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Trump Slams Franken, Remains Mostly Silent On Moore; Jared Kushner's Links To The Russia Investigation; Roy Moore Accuser: He Grabbed Me "On My Buttocks"; Trump Slams Franken, Remains Mostly Silent On Moore; Deficit Hawks Question Tax Reform Price Tag; 18 Cases Linked to Ex-cop Thrown Out; Interior Secretary Zinke's Travel Under Scrutiny; Trump Backtracks on Elephant Trophies Ban. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired November 18, 2017 - 08:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jared Kushner told congressional investigators that he did not communicate with Wikileaks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Jared Kushner is in trouble. This "House of Cards" is coming down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Ambassador Kislyak in the room, any Russians? Anybody been to Russia?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't. I think that's a very clear distinction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Moore echoing Candidate Moore, that he is not going anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He will not step down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a full assault. He was very, very flirtatious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not just a problem in the legislative halls. It is a problem of male power over women.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, good morning to you. The Russia investigation is causing more problems for the White House. Question now, did the president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner lie to Congress about the campaign's communications with Wikileaks and Russia?

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Sources tell CNN, that in testimony to Congress, Kushner said he never communicated with Wikileaks, and that he didn't know anyone in the Trump campaign who had. But a new report shows Kushner did receive an e-mail about Wikileaks and he forwarded to senior officials.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to Alabama now where an eighth woman has come forward with accusations against Roy Moore. She is claiming Moore grabbed her in 1991. President Trump is still silent there in the matter in Alabama.

Let's bring in Abby Phillip there at the White House. The president, Abby, was quick to go to Twitter on the Al Franken matter.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He went -- he sent out a couple tweets over the last few days as soon as he returned back from Asia essentially saying that he believed that Al Franken had done something really wrong. He wondered what exactly was going on in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

But a lot of folks who saw those tweets and wondered why didn't the president make a similar state about Roy Moore? Roy Moore is accused of making sexual advances to teenagers.

And the president, over the course of eight days, has not uttered any words at all about Moore, with his own mouth, although, the White House has put out several statements saying if the allegations are true, then he should step down.

At the same time, this has also reignited questions about the president's own accusers, 13 women, about 13 women who have come forward saying he made sexual advances towards them or touched them inappropriately.

The White House still maintains that all of these women are lying, and that the president has not admitted any wrongdoing and hasn't done anything wrong.

BLACKWELL: Abby, I know your powering through that fleet of mowers behind you, but I want to ask you about the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. His attorney responding to the reporting now from "The Atlantic" that these e-mails about Wikileaks were forwarded to him by Don Trump Jr., and then on to Hope Hicks. And possible conflicts there with response to questions about communications with Wikileaks during his testimony on the Hill back in July.

PHILLIP: That's right. Well, lying to Congress would be a very serious offense, it would be perjury. So that's why this is such a big deal. Now Trump -- Jared Kushner's lawyers have responded to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a pretty fiery rhetoric, accusing them, asking their client a classic batch of questions.

They said in a statement on Friday, "Mr. Kushner was asked if he had contacts with Wikileaks, Guccifer or D.C. leaks and said no. He also said that he did not know of such contacts from the campaign.

From all I have now seen, his statement was accurate then as it is now. In over six hours of voluntary testimony, Mr. Kushner answered all the questions put to him and demonstrated that there had been no collusion between the campaign and Russia." So, there his lawyers are really denying that Kushner was aware of this contact. They're saying he was essentially cc'd on this e-mail by Don Jr. He forwarded it and it's something that really crossed his mind.

At the same, Jared Kushner has a lot of issues with disclosing information to Congress. He has made over 100 changes to his security clearance form and a lot of Democrats are asking why does he have a security clearance when he seems to not be able to make clear statements to the federal government about his contact with foreign officials.

BLACKWELL: Several very important questions. CNN White House correspondent, Abby Phillip, thank you.

[08:05:03] PAUL: Jared Kushner played a key role in his father-in- law's campaign here, which makes him such an important player in Robert Mueller's Russia probe and the investigations on Capitol Hill.

