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Sources: Zelenskyy Planning To Visit White House Tomorrow In First Trip Outside Ukraine Since War; Sources: Trump WH Ethics Lawyer Told Cassidy Hutchinson To Give Misleading Testimony To January 6th Committee; House Ways And Means Committee Releases Report On Trump's Tax Returns. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 20, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A busy night of breaking news. And, as we've been reporting, the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to continue that trend, when it releases its first summary, after voting, to make public, years of the former President's tax returns.
So, even more than most nights, we can truly say, the news continues. So, let's hand it over to Laura Coates and CNN TONIGHT.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Good evening, everybody. I'm Laura Coates. And this is CNN TONIGHT.
And look, there is a lot going on, this evening. And we have with breaking news, on Capitol Hill. We'll begin with that tonight.
Because the all-powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which is led by Democrats, as you know, for now, voting tonight, to release the former President Donald Trump's tax returns, to the public. The Committee's vote was along party lines. And it's a giant defeat for Trump, so who - he's fought, for years now, to keep all of his tax information private, citing audits and the like.
And, also tonight, sources telling that, the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is on his way, to Washington D.C., at this very hour. He will meet with the President of the United States, tomorrow, at the White House, as expected, and may also address a Joint Session of Congress.
And now, here's a CNN Exclusive, tonight. Sources saying that Trump's former White House Ethics lawyer, told Cassidy Hutchinson - remember, she was the star witness, of the January 6th hearings? That person apparently gave her the advice, to give misleading testimony, to the Committee.
And yes, I said, a White House Ethics Lawyer. So, you try to figure that out, if you can.
I want to start now with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, who is live, on Capitol Hill, tonight. Manu, a lot is going on. Let's begin with those taxes. When are we going to learn more, about these taxes, and maybe even see them?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we could actually see these very soon.
And it could be a significant amount of information that Donald Trump has spent years, trying to protect, and not released to the public, contending he was under endless audit, going to court, to battle them. Ultimately, turned over to Congress, just a few weeks ago, and then, now, tonight, in a party-line vote, House Democrats voting, to move ahead, and to release these, into public. Now, what we're talking about here is six years of Trump's tax returns, including tax returns, for eight affiliate businesses.
We also expect to see IRS audit reports, as well as two reports. The Joint Committee on Taxation, which is a non-partisan group that analyzes taxes. We expect that report, to come out, tonight, as well as the Committee's report, analyzing these tax returns. That also will be released tonight, according to Committee officials.
Now, when I asked the Chairman of the Committee, Richie Neal, about whether or not those returns, the actual returns themselves will be in public, he said they'll come out within days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: How quickly do you expect these returns to be public?
REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA): Shouldn't take a few days. But we believe that it's only days. It won't go well beyond that. The staff is on top of it.
One of the things that, we're going to take great pains to do? You might have heard the end of it, tonight, when you were in Longworth. And that is the redactions that have to take place, to protect some very important considerations. Social Security numbers, PIN numbers, banking accounts, you know, those sorts of things.
But the Ways and Means staff and I have faith in the Republican staffers. Let them serve as a check on what it is that we want to do. But they ought to reach an accommodation to make sure that that those protections are built in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So those - that information will take a little bit more time, to play out.
But time is of the essence, here. Democrats are only in power, Laura, for just a couple more weeks, before Republicans take control of the House, on January 3rd, which is one big reason why Republicans crying foul, as Democrats, in their final days of power, here, moving to do something that they had been demanding for some time, seeing Donald Trump's tax returns in public. And we should be able to see those very soon. COATES: I mean, part of the reason there has been the delay, though, as you know, was the claims that because he was being audited, he couldn't possibly hand things over, from the candidacy, of course, throughout the presidency, and now up to this point in time. It's been a four-year window, really.
So, what are they saying now, about whether Trump was actually being audited? Was he? Is he still?
RAJU: Yes, this is actually a key takeaway that will be an issue of debate in the exploration, going forward. Presidents are required to go under a mandatory audit, after they become - take the oath of office. According to the Committee, that did not happen with Donald Trump.
In fact, they say, in April 2019, Donald Trump was - an audit would begin, over Donald Trump's returns. And that only began, they believe, because the Chairman of the Committee, Richie Neal, who you just saw, sent a letter to the IRS, at that exact time, April 2019, asking about those tax returns.
