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New Questions About Trump Foundation; Obama Speaks at Shimon Peres Funeral. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 30, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: New questions this morning about the Trump Foundation. Has it been soliciting money illegally for a decade? A new report says yes. Hear why millions in donations may have been against the law.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Big questions about what led to a deadly train crash in New Jersey. Now, federal officials want to know why key safety improvements are taking decades to put in place.

KOSIK: And happening right now, dignitaries from around the world gathered to say good-bye to Shimon Peres. President Obama is set to speak in just a few minutes.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Friday, September 30th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And there are new revelations this morning about Donald Trump's charitable foundation. "The Washington Post", which is way out in front of this story, is reporting the Trump Foundation never obtained a required certificate from the state of New York to solicit money from the public. This despite the foundation claiming to raise nearly $1.7 million in donations just for veteran groups this year alone.

The key word in determining whether the Trump Foundation broke the law was "solicit", whether the foundation asked for money. For years, Trump was the foundation's only donor, but since 2008, he's not given the foundation a dime. Well, according to "The Post", other donors have given more $3.4 million.

The reporter that broke the story in the post told CNN's Anderson Cooper that by not registering, Trump may be avoiding a damaging audit.


DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): If he had to register every year, he would have an independent auditor come through the books of the foundation, look at all the (INAUDIBLE). And specifically ask a question, did Donald Trump's foundation spend money that benefited Donald Trump in a way that it wasn't supposed to? We found a few allegations that it seems to have happened over the years. If it's required to go through these regular audits, it might have found it earlier.


BERMAN: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declined to comment on whether he is investigating the foundation's lack of registration, but he's already launched a probe in the wake of the earlier "Washington Post" reports that the foundation made expenditures that benefitted Trump and his businesses. No comment yet from the Trump campaign.

KOSIK: Meantime, Donald Trump is rejecting the widespread notion that Hillary Clinton succeeded at the debate in luring Trump into attacking former Miss Universe Alicia Machado and other women.


REPORTER: Back in Monday's debate, going into that debate, a lot of people said that Hillary Clinton was going to try to bait you. And some people say maybe you took the bait. Would you be more disciplined maybe in the second debate?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think I took the bait. You know, every online poll have me winning the debate. So, every single one of them, many of them. So, look, I found it to be an amazing experience actually. We had 88 million people or something around that number and I just found it to be an amazing experience.

No, I think we did well. I think I did -- you know, I'm very happy with the way it turned out.


KOSIK: And Trump's response as you heard right there about polls declaring him the winner of the debate that claim has actually been widely discredited.

BERMAN: Well, they're not polls. They are online contests. They're surveys. I mean, robots can vote. Your supporters can vote as many times as they want.

Polls are the like ones that CNN and other news organizations did, where you call people to get a response.

So, in that same interview with New Hampshire 1, Donald Trump concedes if he brings up Bill Clinton's infidelities in the next debate, his own marital history could be on the table.


REPORTER: Do you think, maybe, your past marital history is also fair game?

TRUMP: I guess. I mean, they can do. But it's a lot different than his, that I can tell you. I mean, we have a situation where we have a president who was a disaster and he was ultimately impeached over it in a sense for lying. So, we'll see whether or not we discuss it. REPORTER: You're not worried about your past history at all?

TRUMP: No, not at all. I have a very good history.


KOSIK: And in the wake of Trump's widely panned performance on Monday, some of his advisers are considering putting Chris Christie in charge of debate prep. A source familiar with the discussion says the New Jersey governor is one of the few people in Trump's inner circle who was always straight with him. The source says Christie was, quote, "brutally honest" with Trump about his shortcomings in the first debate. Christie meantime telling CNN that he's not been asked to do anything new.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, "USA Today" is taking sides in the presidential race for the first time ever. It is un-endorsing Donald Trump, calling him reckless, erratic and unfit for the presidency.

Here's a quote, "Our bottom line advice for voters is this. Stay true to your convictions. That might mean a vote for Clinton, the most plausible alternative to keep Trump out of the White House. Or it might mean a third-party candidate, or a write-in. Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump."

Now, the Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence has an opposing column in the same issue of "USA Today."

[04:05:04] He calls his running mate a bold leader who speaks honestly and frankly, about the challenges the country faces.

KOSIK: The road to the White House may just go through Florida in November and Hillary Clinton heads there today. The state is up for grabs, according to most polls. But Donald Trump is not the only person blocking Clinton's path to victory.

We get more now from CNN's senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John and Alison, Hillary Clinton campaigning in make or break Florida. The final battleground stop for a week-long campaign efforts. She is trying to seize on that momentum from her first presidential debate on Monday.

One of the reasons is early voting is under way right now. It started Thursday in Iowa. She traveled there to make the case to voters to get behind her candidacy right now.