BLACKWELL: Last June, during the height of the campaign, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer after Don Jr. was told she had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

PAUL: In September, Don Jr. messaged with Wikileaks and sent that information to Kushner. Now Kushner forwarded to the senior Trump advisers. Kushner held a secret meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador back in December after Donald Trump was elected president and the administration said that meeting was just, quote, "an inconsequential hello."

BLACKWELL: So, just a few weeks later, Kushner submitted his security clearance forms, but they were incomplete. He's had to amend them several times now to add, as you heard from Abby, more than 100 contacts with foreign officials.

Kushner supported the decision to fire James Comey in May and CNN has learned that investigators are asking witnesses about Kushner's involvement as part of an obstruction of justice investigation.

PAUL: On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee accused Kushner of withholding documents related to the Russia investigation and asked for them to be turned over, which brings to us last night when CNN learned that Kushner told Congress no one in the Trump campaign communicated with Wikileaks. Even though, he did receive an e-mail about Wikileaks and forward it on.

Kelly Jane Torrance, deputy managing editor at "The Weekly Standard" with us now as well as Matt Viser, CNN political analyst and deputy Washington bureau chief at the "Boston Globe." Thank you both so much for being here.

Kelly Jane, how much trouble, if at all, is Kushner in based on this latest information that's coming out?

KELLY JANE TORRANCE, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think a lot. It seems there is a Donald Trump quotation from the past for every situation. This one was uttered during a campaign rally when Donald Trump said, "I love Wikileaks."

It's amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet. Well, it's true and it seems that that has come back to bite him and his advisers. You know, I don't know how people can go before Congress and say something without realizing that there's -- if there's hard evidence that disputes what they've said.

This is the most leakiest Washington -- the leakiest Washington we've seen in years. You know, everything gets out and I think his lawyers are really taking the wrong tact here. You know, classic gotcha question.

Seems like a pretty simple question to me, did you have contact? Do you know if anyone in the campaign had contact? I wonder if they're going to be arguing about what the definition of "is" is next. It's kind of ridiculous.

PAUL: Well, he did testify, Kushner testified that, you know, he was dealing with a number of things at that time. There was a lot of chaos. How likely is it that this was inadvertent? That he really did not know at that time or did not remember this e-mail that he passed on then?

MATT VISER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think that's possible. And in isolation, you might have that explanation, you know, in a campaign, you're dealing with a lot of issues. You're getting a lot of e-mails. You're forwarding things along and it's a busy period.

But, you know, the fact is that this is not the only time where Mr. Kushner has not been forthcoming on some of these meetings. There's a repeated pattern of him misremembering or not remembering certain meetings.

And I guess, in this instance, given the gravity of the accusations and, you know, the amount of investigative power involved here, would you want to err on the side of being more forthcoming, not less, and trying to get out of it on sort of little technicalities.

And you would want to sort of rack your brain, you know, about what you knew, and should you offer that up. And unless you're trying to hide something. That's where you get sort of questions over why is Jared Kushner not being sort of more forthcoming on these things.

PAUL: So, how deep may this go, Kelly Jane, in the sense that Jared Kushner, yes, in an active role in the White House with the president, but he is the president's son-in-law. This isn't somebody who is just there for a short time. This isn't, you know, Carter Page who maybe he didn't know very well. What is the likelihood that the president really did not know anything about any of this?

TORRANCE: Well, it's an excellent question, Christi, and also, you know, looking ahead -- you know, Michael Flynn, as soon as they found out that it was public that Michael Flynn had lied, they cut him off. They got rid of him from the administration. Well, it's not so easy to do that with your son-in-law, is it? I think Donald Trump is going to be very reluctant to cut Jared Kushner out of the administration even if worse comes out and that's bad news for the administration if they can't separate themselves from this.

Of course, we know that, you know, Donald Trump talks to his daughter and his son-in-law, regularly, every day, according to some reports. So, you sort of have to wonder what he does know and what he doesn't.

