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Trump Attorneys Join Legal Battle on Tax Returns; Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is Interviewed about Infrastructure; Establishment Candidate Beats Progressive in Ohio; Cybercriminal Gang Returns. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired August 4, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news in to CNN.

Lawyers for former President Trump have formally entered the legal battle to prevent the release of his tax returns to Congress, days after the Justice Department ordered the IRS to give those returns to members of Congress.

CNN's Kara Scannell joins me now in New York.

I suppose, Kara, this is not surprising. This is a -- has been a years' long battle by the former president to keep the public from seeing his tax returns.

What happens now?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Jim. I mean this is kind of the Trump playbook here to continue to litigate a lot of these subpoenas and requests for information and documents, particularly about the tax returns.

So, today's filing is Trump formally entering into this case, fighting the House Ways and Means Committee's efforts to obtain his tax returns. This following the DOJ opinion late last week where they said that the Treasury Department must turn over these tax returns.

So they're entering this case. They're asking the judge now for a permanent injunction, saying that they -- the judge should forbid Treasury from ever turning over Trump's tax returns. And in this 37 page filing, most of it is focusing on quotes from lawmakers, Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to use as evidence that this is all politically motivated, that it's an effort to harass the former president.

So they filed their brief in this. The judge will likely set up a briefing schedule and we can expect this litigation to continue. I mean, as you'll remember, there are other fights for the president's tax returns and, you know, he went all the way up to the Supreme Court two times to block the New York district attorney from obtaining his tax returns.


SCIUTTO: And worth remembering that every president and candidate since Nixon have done it voluntarily, released those tax returns. Very different for former President Trump.

Kara Scannell, thanks very much.

In the next hour, the Senate will resume voting on amendments as lawmakers work to finally pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. The bipartisan legislation includes $550 billion in new spending over the next five years with funding for roads and bridges, modernizing public transportation, improving as well the nation's broadband infrastructure.

Joining me now is discuss, Senator Chris Van Hollen. He's a Democrat from Maryland. He also sits on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Jim, it's great to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So, you know, vote-a-rama on these amendments going here. Will the Senate get through this amendment process without jeopardizing the final passage of the legislation?

VAN HOLLEN: Yes, I'm confident we will. I will work through the weekend likely. And I do think at the end of the day we will have the votes to pass this bipartisan bill, which, as you described, is a very important investment in modernizing our infrastructure, putting more Americans to work, repairing bridges and roads, but also building out the infrastructure of the 21st century. Universal access to broadband, dealing with clean energy, dealing with transit. So a lot of work still ahead but I'm confident.

SCIUTTO: We saw that digital divide play out during remote learning last year during the pandemic.

As you know, there are progressive Democrats in the House, among them Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who believe they need to see changes in the legislation before passing.


Also demands to tie it to this broader legislation to follow.

I just wonder, are you concerned that Democrats in the House could sink this?

VAN HOLLEN: I'm not concerned that this will sink in the end. This has been a two-track process from the start. And Senator Schumer's been clear about that. We're going to pass this bipartisan infrastructure bill.

But President Biden has laid out his Build Back Better agenda, and that includes not only modernizing our infrastructure, but also what he calls the American Families Plan. So extending those child tax credits, those monthly payments to help families cover all sorts of costs.

That expires at the end of the year if we don't continue it. We want to lower the cost of prescription drugs. We want to include coverage for vision and dental and hearing within Medicare. Many other important things for families. That will also happen. And, Jim, we will pass the budget resolution here in the Senate before the August break as well to set up that process.


VAN HOLLEN: So it's a two-track process.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned a lot of elements of that $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill as it's sometimes called. Many of those are popular. But the overall price tag of $3.5 trillion does have pushback even from Democrats. Kyrsten Sinema has expressed reservations about the size of that.

Are all 50 Democrats on board for that expansive legislation as it stands?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, all 50 Senate Democrats are on board for setting up this process so that we can move forward on it. And I will just point out that the president has put forward lots of ways to pay for this, including reforming the corporate tax code.