But one man in the way of her is not Donald Trump, it is Gary Johnson. She was asked about the threat of these third-party candidates aboard her campaign plane.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think either Donald Trump or I will be the president of the United States. So people have to look carefully in making their decision about who to vote for because it will be either him or me, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure it's me.

ZELENY: But inside the Clinton campaign, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, are no laughing matter, particularly among millennial voters. She needs to win more of them to close the gap with Donald Trump in the final month of this campaign.

Her aides are watching them carefully. They believe that their numbers will continue to fall as more tension is shined on Clinton and Trump in the next debates. If it doesn't, they may have to act more aggressively to push these third candidates or try to out of the way -- John and Alison.


BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Jeff Zeleny for that.

So, it turns our Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on one thing, the world leader they see they most admire, at least right now, is Angela Merkel, sort of. Both candidates were asked the question that stumped Gary Johnson this week. Clinton sort of got a jab in against Johnson before Merkel, and Trump's endorsement really was not all that full-throated.


REPORTER: Who is your favorite world leader?

CLINTON: Let me think. No.


I like a lot of the world leaders. One of my favorites is Angela Merkel because I think she has been an extraordinary strong leader during difficult times in Europe.

TRUMP: Well, I think Merkel is really great world leader, but I was very disappointed when she moved with the whole thing on immigration. I think it's a big problem.


BERMAN: That praise of Merkel from Donald Trump there is radically new. I mean, he has been vicious against her because of her stances on immigration in Europe. So, him praising Merkel --

KOSIK: It was like a backhanded compliment. She is the one I admire, but I'm not happy with how she handled.

BERMAN: The fact he said anything nice is a flip flop for Donald Trump there.

So, Gary Johnson, of course, who was asked this question a day ago, who's the foreign leader, and couldn't come up with an answer. He went on Twitter and said it s been almost 24 hours and I still can't come up to a foreign leader I look up to, what he's trying to suggest there is that it turns out that he doesn't really respect the leaders around the world, when in fact, he could not think of one when he was asked the question the other day.

KOSIK: Trying to save face on Twitter, I think.

BERMAN: A little bit.

KOSIK: All right. Several members of Congress telling Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, he is running a criminal enterprise and should be fired or even put in jail. The banker testified before the House Financial Services Committee yesterday, ten days after being grilled by the Senate Banking Committee over the fake account scandal. House members cut him off several times and were frustrated with his inability to answer some specific questions.

A Massachusetts congressman says Wells Fargo reminds him of another infamous company.


REP. MICHAEL CAPUANO (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Who cares? We'll pretend to be sorry, we'll fire some workers and we'll get through this. You know where I heard that before? The guys who ran Enron.


KOSIK: Another lawmaker says Wells Fargo should be broken up because it's, quote, "too big to manage".

And interestingly enough, the Consumer -- CFPB was put in place as a regulator to watch banks just for this purpose. A lot of controversy whether that regulator that was put in after the financial crisis was really doing its job because the "L.A. Times" put out a story at Wells Fargo and now regulators are kind of acting on it now.

BERMAN: Interesting.

All right. Federal officials looking for answers after the deadly train crash in New Jersey. Could this have been prevented with safety improvements? Safety improvements that were not made. We have an update, next.


[04:13:49] BERMAN: We're going to go to Israel right now. We have been watching the funeral of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres is under way at Mount Herzl, the Israeli national cemetery.

President Obama is due to speak in just a moment. You can see right there, I believe that's the son of Shimon Peres greeting guests there who have seated and watch.

President Clinton spoke earlier. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke earlier. Amos Oz, a famed Israeli writer spoke just a short time ago and called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Something Shimon Peres worked for so long to achieve.

You see President Obama who arrived in Israel a short time ago. He will speak now.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Zvia, Yoni, Chemi and generations of the Peres family; President Rivlin; Prime Minister Netanyahu; members of the Israeli government and the Knesset; heads of state and the government and guests from around the world, including President Abbas, whose presence here is a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace.

[04:15:20] to the people of Israel: I could not be more honored to be in Jerusalem to say farewell to my friend Shimon Peres, who showed us that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea.

A free life, in a homeland regained. A secure life, in a nation that can defend itself, by itself. A full life, in friendship with nations who can be counted on as allies, always. A bountiful life, driven by simple pleasures of family and by big dreams.

This was Shimon Peres's life. This is the state of Israel. This is the story of the Jewish people over the last century, and it was made possible by a founding generation that counts Shimon as one of its own.

Shimon once said, "The message of the Jewish people to mankind is that faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity." For Shimon, that moral vision was rooted in an honest reckoning of the world as it is. Born in the shtetl, he said he felt, "surrounded by a sea of thick and threatening forests."

When his family got the chance to go to Palestine, his beloved grandfather's parting words were simple: "Shimon, stay a Jew."

Propelled with that faith, he found his home. He found his purpose. He found his life's work. But he was still a teenager when his grandfather was burned alive by the Nazis in the town where Shimon was born. The synagogue in which he prayed became an inferno. The railroad tracks that had carried him toward the Promised Land also delivered so many of his people to death camps.

