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Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Discusses Suspicious Trump & Kushner Transactions with Deutsche Bank, Subpoena Battle Between Trump, Congressional Democrats; Justin Amash on Impeachment; Billionaire to Pay Off Student Loan Debt of 2019 Morehouse College Grads; Children in Yemen Cling to Life as Battle Rages On. Aired 1:30- 2p ET

Aired May 20, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:30:06] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: The "New York Times" reports that employees of Deutsche Bank flagged several suspicious transactions by Trump entities, including the now-defunct Trump Foundation. Companies controlled by the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were also identified.

Now it's not clear the exact nature of the transactions, though "The Times" does say some involved, quote, "money flowing back and forth with overseas entities or individuals." This is all in 2016 and 2017.

Deutsche Bank investigators never followed up on the concerns of employees and never reported it to the Treasury Department.

Remember, that in the four years before that, Deutsche Bank loaned $300 million to Trump businesses for a series of projects. Also remember that, last month, the president and the Trump Organization sued Deutsche Bank to keep them from honoring congressional subpoenas to release financial records.

Joining me now is Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat on both the House Oversight and the House Intelligence Committees. The House Intelligence Committees is one of those committees who sent the subpoena to Deutsche Bank.

Congressman, if I could just start with that, what's your reaction to the new allegations in "The Times" this morning?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): It's very disturbing. And I think your viewers may already know this, but Deutsche Bank has had a history of money laundering problems. In addition, as you mentioned, they loaned over $2.5 billion to Donald Trump when he couldn't get loans from any other institution. And he has $300 million in loans outstanding today.

So when rank-and-file officials at Deutsche Bank spotted very questionable transactions between Trump or Jared Kushner entities and Russian entities and asked that those be reported to the federal government, and they weren't because of senior managers' decisions not to, that is absolutely something that we have to ask them about going forward.

MATTINGLY: So I guess it's the questions, to be clear, just because the higher-level executives chose not to turn over the starred reports doesn't mean there's necessarily anything wrong. It doesn't mean they found something that was untoward. But what is the next step for the committee on the ongoing kind of subpoena battle that's out there?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think we have to fight the president's delaying tactics with regard to trying to prevent Deutsche Bank from turning over the records to us. To their credit, Deutsche Bank is actually cooperating with the investigation.

I think that Chairman Schiff will have full support from folks like myself and others in trying to enforce our subpoena.

But I think that, just as we saw in the Oversight Committee's case with regard to the Mazars accounting firm and turning over financial records, the Trump administration has to realize they may try to delay the turning over of these records, but the courts have something to say about this as well.

In the Mazars situation, the court expedited the process by which the records might eventually be turned over to Congress. Similarly, I hope the same occurs here with regard to the Deutsche Bank records.

MATTINGLY: Can I just ask, Congressman, you mentioned Russia. Have you seen something on the committees that would imply or tell you that this is Russia or are you going off the public reporting? What's your sense that have?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Are you talking about with regard to the "New York Times" story?

MATTINGLY: Yes, sir.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes. That is what the rank-and-file officials said that they saw, which was questionable links or financial transactions between, for instance, Jared Kushner and Russian entities.

And, in fact, one of those examiners, one of the rank-and-file officials was actually terminated. And people perceived the reason why she was terminated was because of her complaints about these particular transactions.

MATTINGLY: I want to shift gears a little bit, kind of on the same broad topic, and that is a colleague of yours in the Republican conference, Justin Amash, under fire today from members of his own party for saying he believed the president engaged in impeachable conduct. What was your reaction when you flipped open Twitter yesterday and, A, saw his comments, and, B, saw the backlash from some of his own colleagues?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, it's good to see people who are taking an independent-minded approach among Republicans with regards to the report. I was disturbed by the president's comments about Justin Amash. I don't think anybody deserves those types of comments, including Mr. Amash.

I think at this point, I'm hopeful that there are more people on the other side of the aisle who take a close look at the report and join us on at least one issue that is immediately before us, which is do we have oversight of the executive branch. I think the answer is absolutely yes. The American people have every right to hold their president accountable.

And I hope that more of my friends on the other side of the aisle join us in enforcing our subpoenas and conducting our investigative functions as Congress.

MATTINGLY: Does it unsettle you at all that a Republican congressman seems to be going further in terms of it pursuing impeachment than the Democratic caucus has agreed to go at this point?