They said then, that's when the audit started, over Donald Trump's returns. And then, they said it was an audit that never was completed. All those returns, those six years of returns that they have obtained, the audits were not actually completed, for Donald Trump.
And I also asked about the contention of Trump that he said that he's always under audit, he, has never seen an audit completed? Neal declined to comment on that specific issue, saying, "These are issues that we are still looking through as well."
And one other point, Laura, I asked both Chairman Neal, and the Republican on the - top Republican on the Committee, Kevin Brady, whether or not there was anything concerning, in those returns. Brady said this is still being looked at, by the IRS, and declined to comment. Neal too also declined to comment.
COATES: Well, so, I mean, has the former President, or any other Republicans, commented, on where we are right now?
RAJU: Yes. We are hearing some pushback, from Republicans. Those Republicans, on the Committee, like Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the Committee, crying foul, criticizing the Democrats, for weaponizing Donald Trump's personal financial information, saying that this was not the proper way, this should be handled, calling it a sad day, for democracy, and going on, in defending Donald Trump.
Trump spokesman himself put out a statement, earlier, also where he essentially accused the Democrats of taking this action, saying "This unprecedented leak by lameduck Democrats is proof that they are playing a political game, they are losing. If this injustice can happen to President Trump, it can happen to all Americans without cause." But very little they can do here, given they lost that battle, for years, in court. Ultimately, Democrats won, which is why they have the returns, and now that they are still in power, in the House, taking action, to release them.
COATES: Manu, what a night! And what a beginning! We know a couple of days, whenever it might be.
Thank you so much for your reporting, always insightful.
I want to bring in and turn to our Political Commentators, here at CNN, Jonah Goldberg and Paul Begala. Also Norm Eisen, CNN's Legal Analyst, and also, former House Judiciary Special Counsel in Trump's first impeachment trial.
We also have Russ Buettner. He is the Investigative Reporter, for the "New York Times."
Russ, I want to begin with you, because you really do have extraordinary expertise, specifically, as it relates to Trump's taxes. You took a deep dive into some of those taxes, back in 2020. And now, we are waiting, at any moment, maybe it will take days, to get more information.
So, I'm wondering, what do you think so far of what we've learned, just tonight alone, about these new developments?
RUSS BUETTNER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well I found it just starkly alarming that the presidential audit that is supposed to happen, of every president, appears to have not happened, this president, for the first couple of years, he was in office, if I understood what some of the congressmen were saying, correctly.
That's really alarming. We've never had a president, who had a sort of more complicated financial picture than Donald Trump. Has to be like the best case, for why such an audit should exist. And they didn't do it. And I have to wonder, if it was somehow wrapped up in this long- standing audit of a massive refund that he got 10 years ago.
We're also apparently going to hear more of what we revealed, in 2020, which is that he has had enormous business losses, over the years, he's been under some financial pressure, and that he rarely, if ever, pays much in income taxes.
COATES: Russ, on that point, and I'm glad, I want to make sure we're all very clear, about this delineation, between these two things.
There is the audit that he claimed to have been under, as to why he couldn't release, as a candidate. Then, there is the mandatory presidential audit, supposed to be conducted. And that seems to be the hook, legislatively that this committee is talking about.
But, on the point of the 2020, I mean, part of the sort of feedback that you're hearing, is the idea of well, we have seen some of the information, right, through your own reporting, back in 2020, and beyond.
I'm wondering, one of the things that Congressman Doggett has had to say, the former President claimed tens of millions of dollars in losses, but with no supporting documents, to actually substantiate those claims.
How is that possible? And did you experience that segment of it in your own reporting?
BUETTNER: Yes. I heard Congressman Doggett say that. It's an excellent question.
I think what he was talking about, is that when the IRS started the audit, they didn't ask him, for those kinds of supporting documents, which would be a usual process, during an audit. The tax returns itself, themselves, don't show that. That would have to be in other records they would have obtained.
We had some records of audits, ongoing audits that I could see. But that, again, doesn't show the underlying process, of the examination, and all the sorts of guts of the thing, requesting records, analyzing those records, questions back-and-forth.
But I think that's what he was referring to, is he wasn't required. It's pretty extraordinary, if they didn't audit, and they were looking at something that's resulting in millions of dollars, tens of million dollars in revenue, resulting in no income taxes, due to business failures and other write-offs that they didn't ask for documentation of those. That would be a pretty extraordinary occurrence.