And so from an early age, Shimon bore witness to the cruelty that human beings could inflict on each other, the ways that one group of people could dehumanize another; the particular madness of anti- Semitism, which has run like a stain through history. That understanding of man's ever-present sinfulness would steel him against hardship and make him vigilant against threats to Jewry around the world.

But that understanding would never harden his heart. It would never extinguish his faith. Instead, it broadened his moral imagination, and gave him the capacity to see all people as deserving of dignity and respect. It helped him see not just the world as it is, but the world as it should be. What Shimon did to shape the story of Israel is well-chronicled. Starting on the kibbutz he founded with his love Sonya, he began the work of building a model community. Ben Gurion called him to serve the Haganah at headquarters to make sure that the Jewish people had the armaments and the organization to secure their freedom.

[04:20:11] After independence, surrounded by enemies who denied Israel's existence and sought to drive it into the sea, the child who had wanted to be a "poet of stars" became a man who built Israel's defense industry, who laid the foundation for the formidable armed forces that won Israel's wars. His skill secured Israel's strategic position. His boldness sent Israeli commandos to Entebbe, and rescued Jews from Ethiopia. His statesmanship built an unbreakable bond with the United States of America and so many other countries.

His contributions didn't end there. Shimon also showed what people can do when they harness reason and science to a common cause. He understood that a country without many natural resources could more than make up for it with the talents of its people. He made hard choices to roll back inflation and climb up from a terrible economic crisis. He championed the promise of science and technology to make the desert bloom, and turned this tiny country into a central hub of the digital age, making life better not just for people here, but for people around the world.

Indeed, Shimon's contribution to this nation is so fundamental, so pervasive, that perhaps sometimes they can be overlooked. For a younger generation, Shimon was probably remembered more for a peace process that never reached its endpoint. They would listen to critics on the left who might argue that Shimon did not fully acknowledge the failings of his nation, or perhaps more numerous critics on the right who argued that he refused to see the true wickedness of the world, and called him naive.

But whatever he shared with his family or his closest friends, to the world he brushed off the critics. And I know from my conversations with him that his pursuit of peace was never naive. Every Yom HaShoah, he read the names of the family that he lost. As a young man, he had fed his village by working in the fields during the day, but then defending it by carrying a rifle at night.

He understood, in this war-torn region, where too often Arab youth are taught to hate Israel from an early age -- he understood just how hard peace would be. I'm sure he was alternatively angry and bemused to hear the same critics, who called him hopelessly naive, depend on the defense architecture that he himself had helped to build.

I don't believe he was naive. But he understood from hard-earned experience that true security comes through making peace with your neighbors. "We won them all," he said of Israel's wars. "But we did not win the greatest victory that we aspired to: release from the need to win victories."

And just as he understood the practical necessity of peace, Shimon believed that Israel's exceptionalism was rooted not only in fidelity to the Jewish people, but to the moral and ethical vision, the precepts of his Jewish faith.

[04:25:14] "The Jewish people weren't born to rule another people," he would say. "From the very first day, we are against slaves and masters."

Out of the hardships of the Diaspora, he found room in his heart for others who suffered. He came to hate prejudice with the passion of one who knows how it feels to be its target. Even in the face of terrorist attacks, even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews, and must therefore be equal in self-determination. Because of his sense of justice, his analysis of Israel's security, his understanding of Israel's meaning, he believed that the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians, too, had a state of their own.

Of course, we gather here in the knowledge that Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled. The region is going through a chaotic time. Threats are ever present.

And yet, he did not stop dreaming, and he did not stop working. By the time that I came to work with Shimon, he was in the twilight of his years -- although he might not admit it. I would be the 10th U.S. president since John F. Kennedy to sit down with Shimon; the 10th to fall prey to his charms.

I think of him sitting in the Oval Office, this final member of Israel's founding generation, under the portrait of George Washington, telling me stories from the past, but more often talking with enthusiasm of the present -- his most recent lecture, his next project, his plans for the future, the wonders of his grandchildren.

In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I've had the honor to meet, men like Nelson Mandela; women like Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, leaders who have seen so much, whose lives span such momentous epochs, that they find no need to posture or traffic in what's popular in the moment; people who speak with depth and knowledge, not in sound bites. They find no interest in polls or fads.

And like these leaders, Shimon could be true to his convictions even if they cut against the grain of current opinion. He knew, better than the cynic, that if you look out over the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear but with hope. I'm sure that's why he was so excited about technology -- because for him, it symbolized the march of human progress. And it's why he loved so much to talk about young people -- because he saw young people unburdened by the prejudices of the past. It's why he believed in miracles -- because in Israel, he saw a miracle come true.

As Americans and Israelis, we often talk about the unbreakable bonds between our nations. And, yes, these bonds encompass common interests -- vital cooperation that makes both our nations more secure.