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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump's Former Accountant Talks Taxes; Pence Details New Syria Policy at Debate Not Mentioned by Trump; Bill Clinton: Obamacare "Craziest Thing in the World". Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 5, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:30:24] RUDY GIULIANI, (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: He knows how to operate the tax code.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: There's no one who has shown more genius in their way to maneuver around the tax code.

DONALD TRUMP, (R), REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: I have brilliantly used those laws.

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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: "Smart, genius, brilliant," that's how Donald Trump and his surrogates have described his use of the tax code in order to potentially -- "The New York Times" suggests -- potentially avoid paying federal income taxes for two decades.

Now, last night, Donald Trump's son, Eric, denied that he paid no taxes. Listen.

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DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Has he paid federal income taxes over the last 18 years, yes or no?

ERIC TRUMP, SON OF DONALD TRUMP: Of course. Yes. Absolutely. My father pays a tremendous amount of tax.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: So if we ever see your father's income taxes, it will show that he has paid federal income taxes?

ERIC TRUMP: There's no question about it. We pay tremendous taxes as --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Will we see it?

ERIC TRUMP: Listen, when the audit is over, my father will release it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Eric Trump, very definitive right there.

Joining us now, though, is Donald Trump's former accountant, Jack Mitnick, who oversaw Donald Trump's tax filings in the mid 1990s.

Mr. Mitnick, thank you for joining us.

BOLDUAN: In speaking out, you have said that Donald Trump -- that you worked with Donald Trump until 1996, and from what you see, you believe that the documents that "The New York Times" received, that they are legitimate. When you look at kind of the facts of that filing, basically, $916 million net operating loss, in your experience, was that unusual? Did you come across that very often?

JACK MITNICK, CPA, ATTORNEY & DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER TAX ADVISOR: No.

BOLDUAN: Which, it's not unusual or you didn't come across that very often?

MITNICK: You don't come across it very often.

BERMAN: Now, you say it is unusual. There's nothing inherently illegal about it, though. It is something that you can do on the tax code, correct?

MITNICK: Definitely. With those returns, they were prepared in accordance with the law and the regulations.

BERMAN: Let me ask you quickly, you say it's not unusual and you have 30 years of experience as an accountant, I know you won't get into hyper specifics on Donald Trump's 916 million loss, you say it's unusual. Was it the type of thing you saw in other places and other times for Donald Trump?

MITNICK: I can't answer that.

BOLDUAN: You can't answer that because, are you legally bound to not or get involved in the fight?

MITNICK: I'm bound by the codes of ethics of two professions. I'm a CPA and an attorney.

BOLDUAN: Well, there is nothing legally wrong that you guys have just established. There's nothing illegal about it. Is there something wrong with -- if he would claim that amount of loss and not pay taxes -- claim that loss and apply that to not paying federal income tax going forward, is there anything wrong with that?

MITNICK: Not at all. It's in accordance with the law.

BERMAN: So Donald Trump said he did it brilliantly, he handled the tax code brilliantly. He was called by Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie smart and a genius. Was that your experience in working with him, with his knowledge of the tax code? Was he brilliant in the way he worked the tax code, smart and a genius?

MITNICK: No. Those returns were entirely created by us.

BOLDUAN: Created -- so what level of involvement did he have?

MITNICK: Truthfully, zero.

BERMAN: Virtually zero. So the idea he says that he knows how to work the tax code, did you see any -- did you see any example or have any reason to believe that he does know how to work or game the tax code as much as he says he does?

MITNICK: Not when I dealt with him.

BOLDUAN: Have you heard from the campaign since this report has come out? Since your name was out there, have you heard from the campaign in the last 48 hours?

MITNICK: No.

BERMAN: So, Mr. Mitnick, you happen to be living in a key swing state, the state of Florida right now. I'm sure you are watching this campaign as closely as everyone else. What do you make of candidate Donald Trump? Will you consider voting for him?

MITNICK: That's confidential. I won't answer that.