COATES: Let's bring in our panel here, as well.
Because, I mean, if getting right down to the issue, Gentlemen, you've got the idea of the curiosity, when he was a candidate, the first time, being a candidate, of "I wonder if he really has as much money as he says he has. Does he really have the Empire, he says?" There was a curiosity in this figure.
Then, it was "Hold on, why don't you want to hand over the information?" There's beginning to be a skepticism from that curiosity.
But now that we are really at his second - well his third election bid, I'm wondering, first of all, do you think that the release of the information, now, and this quest, at this point, is as crucial, or necessary, or warranted? What do you think?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER HOUSE JUDICIARY SPECIAL COUNSEL IN TRUMP'S FIRST IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: I do think that it's justified.
The law of the United States is that the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Neal, who has been very careful, Laura, has the power, to obtain these returns, and to publish them. That is the law of the land. They've done a balance.
And you're looking here, at an individual, who flouted - and it was my job in the Obama White House, to clear the Obama taxes, for release. He flouted that modern practice of releasing his taxes.
There were the most serious constitutional questions, about payments, from foreign governments, so-called emoluments. I litigated them. Domestic emoluments, you can't get them from the States. That may be in the tax returns. Now, his business has been convicted, for two counts of tax fraud, with a larger investigation continuing as to him.
He's running, again. I think, on the weighing and balancing, yes, I'm concerned about the privacy. But these other considerations far outweigh it. He's waived any right to claim the privacy of these routines.
JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CO-FOUNDER & EDITOR-IN- CHIEF, THE DISPATCH: Yes. I said, I can't - I don't see it that way at all. I mean, I have no sympathy for Donald Trump, in this. He violated a whole bunch of norms. He - not this Norm, but other norm.
EISEN: Well, wait! I wouldn't let him!
GOLDBERG: But - and he's a shady businessman. I think he lied about his wealth, all of that stuff.
GOLDBERG: He deserves the trouble that he's invited for himself, for years and years and years.
COATES: And wait, by the way, we do now have the report. Manu is going through it, as we speak. And we're going to come back to that point. Go ahead.
GOLDBERG: But just because the Chairman has the power doesn't mean he should do it.
And I've heard nothing, from anybody, from various congressmen, on the Committee, and elsewhere that provides a - that has a connective tissue, and a legislative purpose, which is the reason why - he has every reason to look at them. I think he was right to look at them.
But to release them publicly, creates a moral hazard, and a bad precedent, and it just feels punitive. And I don't think that that's a good precedent, for the country, to release private tax returns, because he has it coming. That's not a legislative purpose.
COATES: Well their purpose, in part, as you - I mean the idea of the mandatory audit, right, that has to happen, when we have a president. And I'm not saying that's the all-encompassing.
But that's the stated reason the Democrats are talking about, the idea there's a mandatory audit that has to be fulfilled, and that it was not done, and their whole legislative oversight function is to figure out why that wasn't the case, and what loopholes may be there.
But how do you see it?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. Well, since the Magna Carta, in 1215, we've said, no one is above the law. It looks like Mr. Trump put himself above the law, if that's true. This is early reporting. We don't really know. I don't want to draw conclusions.
But, so we do need to know that. But who is "We," right? The Congress has to know. They have 100-year-old law that says the Treasury shall release, to the Ways and Means Committee, any tax return they request, shall. Trump flouted that, litigated it.
But I'm kind of more with Jonah that I'm worried about the precedent. Now, I'm old enough to recall, in the Obama presidency, Republicans were running Ways and Means Committee. They did release some private tax returns, not of Barack Obama's, because he put them out. But they had some IRS conspiracy theory that they were - so, they released private information, then. It was wrong, then.
It's a tougher call here. Because, if this allegation is true, as Manu's reporting is true, then somehow, he was placed above the law that every other President had to follow.
And then, what we really should have done, what we should do now, is pass a law that says every major candidate for president has to release, pick a number, seven years.
BEGALA: You have to keep seven years.
BEGALA: Seven years. Joe Biden's released, I think, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, you know?
And it should be a law though. We shouldn't have to be fighting this, and wondering, "Gee whiz what," because in five minutes, the Republicans are going to control that committee, and whose taxes are they going to put out?
