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United Auto Workers Strike; Saudi Oil Attacks; Prosecutors Reportedly Subpoena Trump Tax Returns. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired September 16, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Go to LOHM.org.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BALDWIN: We continue on. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so very much for being with me.
"The New York Times" is reporting that prosecutors in New York have subpoenaed the president's accounting firm for eight years of both his personal tax returns and his corporate tax returns.
So that, in part, involves the investigation into the hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels. Keep in mind, this comes days after CNN reported that prosecutors spoke with the president's former fixer, Michael Cohen, in prison.
So, let's go straight to Elie Honig, our CNN legal analyst, and former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. He's on the phone with me.
And so, Elie, what's your reaction to this?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, Brooke, this looks like a logical next step in the growing investigation that the Manhattan district attorney has been doing of the Trump Organization.
We already know the Manhattan DA subpoenaed the Trump Org itself and just last week went up to Otisville, the federal prison, to interview Michael Cohen. So this seems like the natural next step.
And I think what they're looking at, it looks like it, there's a New York state criminal law, not federal, but state law that makes it a crime to falsify business records. And, here, the records we are talking about is records of the $130,000 hush money payment that was made to Stormy Daniels.
So if they classified this as a payment for legal fees, which has been reported, that would be falsifying a business record. And where the tax comes into play is, it becomes a higher level of crime if they falsified the business records in order to commit another crime. Here, that would be potentially tax fraud.
So that's where it looks like they're going, Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK. And then this accounting firm, Mazars USA, what options do they have to return to this -- to respond to the subpoena?
HONIG: Yes, so Mazars already got caught up in a similar subpoena battle with Congress. Congress subpoenaed Mazars, asking for Trump's financial information. And the administration fought that in court, in federal court.
And federal court at the at the trial level already cited in favor of enforcing the subpoena. They said you have to -- you have to comply here.
Mazars gave us sort of ambiguous statement, we will do what the law requires. But they have two options, either provide the documents to the Manhattan DA, or wait and see if the administration challenges it, as they did federally, and then wait for it to go to court.
But I don't see any reason why this will come out any differently than the other legal dispute with Mazars came out, which again said, you have to comply, you have to provide these documents over to the prosecutor or to Congress.
BALDWIN: All right, Elie Honig, thank you so much for jumping on the phone on this breaking news on...
HONIG: All right, Brooke.
BALDWIN: ... this subpoena for eight years of Trump's tax returns. We will stay on that.
In the meantime, nerves are frayed in Washington and really throughout the Mideast after a weekend attack on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia disrupted part of the world's oil supply and further escalated tensions between the United States and Iran.
Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, but the U.S. has told an ally in the region that their intelligence shows the strike likely originated from inside Iran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first pointed the finger at Iran over the weekend in a tweet. His boss, however, did not go that far, at least not yet. In a tweet, President Trump did not call out Iran directly, but declared that the U.S. is -- quote -- "locked and loaded" once the Saudis verify who is responsible.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is traveling with the president. She's with me now from New Mexico ahead of his rally there tonight.
Kaitlan, Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he just returned to the Pentagon after briefing the president. Vice President Mike Pence and members of the National Security Council met earlier.
Any clues as to what a locked and loaded response might look like?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the exact term that everyone's looking at, thinking the president is signaling there could be a military response here because he did say that they would be locked and loaded, depending on the verification of where those attacks came from.
And while aides are walking back the president's tweet, saying that that doesn't necessarily mean there's going to be a military response to this, you are seeing other officials lay the blame squarely at Iran's feet here, including the secretary of state.
You saw the defense secretary referencing it in a tweet after he briefed the president just a short time ago, and even the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was also blaming Iran earlier today at a separate hearing that was unrelated to these attacks.
Those are the questions coming forward, whether or not they're going to publicly present evidence, as an aide to the vice president said he believed Pompeo would later on, though not exactly detailing when we could expect something like that.
And, Brooke, the next question here, as these tensions are ramping up between Iran and the United States, is whether or not that potential meeting next week between President Trump and the Iranian president is actually going to happen.
You're now seeing the president claim that he did not say he would meet with the Iranian president without conditions, even though he's on camera saying that twice, as is the second of state, Mike Pompeo, and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, saying as well that they did not have to have conditions for the president to sit down with him while they're in New York at that United Nations summit, where all these world leaders are coming to gather.
We are expecting to hear from the president any minute now. We will likely get more of a response from him on exactly what they are learning. And that is what people are going to be waiting on, to see what it is President Trump has to say about this.
