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GOP's Nunes Sues Twitter, Parody Accounts for Abuse; Trump Claims Social Media Discriminates Against Conservatives; Deutsche Bank Loaned $2 Billion+ to Trump Over Two Decades; Schools Reopen Despite Chemical Plant Still Burning. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 19, 2019 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Republican Congressman Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and several parody accounts for poking fun at him. The California Republican is seeking at least $250 million from the social media site. He is accusing Twitter of spoof accounts such as Devin Nunes' Cow, Devin Nunes' Mom, and other Twitter user of posting defamatory and abusive statements about him. His suit claims Twitter didn't do enough to curb the behavior. The Congressman also accuses the company of censoring conservatives and trying to influence his re- election campaign.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: How is it possible that I can be attacked relentlessly, hundreds of times a day by fake accounts that they claim in their terms of service should not be there? So a guarantee you, if I put something out that was sexually explicit or attacked someone personally, they would stop it. They would say this is a sensitive tweet. They never did that to any of the people that were coming after me or other conservatives. So -- and this is more about -- this is more than just conservatives. Every American should care about this if they care about the first amendment.


BALDWIN: Senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is up on Capitol Hill for us. And you know, even the President, who certainly doesn't shy away from, you know, tweeting weighed in on this at that news conference earlier today. What did he say?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well this is all part of a larger argument by Nunes and conservatives and putting the President who argued that Twitter engages in -- known as shadow banning -- essentially censoring conservatives from this platform. Now Twitter has denied this saying that there's -- they're not involved in any sort of shadow banning. But it hasn't stopped the suspiciousness of people like Nunes who say they in fact, do.

He says that in his complaint -- Nunes does -- that these three accounts, of these two anonymous account, Devin Nunes mom and Devin cow, as well as Liz Mair, a Republican strategist, engage in what he says is a vicious defamation campaign. And he also says, no human being should ever have to bear and suffer this in their whole life. This is a lawsuit filed today in court. Now the President was asked about this at his news conference earlier and he gave some support to Nunes' effort.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well we have to do something. I tell you, I have many, many millions of followers on Twitter and it's different than it used to be. Things are happening, names are taken off. People aren't getting through. You've heard the same complaints. And it seems to be if they're conservative, if they're Republicans, if they're in a certain group, there's discrimination and big discrimination.


RAJU: Now at the same time, Brooke, President Trump has faced a lot of questions from Democrats on Capitol Hill as part of their investigation into what they believe has been obstruction of justice in the White House. The House judiciary committee had sent letters to 81 individuals and entities and asking for a responses by a Monday deadline to a range of questions that they believe were abuse of power by President Trump.

Now we have learned that the White House missed that Monday deadline to provide documents to the committee run by Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chairman. We're told by a source familiar with the matter that they do plan to respond sometime in the near future. But they missed that response and at the same time, Brooke, we're told by Republicans on the House judiciary committee that just eight individuals have actually responded out of the 81. Nine have indicated that they will turn over documents this week.

[15:35:00] But Democrats say they expect many more to respond after they've said privately that they would agree to respond. But one entity that has not respond yet is the White House as part of an effort, a fight that's been intensified here between House Democrats and the White House over complying with all these requests here on Capitol Hill -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Manu, thank you. I want to go back to what Manu was reporting there on Congressman Devin Nunes. Elliott Williams and Elie Honig are back with me. And Elliot, OK --


BALDWIN: It's a lot. How do you come up with 250 million and wouldn't it set a dangerous precedent?

WILLIAMS: It says a hugely dangerous precedent. He's claiming that he's harmed to the measure of $250 million because he can't get his message out there as a member of Congress or whatever. Look, deeply woven into this first amendment and all the cases that support it are the fact that famous people public figures just aren't entitled to the same protections. And frankly, politicians are entitled to an even less protection because there's a long history throughout humanity of satire, politicians being mocked.

Now unless there's the chance that people might actually believe the thing, but here's the thing, no one actually believes that Devin Nunes' mom @DevinNunesMom is actually Devin Nunes's mom tweeting out vulgar -- like human centipede pictures and that nonsense and all that stuff. So no one's believing it. So you just don't win a first amendment case, plain and simple on the law as a public figure.

