense attorneys I've spoken to, Wolf, are speculating that she's in hiding, but there's simply no indication of that. And look, you know, we haven't really seen her much. In hearings like this is only once before those disqualification hearings that she appeared in court, and that was to try to get Harrison Floyd, Trump's co-defendant's bond revoked. These are the types of things that her team handles. And talking to sources close to Willis, this was, you know, really a team effort from Donald Wakeford as well as Daysha Young and Will Wooten.

You know, one really important note here is that for those that believe that the prosecution would be lost without Nathan Wade, you know, that's not the case at all. They handled today's case very well, or today's hearing rather, very well without him. Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Amy Lee, bottom line right now, did you hear anything today that would suggest that the judge could make a different ruling than his federal counterpart?

COPELAND: I didn't. You know, the state even made sure that Judge McAfee knew what Judge Chutkan had considered. The RICO expert that the state has hired jumped up to explain the effect of First Amendment rights and the RICO conspiracy allegations. You know, that even if this was political speech, at some point, those may have been steps toward the finish line, but where the First Amendment quit protecting one was when criminal conduct occurred. So, I just didn't hear anything that this is going to be the unicorn case where the First Amendment saves the day for this defendant.

BLITZER: Yes, important.

Jennifer, does Trump have any avenues really left to try and get this case dismissed? And when could this actually go to trial?

RODGERS: Well, he does have one avenue left, which is the pending Supreme Court argument about presidential immunity, I don't think he's going to win that argument. But if he did get a ruling for the Supreme Court that he's immune for anything that he did while he was still president of the United States, then he would not be able to be charged for this case in Georgia either. But I don't think that's going to happen.

And I don't know when it's going to go to trial, Wolf. I wish I knew. I can't see it happening before the election. I just don't think there's enough time. But Judge McAfee will be the one to make that call, and we're all anxiously awaiting it.

BLITZER: And we know that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the presidential immunity issue later next month.

Amy Lee, Fani Willis insists her case will proceed full steam ahead, even though there's still no official trial date on the calendar. Do you buy that?

COPELAND: Sort of. I buy that. She's going to continue asking for motions hearing. She's going to continue pushing the case. She's going to continue moving forward with the work of her office.

Remember, she's the one -- or her office told the one that they just needed a 30-day runway to try this case. And, you know, if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready, Wolf. I think the real wrench in the machine is going to be what the appeals court does with this certificate of immediate review. If they grant review of the disqualification motion, that'll be a serious impediment to trying the case before the election.


BLITZER: We will watch it every step of the way. Thanks to all of you for joining us. Excellent analysis.

Coming up, we'll have the latest on the Baltimore Bridge collapse. We have details on new efforts to clear the debris as federal investigators reboard the ship still tangled in the wreckage. Plus, President Biden's fundraiser with Barack Obama and Bill Clinton brings in already $25 million. Can the campaign take advantage of its growing cash advantage over Donald Trump?


BLITZER: Maryland governor, Wes Moore, has just officially requested $60 million in initial, initial federal funding for the Baltimore bridge collapse. This as the massive effort to clear debris from the river gets underway. CNN's Brian Todd is near the scene in Baltimore for us.


Brian, what are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have new information tonight on the effort to get this port functioning again. And we have new images of those critical moments before impact on Tuesday morning.


TODD (voice-over): New video into CNN showing the final moments before the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on Tuesday, killing six people. This surveillance footage caught the last vehicles to dart across the bridge before the cargo ship rammed into one of its supports. Officials are now focused on getting the port back in business. Longshoremen Union head Scott Cowan says the closure will hurt all of Baltimore and beyond.

SCOTT COWAN, INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN'S ASSOCIATION: The warehouses, the trucking community and all the stuff around the city that is connected to the port. It's 100,000 jobs that are indirectly not connected to the port and 15 to 20,000 jobs directly connected to the Port of Baltimore.

TODD (voice-over): The port's commerce will remain at a standstill until hundreds of millions of tons of twisted steel and concrete are cleared from the Patapsco River.


TODD (voice-over): Damien Tucker has been loading shipping containers onto cargo ships at the port of Baltimore for 20 years.

TUCKER: Many of us in Longshoremen live paycheck to paycheck like many other people in this economy. We have to work 60 and 70, 80 hours a week to make a decent living.

TODD (voice-over): Cowan says the work at the port is going to dry up soon.

COWAN: There's a little bit of cargo left that some of our people are working, some of the processors are still working. But that cargo and that processing will eventually dry up and they will be out of work as well.

