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Idaho Suspect in Custody; Transcript: Ginni Thomas Regretted Text Messages to Meadows; Jan 6 Committee Releases New Transcripts, Including from Giuliani, Kushner; Documents: Trump Claimed Large Losses Throughout his Presidency; Sources: Suspect Arrested in Connection to Idaho College Student Killings Investigation. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired December 30, 2022 - 12:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: Hello everyone "At this Hour". A suspect now in custody the FBI makes a giant breakthrough in the killings of four Idaho college students, plus new transcripts and new insights into the day surrounding the insurrection.

What did Rudy Giuliani, Jared Kushner and Ginni Thomas tell the January 6 Committee? And documents long hidden from public view see the light of day Donald Trump's tax returns are finally public. This is what we're watching.

Hi, everyone, I'm Amara Walker in today for Kate Baldwin. We begin with breaking news. Police have made an arrest in connection to the murders investigation of four college students in Idaho. Two federal law enforcement sources tell CNN that the FBI took a suspect into custody in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The arrest comes nearly seven weeks after the students were found stabbed to death in a home near the University of Idaho campus. Police in Moscow, Idaho will hold a news conference later this afternoon. And CNN's Veronica Miracle is live in Moscow, Idaho with the very latest, Veronica?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Amara, as you said those federal sources telling our CNN's Josh Campbell and Mark Morales that an arrest has been made. We understand that at this point, it is a man in his 20s. But beyond that there are very few details coming out at this hour. I did speak with police this morning, where they said there is going to be that news conference at 1 pm today.

They would not tell me any further details. But just for context, this is the first press conference that the police department has held in weeks. We understand that this is going to be obviously a major development where they're going to be talking about that arrest.

But it has been nearly seven weeks since the murders happened here at this home behind me and you can see actually today, another monumental day here at the crime scene that has been very relatively quiet over the past few weeks. There's a cleanup crew here cleaning this house today. And it's going to be eventually turned back over to the property owner.

And so we understand that so much is happening here in Moscow and the police department making this big announcement today. And it also comes on the heels when two families are going to be holding a celebration of life this evening in quarter lane.

It's about an hour and a half away from here, Northern Idaho, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves (ph) they were the best of friends. The families have been planning this for a couple of weeks now. They're going to be holding it at a local church. And certainly there's going to be a lot for the families to be discussing tonight, Amara.

WALKER: And Veronica, I know you've been following this story for weeks now. Can you talk to us a little bit about just how these murders have impacted the community? How we've got to this point? And also the fact you know that investigators have been quite tight lipped about any new developments. So this is obviously, you know, a huge development that we're hearing today.

MIRCALE: Certainly coming as a shock, because as you said they have been so tight lipped this entire time, nearly the full seven weeks, there has been very little information released. And I think that's why some of the families at least one of the families had been very outspoken.

The Goncalves family, really just frustrated with the lack of information but the entire time, police were telling us and the public that they had strong leads that they had a lot of information coming in and that they were trying to keep the information close to protect the integrity of this investigation. This happened again seven weeks ago for students murdered.

The coroner says that they were likely murdered in their sleep. Some of them had defensive wounds. And so it appears that they were trying to fight off the attacker. It happened in the early morning hours after a night of partying.

One couple Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin we're at a party at Sigma Chi fraternity. It's not far from here really in walking distance. And the other couple Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves the best of friends they were out at the corner club. It's a bar in the area.

They all came back here. And we're all home by around 2 in the morning on that early Sunday morning. And what happened between 2 am and noon when that first 911 call came in. Well, that is still a mystery but we hope to learn more today at that press conference Amara.

WALKER: All right to be held at 4 pm Eastern. Appreciate your reporting Veronica Miracle, thank you.


WALKER: Also this hour new revelations from the January 6 Committee, the panel putting out a batch of new transcripts today, they feature people who had a front row view to Donald Trump's attempt to topple the United States government by interrupting the transfer of power Rudy Giuliani, Jared Kushner, Jason Miller and Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who attended a "Stop the Steel Rally".

