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Interview With Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA); Bernie Sanders Releases Tax Returns; French President Vows to Rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 16, 2019 - 15:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Remarkably and thankfully, no deaths have been reported. At least one expert says efforts to rebuild could take 10 to 15 years.

And moments ago, French President Emmanuel Macron offered words of comfort to a nation in shock.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): There is a great deal to be rebuilt, and we will make the Cathedral of Notre Dame even more beautiful. I share your sorrow and I also share your hope.


BASH: CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is in Paris.

And, Nic, an investigation has been opened. A prosecutor says this is likely just an accident. But they don't have any idea yet, do they, exactly, or even generally what started this?


The working assumption seems to be, yes, an accident, that it started high up in the building, in the attic, possibly, in the area where renovation works were under way.

It is typical, experts say, that renovation-type work around such ancient timbers, 800 years old, incredibly dry, there is always the potential there that you can have an accident like this.

But, no, the investigators so far are working with caution. They need to ensure the structural security of the building, although we know that the walls and the facade remain standing and remain safe. How safe are they precisely for investigators to get into those high reaches, where the attic was that burned through, isn't clear.

So it is going to take a little more time, I think, before the investigators, the real experts who can begin to pinpoint precisely the nature and what caused it. That is going to -- that may take a little longer yet. BASH: Nic Robertson, thank you.

And as you were speaking, we're looking at live pictures of people walking through the streets of Paris, obviously incredibly emotional and, as the president said, he hoped, unifying for the country.

And some of the cathedral's treasures are on the way to the Louvre after they were stored overnight at the Hotel de Ville, which is across the river from Notre Dame.

But France's cultural minister tells CNN that the most precious items, including the Holy Crown, which is believed to be from the Crown of Thorns placed on the head of Jesus, are now being held under security at Paris City Hall.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here with a look, in-depth look, at some of those treasures -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dana, this really was a remarkable story of rescue above all else here.

Look, if you look up inside of this cathedral, you see a stone roof. You down from above, you would have seen a lead roof. So, what caused this extraordinary conflagration here? Nic mentioned it a minute ago there. He talked about the attic.

The attic, the roof of this was made from 13,000 trees, a forest that once covered an area as big as 39 football fields. That is what was burning and threatening all these treasures. And we still don't know exactly what has happened with some of them.

For example, there is a reliquary there which is believed to hold part of the original cross and one of the nails from the crucifixion. That is what believers believe about that. We're not sure what the status is with that so far. Many paintings and sculptures, we're not sure of some paintings dating back to the 1600s.

And, of course, we know the roof and spire are gone up there. We're just not sure how they will go about putting that back together again. But some of the things that we do know are safe now, yes, you mentioned the Crown of Thorns. This is the most holy relic kept at Notre Dame. That was spirited away as the flames rose around the area there.

Beyond that, we know that the organ survived. This dates back to medieval times. This is one of the most famous musical instruments in the world. It was working before the fire. It has survived the fire. There may be there may be water damage, not sure, but it has survived the fire.

We also know that the main bell -- there are many here, but this one that signaled the end of World War II and so many other events, it is in perfectly good shape. And we also know that the rose windows, which help draw -- there are three of them -- help draw about 13 million visitors a year to this cathedral, they have survived. Maybe they will need some repairs, but they have survived as well.

And, of course, the two main towers up front, the ones you see when you approach Notre Dame with their famous gargoyles, they are also still standing.

So, as I said, Dana, for all of our fears yesterday, this procession of people getting treasures out of there, and now assessing the damage, this really is a remarkable story, not merely of the fire, but of all that survived and can now be built upon -- Dana.

BASH: It sure is. Tom Foreman, thank you so much for bringing that story to us.

And this is the holiest week of the Catholic calendar. And my next guest says the fact that the Notre Dame survived yesterday's fire is nothing less than a Easter miracle.

I want to bring in Krupali Krusche, who is a historical preservation expert here in the U.S. at the University of Notre Dame, which is, of course, in South Bend, Indiana.


There is one image you say that really stood out to you. And it was this photo. We will show it on the screen for our viewers, one taken when firefighters entered the church. Tell us what you see there.

KRUPALI KRUSCHE, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME: Thank you, Dana Bash. Thank you for having me.

The photograph is very critical, because it was the first image taken as soon as the firefighters entered the building. And if you actually close in to see what is in the picture, if you look at center of the picture, it shows you the altar.

So, the roof the building was completely made of wood, as Nic was saying, but at the same time, right below it was a stone shell that protected the interior, quite long, even when the flames were going very high and strong, which we saw also yesterday.

What is interesting is, when the spire came down, it actually went through that vaulted space and entered the center of the cathedral. It fell right in front of the altar. So, if you see, there is this rubble that is right in front of the altar. The altar, surprisingly, is intact.

Now, watch closely at the picture. You will see there are candles on...


BASH: ... the picture back up.

Go ahead.

KRUSCHE: Yes. There are candles on the side of the altar itself. Do you see? They

have not melted. What is amazing is the amount of heat that was in that building. For nine hours, there were flames. There is so much heat, and still this is an Easter miracle. This is the part which is amazing.