BALDWIN: All right, listen. Listen for it for us. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.
CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza is with me now.
And his own top aides repeated Trump's comment just months ago, and not only months ago, but in the last couple days, Chris.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I was going to say, months ago would be an overstatement. They repeated it days ago, as Kaitlan referenced.
We have lots and lots of audio. It's as though Donald Trump thinks we don't record what he and his administration say. We have lots and lots of audio directly contradicting the tweet that he -- that the fake news media is reporting that he would meet with Iran with no preconditions.
So let's go to the first sound. This is Steve Mnuchin from last week and then Donald Trump from a little earlier this summer. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The president has made clear he is happy to take a meeting with no preconditions. But we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The president has made very clear he is prepared to meet with no preconditions.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: No preconditions?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not as far as I'm concerned. No preconditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CILLIZZA: Yes, so that sounds like them saying no preconditions, unless I'm hearing that wrong, which I'm not.
So let's go to what just -- there's a lot of this, Brooke, but let's play one other piece of sound of Donald Trump talking about no preconditions in Iran. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would certainly make with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don't know that they're ready yet. They're having a hard time right now. But I ended the Iran deal. It was a ridiculous deal.
I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet. And I'm ready to meet any time they want to.
QUESTION: Do you have preconditions for that meeting?
TRUMP: No preconditions, no. They want to meet, I will meet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CILLIZZA: So, yes.
I mean, again, I don't know how you can say that this is anything other than he says one thing one day and another thing the next day. It's just as simple as that -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: What about things he said previous positions on Saudi Arabia.
CILLIZZA: Oh, right, yes.
I mean, this is another case. So let's -- I think we have a tweet. OK. So Donald Trump now saying, we might -- we're locked and loaded to defend the Saudi Arabian oil fields, though he said in the past, August 2014: Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars, which they won't, or pay us an absolute fortune to protect them and their great wealth. Money sign trillion.
Obviously, that's directly contradictory to his tweet last night, in which he said, the U.S. is locked and loaded to respond.
I just -- very quickly, Brooke, the way that you understand all of this is that Donald Trump views every day as a tabula rasa. The chalkboard is empty.
BALDWIN: Clean slate.
CILLIZZA: He writes on it and he cleans it off. And the next day, it's all new. It's the only way you can understand why he says things that are directly in opposition both to himself and to other people in his administration -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: But we have the tweets, we have the sound bites, and yet...
CILLIZZA: We have the receipts.
BALDWIN: Right, exactly.
Chris, thank you very much for all of that.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
BALDWIN: From the politics of all of this to the gas pump and what all of this could mean really for your money.
Just as a reminder, these attacks have disrupted 5 percent of the world's daily oil supply and the capacity to produce oil has been cut in half. That is according two Saudi sources, who also tell CNN that it will take weeks, not days, weeks, to get things back on track.
CNN business emerging markets editor John Defterios is in Abu Dhabi.
And, John, crude oil prices surged today. One top oil analysts says that this was the biggest shock to the oil markets since Hurricane Katrina. Is a spike in U.S. gas prices far behind?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: I would think they're not far behind at all, Brooke.
And I'm describing this as an earthquake to the global energy market, and something that's going to feed tremors into the market for probably weeks to come, because the epicenter is Saudi Arabia, which is the number one exporter to the world.
So you talked about those 5.7 million barrels taken out of the market. That is a record for any single day in the history of the energy market itself. That second number is the 200 million barrels that Saudi Arabia has in storage, both in Asia and in Europe.
This will last about 35 or 40 days to make up for what's been lost in the market already. And then the third number is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve held by the United States. A key point here, Donald Trump says he's willing to tap it.
For those of us that follow the oil market, we're asking when and how much are you going to put into the market? Because to replace five million barrels is not simple. And you have had this U.S. shale revolution, as you know, Brooke, over the last 10 years.
It took six years to add six million barrels. And that was a revolution. And there's not a lot of spare capacity in the world today because of the sanctions that President Trump has put on Iran and Venezuela.
Nobody has some spare barrel sitting in the closet, if you will, right? So this is a tight market, and Saudi Arabia is a huge producer.
BALDWIN: Copy that.
John Defterios, thank you very much.
Those oil prices are going in one direction because of this.
