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Trump Appears to Admit Facts in Fraud Case Again Family Business; U.S. Races to Find Safe Haven for Afghans in Central Asia; Afghans Flee to Major Cities as Taliban Advances Continue; Cosby Lashes Out in Defense of Phylicia Rashad. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 5, 2021 - 14:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Here's what -- it's remarkable what he says. But here's what former President Trump said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They go after good, hardworking people for not paying taxes on a company car. A company car. You didn't pay tax on the car.

Or a company apartment. You used an apartment because you need an apartment because you need an apartment because you have to travel too far where your house is. You didn't pay tax.

Or education for your grandchildren. I don't even know. Do you have to -- does anybody know the answer to that stuff?


BLACKWELL: You'd expect the CFO would know the answer to that stuff.

But I mean, it sounds just like an acknowledgment to me. What are you hearing?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's a defense lawyer's nightmare to have your client standing up behind a podium and yelling things like that into a microphone.

This is why defense lawyers tell their clients, shut up. And Donald Trump, he's not the shutting-up type.

What he's doing here is he's acknowledging some of the key facts in the indictment. He's acknowledging they paid these benefits. He's acknowledging they did not pay taxes on it.

Now, Donald Trump's trying to stake out his defense here. It's the "I knew nothing" defense. He says, who knows? I don't know. Who could understand these tax codes? This wasn't on me. Prosecutors do have to prove that he knew it, But clearly, this is

going to be his defense.

Now, by the way, it stands in contrast to President Trump's boasts at a prior time that -- I'm paraphrasing here -- but nobody knows more about tax law than me. Nobody knows more about the taxes. And I'm the one who can fix it.

So if I'm a prosecutor and I end up prosecuting Donald Trump -- we are very, very far from that. But if it ends up happening, you're going to use all these statements against him in court.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Thank you for that reminder, Elie. I forgot about that one.

Toluse, politically speaking, in terms of what, the argument that President Trump was making, I know it never hurts a politician to go after the IRS.

That's the long-standing boogeyman that everybody in that rally could applaud, making the IRS somehow the enemy.

But saying, you know, everybody can relate to having a corporate car, everybody can relate to having your grandchildren's fancy private education paid for, I mean, is this a winning political note for him to strike?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It definitely doesn't help him connect with the everyday man.

But I think he thinks he's pretty secure in that, in that he continues to get thousands of Americans to come out and attend rallies on his behalf.

And he has not been shy about his wealth. He has been willing to boast about his wealth.

And he's tried to tell a lot of his voters that he was fighting for them. And that message has continued to keep a lot of people that support him on his side.

So, I think he feels safe in, you know, boasting about the private school education and the apartments in Manhattan, and all of the various fringe benefits that his CFO was getting, even though the average American cannot relate to that.

But he has stuck with this strategy from the beginning of his presidential campaign, where he first came down the golden escalators and talked about the great businesses he built and now he's going to do the same for the county.

I do think this makes it more likely that he will think about running again or talk about running again so that he can say, the only reason I'm being attacked legally and my taxes are being scrutinized is because I want to run for president, they want to take me down and to keep me out of office from helping the everyday man. That's the message that I see him going on in these various rallies

and, it seems like, the political strategy he's going to take (INAUDIBLE).

BLACKWELL: All right. Toluse Olorunnipa, Elie Honig, thank you both.

HONIG: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, the U.S. is racing to find a safe haven for Afghan translators as U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. We'll talk with a man who has spent the better part of a decade in the region doing something similar, next.



BLACKWELL: Understandably, the pandemic has been front and center in the Biden presidency. But Afghanistan could become his lasting legacy.

We're learning that the Biden administration still has not determined exactly how long it's going to go after terrorists in the country once all U.S. troops have left.

They're expected to be out within weeks. And there are fears al Qaeda could re-establish a foothold.

CAMEROTA: Afghans are fleeing from rural areas to major cities as the Taliban gains more ground against the Afghan military. The Taliban claims they've seized control of 150 districts across Afghanistan since just May.

The top U.S. general overseeing the withdrawal of those troops warns the U.S. should be worried.


GEN. AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, COMMANDER, NATO RESOLVE SUPPORT MISSION: We should be concerned. The loss of terrain and the rapidity of that loss of terrain has to be concerning.

One, because it's a war as physical. But it's also got a psychological or moral component to it. And hope actually matters, and morale actually matters.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Anna Coren is at Bagram Air Base, which is now empty of U.S. troops.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are here at Bagram Air Base. This is the first time we've been given access to this facility since U.S. and NATO forces departed on Friday. And what is wrapping up behind me is a high-level meeting of the

National Security Council delegation sent by Ashraf Ghani to assess what the Americans actually left here at Bagram Air Base and how the Afghans can use it moving forward.

We were taken to the airfield, the runway, which is two miles long. This was the heart of activity at the height of this war where fighter jets, cargo planes, and surveillance aircraft would depart and land constantly. It is now absolutely deserted.


