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Manhattan DA Obtains Trump's Tax Returns; Trump Plotting 2024 Run; South Dakota AG Pressured to Resign; CIA Probes Mysterious Attacks on Agents. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 25, 2021 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[09:34:12]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We do have breaking news.

A source tells CNN the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Cy Vance, has obtained now former President Trump's tax returns and related records. What we're told is that prosecutors got those records just hours after the Supreme Court denied the former president's last-ditch efforts to keep them private.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Kara Scannell was among those who broke the story.

Kara, this is significant. Tell us the timeline now for this investigation.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Jim, this is significant. I mean sources tell me and my colleague Shimon Prokupecz that the district attorney's office, which is conducting this sweeping criminal investigation into the former president and his company, the Trump Organization, received these documents on Monday. That was just hours after the Supreme Court blocked the former president's last-ditch effort to block the DA's office from obtaining his tax returns.

[09:35:03]

And the reason why these documents are so critical is that it's not just the tax returns. It's also all the documents that went into the tax returns, which gives you some answers potentially about the decision making. And that would answer prosecutors' questions about whether there was intent to commit a crime or whether many of these decisions, whether it was on a tax deduction or, you know, valuations for some of these assets was done with sound reasoned advice. So that's why this is so critical to the investigation.

So we're told that these documents total in the millions of pages. So it's not something that the DA's office is going to get through pretty quickly. This investigation is going to continue on for several weeks, if not months, you know, unless they were to find a smoking gun.

So, you know, this is -- this is now almost stage two of this investigation. They have this huge cache of documents. These are -- this was a subpoena for records going back to 2011. There's a lot to get through.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: There is. Sierra, great -- Kara Scannell, I'm sorry about that, great job making this news. Thank you.

The biggest gathering of conservatives, CPAC, starts today. Former President Trump will be the marquee speaker at the Conservative Political Action Committee, or CPAC, conference. He'll be speaking there on Sunday. It will be really his first speech, Jim, since leaving the White House.

SCIUTTO: Multiple sources tell CNN that Trump is plotting his political return just seven weeks after he lost re-election. And, of course, after his supporters stormed the Capitol in a deadly insurrection.

CNN's Kate Bennett and Jessica Dean are in Washington this morning.

Kate, let's begin with you.

So the president wants to run in 2024 or wants to hold out the idea that he'll run in 2024 to soak up the attention. What's your understanding?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So my reporting is that he wants to run in 2024. And if he soaks up the attention and creates divisiveness even more so in the Republican Party. In the meantime I think he's OK with that, too. And, of course, it could be a completely quicsodic (ph) belief considering what we just heard from Kara, there are investigations, there are these tax returns. But either way he's spending his time in Florida either, you know, on the golf course making calls or back in his war room of one person at Mar-a-Lago doing the same. He knows that this is a Republican Party that is hinging on his every move, whether or not they like it. We've seen a lot of divisiveness there on Capitol Hill on Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters. This will be, as we will see on Sunday, his first time talking about the future.

But all indications point to he has his sights set on 2024. It's a long way off. We have midterms to get through before then. But certainly this is a person, as we know covering him, who is determined and when he sets his focus, whatever the path may be, he tends to follow through with what he wants to do, whether or not the country is behind him or not.

Jim.

HARLOW: Yes, important reporting, Kate.

Jess, to you. I mean as the former president, as Trump prepares to publicly return to the political arena here with this speech at CPAC, there is disagreement to say the least among leadership in the party about whether he should speak. He's going to. So I'm not sure that disagreement matters. I think the question is the ramifications of whatever he says.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Poppy, the ramifications and also, to Kate's point, he is a figure that looms large here for the Republican Party as they look toward both the midterms but also 2024, about how involved is he going to be? What is their message? Does it go more toward Congresswoman Liz Cheney and minority -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, so-called establishment Republicans, or is this more about the Freedom Caucuses, is this more about people who have stood by former President Trump no matter what?

And they don't like that that is splitting them. That there are these very severe fault lines. But the fact of the matter is they exist.

Watch this. This is a perfect example.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you believe President Trump should be speaking -- or former President Trump should be speaking at CPAC this weekend?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Yes, he should.

REPORTER: Congresswoman Cheney?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): That's up to CPAC. I've been clear on my views about President Trump. I don't think that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.

MCCARTHY: On that high note, thank you all very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: And you saw some laughter there. They very much acknowledged the fact that they have starkly different opinions of the way forward, both for the Republican Party and how much of a role that former President Trump should play within the party, both he himself, but also his views, his policy ideas and where he stands on issues, Jim and Poppy.

But this is something that we continue to see play out time and time again. Of course, everyone at home has been following along. They know that Congresswoman Cheney did vote to impeach, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not and that, again is just one example of where they are splitting on how to move forward with this.

HARLOW: Yes.

[09:40:02]

SCIUTTO: And it's not your average run of the mill split, right, over tax policy. I mean the number three Republican in the House believes this guy is not fit to be president. That's a remarkable fault line within the party.

DEAN: Sure. That's absolutely right. SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Jessica Dean, Kate Bennett, thank you very much for that reporting. Really significant.

Well, growing calls for the attorney general of South Dakota to step down in light of disturbing new evidence from a fatal car crash. He told police he hit a deer, but now what investigators say is that the victim's glasses were found inside of his car. We'll have all the details ahead.

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[09:45:00]

SCIUTTO: The attorney general of South Dakota is facing intense calls to resign following a September car crash that killed a 55-year-old man.

HARLOW: This as new evidence released shows investigators found the victim's broken eye glasses inside of the attorney general's car. This follows him initially telling police that he thought he had hit a deer.