Right now U.S. corporations can park lots of their profits overseas in places like the Carmen Islands and some of them, big ones, pay no corporate income tax at all. We saw that some of the wealthiest people in the country are not paying any income taxes. So we should be reforming our income tax code anyway, but that also will provide revenues for this.

I will also point out, Jim, that when you give Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug prices, you're going to lower the cost of Medicare, as well as (INAUDIBLE).


Policing reform, as you know, has been a difficult issue. It's been sort of on the back burner and sometimes the front burner for more than a year now, going back to the wake of George Floyd's killing.

Are you optimistic the Senate will reach an agreement there, that you will see similar bipartisan agreement that you saw with the infrastructure bill?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we're working very hard to do that. I'm in regular communication with Senator Cory Booker and Tim Scott. They're our lead negotiators. Congresswoman Karen Bass, in regular communication with her. I know that they're, you know, working non-stop to try to get this done.

It's very important that we pass this bill to provide reform, to provide accountability, to send a signal to the family of George Floyd and so many others that their pleas for help were heard and that Congress is acting. But we're trying very hard to get it done.

SCIUTTO: Has the rise in crime in many cities around the country fundamentally changed the politics of this negotiation here? I've heard some Republicans say this may not be the time to pass something like that given the rise in crime. Have you heard that from your Republican colleagues and could that stand in the way?

VAN HOLLEN: I've not heard that and I think President Biden has been very clear, and I agree, that there's nothing inconsistent between ensuring public safety and making sure we have accountability from law enforcement, that we have constitutional policing. And, in fact, that should improve public safety overall because it's very important that communities have confidence in the law enforcement officers in their neighborhoods. It works best when there's that trust.

And so everybody, if (INAUDIBLE), if you have accountability, along with making sure that officers have the resources to do their job.

I would also point out that one of the things I've been working on, and I know Karen Bass has been (INAUDIBLE) this conversation, is to create alternatives to 911 emergency calls. When someone calls with a mental health issue or somebody is homeless, it doesn't make sense to deploy and dispatch the police. In fact, we've seen too many of those situations unnecessarily escalate and (INAUDIBLE). We should want our police focusing their resources on going after violent crime. And that helps everyone.


SCIUTTO: I was out with New York police officers just a few weeks ago and saw them responding to mental health issues. Many of their calls, frankly, in that category.

Senator Chris Van Hollen, good to have you back on the program.

VAN HOLLEN: Jim, great to be with you. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, the results are in. Two congressional primaries in Ohio could be sending a big signal of what to expect in the midterms and beyond. We're going to discuss what we learned from those races.



SCIUTTO: This morning, a key victory at the polls for the establishment wing of the Democratic Party. Moderate Shontel Brown defeated a progressive candidate, Nina Turner, in a special primary election in Ohio's 11th Congressional District.

Former President Trump, meanwhile, flexed his own muscle in another Ohio race. Mike Carey, a coal lobbies backed by Trump, beat a crowded Republican field for the GOP special primary for the 15th congressional district there.

Jeff Zeleny joins me now.

So, Jeff, when you look at these races here, I mean, you don't want to over or undersell bellwethers, but they're indicative of something. What does it tell you about what might happen in the midterms?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, I think it tells you a couple of things. One, it tells you, on the Republican side, that President Trump still has big power with his base. No question about it. That was a very crowded field, some 11 candidates. But his candidate won by about 20 points.

On the Democratic side, it shows you, we've seen a trend now of moderate Democrats, the establishment win of the party, the Joe Biden wing of the party, if you will, winning primary races. And that happened again last night in the Cleveland race.

You may wonder, why are we having these elections now? They're both to fill the vacant seats. In Cleveland, Marcia Fudge, a long-time member of Congress, is the HUD secretary. And in the Republican seat, in the -- central Ohio, Steve Stivers left to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. So that's why these special elections happened.

But last night's so interesting. Shontel Brown, she's an establishment member of the country council, not a progressive like Nina Turner, a Bernie Sanders' backed candidate. But Shontel Brown said, I am going to come to Washington to help President Biden's agenda. She talked specifically about why that is key for everyone in the party.

