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Reports of Suspicious Real Estate Transactions for Harvard's Fencing Coach; Trump's Long History of Lying; Donald Trump Withdraws ICE Nominee From Consideration. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 5, 2019 - 10:30   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Harvard University is now investigating its head fencing coach after the father of two student athletes bought the coach's house. The problem? Harvard says the father paid the coach nearly twice what the house was worth.

Now, this is not connected to the other nationwide college admissions scandal, but it's a big question. CNN's Brynn Gingras joins me now.

Brynn, kind of sounds like a payoff.

[10:35:00] BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'm going to break this all down for you, Jim. Basically, here it is. Peter Brand is Harvard's longtime fencing coach. He's a famed coach. The university credits him for unprecedented success.

TEXT: Harvard Investigating Fencing Coach: Father of student- athletes bought coach's home; He paid $989,500; Property valued at $550,000; Home later resold at $300,000 loss

GINGRAS: But in 2016, Brand sold his house in a Boston suburb for almost double what tax records show the property was worth. The buyer was a wealthy businessman named Jie Zhao, who had a son on the Harvard fencing team and another son in high school.

Now, after Brand made that sale to Zhao, Brand then went and bought a condo in Cambridge, the town where, of course, Harvard is located, for $989,000, just $500 why of the amount Zhao paid him for his home and $300,000 more than the condo's asking price.

Now, a listing real estate agent argues it's not uncommon for properties to sell well above asking price, especially if it's in a competitive market. However going back to Brand's house, Zhao ended up selling that property just 17 months after buying it from Brand at a loss of more than $300,000.

In the meantime, Zhao's sons both went to Harvard, both on the fencing team. One graduated in 2018, one was recruited and admitted to Harvard in 2017, according to "The Boston Globe" who first reported this story.

In the "Globe" report, Zhao says there was nothing unusual about this transaction. He says he bought Brand's house as an investment, and as a favor to his friend. But you can see, a lot of fishy details here and Harvard is now investigating. A Harvard dean wrote in a statement, this. "Regardless of what we

eventually learn about these allegations, this is not a time for complacency. Where there are opportunities to clarify practices and strengthen procedures, we must act on them, and do so with a sense of urgency."

TEXT: "Regardless of what we eventually learn about these allegations, this is not a time for complacency. Where there are opportunities to clarify practices and strengthen procedures, we must act on them, and do so with a sense of urgency." Claudine Gay, Harvard dean of Arts and Sciences

GINGRAS: And this, of course, is in the wake of the major college admissions scam. Not connected to it, as you've said, Jim. But certainly so fishy. Raising a lot of questions. It's just talking --


GINGRAS: -- more about that side door that we heard Singer talk about in court, right? Other ways people are getting into these schools through big payouts.

SCIUTTO: "Fishy" is a good word.


SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras, we know you'll stay on top of it.

The president seemed to have some problems with the truth this week, from claims that Democrats rigged the midterms to where even his father was born. We're going to take a look at his truth-bending trend. It spans back decades.


[10:41:52] SCIUTTO: Some things President Trump said this week put another spotlight on his tricky relationship with the truth. That's an understatement.

He said his father Fred was born in Germany. He wasn't. He said that noise from wind farms causes cancer. It doesn't.

TEXT: "President Trump has made 9.451 false or misleading claims over 801 days. That a pace of 22 fishy claims a day over the past 200 days, a steep climb from the average of nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day in Trump's first year in office."

SCIUTTO: "The Washington Post" fact-checker says that Trump has averaged 22 fishy claims per day over the past 200-plus days. That is nearly four times the number of daily false or misleading claims he made during his first year in office.

CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger explains the president's complicated, difficult relationship with the truth. And it's something that goes back decades.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): One day, three whoppers. Even for Donald Trump, impressive.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My father is German, right? Was German. And born in a -- a very wonderful place in Germany.

GLORIA (voice-over): Fred Trump was born in New York City.