BERMAN: What do you make of being in the middle of this story right now, since this "New York Times" story was published Saturday night with your name in it? You talked to "Inside Edition" and I'm sure your phone has been ringing off the hook. Is this something you ever anticipated?

MITNICK: I expected that to happen once they published the interview.

BOLDUAN: All right. Mr. Mitnick, thanks for your time. We appreciate it very much.

MITNICK: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: All right.

BERMAN: A man of few words, but who knows his numbers, apparently.

BOLDUAN: That's true.

[11:35:13] BERMAN: All right, "You whipped out that Mexican thing again," that's a direct quote from Governor Mike Pence from the debate stage last night. Why did he say that and why won't Democrats let it go? Details ahead.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, you are looking at live pictures at an event in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where Mike Pence will be speaking. Mike Pence last night seemed to contradict his running mate on a very big issue, what to do about the Syrian civil war. We will explore that coming up, as we wait here for Mike Pence for the first time since the big debate.

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[11:40:05] BOLDUAN: At last night's debate, Governor Mike Pence appeared to lay out some detail on policy towards Syria, a bit surprising, maybe because we haven't heard much detailed policy coming from Donald Trump on that. Pence also seemed to go further on military action that he would support than Trump, and then some. Take a listen.

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PENCE: The provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. And if Russia chooses to be involved and continue, I should say to be involved, in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo.

I truly do believe that what America ought to do right now is immediately establish safe zones so that families and vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas, work with our Arab partners, real-time, right now, to make that happen.

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BERMAN: We are joined by CNN's senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, who has done significant reporting in and around Syria.

Clarissa, thanks for being with us.

We just heard Mike Pence say that he thinks that the United States military needs to be prepared to use military force to strike targets of the Assad regime. That is something I do not believe I have ever heard Donald Trump say and it is a fairly significant policy pronouncement.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. I think there are two issues here, John. The first issue is that this was seemingly the only thing that the vice presidential candidates agreed upon, both of them arguing for safe zones to protect civilians in northern Syria where they are currently under relentless bombardment. For both candidates to come out and propose that means it's a pretty damning indictment of President Obama's current Syria policy.

Now, Pence went one step further and said it's not just a question of creating safe zones but we also need to look at returning Russian force with U.S. military force. And this is the moment where he diverged from Donald Trump, because we have heard Donald Trump, back in 2015, talking about creating what he called big beautiful safe zones where refugees and internally displaced people inside Syria could go and take refuge, which would then ease the effects of the refugee crisis that's being felt across the Middle East and, indeed, in Europe. So this was a real moment where we saw him move away from the Trump playbook. We also saw him really move away from the Trump playbook when he was

talking about Russian President Vladimir Putin. We have heard Donald Trump many times talking about what a great leader his is, what great popularity ratings he has, how effective he is. You heard Pence here calling him a "bullying little man." And I think what you are seeing essentially is that Pence is really given the voice of a much more standard GOP position with regard to Syria and with regard, of course, to President Putin and the U.S.'s military handling.

But the bottom line that was really interesting is that both candidates, Democrat and Republican, came out saying more needs to be done in Syria. It will be interesting to see on Sunday whether we hear Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump go into any more detail about what a more robust Syria policy would look like because, so far, we haven't heard much about the tails.

BOLDUAN: It's -- one thing is very clear. Arab partners around the world are watching and listening to these candidates and what they say as their prescriptions to how they would be different, especially with regard to Syria, if they win. What you heard from Mike Pence last night, if that would be the policy of the Trump campaign, how is that likely to be received around the world?

WARD: By people who are allied with the Syrian opposition, so the gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, most Sunni Muslim countries would be delighted. They feel very strongly that U.S. leadership has been tragically absent in the Syria conflict. Of course, people supporting the regime of Bashar al Assad, whether it's Russia or Iran, would see this as a very dangerous escalation in this conflict -- Kate?

BERMAN: Clarissa Ward, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Clarissa.

