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Trump Attorneys Formally Join Legal Battle over Potential Release of His Tax Returns to Congress; Another Bomb Blast in Afghanistan as Taliban Advance; Airline Now Backing Flight Crew Who Duct-Taped Unruly Passenger. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 4, 2021 - 10:30   ET


KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: This is an effort that is purely political in this 37-page document.


They cite multiple Democrats' comments about the need for Donald Trump to make his tax records public, including the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. They're saying it's a transparent effort to harass the president and to potentially embarrass him.

I mean, as we've seen from the New York Times reporting, Donald Trump did not pay taxes for a number of years. What this committee is looking for six years of the former president's tax returns. His lawyers are fighting this. The committee says that they are doing this because Donald Trump is being audited. And as part of their oversight role, they should be able to look at how the IRS handles that.

But the reason this is going to be a big fight and one that will likely proceed for several more months now is because the big concern that this committee could make these returns public. And Donald Trump and his lawyers have fought for years to try to prevent the president's tax returns from becoming public. What we'll see next here is that the judge will likely set up a briefing schedule. Then we'll see arguments and this will play out over the next several months.

Donald Trump has made an effort in multiple of these cases. There are other efforts by other House committees to get tax returns and other records from his accounting firm. Those have been on hold. The president, of course -- the former president has made a big effort to fight all these things including, of course, going to the Supreme Court twice to try to stop the Manhattan D.A.'s Office from obtaining his tax returns. Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Yes, it's funny for them turning the audit excuse on its head there, right, because he had used the audit as a reason not to turn over his taxes in Congress, trying to turn that one around. Kara Scannell, thanks so much.

Here to discuss the legal implications of all this, what happens next, former Federal Prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams. Elliot, good to have you here. So, I mean, he's been fighting for years not to have his tax returns to go public. This is one path that the Manhattan D.A. already has and it's proceeding with its own investigation there. Does he have a chance to block this?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This isn't an awful Donald Trump court filing, Jim, believe it or not. And we've seen a lot of doozies. Look, two things can be true. The House Ways and Means Committee can have a valid investigation into how the IRS works and audits people, but also Democrats and many members of the public have wanted to see the president's tax returns publicly. And they say it right here, that this is part of a broader nationwide effort by Democratic officials to obtain President Trump's financial information.

He is making the case that, no, this isn't about the IRS or congressional oversight, this is about making his tax records public. He's got a bit of a point, a bit of a point.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Okay. So, if he loses that argument now in court, and it does go to Congress, will you and I see those? Will they become public?

WILLIAMS: Not necessarily. This is being turned -- it would be turned -- and I want to be clear, Congress, in my view, has the right to investigate this material. I'm just saying it's not a frivolous argument that he's making.

The materials will be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee, not even the full House of Representatives. They'd have to vote in Congress to even make the materials available to the full House and then to make them available to the public. If Congress is doing what they're saying they want to be doing, they're not making these public. But, come on.

SCIUTTO: As I would note, since Nixon, presidents and presidential candidates have voluntarily shown their tax returns to the people.

Okay, tell us timeframe here, because Donald Trump is expert at stretching things out in court. Is this one that he can stretch out for much longer?

WILLIAMS: Well, yes, just because litigation takes a long time. Just exactly as Kara had said, number one, the briefing schedule is going to take some weeks to set up, then hearings and so on. So we're not -- Congress isn't seeing these tomorrow, though they should.

SCIUTTO: And just quickly, on the House Ways and Means Committee, because as I remember, wasn't there some language about they shall have the ability to do this? I mean, this is not out of nowhere, right, that they claim this right.

WILLIAMS: Right. The Justice Department was where that language came from and said explicitly that Congress, in its oversight authority, has the ability to look into these tax returns as long as they're narrowed in what they choose to use them for. SCIUTTO: All right. Elliot Williams, well, back in court. I guess we'll have to wait what happens in court. We've been there before. Thanks very much.

WILLIAMS: Thanks a lot.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, a series of explosions in Afghanistan overnight. And who claimed responsibility? The Taliban. A car bomb killed eight people. Can anything stop their advancement around the country? We're going to be live in Kabul, next.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, another explosion has rocked the capital of Afghanistan just hours after a deadly car bomb went off near the acting defense minister's home. The Taliban has taken responsibility for that attack, which killed eight people. The minister was not at home at the time. He and his family are safe.

Clarissa Ward is live in Kabul. Clarissa, listen, across the country, you're seeing the Taliban advance. And now they're flexing their muscle inside the capital. Tell us what nerves are like there now about stability.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, this definitely hit people to the core because it's been relatively quiet for several months in Kabul, and even though people are used to these types of attacks and they've grown weary and inured do them, almost, this was a reminder from the Taliban that we can still hit you right in the city center, targeting your defense minister who, fortunately, was not injured or killed.

