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At This Hour

New York AG Announces Criminal Probe Into Trump Organization; McConnell Opposes Insurrection Commission; Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) is Interviewed About the Insurrection Commission. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 19, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here are the top things that we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Former President Trump's legal woes got a lot worse. New York's attorney general now joining a criminal investigation into Trump's family business.

Truth or Trump? A decision moment for House Republicans. Will they support a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection?

Coming to her own rescue. The terrifying moment a young girl fights off an alleged kidnapper as she was waiting for the school bus. We're going to show you that incredible video.

Thanks for being here, everybody.

Let's start with the new legal troubles for former President Trump AT THIS HOUR, and a major development that CNN was first to report. New York's attorney general is joining a criminal investigation under way by the Manhattan district attorney into the Trump Organization. The probe is focused on whether the organization misled lenders and insurance companies' possible financial crimes.

The Manhattan D.A. has had a separate investigation going into Trump's finances, this including the former president's tax returns.

Let's get to the very latest.

CNN's Kara Scannell is joining me right now.

Kara, can you break this down for us? What is happening now?


So, I mean, as you know, the New York attorney general has had this on going civil investigation into the Trump Organization where they're looking into whether they inflated the value of certain assets, whether they misled lenders and other related activities. So, this investigation has up until this point been purely civil. But the New York Attorney General's Office had informed the Trump

Organization there's a criminal component to this, they're working with the Manhattan district attorney's office on that investigation. Now, the Manhattan D.A.'s investigation which has been underway for several years as well is also criminal. They're looking at a lot of the same materials which is why there's a symbiotic relationship here.

But they're also looking into whether -- they also have the Trump's tax returns which they received after a long fight with the Supreme Court. So, that's an edge that the D.A.'s office has in their investigation and they're also looking into the hush money payments that is another component of this where the Trump Organization paid Stormy Daniels through Michael Cohen and how is that reimbursed? Did that result in any criminal activity, whether it was on taxes or false business records?

You know, a person familiar with the investigation tells me that, what this means is practice is that a couple of attorneys who worked in the A.G.'s office who really dug into this and know this information very well have joined forces with the D.A.'s office. They're leveraging their knowledge and the findings they've accumulated so far.

Now, Trump has called this investigation politically motivated. When I reached one of his attorneys last night about these new developments, they had no comment -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: But I'm sure we'll hear from the former president at some point. We know he's reacted to all this as it is going on. There's so much involved in this.

Kara, thank you. Great reporting. Thank you so much for that.

Joining me now for some more perspective on this is CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers. She's a former federal prosecutor.

Jennifer, why -- first and foremost, I'm confused why they would combine efforts here?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, as Kara was just describing, the civil investigation has been going on for a long time. And they have the tools that aren't necessarily the same tools that are available to the district attorney's office. So, for example, they will have taken a lot of depositions of those working for the Trump Organization. They will have seen all sorts of documents, books and records, and all of those sort of things.

So, they have a depth of knowledge about how the Trump organization works that the D.A.'s office may not have focused on, may not have had access to. So, my educated guess is they found information through these couple of years of looking at all these things that will be helpful on the criminal side.

Obviously, they got their heads together and decided to move forward as a team to do the criminal prosecution.

BOLDUAN: If I am President Trump or those around him, I am more, not less, concerned about his legal jeopardy at this point with this move, correct?

RODGERS: That's right. I mean, we don't know if he'll be charged at all, what the charges will be. We don't know whether this information just potentially strengthens the charge, as additional charges, the severity of those charges.

You know, all this is up in the air, but it cannot be good news that these two blockbuster offices with extremely talented officers and a lot of information about his company are now joining forces against him potentially.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, a focus on the investigation -- one focus is Allen Weisselberg. He's the CFO of Trump Organization. He's been with the Trumps for decades, handled not only the business, but Trump's personal finances.

How important do you think it would be to get that information from him? Do -- he's been resistant as far as we know. Do you think this move indicates that he's decided to work with prosecutors?

RODGERS: Not necessarily.


I mean, it's been pretty clear that they've been trying to flip him, to get him to cooperate for some time. I mean, the latest reporting was that they were looking into tuition maybe paid on his behalf for grandchildren or something. It seems like they're trying everything.

But honestly, if he's stuck it out this far, if he's not given what they've done so far, my guess is he won't. And, listen, there's a lot of information out there. My guess is they certainly can move ahead without him. Of course, it would be a stronger case and they would know more with him. But they're going to do what they're going to do whether he comes on board or not.