COATES: I want you to stand by.
I want to bring in Russ, on this point, as well, and get your take. Because, it seems there's some disagreement here, at the table. The idea of, on the one hand, there's the precedent that it could set, of having given out these information. There's also the precedent that would be set, if you did not have the modern precedents followed, from prior presidents.
But my, one of the questions is, there's a clock here. It's a Sword of Damocles, for this particular Congress. They are considered lame-duck for a reason. And we're days away, really, from a new Congress, being sworn in that something tells me, they're not going to be as concerned as the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee, on this issue.
So, what happens next, then? I mean, this all has to be divulged now, but then what? January's what? Two weeks away.
BUETTNER: Right, right. I mean, there is a real reason to, for someone to look at these things.
BUETTNER: When you look at Donald Trump's income taxes, and his financial disclosure forms, the first thing you realize is that our process, for vetting, whether candidates for presidents, have vulnerabilities, in their finances that might make them subject to manipulation, or whether they're getting cash, in places that aren't to do with business, there are basically bribes, masked as a business transaction? Our process does not capture that. The tax returns don't capture that. The financial disclosure forms don't capture that.
Looking at Donald Trump's situation, you could figure out reasons how - ways to fix that, in some serious way. But again, like you said, there's a clock ticking. The Republicans are going to stop this action, right away.
There's a possibility, if it's read into the record, the Senate Finance Committee will pick it up, or another congressional committee, somewhere down the road, will pick it up, not so much related to Donald Trump, but really trying to fix that baked-in problem we have, which is just figuring out whether our presidents are subject to manipulation, because of their finances.
COATES: A really important point. We're going to return to that, as well as discussion, in Jonah's point. Is this just punitive, for the sake of being punitive, to Donald Trump? That's the talking point, coming out, right now, and the discussion that's been had for a number of years now, but what this would really mean.
But look, we now have the report, on Trump's taxes, at the House Ways and Means Committee, voted to release, tonight. We're going to go through it. And we'll keep bringing you information, as we get it.
And there's another major development, tonight. Ukraine's President will be in Washington, tomorrow. It's the first time that he's left Ukraine, since Russia's invasion. We're live at the White House, right after this.
COATES: Do you realize that today marks 300 days, 300 days, since Russia invaded Ukraine? And as the conflict continues to rage on, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now planning to visit Washington, tomorrow. This is his first foreign trip, since the war began. CNN Chief White House Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, joins us now, with more.
I mean, this is really significant that he's planning on coming. What can you expect? What are you hearing?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Laura, it's historic. It is certainly symbolic, given the moment that we are in, right now, both with this, conflict, and more broadly, geopolitically. But it is also very substantive.
And what's interesting here, according to sources, I've spoken to, is that despite the fact Ukrainian officials have been traveling, the U.S., throughout the course of the war, this trip actually came together, rather recently, and very quickly. And, at its core, beyond the first face-to-face meeting between the two presidents, since the war started, back in February, is what it will entail.
There will be in-depth discussions, between the two presidents. President Zelenskyy will also meet with President Biden's top national security officials. But it will also include a $1.8 billion in new security assistance. And inside that security assistance, the most substantial effort, the U.S. has made, yet, to expand the capabilities, of Ukrainians, on the ground, most notably, Patriot missile defense systems.
These are the systems that President Zelenskyy has been calling for, for several months, including in private phone calls, with President Biden. Up to a last couple of weeks, the White House was not willing to go down this path. They changed course, given Russia's escalation, and targeting civilian infrastructure. And tomorrow, the President, side-by-side, with President Zelenskyy will announce that they will soon be on their way to Ukraine.
COATES: I mean, you've got the new Congress coming in.
COATES: There's, obviously, I'm just thinking about, there must be extraordinary security concerns, and precautions, being taken, with President Zelenskyy, now being outside of Ukraine.
And we understand that there might actually include some sort of address to Congress. We know we've seen it virtually, throughout the course of this invasion.
But what is the Biden administration's - what are their plans for future aid? Now, that you've got a new Congress coming in? There is a number that you cite. But especially, since the GOP has been more skeptical, about spending, on Ukraine, is that part of the motivation for why he's coming?
