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Sources Say, House GOP Bracing for up to 40 Members to Vote for Commission; New York Attorney General Announces Criminal Probe into Trump Organization; Andrew Brown Jr.'s Family Asks DOJ to Intervene after District Attorney Says Deadly Use of Force was Justified. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 19, 2021 - 10:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Of the Trump Organization when get into the details of that soon.


But here is the big takeaway. The former president now faces the possibility of criminal charges, possibility at least of criminal charges from the state of New York. The personal political consequences, the business consequences as well really stand out here.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Also moments from now, the GOP rift over truth, Trump and his big lie takes center stage once again in a big vote today on Capitol Hill. CNN has learned that dozens of past Republicans may soon go against the wishes of their top leader, Kevin McCarthy, and vote to approve a bipartisan deal that would form an independent commission to investigate the deadly January 6th insurrection. McCarthy and former President Trump will strike it down. Lawmakers say why? Because they're scared.

We begin on Capitol Hill, where the House is now in session. Manu, what are you hearing ahead of the vote today, especially since -- I mean, it seems like they're whipping, even if they're not officially whipping, they're telling people in their party not to vote for this.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are. The difference only between what they are doing and a formal whip operation is that they are not tallying every single member how they're going to vote, they're not twisting their arms to vote a certain way.

But they are certainly making it very clear where they stand, which is they want Republicans to vote against this bill because they believe, according to what Kevin McCarthy says, that it should be focused on a much broader scope, not just what happened on January 6th. Other matters as well, including protests, violence that occurred during Black Lives Matter protests, what's happening with Antifa. They don't want this just focused on January 6th. And they're concerned about the politics and the fallout of this investigation.

But the question is going to ultimately be, one, how many House Republicans will break ranks and join Democrats, and, two, will this get out of the Senate. And the first being that House vote is expected to happen tonight. It will pass the House. The House Democrats have a narrow majority here. And we are expecting Republican defections, potentially, I'm told, from Republican sources up to 40 defections. That is a possibility. But no one knows exactly for sure one reason why is a bipartisan group called the problem solvers caucus in the House. 29 Republicans are in that caucus.

We do expect most, if not all of them, to vote for it, plus there are members who voted to impeach Donald Trump, like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who are not part of that group who do plan to vote for it. So there could be some Republican defections.

And then there will be a question about the United States Senate. 60 senators are needed to overcome any Republican filibuster. There are 50 Democrats in the Senate. So will ten break ranks? There are a couple at least that are signaling their support for this, including Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney yesterday, both indicating that they back it. But very important though, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, says he and other Republicans are undecided. They want some changes. We'll see if they make changes. We'll see if they get Republicans. The question still is if this becomes law, guys.

HARLOW: Manu, thank you for the reporting.

We turn to the new development overnight into the New York attorney general's investigation into the Trump Organization. Our Kara Scannell breaking news that a criminal component is now being added to the A.G.'s probe that has been under way since 2019. Why the change? Why now?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Poppy and Jim. I mean, no one is saying what prompted this change, but what we do know is that the New York attorney general has had this civil investigation since 2019. And what they're looking into is whether the Trump organization improperly inflated the value of some of their properties. These are some of the skyscrapers in Manhattan, the private family estate just outside the city, to obtain bank loans or get additional tax benefits.

So, this investigation had been civil in nature. It will still continue to be civil. But now the A.G.'s office is teaming up with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office on its criminal investigation. And a spokesperson for the attorney general had told CNN last night that they recently informed the Trump Organization about this. He said, we have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity along with the Manhattan D.A.

Now, a source familiar with the investigations tells me that what this means is that some attorneys working for the New York Attorney General's Office who have been knee-deep in a lot of the Trump organization, a lot of these different areas of scrutiny, they are joining and crossing over into the district attorney's office criminal investigation. They'll be working with them. That's going to aid in some of the knowledge here, some of the information that they've gleaned. So this is certainly a boost to that criminal investigation. Now, the Trump Organization, their lawyer declined to comment when I asked him about this new development, but Trump has previously called these investigations politically motivated. We have not heard any reaction from him yet today. Jim, Poppy?

