Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

House Committee Releases Six Years Of Trump's Tax Returns; Jan 6 Cmte Releases New Transcripts, Including From Giuliani, Kushner; Southwest Expects "Full Schedule" Today After Major Meltdown. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 30, 2022 - 11:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. At This Hour, new transcript just out from the January 6th Committee in the past few minutes. CNN reading through them right now, what Rudy Giuliani and Jared Kushner swore under oath. Today, Donald Trump's taxes now in plain sight after a year's long back and forth legal battle. Plus, the Transportation Secretary's new threat aimed at Southwest Airlines make good on getting thousands of passengers home or face thousands of dollars of fines for failing to get planes in the air. This is what we're watching At This Hour.

And good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker in for Kate Bolduan. Just minutes ago, the Committee investigating the insurrection putting out a new batch of transcripts from its work. Today's release includes a few headline names, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump's former legal mouthpiece who helped lead some efforts to undo the 2020 election. Jared Kushner, the former president's son-in-law and senior adviser. Jason Miller, a former top Trump campaign adviser. And Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who also attended Stop the Steal rallies. CNN is reading through all of this right now, and we will bring you details as soon as we get them.

Also this hour, a never before seen look at Donald Trump's taxes. House Democrats making six years of the former president's financials public this morning, entering them into the Congressional record and capping a dramatic legal fight. What we know already, the returns cover 2015 through 2020, and the IRS violated its own rules by not auditing Trump each year while he was president. Trump paid no income tax in his final full year in office. And Trump and his wife paid little or no income tax in several of the years between 2015 and 2020. Let's get started in Washington with CNN's Kristen Holmes. All right, Kristen, walk us through. What are the headlines here?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, so we're looking at hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents, which we are still combing through, but I am able to confirm some information as we go through and try to process all of these numbers. The first thing that we can confirm is, as you noted, what Trump paid income tax while he was in office. So if you look at those numbers, as you said, little or no income tax. Back in 2016 and 2017, he paid only $750. 2018 and 2019 combined, that was about $1.1 million. In 2020, he paid zero dollars in income tax. Now, he was able to do this by claiming these large losses that he essentially carried forward year after year in order to offset or in some cases not pay at all that income tax. When you look at those losses, these were enormous business losses, he claims talking about $105 million, 73 million, $45 million.

But the interesting thing here from the tax experts I've talked to is when you look at that 2020 income tax of zero dollars, some of this they believe, will be called strategic accounting, that he was able to move this money around and pay less. But when it comes to 2020 paying zero dollars in income tax, that indicates that there were some real business failures, which would make sense given it was the year of COVID.

But the reason why that is so critical is because of what it means for Trump on a political spectrum. We have to remember that this is a man who has built an entire brand on being a wealthy and therefore successful businessman. And he has spent decades hiding this information, his financial information, his network, who his business associates were from the public. And in fact, he became the first president in modern history not to release his tax returns. And now we are seeing them front and center.

Now, the other thing, and this is important because it was one of the things that we are looking for in these additional documents is his foreign bank accounts. We have just learned that he did hold foreign bank accounts the entire time that he was in office. In 2015, actually, let's start with 2016. He had bank accounts in the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, and St. Martin, 2017, U.K., Ireland and China and then 2018 and 2020 just in the U.K.

The reason why this is so important, we're going to do a deeper dive into all these foreign entities is because the entanglement that Trump had with foreign business was a huge part of the narrative while he was in office. And now we're going to find out actually how far that actually went. Are there any foreign owned companies who are his business associates?

So, again, more information that we're breaking down here. But all of this is painting a picture of who Trump is and whether or not it actually matches up with the narrative that he has presented for the last several decades. And it's coming at a time that he's running for office a third time.


And I will say, talking to so many people around him, people who have known him back in New York years ago, they say this is the thing that he is the most sensitive about, is his finances and having his finances scrutinized.