And the idea that Wikileaks contacted Donald Trump's son and Jared Kushner didn't remember that. I mean, this is pretty big news. Not only did he contact them, he gave them a password for an anti-Trump site.

[08:10:09] This isn't a minor thing that you might just forget, in my opinion.

PAUL: And Special Counsel Mueller we know now is seeking one man who might be able to clear some things up, Publicist Rob Goldstone. He is the publicist who set up this meeting, this infamous meeting in Trump Tower between Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer.

And investigators want Goldstone to come to the U.S. They want to talk to him. There has not been a date. But what might we glean from the man you see there on your screen, Rob Goldstone, Matt, what might he add to this conversation? And what might he be able to clarify?

VISER: Rob Goldstone is actually potentially a pretty vital figure in all of this. Not only in setting up that meeting last year, but as you alluded to, Rob Goldstone was the publicist for Emin Agalarov whose father is close with Vladimir Putin.

And Goldstone was involved in helping setup and get Trump to move the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013. He was very close with Emin at that point and they were trying to get that pageant there.

So, he was around sort of n these early discussions between the Agalarov family and Donald Trump. There are also discussions over setting up a business development in Moscow, in a partnership.

So, Goldstone was around for a lot of those early periods where Mueller might be interested in Donald Trump's connections to Moscow before then. In addition to this meeting, you know, a year ago, where Goldstone was sort of the go-between, where he could talk about that as well.

PAUL: All right, Kelly Jane Torrance, Matt Viser, so sorry we ran out of time, but thank you both so much. We appreciate your voices here.

Well, it's been more than a week and President Trump has been pretty much silent on the sexual misconduct allegations against Roy Moore. Listen to what the newest accuser now is saying about the GOP Alabama Senate candidate.


TINA JOHNSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: The moment we walked in, it was full-on assault. He was very, very flirtatious.


BLACKWELL: Plus, the White House says there's a big tax cut coming for Christmas. Independent analysts are questioning who will receive the greatest benefits and most Americans don't believe it's the middle class. We'll take a look at the plan.

Plus, 15 men exonerated after claiming they were framed by a crooked cop in Chicago.




KAYLA MOORE, ROY MOORE'S WIFE: Even after all the attacks against me, my family, the foundation, and now my husband, he will not step down. He will not stop fighting for the people of Alabama. In his words, and I quote, "I will not stop until they lay me in that box in the ground."


PAUL: That's Kayla Moore, wife of Roy Moore, as she speaks out on the sexual allegations against the Republican Alabama Senate candidate. Now, this as an eighth woman is coming forward now telling CNN's Erin Burnett Moore grabbed her buttocks when she was in his office. This was over a child custody battle with her mother.

BLACKWELL: This was in 1991 when was 28 years old and Roy Moore was married. Listen.


JOHNSON: He proceeded to come to the end of the desk and really close-up on me.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: You said so close you could sort of feel his breath.

JOHNSON: Right. Actually, I think his knee might have been touching my knee. His hands were not on me. He was just like maybe his knee was brushing mine or something. Then when it was time for us to leave, my mother had got up and left the room to go out the front door.

Well, when she was going out the door and I proceeded out, he grabbed me from behind on my buttocks and he just squeezed it really hard. I remember thinking, I'm so ashamed. I felt humiliated in that moment. It took everything out of me.


BLACKWELL: Roy Moore has not responded to our repeated requests for comment and reactions to Johnson's allegations. He has, though, vehemently denied the other women's allegations against him.

Let me bring in Amy Kremer, co-chair of Women Vote Trump. She spoke at that rally yesterday. Amy, good to you have back. Haven't seen you since the campaign.


BLACKWELL: So, what's your reaction to the latest allegations here?

KREMER: Listen, I don't know that he's come out and said anything about this specific allegation. But he has denied all of these allegations and I mean, it's a she said/he denies, and I think if there's anything that is illegal, it needs to be taken to a court of law and tried in a court of law, and not in the press.