My next guest says that, as President Trump waits for the Saudis to confirm the perpetrator of this attack, he may also want to look in the mirror. And in a new "Washington Post" column titled "The Saudi Oil Attacks Are Signs of Trump's Mideast Fiasco," Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in part -- quote -- "A sponsor of terrorism and a heinous human rights abuser, Iran deserves an outsized share of the blame for destabilizing the Middle East. But Trump has only aggravated the crisis by blindly backing his friends in Israel and Saudi Arabia. The attack on Saudi oil production and is only the latest blowback and far from the last."
So, Max Boot, good to see you, sir.
When you say blindly backing friends and Israel and Saudi Arabia, what do you mean by that? And give me some examples.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, President Trump has really given a blank check both to the Israelis and the Saudis to do whatever they want, with American support.
And you see the way that MBS, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Saudi Arabia, the way that he has cashed that blank check. He has done a lot of things that are...
BALDWIN: But why?
BOOT: Well, it's hard to answer the why question.
Part of it could just be as simple as the fact that he loved the reception that he got in Saudi Arabia when he showed up there in May 2017, first foreign trip. When he goes to Europe, he has protesters. In Saudi Arabia, protesters get beheaded, not a problem. And so the Saudis fawned all over him.
There's questions about whether he has financial entanglements. And he certainly bragged in the past about all the money he has made with the Saudis. But leave us aside the why question, Brooke, the fact is that Trump has backed up the Saudis no matter what they do, which includes things like kidnapping the Saudi -- the Lebanese prime minister, which includes blockading Qatar, which is an American ally, which includes waging this horrible war in Yemen, which is killing thousands of civilians, which includes the murder of "Washington Post" contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
All of this, Trump has basically said, I'm going to protect the Saudis. And he's basically encouraging them to go further, and it's riling up the region and generating this blowback from the Iranians.
BALDWIN: So, then that verifies what you're essentially saying, that Trump is waiting for the Saudis to be the ones to say who was behind this attack.
And do you think -- is Trump letting the Saudis dictate whether the U.S. goes to war?
BOOT: Well, it certainly sounds like it. I mean, I wrote this column before this Trump tweet. And then he says, I'm waiting for the kingdom basically to figure out how to proceed.
BALDWIN: That's exactly what you're saying.
BOOT: He's outsourcing American leadership to people who don't have our best interests at heart.
And imagine how he would be having a meltdown if President Obama or somebody else were doing this. But this is Trump doing this. And this is really irresponsible, what he is doing, because the evidence so far suggests that MBS, who's this 34-year-old young guy, he doesn't actually know what he's doing.
He is stirring up the region. He is creating blowback. His policies are a failure, and yet Trump is blindly backing him. It doesn't make sense if you're somebody who's supposed to be pursuing a -- quote -- "America first" foreign policy.
BALDWIN: But Iran has done some very bad things...
BALDWIN: ... for months.
BOOT: Oh, no question. No question.
BALDWIN: What will it take for Trump to act?
BOOT: Well, we don't know what he's going to do because he's basically pushing Iran to the edge.
Remember, Trump left last year the nuclear accord, even though Iran was abiding by its terms, and the result has been to create the showdown with the Iranians alleged to be behind these attacks on oil tankers outside the Straits of Hormuz, the Houthis attacking Saudi oil fields, and now this latest attack.
We don't know exactly who's responsible, but clearly this is part of the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. And Trump has just stirred up the region and he has no idea of how to get out of this.
And I think he understood last week when he got rid of John Bolton that he was in a strategic dead end, that he was not in a good position where the only real outcome was -- likely outcome was going to be a war with Iran, which clearly Trump does not want.
And so he expressed interest in negotiations. But I don't know where negotiations go from here after this attack.
BALDWIN: OK, so you brought up Bolton.
Just quickly, "The Wall Street Journal" says that Trump should apologize to Bolton, who backed maximum pressure -- I know I hear you laughing -- and warned that Iran would seize on any perceived weakness in the U.S.
BOOT: Bolton is the guy who got Trump into this mess. I mean, it's really Trump's fault, because Bolton worked for Trump. Trump always brags: I make all the decisions.
Clearly, Trump made these decisions. But it was Bolton who encouraged him to leave the nuclear accord without any clear idea of what the exit strategy is. Trump seemed to expect that he puts some sanctions on Iran and they're going to cave in and give him everything that he wants.
It hasn't happened. Instead, Iran is pushing back. And Trump has no way -- no idea of how to respond without getting embroiled in a war that nobody wants.
BALDWIN: Max Boot, thank you very much.