TODD (voice-over): But it's not just in the port.

TODD: We're here on the Chesapeake Bay south of Baltimore, just across from Annapolis, Maryland, where, as you can see, there are several tankers, cargo ships and other vessels just anchored here waiting for guidance on where to go.

TODD (voice-over): The National Transportation Safety Board laid out a dramatic timeline.

MARCEL MUISE, MARINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR, NTSB: Audible alarms were recorded on the ship's audio -- bridge audio.

TODD (voice-over): Just two minutes elapsed between the ship's pilot making the mayday call until it crashed into the key bridge. And the 21 member crew has been on board since the collision.

COWAN: The ship needs to be maintained and they have to have people aboard that ship at all times.

TODD (voice-over): It was carrying roughly 4,700 cargo containers including 56 with hazardous material.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Seven hundred and 64 tons of hazardous materials, mostly corrosives, flammables and some miscellaneous hazardous materials, class nine hazardous materials, which would include lithium ion batteries.

TODD (voice-over): NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said some of those containers spilled into the water.

HOMENDY: We have seen sheen on the waterway.

TODD (voice-over): CNN has identified some of the six workers who were killed Tuesday. A fellow construction worker who was scheduled to work Tuesday night but had swapped shifts told CNN the men were likely taking a break from filling potholes on the bridge when it collapsed.


TODD (on camera): Now while officials have said some hazardous material did spill into the water, both the EPA and the Coast Guard have said there is no airborne contaminant as a threat and no threat to drinking water. As I step off, just to show you, one of the ships that's stranded here in Baltimore harbor, that's the Palanca Rio, that is an oil and chemical tanker. What I can tell you is that the governor, West Moore, is going to have a news conference next hour to give an update on these recovery efforts.

And, Wolf, also, we just spoke to a truck driver who picks up cargo from the port and carries it to places locally. He said it's a ghost town over there. He's got to actually now make the trip to places like Hampton Roads, Virginia, about 220 miles away just to keep going with his job. That's how tough it is right here.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll have live coverage of the governor's news conference. Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.

Joining us now, Greg Williams. He's president of a company which handles cargo at the port.

Thanks very much, Greg, for joining us. We just -- we're just getting new video showing a different angle of the Dali, the ship, the Dali ship approaching the bridge three days after the collapse. What is the latest situation at the Baltimore port? And are your company and others able to operate in any way at all while the channel is shut down?

GREG WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, B&E STORAGE AND TRANSFER: Well, you know, just like your other guys were saying before me, you know, the port is going to be shut down here by next week. We can't get any ships in or out of the port of Baltimore. So even what we do, we drape approximately -- we move about 100 truckloads a day through our terminal here. And right now, you know, we'll be out of inbound cargo coming from the port of Baltimore probably beginning of next week.

Now, we're trying to work with our customers. The cargo is being rerouted to either New York, New Jersey, or down into Hampton, north of Virginia.

BLITZER: Interesting.

WILLIAMS: So right now we're making all inroads to get their containers back into Baltimore. So, like your previous guy said, it's about 225 miles to Norfolk, that's about 200 miles up to New Jersey. So we're working with our -- not only our trucking fleet, but other carriers to get the freight down to our warehouse to get it unloaded and get it out into the supply chain and got into countries. People all over the country as well.


BLITZER: I know your company has been in business for 40 years at this Baltimore port. How big of an economic toll is this bridge collapse taking on your company right now and indeed on the entire industry there?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it's huge. You know, I'm just a small operator here, but you have just like the general, you have the union, you have the port of Baltimore here that has over 15,000 guys working daily and associated with the ports over 100,000 guys daily. So right now, I was with all of our drivers. You know, we're going to reroute our trucks to go to New York, New Jersey, or down into Norfolk to pick up our customers freight. And that's something that we really don't do.

It's nothing that we want to do, but we want to keep our guys working, you know, during this tragic event. You know, we don't want to send anybody home, but that's what we're going to do. I mean, we're going to keep going through this.

BLITZER: Yes. So important. The state of Maryland, as you know, has already requested 60 million federal dollars to start cleaning up this wreckage and begin recovery. Will businesses like yours need any financial support the longer this process goes on?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, we're going to do everything we can not to ask for any financial support. It's my understanding that floaters are on the way and hopefully we'll get our first crane in here tomorrow, one Saturday, one Sunday that could hopefully start to dismantle the wreckage. You know, this is a very fast paced operation, not only what we do, but what the port does. And, you know, it's a big machine that just eats cargo every day. So then you can imagine when it stops, you know, it's -- people just stay around looking for the next thing to do.