BLACKWELL: Yes. But the statute of limitations has long expired for some of the alleged illegal activity. That's not going to happen. What fulfills that if it's true variable for you beyond going to court because it likely won't?

KREMER: I don't know that we'll ever have proof that it's true because it's like I said, he said/she said. Why haven't these allegations come out --

BLACKWELL: It's actually he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said.

KREMER: Well, she said/he denies. He's denied all of this. I mean, so why has none of this come out. It's not like he was just, you know, a city council person. He's won statewide races, very high- profile. We knew from the Alabama Supreme Court, he's been under a microscope intense scrutiny and walked through fire. Where have all these allegations been then?

[08:20:01] BLACKWELL: Fair question and there are people who have asked that question. The woman there, Ms. Johnson, said that she's -- at that time, no one wanted to hear it in her words and now she felt emboldened because there were other women who came out.

Let me go on to another thing here. President Trump late in the week tweeted about Al Franken and the photograph that came out. He has admitted so it's not just an accusation of inappropriately groping a woman, kissing her without her consent, but has said nothing himself about Roy Moore, why?

KREMER: There was photographic evidence about Al Franken. I mean, I don't think Al Franken would have come out had that photographic evidence not been put out there. So, he had no choice with the photographic evidence out there. Look --

BLACKWELL: He always has a choice.

KREMER: Do you think Al Franken would have come out --

BLACKWELL: No, I thought you're talking about the president. KREMER: No, no, but at the end of the day, it's not for you, or I, or any commentator or pundit on tv, or even Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or the president of the United States to decide what's going to happen in Alabama.

This man has gone through not only a primary but a run-off, and he is the nominee for the Republican Party in Alabama and they're standing behind him.

BLACKWELL: That has never stopped Donald Trump, President Trump, from commenting in the past. When Bill O'Reilly was accused the most recent time, he was asked by a newspaper reporter and the president said, I don't believe that he did it, right? Bill O'Reilly in that situation had denied it but the president still weighed in. He's not weighing in here.

KREMER: Bill O'Reilly wasn't running for an office. Al Franken is already a sitting senator. This is an election that should be decided by the people and I think that everybody should -- I mean, it's like people don't think that the people of Alabama have the wherewithal, the common sense, to make a decision for themselves.

They do. They are going to decide. The evidence put in front of them. All these accusations and everything is going to put in front of them and they are going to decide on December 12th when they go to the ballot box.

BLACKWELL: So, let me put this question to you in a different way. Are the people of Alabama, the people that you were with yesterday, I went there and covered this primary race. The president won it by 29 points, his biggest victory in the deep south. Are they waiting for a defense from this president, just as the president has defended others who have been accused of sexual misconduct? Are they waiting to hear from the president on Roy Moore's side?

KREMER: I don't think so. I think the people that are standing with Roy Moore are standing with Roy Moore, regardless. I think regardless of what the president does, whether he defends them or comes out and rebukes them, the people are going to continue to stand with him.

BLACKWELL: Let me put up the latest Fox News poll, has Doug Jones, the Democrat in the race up eight points here, 50-42 for Roy Moore. Your reaction to these numbers?

KREMER: I mean, it's a poll. What matters is the ultimate poll on election day.

BLACKWELL: Do you believe it?

KREMER: Do I believe those numbers? No.


KREMER: Well, we've seen inconsistencies in polling before. I mean, the last cycle when every said Hillary Clinton was going to win, I mean, poll after poll after poll, what matters is what happens on election day. That's the ultimate poll that matters.

BLACKWELL: OK. All right. Amy Kremer, good to have you back -- Christi.

PAUL: All righty. Next, did President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner lie to Congress? His lawyer said he answered questions and he did so accurately. But there's a new report that illustrates a different story.

BLACKWELL: Plus, it's being called the first mass exoneration in the history of Cook County in Chicago. Fifteen convictions officially thrown out because of a corrupt former police officer.