Let's get straight to CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent, Paula Reid. Paula take us through what we've learned.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well Amara, in this most recent batch of transcripts, a few boldface names that you just read off. But let's start with Ginni Thomas, someone who is not a household name, but is the wife of Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.

Now she was asked about text messages that she exchanged with then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the days and weeks following the election. And what's so surprising here, Amara, as we're seeing in the transcripts, something we rarely see, which is some remorse and regret.

And CNN has previously reported that the committee was in possession of about two dozen text messages that Thomas who is a conservative activist exchanged with Meadows where she was pleading with him to try to overturn the results of the election and followed up with him multiple times.

And when these text messages were revealed, they raised a lot of questions about whether the wife of a justice should be pressuring the White House Chief of Staff to undermine an election? But here when she was asked, during her interview this fall with the Committee, she was asked about these and she said that she "Regrets them".

She described it as a, "Emotional time" and said that these were emotional texts to a friend but of course, Amara, not just a friend at that time, the White House Chief of Staff. And one thing that we have seen repeatedly throughout all of these various batches of transcripts that have been released over the past week or so, is that White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, he is at the center of this plan to try to undermine the election.

You see it from the time of Election Day, you see him talking to people about a plan that subsequently adopted pressuring States when this is raising questions about whether Meadows was trying to prevent certain meetings from being recorded and official records, potentially trying to destroy evidence.

So all roads really lead through Mark Meadows that's one of the big takeaways from all of these transcripts and of course, the committee didn't get to ask him about a lot of these events, because he refused to sit down and answer questions. But before he stopped cooperating, he did share some evidence, including these text message exchanges with Ginni Thomas.

So we have a whole team of reporters right now Amara reading over all these other transcripts. And we'll bring you additional news as we have it. But this is really notable this is one of the more interesting things that I've seen so far come out of these transcripts.

WALKER: Yes, absolutely. Paula Reid I appreciate it thank you. Joining me now is CNN Legal Analyst and Former Federal Prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Yes, let's start with that, Jennifer.

I mean, what do you make of Ginni Thomas telling the committee, you know that she regrets at least the tone of her text messages that she was emotional when she was texting the Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows when she was encouraging him to fight to challenge the 2020 election?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, honestly, hindsight is 2020. She knows now that Biden is the President, there's really no benefit in continuing to watch the statements that she was making at the time. I will note and I haven't been through the entire transcript yet.

But after she expressed some regret for the tone and content of her text, she still won't admit that she was wrong about the fraud. She'll say that everyone thought there was fraud. All she wanted to do was investigate that she didn't see the debunking of the fraud that happened after these allegations were made.

But she still, at least as far as I've seen in the transcripts won't come out and say that they were wrong about the fraud and that there was not enough fraud to impact the results of the election. So her regret only goes so far.

But what she's really trying to do here is distanced herself from her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, to avoid any allegations that her work impacted his decisions on the court, especially with the pending case, this term of the independent state legislatures theory.

She's very careful to say that she wasn't speaking to state legislators about false slates of electors or alternate slates of electors, really all they were doing is trying to gather these fraud allegations and see what could be done with them to explore whether there was fraud or not whether the state legislatures had the power to overturn an election, absent any fraud?

So she's been very careful. But I'm not sure it's so much regret as it is trying to toe this line of trying to prove she didn't have any influence on her husband's work.

WALKER: Right. Right, got that. And, you know, as our team looks through peruses, these witness transcripts, you know, one being from Rudy Giuliani, are there any possible areas of legal culpability that you would be looking for, given what we already know about his role in the effort to attend the 2020 election?

RODGERS: Well, certainly prosecutors are going to be looking for any evidence that they could use to bring potential charges and of course any evidence that contradicts that because they'll want to make good decisions when it comes to charging.

[12:10:00] RODGERS: Rudy Giuliani was in charge of various parts of the legal efforts to overturn the results in the early days, but also was involved in advising some of the other legal things that were going on the attempted coup at the Department of Justice, trying to install these alternate slates of electors.

So there are lots of areas of potential culpability for Giuliani and prosecutors certainly will be combing through these carefully to see what pieces of evidence emerged that can be used to either potentially charge him or to decide that he shouldn't be charged. You know, prosecutors are looking for both so that they make the right decisions.

WALKER: All right, Jennifer Rodgers, appreciate your analysis. Thank you very much. And coming up, six years of Trump's taxes released this morning; we have brand new details next.



WALKER: Developing this hour what was secret is secret no more. Donald Trump's federal tax returns entered into the Congressional record this morning by House Democrats. It brings an end to a protracted legal battle and makes public sensitive financial data that the Former President spent years in court to keep hidden.

What we're learning Trump paid little in taxes while in office by declaring massive financial losses. Also, Mr. Trump held foreign bank accounts including one in China, while serving as President of the United States. CNN's Kristen Holmes has been scanning through these returns. Kristen a pretty shocking revelation about the amount the Former President paid in foreign taxes, especially in compared to what he paid in the U.S.?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right Amara. So we just found this again as we're going through hundreds of pages of documents. And what we found was that Trump paid more in foreign taxes in 2017. So when he was in office, than he did in U.S. federal income tax.

As we have previously discussed, he only paid $750 in income tax that year, largely because he had claimed these large losses that he was able to offset his income with. Now, we have found that he paid nearly a million dollars that same year in foreign taxes. Now, why is this important?

Well, it's not a surprise that he would be paying these foreign taxes because he has these business relations. But what is a surprise is just how far we are seeing that his business interests span. And I want to read you some of the countries here that he indicated that he had some kind of notable financial item in.

He paid taxes, income expenses. Azerbaijan, Panama, India, Qatar, South Korea, or China let me see keep going here. Georgia, Israel, Mexico. I mean, there's a long list here of countries that he had these business interests in, and was - this is part of the entire globe.

So get this is a very big discovery here as we see this, and as you said, as follows what we had already learned, which was that he held foreign bank accounts the entire time that he was in office, and for three of those years in China. Now that is the one that China bank account that is what is raising a lot of eyebrows, and has a lot of people wondering, when did that start? What exactly was going on there? What were the business interests in China?

WALKER: Yes. And also, Kristen, some tax experts are raising questions about Trump's business figures, right? I mean, what can you tell us about that?

HOLMES: That's right. So this is about expenses and profit that Trump claimed. In one example here it is in 2017, one of Donald Trump's company's DJT Aerospace, it claimed that it made $42,965 that is a very specific number. It also claimed that exact amount in expenses.

Now according to one tax expert, they said that this was a statistical impossibility. The reason why that matters is because if you make $42,000, and you spend $42,000, the net is zero, meaning there is nothing there to tax so again, just raising questions, saying that this might be something that auditors want to look into as we continue to go through these documents.

WALKER: All right, Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for that. With me now is Daniel Shaviro. He's a Professor of Taxation at NYU Law School. Professor, good to have you! So the Trump tax returns, confirmed that he paid very little and federal income taxes one year, he didn't pay any at all.


WALKER: He claimed huge losses that he used to reduce or practically eliminate his tax burden. His returns show he carried forward $105 million loss in 2015 $73 million in 2016. Help us understand the strategy here and is there a way to verify these losses?

SHAVIRO: Well, if they're actual economic losses, I wouldn't call it a strategy because you don't really want to pay no tax because you're losing tons of money. So if we take the losses to be economically real, it suggests perhaps he's not a really good businessman, but especially the numbers from pre-2015. They're not verified.

You'd want to see what they are to make sure these are legitimate claims. The reporters point about the miracle that the income and deductions are exactly the same that happened with multiple entities in multiple years. There are concerns about personal deductions being involved.

It's clear that it's not from tax depreciation, just that's a small piece. I mentioned tax depreciation because that's a genuine allowable tax loss. That doesn't mean you had an economic loss. So these really huge dollar amounts and any responsible auditor who is doing his or her job we want to verify them. [12:20:00]

SHAVIRO: Make sure they're real because you can't really be certain just because they're on the return.

WALKER: Right, right. Well, the Joint Committee on Taxation Flag that Trump claimed a large number of questionable items on his tax returns, including the large amounts of interest he claims to have received from loans that he gave to his children. So the nonpartisan committee said that could indicate Trump was disguising gifts to them a way to avoid the gift tax. What do you make of that?

SHAVIRO: Well, that's part of it. That's, as I think they also noted, there's sometimes suspiciously round numbers, like Ivanka pays exactly 18,000 of interest, they recommend and they're obviously right, that you'd want to verify the loan, see the loan documents and make sure that they were legit, and they're being acted to.

So one thing that might have been going on is his disguised gifts to avoid the gift tax and second thing is, if he had more losses to use in his return than the kids did, they get maybe get an interest deduction, though, depends upon more about the loan, and he gets interest income, but he gets to shelter the interest income with his other losses.

So there could be an income tax play to that we don't know that from what we've seen, but it's something you'd want to look into. Now, there'd be nothing wrong with the legitimate loan that one person deducts the interest and the other one includes it, but gets to offset it. But it does give you a kind of a motivation there further motivation that would make you suspicious and want to check things a little further.

WALKER: What do you make of Trump in 2017, paying nearly a million dollars in taxes to foreign countries versus the just over $750 he paid in U.S. federal income taxes? What's the significance of that?

SHAVIRO: Well, it's kind of interesting. It could be that, because he has activities in those countries he can't use, they're just being - they're just taxing him on those activities. They can't tax him on everything. We get to tax him sort of on everything, which sounds like a good thing. But it also means he has a lot more scope to put in losses that might be real or might not be real, depending on what further investigation shows.

So it's kind of funny that was he's a U.S. citizen and resident. And so we get to tax everything. That means we ended up taxing less than those other guys. I think with those other countries, you just say you know what business there and it does what it does, and there's not a whole lot of scope for him to do anything about that - apparently used it.

WALKER: Yes. And I know that you think that the IRS completely dropped the ball on this. I mean, they failed to audit Trump during his first two years in office breaking their own mandatory auditing rules there. What's the justification that the IRS could have for not auditing Trump, at least, you know, at least a couple of years into office? Could it have been that his taxes were just so complex, or, you know, resources?

SHAVIRO: Well, that doesn't really make any sense. I mean the two things that occurred one or one that he there was some on his behalf or by him or his aides, direct influence exerted not to do it. And the other is that the IRS could just have been a bit chicken about doing and when I say chicken, I want to say if I were the IRS Commissioner, I know I was getting into hot water.

But you can't not verify things just because it's complex. He has like 400, or hundreds of partnership, that flow through, and all kinds of things. You have to verify that stuff both because you might get revenue out of it. But also if people know you're not going to verify then the game is over.

So it's part of you doing your job also, not to audit them at all is one thing, but suppose you wanted them as they apparently had like one person who's doing it all by him or herself and with no help and not allowed to consult others. That's not a real audit.


SHAVIRO: Someone who just get a salary and you know, pay state and local tax or something, they can audit that person with one person. You and I get audited in the sense that if we forget to include a 1099 we'll get a computer generated letter. You got to do more.

WALKER: Yes. Yes, it is interesting. It's just one person who is doing these kinds of audits. Daniel Shaviro, appreciate your time thank you. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is offering up a key concession to become House Speaker. What he could be willing to give up to get more support before Tuesday's vote next?



WALKER: Back to the breaking news we've been following this hour. A suspect is now in custody in the murder investigation of four college students in Idaho. The victims were found stabbed to death inside a home nearly seven weeks ago.

Sources tell CNN that the FBI arrested a man in his 20s this morning in the Poconos of Northeast Pennsylvania. A state official says the suspect has already been arraigned before a Pennsylvania judge. It's not clear if police are still looking for any other suspects. But we expect to learn more details this afternoon when authorities in Moscow, Idaho hold a news conference.

GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is expected to hold a conference call with members of his Caucus today. It's part of an attempt to secure more votes in his bid to be House Speaker. Now CNN has learned McCarthy is offering a key concession to his critic's just days before the vote. CNN's Melanie Zanona, live on Capitol Hill. Hi, Melanie, what is this deal McCarthy is working on and will it get him to the votes that he needs?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So the big debate that's been going on behind the scenes is over this tool known as the motion to vacate the speaker's chair and that is a vote on deposing the sitting speaker.