BOLDUAN: And as Kara noted, and I think you did as well, some of this investigation has been going on a very long time. Does this offer any sense of timing here or any deadline pressure of when they would need to decide whether or not to charge?

RODGERS: Well, folks have been assuming that because it's Cy Vance's last year in office, that he will make a decision and charge or not by the end of this year --

BOLDUAN: He's the Manhattan D.A. for everyone out there. Yeah, go ahead.

RODGERS: You also have to realize there are statute of limitations on these crimes. You can't just keep investigating forever. The D.A.'s office was pushed back a long time by these fights that went to the Supreme Court about turning over the tax returns.

So, I think they're going to try to move expeditiously. They'll beef up their team. This beeves up their team even more. They've got more things to look at. But I'm hearing in part from Kara who's done such great reporting that they're basically thinking this summer will be the decision point, and we'll know soon after that.

BOLDUAN: Is it clear or is there any working theory of what would push it from civil to criminal, the dollar amount of the tax and financial fraud that they're looking into? Is there anything there?

RODGERS: Well, it depends. Obviously, to move it to criminal, you have to have reason to believe a crime was committed. You have to hit those elements.

But in terms of which way you go, it's going to depend on the severity of the circumstances, how much money are we talking about? How egregious is the conduct? Is this something the office would charge criminally or civilly?

They look at all those things before making the decision. The fact there's an ongoing investigation with a lot of overlap with the Manhattan D.A. probably caused them to sit down with the D.A., talk about what that overlap was, and eventually they're throwing their lot in together on the criminal side.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, this is really interesting. Always good to see you. Thanks, Jennifer.

RODGERS: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you.

We're also keeping a close eye on Capitol Hill at this hour. Today, the House is expected to vote to form an independent commission tasked with investigating the attack on the Capitol.

It was a bipartisan group who put this together. But overnight, House Republican leaders have gone from essentially trying to ignore it or feigning ignorance on what it would look like, to trying to actively get fellow Republicans to vote against it. Why?

Keep asking yourself that as we bring in Manu Raju for a gut check on where this is headed right now.

I mean, Manu, Kevin McCarthy empowered the Republican member John Katko to strike this deal. He threw him under the bus now with his opposition when he came out against this.

What are you hearing about the vote?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to pass the House today. But in an important development, it may not pass the Senate, and one reason why is the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is about to announce his opposition to the bill to create the January 6th commission. In fact, I'm told he made that clear to his members today that he doesn't support the way this is constructed as has been currently drafted.

Yesterday, he had raised concerns. He claimed the Democratic staff would have more control over it than the Republican staff. He also raised concerns about the duplicative nature of the investigations but said potentially could impede on going law enforcement probe similar to what Kevin McCarthy has said in the House. He didn't raise concern about the scope of the investigation focused on January 6th, McCarthy wants a broader scope, but look at all sorts of political violence including on the left.

But McConnell's opposition here is going to be very important because ultimately the question will be will this become law. It will pass the House tonight. There will be Republicans who vote for it, maybe three dozen or so, but still will pass the House.

But then what will happen in the Senate, a major question. They need ten Republicans to break ranks, to join 50 Democrats in order to overcome any Republican filibuster.

If Republican leaders are on board, that will be enough to get it through. But Mitch McConnell is opposed. So, that means it's a big question, Kate. But whether that will be enough Republicans to ultimately get this through and onto Joe Biden's desk.

BOLDUAN: I've got so many questions now, Manu, because this is really important reporting. I mean, the last weigh heard was McConnell is skeptical. Now, he's coming out opposed. Mitch McConnell's weight in the Senate is also different than Kevin McCarthy's weight in the House, because he is Mitch McConnell has real swag amongst Republicans in the Senate.

Is it too far to say it's essentially going to assume to be doomed if McConnell is not on board?

RAJU: It's going to be hard to get it through. There's still a lot of questions in that he can be assuaged if there are certain changes to be made, to -- can win him over? There's also another question, how hard does he work to whip his members to vote against this? When it does come time for a vote, the vote has not been scheduled yet in the Senate.

So, potentially, there could be some who break ranks. There are already are a handful who are signaling they'll support it, people who have actually voted to convict Donald Trump, like Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, both of them told me yesterday that they would back this plan.

