Baltimore bridge collapse | U.S. President Joe Biden approves $60mn aid; Governor Wes Moore warns of ‘very long road ahead’ for recovery

The largest crane on the Eastern Seaboard was being transported to Baltimore so crews on March 29 can begin removing the wreckage of a collapsed highway bridge that has halted a search for four workers still missing days after the disaster and blocked the city’s vital port from operating.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the crane, which was arriving by barge and can lift up to 1,000 tons, will be one of at least two used to clear the channel of the twisted metal and concrete remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and the cargo ship that hit it this week.

“The best minds in the world” are working on the plans for removal, Moore said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Baltimore District told the governor that it and the Navy were mobilizing major resources from around the country at record speed to clear the channel.

“This is not just about Maryland,” Mr. Moore said. “This is about the nation’s economy. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other port in America.”

Mr. Moore warned of a “very long road ahead” to recover from the loss of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge as the Biden administration approved $60 million in immediate federal aid after the deadly collapse.

“Meanwhile the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was moving the largest crane on the Eastern Seaboard to help remove the wreckage of the bridge,” Mr. Moore said, so work to clear the channel and reopen the key shipping route can begin. The machine, which can lift up to 1,000 tonnes, was expected to arrive on Thursday evening, and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said a second crane with a 400-tonne capacity could arrive on Saturday.

“The State is “deeply grateful” for the federal funds and support,” Mr. Moore said at an evening news conference.

Mr. Moore promised on Thursday that “the best minds in the world” were working on plans to clear the debris, move the cargo ship that rammed into the bridge from the channel, recover the bodies of the four remaining workers presumed dead and investigate what went wrong.

“Government is working hand in hand with industry to investigate the area, including the wreck, and remove the ship,” said Mr. Moore, a Democrat, who said the quick aid is needed to “lay the foundation for a rapid recovery.” President Joe Biden has pledged the federal government would pay the full cost of rebuilding the bridge.

“This work is not going to take hours. This work is not going to take days. This work is not going to take weeks,” Mr. Moore said. “We have a very long road ahead of us.”

Van Hollen said 32 members of the Army Corps of Engineers are surveying the scene of the collapse and 38 Navy contractors are working on the salvage operation.

The devastation left behind after the powerless cargo ship struck a support pillar on Tuesday is extensive. Divers recovered the bodies of two men from a pickup truck in the Patapsco River near the bridge’s middle span on Wednesday, but officials said they have to start clearing the wreckage before anyone could reach the bodies of four other missing workers.

Crew of cargo ship that lost power and collided with bridge in Baltimore, U.S. are all Indian

State police have said that based on sonar scans, the vehicles appear to be encased in a “superstructure” of concrete and other debris.

National Transportation Safety Board officials boarded the ship, the Dali, to recover information from its electronics and paperwork and to interview the captain and crew members. Investigators shared a preliminary timeline of events before the crash, which federal and state officials have said appeared to be an accident.

“The best minds in the world are coming together to collect the information that we need to move forward with speed and safety in our response to this collapse,” Mr. Moore said on March 28.

Of the 21 crew members on the ship, 20 are from India, Randhir Jaiswal, the nation’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told reporters. One was slightly injured and needed stitches, but “all are in good shape and good health,” Mr. Jaiswal said.

“The victims, who were part of a construction crew fixing potholes on the bridge, were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador,” he said. “At least eight people initially went into the water when the ship struck the bridge column, and two of them were rescued Tuesday,” officials said.

The crash caused the bridge to break and fall into the water within seconds. Authorities had just enough time to stop vehicle traffic, but didn’t get a chance to alert the construction crew.

During the Baltimore Orioles’ opening day game on Thursday, Sgt. Paul Pastorek, Cpl. Jeremy Herbert and Officer Garry Kirts of the Maryland Transportation Authority were honoured for their actions in halting bridge traffic and preventing further loss of life.

The three said in a statement that they were “proud to carry out our duties as officers of this state to save the lives that we could.”

The Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, was headed from Baltimore to Sri Lanka. It is owned by Grace Ocean Private Limited and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk. Synergy extended sympathies to the victims’ families in a statement on Thursday.

“We deeply regret this incident and the problems it has caused for the people of Baltimore and the region’s economy that relies on this vitally important port,” Synergy said, noting that it would continue to cooperate with investigators.

Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333, said the union is scrambling to help its roughly 2,400 members whose jobs are at risk of drying up until shipping can resume in the Port of Baltimore. “If there’s no ships, there’s no work,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can.”

“The huge vessel, nearly as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, was carrying nearly 4,700 shipping containers, 56 of them with hazardous materials inside. Fourteen of those were destroyed,” officials said. However, industrial hygienists who evaluated the contents identified them as perfumes and soaps, according to the Key Bridge Joint Information Center.

