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Trump Defense Charitable Foundation After It Agrees to Dissolve; Trump Preparing to Withdraw Troops from Syria; Trump May Intervene for Ex-Green Beret Charged with Murder. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 19, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: President Trump says he may (ph) intervene in the case. His wife -- this former Green Beret's wife is joining me live to share their story next.


BALDWIN: President Trump's charity, the Trump Foundation, has agreed to dissolve amid a lawsuit alleging it was being used for his family's personal and political gain.

[15:35:00] Still the bigger lawsuit goes on and could result in nearly a million dollars in penalties and the New York Attorney General is hoping to ban Trump's oldest children from serving on the boards of any other New York nonprofit.

The President today took to Twitter lashing out writing the Trump foundation has done great work and given away lots of money, both mine and others to great charities over the years with me taking no fees, rent, salaries, et cetera. Now as usual I am getting slammed by Cuomo and the Dems in a long-running lawsuit.

So, let's dive into this. Maeve Reston has been reading up on this for us. And so, Maeve, help us understand. So, as the Trump foundation dissolves, it has to sell off its assets. So, let's start there. What are those assets?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I'm sure lots of folks might remember one of the most famous assets, which is this autographed helmet from Tim Tebow that Donald Trump made some waves with posing next to it and also two paintings of Donald Trump. Not the kinds of purchases you that you might expect from a charitable foundation. Of course, the foundation did give us a statement on all of this saying that contrary to the New York AG's misleading statement issued earlier today, the foundation has been seeking to dissolve and distribute its remaining assets to worthwhile charitable causes since Donald J. Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election. Unfortunately the NYAG sought to prevent dissolution for almost two years, thereby depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7 million.

BALDWIN: What else was the foundations money spent on?

RESTON: Well, you know, that's very interesting. Obviously, "The Washington Post" did a lot of great reporting into this. But the biggest purchase -- or the biggest donation rather in the charity's history, was this $264,000 gift to the Central Park Conservancy in 1989, but it paid to restore a fountain outside of Trump's plaza hotel. So not exactly money that went with no strings attached apparently. So obviously a lot of embarrassing disclosures here for Donald Trump and his family. And we'll see if that matters to voters.

BALDWIN: We'll see if it does. Last question, where did the donations come from?

RESTON: Well, so one of the biggest donors was Trump's good friend Linda McMahon and her husband of Worldwide Wrestling fame. Not tons of other donors, but we know that Donald Trump really stopped giving to his own foundation ten years ago. So this was not, as he's talked about on the campaign trail, money that was coming out of his pocket for all of these charitable causes. And it's just a fascinating story, and sometimes these things don't seem to matter when it comes to Republican voters, but, you know, as the cloud of impropriety grows around him, that could change as we head into the next Presidential election.

BALDWIN: Maeve Reston, thank you very much on the Trump Foundation there and the dissolution.

Just in, we're getting reaction to Trump's decision to pull all of U.S. forces out of Syria. Moments ago another top Republican just slammed the move saying Congress should have been involved. We'll take you to Capitol Hill next.


BALDWIN: More sharp and swift reaction from Capitol Hill after members of Congress have learned that President Trump is preparing this full and rapid withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria. This decision affects about 2,000 service members whose main job is to train local forces fighting ISIS. And an U.S. official says the timetable for that withdrawal is expected to be between 60 and 100 days. And our senior Congressional correspondent Manu Raju is on the Hill talking to members of Congress. And I hear you just talked to Senator Cornyn. What did he say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he and a lot of Senators are just disappointed, furious, concerned about this decision. And saying that the President should have consulted members of Congress and gone through a normal process and letting people know about his decision to pull out of Syria. This is a message that was delivered to Mike Pence at a Pence closed door lunch and John Cornyn raised his concerns to me just moments ago.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Unfortunately what happens overseas doesn't stay overseas, particularly when it comes to terrorism. So, I think this is going to provoke some hearings, some further dialogue to try to put our collective heads together to figure this out.

RAJU: You met with Mike Pence at lunch today. Do you believe that Pence was aware and was involved in this decision?

CORNYN: Well, it's pretty clear to me he was delivering the message, that this is the President's decision as commander-in-chief and he was listening to the feedback. And I'm sure he'll take that back to the White House.

RAJU: I heard that got pretty heated in there.

CORNYN: Well, there of -- a lot of questions. I think the first mistake is to surprise members of Congress. Nobody likes to be surprised. And I think a discussion about what the thought process is and what the consequences could be is the sort of careful discussion that we ought to have, particularly involving something this volatile.