But we're going to keep our customers going and start picking up their freight from whatever port it's available.

BLITZER: Good luck to you and all the men and women who work with you. Greg Williams, thank you very, very much.

Up next, tonight's presidential blockbuster in New York City as the Biden campaign turns to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to generate enthusiasm and a record amount of cash. Plus, Donald Trump is also in New York aiming to show a very stark contrast with the Biden gala as he attends a slain police officer's wake.



BLITZER: Less than three hours from now, the biggest names in the Democratic Party are teaming up to give a financial and psychological boost to the Biden reelection campaign. We're standing by for the star studded sold out event featuring former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. CNN's Kayla Tausche, she is following all of these developments. She's joining us from the White House right now.

Kayla, the Biden campaign says it's already raised what it's calling a truly historic amount of $25 million. Update our viewers.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's no doubt that it's the highest grossing event of the cycle so far. The public won't get to see that star studded event. There's a presidential prologue of sorts that's available only to small dollar donors. It will be live streamed before the events. And sources tell CNN's MJ Lee that those grassroots donors comprise about a third of the $25 million haul that's expected from tonight's event.

Now, it is a significant figure that $25 million and it would go a long way to widen the cash advantage that Biden already has over his Republican rival, of course, the former President Donald Trump. The March data is not available yet, but in both January and February, Biden raised about double that Trump raised. And at the end of February, Biden had roughly double the cash on hand as President Trump. And the Biden campaign says that the money that it's raising now is going to go even further than Trump's, who's been using his campaign cash to defray his legal expenses.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, who's the co-chair of Biden's campaign, says this in a statement, "Unlike our opponent, every dollar we're raising is going to reach the voters who will decide this election, communicating the president's historic record, his vision for the future, and laying plain the stakes of this election." The three presidents are expected to spend much of that Stephen Colbert moderated conversation on stage at Radio City Music hall talking about that record of President Biden's three years in office. So far, even though, Wolf, voters aren't quite sold on it, when you look at the approval ratings for the three presidents, Biden has a lower approval rating than his two predecessors at this exact same stage in their terms.

BLITZER: Interesting. So, Kayla, how does the Biden campaign plan to translate what's happening today into votes?

TAUSCHE: They say it's simple. They say money and time. You know, of course, the money that not only Biden but also Democratic affiliated committees and PACs have on hand is significant. They'll be deploying it through ads throughout the year, also events with voters. And Biden's expecting his campaign travel to ramp up from two states a week to even more as the months go on.

But many advisers suggest that the American electorate is just not paying attention yet and that it could still be several months before they're actually really focused on the choices in this race, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kayla Tausche, our senior White House correspondent. Kayla, thank you very much.

Now to the Trump campaign. The former president was in New York today to attend the funeral of a police officer killed in the line of duty. This as we're learning that he's hoping to one up President Biden's big fundraising haul tonight. I want to bring in CN's Kristen Holmes.

Kristen, what are you learning about an upcoming Trump fundraiser?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm hearing from campaign sources that they are expecting to raise more than $33 million. Now, obviously, this is an enormous sum and we will be waiting to see what actually comes out of this fundraiser. It was one that we had reported on before, it's happening April 6 with some of the biggest names in the GOP.


And these are donors, many of whom had sat on the sidelines during the primary saying they didn't want to get involved or were really trying to find an alternative to Donald Trump. Now they are getting behind the former president. That includes the Mercer family. That includes oil tycoon Harold Hamm, as well as hedge fund founder, John Paulson, among many others.

Now, again, this is coming from the campaign. It's also coming out on a night that Joe Biden and his team are saying that they plan to raise more than $25 million. So we will wait as we get closer to this fundraiser to see if those numbers are accurate. But as you mentioned, while he is holding this big, fancy fundraiser in Palm Beach on April 6th, he also was hoping today to really draw a contrast with President Biden, saying that President Biden was in New York, as was Donald Trump.