PAUL: Welcome back. So glad to have you here. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: We have breaking news in Central Japan, a tugboat has bumped into a U.S.-guided missile destroyer. And U.S. officials tell CNN this is an accident that happened today in Tsugami One Bay.

BLACKWELL: A Japanese boat lost propulsion and drifted into the "USS Benfold." This is a file photo of the war ship we have here. U.S. officials report the "Benfold" was participating in a scheduled towing exercise at the time. Good news, no one is injured, but the ship did sustain minor damage.

PAUL: And there is a new question for the White House this morning, regarding the Russia investigation, did Jared Kushner lie to Congress?

BLACKWELL: A source tells CNN the president's son-in-law and senior adviser told congressional investigators he did not communicate with Wikileaks and he also said he did not recall anyone in the Trump campaign who had.

PAUL: A new report says that he forwarded an e-mail to senior campaign officials from Donald Trump Jr. and in that e-mail, according to "The Atlantic" Trump Jr. said he had made contact with Wikileaks.

BLACKWELL: Of course, this is coming after the accusations this week that Jared Kushner withheld Russian-related documents from a Senate committee.

PAUL: Even as the Russia investigation continues, the White House said the core focus right now is tax cuts by Christmas.

BLACKWELL: The GOP tax bill heads to the Senate floor for debate, the deficit hawks now are questioning how this bill affects the national debt. Here is CNN senior Washington correspondent, Brianna Keilar.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): : Republicans are hard at work trying to overhaul the tax system.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're working to give the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas.

KEILAR: And it has a giant price tag, $1.5 trillion over ten years. Even as Republicans argue questionably that economic growth will help cancel out the big addition to national debt, it's a costly plan for Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who have built their brand on fiscal conservatism.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: We face a brushing burden of debt which will take down our economy.

KEILAR: That was back in 2011 when Ryan was House Budget chairman. In 2013, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the debt and deficit --

[08:30:11] SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The transcendent issue of our era. Until we fix that problem, we can't fix America.

KEILAR: But now Republicans are championing a plan that many deficit hawks say is anything but fiscally responsible. The tax plan's $1.5 trillion price tag is a lowball figure. It's the price tag they need to come under in order to use special Senate rules requiring them to need only 51 votes.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscally conservative advocacy group, puts the real cost at $2.2 trillion.

MAYA MACGUINEAS, PRESIDENT, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET: There are a lot of gimmicks they're slipping into the bill to make the costs look less than they actually are.

KEILAR: Here's one major gimmick. While the corporate tax cuts would be permanent, the tax cuts for American taxpayers would expire after 10 years, on paper anyway, even though it's expected Congress would ultimately just make the cuts permanent. That fishy math allows Republicans to claim a smaller price tag.

MACGUINEAS: On one hand, they're saying, sure, there's all of these expiring tax breaks, but don't worry, we fully intend to extend them and you won't have to worry about your taxes going up. And on the other hand, they're saying don't worry about the cost of the bill. Sure, we're borrowing $1.5 trillion, which I would say everybody should be worrying about, but we're not going beyond that limit, when really they are.

KEILAR: Some Republicans say they are not quite as committed to this charade that the bill won't add more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit, such as retiring Senator Bob Corker.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: If I believe it's going to add to the deficit, I'm not going to vote for it.

KEILAR: Critics say it will add significantly to the deficit, just as the Bush tax cuts did. Exactly what Republicans warned against in the past.

RYAN: It is unconscionable to leave the next generation with a crushing burden of debt in a nation in decline. Washington's obsession with the next election has come at the expense of the next generation.

KEILAR (on camera): There was also a dubious promise that the White House is making about the tax overhaul. The congressional liaison for the White House, Mark Short, saying that every income bracket will see a decrease in taxes and every working family will see a decrease. That is not fully true. Independent analysis shows that American families earning less than $75,000 a year are over time going to pay more in taxes.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And also Stephen Moore with us now, CNN senior economics analyst, and Jonathan Tasini, Democratic strategist.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.


PAUL: I want to listen here to the White House as they have said that the plans could give middle Americans obviously the salary increase they say of $49,000. But I want to listen with you to economists and former Treasury secretary Larry Summers, what he said about that claim.


