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President Under Scrutiny For Visiting Trump Properties; Ethics Concerns in the Trump Administration; Office Who Killed Bride-To-Be Refusing To Talk; Officer Kills Bride-To-Be After She Called 911; House Dems Call For Kobach's Removal From Voter Fraud Panel; Voter Fraud Commission Holds First Meeting Today; Interview with Kris Kobach. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired July 19, 2017 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:31:55] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The law is not the only standard for what is right and wrong by our leaders. Ethics matter, transparency, how things are done, disclosure, removal of conflicts, addressing of conflicts. All of these things are now circling around the Russia investigation. And frankly, a lot of questions about this presidency and how business of state is conducted.
One of the men who was concerned about disclosure from the beginning has just left the White House. He is the former director of the U.S Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub. And he is leaving now to go on the outside and work for change on the inside of government. Walter, it's good to have you with us.
WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Thanks for having me. It's my first morning as a private citizen, so this is a new experience.
CUOMO: How does it feel?
SHAUB: You know it's a relief. It's been a hard eight months. We started working with the new administration right after the election, and pretty much immediately there's been a departure from the ethical norms that have really held our ethics program together for all these years.
CUOMO: Make the case. People will say these are all nonsense questions. Trump put out his SEC filing, it's all there, there's nothing to know, there are no conflicts. We hired a businessman. We knew that they -- the family would be making money while they're in office. There are no ethical considerations.
SHAUB: You know, there's a lot of ethical considerations, and there's a lot of conflicts of interest. Any time you have vast holdings while you're in a position of public trust. We've got to worry about whether you're making your decisions based on your policy aims or based on your personal financial interests.
In this case we can't know that because he's continuing to hold his financial interests despite what every president since the enactment of the ethics and government act in the 1970s did. And you see him giving free advertisements to his properties when he travels there. They double the membership fee down in Florida at his resort there.
And these things matter because we have to have able to have the American people trust that government decision-making is made on their behalf, not on our own behalf as government officials. And conflicts of interest have a real consequence. People get hurt when decisions are made.
Imagine you had a doctor is getting paid by the drug company to prescribe for you a drug when some other drug might have been better for you. The reality is these conflicts exist whether they're illegal or not, and presidents have known that. It also sets a tone problem, because you need to set a strong ethical tone from the top. Tone is everything in government ethics.
And what your appointees do is going to follow what you do. And we've seen a number of incidents that I've tried to highlight over the past several months where they're not following the traditional ethical tone in there and behaving in a way government officials always behave. And that has really hurt us along the way.
[07:35:04] CUOMO: And it drives your curiosity about all these Russia questions as well. Does it not that, why has the president postured so apparently sympathetic to Russian President Putin? Why would these Russian operative types seek out Donald Jr. for a meeting to talk about relieving -- at best reading of what that meeting was about?
Talking about adoption is not really about the Magnitsky Act, it's about the sanctions. It's about Putin's money being tied up by the U.S. government. Why would they seek out Trump's son and other Trump officials? These questions in your mind raise further questions about what we know about the holdings and the lack of transparency.
SHAUB: Well, and that's right. And you can add to that list foreign government rescheduling events to appear at his hotel instead of somewhere else or businesses and charities and politicians going there. It gives the appearance of profiting from the presidency. And as you point out, it leaves us not knowing what is going on, you know, what is behind these interactions with the Russians.
Now, some of his supporters have said, well, it's just too much to ask to have to give up certain financial interests and maybe be a little bit less rich. But, I've give you the example of Wilbur Ross, the deputy -- I mean, the secretary of the Department of Commerce.
This is an equally wealthy man who has given up a great deal of his holdings in order to come into government. And that happens across the top level of government.
I've spent almost a decade and a half, well, actually, I have spent a decade and a half delivering the bad news to cabinet officials and top presidential appointees that they have to sell off their assets, sometimes at a loss. And that that's the price of public service. And it hasn't been easy and it hasn't been fun to tell him that, but their basic patriotism prevails and they always do it. So I don't know why the president would be held to a lower standard than the people who work for him.
CUOMO: Well, the main reason winds up being that when you look at members of Congress at least, they have explicit guidelines they're supposed to follow in terms of their holdings, the executive does not. We've never really dealt with that in the modern era because we haven't had ridiculously wealthy people.
You know, and I say that as a positive. You know, you just haven't had a businessman like Trump in the presidency before. But in your experience, how would you judge the amount of transparency and disclosure by this administration?
SHAUB: Well, I mean, I'll give him credit that he filed his financial disclosure form voluntarily this year as past presidents have done. So at least that's one tradition that he stuck to.