Biden was there for what they were calling a glitzy fundraiser with elitists. Obviously, something Donald Trump does often is try to paint Democrats as elitist as compared to what he says he was doing or what he was doing, which was going to the wake for this NYPD officer, Jonathan Diller, who was killed in the line of duty. So they were trying to draw this juxtaposition here.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is also lashing out on Truth Social right now at Judge Merchant's daughter. This is the judge in the hush money case he has been going after what he says is her Twitter account. This came from far right circles who tried to circulate this account. The court has already responded, saying that this is an old account, it's no longer linked to his daughter, that it's not linked to her e-mail, and that she shut it down a year ago. But he is continuing to attack not only the account and posts that have some more liberal posts, including one of Donald Trump behind bars, but also attack his daughter personally.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting, Kristen Holmes reporting for us. Thank you very much. I want to bring in CNN chief national correspondent John King and CNN senior political analyst Nia-Malika Henderson. John, what message is the campaign trying to send by bringing Obama, Clinton, and Biden together tonight?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The biggest message is that the big guns in the Democratic Party are all on the same team, all rowing in the same direction. You will not see, for example, George W. Bush, the only living Republican former president. You're not going to see him raising money for Donald Trump. You're not even going to see Mike Pence or Dick Cheney, you know, Republican vice presidents, Mike Pence was Donald Trump's vice president. He says he can't vote for him.

So the Democrats are trying to send a message that we are unified. Now, the biggest takeaway, Wolf, though, is all that money, $25 million plus. I bet by the end of the week they say it's even higher than that. Fundraising does not win elections. But if you spend that money wisely, it can win elections. It can help you win elections.

And the President has a lot of cracks in the Democratic coalition. He's already up on T.V. during targeting the black voters, already up targeting Latino voters. He's got a lot of work to do. When you have a lot of work to do, a lot of money helps.

BLITZER: It certainly does. As they say, money talks when it comes to politics. Nia-Malika, how key is President Obama's embrace to help energize so called disaffected Democratic voters?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, listen, I mean, we have seen President Obama on the campaign trail before. You think back to 2022 when he played a role in that Georgia Senate race was very good. It really I think stitching together a good coalition to back Raphael Warnock in that race in Georgia. And those are the kind of voters, African American voters, young voters, Latino voters, as well as suburban voters. Those are the kind of voters that Obama is so good at energizing and sort of branding the Democratic Party as a winning party, as the party of the future, as a sort of normal party.

I think John rightly points out that part of tonight is just showcasing the Democratic brand. And that's something that Obama can do, I think, for Biden. And he obviously has done that before in 2020. I'm sure his wife, Michelle Obama, at some point will get out on the campaign trail. He has expressed some concern about this election, given what we've seen from the polls, that it's obviously very, very close. So he can really have a sort of all hands on deck really rowing in the same direction all of these Democratic presidents, including President Clinton and getting folks energized and also like engage.

And I think Biden is obviously aware that Democrats aren't quite paying attention yet. And so part of this fundraiser is really just sort of piercing the bubble and really trying to break through to average voters that there's an election and the stakes are very high.

BLITZER: Yep. Well said. You know, John, Seth Meyers poked a little fun at this event tonight. Watch this. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SETH MEYERS, AMERICAN COMEDIAN AND TELEVISION ACTOR: That's right. President Biden is set to appear at Radio City Music Hall with former President Barack Obama, and they definitely know how to sell it.


BLITZER: All right, just to be precise, that banner that we just saw on the Radio City Musical, that isn't real. But, John, is there some truth in that?


KING: There's maybe some truth in the idea that Obama has more celebrity status than Biden. But Joe Biden is the President right now. He's the Incumbent President of the United States. It is his record and his performance that will be judged by the voters in November. I think it does highlight the point that one of the things I have learned in my travels over the last six months or so is that a lot of voters out there, voters who voted for Biden in 2020 and are disillusioned, maybe its inflation, maybe its their own circumstances, maybe they just think Washington is not working. What has it done for me lately? They want to see him. They want him to be more visible. So that's a piece of humor there.

But I do think it highlights the idea that, you know, as I said before, there are cracks in the Democratic coalition. And Nia makes a key point. You have Bill Clinton, right, you know, the last president to have a balanced budget. He was the different kind of Democrat, more of a centrist. Obama, more left of center, Obamacare. They want to talk about the issues, reproductive rights. They want to talk about civil rights. They want to talk about gay rights. They want to talk about the issues that they hope will motivate those disillusioned voters out there to remind them maybe there's -- maybe you're mad about something. Maybe you're mad about Israel-Gaza, a lot of young voters very angry at the President right now about that. Maybe you're mad about that.

But look at the broader issues portfolio that we put forward, these three Democratic presidents. Then look at the other guy. There's your choice.

BLITZER: Very important. You know, Nia, this event at Radio City Music Hall later tonight already has raised, what, $25 million. That's a massive haul for President Biden, further widening his cash edge over Trump. But how does the campaign convert that into actual support?