There are air hangars in the background that have been locked. The Afghans still don't have access to them.

And then around here, you can see it's like a car yard. There are hundreds of cars, SUVs, pickup trucks that have been left by the Americans for the Afghans.

It comes at a time where the security situation in this country is deteriorating rapidly. We know that the Taliban are -- have taken more than 150 districts just in the past two months.

The vice president of Afghanistan said that there are tens of thousands of people fleeing the countryside because of the fighting coming to the cities.

And that was backed up by the United Nations, which said more than 56,000 people have had to flee four provinces in the northeast, which is where fighting is extremely aggressive.


CAMEROTA: Anna Coren, thank you for being on the ground for us.

BLACKWELL: Another question is what to do with and for the thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. over the last two decades.

Let's bring in Kirk Wallace Johnson. He was in Iraq as a coordinator for the reconstruction of Fallujah and then spent years working to help Iraqis who helped the U.S. during the Iraq War to safety.

The organization he founded, The List Project, helped get nearly 2,500 Iraqis here to the U.S. where they are now citizens.

Kirk, thanks for being with us.

Let's start here with just who are these estimated 18,000 -- that's from the State Department -- people, the fixers, the drivers, the translators, and how crucial they were to the U.S. effort.

KIRK WALLACE JOHNSON, FORMER REGIONAL COORDINATOR FOR CONSTRUCTION IN FALLUJAH, U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT & FOUNDER, THE LIST PROJECT & AUTHOR: Yes, you know, we sent a hundred-plus thousand troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and the overwhelming majority of them did not speak Arabic or Pashtu so we needed to hire locals to help us. And they weren't just serving as interpreters. They served alongside

U.S. diplomats and aid workers and soldiers, as engineers, as helping us rebuild schools, and health care clinics and things like that.

In Iraq, they brought us our food. They interpreted and translated intel that was discovered in caches that would help our soldiers and Marines know where there were potential terrorist cells operating.

I mean, every single thing that we did in this war, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we were heavily dependent on these Iraqis and Afghans who are risking their lives to help us.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And I have read estimates that range from 50,000 to 70,000 when you consider their families as well, that they would, of course, want to take with them.

We're just a few weeks out from the deadline that the president set. We heard from Admiral Kirby at the Pentagon that it could end at the

end of August, the withdrawal.

Can this happen in that time frame, and how does it happen?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, I couldn't help but remember something.

When you showed that map just in the run-up to this of the districts that the Taliban has taken over, I remember, more than five years ago, being in D.C. and talking with a close friend of mine who was in a senior capacity working for the U.S. government at that point.

And he said, back then, even, that they had a map, just like what you have got on the screen there, that they could predict which districts were going to fall first the minute we pulled troops out.

So, no one should be surprised that the Taliban is regaining land. And no one should be surprised that the interpreters working for us are going to be in their sights. We've had years and years to plan for this.

Congress has again and again articulated its intent in bipartisan terms that we need to help these people.

And all along the way, it has been that intent, that will of the people has been sort of throttled by bureaucratic ineptitude.

So, when you ask, you know, we've got a few weeks left. Where's the plan? Where is the president on this? Where is the president on this?

We've heard some nice things, some nice, reassuring things. But we don't have a lot of time now to wait for the State Department to drop a plan or Department of Homeland Security.

We know what we need to do here. Congress has asked us to do it by allocating tens of thousands of visas for these Afghans who have helped us.

Those visas have not been allocated because of that ineptitude within the bureaucracies.

And the thing that is -- if I could -- the only thing that a decade of pushing this has impressed upon me is that, when the president of the United States takes ownership of this particular issue -- and we have never had a war that has not been marked by this question -- what do you do for those who stepped forward and helped you?


When the president leads and says, we have to do this, all of that bureaucracy somehow melts away, and we do the right, moral, and strategic thing, and we get these people out.


BLACKWELL: So you set this exclusively on the desk of the president.


BLACKWELL: Not the State Department. It's Biden's issue, exclusively, you think?

JOHNSON: No, we don't ask a 30-year-old bureaucrat at state or Homeland Security to make these kinds of moral and strategic visions -- decisions, and when we do, guess what happens? They don't do it.

And no president -- I need to be clear here -- no president is going to get re-elected by helping refugees.

This is squarely a question of how you want the United States of America to be seen in the world, and in that region as well.

Unless we're done fighting wars forever, I don't know who would come forward to help us in future wars when this is how we repay that service.

If you look -- I mean, at the fall of Saigon, Americans weren't clamoring to open our doors to Vietnamese.

But President Ford looked at the American people and he said, we have to help these people. To do less would add moral shame to humiliation.

And in a few months, our military air lifted 130,000 Vietnamese out. They used Guam. They were processed there safely. They kept the American public safe while the security screening was happening and we did the right thing eventually.

This should - you know, we're not --


BLACKWELL: And we know that this administration is also considering sending some of these Afghan citizens to -- Afghans to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan as well as part of the plan.