“There was no immediate threat to the environment,” the centre said. About 21 gallons (80 litres) of oil from a bow thruster on the ship is believed to have caused a sheen in the waterway, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said on Thursday.

Booms were placed to prevent any spreading, and state environmental officials were sampling the water. At the moment there are also cargo containers hanging dangerously off the side of the ship, Gilreath said, adding, “We’re trying to keep our first responders … as safe as possible.”

Divers sent to work beneath the bridge debris and container ship will encounter challenging conditions, including limited visibility and moving currents, according to officials and expert observers.

“Debris can be dangerous, especially when you can’t see what’s right in front of you,” said Donald Gibbons, an instructor with the Eastern Atlantic States Carpenters Technical Centers.

The sudden loss of a highway that carries 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays.

The governors of New York and New Jersey offered to take on cargo shipments that have been disrupted, to try to minimise supply chain problems.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who met on Thursday with supply chain officials, has said the Biden administration was focussed on reopening the port and rebuilding the bridge, but he did not put a timeline on those efforts. From 1960 to 2015, there were 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or barge collisions, according to the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure.

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Checks & Imbalances: TikTok’s CEO Hits Capitol Hill

Today we reveal TikTok making the rounds on Capitol Hill and offer a look inside your correspondent’s notebook.

TikTok CEO Is Quietly Meeting With Lawmakers Ahead Of First-Ever Testimony

“TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of his first-ever testimony before Congress, including several representatives who will be grilling him under oath on March 23,” reports Alexandra S. Levine.

Chew has sought closed-door meetings with at least half a dozen members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee ahead of its hearing on TikTok’s child safety issues, handling of user data and apparent ties to China, according to two senior Democratic staffers. He has met with several, including Reps. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Scott Peters of California.

“He’s operating from a place where no one has trust in them, and he fully recognizes that,” Trahan said in an interview with Forbes after her Wednesday meeting with Chew in Washington.

“TikTok is in a really unique position right now to take some positive steps on issues that a lot of top American companies have fallen behind, and frankly even regressed, on—and I made clear to Mr. Chew that I hope to see him move to fulfill that potential,” she added.

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Wes Moore On Being Maryland’s First Black Governor, The Economy & Who He Supports In 2024

Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland (D) sat down with reporter Cat Oriel on “Forbes Newsroom” to discuss his road to becoming Maryland’s first Black governor, the state’s economic growth, his policies around policing and his political future.

Continuing Irresolutions

Updates on Checks & Imbalances’ previous reporting

The campaign of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is offering signed copies of his latest book in exchange for donations of $30 or more. It’s a fundraising/book selling tactic that’s common among politicians, but Cotton has added a seemingly new touch of transparency. The ad includes a disclaimer that reads, “Copies of ‘Only The Strong’ are non-royalty copies that do not personally benefit Sen. Tom Cotton, per guidance from counsel and the Senate Ethics Committee.”


In an earnings call on Wednesday, Salem Media Group CEO David Santrella said “Justice Corrupted” by Ted Cruz was the publishing division’s top book of the last three months of 2022. Cruz’s title debuted at No. 9 on the New York Times best-seller list, but the ranking indicated that some book sellers had reported receiving bulk orders. Cruz has a history of using campaign funds to boost his book sales.


Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s memoir remains on the New York Times best-seller list, coming in at No. 13 this week. Pompeo’s PAC spent $42,000 on books the day his hit shelves.


In September 2021, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) did not comply with a federal law when he failed to properly disclose more than $6 million of stock trades dating back to January 2017. Now, out of politics after retiring from Congress and running unsuccessfully for governor, Suozzi “has taken a part-time job at Actum LLC, a lobbying, consulting and public relations firm,” Newsday reported last week. (George Santos now holds Suozzi’s seat.)


Serial entrepreneur Richard Kofoed and his wife Stacy donated just $2,000 to candidates for federal office in 2021 and 2022, according to records with the Federal Election Commission. During the 2020 campaign, the couple contributed more than $800,000 to Republicans, money a former business associate claimed Kofoed had embezzled. That lawsuit is still dragging on. A trial was supposed to begin in May, but it was postponed after the business associate amended his complaint in February to add Stacy Kofoed as a defendant.


John Eastman has raised $313,000 for his legal defense on the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo. The California bar is seeking to strip Eastman of his law license over 11 charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2022 presidential election.


Disarm the Deep State, a PAC launched by QAnon figure Jim Watkins, missed another FEC filing deadline, as it submitted its February report 10 days after the due date. That marked the third time in recent months that the PAC filed a report after its deadline. Disarm the Deep State disclosed no contributions or disbursements during the reporting period.

‘The Sky’s The Limit’: Ben Cline Discusses Bipartisan Legislation To Help Veterans

Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) joined “Forbes Newsroom” to discuss the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2023, bipartisan legislation that aims to help veterans achieve their small business or entrepreneurial goals.

