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Christie, Kushner's Dad Behind One of the Most Loathsome Crimes; Coldest Air in a Generation Leaves Much of U.S. Below Freezing; Pro-Russian Twitter Account Used Non-Public Material from Mueller's Team to Discredit Russia Probe; Police, No Video Evidence Yet of Attack Against "Empire" Star; Trump Organization Now Plans to Use E-Verify before Making Hires. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 30, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] MATT KATZ, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN GOVERNOR, CHRIS CHRISTIE'S BRIDGE TO REDEMPTION": Trump thinks he does pretty well and he calls Christie and thanks him. He says I can't thank you enough. And there are several anecdotes about that. Whenever there's trouble in Trump world, Trump can call Christie and Christie's the adult in the room because everybody else is a bunch of idiots. I mean, that's basically what Christie said throughout this book.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: I feel like you're almost using his language there with everybody else being a bunch of idiots.

KATZ: Yes, I'm trying to personifying in the bit, yes.

HILL: You read his books and you spent a lot of time studying the man.

KATZ: Yes that's true.

HILL: He -- and this is definitely not surprising -- that he really rips Jared Kushner's dad. But he's also been talking about it in his interviews. Let's listen to a little bit of that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you separate your experience if your father was then put in jail from the prosecutor who put him in jail?

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: If it my father was guilty. I would. Mr. Kushner pled guilty. He admitted the crimes. And so, what am I supposed to do as a prosecutor? If a guy hires a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and videotapes it and then sends the tape to his sister to attempt to intimidate her from testifying before a grand jury, do I need more justification than that? I mean, it's one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted when I was U.S. attorney.


HILL: Laying out the details there. KATZ: Pretty harsh words. Yes, that's right. I mean, these guys go way

back. Christie, when he was U.S. attorney, prosecuted Jared Kushner's father. And you know, this is more than Christie has said about this case ever, just in the last few days and in the book. I mean he had been telling us over the last couple years that him and Jared were getting along fine that things were going well. But this book is essentially a way to go after Jared as much as possible.

He believes that Kushner blocked him from becoming Vice President of the United States, Attorney General of the United States. He says Kushner fired him, was the reason why he was fired as the transition chairman. And he says because he got fired as transition chairman, that's why the whole administration went to hell essentially. He's saying that he had all these great ideas and these great people that Trump could have surround himself with.

But because Kushner had this grudge against him for sending his old man to present back in the day, then the result was that all the good ideas that Christie presented were thrown in the trash literally. Christie says that Kushner and his crew threw out literally binders filled with information and transition team materials when firing Christie. And then they surrounded themselves with what Christie describes as a bunch of grifters. And he says that's why things in the administration have not always gone so well. It's because that Christie was pushed aside by Kushner's old grudge and everybody else filled that vacuum.

HILL: We don't tend to listen to (INAUDIBLE), but one of the things that was fascinating today was that Chris Christie talked about how the President called him once. He was on "The View" today and talked about how the President called him and apologized. Those aren't stories that we hear about the President very often. Why do you think he's telling that story?

KATZ: You know, they have a very unique relationship. I mean, he tells that story because he repeatedly in the book says that he's closer to the President than anybody else not in Trump's family. And that's one example of that. They have been friends for 15 plus years. And he says that Trump repeatedly has told him I love you. The reason why he apologized, Christie says, Trump apologized, was because Trump went after Christie on the campaign trail about Bridgegate. Trump said that Christie knew about Bridgegate. The scandal that brought down Christie's political career essentially. And essentially, therefore, had committed a federal crime. After that, Trump called Christie and apologized. And Christie accepted the apology. He then weeks later endorsed Trump.

So they have this unique friendship. Part of what Christie tries do in the book is say that Trump is misunderstood and that he's just been surrounded with bad people. And other than that, he's a good guy with a big heart and he could be a good President. Could be a great President. That's the argument he makes.

HILL: Interesting that we have not seen much reaction from this President on the book. We'll see if that changes at all. Matt Katz, good to have you here. Thanks. KATZ: Thank you.

HILL: And a programming note for you. Tonight former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie will join Chris Cuomo to talk about the new book. You can catch that on "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at 9:00 eastern right here on CNN.

Up next, the ice breakers are out on the Chicago river this afternoon. Temperatures there dropping to 11 below. It's part of a brutal life- threatening cold snap across the Midwest. We'll take a look at how people are coping.

Plus what police are saying about that shocking attack against one of the stars of "Empire."


HILL: I hate to say this because my in-laws are there, but Indianapolis was colder this morning then Siberia, Mount Everest, and the South Pole. That is a distinction no one wants. A historic deadly polar vortex has now blasted a major swap of the country. Some 224 million people in the U.S. today experiencing below freezing conditions. It is life threatening cold. And this means in some cases postal workers are not delivering mail. We're talking about 10 states that will be affected.