BALDWIN: It depends on defamation no dice.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's going nowhere. He'll never see a penny of $250 million. He'll be lucky if he gets a penny. He's completely turning the first amendment on its head. The oldest form, the most protected form of political speech going back to Benjamin Franklin with his leaflets is political satire. And it's supposed to be insulting and it's supposed to be sort of aggressive. I mean that's what this country is all about. So I think what's really going on here is he and the President and the President just said it are trying to sort of evolve fake news into fake social media.

WILLIAMS: That's --

BALDWIN: That's the point. That's interesting.

WILLIAMS: Well here's the thing. No one likes the social media companies right now. They don't. Facebook, Twitter -- they don't have friends in Congress, in the press, in the public or anyone. So he's actually picked a very effected foil and going after them -- no, he's speaking to his supporters but also people around the country too.

BALDWIN: Hate social media. Elliott and Elie, guys, thank you so much.

Coming up next, the cozy relationship between then private citizen, Donald Trump, and Deutsche Bank. Laid out in painful detail by the "New York Times" today. We have details on how he got the bank to loan him more than $2 billion over the years often by inflating his own wealth. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: There's incredible new reporting today about President Trump and his decades old relationship with Deutsche Bank. Congress and New York's Attorney General are already investigating the risky, yet lenient lending deals and now the "New York Times" today has interviewed more than 20 current and former Deutsche Bank executives and board members. And are uncovering at least nine times that the German financial giant agreed to bank roll Trump's business venture despite overwhelming proof that he inflated his assets and defaulted on multiple million-dollar deals. Let me just give you one more glaring examples from the "Times" this morning. When Mr. Trump pursued the loan for what is now the Trump

International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. Deutsche Bank discovered Mr. Trump inflated his net worth by billions of dollars. They loaned him more than $500 million any way. Then the 2008 financial crisis hit and when the loan was due, Trump instead sued the bank citing an act of God.

Dan Alexander writes about all things Trump and finances for "Forbes". Dan it's a pleasure to have you in today. I understand that back in the day Deutsche Bank was trying to, you know, seek bigger recognition. They wanted big clients and big money rolling through, but why did they come so close to him and allow him -- giving him millions and millions of dollars over --

DAN ALEXANDER, FORBES MAGAZINE: These guys needed each other. Deutsche Bank when the relationship first started didn't have a big real estate lending arm. And here was Donald Trump who didn't have a lot of lenders who were willing to lend him hundreds of millions of dollars. So he needs them, they need him. He's a big fish and they get together and it works out.

In the first two deals that they did were pretty successful, 40 Wall Street, Trump Tower, both went well. And so all of a sudden you have a relationship. Now Donald Trump, you know, he could have perhaps, you know, gotten other lenders. Now he's done a couple of successful deals. But he's already showed all of these guys all of his paper and they're comfortable doing business with him and so their relationship just sort of grew from there.

BALDWIN: So if his last name wasn't Trump -- this was just an average customer going up to Deutsche Bank wanting this kind of money, what would they have said?

ALEXANDER: Well if his last name weren't Trump and he wasn't worth, you know, as much money as he's worth, then they would've said no. But the reality is, that although Donald Trump has inflated his net worth over the years, he still is a really rich guy. And he still has a famous name and so he's good for marketing and he can take private assets they have and put it in their accounts if they give him a real estate loan. So there's a lot of different reasons why this works. Part of it is that he's famous, a lot of it is that he's rich.

BALDWIN: They talk in the piece and talks a lot about these promised trips Mar-a-Lago, flights on his private plane.

[15:45:00] The "Times" also reports that it seems to portray that Trump was able to make these deals because he was in addition to having his last name and having money, charismatic. He won them over.

ALEXANDER: Absolutely. And that was one of the amazing things about these stories, where sort of the details. Guys are saying, I don't know if we'll be able to sell these bonds. You know, you've gone bankrupt before. I'm not sure if people going to be willing to trust you and buy your debt again. And then he says, what about if I bring you down to Mar-a-Lago, you know, and fair enough they sell all the bonds.

BALDWIN: Ding, ding, ding. It works. ALEXANDER: And they all go down and play a bunch of golf. Amazing

details in this story.

BALDWIN: The point that you just made about him having a lot of money, he may not have as much money as he says he does, now we know that the New York AG has the power to subpoena his tax returns. And does this report underscore the theory that this is one of the reasons why the President has kept so much of his pennies, nickels and dimes private?