There are seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial in inciting the January 6 insurrection. But will they get to 10?

But there's still a question, McConnell hold significant sway over a lot of members who may be on the fence, uncertain of where to go. When they see the leader, ultimately, they'll most likely side with him. So, that's why his voice is so important in this debate, in any debate, but particularly something like this one right now because Republicans frankly are concerned what this investigation could report. It could come out right during the midterm election fight. That is also a concern --

BOLDUAN: That's the thing, right, Manu? Because Mitch McConnell, he laid the blame for the insurrection at the feet of Donald Trump.

Is Mitch McConnell announcing this right now, guys?

OK. Let's continue talking. McConnell is on the floor right now, Manu, which, of course, always makes me a little jumpy.

McConnell laid the blame for the insurrection at Trump's feet. And now, he's going to oppose the investigation into it? Is it clear what changed to this bipartisan commission, would get him to set aside his concerns?

RAJU: Well, he has raised concerns about. What he said yesterday in the press conference was that he was worried about the Democrats -- it looks like he may be talking about it right now, Kate. Mitch McConnell detailing his concerns here, if you want to take a listen to what he has to say.

BOLDUAN: Just --

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: President Biden's HHS secretary is either ignorant of the federal law or wants to pretend that it actually doesn't exist. Remember, the far left has kept America one of just seven countries, seven in the world that allow elective abortions on demand after 20 weeks.

Countries across Europe, France, Spain, Germany, Norway and Denmark all limit elective abortion before 20 weeks.

BOLDUAN: Looks like McConnell is talking about other topics before he gets to announcing it -- announcing his opposition. But we will -- this is an important development as the House is set to vote today, Manu. Great reporting. Thank you.

We're going to watch this and see what McConnell has to say on the floor. Appreciate it, man.

Coming up for us, this is big news on what McConnell has said and any future of what any getting down to the truth of what happened on January 6th will be. It's a decision moment today first in the House. Will Republicans vote to get to the truth, or will they side with the lies about that attack on democracy. Much more ahead on that.

The White House ramping up the pressure on Israel to end the conflict with Hamas. We're going to tell you about a key change in a new White House -- in a new White House statement. That's ahead.



BOLDUAN: The breaking news. Just a short moment ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just announcing on the floor that he opposes the bipartisan bill to form a January 6th Commission as it is currently drafted. The House we know is voting on that very bill today. A lot to get to now. Ahead of this vote, it's also important to look closer at Kevin

McCarthy's opposition and role in this, the top Republican in the House.

Let me play for you what he -- what he said last night on Fox.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: There's already four investigations. You mentioned one. Department of justice, already has arrested 445 people with approximately another 100 arrests to come. This would just get in the way of that.

You have two investigations going on in Senate committees. You also have the architect of the Capitol has given $10 million to have a full review of the Capitol, of ways to secure it. And now, we want to put a political commission to go forward?


BOLDUAN: Just too many investigations, that's McCarthy's first reason that he doesn't like it. Yet, remember, he was a huge cheerleader for the eight different investigations into the Benghazi attacks and Hillary Clinton, eight investigations.

But now, the single bipartisan independent probe into the attack that threatened all of their lives is just one too many.

Another reason that McCarthy is voting no today is it's going to be too political, he says.


MCCARTHY: This is driven solely by politics and Nancy Pelosi, but we should not be a part of that.


BOLDUAN: It actually could end up being the least political investigation coming off Capitol Hill in decades, created by a bipartisan group required to be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Importantly, the members appointed can't be members of the U.S. government. That's not too political.

And one more thought on that, McCarthy loves a good political investigation. Remember this?


MCCARTHY: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable. We put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? She's untrustable. No one would have known any of that had happened had we not --



BOLDUAN: Now, remember also, that admission lost him essential a shot at being speaker years ago.

McCarthy likes a good politically driven investigation as long as it doesn't get close to him. And finally, he says Congress should be more focused on the pandemic and not on this.


MCCARTHY: What America really wants to start talking about is getting our country back to work, back to school, back to health.



BOLDUAN: That is important, but they can walk and chew gum at the same time if they want. He clearly can't. And, yes, I'm being facetious here, finding time for Dr. Seuss story time just as Congress was working on COVID relief in March.


MCCARTHY: Do you like green eggs and ham?


BOLDUAN: So much. And he's being so hypocritical. Very clear, but why? What is he after afraid of?

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee. He is a chief deputy whip.