I was horrified when I sat across the table from his attorney and she asked me if he could file it without signing it to certify that it's true. I pointed out to her that millions of financial disclosure reports have been filed in the past four decades and every one of them has been certified as true. And I think we could ask that of our president.
CUOMO: His lawyer asked you if he didn't have to sign it to certify it as true under what basis? Why did she want that?
SHAUB: Well, she said the filing is voluntary and he doesn't have to file it if he doesn't want to. And I said, well, that's fine. Either don't file it or file it and just release it unsigned. But if you want the OGE to certify it, which they wanted done, it's going to have to follow the normal rules.
CUOMO: Did he sign it?
SHAUB: Yes, he did sign it. But then you also have the tax forms that are not released.
Now, they're not currently required to be released, and that's something I'd like to see changed, because I think it's like going out and buying anything. People need to be able to evaluate what kind of conflicts of interest their presidential candidate has, and this story that people knew what they were getting.
Well, they didn't know what they were getting because he didn't release his tax forms the way every other presidential candidate did.
CUOMO: Let me ask you something. Had you any proof that the president is under audit and that's why he can't release his taxes?
SHAUB: Well, you know, OGE, the Office of Government Ethics where I work isn't involved in processing tax forms. So I don't have proof, but to be fair, I wouldn't expect to have proof because that's not really our bailiwick.
CUOMO: So, that was unusual to have the lawyer come forward to you and say he doesn't want to sign it for purposes of certainty, you know. That he's certifying that all of this is true. How did you process that? Have you ever been asked that before?
SHAUB: No. I --
CUOMO: By anybody at any level? I'll give you the paperwork but I don't want to sign it just in case it's not accurate?
SHAUB: No, it was truly the weirdest moment of my entire career. I practically had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake. I thought, this is the embodiment of exactly how far we've departed from the ethical norms that the American people are entitled to expect their leaders to live up to.
CUOMO: How long did it take for you to get the signed paperwork back?
[07:40:06] SHAUB: Well, again to be fair, it takes a while because we work with them behind the scenes to make sure the disclosure meets at least, apparently on its face, meets the very complex of disclosure requirements. So, I don't have any complaints about the back and forth over his report except for that.
CUOMO: Did you then take the time to scrutinize the filing?
SHAUB: Yes, we did. And the truth is we've dealt with a lot of wealthy people in government before. So my staff or my former staff is well experienced in that. Although I will say, we've been used to dealing with people who have hedge funds or other type of investments that you see wealthy people on Wall Street holding.
The world of real estate is an entirely new thing. And that there are all of these strange shell companies that don't hold anything, and you feel like you're sifting through a shell game. This was my first encounter with a large number of people -- not a large number of people but a few people from the real estate world.
And I got to be honest with you, I don't think we know a 100% for sure that we understand what all of the underlying holdings are at OGE. But it met the disclosure requirements and, you know, technically the conflict of interest laws don't apply even though presidents have always followed them. And so, we have to certify their report because it -- you know, it was good enough from a disclosure standpoint to meet the legal requirements, but I'm not sure that we fully understood everything in it.
CUOMO: Wow. What a proposition. That it meets the standard but you're not sure you know what you're talking about after certifying it.
CUOMO: Well, Mr. Shaub, now, you go beyond outside as private citizen. Let's see what change you can promote from that perspective. SHAUB: Sure.
CUOMO: Thank you for being with us. Good to have you on NEW DAY.
SHAUB: OK. Thanks.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, another story that we've been following. We are getting our first details from one of the police officers involved in that deadly shooting of a bride-to-be in Minnesota. Why was she shot after calling 911 for help? We have all the latest for you, next.
[07:45:41] CAMEROTA: New details this morning about what happened in the moments before a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed the bride-to-be after she called 911 for help. The officer who fired the fatal shot reportedly refuses to talk. But his partner is revealing critical details.
CNN's Scott McLean is live in Minneapolis with more. What have you learned, Scott?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning Alisyn. Three days after Justine Ruszczyk was shot and killed by a police, we are getting a better picture of what happened in that alleyway but it is far from a complete one. There was no body cam or video. There's no dash cam or video. And the officer who pulled the trigger is refusing to tell his side of the story but we do now have audio from the moment surrounding that deadly encounter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Female screaming behind the building.
MCLEAN (voice-over): This was the call the officers Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity were responding to Saturday night after Justine Ruszczyk called police to report a possible sexual in alley near her home. Police releasing details of what happened next.
