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Kushner Owned Baltimore Apartments "Infested" with Rodents; Trump Picks Congressional Loyalist As New Intel Chief; A Look At Which Democratic Candidates Have The Most To Lose In Tomorrow Night's Debate In Detroit. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 29, 2019 - 14:30   ET



[14:32:42] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Want to continue the conversation about President Trump raging on Twitter at the city of Baltimore calling it this "rodent-infested mess where no human being would want to live." That is a direct quote.

Guess who has owned apartment complexes in Baltimore cited for hundreds of code violations and alleged substandard housing? That would be the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his family.

"The Baltimore Sun" and "Washington Post" reporting Kushner Companies, which began operating in Maryland six years ago, has owned nearly 9,000 rental units in Baltimore County alone. An investigation by the "New York Times" and "ProPublica" found tenants of Kushner properties complained of mice, mold, maggots. A private investigator called the property managers slumlords.

My next guest, Alec MacGillis, with "ProPublica," wrote a stunning piece for the "New York Times" magazine, in 2017, saying "Jared Kushner's Other Real Estate Empire in Baltimore."

Alec is with me now.

Alex, thank you so much for joining me.

You are a wealth of knowledge. I have read some of what you have written about this. You have been tracking it for a couple of years.

For people watching, we should note Jared Kushner has divested from the Kushner Companies while at the White House. But he certainly stands to make some money off of it when he leaves political life.

My question to you is this, Kushner is known for owning big glamorous skyscrapers, the infamous tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Are lower-income properties really his bread and butter?

ALEC MACGILLIS, POLITICAL & GOVERNMENT REPORT, PROPUBLICA: They really are. This is at the heart of the Kushner Company.

I should note, by the way, while Jared has stepped down from being CEO of the Kushner Companies the last couple of years, he's very much making money from the complexes as we speak. He's making about $90 million a year from downscale apartment complexes.

These are really the bread and butter of the company. They are making a lot of money from these low-income, working-class tenants in 8,000 or 9,000 apartments in the Baltimore area.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you about this woman. You personalize this and talk about a woman, if I'm saying it correctly, Kamiya Warren.


BALDWIN: She moved into a townhouse in Baltimore and moved out after a neighbor harassed her. She wanted out because she said the landlords did nothing. She's low income.

Three years later, she's being sued over this for thousands of dollars. The company who is suing her was owned by Kushner Company. Can you tell me what happened? What happened to her?

[14:35:08] MACGILLIS: It was an amazing story. She moved out several years before Kushner bought the complexes. She starts getting letters threatening her for having broken her lease when she had gotten permission to leave her apartment early. She had the paperwork. They came after her anyway, took her to court over and over for three years. More than a hundred different court actions against her. She ended up with a $5,000 judgment against her.

She finally was able to produce the paperwork showing she had every right to leave the apartment. They still kept coming after her. They garnished her wages. They garnished her bank account. She ended up with a huge lien against her. She couldn't get a mortgage. It caused problems for her and her family.

This went on and on until we wrote the article and they got the lien lifted. It was amazing.

BALDWIN: It is amazing. It is amazing.

You also write about - you refer to the clear pattern of the Kushner Companies pursuing tenants over virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease, even when the facts appear to be on the tenant's side.

Why go to this trouble for relatively small sums, although, obviously, to the tenants, a woman like Kamiya, this is big money. One woman was dying of pancreatic cancer when she was sued over alleged unpaid rent.

MACGILLIS: Exactly. In her case, they came after her for a $10 laundry room card that was supposedly unreturned.

You do wonder what's the point of going to this great effort and tracking people down and trying to get money out of them, taking them to court. The fact is they do make money.


MACGILLIS: They squeezed so much money from them. And it served to warn existing tenants that, hey, you better pay on time or we'll take you to court like these other people and squeeze the life out of you.

BALDWIN: This is just a fraction of what you have been digging on for years.

Alec MacGillis, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and findings with us. Appreciate it.

MACGILLIS: Thank you. Thank you.

BALDWIN: The president giving the keys to America's intelligence to a partisan loyalist who went hard at Robert Mueller during his testimony last week. We'll have that for you.

More on our breaking news this afternoon as we have learned two children were among the innocent lives lost at a food festival in California over the weekend. We are also learning what the shooter's social media accounts included.

We'll be right back.