Let's listen to her speech from last night.


SHONTEL BROWN (D), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This was a collaborative partnership of a community of people that I worked hard to bring together.

As potentially the next member of the 11th congressional district, the next member of Congress, I can walk in the door with good relationships. I have earned the support of people on The Hill.


ZELENY: So the reason that that is important is that over the weekend I was in Cleveland actually covering this race. The entire leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus campaigned for her. Bernie Sanders was campaigning for Nina Turner, the opponent there. And, again, President Biden's agenda, they want to send an ally to him, not an antagonist, if you will. So that's what that race was all about.

SCIUTTO: You know, it's not unlike what we saw say in the New York mayor's race, right, where you had a moderate Democrat beat out the more progressive wing. So where does that leave the Sanders more progressive wing of the party going forward?

ZELENY: It leaves them frustrated. I mean he certainly is a voice, the progressive wing of the party is influential on policy, as we've seen on the evictions and other matters.

But what it means is there may not be as many primary races going into the midterms next year. They were hoping to have some wins here. It's really challenged some incumbents. That's not likely to happen as much. This is Joe Biden's wing of the party. Never mind -- I mean it's been asked and answered. So, yes, progressives play a role, but this now is a trend we're seeing.

Now, this does not mean that Democrats are going to be successful in the midterms next year. That's a whole different matter.


ZELENY: But in the primaries at least, both party's bases are sort of finding their lane. And the Democratic one, it's a more moderate one.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It might end up being more electable, but we'll see.

ZELENY: Right.

SCIUTTO: Jeff Zeleny, a lot of time between now and then.

ZELENY: Of course.

SCIUTTO: Well, the hackers behind the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, they're back with a different name. Up next, what this means for the potential threat of future ransomware attacks.



SCIUTTO: Well, the same gang of cyber criminals that attacked the Colonial Pipeline in May, leading to shutdowns, gas shortages across the southeast is now reemerging under a different name. Researchers say the group formerly known as DarkSide has creatively rebranded itself as Black Matter. More importantly, it seems to be back to carrying out attacks. It's already targeting multiple victims, demanding ransom payments of $3 million to $4 million to un shut down systems that they attack.

Alex Marquardt joins me now with details.

I mean they went quite for a little bit. Now they're back. I mean is the expectation that they're going to start carrying out more attacks?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean this is the kind of thing that we've seen before, that when these groups feel pressure, they go away for a little bit, they come back, they rebrand under a different name. Now, remember, when DarkSide attacked Colonial back in May, that led to gas shortages up and down the East Coast, as you said. And DarkSide was paid over $4 million in ransom by Colonial.

They then went away. They said that they were feeling pressure from the United States, that their infrastructure was under pressure by law enforcement and they went away. And right after that, the FBI was able to get back more than $2 million of that ransom that Colonial Pipeline had paid.


MARQUARDT: Now there's this new group called Black Matter. And there are significant ties between the two. A group -- a cybersecurity group called Coinalysis (ph) has established financial ties between DarkSide and Black Matter. And experts who have delved into the code that Black Matter is now using says that they are using almost virtually identical encryption coding. So this is not 100 percent, but these are very, very strong indications.

Black Matter, for its part, has denied that it is DarkSide reincarnated. They say they are simply taking the best parts of DarkSide. And the other infamous group that we've been talking about lately, REvil. But there are very, very strong signs that this is the reincarnation of DarkSide. And as one cybersecurity expert I spoke with said, ransomware actors are just a bunch of liars.


MARQUARDT: He used a harsher word than that.


SCIUTTO: Well, regardless of what they call themselves, they represent a real threat.

MARQUARDT: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Alex Marquardt, thanks very much.

The delta variant, it now accounts for more than 93 percent of new coronavirus infections here in the U.S. This as we learn that there has been an increase in new cases among children. We're going to have much more on that coming right up.


SCIUTTO: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. This is the news we're following this hour.

The CDC publishing new figures showing just how dominant the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant has become in this country.