Officer Harrity who was driving the squad car says they drove up to the alley with their car lights off. Then Officer Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad car. Immediately afterward, Ruszczyk approach the driver's side window. Harrity indicated that Officer Noor discharged his weapon from the passenger's seat, striking Ruszcyk through the open driver's side window.
HARRITY: Shots fired. Can we get EMS code 3 Washburn and 51st street? We got one down.
530, I'm starting CPR.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy 530. MCLEAN (voice-over): There is no video of the incident because the officers did not have their body cameras turned on. Moments after opening fire, the officers got out of the car and began life-saving efforts but were unable to save Ruszczyk's life. Officer Mohamed Noor who fired the fatal shoot declined to be interviewed by investigators.
NETSY HODGES, MINNEAPOLIS MAYOR: It's frustrating to have some of the picture but not all of it. We cannot compel Officer Noor to make a statement. I wish we could.
MCLEAN (voice-over): The deadly shooting coming just weeks after the acquittal of a Minneapolis officer in the shooting of Philando Castile.
MOHAMUD NOOR, SOMALI COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Will this end? When will this end? That's the question that many people asked me.
MCLEAN (voice-over): Outrage over this deadly shooting also growing overseas as friends gather to remember Ruszczyk, who also goes by the name Justine Damond. One Australian newspaper referring to the shooting as an American nightmare.
MACLCOM TURNBULL, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: How can a woman out in the street in her pajamas seeking assistance from the police be shot like that? It is a shocking killing.
MCLEAN: And there may be one other witness to this shooting, a younger guy in his bicycle who just happened to be passing by. Investigators obviously want to speak to him.
Now, that sexual assault that Justine Ruszczyk was reporting in the alleyway, police would only say the officers did canvass this neighborhood but didn't find anything. And as for the body camera policy of the Minneapolis Police Department, Chris and Alisyn, this is (INAUDIBLE) said last night that changes will be coming.
CUOMO: The idea of having body cameras and not insisting on being turned on is just absurd.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely, after the argument to whether have them, not to have them. They win that they're going to have them but then they don't turn them on.
There's still so many questions that's why that witness that Scott was just telling us about will be key, obviously, because they don't have dash cam. They don't have body cameras. The one officer is not speaking. So hopefully, there were witnesses that may be able to shed some light on this.
CUOMO: All right. So President Trump is supposedly taking aim at a top senator in his own party. Is the White House really recruiting someone to run against one of their own?
The man on your screen, Republican Senator Jeff Flake. Details, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[07:53:08] CUOMO: President Trump's Commission on Election Integrity is set to meet for the first time today. Four top Democrats are calling on the Commission's Vice Chairman Kris Kobach to step down.
They actually wrote a letter to the Vice President Mike Pence. He's overseeing the commission yesterday saying, "Mr. Kobach has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that widespread voter fraud exists and advertises his work on the commission to promote his own campaign for Governor of Kansas."
If true, that could be a violation of the statute.
"These actions undermine the integrity of the commission and raise significant concerns that the commission will be used as a tool for voter suppression."
Kris Kobach joins us now. It's good to have you on the show again, sir. What is your response to the criticism?
KRIS KOBACH, VICE CHAIR, THE PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMISSION ON ELECTION INTEGRITY: My response is it's ridiculous. First of all, they alleged that somehow I'm not qualified because I pointed out widespread voter fraud in my own state of Kansas.
We're litigating our proof of citizenship requirement when you register to vote. And we presented to a U.S. district court a 128 cases of non-citizens who've gotten on the voter roles. And we presented lots of other evidence or who have attempted to get on the voter roles.
And I'm simply saying that in my state, we have discovered a problem. But no commission has ever looked at it from a nationwide perspective. And so, the other thing they claim is that somehow a commission studying this issue results in voter suppression.
So to try to decipher that, I think they're saying that if a commission studies the problem in Washington, D.C., somebody out in California is going to decide not to vote on November that doesn't even make sense. And in their letter they don't even explain what is really a ludicrous argument.
CUOMO: They are -- they're making their case, of course, there's politics here. But I think that the general assertion is, that you are looking for a problem in the name of suppression, and they're targeting you because you've tangled on this issue before with the ACLU and frankly recently eventually lost.
[07:55:03] And you said more than that there were issues in your own state. You said I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton. There is no basis for that in fact.
KOBACH: Well, back -- that was back in January or so when the president had made a statement similar to that. And my point was that, as I explained, if you took the quote in context and you read what was said before and after that, I was pointing to a study from the 2008 election that showed that several million non-citizens actually voted in that election.