BOOT: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next is the largest autoworker strike in more than a decade. We will take you live to Detroit, as talks between GM and the labor union are being described as very tense.
And 2020 candidates Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg after one another about the best way to get action on gun control.
And we will stay on our breaking news, "The New York Times" moments ago reporting that New York prosecutors have just sent a subpoena for eight years of President Trump's tax returns, both personal and business. Stand by. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: Just in to, CNN sources telling us that negotiations to end the biggest labor strike by a union in the United States in more than a decade are -- quote -- "very tense."
Almost 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers union have walked off the job and they're onto the picket line. Right now, GM is meeting with union leaders to try to work out a deal and avoid a prolonged shutdown that could cost the company millions of dollars.
The massive strike has brought 31 factories and nearly two dozen other GM facilities spread across nine states to a grinding halt.
And CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is in the middle of it all in Detroit for us.
And so, Vanessa, what are folks there telling you?
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Hi, Brooke.
Well, as you mentioned, those closed-door negotiations are going on right now. A source close to those negotiations saying it is very tense. But as that is happening, there are chances "Don't give up the fight," as you're hearing that music playing.
These are just some of the workers that are protesting, 50,000 nationwide. General Motors saying that they have offered a very fair contract, but UAW, that union, saying it does not meet their standards.
I want to bring in a guest. I want to introduce you to John Hatline.
You have been with the union for 45 years. Tell me why you're out here today.
JOHN HATLINE, GM EMPLOYEE: Well, the main reason why I'm out here today is for our job security.
General Motors has this plant as unallocated, or they don't have a product any longer. So we're hoping to get a new vehicle here at this plan. I'm also out here for affordable health care and fair wages.
So those are probably three of the most important things that I'm standing out here today for, in solidarity with my union brothers.
YURKEVICH: Have you received a lot of support from the community? There's been a lot of people honking, moving through the area, a lot of people showing their support. Have you gotten the support that you feel like you needed in these negotiations?
HATLINE: The community has been great. They have been dropping off food to us, water. The fire department, police department has been dropping off water.
We have had pizzas from the areas that we support yearly, because our plant supports a lot of small businesses here. So they in turn have been supporting us, yes. So...
YURKEVICH: And if you could be in that negotiation room -- it's happening just 10 minutes from here -- what advice would you give to the two sides about how to get this deal done for you?
HATLINE: Well, I would give the -- the advice I would give to GM was that we in 2007 helped you through the bankruptcy, and now it's time to help us.
YURKEVICH: Thank you, John. Thank you so much.
And, Brooke, that's what we're hearing from a lot of people here, that they feel that they have made concessions on behalf of GM, taking pay cuts or not taking pay increases. And many of the workers you see here behind me just want to feel like they're getting a fair wage.
And those contract negotiations will continue probably over the next couple days. As we know, both sides are continuing to set schedules to negotiate in the next week or so -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: All right, Vanessa, thank you.
And our thanks to John there as well.
Coming up next: Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer taking a hard line in the gun control debate, telling President Trump they will not back any legislation unless it includes universal background checks.
We will discuss whether that is a smart strategy next.
BALDWIN: As Congress pursues various inquiries into whether the president is making money off of his own presidency, President Trump is suggesting that the House Judiciary Committee should be investigating his predecessor for a deal President Obama made after leaving office.
So, today, President Trump tweeted -- quote -- "Look at the Obama book deal or the ridiculous Netflix deal. Those investigations would be over fast!."
And then hours later -- quote -- "These radical left Democrats are crazy. Obama Netflix?"
CNN political commentator Charles Blow is a columnist for "The New York Times."
Good to see you, sir. Just a little bit more information for the good people here. Netflix
announced the Obamas' Higher Ground production company -- this was in May of '18 -- Michelle Obama's book, obviously, that was released in November of last year. Barack Obama hasn't published his yet.
But President Trump is in office. Does he not understand how this works?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know if he understands or not, but it's -- this is a no -- this is a nonissue, right?
He's post-office. Politicians write books. There's nothing wrong with a book deal, nothing wrong with the Netflix deal. People have careers after office, always have.
BALDWIN: President Trump could do the same.
BLOW: He could do the same.
And he has held onto his business interests, even against the advice of people who said, you should divest of all of it. And he's going to continue that business after.
He will make money because of his name and having been president. What's the problem?
BALDWIN: His mentioning of President Obama, it got me thinking too.
It was in the last month where he mentioned President Obama something like 18 times. So, in case you missed...
BALDWIN: ... roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We can't treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama.