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NY AG Sues Trump, Company & Family Members, Alleging Massive Fraud; 500 Plus Protesters Arrested In Russia After Putin Troops Speech; Fed Hikes Interest Rates To Highest Level Since 2008. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired September 21, 2022 - 15:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

Today, the New York Attorney General accused Donald Trump, his family and organization of a pattern of fraud and deception, that was her word here, astounding. AG Tish James is now suing the former president for $250 million, alleging fraud that spanned years before he even entered the White House. Also named in the suit, three of Trump's adult children and two executives of The Trump Organization. Now, they're all accused of inflating or deflating assets for their gain.


LETITIA JAMES, (D) NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Over the course of our investigation, we found that Mr. Trump, his children, the Trump organization created and used more than 200 false and misleading asset valuations on his statement of financial condition over that 10 year period.


CAMEROTA: Okay. Here's just one case cited in the 200 plus page lawsuit, AG James said Trump claimed his Florida State was worth $739 million when it was only worth 75 million. Now she is not only demanding a quarter billion dollar pay back, but also calling for Trump and his three adult children to be barred permanently from serving as an officer for any business registered in New York State.


JAMES: Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal, it's the art of the steal and there cannot be different rules for different people in this country or in this state. And former presidents are no different.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: Now, Trump's attorney accused New York's Attorney General

of pushing her own political agenda. James gave credit today to Donald Trump's Former Attorney, Michael Cohen, for helping to launch this three-year investigation.


JAMES: I will remind everyone that this investigation only started after Michael Cohen, the former lawyer - his former lawyer testified before Congress and shed light on this misconduct. And the remedies are consistent with what we have sought for other businesses that committed the same misconduct.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is the former personal attorney of Donald Trump, Michael Cohen.

Michael, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: Okay. So she gave you credit that you launched this investigation. Now, remember when you - we all do - when you testified in front of Congress and said that there was a lot of fudging of the numbers going on, did you know the scope of it? Did you know that there were 200 false or misleading statements about his assets over the years?

COHEN: There may have been two or three that I wasn't aware of, but the rest I was and these were part of the topics that I spoke with not only the attorney general, not only the district attorney, but seven different congressional committees. I mean, I just got to say, thank God for Tish James. She's tenacious. She's ferocious. She's what every single attorney general should be like and I give her the absolute greatest of props.

BLACKWELL: Donald Trump is at the center of a web of investigations. We even put it up on the screen just to show how many. But this investigation, what was announced today, the valuations. What it goes to this specific image of Donald Trump, what do you think this means to him?

COHEN: Look, to his image, it's a complete destruction. I mean, it's like a nuclear bomb exploded. The man has a fragile ego, which we all know his entire life is predicated on his net worth and him portraying himself as this wonderful businessman, this massive success, this incredibly wealthy guy, and what do we know? We know that it's not true. We know that - and I've been saying this now for years - that this is an inflation of his assets and then, of course, taking them deflating them for tax purpose.


I do just want to say in your opening, you said that she's suing for 250 million. That's the baseline that she's going after. I suspect it'll be somewhere to three to four times that amount at the end of the day.

CAMEROTA: Michael, can you just take us in the room with Donald Trump when he is claiming that his apartment is 30,000 square feet, but it is clearly 10,000 square feet. But he is filling out the paperwork and claiming that it's three times the size. Do you or does anyone in that room tell the emperor he has no clothes? Like what - how does he do that? What's that conversation?

COHEN: Right. You don't tell the emperor that he's naked, otherwise, you lose your job on the spot. It wasn't specific to, hey, let's just look at this, it's 33,000 square feet when it's actually 11,000 or 10,000. What he would do is he would say, my apartment is worth 375 million.

So Allen Weisselberg and I, we would write down that number in red and then we would use that in order to back into the number that he wanted, which was a number to increase his net worth from, literally, and this is true, I sat in the office once. He went from raising it to 6 billion, no, no, no, I'm actually richer than that, brought it to $7.5 billion, to $9 billion, to $10 billion in a period of 60 seconds. He's made more money than anybody in that short span of time ever.

CAMEROTA: And while that's happening, you're just watching him. You're just sitting there going, okay, sure.

COHEN: Listen, I was tasked to figure out how to back the numbers using his assets into what he wanted. There was no and there is no telling him, no. And that's also a problem that we saw during his administration.

BLACKWELL: We are familiar, obviously, with the Trumps here, with The Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg over the last couple of years. Jeffrey McConney, who is he? How integral is he?

COHEN: So Jeffrey McConney is an assistant comptroller. How integral is he? As I would like to say it, so Donald Trump, if we were going to put this into perspective, Donald Trump is the bank. He's the president of the bank. And then you have the branch manager would be Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney would be the teller. That's how it works.

So whatever you had first went to Allen. Allen would give it to Jeff to book but it would have to be signed off by Donald in order for this thing to become effective. So that's why when I always say that Donald knew everything about everything going on at The Trump Organization.

CAMEROTA: How about his kids? Because one of the things that the New York Attorney General said was that they were basically integral and involved. Let me read it to you: "As executive Vice Presidents of The Trump Organization, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump were also aware of, and knowingly participated in, the scheme. The three children were intimately involved in the operation of The Trump Organization's business."

Do you know what that means that they knowingly participated?

COHEN: So, again, it was - it's a small family company. This is not IBM or Google or Meta, this is The Trump Organization. It's a small, very close knit. They were, what, other than them, eight additional, nine additional executive vice presidents, myself included.

So, yes, they were intimately aware of everything. And if they weren't intimately aware, they became intimately aware, when it was their need to use the personal financial statement for either a project to get a loan for insurance, et cetera.

CAMEROTA: They would do the same thing. They would inflate things.

COHEN: Well, no, we're talking about the Trump - Donald's personal financial statement. I've never seen their personal financial statements. It wasn't relative to my job.

BLACKWELL: Now, according to this filing, there was obviously an effort to cover all of this up, Tish James here, according to the writer to cover up the scheme. Trump would tell his agents to not put anything in writing here. In fact, his tax attorney, put in writing, don't put this in writing saying, please use fresh email when communicating with appraisers, so we avoid the extent of possible email change. To what extent there, was it just we know what we're doing here is raw?

COHEN: Right. So, again, this is typical Donald Trump mob-like tactic. He learned all this early, early on and he refused, always refuse to have a computer and especially an email address. So this type of communications are always between other people and the person that he's intending the result.

When it came to the, again, appraisals, this was all set up again between Allen Weisselberg and there's Cushman or anybody else.


And that's one of the reasons why Allen Weisselberg was brought into this conversation today with Tish James.

CAMEROTA: If these allegations are true, how did he get away with it for so long?

COHEN: It's a great question. The system protects the rich. Donald Trump has always set himself out as someone who's willing to fight, to fight to the death, especially if it has to do with a legal issue. And you saw he did the same with Schneiderman, with Trump University and so on. He will fight you to the death.

And a lot of the prosecutors, Southern District of New York, when they dropped the 12 sealed indictments, Alvin Bragg by not going forward early on. That's why I say Tish James is exactly the type of prosecutor, the type of attorney general that New York and actually all states need desperately.

BLACKWELL: Well, it's been three and a half years since you testified before Congress and told them that this was happening and now today, this filing from the New York AG. Michael Cohen, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Also, tune in to the Mea Culpa podcast, yes, and you have a book coming out.

COHEN: I do. It's called Revenge. You could actually read the foreword and the afterword. The afterwards is done by Norm Eisen and by Danya Perry, it's interesting at or you can buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or any place you buy your books.

BLACKWELL: All right.

CAMEROTA: We will be getting that soon. Michael, thanks so much for being in here.

COHEN: We'll be talking about it.

BLACKWELL: President Biden address the United Nations today and said the Russia's war in Ukraine is a war chosen by one man. That man, Vladimir Putin, issued major threats to fortify his invasion.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe and a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of a non-proliferation regime. Now, Russia is calling up more soldiers to join the fight. And the Kremlin is organizing a sham referendum to try to annex parts of Ukraine.


CAMEROTA: Putin announced he will call up 300,000 reservists, marking the first major mobilization since World War II. And many Russian citizens are furious. Anti-war protesters began to flood the streets of major cities, resulting in more than 500 arrests, and the demand for flights out of Moscow has soared amid fears that a mandatory draft could be next.

BLACKWELL: CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins Caitlin Collins is outside the U.N., CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Kharkiv in Ukraine.

Ben, let's start with you and if there's been any response from Ukraine to what we heard from President Biden, and what we've heard from President Putin.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, before I get to that, Victor, let me tell you, within the last half hour, we have seen several missiles fly over here in Kharkiv. Here's some of the video. According to local authorities, one of them landed on a non-residential building. There's no word of any casualties or there don't appear to be any casualties.

Last night at 2 am, local time, similarly, missile strikes nearby. The fear is that after President Putin made this announcement, it's going to take months for those 300,000 reservists to be brought to the front line. The fear is that perhaps tonight or in the coming days, they may use their firepower just to remind Ukraine of the kind of weaponry they have.

Regarding reactions to President Putin's speech, we've heard President Zelenskyy said that it wasn't a surprise that they're going to carry out this partial mobilization, given the number of desertions that have happened in Russian ranks. We heard the commander in chief of Ukrainian Armed Forces saying we're not frightened. The foreign minister said that this means that the west should redouble its provision of sophisticated weaponry to Ukraine.

Now, regarding reaction to President Biden's speech at the UN, nothing yet. I did speak to one Ukrainian who said that they don't have much faith in the United Nations given, for instance, that Russia has veto power. They're more interested in action rather than words. Victor? Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, also Putin basically suggested that he would be willing, I guess, to use part of his nuclear arsenal, how's the White House reacting to that?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden was pretty critical of that in his speech here. And I should note, we are going to hear from President Zelenskyy virtually at the United Nations as well this afternoon. So he'll be speaking as well about what Ben was just saying there. He's been very critical of the United Nations saying it doesn't really ever do much or amount to much and it certainly hasn't in his opinion since this invasion happened.


And so what President Biden was saying here is in addition to calling Putin reckless for his comments about nuclear war, this reminder that he had in his speech today saying Russia has nuclear weapons as well. Essentially, he said that he believed that was reckless. He talked about the fact that Russia has, obviously, engaged in nuclear non- proliferation treaties in the past and those talks.

And so he was saying, essentially, critical of that statement. As the White House has said, we're not just listening to what Russia is saying about nuclear weapons, but also to what they're doing and they have not seen action yet, behind the scenes when it comes to the nuclear posture, so that's a big part of it.

But really, the message that President Biden was trying to deliver here was calling for solidarity among nations that make up the United Nations for Ukraine when it comes to this Russia, this invasion that Russia has launched and saying that, basically, Russia can not be allowed to act with impunity, because, of course, if there are not consequences, there's a concern, obviously, that this could expand.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Ben Wedeman, Kaitlan Collins, thank you both very much.

Joining us now, we have retired Brigadier General Steve Anderson. He's just back from a meeting in Warsaw with Ukrainians about their military effort and CNN Contributor Jill Dougherty from the former - the former Moscow Bureau Chief for CNN. Great to see both of you.

So General, tell us what the status is since you're just back from the region?

BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, the Ukrainians are having a lot of trouble maintaining the equipment that U.S. and NATO allies have provided. And so the meeting was - with the International Stability Operations Association and collection of about 200 defense companies from all over the world and United States. And we're trying to think about ways we can help the Ukrainians to maintain this equipment better.

And one of the things that we need to do and what the Biden administration need to do, the State Department and Defense Department and others is to authorize the use of U.S. contractors in Ukraine. And Putin's announcement last night makes it imperative even more so that we do that.

Now, they're struggling to maintain the equipment. Right now the evacuated all the way to Poland. I told you a couple of weeks ago, if your car broke in Chicago, you wouldn't take it to Washington, D.C. or New York City to get it fixed. That's what they're doing. We need contractors on the ground in Ukraine providing the maintenance training, the technical expertise to repair parts they need to ensure that this equipment stays in the fight and continues to kill Russians.

BLACKWELL: But Jill, before we get to the speeches today, in this declaration, sending U.S. contractors to Ukraine, I don't know that Putin would see the distinction between U.S. contractors and U.S. military, would he?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Oh, no. Well, he will consider them, of course, representatives of the United States, which he alleges is overtly or maybe covertly fighting in Ukraine, part of NATO, et cetera. I think at this point, he'll say they're fair game, if they go in there, we can attack them.

CAMEROTA: General, what about that? Won't that be seen as an escalation?

ANDERSON: I don't think so and if it is, it's going to be a very modest one. I mean, look, we put hundreds of thousands of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, 120 were killed and they're all tragic. But if we're willing to expend blood in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a far more important fight, this is the most important geopolitical event of our lifetime and we need to put contractors on the ground to help them.

It's not like putting soldiers. It's not like putting pilots in F-16s. It's putting contractors that can help the Ukrainians help themselves. They wouldn't be there long. I would propose they not be any closer than 200 miles from the front. We can even use some point defenses like the C-RAM system that we use very effectively in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect our contractors. But we need to show the world and show the Russians that we are behind the Ukrainians a hundred percent. And that means putting U.S. contractors on the ground at this time in Ukraine.

BLACKWELL: Jill, we know that there have been about 500 people arrested in these anti-war protests across Russia. What has been the reaction? You always watch Russian media, what has been the reaction to the President's address?

DOUGHERTY: It's hard to judge actually the support for what Putin said among the general public. What we're seeing is really the lack of support, the people who are on the streets and indications are that it could be actually more than 500, very hard to pin that down. But there have been protests throughout Russia in a number of Russian cities.

And then also you have this other indication, which is flights, outside of Russia, to Armenia, to Turkey, etc. They are being sold out, which shows that people do want to leave. I think if you look at the middle class in the big city, Moscow, St. Petersburg, (inaudible) they do not want to serve, for the most part.


The middle class are not interested in serving in a war right now, so you're going to get from those cities, I think, more liberal if - to use that phrase, people who want to leave the country. It's already been a problem for Putin and I think you're going to see more people trying to leave the country.

CAMEROTA: General, what did you think when Vladimir Putin said that they'll use any means at their disposal, which many people interpreted as a thinly veiled nuclear threat?

ANDERSON: Well, here's the thing, if he uses any form of nuclear weapons, we do not necessarily need to respond in time. But we need to tell Vladimir Putin and the Russians that we will essentially join forces with Ukraine and we will push every single Russian out of Ukraine and - to include the Crimea. We will - the U.S. and NATO allies will step forward and support our brothers in Ukraine.

We cannot get into exchanging nuclear attacks on each other. That will - obviously, the end result of that would be terrible. But we can do everything we can to support the Ukrainians and ensure that we defeat the Russians. So I would definitely make a very clear statement to them, this is what's going to happen if you do that.

BLACKWELL: Gen. Anderson, Jill Dougherty, thank you.

In another aggressive move to battle inflation, the Fed raises rates three-quarters of a percent for the third straight time. Chairman Powell warns there are more hikes to come.

CAMEROTA: And as rates go up, home sales are going down, falling 20 percent from just a year ago. We have all the details ahead.



BLACKWELL: For the third meeting in a row, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by an historic three-quarters of a percentage point.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Without price stability, the economy does not work for anyone. In particular, without price stability, we will not achieve a sustained period of strong labor market conditions that benefit all. Today, the FOMC raised its policy interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point and we anticipate that ongoing increases will be appropriate. We are moving our policy stance purposefully to a level that will be sufficiently restrictive to return inflation to 2 percent.

CAMEROTA: The move could help tame inflation but will also likely cause economic pain, pushing up the cost of borrowing for homes, cars and credit cards. CNN's Business Correspondent Rahel Solomon is here with us. So Rahel, what does this mean for all of us and are those things that I just mentioned, immediate, that those rates go up?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in some ways, yes, right, because look at what mortgage rates have already been doing. I mean, mortgage rates started at about 3 percent this year. We're now at 6 percent. So in some ways, yes, in other ways, for example, with credit cards, you tend to see that in a few months.

But if you are, for example, carrying a credit card balance and you make the minimum payment and your interest rate goes up, which many expect that it will now and continue to, well, it's going to take you longer to pay that back because you're paying more interest. So in some ways, it does have an immediate impact in terms of housing, which we've seen sales really fall off the cliff. In other ways, we're going to it in months - in the months to come for sure.

BLACKWELL: So the Fed, we heard that likely there will be more hikes. They can't keep raising interest rates here without shoving the economy into a recession.

SOLOMON: That's true, but they're going to keep raising interest rates, right? I mean, they have been very clear at this point that their primary target, their primary goal is lowering inflation saying that they cannot let - they cannot risk letting this linger for longer because then it becomes a harder problem to solve on the back end.

Take for example, if you start to expect inflation will linger at about 8 percent for the next few years, well, then maybe you go to your boss, maybe we don't do it to our boss, but maybe you go to your boss and you say, look, I need an 8 percent raise because of inflation. Maybe the boss gives it to you, but then raises prices to compensate, right? It becomes a vicious cycle.

So the Fed is trying to prevent inflation becoming entrenched. So it is likely going to continue to raise rates until we start to see inflation meaningfully lower. We don't expect rates to start cutting, moving in the opposite direction, at least according to today's projections until 2024.

CAMEROTA: Victor and I are going to the boss ... BLACKWELL: Yes.

CAMEROTA: ... and we're going to say you sent us.

BLACKWELL: Not a bad idea.

SOLOMON: Oh, I'm sure that'll go very well.

BLACKWELL: Not a bad idea.

CAMEROTA: Rahel Solomon, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Mark Zandi is the Chief Economist at Moody's Analytics. Good to see you again. First, your reaction to this three-quarters of a percentage point increase?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Well, Victor it was pretty much down the strike zone. The Fed had been signaling that it would raise the funds rate target, the rate they control by three- quarters of a point and they follow through on that. If there was a surprise, it was that they seem to be suggesting that they'll raise rates a bit more in the future, November, December, January than they were indicating before.

And so a little bit on what economists would call the hawkish side, but generally write down the strike zone. You can see the markets - stock market's been up a little bit, down a little bit, pretty much taking it in stride.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let's put that up. Because immediately after the announcement, the Dow went from positive territory, big board, guys, let's put it on the screen, and went directly into negative and kind of bounced back and forth since. I thought that the three-quarters of a point that was expected but you say that there could be another half or three-quarters in six weeks from now. That is what is causing some deflation.


ZANDI: Some, yes, some concerns, some audit, but again, I mean, I think it's on the margin.