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Trump CFO Surrenders; Information on Condo Collapse; McCarthy's Threat over House Committee. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired July 1, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: That made him a better president.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tim Naftali, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you much for your historical perspective.
NAFTALI: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: So, we've got a lot of breaking news this morning. The CFO of the Trump Organization, indicted. Information -- new information coming to light in Florida in the condo collapse.
CNN's coverage continues right now.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: As John said, there's a lot of breaking news this morning.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
HARLOW: We're glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
So the breaking news this morning, indicted. The Trump Organization's long-time chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, worked very closely with Donald Trump himself, surrendered this morning to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, just hours after a grand jury indicted not just Weisselberg, but the Trump Organization as a business on criminal charges related to alleged tax crimes.
HARLOW: Sources tell CNN that charges are expected to be unsealed just a few hours from now and Weisselberg is set to be arraigned later today at a lower Manhattan courthouse. An attorney for former President Trump says Trump himself is not expected to be charged.
Let's go to our Kara Scannell. She joins us outside the White House.
Kara, what do we know and what happened today?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, good morning, Poppy and Jim. So, Allen Weisselberg did surrender a couple of hours ago to the
Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Later this afternoon he and the Trump Organization will be arraigned on these charges. That's when we expect the indictment will be unsealed and we'll know the details and these charges, the breadth of these charges and actually how much money the company and Allen Weisselberg is alleged to have apparently not paid taxes on. But we're waiting for those details.
Now we just got a statement in from Allen Weisselberg's attorney -- attorneys. They said, Mr. Weisselberg intends to plead not guilty and he will fight these charges in court.
We also got a statement from the Trump Organization. In their statement they said, Allen Weisselberg is a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather who has worked at the Trump Organization for 48 years. He's now being used by the Manhattan District Attorney as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former president. The district attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS nor any other district attorney would ever think of bringing. This is not justice, this is politics.
And I think we're going to hear a lot more of that from the Trump Organization and perhaps even the former president as they attack the district attorney's charges here.
As we've been reporting for weeks, you know, this investigation had been very broadly focused, looking into property valuations, looking into whether any banks or insurance companies were defrauded. And the focus now, at least for now, has really narrowed on this issue of compensation and benefits. And this is where Allen Weisselberg fits in.
He is under investigation for benefits that he'd received. That's a rent-free apartment, a company car, tuition for at least one of his grandchildren's schools and bonuses. And this is something that we expect to be part of the case today. We don't know the full breadth of it but I think once we know more we'll be able to get a sense of just how much additional pressure there will be on Allen Weisselberg and where else this investigation may be heading.
SCIUTTO: Kara Scannell, remarkable events. Thanks very much.
Joining us now to discuss the significance, CNN's senior legal analyst Elie Honig, also CNN anchor, happens to be a lawyer, Laura Jarrett, as well.
Elie, I want to begin with you.
The Manhattan D.A. has had Trump's tax returns, other documents from his former accounting firm Masars, for months now. They've also had Michael Cohen to speak with, a relative of Weisselberg himself.
Is this enough at this point, given what you've seen, and with your experience as a prosecutor, would you expect a D.A. to lead with his or her strength here, in effect, lead with the strongest charges or do you see this as a first step?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jim, so that's the biggest question here, is this the first step or is this all there is, right?
HONIG: Now, a lot of that's going to depend on whether they can shake loose Allen Weisselberg as a cooperating witness because he could hold the keys to the kingdom here. If he cooperates, if there's enough pressure on him because of this indictment, then his mind may change. I know he's made clear he's not going to be cooperating thus far.
If he doesn't though, Jim, if this is all they have, it's not much. As a result of two years of this case, enormous resources, they fought it all the way up to the Supreme Court. And I think it's safe to conclude that based on what they have so far, they do not believe they have enough with Michael Cohen, with the tax returns to indict anyone beyond who they've already charged or will be charging later today.
HARLOW: Hey, Laura, last night, in addition to what Elie just said, he told me, this is a good news/bad news situation for the former president. Do you agree with that assessment?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Well, it kind of depends on how you look at it, right? I mean the fact that the Trump Organization, this namesake company of a closely family held corporation is being indicted today is enormously devastating, not only to that organization, but it has to be to the president because, think about it like this, guys, no bank, no lender is going to want to do business with the Trump Organization anymore.
JARRETT: Those loans, they're going to come calling, much less before this goes to trial, but just with the indictment itself. And so the Trump Organization itself may actually have to go into bankruptcy because of this.
JARRETT: And so even if it's not jail time for the president, which, of course, the personal liability would be worse, it is enormously consequential to have his company go down for something like this.
SCIUTTO: Elie, I know you've said that cases like this normally are pursued in civil court as opposed to criminal court, but I do want to zero in on what is involved here because paying perks of this size and trying to avoid taxes on them, we're not talking about a company car or paying for a barbecue, right, we're talking about rent free apartments in New York City, private school tuition in New York City, tens, hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars.