MATTINGLY: Yes, I think it's implicit in everything that happens tomorrow. And I think it really threads into why President Zelenskyy is scheduled to give a primetime address, to a Joint Session of Congress, tomorrow. It is still not totally locked in. You mentioned those security concerns. They're more palpable up on Capitol Hill. But he will be visiting Congress, if he makes that trip, to Capitol Hill, at the same moment that lawmakers are in the process of voting, on an additional $45 billion in aid to Ukraine.
And if you look through the scale of the U.S. assistance, to Ukraine, over the course of the last year, you get a sense of just how substantial it is, starting with $13.6 billion, and a $40 billion package, as well, this current package, at $45 billion.
And if you want to break out what this current package actually represents, you get an understanding of the scope of things. It's not just Military assistance. This package includes an additional $9 billion, in defense assistance, but also $12 billion, for the U.S., to replenish its own stocks, $13 billion in economic support, as the country attempts to maintain some semblance of an economy, given the invasion, and then another $9 billion in humanitarian support. You think about all the refugees, you think about the scale of the suffering, particularly as the civilian infrastructure has been targeted.
If nothing else, the size of this package, the symbolism of this moment, underscores one thing, I hear over and over again, from U.S. officials. That is there is no end to this war coming anytime soon. And that means the U.S. support, at least in the words of President Biden, will continue, as quote, "As long as it takes," Laura.
COATES: Just looking at all those figures, Phil, and just thinking about the human cost at stake too--
COATES: --that is yet to be quantified, if ever, it could be.
Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.
New, tonight, as well, remember that moment that they were talking about, in the Committee, yesterday, about somebody trying to encourage a witness, to not be forthcoming? Well, we've now learned that a Trump White House Ethics lawyer urged the January 6th committee star witness, Cassidy Hutchinson, to give misleading testimony. Stay with us.
COATES: All right. We've got a CNN Exclusive, tonight.
In the summary of its final report, the January 6th committee claims it has evidence that a Trump-backed attorney, urged a key witness, to mislead the Committee. We now know who that witness was, and also the lawyer, they are referring to.
Now, we've learned here at CNN that it is Stefan Passantino, the top Ethics attorney, in the Trump White House, who allegedly advised his then-client, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, to forget that she remembered certain things.
According to the Committee, the lawyer said, quote, "They don't know what you know. They don't know that you can recall some of these things. So you saying 'I don't recall' is an entirely acceptable response to this."
And, on a particular issue that would cast a bad light, on President Trump, the attorney apparently allegedly said "No, no, no, no, no. We don't want to go there. We don't want to talk about that."
Now, in a statement, to CNN, Passantino says, quote, "I represented Ms. Hutchinson honorably, ethically, and fully consistent with her sole interests as she communicated them to me," unquote.
Back with us, now, Jonah Goldberg, Paul Begala and Norm Eisen.
Is there any doubt I'm going to the former Ethics Czar?
COATES: Norm! Norm! Norm!
EISEN: I am acquainted with Stefan Passantino. There's a family of former White House Ethics Chiefs. We all keep in touch. And I think he tried. When he was in the Trump administration, he tried mightily. And that's not easy, when Donald Trump is your client, to keep the White House, on its ethical course.
It went off course. And now, it saddens me to say so, Laura, because I know him. Stefan Passantino has gone off course. I mean to tell a witness that they don't know what you know, that they don't know you can recall something, to not go there, when there's a question? If that's true? And, the committee has done their investigation. And I believe Cassidy Hutchinson, on this. He's gone badly off course.
There was a sign he started representing the election deniers, and assault on our democracy, even before we learned this. But this is really a sign that he's gone off course. And it's particularly tragic, when it happens to somebody, whose job is ethics! I think he's at serious ethics exposure now, himself, and maybe possible criminal risk, depending on how DOJ accepts this information.
COATES: The allegations, suborning perjury, in some way?
EISEN: Yes. As you know, there's multiple federal criminal statutes, obstruction of justice, the committee has focused on that, obstruction of a congressional investigation, obstruction of official proceeding, in Congress, suborning perjury. Possible. We'll see what DOJ does with it. But I think it also creates ethics issues.
And what can I tell you? I believe Cassidy Hutchinson.
COATES: When we think about this, guys? And I want you to weigh in on this.
I mean, there are some people out there, who are not fans of lawyers, right? And they'll say, "Well, how is this really different? Don't all lawyers tell their clients something like this?" The answer is, first of all, "No." They don't do that. They want to encourage truth- telling, obviously.