And then there's his latest suggestion of election fraud, all but saying the 2018 midterms were rigged by the Democrats.

TRUMP: There were a lot of close elections that were -- they seemed to, every single one of them, went Democrat. If it was close, they say the Democrat -- where -- there's something going on, fellow. You've got to -- hey.

But we have to be a little bit careful because I don't like the way the votes are being tallied. I don't like it.

BORGER (voice-over): He doesn't like wind turbines either.

TRUMP: And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, OK?

BORGER (voice-over): Even his staff couldn't figure that one out.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: I -- I don't have an answer on that. I don't -- I -- I don't have an answer on that one.

BORGER (voice-over): All just the latest additions to more than 9,000 false or misleading claims made by this president, according to "The Washington Post" fact-checkers.

As Donald Trump himself said last year --

TRUMP: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

BORGER (voice-over): Donald Trump has had a fraught relationship with the truth, one that goes back decades to the building and selling of Trump Tower, where Barbara Res managed the construction.

BARBARA RES, CONSTRUCTION MANAGER FOR DONALD TRUMP: He planted that, (INAUDIBLE) I was looking for an apartment in Trump Tower.

BORGER: And that didn't happen?

RES: No.


RES: But it made the papers.

BORGER: Sure. So veracity wasn't a part of it? It was just getting the buzz out there --

RES: Yes.

BORGER: -- about --

RES: Yes.

BORGER: -- about Trump? Did you guys laugh at it, or --

RES: Yes. Because there was nothing so terrible about it. I mean, you know, it was kind of like puffing (ph). You know. It was like exaggerating.

BORGER (voice-over): Tony Schwartz, co-author of Trump's "Art of the Deal," has a name for this.

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ART OF THE DEAL": I came up with this phrase, "truthful hyperbole," which is -- you know, I called it an innocent form of exaggeration. Now, I can call something that I actually sold for $2 million, I can say $10 million and that becomes truthful hyperbole.

The problem is that there is no such thing as truthful hyperbole. The truth is the truth. Hyperbole is a lie. They don't go together.

[10:45:00] BORGER (voice-over): And they didn't go together during the troubled opening of Trump's Atlantic City Taj Mahal casino in 1990, when some of the slots didn't work.

ALAN LAPIDUS, ARCHITECT FOR DONALD TRUMP: When the Casino Control Commission went down there on opening day to check out -- that all the things had been done, many things hadn't been done. They shut down a third of the slots.

BORGER (voice-over): Slots that were critical to the casino's success.

LAPIDUS: The slots are the prime revenue producer of the casino. To shut down the third on opening day was both humiliating and financially disastrous. And it was only done because he didn't have -- you know, an organization in (ph) debt (ph).

BORGER (voice-over): But that wasn't the story Trump told.

JACK O'DONNELL, FORMER PRESIDENT, TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL AND CASINO: Something could go bad, like the opening of the Taj. And -- and he would say, "It's because we had so much business here, that this happened."

Not that the systems broke down, not that we didn't know what we were doing. We had so much business, it broke down. Truly, he just would lie about everything.

BORGER (voice-over): And he did.

LARRY KING, HOST, "THE LARRY KING SHOW": What about the slot machine thing, where they were down for a while?

TRUMP: The slots were so hot, nobody's -- again, nobody's seen people play that hard and that fast.

KING: So, what, it blew out the slots literally?

TRUMP: They blew apart. We had machines that -- that --


KING: Would (ph) it (ph) be (ph) like (ph) too much -- what, fuse?

TRUMP: -- they were -- they were virtually on fire.

O'DONNELL: Donald is so wrapped up in hyperbole, that it's almost constant lies. You know, whether it's the little -- littlest things, where, you know, if you had -- if you had 2,000 people at an event, you know, he would say there were 5,000 people at an event.

BORGER (voice-over): Lying when there seems to be no reason to lie.