WARD: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, one line from last night that people keep talking about -- there are a lot of them -- including this, "You have whipped out that Mexican thing again." What was Mike Pence talking about? And why Democrats don't want to let it go, ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, Bill Clinton in some hot water after calling Obamacare the "craziest thing in the world." Now he's doing a little bit of a walk-back or a dance-back or sprint-back. That's coming up.

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[11:48:39] BOLDUAN: Despite Tim Kaine's best efforts, Governor Mike Pence was cool as a cucumber for most of last night's debate. That's what a lot of observers saw. But there was one moment where Tim Kaine appeared to get under Pence's skin, and it came near the end of the debate after Senator Kaine, for about the fourth time, highlighted Donald Trump's past comments about Mexican immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TIM KAINE, (D), VIRGINIA & VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Donald Trump says women should be punished or Mexicans rapists or criminals --

PENCE: I'm telling you --

KAINE: -- or John McCain's not a hero, he is showing you what he is.

MIKE PENCE, (R), INDIANA GOVERNOR & VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator, you've whipped out that Mexican thing again.

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BERMAN: Here with us now, CNN political commentator, Angela Rye, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus; and Steve Cortes, a Trump surrogate and a member of Trump's National Hispanic Advisory Council.

Steve, what is that Mexican thing?

STEVE CORTES, TRUMP SURROGATE & MEMBER, DONALD TRUMP'S NATIONAL HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL: The Mexican thing is this, that the left and our opponents in this race continue to try to paint Donald Trump as a racist. And the reason they are doing that I think is two-fold. Number one, the reason they are doing that is they don't want to defend the status quo, and they are the candidacy of the status quo. Number two, when you are bankrupt and don't have ideas for growth and security, what do you do? This has been typical of the Democratic playbook. They go back to name calling, smearing and they call us racists. This didn't begin with Donald Trump. It's happened every four years of my lifetime, and it's unfair, unfortunate, but the American people can see past it.

[11:50:03] BERMAN: Did Donald Trump say, when he announced he was running for president last June, that Mexico is sending us rapist?

CORTES: That's some people that are illegally crossing clearly are. And that's indisputable. We know, among illegal aliens, there are some very dangerous people we're not deporting, particularly in sanctuary cities. We know that has horrible consequences for people like Katie Steinle, who was murdered in cold blood for simply walking along the bay with her father. So there are really dangerous people. We love immigration and we know the vast majority of immigrants, particularly legal immigrants, are not a danger. Quite the opposite, they are a treasure to the country.

BOLDUAN: Right.

CORTES: But there are dangerous illegal immigrants who need to be deported yesterday. And Donald Trump will make sure that happens, day one, of his presidency.

BOLDUAN: Angela, your take, your read on this? CNN commentator, Republican strategist, Ana Navarro, she said she viewed it, that Tim Kaine was (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) -- Mike Pence (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). Meaning he stuck his foot in his mouth. Is that it, that line, or do you take it differently?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he gave us a read on his heart. We can blame the Democratic Party for calling out Trump's bigotry and racism and the fact they think implicit bias is a joke. We also heard that from Mike Pence last night.

But here's the reality. There is racism in this country. That Mexican thing is a horribly dismissive way to deal with a whole swathe of American culture, of our folks, of our people. I think it's horrible. It's not only that he called Mexicans drug dealers and rapists, he also questioned whether or not a judge of Mexican heritage could be impartial in his case because he is, in fact, Mexican. All of that is highly problematic. And when you start to peel back this onion, the fact is this racism, this xenophobia, this bigotry isn't just isolated to Donald Trump. You heard that from the vice presidential candidate as well last night.

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RYE: And the other guy who came on-air saying, well, if we keep this going, we'll have taco trucks on every corner. Guess what, Kate and John, deal me in. I will take a chicken taco, please.

(LAUGHTER)

CORTES: Angela, I couldn't agree more. That sounds like heaven for me.