The windchill can make it feel like 30 degrees below zero in Tower, Minnesota. Although it hasn't stop runners from competing a 135-mile race. Some of them crossing the finish line with their faces completely encased in ice.

[15:40:00] In Chicago rail crews actually setting train tracks on fire. They need to do that to heat the tracks up to ensure that trains can keep running. And governors in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan declaring states of emergency. Companies telling workers to stay home, schools closed. Thousands of flights cancelled. Let's take a closer look at the impact starting with Ben Oldach, from our CNN affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa.


BEN OLDACH, REPORTER, WHO-TV (voice-over): They call it the coolest job in the metro, but. Oddly enough today it's warmer inside Des Moines Cross Roads Cold Storage than it is outside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not used to it at all. You know, it's weird this place being warmer than outside right now.

OLDACH: The loading dock is set to a balmy 35 degrees.

CHAD WITTE, VICE PRESIDENT, DES MOINES'S COLD STORAGE: It was cold today and now the winds picked up. And it's colder outside than it is in here. So the guys really love to come to work today.

OLDACH (on camera): Employees say it's crazy that it's warmer inside the dock than it is outside. But what's even crazier is that with the windchills it's warmer in -10-degree blast freezer.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL REPORTER: And I'm Ryan Young here in Chicago, where the temperature is nothing to play with. Dangerous lows, something the city hasn't seen in quite some time. Look at the river. It's all frozen. It looks like a winter playland. But we know for sure schools have been shut down, warming centers have been set up all across the city. And there's a real worry about the homeless population here. Because if you're outside for any long period of time, frostbite has become a real concern. Out on Lake Michigan it has been so cold you can see the steam actually rising. Downtown in the Magnificent Mile, known throughout the world, it's almost a ghost town with very little pedestrian traffic and very little street traffic right now. The freeze is not over just yet, Erica. More is on the way.

HILL: Ryan, thank you to you and your team -- all of the folks you didn't see out there braving the cold as well.

Up next, Chicago police still searching for surveillance video after an actor from the hit show "Empire" was attacked in a possible hate crime. What we know about potential suspects.

Plus breaking news involving Robert Mueller's Russia investigation involving a pro-Russian Twitter account. That's next.


HILL: We want to get to break news in the Russia investigation. We're just learning a pro-Russian Twitter account had access to undisclosed information from the Special Counsel's probe. Let's bring in CNN's Shimon Prokupecz. OK, so clear this up for us. How did they get the material and what was it used for?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So it's not entirely clear how the Russians got ahold of the material. But just some background here on what this is about. So the Special Counsel's office has charged a group of Russians in connection with the troll farm, the spreading of fake news, false information during the election. It was 13 individuals, including a company that was indicted by the Special Counsel's office.

The company, one of the main companies that was indicted surprisingly to everyone has been fighting the charges here in the United States and Washington, D.C. They are not here. The defendants are not here. They are all in Russia. But the company has hired U.S. attorneys and they are litigating here, fighting these charges. And in the course of fighting these charges, the Special Counsel's office has had to turn over documents to them. They have been arguing with the Special Counsel's office that they did not want to turn over a lot of documents, certainly sensitive documents. But they have turned over some documents. And it seems that those documents that they have turned over have wound up being published. And the concern for the Special Counsel's office, obviously, is that these are documents that have not been made public. They were given to the defense attorneys. And the other thing the Special Counsel's office says, is that some of

the documents as part of a disinformation campaign by the Russians have been altered. So essentially, they are mixing what is real documents with fake documents and trying to discredit the Mueller investigation.

What the FBI says in the filing from the Special Counsel's office is that the computer that had published the documents -- these documents that were given to this company, to the attorneys for the company -- those documents that were published were published from Russia. That's what the FBI has found. And that the evidence.

And just one other point here. What's going on here is that the Special Counsel's office does not want to release sensitive documents in this case. They are afraid for this very reason that the documents could fall into the wrong hands and information could be revealed, sensitive information, and so they are continuing to fight this. And they're using this example as evidence and why they should not have to release information to this company.

Just to keep in mind, this company fighting these charges sort of has surprised everyone to the extent that they have been going and trying to fight this. And now we're seeing the Special Counsel being really concerned that information that they could be providing is going to be used to try and hurt the investigation.

HILL: Shimon with the latest for us, thank you.

Police in Chicago say they still do not have any suspects after "Empire", Jussie Smollett says he was attacked. Investigators say they've now widened the search area for surveillance video after nothing turned up on the cameras near the attack scene. Officials say Smollett told them -- not initially but in a later interview that during the attack near the subway, the suspects yelled "this is MAGA country." Sara Sidner, CNN national correspondent, joins me now with more. So Sarah, there are some clues that they're looking for and that seems to be one of the biggest challenges right now for investigators.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Police say that they have more than a dozen people working this case.