LAWRENCE SUMMERS, TREASURY SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's a nonsense claim. Yes, there may be some stimulus impact and yes, that may have some impact on wages but no serious expert who looks at the actual plans under discussion has or will support the $4,000 to $9,000 claim.


PAUL: So, Stephen, I want to start with you with that question, from that, as well from Brianna's piece there. How can you claim on one hand that it's not going to hurt the deficit? Because parts of it will expire. And on the other hand that it won't help taxpayers when by 2027 they are set to expire because -- I mean, are they going to get renewed? How can both be correct?

MOORE: Well, first of all, in response to what Larry Summers said, I think I'm a pretty serious economist, I've been doing this for 30 years. And I was one of the people who helped put the original Trump plan together. And the whole idea behind this that Larry Summers and others on the Democrat side don't agree with, is that this will grow the economy.

This is all about making America an economy more prosperous, bring us more jobs, rising wages. And every study, even the Congressional Budget Office, which I think you would agree is hardly a right-wing outfit, they say that 60 percent of the benefits of cutting business taxes go to workers in the form of more jobs and more growth.

PAUL: Well, but beyond that, can you just answer the question about --


PAUL: -- how are you going to cut the deficit --

MOORE: Because -- right.

PAUL: -- if these taxes are going to expire?

MOORE: Right. Every one person -- this is an amazing statistic that nobody likes to talk about. Every time you increase the economic growth rate by one percentage point, so taking it from 2 percent to 3 percent -- by the way Donald Trump has already raised the economic growth rate from 1.5 percent under Obama to 3 percent. When you get 1 percent more growth and reduce the deficit by $3.3. trillion over a decade so, if you get more growth the deficit is going to go down. It's not going to go up because more people are paying taxes, less people on welfare. That has a profoundly positive impact on reducing debt and deficits.

PAUL: OK. So I want to ask you real quickly about the repealing the individual mandates here in the Senate plan because that is the crux there.


PAUL: And that is the glue there at the end of the day that holds together the Affordable Care Act.

MOORE: Right.

[08:35:07] PAUL: We know that Senator Susan Collins says it complicates tax reform. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is opposed to the bill as well. There's not a lot of wiggle room here for Leader McConnell.

MOORE: There isn't.

PAUL: Is there -- and I'm going to ask Jonathan, what do you make of that?

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, I want to respond, Brianna's original package said it all. This is a fraud. It's a fraud to the American people. And it's been tried before, Christi. You remember during the Reagan era, the so-called trickledown economics was an entire failure and what it did was it robbed the American people which is exactly what this tax plan will do. As Brianna pointed out the vast majority of people making $75,000 or less eventually will see their taxes go up. There is no serious economic fact or report that shows that tax cuts

bring economic growth. And the thing is, what the Republicans are doing is they're not addressing the real problem about economic growth. In our economy, which is 70 percent driven by consumer spending, the real problem in today -- today, is that people's wages are too low.

And so if you really want to have economic expansion what you should do is you should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and you should have broad utilization, not give tax cuts to the very rich which is what the tax cuts are going to do, and eliminate the estate tax, for example, which gives huge amounts of money just to rich people. This is just benefitting the very rich.

PAUL: All right. Stephen Moore, Jonathan Tasini, I'm so sorry that we're out of time. But we appreciate your insight into this. Thank you so much.

MOORE: Thank you.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Still to come a Chicago judge overturns 18 convictions against 15 men after an investigation uncovered a corrupt police officer. We'll hear from three of the wrongly convicted men about what happened.


[08:41:26] BLACKWELL: So this is happening in Chicago. It's really rare. 15 men now exonerated after an investigation revealed a corrupt cop on Chicago's police force. The men all served prison terms and claimed they were framed by the former police officer and his unit.

PAUL: Now that officer and his colleagues are under strict scrutiny for remaining cases that are tied to them.