The candles are all intact. There is no damage around that part. That is the miracle. Why wouldn't we be amazed at the fact that something this long and strong burning still allows the altar to be in place?

BASH: Boy, that is such a good point and such an astute detail of what went on there and of that photo, not to mention that the cross just kind of light and bright right in the middle of that altar there -- $700 million in donations already pledged to rebuild, do you think that is even a start?

And I want to you give me the answer as a preservationist, someone who knows what it takes to do this kind of thing.

KRUSCHE: Yes, it is a good start. But it is not going to be enough. There will be need of more.

The whole roof needs to be completely reconstructed from scratch. This is a gigantic complex. The cathedral, the scale of it, the size of it, the way in which it was originally built, reconstructing most of that is going to be a tough job.

The floor will be damaged, getting all that marble to be re-put, the ceiling, like I talked about when the spire came down, and, most importantly, the spire itself, made of stone and centrally having good construction in between. That needs a lot of effort and time.

Some of these are uniquely built and need specialized preservationists and sculptors to be coming in to doing the restoration work. So, yes, the money is very helpful and there is thanks to all the people that are contributing.

But this would be the more, the better. It is going to help the construction go faster, and a lot more team members can be involved. And, hopefully, in a few years from now, five to 10 years from now, you will see the cathedral back.

BASH: Let's talk about the trees, the trees that were used all those years ago, the centuries ago, to build the interior there that are now gone. Those are irreplaceable, obviously.


Something of this manner, 800 years of history, many of those treasures are going to be lost. And, yes, while we have found most of it to be intact, there are still going to be parts that are going to have limitations and damage.

The trees, for example, the way they were brought in, 13,000 trees, today, to get something of that scale... BASH: Yes.

KRUSCHE: ... size, it is not an easy task. Talk about sustainability.

But there are modern techniques and ways in which we can work around it, where you can build the roof, you can have the look of the roof, you can you could have the construction technique of the same type, but it will have some modern advantages to it.

BASH: Before I let you go, as a preservationist, what lessons should people who are in charge of edifices, historic monuments and other buildings around the world take from what we saw happen yesterday?

KRUSCHE: So, my biggest task, as a preservationist, as a researcher, is digital documentation of World Heritage Sites. I'm glad the Notre Dame Cathedral was 3-D-scanned. It was a crucial part of how the reconstruction process can now begin.


I would plead that there are more of these opportunities made available for monuments around the world. Another thing I would ask is, we have better ways in which we protect these Heritage Sites. As manmade natural threats affect the way these buildings are working, in the history of 700,000 years of history that we have around us, it would be important to protect them in a good way.

BASH: Yes. Well, that is an understatement.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around bringing 13,000 trees in to be used to construct Notre Dame without any of the modern technology that we have now, not even close.

Thank you so much. That was really fascinating. Learned a lot from that. Appreciate it.

KRUSCHE: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And up next: Bernie Sanders releasing his tax returns and defending his new millionaire status. We will compare the numbers with the other 2020 Democrats.

Plus, the White House says Congress just isn't smart enough to figure out President Trump's taxes. Well, I will be joined by a congressman who is an accountant, Brad Sherman, who begs to differ.

And Michelle Obama is getting some pushback for saying living in America with President Trump is like staying with a -- quote -- "divorced dad."



BASH: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders just did what he did not do in 2016, and that is, he released his tax returns, 10 years' worth of them, actually, after mounting pressure to do just that.

And it turns out the man who made his name demanding more from the 1 percent of top income earners is now super rich himself. And he called out -- was called out on that, rather, during a town hall on FOX.


QUESTION: Your marginal tax rate was 26 percent because of President Trump's tax cut.

So, why not say, I'm leading this revolution, I'm not going to take those?


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Come on. We're nearing -- I am -- I pay the taxes that I owe. And, by the way, why don't you get Donald Trump up here and ask him how much he pays in taxes.


QUESTION: Do you spend a lot of time vilifying millionaires...


SANDERS: No, I don't vilify. It is not vilifying to say that people save a whole lot of money, in some cases billions of dollars of wealth. They should pair their fair share of taxes.


BASH: Along with Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Beto O'Rourke also released their tax returns recently.

And to give us the biggest takeaway on all of this, I want to go straight to Jim Tankersley. He the tax and economics reporter for "The New York Times."

And, Jim, let's start with one of the things that I know jumped out at you, which is that none of the candidates are hurting for cash.

JIM TANKERSLEY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Oh, No. None of them are anywhere close to middle class. Right?

This is a group of candidates who are, compared to the median American earner, the typical American worker, way ahead. Bernie and Kamala Harris are both in the 1 percent. Beto O'Rourke is in the 2 percent. These are not middle-class people.

BASH: And we have seen wealthy candidates in the past, including President Trump, use, we think -- we don't know for sure because we don't have his taxes -- but, we believe, legal loopholes to get out of paying some taxes.

Where do Democrats fall in this category?

TANKERSLEY: Well, they are paying roughly what you would expect for people in their income brackets. They take deductions, but most of their income is from labor income or from book royalties or, in the case of Congressman O'Rourke, you're looking at people who -- you're looking at income that is coming in from some capital income.