Congressman, thank you.

Let's get to McCarthy in a second. This news that we've just learned -- Mitch McConnell announcing that he's opposed to the commission as it is currently drafted. What's your reaction?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, it's really disappointing. I mean, this is a commission that was formed through negotiation between the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, Mr. Katko, and the top Democrat, the chairman, Mr. Thompson.

It was developed in a bipartisan fashion with a bipartisan structure with no political figures allowed to serve on it to do one thing, find the truth and report it to the Congress and the American people.

Why that would be offensive to Mitch McConnell or to Kevin McCarthy is not explainable in real terms and real logic, except that they see a political downside to the truth? If the truth becomes your enemy, you may be in the wrong line of work.

BOLDUAN: We just have the moment on the floor when McConnell was explaining his opposition. Let's listen to this together, Congressman. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: After careful consideration, I've made the decision to oppose the House Democrats slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January 6th. As everybody surely knows, I repeatedly made my views about the events of January 6th very clear. I spoke clearly and left no doubt about my conclusions.


BOLDUAN: Apparently John Katko is now a Democrat, first and foremost. This gets you -- for both McCarthy and McConnell, I'm now going to put them together -- what is it? What are they afraid of?

KILDEE: I think they're afraid of the truth and they're afraid of their leader.

BOLDUAN: But McConnell laid this at the feet of Trump right afterward. I remember that Saturday night. I am struggling to understand the mental gymnastics that is happening, that they can't -- that they will not support what really -- tell me if you think it's different. This could be the least political and slanted commission put together by Congress in decades.

KILDEE: Leader McConnell referred to it as unbalanced and slanted. It's five Republican-appointed members and five Democrats. That is the definition of balanced.

And it was negotiated by Democrats and Republicans. It's not slanted. But they have to say things in order to somehow delegitimize the outcome. This is what's happening right now.

What Leader McConnell is doing and what Leader McCarthy is doing is intending to be able to dismiss the results of this truth seeking commission because they know it won't be good for their brand or for their side or for their leader who is Donald Trump.

So, you know, this is -- they have the right to their own opinions. They don't have the right to their own mathematics. Five members appointed by Republicans and five by Democrats is by definition a balanced commission. I don't know what they want. They won't say what they want.

You know, going further, the ability to subpoena witnesses agreed to by the leadership on both sides of this question. We came a long way -- we meaning the Democratic leadership, negotiated in good faith and came to a solution that we think is fair and that anybody -- any thinking person would believe is fair.

The real question is, do they want to know the truth? Do they want the American people to know the truth? Or do they want to continue to try to rewrite the history of an event that I experienced firsthand and know what happened, and so did Mr. McCarthy and everyone, including Mr. McConnell. They had a moment of truth in the wake, in the moments following the

attack, but then suddenly realized that facts will not serve their interests. So now they're doing this to dismiss the ultimate results of the finding of this commission.

BOLDUAN: Look, I'm just going to say until proven otherwise, I think this commission is dead, if that's the direction this is headed, just knowing how things have operated. And I have to say, you mentioned how you lived through that and what you have gone through.

And you have been really open, Congressman, about how you are working through the effects of the PTSD that has come from the trauma of that day.


And I'm sitting here wondering, if nothing is done about that day, no commission, no unbiased, no independent investigation to look back at what went wrong and what happened in getting at the truth, if you don't have that, how do you get past this?

KILDEE: It's really tough. I mean, this was an insurrection. This was a crime.

The American people, the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle were the victims of this crime. And now we have people who were victimized by it, by the words of the former president, by this mob, trying to explain it away in one case, as if it were just like any other day with tourists on the floor of the rotunda.

That very same member, by the way, there's an image circulating that I'm sure you may have seen of him in fear, you know, screaming. And now, he wants to say this was just some sort of walk through the park.

It's really tough for those of us who felt threatened that day, which I think anybody in the Capitol would have felt threatened, any thinking person. It's really tough to see people try to take away from us an experience that we saw with our own eyes because it doesn't serve their purpose.

This is a dangerous moment in the sort of arc of American political thinking, the fact that they can invent new facts to serve their own needs when our own eyes witnessed this thing. It's bizarre, and it's sick. It's sick.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you for coming on. I appreciate it.

KILDEE: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a major shift in tone from President Biden, escalating the pressure on Israel to end the deadly conflict with Hamas. We're going to go take you live to the ground in Israel, that's next.