But then, there's also the idea of that statement he makes that he was doing so, in her sole interests. He's saying that because in part of who was paying his bill, right?
BEGALA: Right. Well, there's report that the committee alleges that--
BEGALA: --a Trump PAC - Trump-allied PAC was in fact paying him, to represent her. These things happen.
But his obligation - you know, as a real lawyer. I have a law degree. I'm a member of the bar, but I never practiced, right? But his obligation is to defend her zealously. And her allegation, if true is very, very serious.
It is - I know, Norm, like, knows the guy. I don't. The notion of being like the Ethics cop, in the Trump White House, it's like sensitivity trainer for Kanye West, you know? It's just like, you got no hope.
And this guy, now, he's going to have to lawyer up. And this, we're seeing this, all of Mr. Trump - not all. But great many of Mr. Trump's lawyers, from Rudy Giuliani to John Eastman, who was replete in the committee's hearing, yesterday, to Sidney Powell. These folks are all themselves getting into trouble. And I do. I think it's - I can't think of anybody, really, who got in Trump's orbit, and came out looking better.
COATES: Does anyone--
BEGALA: He just seems to disgrace and pollute everyone.
EISEN: You make a very interesting point. Because, if you look at the names that were named yesterday? There was Trump, the client. But others than Meadows, all of the main people, who were named by the Committee, were lawyers, right? Eastman, Clark, Chesebro, Giuliani.
So, out of the six people, really, identified in the criminal referrals section, Trump is like the neutron bomb of clients. He wipes out the lawyers!
GOLDBERG: And he has an ability - Trump has had a well-established ability of corrupting one, serious people.
GOLDBERG: Or attracting seriously corrupt people. And I think, sort of the political takeaway from this, is that the criminal referral thing, which got all of this hullabaloo, and I think was a legitimate historical thing to do, and a moral necessity to do, and all of that, but legally was sort of a nothing-burger, because the Justice Department was already investigating.
The real significance of the closing up of the January 6th committee is the passing along of all these kinds of details, things that give DOJ, leverage, for interviewing people, new leads that they can follow up, on.
The criminal referral stuff was nice theatrics. But the actual meat of the transcripts of interviews is the stuff that the DOJ is going to get the most out of.
COATES: And, of course, the explanation of who is in that umbrella term of, "And others," right, returning to the "And others" aspect of it.
And I know that Vice President Mike Pence made the comment, yesterday, in reaction, to all this that "Well, it's not criminal to follow the bad advice of a lawyer." Well, there may be some issues with that statement as well.
Everyone, stick around. We have more reporting on the tax returns that have come out, in terms of what's been published. We're going to talk about with Manu Raju, in just a moment.
COATES: All right, we're getting some new information, on the report, the House Ways and Means Committee voted, to release, tonight, remember, on Trump's tax returns.
We got the CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, who's live, on Capitol Hill, tonight. He's been poring through this report.
Manu, what are you seeing?
RAJU: Yes. There are actually two reports that the Committee released, tonight.
One was the committee's investigation of this mandatory presidential audit program that the IRS is supposed to do, on presidents, sitting presidents, and how that was done, when Donald Trump was President.
Another one is an analysis by the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, looking at six years of Donald Trump's individual tax returns, as well as tax returns, from his businesses.
Now, in the investigation, into the IRS Mandatory Audit Program, the Committee finds that it was not working. It was dormant, as they say, at best, and concerning, during the Trump administration. They say that this is an important program to ensure that a president does not have any conflicts of interest, financial conflicts of interest, particularly as he signs bills, into law.
But, in this case, they say, it was only conducted in the aftermath of Richard Neal, the Chairman of the Committee, making a request, in 2019, to start to look into Donald Trump's tax returns. That's when the actual audit took place, even though Donald Trump was President, since from after the 2016 elections, or 2017, all the way up until January of 2021.
Now, the Committee goes on to say that, in that investigation that the White House, even in 2018, the White House press secretary contended that Donald Trump was under a mandatory presidential audit. But he was not, at that time. Now, that goes into some concerns they have, with there, and they suggest a legislative response, in fixing what they could see are problems, with this audit program.
Now, on the separate analysis, over his tax returns, we are still poring through it. It's a very technical analysis, looking through all the numbers that Donald Trump submitted, in his tax returns. It gives a summary of these returns.