[14:42:05] BALDWIN: President Trump's pick to replace Dan Coats, his embattled intelligence chief, is a partisan loyalist with less than five years of national political experience.

John Ratcliffe is a Republican congressman from the state of Texas. And a source tells CNN that Trump was so impressed with the congressman at last week's Robert Mueller hearing that he decided Ratcliffe was the man to take over from Coats.

Ratcliffe made it very clear at that hearing that he was no fan of the Mueller investigation.


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): The special counsel made neither a prosecution decision or a declination decision. You made no decision. You told us this morning and in your report that you made no determination. So respectfully, Director, you didn't follow the special counsel regulations. It clearly says, "Write a confidential report about decisions reached." Nowhere in here does it say write a report about decisions that weren't reached.

I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He's not. But he damn sure shouldn't be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report puts him.


BALDWIN: Let's talk to Josh Rogin. He's a CNN political analyst and a columnist with "The Washington Post."

Josh, was that a job audition?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Congressman Ratcliffe has been auditioning for this job in Congress and on FOX News for some time. The fact he got it shows President Trump is prioritizing politics over security and his personal interest over the interests of protecting the country. That seems pretty obvious.

I would put in two caveats here. One is that Ratcliffe doesn't have the job yet. If you look at the tepid response in the Senate today you will see he has hurdles to climb.

He'll have a chance to prove during the vetting process whether or not he wants to be a director of National Intelligence for the country or for the president, whether or not he intends to stand for the things the Intelligence Community stands, which is factual-based analysis and not the political, partisan misuse of our information.

BALDWIN: Yes. So this job as DNI, director of National Intelligence, is one of the most sensitive, powerful jobs anyone can have in government. What experience does this man have?

ROGIN: He's had experience in the Justice Department. The administration will say he's had experience dealing with counterterrorism cases. He's been on the committee for a little bit of time. It's not a lot of experience. It's better than nothing.

Ultimately, I think you have seen DNIs with lots of experience and those without much. Dan Coats was a Senator and had more experience but he wasn't an intelligence professional. The reason he did a good job was because he stayed above the fray. It was because he saw his role as protecting the country, not the president. He spoke truth to power and he defended the Intelligence Community.

Those things are way more important than whether or not this guy has had direct experience dealing with intelligence cases. But a little bit more experience would be nice.

[14:45:03] BALDWIN: I hear you in saying the congressman has been auditioning for a while. We know, according to our CNN reporting, Trump was considering him as DNI pre-Mueller but then he was impressed with Ratcliffe's hearing performance for this president.

Why does that seem to be a deciding factor, you know, how he performed and his loyalty to this president, which we know Trump holds as a priority?


BALDWIN: Why might that be a reason why he picks him?

ROGIN: You hit upon the crucial question. We are heading into a phase of the Trump administration where the president will be running for election and his mission is to undermine the FBI investigation into Russiagate. He gave the attorney general sweeping powers in May to use the Intelligence Community to make the case against the FBI to investigate the investigation. That's President Trump's priority.

Now, if Ratcliffe is confirmed, he'll have an ally atop the Intelligence Community who will be fine with all of that. What you're going to see, if this happens, is just various parts of

the administration kicking up a ton of dirt about the FBI, its investigation, Russiagate, in order to make the president's political points headed into 2020. That, in and of itself, is a corruption of the role. But it's par for the course in this administration.

BALDWIN: Yes. This as, again, let's remember Robert Mueller's words last week, "Russia is meddling as I speak."

Josh Rogin --

ROGIN: For sure.

BALDWIN: -- good to see you.

ROGIN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much for your analysis.

Right now, the candidates are preparing for tomorrow night's debate here in Detroit. We'll pregame which ones have the most to lose with Chris Cillizza, up here coming up next.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN's special live coverage.

[14:51:40] BALDWIN: Welcome back.

We are live here in Detroit where, in 29 hours -- yes, we're counting -- the Democratic presidential candidates have another chance to create a make-or-break moment that will not only sustain them but perhaps push them to the top of the polls or leave them hopelessly behind.

The question we are asking is, this guy you're about to see is asking, who has the most to lose in tomorrow and Wednesday night's debates?

Who better to ask about potential losers --



CILLIZZA: King loser himself.

BALDWIN: -- the non-loser among us.

Chris Cillizza, good to see you.