HENDERSON: Yes, listen, it's going to be about ads. They've already got ads up in swing states. And you see some of this working in some ways, I think if you sort of look at the State of the Union as a time when there was sort of a shift in voter's minds, the voters who watched that, particularly Democratic voters, felt like this was an energized president and then they put a bunch of money into putting campaign ads in swing states.

This is going to go to get out the vote efforts as well and really targeting these voters. They've been up talking to African American voters on a black radio. So listen, they have a massive, massive project over these next seven months in stitching together this coalition that is frayed a little bit around the edges with African American voters, Latino voters, and young voters. So, listen, they are going to need billions of dollars to get this done. So this 25 million is in some ways it's a large hole. They're going to keep having to have large halls. They're going to keep having to not only have big donors, but also those small dollar donors, too.

And listen, Donald Trump, you know, John King was right, that money doesn't win elections, but it certainly does help. And you have Donald Trump, who so far has been lagging in terms of fundraising and obviously diverting some of that cash to all of his legal issues as well. So, listen, I think you're going to see this over and over again, them trying to gin up support, gin up money because they are going to need it over this very, very important and costly election.

BLITZER: And, John, as we reported, a third former president, namely Donald Trump, is also in New York today attending the wake of an NYPD police officer gunned down during a traffic stop. Trump is not known necessarily for this sort of appearance. So why is he doing this now?

KING: Because crime and immigration are central to the argument that Trump is going to make that you want to change presidents because you're mad about the border and you're mad about crime. Now, if you look at crime statistics nationally, most violent crimes are down. If you look at the New York Police Department statistics, most violent crimes are down. But property crimes are up, motor vehicle thefts are up. And we've had many crimes, including an officer killed in the line of duty, that are shocking.

And they get a lot of attention on television. And so this is one place where there's a disconnect between the crime statistics and the crime perceptions among voters. And it could be a key issue in the suburbs, a key issue with swing voters, a key issue in the place Trump needs to win. So it's an issue he wants to highlight. Again, the statistics tell you crime is in better shape now than it was a few years back. However, some of these crimes are so shocking, Wolf, that they stir people, they stir anxiety. And Trump wants to turn that into votes.

BLITZER: Yes, really important. John King, thank you very much. Nia- Malika Henderson, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, we're standing by for top officials, including the Maryland Governor Wes Moore, to give us an update on the Baltimore bridge collapse. We'll bring that to you live.


Plus, a flurry of conservative legislation in Alabama as some worried about LGBTQ rights in that state. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Alabama has been in the spotlight recently. An anti-diversity equity and inclusion bill was just signed into law this month. IVF was also under threat in the state after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are humans. Now a flurry of conservative legislation, including bills targeting the LGBTQ community is working its way through the state legislature. CNN's Isabel Rosales has our report.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a sunny spring day, an Alabama mother walks past rows of tombstones.

CAMIKA SHELBY, SON DIED BY SUICIDE AFTER ANTI-GAY BULLYING: Never in the million years did I think I would pull up at home and find my child lifeless.

ROSALES (voice-over): Camika Shelby is here to visit her only son.

SHELBY: Definitely not easy having to plan a funeral for your 15-year- old child.


ROSALES (voice-over): In 22 days, Camika will mark five years since, Nigel, remembered as warm and gold hearted, died by suicide after he was bullied for being gay.

ROSALES: Do you still talk to him?

SHELBY: Yes. Yes. It makes it -- it's like a comfort thing because I believe he can hear me.

ROSALES (voice-over): Last year, she settled a more than $800,000 civil lawsuit with the Huntsville City Board of Education in the death of her son. Part of the deal required several district wide policy changes to better acknowledge and protect LGBTQ students, including an update to its anti-discrimination policy, specifically prohibiting harassment based on a student's sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Now she questions whether Nigel's legacy is at risk.


SHELBY: If these bills actually go into play. What was I fighting for? Who are these bills actually protecting?

ROSALES (voice-over): In Montgomery, a series of bills are advancing that opponents warn are intended to slowly chip away at LGBTQ rights. One, determines gender as dictated by your birth certificate. Another bans non-approved flags, including pride flags from flying on public property. Then there's House Bill 130, dubbed as Don't Say Gay by opponents. The bill intends to broaden a 2022 law to all public K through 12 grade levels and flat out bans instruction and discussion about gender identity and sexual orientation.