It raises - it says there are some issues that require further investigations, like the number of deductions that he took, charitable deductions, other business-related deductions, questioning whether they're business or personal. And it doesn't provide any sort of judgment, on that, only suggests that perhaps is an issue, in which investigators, and others, may want to look further into.
But that is a - this report, the Joint Committee on Taxation's report, I'm holding up, right here. About 35 pages in length, very detailed, getting through the numbers, if you can see, on the screen, right here.
So, we are still trying to learn all of the nuances of this report. But it is something that investigators, here, on Capitol Hill, these key committees had wanted to know, what exactly was in his returns.
And this is just part, ultimately, of what will be turned over, Laura. We do expect the full scope, all the returns, ultimately, to be released, after some key information is redacted. That will be released within days.
But here, we're getting a taste, an early taste, of what exactly the Committee was concerned with, and how the IRS looked at Donald Trump's taxes, and what those taxes said.
COATES: And we're all getting an early taste of just how dense this material is.
COATES: And you wonder, how it's going to be perceived, and received, and understood, by the general public, even if it is released.
Manu Raju, thank you so much.
RAJU: Thank you.
COATES: Also, yet another major story, we're following, tonight. There are two January 6th investigations, and they are converging in a very big way.
The House Select Committee referring Donald Trump, for criminal charges, for his role, in the Insurrection. They're now sharing a trove of evidence, with the Justice Department. That includes, by the way, transcripts of witness interviews that federal investigators have long been seeking.
Now, a source, familiar with the handover, says the Office of the Special Counsel, will ultimately end up, with all of the evidence that the panel has already collected.
Meanwhile, Rusty Bowers was among the witnesses that we saw, testify, in public. The Arizona House Speaker shined a bright light, on the pressure campaign, on States, to overturn the 2020 election results.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Did you tell the President in that second call that you supported him, that you voted for him, but that you are not going to do anything illegal for him?
RUSTY BOWERS, JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE WITNESS, (R) ARIZONA HOUSE SPEAKER: I did, sir.
SCHIFF: Nevertheless, his lawyer, John Eastman, called you some days later, on June 4th, 2021. And he did have a very specific ask that would have required you to do just what you had already told the President, you wouldn't do, something that would violate your oath. Is that correct?
BOWERS: That's correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, does he think the Committee made the right call, to refer the former President, for prosecution? Well, let's ask him, because Rusty Bowers is with us now, this evening.
Mr. Bowers, thank you for joining us, today.
I mean, I'm really champing at the bit, given the testimony that we all remember so well, and your personal experience, with this, the set of facts, in this case. You were a very important witness for this committee. And I'm wondering, what you make of the decision that they had, to refer a President, for criminal charges?
BOWERS: Well, A, it's extremely disappointing that the actions of an individual would lead to this, and that would affect so many other individuals, to support activity that, in my view, is contrary to law, and it certainly is contrary to the best interests of governance, in the United States.
I'm not a prosecutor. I'm not a member of a grand jury. There wasn't a lot of interplay, with lawyers, in this particular commission. But, I think, the information that was given, by witnesses, by those who were with me, and many others, shows a pattern that is corrupt and manipulative and, I believe, hurts, harms, America's view of the presidency.
Now, are all Presidents perfect, grade school children, walking around with nice little pinafores, and bow ties? No, of course not. But there is a basic respect for this institution that I think was sorely lacking. And that's being very kind. And so, it's very disappointing that it comes to this. I'm not surprised by it. It's just hard.
COATES: The idea of it being contrary to law, to me, is synonym for what's criminal, as former prosecutor, myself, and thinking about what this looks like.
And I'm wondering, when you talk about the disappointment, and the manipulation, and the corruption, what stood out to you, in terms of what you experienced, personally, versus what you actually heard that expanded on what you experienced, as well, with this committee? What was the moment that you said, "It's too far?"
BOWERS: Well, when Mr. Raffensperger, sitting right next to me said that, and I've watched the video, of the President, saying to him, "Just go out and find me 11,000 votes," or whatever it was, and I'm thinking "Is this like - is this like a Raffle at the local Walmart?"