SCIUTTO: It's a big development. Kara Scannell, thanks very much.

Joining us now to help understand it all, former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti, host of the On Topic podcast.


Renato, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, the big question here is why, why this change now? Based on your experience, what would an attorney general need to make this change or feel they have the goods to make this change from a civil to a criminal prosecution? Might that include a cooperating witness?

MARIOTTI: Yes, it very well might. They're going to need evidence of intent to defraud. That's really the dividing line that makes it difficult to prove a fraud case, something like this. In other words, not just that there may have been recklessness or even some false statements that were made to lenders, for example, as Kara was talking about a moment ago, but that somebody intended to trick the lenders, somebody intended to fool them to get their money.

And in this case, because they're investigating the Trump Organization, it's going to be somebody high up in that organization who they think had some responsibility for the organization as a whole, whether it's Weisselberg or one of the Trumps potentially.

HARLOW: Play this out for us, Renato, in terms of being able to depose the former president. I mean, you can, as we saw with Clinton, depose a sitting president. But what do you think that this will lead to Trump talking to them?

MARIOTTI: I think this is going to lead to Trump refusing to talk to them, if he has any sense or his attorneys have any sense. Pretty much spoke the last thing you'd want, if I were representing Donald Trump, would be to raise his right hand and take an oath and swear to tell the truth. So I think they will decline and they'll come up with some reason for it. But, essentially, he'll be taking the fifth.

SCIUTTO: Okay. You made a good point this morning, I thought, on Twitter that simply announcing that a business is under criminal investigation has immediate consequences practically for that business, in this case, the Trump Organization. What are those, in your experience?

MARIOTTI: Yes. I will tell you, I represent clients now, and this is something I have to navigate all the time. If you're under criminal investigation, now, whenever you seek a loan or have any kind of transaction, you have to disclose the other side this criminal investigation.

And so if somebody is lending you money, if somebody is investing, if you're going to make a sale, anything, you have to tell them, hey, we're under criminal investigation. Here is what we understand the scope of that investigation to be. Here are the risks, here are the problems. If you don't, you might be engaging in further fraud by selling off part of your business without telling them that they're buying some potential risk.

So it really makes it hard to do things. Employees want to leave sometimes. They don't want to be part of it. They don't like the hassle. It can have very significant consequences.

SCIUTTO: Yes, interesting.

HARLOW: What is the difference that people at home need to understand, Renato, when it comes to changing this to a criminal probe of the Trump Organization versus a criminal probe of individuals?

MARIOTTI: Well, it's very interesting. Obviously, any sort of criminal charge against an organization has an effect on individuals, right? So there are shareholders and employees who are going to be impacted. I mean, here, it's not obviously a publicly-traded company, but nonetheless, everybody who has a stake in this could be impacted.

But more importantly, I would just say is, the fact that it's an investigation of a company doesn't mean that individuals are off the hook. In fact, prosecutors usually prefer charging individuals to corporations because you can't throw a corporation in prison. And so, really, I think everybody who is in the senior management of the Trump Organization or has been during the relevant period has to be really concerned.

SCIUTTO: Yes, understood. One more question just in terms of timeline here, because we've seen -- and I'm sure folks at home have seen a lot of investigations of this president that go on and on and don't seem to get anywhere, right? Now, this one more serious because it began with the Manhattan D.A., and that's made a lot of progress, it seems. But do we have a sense on when we'll get answers to whether this leads to charges?

MARIOTTI: I don't think so. We are in a situation where the former president can no longer use his office to try to delay things. But nonetheless, as I tell clients all the time, criminal investigations take a long time, and they can drag on for months or even years.

HARLOW: Thank you, Renato Mariotti, good to have you.

House Republican Leaders, as Manu just reported, are urging their fellow Republican members to vote against this bill that will be on the floor today, a bill that would create a bipartisan commission on the January 6th insurrection. The question is why. We'll discuss.