CILLIZZA: Good to see you.

Let's run through a few, starting with Pete Buttigieg. What does he have to lose?

CILLIZZA: Pete Buttigieg, story of the spring. He goes from "who is he" to the top three or four. Raised $25 million in the second quarter. Has a lot going for him. He's clearly now a second-tier candidate. Doesn't mean he can't win but polling suggests he's behind Harris, Sanders, Biden and Warren in the mid-single digits.


CILLIZZA: It would be a good thing to have a performance that boosted him a little bit more. He's got the money. He can spend and get his name out there. It's not do or die, but I do think a mediocre performance doesn't get him where he wants to get.

BALDWIN: What about -- why do you think Kirsten Gillibrand hasn't been resonating?

CILLIZZA: I was talking to someone about it last night. I don't know the answer to that.


CILLIZZA: You would think a New York Senator would be able to raise money, be a strong voice in the #metoo movement. I don't know. She has to find something in the debate.

She'll be on stage with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. She has people in the top tier. She's on Wednesday night's debate. She has to find something. If she doesn't, there's a real danger. The qualifications for the Democratic National Committee set-up go up for the September debates.

BALDWIN: September, yes.

CILLIZZA: Right now, she's not in them. If she doesn't do something, have a moment of some sort, she's signaling that she'll do something, maybe about Joe Biden, we don't know. If she doesn't have a moment, a la Kamala Harris, and the previous set of debates


CILLIZZA: -- makes it. And if you don't make it into the next set of debates, it's hard to argue to the donors I'm still viable.

BALDWIN: Totally.

Bernie Sanders?

CILLIZZA: Bernie Sanders didn't get as much attention for what I thought was a poor performance in the last debate. Joe Biden got the attention. They were on stage together. I thought they both looked a little bit out of it, not ready for primetime. Sanders doing the same old "millionaires and billionaires." He has to do more.

He signaled he won't attack Elizabeth Warren. Tomorrow night, Tuesday night's debate, they are on the first night together. She's taking a lot of his very liberal vote. That's a problem for him. Usually, debates are a format where you can say, Brooke thinks this, Chris thinks this, that's why you should be for Chris or Brooke." He hasn't done that a lot. I don't know if he will tomorrow night, but he should.

BALDWIN: What about -- this makes me think of the Pete Buttigieg issue.


BALDWIN: Beto O'Rourke had a huge spring.


BALDWIN: Where did he go?

CILLIZZA: He had a huge on day March 14.


CILLIZZA: March 14, that was the best day of his campaign and the first day. Never good if you're running for president. He raised $6 million on that day. The next quarter he raised less than $4 million for three months.

Think back to the first debate. He was just kind of there. There was no spark. He got into a back and forth with Julian Castro about immigration and Castro shouldn't have necessarily won it and clearly won.

O'Rourke is signally he will go after Buttigieg. They'll be on the same debate stage with Biden and Harris, the first night. Big night. Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Beto. Big night. That's tomorrow night.

He has to do something. You have to show some energy. You have to show that you're in it. You have to show there's a reason people should vote for you. He hasn't done it yet.

BALDWIN: The person with the most to lose is Joe Biden.

[14:55:03] CILLIZZA: Yes. By far. I would say Beto and Biden have way more to lose than anybody else. With the possible exception of Kirsten Gillibrand because she could be off to the races.


CILLIZZA: Why Biden? He was not good in the first debate by his own admission. They tried to argue in the media. I do a winners and losers. I named him a loser. They tried to argue, oh, he did fine. They have acknowledged he wasn't good. He was jumped by Kamala Harris on busing. Wasn't ready for that attack at all. Kind of stumbled and bumbled his way to an answer saying, well, it's a state law. Not empathetic at all.

If the story line and the question about you in this race is, are you the future of the party, regardless of age, are you the future of the party, can you lead the party forward, you must look like you can lead the party forward and be ready for attacks coming your way.

(CROSSTALK) CILLIZZA: He must have it significantly better than he was.

BALDWIN: The biggest winner at CNN, Chris Cillizza.

CILLIZZA: I'm going to take that and I'm going to put that on my Twitter feed.

BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

How is one of these candidates preparing? We'll talk to former Congressman John Delaney when he joins me live.

And what investigators found on the shooter's social media accounts as we learn two children are among the victims in that attack at a food festival in California.