The idea that I could do that in my state, and then over and over with other things, what he said to me, he was - Mr. Giuliani was mostly the bulldog in our conversations. But he was very much present, and very much supportive and, and wanted my, quote-unquote, "Cooperation." He never threatened me. I never felt like I was being intimidated, per se. And I don't know that a phone call, from the President of the United States, might be intimidating. I never felt that way.
But the overall package comes out that it's not only that it happened, but that it was planned to happen, and that there were many participants, at many levels, trying to get this to happen, to push it through. Some of them interacted with me. Others interacted with others. So, it was a large deal. And--
COATES: Absolutely. The scope of it, as well, Rusty, just thinking about, as you take it, do you want to see this President prosecuted?
BOWERS: I think that would be a terrible thing to witness. I don't want it. It's not like I have some vendetta against Donald Trump.
But that would be up to the prosecutors, and up to those, at the Department of Justice. They know better than I. I don't have any particular pleasure, in watching this all unfold. I think it's extremely sad. And I would like to see people evaluate all of ourselves.
And my dad once said, "You know, you look at a good man? You try to be like him. You look at a bad man? You look at yourself real hard."
BOWERS: And I just - it's a bad example. And I certainly hope that we can evaluate our own lives, at all levels, and do better, do better than this.
COATES: Well, my father always said, "Give him the last word," and I'll give your father, the same. So, thank you so much.
BOWERS: Thank you very much for the opportunity.
COATES: Well, everyone, many have had the opportunity, to travel, recently, of course. It's been a long time coming for so many of us during COVID-19. But travel could be nearly impossible, in some parts of the country, just in time for the holidays.
We'll tell you what you need to know, to be prepared, right after this.
COATES: We've got a massive winter storm that's bearing down on a very large section of this country. It's packing extreme cold and blizzard conditions.
Let's go right now to Meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, in the CNN Weather Center.
Derek, this is a huge storm. A lot of people plan on traveling, this week, ahead of Christmas.
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes.
COATES: Tell me, what do they need to know, about when this snowstorm is coming, and, of course, the bitter cold that might be along with it?
VAN DAM: Yes. When is it going to arrive? Well, look, it's already impacting the northwestern portions of our country.
Of course, it's in its infancy. Tomorrow, being Wednesday, it's going to pick up some steam. And then, Thursday and Friday, that is the two days, those are the two days that will deliver our blockbuster winter storm, right before the holidays. Terrible planning.
But the potential here for blizzard conditions, flash freeze, temperatures dropping 50 degrees to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, in some instances, and the potential for bitterly cold, cold weather that is going to be dangerous, in many occasions. So, let's highlight it, get to the brass tacks, because this is the storm system that again, is impacting the Pacific Northwest, now making its way towards Denver. Denver, you will literally have a 50- degree temperature drop, from Thursday, into Friday, as that cold front slides in, and draws in the Arctic air.
Then, by Thursday afternoon, we'll start to see our first snowflakes, fly in and around Chicago. But this is when the storm is deepening. This is when it's getting its most intense. And, by Friday, we continue to see the wind, wrapping behind it, and blow all the snow that's fallen on the ground, across the Great Lakes, the plains, and into the Midwest, with rain, by the way, along the East Coast.
This is a look at the 70 million Americans that are under some sort of winter weather alerts, that I want to pay attention to the blizzard warnings that have just been hoisted, across South Central Minnesota.
Now, we also have 75 million Americans under wind chill advisories. And this goes from the border of Canada, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, and huge population density.
I mentioned the storm still in its infancy. There it is. You can see it, not that impressive on radar, right now. But trust me, it is coming people, and it is going to pack quite a punch, when it rolls through, the central parts of the U.S.
In fact, this is some of the coldest air, in Denver, that they've seen, in 32 years. We are going to have temperatures, across the United States, really, about 80 percent of the population, experiencing temperatures, below 32 degrees, 50 million Americans, below zero. I mean, that is just incredible, Laura.
COATES: I mean, I'm looking at my home state of Minnesota, right there, and the temperatures they're facing, right now.
VAN DAM: Yes.
COATES: Everyone, stay safe. And keep apprised of what's going on. Thank you so much.
VAN DAM: You got it.
COATES: Tonight, the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is releasing its report, on former President Donald Trump's tax returns. We're going to have the very latest. So, stay with us.
COATES: So, we have a major development, tonight. We're getting new information, on Trump's tax returns. And our team has been combing through this report that the House Ways and Means Committee voted, to release, tonight.