Here's CNN correspondent Ryan Young who sat down with three of those who were wrongly convicted.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may be a first in Chicago, 15 men exonerated of their crimes on the same day. Their felony drug convictions tossed four years after a corrupt officer's investigations were first called into question.

MARK ROTERT, COOK COUNTY CONVICTION INTEGRITY UNIT: These cases we concluded that unfortunately the police were not being truthful. And we couldn't have confidence in the integrity of their reports and their testimony. And so in good conscience, we could not see these convictions stand.

YOUNG: Leonard Gibson says Officer Ronald Watts framed him and took years away from his life.

LEONARD GIBSON, WRONGLY CONVICTED: I went to jail and did two years, 24 months for Watts. I came back home he put another case on me. YOUNG: In 2013, Watts, then a Chicago police sergeant, was sentenced

to 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to theft of government funds. An FBI-led investigation showed Watts and another officer stole money from a federal drug informant.

The conviction has led to review of hundreds of cases. Gibson like many other men whose cases were exonerated says Watts planted evidence on him.

GIBSON: If you're not going to pay Watts, you're going to jail.

YOUNG: CNN was unable to reach Watts for comment.

JOSHUA TEPLER, EXONERATION PROJECTION: It is the prime example of the phrases that we hear, the thin blue line, the code of silence, never -- I have been doing this work for close to 15 years. There is no case, no situation that I have ever seen that comes close to exemplifying the code of silence than this one.

YOUNG: Ben and Clarissa Baker has spent 10 years apart as Ben sat in prison.

BEN BAKER, WRONGLY CONVICTED: It's torture like because you're thinking in your head every day like how did this happen?

YOUNG: Both faced drug charges connected to the rogue officer. At the time, no one would hear their cries of innocence.

(On camera): No one would listen.


YOUNG: What would they tell you?

C. BAKER: There's nothing we can do. You need to call your alderman. Did that. Wrote the alderman. Talked to the FBI.

YOUNG (voice-over): Help arrived in 2015 when lawyers with the Exoneration Project took over Ben's case and helped overturn his conviction.

B. BAKER: Now I finally really feel vindicated.

YOUNG: The Chicago Police Department tells CNN seven more officers have been placed on administrative duty while the department's internal affairs unit looks into other cases connected to Sergeant Ronald Watts' team.

Ryan Young, CNN, Chicago.


BLACKWELL: Wow. Ryan, thank you for that.

Is President Trump second-guessing a controversial decision he made about an endangered species? Now he planned to roll back an Obama era ban. But now that's on hold.


[08:49:09] BLACKWELL: Well, the Trump administration is facing some questions -- more questions about the flying habits of some of the Cabinet members. You'll remember one Cabinet secretary, Tom Price, sent to resign over some of his choices. Well, now, everyone's looking at Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Here's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To hear the horseback riding, hunting, handshaking secretary of the Interior tell it, his official trips are a model of transparency.

RYAN ZINKE, INTERIOR SECRETARY: Every time I travel, I submit the travel plan to the Ethics Department that evaluates it line by line to make sure that I am above the law. And I follow the law.

FOREMAN: But a probe by his own department's inspector general is casting serious doubt on that claim.

"Our investigation has been delayed," Mary Kendall wrote in a memo, "by absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips and a review process that failed to include proper documentation and accountability."

[08:50:13] Among the trips drawing scrutiny, a flight to the Virgin Islands in late March where he attended a Republican fundraiser and went snorkeling at a national monument. A trip to his native Montana in May during which he attended a political rally and spent a day and a half at his home. And in June, a journey to meet with the professional hockey team in Las Vegas owned by a political backer before taking a chartered plane to his Montana home once again.

His office notes he has done some official business on each of these trips. He says he charters private jets only when commercial flights won't work. And even though he spent almost $73,000 taxpayer dollars this way since taking office, Zinke is making no apologies.

ZINKE: I'd just like to address in the words of General Schwarzkopf, a little B.S. on travel.