And I said it's conceivable if the same percentage in 2008 voted again today or in 2016 that you could have a similar result. So a similar --
CUOMO: The quote is not accurate? I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Clinton?
KOBACH: The point is that if you put it back in context and then I went on to said there was a study that showed and then I said if the same percentage of non-citizens in 2008 voted in 2016, then potentially, you could have that issue.
But let's make it clear. The commission is not set up to prove or disprove President Trump's claim. The commission is simply to put facts on the table. So if as the Democrat members of Congress who wrote that letter contend there is no voter fraud, then we will make their case for them because the commission will come up with nothing.
So, the idea that you should stop the commission from even looking at a problem because there's going to be something we don't want the American public to see, that's outrageous. Let's just put the facts on the table --
CUOMO: Well, why is it outrageous?
KOBACH: Because Chris, let's say that the facts come out and there are 1,000 cases of voter fraud --
CUOMO: Well, what facts are going to come out? I mean, you are getting criticized because the information you're asking for either was seen as being overreaching or according to experts, you couldn't find out whether or not there's a problem with the information you're asking for. You need other data to do a real analysis.
KOBACH: So, let's be specific, Chris. The information we asked for is the publicly available voter rolls. You can walk in off the street of New York and ask that in your state.
KOBACH: Any person watching can walk in to a county election office ask for this, it's publicly available. The reason you need that information is to do things like if someone comes before the commission and says a 100 people voted in this state, in this election year and we believe they were deceased at the time the ballots were cast.
We can look at the voter roles and say, well, those people weren't actually registered in that state at that time. So, your claim is false. Sir, you have to start. CUOMO: But those secretaries of state are already saying they know that. They've done it within their own states. And they don't need you to certify their findings.
KOBACH: As a secretary of state, I'm very familiar what other states have done. And most states have not actually done an in-depth investigation of voter fraud in their state. Part of the reason we have in Kansas is, as you mentioned, we are fighting the ACLU in multiple court cases to keep our proof of citizenship requirement in place.
CUOMO: Right. And that's what is fueling a concern, right? Is that, that's what you are and that's what you want is to change the requirements to voting to require people to show proof of citizenship, and that their concern --
KOBACH: At the time of registration.
CUOMO: -- you're using this commission to do to advance your agenda of what could be construed as voter suppression.
KOBACH: Well, you forgot to mention another thing, Chris, and that is it's a bipartisan commission. So, it's 6-5 Republican, Democrats --
CUOMO: But you don't have a Democrat vice chair alongside you. Should you?
KOBACH: The commission doesn't have two vice chairs.
CUOMO: Should it?
KOBACH: I only have one vote. It doesn't really matter. The total number is what matters --
CUOMO: But it would help to show that it's more bipartisan and it's not unusual to have two different party members at the top of the commission.
KOBACH: Put it this way, Chris. The most senior member on the commission is the longest serving secretary of state in America, Bill Gardner, a Democrat from New Hampshire.
The commission has got some of the most respected experts on this issue and on election administration. But the bottom line is, all we're doing is looking for facts.
We'll put those facts on the table. You can look at them, Chris, and say, you know what, that doesn't prove anything. That's not widespread voter fraud. And you can say the commission has made my case, Chris Cuomo, for me.
Someone else can look at the numbers and come to a different conclusion. But let's put the numbers before the American people for goodness sake. Why would we want to say, no, don't look at that, don't even study it? I mean, that's just ridiculous. Wouldn't you agree? CUOMO: I think data can be a tricky thing and people can use it to make different suggestions that is a function of what they want as much as what the numbers show. I think that's the concern, especially with the information you're asking for.
Again, it matters that experts who look at data analysis and voter registration efforts and are behind these studies that you quote -- and by the way, as we both know, the study that you're pointing to, the guys who own the data came out and said, this study is bogus for legal votes, that they should have not drawn these conclusions off my data.
So, the concern is you're not going to have the data to draw conclusions, except the one you want to draw which may feed your voter suppression efforts.
KOBACH: No. The -- so you make a good point. There are studies out there that do sampling. So that one study was based on interviewing voters, calling them on the phone and asking are you a U.S. citizen? Yes, no. Did you vote in the 2008 election? Yes or no.
Now, and then they sample, you know, a several thousand people and they draw a conclusion from a sample. You're right. Experts will always dispute whether that sample is good enough to draw conclusions.
This commission is going to be looking at real figures, real numbers, real voter roles, real cases, not just doing surveys. That's the big difference. Well, there's never been a nationwide commission to actually look at real --