SCIUTTO: Plus, QAnon setting its sights now on Arizona, why the state's so-called election audit is giving this dangerous conspiracy theory new hope. [10:10:11]

And attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown Jr. say they will file a federal lawsuit after the district attorney there says the deadly use of force against him was justified. We'll have more just ahead.


HARLOW: Welcome back. Sources tell CNN that up to 40 House Republicans could vote with Democrats to form a commission to investigate, of course, the insurrection at the Capitol, this as Republican leaders in the House are pressuring members to vote no ahead of today's vote.



REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): There're already four investigations. You mentioned one. Department of Justice already has arrested 445 people with approximately another 100 arrests to come. This would just get in the way of that.

This is driven solely by politics and Nancy Pelosi, but we should not be a part of that.


HARLOW: Joining me now on this ahead of the vote is Democratic Representative Dina Titus of Nevada. And I should note, Representative, during the insurrection, your office put out a statement, and this line struck me. You said, this insurrection is a reminder that the greatest threat to our republic doesn't come from foreign adversaries but from within.

Now you've got McConnell in the Senate saying, let's hit pause on this. You have Kevin McCarthy in the House saying and urging members, essentially whipping them to vote no on this. Why do you think this is happening?

REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV): Well, I believe they don't want the truth to come out. I don't think McCarthy wants to be subpoenaed to talk about that conversation he had on the phone with Trump or some of the other things he said during the day about Trump being to blame for it. He wants to put this behind him. And we can't do that. We have to protect our democracy and be sure that this never happens again.

HARLOW: Well, you just heard what McCarthy said there, and then in the statement he put out yesterday trying to explain why he is a no vote here, here is part of what he wrote. He said, unfortunately, the legislation being considered in the House is drafted in such a way that could interfere with and ultimately undermine the ongoing prosecutorial efforts.

Now, I should note that there was ongoing prosecutorial efforts, no one from those agencies have said as much. This is his belief. But you do have the FBI and the attorney general that are investigating this. Why is a commission needed on top of what they're doing?

TITUS: Well, that's right. But they are looking at criminal actions, which is appropriate, and that's what those agencies do. This investigation would be non-partisan, non-political. We met all of the requirements that McCarthy demanded be in the legislation. Now, he's changed his tune again. It will look at the overall picture, the attack on the Capitol, the attack on democracy and be sure that it doesn't happen again, because that peaceful transfer of power is the hallmark of the way our system works. I taught that in political science classes for years. And to have that threatened is something that needs to be looked at by an outside commission of experts, just like a 9/11 commission.

HARLOW: Despite what Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor on February 13th, that the former president is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no longer does he think this is needed, this commission at this time, right? He's saying pause. But Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has a different take and thinks the former president should talk to the commission. Listen to this.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): If you put together a commission that is focused on the events of January 6th, I think he's obviously a very key individual.


HARLOW: How likely do you think this dies in the Senate, or do you think the ten votes are there on the other side to get it through?

TITUS: Well, we will get it out of the House. There are enough Republicans --

HARLOW: The Senate.

TITUS: Yes, I know. That will be more of a challenge. But, surely, there are ten senators with enough integrity and enough compassion and care enough about our democracy and the truth that they will vote for this.

This should not be partisan. This should just -- we're all Americans. We all want to protect our system of government, our way of life. You would think they would be glad to get to the truth and get to the bottom of it and let their constituents know what really happened, what improvements we can make and how we protect going forward.

HARLOW: I'd like your reaction to this from your Republican colleague, and this is Republican Congressman Tom Cole. He made this interesting point in the hearing yesterday. And I wonder what you think about it.


REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): It makes sense to grant any such commission the capability to look more broadly at political violence in this country, including widespread violence of last summer and previous attempts to attack members of this body. After all, the 9/11 commission was allowed to look not only at the September 11th attacks but also the broader context out of which those attacks rose. It seems to me that this commission should do the same.