We've got to wrap it here, Kirk Wallace Johnson. Thank you, though, for the insight. Again, The List Project is your organization. Done some great work there in Iraq.

Kirk, thank you.

JOHNSON: Thanks for having me.



CAMEROTA: OK, Victor, we're also hearing from Bill Cosby again after his release from prison. What he has to say now about the backlash against his friend, Phylicia Rashad.



Now to an update on Bill Cosby. First, his former co-star, Phylicia Rashad, was widely criticized for a tone-deaf tweet celebrating Cosby's release from prison.

Now Bill Cosby himself is lashing out at the media and at Howard University in defense of Phylicia Rashad.

BLACKWELL: Her tweet praising Cosby's relief could affect her new job as the dean of Howard University College of Fine Arts.

In a statement, Cosby wrote:

"Howard University, you must support one's freedom of speech. Ms. Rashad was taught was supposed to be taught every day at that renowned law school, which resides on your campus."

"This mainstream media are the insurrectionists that storm the capitol. Those same media insurrectionists are trying to demolish the Constitution of these United States of America on this Independence Day.

"No technicality. It's a violation of one's rights. And we, the people, stand in support of Ms. Rashad."

Nischelle Turner is a CNN contributor and the co-host of "Entertainment Tonight.

I don't know what half that meant about the media and insurrections --


BLACKWELL: -- the capitol but he's clearly not going away here.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. And there's so much to unpack in that one statement. You almost don't know where to begin.

I think I'll begin at the beginning, where he says Howard University must support her freedom of speech. I think what people a lot of times get confused is that she has the

freedom to say whatever she wants. Freedom of consequences is another thing.

She's an employee of Howard University. And sometimes, if you say something that the university does not support and do not agree with, then you face consequences. You face disciplinary action. You face all of those things.

That is the position that Phylicia Rashad has found herself in right now.

Now, going to his, you know, the media are the insurrectionists who storm the capitol and all that yin-yang, I don't think that needs to be addressed because it's just ridiculous.

I do think also that he makes the statement at the end that we, the people, stand with her. If he's going to make a statement then address it through Bill Cosby's eyes and say Bill Cosby stands with her. She showed she stood with him in the position he took, so he can do that.

But to lump everyone in to make this vailed swipe, this crazy swipe at the media is, yes.


CAMEROTA: Yes, I hear you. What can you say about it? It's loony tunes. Yes. Obviously, he was getting lots of misinformation in prison and falling for it.

But what it does say, possibly, he doesn't plan to lie low now that he's out of prison. Does he plan to be more public?

TURNER: You know, listen, if you think back, Bill Cosby has never been one to not state his opinion about things. He's never been one to not speak about issues that he thinks are important.

He's done that. Sometimes they were controversial coming up. Sometimes they weren't.

I don't think that will change just because he spent time in prison. That's who he is. I think that's what we should expect going forward.

BLACKWELL: Full disclosure. I am a Howard University alumnus. There's a lot of division about what should happen next as it related to dean Rashad.


But in the entertainment community, are we seeing a division? Are we seeing people come out, not with statements like we saw from Cosby, to support her?

TURNER: Not really, to be perfectly honest. What we have seen across all of the spectrum in the entertainment industry is a rebuke of what Bill Cosby was convicted of, a rebuke of the overturning of his sentence.

Even though it was not said he did not do this. The courts did not say you were innocent. The court said it was a technicality and they thought there was unfair treatment so they overturned the conviction.

But what you have seen on the whole -- there may be a couple of outliers -- but what you have seen on the whole is a full-throated rebuke of this entire situation.

CAMEROTA: Yes. It felt as if she missed the four years of the #metoo movement. Her tweet in support of her friend was just so tone deaf that we'll see.

She says she's now going to do some active listening and take she's going to take --


CAMEROTA: sensitivity training and stuff like that on the campus.

Victor, it's just interesting to hear that the campus is divided. And we'll see what they decide to do.

TURNER: Well, and let me just say this. She has never wavered from her support of him. She didn't speak about it a lot.

There were other people who did. Other members of "The Cosby Show" also supported him. Keshia Knight Pulliam also supported him.

There are people in his life and in his entertainment industry life that did support him. We just never heard it from her like this until this moment.

So I do think he has supporters. I think they may be few and far in between. I do think this is very interesting how this has played out.

Victor, you spoke about fact it's very divided on Howard's campus. Someone the other day was saying to me that this has played out really among racial lines.

I tend to disagree with that a bit. I think I've seen the response from black women much more in line with what we have seen generally.

So it is interesting how (INAUDIBLE) with the comments of Dean Rashad.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We'll see what happens next.

Nischelle Turner, thanks so much for being with us.


CAMEROTA: Great to see you, Nischelle, as always.

All right, we have some breaking news from Surfside, Florida. Crews pull three more bodies from the rubble. And now a tropical storm is on the way. We have an update. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)