SCHWARTZ: There's no belief system. "If it will work, I will say it." "If it stops working, I'll say its opposite and I will not feel any compunction about saying its opposite because I don't believe anything in the first place."

BORGER (voice-over): Lying when it's in his political interest, as he did last July after his disastrous press conference with Vladimir Putin, trying to walk back this remark on election interference.

TRUMP: My -- people came to me. Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

And a key sentence in my remarks. I said the word "would" instead of "wouldn't." The sentence should have been, "I don't see any reason why I wouldn't" -- or "why it wouldn't be Russia."

SCHWARTZ: Seeing it from his perspective, doesn't make a distinction between what's true and what's false. He's -- his only distinction is, what will work and what will not work.

BORGER: And what happens when he's challenged with facts? What does he do?

SCHWARTZ: He has a genius -- you know, perverse genius for turning any situation into something that is evidence of his brilliance, even if it's not true.


BORGER: And one more thing about Donald Trump's father, who was really born in New York, as we said. In "The Art of The Deal," Trump says he was born in New Jersey. Go figure -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Challenge him on that and see what he comes up with.

BORGER: Yes, right. Maybe somewhere else.

SCIUTTO: It's incredible. I mean -- and the transcript moment after the Helsinki thing is just one of my biggest head-scratchers. Gloria Borger, thanks for bringing it all together.


SCIUTTO: A change of heart for President Trump. The White House says it is withdrawing its nominee to head up ICE. We'll have more.

[10:52:58] SCIUTTO: Just moments ago, President Trump explained why he is withdrawing his nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He says he wants to go in a tougher direction.

The White House informed Congress, Thursday, that it is withdrawing the nomination of Ron Vitiello. CNN White House Correspondent Joe Johns, joining me now, following.

Joe, do we know why he didn't think Vitiello was tough enough for him?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Still a mystery to us, quite frankly. Yes, we were out on the South Lawn just a little while ago, Jim. And the president was asked by one of my colleagues about withdrawing the nomination of Ron Vitiello. And the president said he wanted to go in a different direction. As you said, a tougher direction. He didn't say anything bad about him. So the mystery remains.

TEXT: Who is Ron Vitiello? Has served as acting ICE director since June; Nominated to lead agency in August; Previously served as chief of U.S. Border Patrol

JOHNS: It also remains up on Capitol Hill, where even some members of the Judiciary Committee were mystified about with the withdrawal, suddenly, of the nomination.

We know that on paper at least, he has a lot of job experience that would seem to qualify. He's been the acting director for a long time.

We do know, also, from some reporting from CNN's Jim Acosta, that there were some concerns, here at the White House at least, expressed by Stephen Miller, one of the president's top advisors, about this nomination.

We also know that Vitiello's had a couple other problems, including some controversial posts on social media. And apparently, the union has objected to his nomination as well.

But beyond that, it's just not clear why the administration suddenly decided it was going to go in a different direction on this nomination, at a very important time, obviously, for the administration, with the president heading out right now to the southern border -- Jim. SCIUTTO: The president, on his way to the border, trying to explain

why he reversed himself on his dramatic promise, threat to close the border this week. Now singing a different tune.

JOHNS: Right. Singing a different tune. Nonetheless, the president said, as he has said on Twitter already, that he wasn't changing his mind about the border. He suggested he still might close the border if the situation warrants.

[10:55:02] Nonetheless, he did give Mexico credit for handling its business on people coming through from the southern border. So a bit of praise for Mexico --


JOHNS: -- in this circumstance.

The truth behind the story is, we don't know if (ph) one of the big factors was the economic impact on the United States if the president --


JOHNS: -- were to take that step -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Joe Johns at the White House. Thanks very much.

As President Trump heads to the southern border, while (ph) Democrats ramp up the pressure on his administration. Please stay with CNN. We're going to be on top of it.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR, "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN": Hello. I'm Erica Hill, in for Kate Bolduan.