RAJU: And Brooke, tops Senators are pushing national security officials to tell them exactly what was behind this decision. Bob Corker said that he is meeting with Jim Mattis and said that he didn't believe there was any sort of formal review process that went on.

[15:45:02] Said that the President appears to just woke up and made the decision to go forward and others like Cornyn -- you just heard -- called the national security adviser to try to get a sense of what's going on. And Mike Pence is unclear exactly how much in advance that he knew about this decision. He, according to Cornyn, was just delivering the President's line, his decision to pull out of Syria. So a lot of questions. Expect Republicans to have hearings. Lindsey Graham told me earlier, aggressive oversight over this decision. So not going over very well from his own party on Capitol Hill -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Sounds like surprises all around on this one. Manu, thank you so much. Just hearing from those Republicans on the Hill.

Coming up next, President Trump says he will review the case of this former Green Beret who has been charged with murder for killing a suspected Taliban bombmaker. The veteran's wife and attorney join me to share their side of the story.


BALDWIN: President Trump has thrust a complex murder case into the national spotlight this week, suggesting that the case is not a premeditated crime, rather an act of military valor. This case involves Major Mathew Golsteyn. He was a Green Beret, serving in Afghanistan back in 2010, when he killed a suspected Taliban bombmaker, who had been taken into custody by the Army and then released. He volunteered that information later during a job interview with the CIA, and the investigation that followed led to Golsteyn being stripped of his silver star. But then five years later, Golsteyn made the confession again on Fox News, prompting a second investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, FOX NEWS: Did you find the suspected Taliban bombmaker?

MAJ. MATHEW GOLSTEYN, CHARGED WITH KILLING SUSPECTED AFGHAN BOMBMAKER: We did capture a fighter and then I.D. material, weapons. We recovered radios that the Taliban were using. So quite a bit of material.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But at the time, you think this is the guy.

GOLSTEYN: Yes, absolutely. It is an inevitable outcome that people who are cooperating with the coalition forces, when identified, will suffer some terrible torture or be killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you kill the Taliban bombmaker?



BALDWIN: Last week the Army charged Golsteyn with murder. He could face the death penalty. The President saw a re-airing of that interview on Fox News and tweeted that he would review Golsteyn's case. But some legal experts say the President is unlawfully interfering in the judicial process. So Mathew Golsteyn wife, Julie and his attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, are with me now. Welcome to both of you.



BALDWIN: Julie, let me start with Matt. I want to start with your husband. Graduated from West Point. Goes on to become this elite Green Beret, is awarded the nation's third-highest award for valor. What did serving his country mean for your husband?

GOLSTEYN: I think it meant everything to him. When people thank him for his service now, Matt says it was a great honor. And I would have done it for free.

BALDWIN: Let's go back through all of this and Phillip, I turn to you for this. So let's go back to 2010. Major Golsteyn was commanding soldiers in Afghanistan and this roadside bomb killed two marines who had been working with him. And so according to these reports, Major Golsteyn eventually finds this Taliban bombmaker who he believes is responsible. So Phillip, tell me what Golsteyn did next, which led to the death of this Taliban bombmaker.

STACKHOUSE: Well, all of this is reported in his board of inquiry in 2015 after it was thoroughly investigated. And I think your lead into the story is exactly what happened. He had a team from his operational detachment alpha out in the middle of a huge firefight. They captured this bombmaker with all of the equipment that he had been using to terrorize the local Afghans and to kill American service members. He was brought back to the combat outpost. He was detained for the allowable amount of time. And he was released. A short time thereafter, an ambush was conducted. And that Taliban bombmaker was killed.

BALDWIN: Who killed the Taliban bombmaker?

STACKHOUSE: There was an ambush that was conducted. Matt has reported that he is the one that killed the bombmaker.


STACKHOUSE: In the ambush.

BALDWIN: Just to be clear, you know, despite the fact that this bombmaker was IDed by this Afghan tribal leader who was working and helping these American forces, did Major Golsteyn at the time know he was not authorized to kill him. That this was against the rules of engagement?

STACKHOUSE: Super important to understand this. The bombmaker was captured with bomb-making material. He was brought back to the combat outpost. He was identified by a local tribal leader as being a Taliban member and an individual who was conducting operations in Marja. There are no detention facilities in Marja during the war. Matt was able to keep him for 24 hours at his outpost and then he was released. He could have went anywhere in Afghanistan. He could have went north, south, east or west. And he returned to his area of operation and on his way to the area of operation that he was conducting combat operations against U.S. forces, he was killed in an ambush. It was --

BALDWIN: I understand.

STACKHOUSE: -- it was not anything else.

BALDWIN: I understand. But did Golsteyn understand at the time -- obviously, he knows the rules of engagement.