I mean, tax avoidance on that would be significant, right? I mean just explain to folks at home what is being alleged here that the company did that you, me and the people watching right now cannot do to avoid taxes?
HONIG: Yes, Jim, it actually understates it a little to call it fringe benefits or perks.
HONIG: I think that's a really important point that you make because we are talking about, it's really a form of theft. There's hundreds of thousands or maybe more -- and I'm really interested to see what the amounts are in the indict today -- but that's money that these people had to pay to the government, that you and I pay to the government, that they kept instead.
The way they did it is they took some chunk of a person's salary, compensation, we'll find out that detail today, and rather than paying it as a paycheck, they paid it in the form of the benefits that you laid out, and the enabled the company to not have to declare it, they should have declared it but the allegation will be they didn't declare it and thereby they stole potentially a lot of money. I really want to see how much money that is because that's going to tell us how much pressure is on Weisselberg to flip.
SCIUTTO: Well, if you know how much rent costs in New York and private schools cost in New York --
SCIUTTO: You know it's a lot of money. Yes.
JARRETT: It's way too much.
HARLOW: Laura, it's interesting, the response from the Trump Organization that Kara just read. In the context of prior statements from New York Attorney General Letitia James, you remember -- I think it was 2018 -- she called then President Trump an illegitimate president. She said a lot of her run for attorney general was, quote, about the man in the White House who can't go a day without threatening our fundamental rights.
You've got to think that that is going to come up in these arguments from the Trump Organization. And I just wonder how that complicates things.
JARRETT: Sure. Yes, I mean, if I was their defense attorney, I would say this is a selective prosecution. I would point to all of the statements that Cy Vance and other prosecutors, and Letitia James, all of those statements I would want to point to, to say, look, they came after my clients because they had an ax to grind. There was a target on his back from the beginning. I think you're going to see a lot of that and there's a lot of fodder out there.
And it also speaks to the point that Elie has been making for days, which is, is this all they have? They went to the U.S. Supreme Court because they said they needed Donald Trump's taxes and they were running up against the statute of limitations here. So if this is what they have, and agreed, it's not small thing, we're talking about criminal behavior, so we shouldn't just dismiss it as perks. But, again, if this is it and their big fish is Allen Weisselberg, a private citizen, that is far different than the president, the former president of the United States.
SCIUTTO: Elie Honig, to this point, Weisselberg is not cooperating and has said very clearly he does not intend to. Again, in your experience as a prosecutor, when criminal indictments come, and trials approach, do folks in his position sometimes change their mind?
HONIG: Yes. Nothing can sort of focus the mind quite like an indictment. I've seen people who have sworn they'd never flip, they'd never cooperate, who, once they are indicted, they did.
However, I will say, the optimal time, the best time for both Weisselberg and prosecutors has already passed. Generally speaking, you get more benefit as a cooperator the earlier you come in. You're of more assistance to prosecutors the earlier you come in. We're already now into the charging phase. So people can and do cooperate after they've been charged, after they've been convicted, after they've been sentenced. But the chances and the benefits really just decline with time.
HARLOW: Elie, thank you. Laura, as well. Good to have you both.
Still to come, President Biden will arrive in Surfside, Florida, this hour. We're also expecting a briefing from officials there about the latest on the deadly collapse. We will take you live to Surfside next.
And also this, Bill Cosby waking up a free man this morning after his conviction was overturned. We will speak to a woman who accuses Cosby of sexual assault. Her reaction ahead.
SCIUTTO: Plus, breaking overnight, a judge denies a motion to remove Britney Spears' father as her co-conservator.
We should note, that's not based on her most recent testimony. But where does the case go from here?
SCIUTTO: In moments, President Biden will land in Florida where he will tour the site of the deadly condo collapse in Surfside. And he'll also try to be consoler in chief once again to console devastated families who lost loved ones in the disaster, still waiting for news of them. We've learned some heartbreaking news about two of the victims.
The bodies of two children, siblings, have now been recovered. And they're little ones, four-year-old Emma Garra (ph) and 10-year-old Lucia Garra (ph), pictured there.
HARLOW: Eighteen people are now confirmed dead with 145 still unaccounted for. Crews are still working around the clock searching through this debris. And new video may give some new clues into what caused the collapse.
Let's go to our Rosa Flores. She joins us with the latest.
Rosa, the new video shows water really gushing into the garage moments before the collapse. What more can you tell us?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim and Poppy, this really shows some of the intense moments that were happening at this building before it collapsed.
This video was shot right before this collapse happened. The people who shot this video talked to my colleague, Boris Sanchez. He tells me that their names are Adrianna Sarmento (ph) and Roberto Garciaro (ph). They were staying at a nearby hotel and they heard a loud crash.