But, again, this is happening against the backdrop, Jim, of this massive onslaught that the Taliban has been presiding over for the last several months. They have taken control of countless districts, of border crossings. They are currently threatening half of the country's 34 provincial capitals.


Three of them are in really bad shape. The Taliban has essentially laid siege to them in Kandahar, in Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, where countless American soldiers died, also in Herat, near the border with Iran.

So there's a very real sense of fear and, frankly, a sense that things could have been avoided, that it didn't need to be this way. Because almost all the gains that he Taliban has made, or I should say vast majority of them, have been in the last few months since the U.S. began its withdrawal. And that's primarily because this country's security forces are hugely reliant on American air power in particular.

And so now there is a very real question that I don't think anyone knows the answer to, which is, can Afghan security forces turn this around? Is there a way to sort of stem the bleeding? For now, it doesn't appear immediately obvious that there is. And so, understandably, fears are high and anxiety particularly in the capital where people here feel that they have so much to lose should the Taliban try to take power again.

SCIUTTO: Now, the U.S. in recent days has been conducting limited airstrikes in support of Afghan security forces on the ground. Do those forces, do their commanders believe that U.S. help from outside the country is sufficient to back them up?

WARD: I think there's no question that it's a help, right? And they'll take anything that they can get in this given moment, particularly in Lashkar Gah in Helmand, which has basically been overrun by Taliban militants.

And now we heard from the Afghan military that they're going to launch some kind of a counteroffensive. They basically came out and urged any civilians who are living in houses that are in areas under Taliban control to immediately leave their homes. And one is assuming that that counteroffensive will largely take shape in terms of aerial bombardment.

But one of the other key issues to keep in mind, Jim, is that these U.S. air raids are now having to come from outside of Afghanistan. And one of the big strains that the Afghan forces are feeling right now is that they don't have the contractors or labor in order to perform the basic maintenance that keeps these planes in the sky. So their own Air Force is under a tremendous amount of pressure.

And even with those U.S. airstrikes coming in from outside, it might be enough to make a small difference in the short-term or to avert an outright catastrophe, but I don't think anyone sees this as a sustainable long-term strategy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, of course, it's a matter of time. If you're outside the country, it takes longer to get there.

We've heard reports of Al Qaeda fighters on the frontlines alongside Taliban fighters. How significant is that? What does it mean for a comeback, right, of Al Qaeda with the U.S. withdrawal?

WARD: Yes. I mean, this is obviously a hugely important issue. Because the basic premise that the U.S. withdrawal has made upon is that the U.S. is essentially okay with the idea that the Taliban would come back into power provided, on the one very specific condition, that Al Qaeda or any kind of terrorist group would no longer be allowed to have any kind of safe haven here. And the Taliban, for their part, have strenuously indicated that they would not allow that to happen.

But there are many reports of Al Qaeda, other fringe operators who are inside Afghanistan. Some people say that they don't have international ambitions, that they are largely just focused here on Afghanistan. But that's unlikely to be a lot of comfort for the Afghans, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question, as we come up to the 20th anniversary of 9/11 next month. Clarissa Ward in Kabul, thanks very much.

Well, Frontier Airlines is now reversing course, saying it supports flight attendants who took pretty remarkable action, you're seeing right there, to restrain an unruly passenger who was accused of groping and assaulting crew members. What did they use? They used duct tape.



SCIUTTO: Right now, the education secretary is in Baltimore to talk about getting back to school. He's promoting what the department is calling a roadmap for safe, in-person learning. But a lack of federal rules has now created a patchwork of policies across the country, sometimes contradictory policies.

Gwinnett County, the largest school district in Georgia, is starting today with a mask mandate, a reversal that has led to some protests, students in the entire state of Hawaii also wearing masks as they went back to class yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I'm sure my kids are as super excited to get like real school curriculum rather than mommy home curriculum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was good to talk to others not be by the computer all day.


SCIUTTO: Well, the governor of Arizona banned mask mandates, but schools in Phoenix are putting one in place anyway, triggering at least one lawsuit from a teacher. Just 30 minutes in Chandler, Arizona, masks were optional to start the school year and already at one high school, at least 32 students and staff have reported positive COVID tests. The district says the cases are random, not tied to any single event.

Now, this story we're following this morning, and you do want to see this video, it's alarming.


Frontiers Airline is now reversing itself, saying it supports the flight crew that did this. They duct taped a passenger to his seat after he attacked, groped, assaulted flight attendants, this is as it's happening.