Let's go to our colleague, Lucy Kafanov. She has the reporting on this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON RAVNSBORG, SOUTH DAKOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: And then, quite frankly, wham.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

RAVNSBORG: I hit, you know -- you know, the incident happened. I never saw anything.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is facing misdemeanor charges after he struck and killed a man on September 12th. He initially told police he hit a deer.

DISPATCHER: 9-1-1. This is Ally. How can I help you?

RAVNSBORG: Ally. This -- well, Ally, I'm the attorney general, and I am -- I don't know -- I hit something.

KAFANOV: Ravnsborg told investigators he returned to the scene of the collision the following morning and discovered the body of 55-year-old Joseph Beaver.

RAVNSBORG: But then I come up and there was the man. And he is not good. You know, he's dead.

But I believe I did not do anything wrong. And I, obviously, replayed it in my mind about a thousand times. KAFANOV: But now the Republican official is facing mounting calls for

his resignation in light of disturbing new details released Tuesday night in which investigators say they found Beaver's broken classes in Ravnsborg's car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're Joe's glasses.

RAVNSBORG: I wondered -- I worried -- I wondered about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that means his face came through your windshield.

It's a tough thing.

I was thinking that his face did not come through because it would have been -- I thought there would have been blood everywhere. And now, you know, like I said, I've thought about it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and you've had time. But his glasses are right there.

Jason, those are Joe's.

KAFANOV: The attorney general faces three misdemeanor charges for careless driving, operating a vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, and illegal lane change while carelessly driving, crossing lanes of traffic unsafely. But no felonies in the death of Beaver.

MICHAEL MOORE, BEADIE COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: At best, his conduct was negligent, which is insufficient to bring criminal charges in South Dakota.

KAFANOV: The attorney general's spokesperson, Mike Deaver, tells CNN that Ravnsborg has not yet responded to the misdemeanor charges filed against him by the state attorney's office and a court date has yet to be set.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of South Dakota lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against Ravnsborg.

TIM GOODWIN (R), SOUTH DAKOTA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: But it's a sad day. But we need to move forward as a state. We need to do what's best for the citizens of South Dakota. So that's why I'm asking or recommending to our attorney general to resign his post immediately so the state can move on, the governor can appoint a new attorney general and we can get this behind us.

KAFANOV: Lawmakers introduced two articles of impeachment, one for the fatal crash, the other for Ravnsborg's statements and actions in reporting the crash and during the investigation in which they said Ravnsborg undertook actions unbecoming the attorney general.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is also calling for the attorney general to go, saying in a statement released Tuesday, now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the attorney general should resign. But Ravnsborg is rebuffing calls to step down. In a statement to CNN,

spokesman Mike Deaver said the attorney general does not intend to resign. At no time has this issue impeded his ability to do the work of the office.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAFANOV: Joe Beaver's life was cut short at the age of 55. We spoke to his cousin who has said the family is extremely disappointed in the decision to charge Ravnsborg with only three misdemeanors, none for killing a man. And he told me, quote, I am convinced, despite his claims otherwise, that the attorney general saw Joe in those moments before the crash.

We're also told that the family will be filing a civil lawsuit against the AG.

Jim, Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: Wow. All of our thoughts with his family.

Lucy, thank you for that important reporting.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Well, the CIA is now investigating mysterious microwave attacks used against its agents leaving some of them with symptoms that have never gone away. We'll have reporting on that ahead.

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[09:53:51]

SCIUTTO: The CIA is now investigating a series of invisible attacks that have left some of its agents abroad debilitated. The agency has said up its first ever task force focusing on suspected microwave attacks on intelligence officers.

HARLOW: Our national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is following this story.

Kylie, good morning to you.

This investigation comes as agents continue to battle the effects, the aftermath of these kind of attacks.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.

What we know is that there are some 40 U.S. government officials in the last few years who were impacted by the attacks. And it's really noteworthy that in the last year we also know that there were CIA officers who continued to be assaulted by these attacks.

So what are the attacks? Well, the bottom line is we don't exactly know. But there was a report last year by the National Academy of Sciences saying that this was likely the result of directed microwave assault. And we do know that Russia has that capability. The U.S. government has not come out and said that Russian was behind the attacks.

But the bottom line here, Jim and Poppy, is that (INAUDIBLE) government officials who were attacked and these are not just attacks that hit them for a day or a moment, they have had a lasting impact.

[09:55:08]

Listen to what Marc Polymeropoulos said to me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC POLYMEROPOULOS, SUFFERED MYSTERIOUS ATTACK IN MOSCOW: I rather would have been shot. This was a silent wound, you know, it's a -- it's a --

ATWOOD: You would rather have been shot?

POLYMEROPOULOS: Absolutely.

ATWOOD: Why?

POLYMEROPOULOS: Well, I mean, it's something that I could have shown people. I had a really hard time initially at the agency because people didn't necessarily -- the medical staff -- the senior medical staff didn't necessarily believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ATWOOD: As you heard there, this is a former senior CIA intelligence officer who had to leave the agency because of these attacks. And he had troubles getting medical assistance and he also is still wondering who carried out this attack. Now, it happened to him in 2017 when he was in a Moscow hotel on assignment for the CIA.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes, this is the thing, these allegations have been there for years. And as he noted there, they've been dismissed repeatedly. So glad to see an investigation finally underway.

Kylie Atwood, thanks very much.

In just minutes, the House is set to hold its first hearing on the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Two witnesses expected to testify on the massive security failure, including from the Capitol Police.

We're going to be live, next.

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