FOREMAN (on camera): Zinke's staff has said part of the problem is a paperwork mess they inherited from the Obama administration. The inspector's investigation is not done. And they issued this memo in hopes of addressing that matter.

Still several other Cabinet members are also being scrutinized and one has already resigned over questions about what in some cases looks suspiciously like private travel on the public's dime.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PAUL: Well, President Trump has decided to put his big game trophy decision on hold. He's enforcing for now the existing federal ban on hunters importing trophies of slain elephants from two African nations.

The president tweeted his announcement yesterday saying he needs to further review conservation facts. But the Trump administration had initially lifted the restrictions set in place by the Obama administration. That was back in 2014. And the president's move was heavily criticized because of the elephants' dwindling population.

So wildlife conservationist Michelle Garforth is with us here.

First of all, this has to be a relief to you. How dwindling is the population of elephants?

MICHELLE GARFORTH, WILDLIFE EXPERT: I'm always hesitant to sprung facts because you have to look at the statistics and who's creating them and where they're coming from. There is reports saying 73 percent. Other reports say 43 percent. Even as little as 6 percent. However, I would definitely believe personally the dwindling populations are dramatic.

PAUL: Because you've seen -- you've said you've seen pictures.

GARFORTH: You see it on -- you see it with your own eyes, on the ground, you talk to your friends. You hear -- you must remember that, A, game reserve is only so much land. And that land can only support so many elephants so it's a very simple equation for us to count how many elephants we have in one area. So big populations are dwindling.

PAUL: So you used to see --

GARFORTH: You used to see herds, strong, strong herds of elephants back in the '60s. And today, where you would see a strong herd, you now literally are seeing one, two, three animals.

PAUL: So if the president does lift this ban, what does that -- what does that tell you? What would you say to him if you could?

GARFORTH: I would say now is definitely not the time to be discussing this ban at all. Because Zimbabwe first is in huge turmoil right now politically and financially. That's where the focus needs to be. I would also say to him, thank you, this is a time to pause and to really get your facts in a row.

Let's have a look at the money of hunting. Big game hunters are very quick to say that this money is important because it goes towards conservation management, it goes towards tourism. However, I would also say to you that alive one bull elephant's value over its lifetime is worth $1.6 million U.S. in tourism fees.

PAUL: That's what I was going to say, people going to see the elephants have to bring in money as well.

GARFORTH: Yes, yes. And also when people see those elephants they generally feel great awe. One of the things that we are very privy to, living with them intimately and experiencing those families, those dozy herds when they're waking in the morning, and you see that dynamic. Watching the top elephant with their babysitters taking care of them, when they're being mischievous.

All of that leads itself to them being sentient beings. A sentient beings is one that has consciousness. One who experience sensation, has feelings. Now of course what does that lead us to sensations and feelings equal suffering as well. If you experience suffering it means that you concur that you have rights, OK? These animals are very aware of this situation and what's happening around them. Again, a ranger friend of mine yesterday sent a very long letter to me he's busy filming a documentary about an elephant herd down there. He was -- he saw a male elephant, a bull elephant coming to a water hole to drink. And instead of walking in his normal straight path passion that they always take, he was zigzagging behind trees.

And it was odd behavior. It was funny and he was like what is this elephant doing, what strange behavior? And after a while, thinking, watching, learning, seeing, in his mind, we believe the elephant was hiding.

[08:55:02] He was trying to hide behind trees, hide his tusks because they have seen so much slaughter, they have seen their family members being killed. They look, they learn, they see.

PAUL: Is that what you would say to the president to try to get him to continue this ban?

GARFORTH: I would say to him we need to do everything possible to ensure that the ban stays in place. This ban doesn't stop countries trading in herds, OK? All it does is limit it. We need to put as many obstacles as possible in front of killing or murdering our wildlife.

PAUL: Michelle Garforth, we appreciate your insight on this. Thank you for being here.

GARFORTH: It's a pleasure.

PAUL: We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: That's it for us. We'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of NEWSROOM.

PAUL: Yes. Don't go anywhere, though. "SMERCONISH" starts with you after this short break.