REP. MACK BUTLER (R-AL): This bill just strengthens the law that's already in place and goes a little bit further, making sure that we keep a political agenda or a social agenda out of our schools and let children be children again.

ROSALES (voice-over): HB 130 would also prohibit teachers from displaying flags related to sexual orientation. Groups like the ACLU of Alabama fiercely hitting back against the legislation, saying it would rid Alabama classrooms and students of inclusive discussions. Republican Mack Butler, who represents the town of Rainbow City, authored the legislation. He argues these conversations belong at home.

BUTLER: We just want the school to focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic. That's all it's seeking to purify the schools just a little bit.

ROSALES (voice-over): The lawmaker, later walking back that purifying of schools line, saying he misspoke Camika, argues his bill amounts to alienating and erasing students like her son.

SHELBY: It's dangerous. You're basically making it official that they don't have a safe space. School is not supposed to be a place that would make a child want to end their life.

ROSALES (voice-over): Representative Neil Rafferty, Alabama's only legislator who defines as gay, warns the bill could seriously interfere with the school curriculum in unexpected ways.

REP. NEIL RAFFERTY (D-AL): It is a super problematic bill. It's become so vague that can even talk about Martha Washington being married to George Washington. Because Martha Washington was a woman, a wife, right, who married a man, George Washington. So that's a heterosexual relationship.

ROSALES: That's sexual orientation.

RAFFERTY: That's sexual orientation. Now you're talking about gender identity and sexual orientation.

ROSALES (voice-over): And he questions the motivation for these bills.

RAFFERTY: These are not homegrown Alabama issues. Essentially, these are solutions in search of a problem.

ROSALES (voice-over): As for Camika, her pain and loss still fresh, but in Nigel's name, she fights on.

SHELBY: He's no longer here, but there's still a million of him that is here, and it does affect them.

ROSALES: The Alabama legislature is not in session this week. Lawmakers return next week. CNN reached out to all nine sponsors of House Bill 130, all of them Republicans, and they either didn't answer our questions or in the case of the author of the bill, Representative Butler, he said he was not available for an interview. And Wolf, the ACLU nationwide is tracking nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills spanning across 40 states this year alone.

[17:48:17] BLITZER: Isabel Rosales in Montgomery, Alabama for us. Isabel, thank you very much. And this note, if you or anyone you know is struggling, help is available at the suicide lifeline. Just call 988. And we'll be right back.


BLITZER: Devastating news out of Gaza, another Palestinian child died this morning from hunger and lack of treatment. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports. This brings the number of Palestinians in Gaza who've died from starvation and scarcity of medical supplies to 30. A warning, some of the images you are about to see are disturbing.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video filmed 11 days ago at a northern Gaza hospital, captured little Mohammed's (ph) final days. His labored breaths and all that staff tried to do to keep him alive. On Thursday, six-year-old Mohammed (ph) became the 24th Palestinian child to die of malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza. And the fear is many more vulnerable lives could be lost.

Hunger is in every corner of this besieged territory. The pain visible in the eyes of mothers like Najlaa, who has helplessly watched her children go hungry for months, her husband, Mahran, has fought the unthinkable, throwing his children in the sea, he says, to spare them this torture of an existence. Dante's (ph) family endured months of bombardment in northern Gaza, but it's a looming famine there that's pushed them out of their home.

If you grab a bag of flowers, someone can kill you to take it, Mahran says. Our daily meal for our children became things we hadn't heard of before, like ground soybeans and a wild plant that we never tasted before, food that animals refused to eat, we ate. What they'll do, where they'll go, they don't know. All they want right now is to feed their little ones. My children were crying every night asking for a piece of bread, Najlaa says. We were dreaming of white bread. We were eating animal feed. For the first time in five months they say the children are having real food, even if only plain bread.

This is what Dante's (ph) family left behind in the north, scenes that tell of the desperation of so many who also just want to feed their children as they brush the little aid that's made it into this part of Gaza. More than a million Palestinians are now facing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to a U.N. backed report, with famine projected to arrive in the north any day now. And this man made crisis where Israel has been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, something it denies.


People every day find themselves scavenging for food, forced to pick wild plants to boil and eat. This grandmother can't hold back her tears as she washes weeds and leaves. It's today's meal. What else can we do? She says. It's the indignity of hunger, avoidable suffering as the world watches on. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


BLITZER: And thanks to Jomana for that report.

Coming up, we're expecting an update from the Maryland governor and other top officials on the Baltimore bridge collapse very soon. Stay with us. We'll bring it to you live.