CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript: Interview with Rep. Dan Kildee


Date: July 2, 2019


BLITZER: Lauren Fox up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Joining us now, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Democratic congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, the lawsuit accuses the Treasury Secretary, the IRS commissioner of what they call an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress. Explain your committee's argument in this suit.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, the argument is actually pretty simple. Section 6103 of the tax code said that the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee can ask for a tax return and it shall be delivered to the chairman.

It doesn't say unless it is the president; it doesn't say unless the president is uncomfortable with delivering that particular tax return.

The law is very clear. It is intended for a specific purpose: to allow the Congress to play its necessary, constitutionally-mandated role to provide oversight and to legislate based on the best information we can get.

So not only have they not complied with section 6103 but they willfully denied a legally issued subpoena that they should have answered. They are trying to create new law and say that the administration does not have to answer to anybody. And obviously we think that is wrong and we're not going to let it go.

BLITZER: Chairman Neal, your chairman of the committee, he filed this lawsuit now almost exactly three months after making the initial request. You've previously, Congressman, expressed concerns over the pace of this request. Realistically, what are the chances that the courts resolve this

before the 2020 election?

KILDEE: Well, that is entirely up to the courts now. I think the chairman has been very deliberate about this because he wants to get it right. He's been working directly with House counsel on this. This is unprecedented, largely because the president's actions are unprecedented.

As Lauren said, nearly 50 years of precedent, where presidents and candidates for president have released their returns, have been broken by President Trump and, in his case, if anyone should be more transparent or the American people should know more about his private interests, it is this president, who continues to maintain control over his -- what he considers the vast business interests.

So, look, we're not going to let this go. I think the chairman is handling it in the way that he should. We are now in court. And it is going to be up to the court to determine how quickly they move. I hope they move with some haste because this is a serious question.

BLITZER: Even if you do get access to the president's tax returns, there is no guarantee your committee will be able to share those tax returns publicly.

Isn't that right?

KILDEE: That is right. There is no guarantee that we would be able to or that we would have a purpose to do so. If, in fact, there is information that is clearly of a public interest, then the committee would take action to share some or a portion of the returns.

The most important thing for us is to get access to this information because we have some doubts as to whether or not the IRS, which is directed by the Treasury Department, is properly enforcing the tax laws on the president of the United States.

Or even if he is, as he says he is, under audit, we're trying to determine whether or not we need to codify what has been a long- standing practice within the IRS to audit presidential returns.

The only way we can really make that decision is to have that information in front of us. If that leads to a public interest, that the committee is persuaded can only be served by having some of that information released, then we'll make that judgment at that time.

BLITZER: We're also following the latest reporting on the awful conditions for so many migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. You saw those pictures of very dangerous overcrowding; your colleagues have visited these facilities. They describe horrific conditions in recent days.

What do you want Congress to do to address this awful situation?

KILDEE: Well, first of all, it is a daily human tragedy that is partly the creation of the president's own policies. One thing Congress --


KILDEE: -- should do is press and insist that the president reinstate the aid to the Northern Triangle, to try to prevent the conditions that are driving people to leave, to leave their homes, to flee violence.

The president made a terrible decision to walk away from that terrible tragedy. And so that tragedy is now coming to our border.

But I think Congress needs to go farther. I supported the most recent border supplemental, reluctantly, only because I know we have to get something done. I would have preferred the House version to have been implemented; that requires pretty significant transparency in terms of how this administration is using those dollars and much more accountability.

So I think Congress needs to continue to press for those provisions as we go forward as well.

BLITZER: The Northern Triangle -- El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. This comes in the wake of a very disturbing report by ProPublica, Congressman. They discovered a private Facebook group, where Border Patrol agents made extremely disturbing, very racist, sexist posts, mocking immigrants, mocking members of Congress.

Congressman Joe Kennedy, one of your colleagues, said, when they visited detention facilities yesterday -- and I'm quote quoting him now -- "CBP was very resistant to congressional oversight. They tried to restrict what we saw, take our phones, block photos and video.

"Atmosphere was contentious and uncooperative."

Is this a broader problem of the culture within the Customs and Border Protection agency?

KILDEE: I think it is an indication that they have a very serious problem of the culture within CPB. This is dangerous.

How are we supposed to expect these people to post these awful images and these awful comments on one day and then the next day take care of vulnerable children?

But look, no one can excuse the leadership at the very top. If those individuals are using that sort of language, racist, sexist, misogynistic images, one has to wonder whether it is the president of the United States and his own behavior, his own words, that has encouraged and fomented that kind of ugliness.

I think we have to point at the top. For those people to be able to get away with those things, I think they can point to the president of the United States and say, look, he seems to do the same thing, sometimes in softer terms certainly.

But I think the president has created an environment in this country that allows this sort of behavior to go unchecked. It is ugly and needs to stop.

BLITZER: Congressman Dan Kildee, thanks so much for joining us.

KILDEE: Thank you, Wolf.