[13:35:04] KRISHNAMOORTHI: No. I think each and every person has to come to his or her own independent decision on this particular issue.

Like I said, I think we're unified with regard to one issue, which is staring us in the face right now, which is, do we have checks and balances on this president. I think answer is yes. Everyone wants to enforce those checks and balances and make sure that we don't end up with a king. We have a president, and he is held accountable by Congress.

MATTINGLY: One of the things that the congressman brought up, which I thought was interesting, whether legislation or the report, is he believes most members haven't read the Mueller report, which begs the question, have you read the Mueller report?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I've read much of it. Some parts more than others. I'm still reading it. I'm rereading some sections because it's so dense. And the appendices and so forth are important for our work on the Intelligence and Oversight Committees.

But I think every American should take a look at the Mueller report, at least look at the executive summaries, because they are illuminating.

MATTINGLY: All right. Congressman, I will be back on the Hill in a couple of hours. I will say hello.


MATTINGLY: Thank you very much for your time.


MATTINGLY: This just in, Customs and Border Protections says a 16- year-old Guatemalan boy has died while in government custody, the fifth child known to have died in recent months. Details on what we know coming up ahead.



[13:40:42] ROBERT F. SMITH, BUSINESSMAN & PHILANTHROPIST: On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we're going to put a little fuel in your bus.

This is my class, 2019.



SMITH: And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.




MATTINGLY: I don't think there's anything better this weekend. You could see the faces, stunned and elated faces at Morehouse College gradation as the commencement speaker, billionaire investor, Robert F. Smith, pledged to pay off the entire class's student loan debt. It's a gift eventually worth tens of millions of dollars. His only condition that they try to pay it forward.

Joining me is now is Morehouse College adjunct professor, David Dennis Jr.

David, I followed your work since "The Guardian" and you're at "The Atlantic" now as well. But I was struck by your tweets on this. You said this was a life-changing moment for these graduates. I'm interested. Explain the significance of this for what this sets up for the students years, decades ahead.

DAVID DENNIS JR, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE: As you know, student loans, are you know, a burden for generations of families. These kids, their parents, themselves, their children are no longer burdened with hundreds of dollars that they have to pay a month to pay back for their education.

I mean, this is truly transformation. They can pursue their careers. They can buy homes, buy cars. They can have children and do things that a lot of folks in our generation simply can't because we're just burdened by this -- by these loans.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's something -- I was doing some reading on it this morning. If you look at statistics, a study that says black adults have 85 percent more education debt than their white counterparts.

I'm interesting in part of the thread that you had was watching students that you taught or that encountered and interacted with and what this meant for them in their individual studies and what it means going forward in terms, what have can they give back now that this is no longer something that they have to worry about?

DENNIS: We know that student loans affect black students disproportionately, especially HBCU students. They owe about $29,000 in loans, which is about 30 percent more than their white counterparts. And, you know, I've seen it firsthand. I've seen, you know, students who have struggled with money, students who miss classes in the middle of the semester who are trying to get their accounts in order, students who are stressed about what happens when they graduate and trying, to you know, reach that next level.

I mean, now you have a clean slate. Now they can pursue their passions, their jobs that they want to have without worrying about, you know, their credit being messed up as soon as they cross the aisle.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you from a broader perspective, the fact that somebody has to do this, given the current system, is that kind of underscoring a fundamental problem or perhaps divide that we have in the country when it comes to this issue, which has become so significant I think for a generation of people over the last decade or so?

DENNIS: Yes, I mean, Robert Smith is a billionaire. He's a very rich man, and it's taken, you know -- he's the only person to do this in recent memory. And he's taken tens of millions of dollars to clear debt for 400 students, you know, getting a college education. Like we really have to put that into perspective and understand how crippling this debt is.

I mean, this is not something that we can sweep under the rug. It takes gestures like this, but it's only such a small group of people in this country getting helped by it.

MATTINGLY: Lastly, just on a personal level, the best part of the weekend was watching the faces. I don't think it initially sunk in, and then they started realizing what was actually happening. What, on a personal level, went through your mind when you heard Robert F. Smith make that pledge to the graduates?

DENNIS: I started think about all my students who have struggled in my three years at Morehouse and the concerns that they have and just seeing that relief.

I'm somebody with a lot of student loans myself, and thinking about what that would do for me, and thinking about them. I follow a lot of them on social media and I've seen their elation through all of this and it really sort of brought tears to my eyes to watch their lives change in that moment.