[15:55:00] You know, why did he pull the trigger, if he knew what he was doing was illegal?

STACKHOUSE: So you imply that he knew what he was doing was illegal or what he did was illegal.

BALDWIN: I'm asking you, was he aware.

STACKHOUSE: Right. He was aware of the rules of engagement. He exercised his discretion as a ground commander in Afghanistan. Controlling essentially the bottom third of Marja during combat operations, highly kinetic combat operations.

BALDWIN: I understand.

STACKHOUSE: He affected an ambush that killed someone.

BALDWIN: I understand.

STACKHOUSE: Many people died during those combat operations.

BALDWIN: So he then goes on. He interviews with the CIA, admits to doing this, right? Tells his truth. The army is made aware. They investigate. They close the case without charging him. A couple years later he goes on Fox --

STACKHOUSE: That's correct. They close --

BALDWIN: They close the case. Right. So, but then then he goes on Fox News, Phillip. And my question is, why then did he go on national TV and publicly admit to this killing? Which then reopened the case and which is why he is now facing this murder charge.

STACKHOUSE: Sure. So he went to conduct an interview with Bret Baier and it had nothing to do necessarily with what happened on around February 22, 2010. He was talking to Bret about how combat operations were being conducted. The failures in the leadership in the Department of Defense and specifically, I believe, the Department of the Army. And Bret asked him some questions pertaining to those allegations that he faced and survived in 2015. And he answered them truthfully. But the snippets that are being cut out of Bret's interview, the -- I mean, they don't tell the story that he told the CIA during his interview process. What he told --

BALDWIN: We aired the snippet. If I may -- he told him -- I hear you. He told him his truth, and we heard the snippet as it was edited by Fox. And wanted Julie, I wanted to get you in, but I know we need to speak with a lawyer about what was going on at the time.


BALDWIN: Julie, when the army then reopens the case because he says what he does on Fox and he answers, you know, truthfully that he did kill this Taliban bombmaker, how worried were you for your husband?

GOLSTEYN: I'm worried for him in some sense because it's wrong. But I'm not worried, because he didn't do anything wrong. And you are mischaracterizing the situation by saying that he did break the rules of engagement. The army's own panel found in 2015 that he, in fact, did not break the rules of engagement. Correct, Phil?

STACKHOUSE: That's exactly right. I mean, you know, at that hearing, the regimental commander from Regimental Combat Team 7 testified, and the commanding general in charge of Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade testified for Matt, absent any Army leadership. But the ones that were controlling combat operations in Afghanistan with Matt both testified for Matt. Both of them.

BALDWIN: No, sure. I understand that. And I understand the case was closed and they didn't bring those charges. But obviously something changed after he went on with Fox and spoke with Bret. And that is when the Army then decided to reopen the case and now, Julie --

GOLSTEYN: Can I also point out something? I would also like to point out he had the board of inquiry in 2015. And they had a general discharge recommended to them, which no one would sign off on, and he also had a medical retirement. They left him, you know, stranded out -- hanging out in the wind for over a year.

BALDWIN: So why do you think they're doing this now? Why do you think they're doing this now?

GOLSTEYN: That's a very, very good question.

BALDWIN: Why have they reopen this case and charged him with murder?

GOLSTEYN: That's a very good question. And that's what the Army has to answer.

BALDWIN: I know that there are concerns depending on how this goes, how this might look, what message this may send to the 14,000 American forces still in Afghanistan. To the Afghans over there about justice. I also know that you have a baby at home. I know it's the holidays. I know you want your husband. I want to hear what you want from this President, what you think justice will look like, Julie. Final question.

GOLSTEYN: I would like for my husband to have the first Christmas in the last eight without the Army, this cloud hanging over his head, when he did nothing wrong. I would like for us to be able to enjoy the holidays with our newborn. And by the way, it's not only how it looks to our men and women over there. Our enemy is also seeing this.

BALDWIN: We're going to leave it there. Julie Golsteyn, I appreciate you coming on.

GOLSTEYN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Phillip Stackhouse, thank you very much. We'll stay on it and stay in contact with both of you. Thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So mission accomplished? "THE LEAD" starts now.

Caught by surprise. Top officials at the White House, the Pentagon, members of Congress, U.S. allies, pretty much everyone, stunned as President Trump announces via Twitter, he's ready to pull U.S. troops from Syria because ISIS has been defeated. But just a week ago, the President's own envoy said we're not going anywhere anytime soon, because the job "ain't" done.

Plus, the far-right revolting as the President's promise of a border wall starts crumbling before it's even built. And new CNN reporting this hour the President is starting to get really worried about the criticism.