[15:50:00] And they have also gotten the assistance of the FBI trying to find some video or some image of the two men that Smollett reported attacked him. And not only attacked him, but initially he's told police that, look, they got his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs. Then he told police, look, they started attacking him. They started hitting him in the face and pouring an unknown chemical on him.

Police are still trying to figure out what that substance is. Smollett also told police that at some time during the attack that of the offenders wrapped a rope around his neck. During a follow-up interview, as you mentioned, Smollett also mentioned to police something new that indeed, that during the attack the offenders uttered this is MAGA country. Now we are getting some new information in now. We know police have

been scouring hundreds of hours of video looking for two men, looking for anyone that may fit the description, anyone that was in the area at the time, a very nice area, which police said is highly surveilled by a private surveillance cameras. They have gone through hundreds of hours of those videos and still have seen just one image of Smollett himself, where he is at the subway sandwich shop where they went to get some food. But he is there standing alone. So they haven't seen the attackers yet.

They are saying for the public's help. They are saying that they would like the public to come forward if they have any information on this attack. And we are just getting information in from Representative Bobby Rush, a Democrat in Illinois. He sent a letter to FBI Director, Christopher Wray, calling for an immediate and sweeping civil rights investigation into what he's calling the racist and homophobic attack on Jussie Smollett. He says this is a hate crime plain and simple and he wants the FBI do to a very deep investigation. Police have said that the FBI is assisting on this particular investigation at this point. We know from his Smollett's publicist that he is out of the hospital and recovering at this hour -- Erica.

HILL: All right, Sara Sidner, with the latest for us. Sara, thank you.

SIDNER: You're welcome.

HILL: The Trump organization responding now after a series of undocumented immigrants were found to be working at Trump golf resorts. Why the Trump organization says it wasn't using the federal E-Verify system in the first place.


HILL: We are learning some new details today about undocumented workers who had apparently been working at present Trump's golf resorts, some of them for years. Several were recently fired from his club in Westchester County, New York. Four other employees from his New Jersey club are now asking lawmakers for protection from deportation.

All of this is interesting and kind of ironic considering that President Trump claimed when he was candidate Trump that he used the E-Verify system to check the citizenship status of his employees.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm using E-Verify on just about every job, at Dural I'm using it. But I'm using it on the building -- the old post office on Pennsylvania Avenue that I'm building into what will soon be a phenomenal hotel. I'm using E-Verify and I tell you it works.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL: But in principle the person who hires somebody it illegally -- I'm not talking about leaf raking out front of the house, or I'm going to push this out of the way. I'm talking about somebody that hires them to save money on labor. You bring in somebody to the country you give them a free -- you're basically encouraging illegal immigration. Because that's why this guy or woman is coming here, right?

TRUMP: Yes. And you can solve the problem with E-Verify.


HILL: You can solve the problem with E-Verify, he said at that point. Well in response to these latest revelations, Eric Trump releasing the following statements which seems to contradict what then candidate Trump said.

Noting in part, we are actively engaged in uniforming this process across our properties and will institute E-Verify at any property not currently utilizing this system. We'll continue to follow that.

"Washington Post" columnist, CNN political commentator, Catherine Rampell, joins us now. Catherine, I want to get your something else. Because E-Verify working to continue to see perhaps a little bit more drip out of that as we learn where it is and isn't being used. We are also though today we are learning -- and you write about the deficit quite often -- borrowing yet another trillion dollars to deal with the deficit. I think the question for a lot of people is where does that end? What is the end game? When year after year you're saying we just need a little more cash.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's an excellent question, a trillion dollars question if you will. Look, if you look at the numbers from last year Treasury issued something like $1.34 trillion in new debt which was about double the year before. And this is remarkable for a couple of different reasons. Right?

[16:00:00] One is that Republicans are allegedly the party of fiscal responsibility. They're the ones who want to get our debt under control. Trump even promised at one point that he would pay off the debt entirely. That's clearly not happening.

The second important thing to think about of course is that we are in a recovery. We are in a robust expansion. Now is not the time when deficits should be going up. This is the time when deficits should be shrinking. Right? When the economy is doing well, when unemployment is low that means fewer people need food stamps. Fewer people need unemployment insurance. Tax revenues should be rising. Instead we're seeing the opposite happen.

And why are we seeing the opposite happen? Why are we seeing deficits go up contributing to higher debt? That's because of the tax cut. That's primarily because of the tax cut. And that puts the lie of course to this Republican Party promise of fiscal responsibility. There they are more than happy to complain about high deficits and high debt when there is a Democrat in the White House. But when they're in charge, you know, it's red ink as far as the eye can see.

HILL: We're going to have to leave it there. Catherine, good to see you. Thank you. RAMPELL: Thank you.

HILL: Thanks all of you for joining us. I'm Erica Hill in today for Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.