They started rolling this video. And, if you look closely, you'll see that water is gushing from the garage. If you look even closer, it appears that there is rubble, pieces of concrete, according to this couple, they say that they started seeing people coming towards their balconies and from the ground they were trying to flag them, tell them to evacuate because of what they were seeing at -- in the garage.
But this couple says that those individuals didn't understand what they were saying. Then the collapse happened and this couple said that they had to run for their lives. They also tell Boris that they're traumatized by this experience. They actually only remember certain flashbacks because it was so traumatizing for them.
Now, we're learning more about those intense moments also from audio. And this audio is from Raysa Rodriguez. She was inside of the building. She's one of the survivors. She called her brother at about 1:30 on Thursday, a week ago today, and she was just going to ask him, what do I do because of what was happening around her. Well, the phone line was still on but she went to her neighbors trying to wake people up, trying to save lives. Here is what the phone line captured. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYSA RODRIGUEZ, SURVIVOR OF CONDO COLLAPSE: Oh, my God! What the hell? Oh, my God! Yani (ph), the whole side of the building is gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: It's an unmanageable moment. These people really trying to figure out in real time what exactly to do.
Now, Raysa has filed a lawsuit. The condo says that it does not comment on pending litigation.
And, Jim and Poppy, it's very early in the investigation, of course, but all of these pieces, all of these nuggets will be a part of this, especially that video showing the water gushing from the garage because, of course, we know from the 2018 report that there were issues in the garage. The waterproofing under the pool deck was beyond its useful life and it warned that it should be repaired.
Jim and Poppy.
HARLOW: Rosa, thank you for all of that reporting. I mean all of these families deserve answers. They want answers. And as we learn about these victims every day, I mean those two children, we just had the -- we just had the priest from their church on just yesterday. It's devastating.
HARLOW: Rosa, thank you.
Well, to politics now.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy now threatening to punish Republican lawmakers who dare to join the select committee to investigate the January 6th attack. We will have reaction to that next.
SCIUTTO: We are, this morning, awaiting President Biden's arrive in Florida. He will travel today to console families in Surfside, Florida, as well as meet with first responders impacted by the tragedy. We do not know yet if he will visit the site of the condo collapse. We will bring you updates as they come into CNN.
Another story we're following this morning, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is now threatening to strip Republican members of their committee assignments if they accept House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's offer to serve on the select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. We should remind viewers that there was a bipartisan proposal for equal representation on a commission. That one was rejected, voted against by most Republican members of the House.
HARLOW: Jessica Dean is with us on Capitol Hill.
Jessica, good morning.
I mean this is quite a threat from Kevin McCarthy.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Jim and Poppy. And, remember, just to give you some context, earlier this year, Marjorie Taylor Greene, when all of that was unfolding, the conspiracy theories, the House minority leader did not move to remove her from her committees. That was done by the full House. So he did not take action in that way.
Now, flash forward to today. Here we are with this House Select Committee. He would get five people that he could appoint to committee. Now Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have veto power but he would be able to appoint five in theory and yet he's told Republicans, House Republicans, that if they agree to serve on this select committee, which is going to probe into what happened on January 6th and what led up to that moment, that they will be stripped of their committees.
So if he follows through on this, they would be bounced from the committees, not allowed to serve on them.
So who is this directed at? Well, there were two Republicans yesterday, two House Republicans, who voted in favor of this House Select Committee, and that would be Congressman Adam Kinzinger and Congresswoman Liz Cheney. You'll remember, Cheney was ousted from her GOP leadership position earlier this year because of her views on former President Trump and his role in the insurrection, because she wanted to investigate it and get to the bottom of it. They kicked her out of her leadership position.
So it remains to be seen if Cheney or Kinzinger would be asked to serve by Pelosi. Certainly not by McCarthy. He's threatened any House Republican that serves on this. And if they would do so. We -- so we have to see how that will play out.
Of course, as you both mentioned, there was this bipartisan commission that was filibustered in the Senate and shot down by House Republicans as well. So that cannot move forward. Nancy Pelosi -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had always said that was her preference.
Kinzinger and Cheney, worth noting, had both said that was their preference as well but they felt like this was the only way forward to get to the bottom of what happened.
But the bottom line here, Jim and Poppy, is that House leadership, House Republican leadership, threatening any House GOP member that serves on this committee that is being formed to look into the deadly insurrection that happened at this Capitol on January 6th.
Jim and Poppy.
SCIUTTO: The math here is remarkable because 70 times as many Republicans voted to object to the 2020 election results the night of the January 6th insurrection, 139, then voted, two, to proceed with this -- with this select committee. It's remarkable.
Jessica Dean, thanks very much.
DEAN: Yes. SCIUTTO: Well, anger and disbelief this morning among the dozens, dozens of women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault after a court suddenly overturned his conviction. Next, we're going to speak with one of his accusers for how she's reacting to this.