WALKER: Yes. Of course, if he's so sensitive about this, are we hearing anything from the former president? HOLMES: Well, we have. We heard a statement last week. He already released a preemptive video, and then he put out a statement almost immediately today, and I'm going to read you part of it. He said, the great USA divide will now grow far worse. The radical left Democrats have weaponized everything, but remember that that is a dangerous two way street. And when he's referring to in that two way street is that he has already called on House Republicans when they take over to start looking into Biden's finances as well as his family's finances.

WALKER: All right, Kristen Holmes, appreciate you breaking that down for us. Thank you very much.

With me now is Catherine Rampell. She is a CNN economics and political commentator and opinion columnist for The Washington Post. Catherine, great to see you. So six years of Trump's tax returns are finally public. One of the things the committee's report revealed is that the IRS did not do the mandatory audit according to its own rules they were supposed to do during Trump's first two years in office. What do you make of that and what do you think will come of this?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's very puzzling, disturbing, even. Look, former President Trump had raised lots of red flags about his tax behavior well before he was president. Plenty of reasons that would motivate the IRS, presumably to look into some aggressive tax positions he had been taking. Beyond that, as you point out, the IRS's own policy is to audit the sitting president every year that that president is in office, even if there aren't red flags.

And so the question is, why did they drop the ball? Why did they not follow their own policy? Why didn't they pursue a lot of these sort of fishy at best behaviors that Trump had been fairly public about participating in, let alone that we've discovered through lots of investigative journalism? So it's very strange. We don't know what went on here. We don't know if this is about incompetence, that this is about political interference, disorganization, lack of resources, et cetera, but something went wrong, and we need to get to the bottom of it.

WALKER: And what are the specific questions that you have? Because I think a lot of people's eyebrows are raised when they hear that Trump, a wealthy businessman, as he's touted himself as, he didn't pay any taxes, federal income taxes in 2020. In 2016, it was just $750 in federal income taxes. And then if you combine the years of 2018 and 2019, just over a million dollars. So what are the questions that you have in your mind? Is it about seeing if these losses that were reported are actually legitimate?

RAMPELL: Well, there are a number of questions that I have. To be clear, the tax code is extremely complicated, and there's a lot of gray areas, particularly when it comes to real estate taxes. So just because Trump was able to pay very little in taxes does not necessarily mean he did anything illegal. That said, there are a lot of dodgy things that came up within his tax returns that the Joint Committee on Taxation last week already kind of summarized. And we will see documentation of in this release today, things like charitable deductions that look suspicious, loans to his kids that may have been actually gifts which should have been taxable, stuff like that.

Beyond, you know, whether he actually engaged in financial shenanigans as he was preparing his tax returns, I am also personally interested in where he gets his money from and who he owes money to. Was he governing in the interest of himself or of the country? And we have some clues within the documents that have been released, and again, everybody, including myself, still going through them. But we're able to see some of those foreign entanglements that may provide clues to those kinds of obligations he had.

WALKER: So many details to be looked at. Thank you so much, Catherine Rampell. Here with me now to share some perspective, Laura Barron- Lopez of the PBS News Hour and Politics -- POLITICO's, Nicholas Wu. Welcome to you both. Laura, let's first start with you. I mean, these returns confirming that Trump carried huge losses forward to dramatically lower his tax bill. But as we were hearing from Kristen, you know, we know Donald Trump is very sensitive about his image, about being respected and seen as a successful, wealthy businessman. Politically, what's the immediate fallout for Donald Trump?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, with the base of the party, you know, there's about 30 percent or more that are very much behind the former President Trump and that it's really hard to imagine that they would split from him even with the release of these tax returns. You know, Trump promised back in around 2014, well before he ever declared his candidacy, that he would release his tax returns if then President Obama released his birth certificate. And of course, he didn't follow through on that and repeatedly promised at different points that he would release his tax returns when he became a candidate, when he was elected and never did so.


And the base, the Republican base stayed with him all along the way. The Republican Party itself and Republican leadership appears to still largely behind him and not trying to split from him in any dramatic ways. And as noted, the new Republican House that is coming in is going to start their investigations of their own, looking at President Biden's finances, President Biden's family, as well as the IRS itself.