HARLOW: Now, he's right in a sense that the 9/11 commission did look at sort of the underlying context, the rise of Osama Bin Laden, the cultural landscape at that moment, the first World Trade Center bombing.


But as Jim Sciutto pointed out yesterday that I think is a really relevant point, they didn't look at the Oklahoma City bombing, for example, right?

Can you explain to people your view that this should not be more broadly expanded, that are scratching their heads and saying, well, why shouldn't they look at more?

TITUS: Well, exactly, yes. Nobody condoned violence in any of those circumstances, and they have been investigated and police are going after people who did damage or did harm. So that is happening. But that is not the same as storming the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Their intent was to keep the Electoral College votes from being counted because they didn't want to admit that Donald Trump had lost the election. Whatever happened in Portland is not tied directly to this. If you look at the background of Bin Laden, that was directly tied to 9/11. And I think that's a major difference.

HARLOW: Quick final question, are you open to other separate investigations aside from the criminal ones you mentioned on those issues that McCarthy and Scalise have said, well, those should be included?

TITUS: I think they're already looking at that. You heard the attorney general say that the biggest threat to us is internal, homegrown --

HARLOW: I meant a congressional look.

TITUS: Some of those will be looked at. We've already had some hearings in our Homeland Security Committee to that effect, yes.

HARLOW: Congresswoman Dina Titus, I know it's a busy day ahead for all of you. Thank you for your time.

TITUS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, the family of the man shot and killed by deputies in North Carolina is now planning to file a federal lawsuit. We'll discuss, next.



HARLOW: Attorneys for the estate of Andrew Brown Jr. now say they plan to file a federal lawsuit over his death. This comes a day after a North Carolina district attorney said deputies' deadly use of force against him was justified. Brown's family is now asking the Department of Justice to intervene. And yesterday, the public did see some of the body camera footage from the fatal shooting for the first time.

We want to warn you this is one of the critical moments from the exchange, but it's very hard to watch.

SCIUTTO: That's the moment the shots were fired. District Attorney Andrew Womble says that encounter, you saw there, between Brown and deputies lasted just 44 seconds. Here is how he described what led up to the moment, however, those shots were fired.


ANDREW WOMBLE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF PASQUOTANK COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: Deputy Lunsford's hand was still on the driver's door handle as Brown's car reversed and the handle was snatched out of his hand.

At this moment, Deputy Lunsford yelled out and Deputy Lunsford was pulled over the hood of Brown's vehicle where his body and his safety equipment were struck by the vehicle. Brown ignored the commands and drove directly at Deputy Lunsford.

Deputy Lunsford used his left hand to push off of the hood. It was at this moment that the first shot is fired.


SCIUTTO: The district attorney went on to say that as those shots were fired, Brown was driving in the direction of another deputy in an unmarked van.

So let's speak now about all this with former Acting Police Commissioner for Baltimore Anthony Barksdale. Thanks so much for joining us again today.

Listening to that there, watching the video and listening to the press conference yesterday, the D.A. essentially argued that, virtually, once you start the engine of a vehicle, regardless of the direction you're going or speed, that that's a deadly weapon and, therefore, deadly force is justified. I'm curious, in your experience, is that proper police procedure? Because I know that some police departments actually have rules against shooting at any moving vehicle.

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, FORMER ACTING BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: I have no idea what he's talking about. If that's the stance he's going to take, then we'd have a lot more citizens being shot by police officers. His take on everything is very disturbing to me.

HARLOW: So what can the family do now then, given what you just said? We know that they are calling on the Justice Department for a federal investigation. But is this the end of the road for them in this jurisdiction?

BARKSDALE: It could be the end of the road, because it's very clear that this D.A. is now acting as a defense attorney for the sheriff's department. And it's troubling to see the clear bias in his statements. So, going to the federal government for help, going to the feds looking for transparency and some type of clear view on the incident instead of a bias view is maybe the only alternative the family has.