The incident on the weekend, a flight from Philadelphia to Miami, came as flight attendants across the country are grappling with a surge in unruly, even violent passengers.

CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean joins me now. And, Pete, listen, I experienced this on a flight just this past week. Someone unruly, cops met the flight on the ground. Statistically, it's happening more often. Tell us first about why Frontier changed course on this incident.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It is a really big about- face here, Jim, because there was so much push back from airline unions after Frontier initially suspended these flight attendants. And flight attendants say this is one of the ugliest incidents they have seen yet.

Frontier Airlines had this happen on one of their flights over the weekend, a flight from Philadelphia to Miami. And Miami-Dade police say a passenger on one of these flights essentially got drunk, took his shirt off, groped two flight attendants and then a third flight attendant was assigned to watch him, and this happened. But it gets really interesting and spicy here because, after all this happened, this passenger was duct taped to his seat.

Now, this tape -- it's called restraint tape -- it is in the kit of flight attendants. It's to deal with flight emergencies. But Frontier came out and said that they were suspending this flight crew initially, but now it has made this big change, saying it supports the flight crew and the prosecution of this passenger.

22-year-old Maxwell Berry, he is now charged with three counts of battery according, to the Miami-Dade Police Department. And we have reached out to him for comment, although he's not reached back up to us. 3,715 unruly passengers just this year alone according to the FAA, 100 in the last week, but only 99 of those cases have initiated enforcement action by the FAA. So, flight attendants are really celebrating this because this passenger has been brought to justice so quickly and he's now facing charges.

SCIUTTO: I mean, if you look at that video, I mean, it's like straight-up assault. I mean, it's a fist fight on a plane. It had to be alarming.

Okay, another issue, another story, lots of cancelations, delays involving Spirit Airlines. What's going on?

MUNTEAN: It's a pretty big meltdown for Spirit Airlines. This the fourth day in a row where there have been a lot of issues with Spirit and a multitude of issues. They blame the weather, they blame operational issues, there are fuel shortages. Spirit Airlines is dealing with a lot with its I.T. system as well, and so it's really led to a lot of irate passengers.

Just today, according to FlightAware, more than 300 flights canceled, 40 percent of its schedule overall. So, we're waiting to hear from Spirit about when this will all stop.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that cannot be fun during the summer travel season. Pete Muntean, thanks very much.

MUNTEAN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, Simone Biles speaking out now about what's next for her and crucially if she's closing the door on competing the 2024 Olympics, only three years away.



SCIUTTO: Another day, another world record at the Olympics. And for the second day in a row, an athlete broke the world record but had to settle for silver, someone broke it even more.

Coy Wire is in Tokyo with this morning's Bleacher Report.

I mean, this 400-meter hurdles, I mean, the race on the finish was just electrifying.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you've got to think what are the chances, right, Jim? We had Tuesday men's final, an American broke the world record, had to settle for silver. And then today, in the women's 400-meter hurdles final, almost exact same scenario, one of the most exciting races of these games. American Sydney McLaughlin, the world record holder and Dalilah Muhammad, the defending Olympic champ, they ran the fastest two times ever in the event.

McLaughlin was trailing at that last hurdle, but look at her on the far side there, the 21-year-old turning on another year, shatters her own world record by nearly half a second, winning gold. Muhammad wins silver even though her time broke the old record as well. McLaughlin says that this is not a rivalry. She said they are like iron sharpening iron.

And in skateboarding Olympic debut in Tokyo, five of the nine medals awarded so far, Jim, have gone to Japan, including all three golds, 19-year-old Sakura Yosozumi winning gold in the women's park event earlier.

And while most people, like you and I, Jim, at any age, really, we'd struggle just to stand on a skateboard, Japan's 12-year-old Kokona Hiraki takes silver and Sky Brown becomes the youngest Olympic medalist ever at 13 years old. These Olympics have been new and fun indeed.

All right, Gymnast Simone Biles battling what she called the twisties here in Tokyo, saying she couldn't tell up from down at times, she withdrew from most of her events, but she did win that team silver. She did win that individual bronze on beam. And she says, you know what, she's realized that she is so much more than just her accomplishments in sport.


SIMONE BILES, SEVEN-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST: Realizing or recognizing that I would only be remembered for my medals in everything until one morning I woke up and I was like I'm more than my medals in gymnastics. I'm a human being. And I've done some courageous things outside this sport as well, and I'm not a quitter. And it took all that realizing to see that because I don't think if this situation didn't happen, I would have ever seen it that way. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That's remarkable to watch. I mean, just the poise there. Just very quickly, is she going to compete in 2024?


WIRE: Jim, she is not ruling it out, the 2024 Olympics. And, remember, they're just three years away from these games.