ALEXANDER: There are a lot of reasons for Donald Trump to keep his pennies, nickels and dimes private. One of them is that people like you and me would love it if he disclosed it and would take a chance to run over all these pages really closely with a fine-tooth comb.

Michael Cohen in his testimony when he was up on The Hill a couple weeks ago -- and remember, Michael Cohen is one of the guys who said, you know, Donald Trump is under audit that's why he can't release his tax return. He said when he was under oath that he's actually not sure if he's under audit. But that he thinks that the real reason is that Donald Trump didn't want hundreds of people going through his tax returns on a very detailed level and certainly that would be true of journalists but also of regulators like the New York state authorities.

BALDWIN: Dan Alexander come back.

ALEXANDER: All right.

Appreciate it. From "Forbes".


BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

Coming up next, schools back open today in a suburban Houston neighborhood. Look at these massive, massive black plumes of smoke. Live pictures from a report from Texas. This is all because of a chemical plant fire. We'll take you there live. Some parents are seriously concerned about the health risk for their kids. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: A massive fire is still burning out of control just outside of Houston in the suburb of Deer Park. Firefighters are trying to contain this raging chemical tank fire that's been burning for day and days. Thick black plumes of smoke are billowing thousands of feet into the sky causing major concerns about air quality safety. The tanks carry components used to make gas. Schools they did reopen today. But the company that owns the plant says the air is safe.


ALICE RICHARDSON, INTERCONTINENTAL TERMINALS COMPANY: ITC is a safe company. I have worked here for over 20 years and I believe in it. And I can guarantee you that we would never do anything that is wrong to hurt our environment.

Of course ITC is very sorry that this unfortunate event -- this isn't an event we wanted or planned. Many of my employees work in the city of Deer Park. They've lived in Deer Park. They are out there fighting this fire the best they can.


BALDWIN: CNN's Ed Lavandera is there live for us near that plant. I mean, Ed, that picture over your right shoulder, that tells the story. It has been days. I know air quality is the key issue. What are city officials saying?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, city officials insist that the air quality is good. But this company, International Terminals Company, is very much under the microscope here. And if you can see behind me, this is the fire that has been raging since Sunday. And it is a massive plume of smoke. So when you look at it, it is hard to believe that there isn't some sort of health ramifications coming from all of this. But officials around here insist that plume of smoke is going so high up in the air that all of the dangerous chemicals are essentially several thousand feet above the ground.

And that is in large part because the weather conditions here in the Houston area have been rather favorable for all of this. But this is a giant plume of smoke that is casting a massive shadow over the city of Houston and the surrounding areas for dozens and dozens of miles not just here in the immediate area around the flame.

And since we've been here this afternoon. You can see flames shooting out as five of these tanks inside this ITC facility continue to burn. We expect to hear another update here from company officials in about half an hour or so. But right now five tanks currently burning. And local officials insist that everything here on the ground remains safe.


LINA HIDALGO, HARRISON COUNTY CHIEF EXECUTIVE: But I know the concerns and I understand the concerns when you see a plume of smoke, perhaps material coming down it's worrisome. And we understand that.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON: I think what the public expects and certainly what we expect from them is to utilize every available resource. To call on all available resources to assume the cost of whatever it takes to contain and put these fires out as quickly as possible.


LAVANDERA: So, Brooke, right now no evacuation orders in place. Children were allowed to go back to school today here in the area around Deer Park and La Porte, Texas which is southeast of the downtown Houston area. And officials say here it could take until at least tomorrow to put out this fire -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right. We'll talk again tomorrow then. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much in Deer Park, Texas.

Meantime, moments from now CNN will debut our latest 2020 polls. Who is up and who is down, and which candidate made a big, big jump? That's next.


BALDWIN: Just a short time from now, Vice President Mike Pence will touch down in Nebraska to survey the state's massive flood devastation and meet with families and first responders. At least four people have died in the record-breaking floods there. Officials say the waters are receding in some areas but could rise again as more rain and snow melt are expected over the next couple of days. 74 cities have issued emergency declarations and the damage estimates are already in the millions.

And before we go just a quick reminder. The 2020 candidate, John Hickenlooper will answer voter questions in a live "CNN TOWN HALL". That is tomorrow night 10:00 eastern, hosted by Dana Bash. He is the former Colorado Governor.

I'm Brooke Baldwin, thank you so much for being with me here on this Tuesday. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.