WALKER: Yes, and Nicholas, to you, I mean, House Democrats say, look, the facts are simple, the numbers are right there. GOP members say the majority is still putting out selective info, not releasing 1,000 plus files on the audits used as a foundation for a report last week. What is the Republican strategy to discredit the investigation?

NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, the Republican strategy here has been to draw attention to, like you said, how they're casting this as a selective release of the tax returns an, you know, they're calling this a weaponization of the congressional oversight tools against the former president. So it kind of shows in many ways how Republicans are still rallying around Trump even after we're seeing some of these revelations coming out from his tax returns. At the same time, there have been questions about Trump's taxes for years, and it's not really something that Republicans have raised that many eyebrows at. And so the question is now, you know, with plenty of other Republicans looking at entering the presidential field, whether any of them choose to use this information against Trump as they ramp up their presidential campaigns.

WALKER: What will the implications be of this, Lauren, then? I mean, do you think this will force future candidates to release their tax returns without any exception?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, I think that the former president showed that you could not release your tax returns, become president, and go through your entire presidency and then not be released. One other thing I'd add, though, is that while the House Republicans are clearly going to conduct their own investigations, it's important to note that Senate is still in Democratic control. Senator Ron Wyden, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, has said that he's going to use additional investigative tools to look at why the IRS did not audit Trump during the early part of his presidency, during those first few years didn't start until about 2019 to audit him.

And so Democrats now have additional investigative tools in the Senate because of the fact that they have majorities on committees now with that extra seat.

WALKER: And Nicholas, do you think Trump is going to have to do a lot of damage control looking to 2024. I mean, do you see any of Trump's potential rivals trying to use this information to say, hey, look, voters, trump isn't the businessman he claims to be?

WU: Well, if the past can predict the future, the former president has gotten out of similar sorts of scrapes before by simply deflecting and dodging and misdirecting attention towards his own away from his own potential personal scandals. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a real question here of whether other republicans are going to use any of this information. Right now, they are still rallying around him, but in many ways there is all this new material that's been handed over to Republicans if it's something that they want to take advantage of.

WALKER: Nicholas Wu and Laura Barron-Lopez, thank you both. Appreciate your time.


All right, still ahead, the January 6th Committee has just released new witness transcripts, including from Rudy Giuliani and Jared Kushner. We'll break down the details, next.


WALKER: Right now, we are getting a new glimpse at what key Trump insiders told the January 6th Committee. This hour, the Committee putting out a batch of new witness transcripts, including from Rudy Giuliani and Jared Kushner. CNN's Katelyn Polantz has been reading through the transcripts for us. Katelyn, what did Giuliani and Kushner tell the panel? What sticks out to you?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Amara, we're still looking through a lot of this. Jared Kushner, Rudy Giuliani. Transcripts are released. We're looking at those. We're also looking at some of the boldface names that you'll remember from those House Select Committee interviews. People like Eric Herschmann, that lawyer who was quite a star witness because of his bluntness for how he wanted to push back against John Eastman. His transcript has been released.

Jason Miller, a top campaign aide. Cassidy Hutchinson, another star witness for the January 6th Committee. Her transcript is out. And the one that I have spent some time with since we just got these a few minutes ago is Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. So Virginia Thomas famously had been texting with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the White House, wanting there to be someone, anyone looking into the challenge of this election. Perhaps there could be states that could look for election fraud.

And Ginni Thomas now says a full mea culpa to the Committee. In her interview, she says, I regret all of these texts. And also some of these are just things I was showing were moving through the movement, the conservative movement that she was a part of. And I'm regretting that they became public. She says that she was emotional at the time, she was emoting, and she now regrets the tone and the context of these texts.


So all of these transcripts, Amara, are showing the depth the Committee went to get perspectives both then after the election and now about how people feel.

WALKER: Well, really interesting admissions from Ginni Thomas there. Katelyn Polantz we'll let you get back to perusing those documents. Thank you very much.