Loose Change

The Congressional Black Caucus PAC’s legal expenses shot up beginning in July 2022, according to filings with the FEC. Since that month, the PAC has spent at least $274,000 on legal services. That’s more than double what it reported spending on legal fees in the previous 13 years.


The FEC fined the campaign of Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) $30,000 for failing to properly report $292,000 worth of contributions in the 2022 election, according to a disclosure released in February. The campaign paid the penalty with donor funds in November.


In January, the FEC rejected three complaints against Bloomberg News that alleged its coverage of Michael Bloomberg were prohibited in-kind contributions to his 2020 presidential campaign. The decisions became public this week.


The campaign for Kim Klacik, a Maryland Republican who lost two races for Congress in 2020, agreed to pay a $19,000 fine after the FEC found her committee violated an assortment of campaign-finance laws. Most notably, it knowingly accepted $94,000 in excessive contributions, which it has since refunded.


Ammon Bundy’s gubernatorial campaign in Idaho spent $79,000 advertising on Facebook, making the social-media company the largest recipient of political funds from the right-wing militant, according to state filings.


Freedomworks for America, a conservative super PAC, reported making independent expenditures in the 2022 general election to support two people who did not actually compete in it. The PAC owes the FEC an explanation by Monday.


The PAC for Deloitte, an accounting firm, failed to report $64,000 in contributions, according to a letter the FEC sent the group last week.


On Feb. 28, the House Committee on Ethics held what is likely its only open meeting in this term. The public portion lasted about 2 minutes and 15 seconds. In that time, the panel emerged from executive session, where it deliberates behind closed doors. It then unanimously passed its rules package, which was the same as in the previous Congress, and proceeded to unanimously vote to go back into executive session.


South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) PAC accidentally terminated itself.

Tracking Trump

“Former President Donald Trump denied having an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels and attacked her appearance in a lengthy statement issued through his campaign, hours after reports emerged that he is likely to be criminally charged in connection to a hush money payment made to her during his 2016 presidential campaign,” reports Sara Dorn.


In 2021, the state of New Jersey fined one of Trump’s golf courses $400,000 after it was accused of violating alcoholic-beverage control laws in connection with a fatal car crash, the Asbury Park Press reported at the time.

Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck is up to date with its payments, a spokesperson for New Jersey’s attorney general told Forbes this week. “Per the terms of the consent order, the $400,000 penalty is scheduled to be paid in annual installments of $100,000,” said Lisa Coryell in a statement. “The first two payments were due on October 15 of 2021 and 2022. Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck has complied with the terms of the settlement and made all payments thus far.”


Last Friday, a song by Donald Trump and a group of individuals incarcerated for their alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riot went live on streaming services. A copy posted to YouTube has been played 320,000 times already.

The music video was released this Friday. It features footage of Trump, flags and the riot at the Capitol, including Ashli Babbit being shot.

Also, this week, “Justice for All” came out on vinyl, according to a new website for the track. The record (“45 on a 45!”), which is on sale for only one week, costs $100 and includes an unspecified bonus recording from Trump on side B. Plans to sell T-shirts around the song also are in the works.


Trump is considering defeated Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake as a potential running mate in 2024, Axios reported on Tuesday. Lake’s campaign spent $111,000 at Trump properties, and she continues to be a featured guest at events at Mar-a-Lago.


“Attorney Jenna Ellis was publicly censured Wednesday for violating lawyers’ code of conduct by making false ‘misrepresentations’ about the 2020 election when she helped former President Donald Trump try to overturn the vote count,” reports Alison Durkee. Ellis is one of at least eight former Trump attorneys facing consequences for their work on his behalf.


Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar finished second in that country’s presidential election, with 29% of the vote. In 2019, when he also ran unsuccessfully for the job, Abubakar made a high-profile visit to Trump’s D.C. hotel just a month before election day. Abubakar, who reportedly had been banned from the United States as a result of his role in a Congressional ethics scandal a decade earlier, acknowledged that he stayed at the hotel to demonstrate that he could get close to the U.S. president.


Roger Stone, who received a pardon from Trump after witness tampering and lying to Congress, spent some time recently with the former president at Mar-a-Lago.


Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) was one of the latest visitors to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago office.


Big Dog Ranch Rescue returned to Mar-a-Lago last weekend for its annual Wine, Women and Shoes fundraiser. Trump spoke to attendees. In 2021, the event raised $670,000 with expenses of $580,000, according to the nonprofit’s tax filing, which did not break down how much Mar-a-Lago received.

Across Forbes

In Closing

“Pulling your strings, justice is done

Seeking no truth, winning is all

Find it so grim, so true, so real”

—Metallica, “…And Justice For All”

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