MATTINGLY: It was a great moment, indeed.

David Dennis Jr, thank you so much for taking the time. Really appreciate it.

DENNIS: Thank you for having me. [13:44:02] MATTINGLY: Just in now, Boeing admitting the simulator

software used to train pilots on the jets involved in two deadly crashes contained flaws. What this big admission means in the investigation.

Plus, President Trump reportedly looking to pardon several accused and convicted U.S. war criminals. What message does that actually send to the military, to the world?


[13:50:20] MATTINGLY: There's at least some sign of hope in Yemen's brutal civil war. Rebel forces have left a few key ports as part of a cease-fire deal that could allow humanitarian aid to finally make it to Yemen's desperate population. For many it's too late.

Our Sam Kiley takes an exclusive look at the battle over that aid and how corruption has left hundreds of thousands facing hunger with another 10 million people on the doorstep of famine. This is an extremely important story.

I must warn you, some of the images may be upsetting.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.N. says that Yemen is one step away from famine because of war. But on a 4,000-kilometer journey through the worst-hit areas, we found innocent people are being brought close to death by a rebel Houthi government manipulating aide while U.N. officials try to stop them.


KILEY: We find evidence for this throughout northern Yemen. First, in this city, five hours drive from the capital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): They don't reach us here. They used to give us grains and flour but then they refused to give it to anyone. They don't give us anything.

KILEY: Already dirt-poor people here relied on U.N. handouts but those stopped when the World Food Program discovered supplies were going missing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): They used to give parents a bag of grains, oil and other stuff each month. This stopped two months ago. We don't know why. There are people higher up who know why.

KILEY: It's a problem that's been raised at the highest levels by the U.N.

LISE GRANDE, U.N. RESIDENT COORDINATOR: We've certainly in several situations had to say to local authorities, you don't let us in there, we can't continue these programs. And that's why we've been forced into situations where we've said, if you don't let us in, if you don't let us do our jobs properly, then we're not going to be able to continue.

KILEY: This is Aslam (ph). The U.N. has been denied access to this area and stopped distributing food because it cannot be monitored. It's a few miles from the front line. And 10,000 people have poured into camps like this in the last few weeks. Victims of a war being raised by a Saudi coalition armed by the U.S. against the Iranian- backed Houthi rebels.

This boy has infected lungs, the doctors say, as a direct result of malnutrition. He's almost a year old but his weight is that of a baby at three months.



KILEY: These kids are trapped in a vicious cycle. They're starving because of the siege on the port that supplies them. But on top of that, the rebel Houthi government is diverting what little aid does get in.

The Houthis are under siege. Their access to the outside world cut by coalition attacks on this, the main port of Ohadado (ph).

(on camera): Since the Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade on this port and attacked it from the air, it's done about $800 million worth of damage, it's halted the amount of food and other materials coming into the port and it's destroyed about 60 percent of the its capacity. The idea is to try to strangle the capacity of the Houthi regime to survive.

The irony, of course, is, from the Houthi perspective, a control over a limited amount of supply, particularly when it comes to food, means you have control over everything.

(voice-over): In the capital, Sanaa, the Houthi government denies this.

HUSSEIN EL IZZI, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER, HOUTHI NATIONAL SALVATION GOVERNMENT (through translation): Mistakes happen sometimes. But that doesn't mean or doesn't represent a policy on our side. We are happy with whatever aid reaches citizens. Because these citizens are our strength and support. They are our capital in this war.

KILEY: Without free food from the outside world, the Houthi government would struggle to survive. After all, the U.N. plans to feed 12 million people this year, mostly in the Houthi areas.

(on camera): You're not worried by being here you could be prolonging the war?

GRANDE: Certainly humanitarians are not political. We're here to keep people alive. The responsibility for ending the conflict is in the hands of the people who are driving that conflict.

KILEY (voice-over): Yet here women and children struggle with hunger in a war where Yemen's powerful factions focus on fighting. The survival of their people they leave to foreigners sending aid.

Sam Kiley, CNN, northern Yemen.


[13:55:08] MATTINGLY: Personal opinion, but I don't think you'll see a more important story today than that piece from Sam. Thank you very much. Very important report.

Up next, more on our breaking news back home. We're now learning that a 16-year-old migrant has died in U.S. custody. This is the fifth child known to have died since December.

Plus, the bold actions of a Texas pastor that saved a kidnapped girl that was ripped from her mother's arms.