Well, Southwest Airlines is working to get back to normal today after days of chaos and frustration. So far this morning, Southwest has canceled only a few dozen flights. That compares to thousands on each of the previous few days. The welcome news comes as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warns the government will take action if the airline doesn't do right by passengers. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live at Chicago's Midway Airport with more. Hi there, Adrienne. Look, we're just hours really away from New Year's Eve. It's Friday, people want good news. How are things looking there today?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Things are better today, Amara. However, of hesitation from some travelers, including Velvet Calhoun (ph), she is on her way to Memphis, Tennessee to ring in the New Year. However, when it was time for her to drop her bags, she was terrified.


BROADDUS: Why don't you want to check your bag?

VELVET CALHOUN (ph), TRAVELER: OK. Because all the bags they lost.


CALHOUN (ph): Hell, yes, I'm scared. It's just the point. All the bags that they lost, they lost 1,000 some bags. I've been watching the news. Now they want us to still get them our bags. It's that crazy or what? I'll try to go have some fun New Year's Eve. I ain't just -- I ain't going to let them spoil my day.


BROADDUS: And so many travel plans were spoiled. As she told us, she'd been watching every step of the way. Meanwhile, travelers seeing this for the first time. No cancellations listed on this flight information. All of these flights on time. 1963 boarding, one delay here. It was scheduled to leave at 11:15. Now that plane will take off at 12:05. So much relief followed by days of stress. Amara?

WALKER: Yes, I'm sure that is a welcome site. Thank you so much Adrienne Broaddus. Live for us there in Chicago. Joining me now, travel expert Katy Nastro. She is a spokesperson for the website, Scott's Cheap Flights. Katy, thank you for your time. So look, Southwest saying it's resuming a normal schedule today. And so far it appears that conditions are much better. You saw only a few dozen flights canceled.

The board did not have many cancellations as we saw there. What is your advice? Let's start with the Southwest passengers who are looking to rebook their flights.

KATY NASTRO, SCOTT'S CHEAP FLIGHTS TRAVEL EXPERT: Sure. So, you know, finally, some good news for travelers that have been affected. You know, Southwest is operating at only 1 percent of flights canceled. That's a far cry from the 60 percent that we saw over the last few days. And so, you know, for those that are looking to get rebooked on Southwest and have chosen to not take a cash refund in this scenario, you know, this is a good sign that they will be able to get on a flight before potentially January, when some of them were quoted that they'd be able to get rebooked.

You know, one piece of advice that we always tell passengers try to call the international customer service line. If you can't get through to someone domestically, you know, I'm sure the domestic line is flooded with people trying to get rebooked and get on now new flights due to the fact that they are operating similarly normal.

You know, Southwest has international lines that those agents would be able to rebook you just the same as the domestic customer service agent would. So if you find that domestic line being, you know, long wait times, try to give the international line a call.

WALKER: I do want to ask about check luggage, though, because we heard from that passenger who was telling Adrienne Broaddus that there's no way she wants to, you know, check in her luggage. Should people be concerned about that, at least with Southwest Airlines? Because we did see a lot of reports of the luggage getting there first and, you know, people now trying to get reunited with their baggage?

NASTRO: Sure. I mean, you know, there's always the -- you run the risk when you check a bag that, you know, it might not make it to your destination, but that's only in very certain cases. So I think you should feel a bit better that, you know, because Southwest is operating significantly more back to normal. That also means that your bags should be at the destination that you're headed to.

You know, if your bag does get lost, though, file a claim as soon as possible. They are not able to do anything until they have it in the system that your bag is in fact lost. And, you know, you are required by law to get compensated up to about $300, you know, if your bag is significantly delayed, that's days and days, as well as, you know, considered lost, and that varies by airline. But, you know, you are, you know, you should feel confident that you do have rights when it comes to bags as well.


WALKER: Got it. Well, good to see some progress, at the very least at our nation's airport. Katy Nastro, thank you.

New developments in the case of four college students killed in Idaho. The latest in the case is next.