RYE: I hope you would deal with the more serious aspects of what I said and recognize what your candidate said.

CORTES: But -- of course. Listen, what does not sound like heaven at all is the reality that most people of color have to live in, in this country. One-third of American children live in poverty. That is a tragedy.

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RYE: Do you know the figure for white kids?

CORTES: I believe it's 15 percent? About half that. No, it's 10 percent.

RYE: No, I think your figures are slightly off. The real issue is why don't you all --

(CROSSTALK)

CORTES: Not off. One-third of minority children live in poverty. It's a tragedy. And it was --

RYE: I was talking about black kids.

CORTES: -- it is largely, because of policy in this country.

(CROSSTALK) CORTES: Because far too many people of color live in neighborhoods where there's not enough economic opportunity because the expansion is so sluggish. On top of that, they go to failing public schools because the Democratic Party cares --

(CROSSTALK)

CORTES: -- a lot more about teachers unions than they do about really educating children.

RYE: So none of that is true. None of that is true. What you all --

(CROSSTALK)

CORTES: And what you're doing is telling people of color, you have been exploited by the Democratic Party.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: No. They have been exploited by racism.

CORTES: They only care about your votes.

RYE: Racism is a problem. It's not Democratic policy, sir. That's just not true. And I think that you all can --

(CROSSTALK)

CORTES: We can give you a path forward.

BERMAN: Hang on, guys.

RYE: You are continuing to put this at the feet of the Democratic Party, instead of acknowledging, again, that institutional racism exists, right, that systemic bias and implicit bias exists, that's the real problem. That's at the root of what this country was founded upon -- slavery -- the fact that is was founded upon taking land from people that did not belong to them, that is racism. Until we deal with the very foundation of how this country was established, you can continue to blame --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: -- the Republican or the Democratic Party or everybody in between.

BOLDUAN: Steve, you guys are both kind of talking about policy a little bit. But let's talk about one piece of policy I think that is important to bring up now.

Angela, the explainer in chief, as Barack Obama deemed him, Bill Clinton on the trail campaigning. He had this to say about President Obama's signature legislative achievement, Obamacare, he called it the "craziest thing in the world." That was on Monday. Tuesday, he seemed to try to clean it up and he said that Obama did a whole world of good, but he isn't really backing down from the point of what he said that it was the craziest thing is the world. What does this do to the conversation?

RYE: It definitely takes us in another direction, just like this segment, Kate. I can't tell you that I agree with Bill Clinton. I can tell you, personally, for me, my health care is a lot better. My premiums have gone down. So I don't know what Bill Clinton is talking about.

But listen, we know whenever he has the opportunity to go out on the stump you know it's hit other miss, he's going to be really good or he's going to be a real distraction. Unfortunately, for us, he was a real destruction.

BERMAN: The White House verified they thought it was a distraction.

Steve, I want to rapid fire a couple of other points that are interesting. Bill Weld, the number two candidate on the Libertarian ticket, did an interview with "The Boston Globe," where he essentially said he'll spend the rest of the campaign trying to stop Trump. What do you make of that?

[11:55:04] CORTES: What I make of that, that the political class -- Bill Weld is part of it. The political class is going apoplectic because they can't believe how well the Trump campaign is doing and they know that we're running, in many ways, not against just Democrats but against Washington, D.C., and the rigged crony capitalist system which is terrible for security and prosperity. I think a lot of politicians on both sides of the aisle, frankly, are very dismayed and scared. And by the way, they should be. Donald Trump is going there, not to join their K Street cabal, but as a representative of the American people to get real economic growth going again and real sensible national security.

BERMAN: Steve, Angela, great to have you with us. Thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

RYE: Thank you.

CORTES: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, guys. Thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: We do have some breaking news now right now. A brand new update on Hurricane Matthew and its path. The deadly storm has shifted to the left. That means shifted closer to Florida. We're waiting on remarks from President Obama. He is meeting with emergency officials. We'll have that right after the break.

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