But it is not a big business scheme, you might say, in terms of being able to shield money. So, we, again, don't know what the president paid. We don't know what his tax returns look like, but the question for the Democrats is more of, did you pay what you owed? And for almost all of them, it was yes, they did.

BASH: With Bernie Sanders, a lot of these candidates have written books and they have made money off of these books.

But it is I think especially interesting, ironic, pick your word, that Bernie Sanders became wealthier as a candidate running against wealthy Americans or at least to get wealthy Americans to pay their fair share. Now, he may just be doing just that, and it appears he certainly is, obviously, within the confines of the current tax code.

But it is not -- it's a pretty good, lucrative job, it turns out, to run for president.

TANKERSLEY: Yes, right. Yes.

Senator Sanders is not the first American to make a lot of money off of calling for a lot of policies that would restrict how much money people can make. It's counterintuitive, but it is a liberal populism that sells. It's a conservative populism that has sold in the past.

But for Senator Bernie Sanders, it definitely -- his campaign in 2016 yielded book income that has vaulted him up the income ladder. And I wouldn't be surprised if we see this from future candidates from this cycle going forward. It just turns out to be a really great way to get publicity to sell a book.

BASH: Jim Tankersley, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it.

And now let's turn to President Trump's taxes and the Democrats fight to see six years' worth of his personal and business returns. It's prompting the White House, the spokeswoman there, to question the competency and intelligence of Congress.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think Congress, particularly not this group of congress men and women, are smart enough to look through the thousand of pages that I would assume that President Trump's taxes will be.

My guess is, most of them don't do their own taxes. And I certainly don't trust them to look through the decades of success that the president has and determine anything.


He spilled out hundreds of pages in a financial disclosure form.


BASH: Now, Sarah Sanders' comments may come as a surprise to nearly one dozen members of Congress, because they are actually accountants. They are trained in doing just that, looking and making and preparing tax returns.

Three of those, you're looking on the screen, are Democrats. The rest are Republicans.

One of the Democrats is sitting right next to me, as you see. He is Brad Sherman.

And you were not only a CPA, but you also have a law degree. And you used to audit big business and government.

So, with that setup, let me ask you, are you smart enough to see the president's tax returns?

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): I'm surprised to see Sarah Sanders talking about intelligence. If she thought that was an important characteristic, she probably would have chosen another employer.

But, obviously, all of my fellow members of the CPA and Accountants Caucus could understand whatever documents are produced. And I think to not turn them over is -- is without defense. And attacking the intelligence of members of Congress seems to be the only thing that the president's spokesperson can do.

BASH: So, as somebody who is well-versed in preparing and looking at tax returns and, as I said, even being involved in audits, what do you want to see? What specifically are you looking for?

Why do you, as a member of Congress, want to see those returns?

SHERMAN: Well, the president has billed himself as very generous. We'd like to see what charitable contributions he's made.

We'd like to see whether he's using some questionable loopholes. He should pay what is owed and not what he says is owed, making use of arguments that could fall under an audit or would likely be rejected by a tax court.

It's one thing to pay less than you would pay if the law were different. It's another thing to stretch the law and make use of loopholes. So, we would want to see that as well.

BASH: So I'm sure you have seen, the president's lawyer sent a second letter to lawyers at the Treasury Department, which is, of course, the department that oversees the IRS, saying the IRS should deny the request. And the president's lawyer writes this: "Congress has no

constitutional authority to act like a junior varsity IRS, rerunning individual examinations or flyspecking the agency's calculations."

If the IRS commissioner does not hand over Trump's returns by April 23, which is what your fellow Democrats have demanded, what are you going to do?

SHERMAN: Certainly, we should get a writ of mandamus requiring the IRS to turn them over.

We should also...

BASH: Can you explain what that is in...

SHERMAN: That would be a court order telling the IRS to turn them over.

Likewise, we should get them from the accountants as well. But there are strong reasons why we should look at these. It's the only way to enforce the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and to make sure that the president isn't getting benefits in gifts of millions of dollars from foreign governments.

It's also the only way to check that the IRS is following its policy, which is to audit every president and every vice president, and do it in a thorough way. And the only entity that can really look over the IRS and make sure they're following their own policies is the Ways and Means Committee and the Finance Committee in the Senate.

BASH: I want to turn to what's going on in your caucus. You're a member of the House in your Democratic Caucus, and, specifically, the House speaker's recent comments about the more progressive faction in your caucus, including Andrea -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, who have been a target of President Trump.

Let's listen to the House speaker.


QUESTION: Two of these wings, AOC and her group on one side...

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): That's like five people.

QUESTION: No, it's the progressive group. It's more than five.

PELOSI: Oh, the progressive -- I'm a progressive yes.

However, I do reject socialism as an economic system. If people have that view, that's their view. That is not the view of the Democratic Party.


BASH: Is it like five people? Is that fair? Or -- you spend time, a lot of time in the caucus meetings. SHERMAN: Well, we have a large Progressive Caucus.

There are three new members of Congress who are getting a lot of publicity. In part, that's because Donald Trump has chosen to attack them. And we can't have Trump choosing who our leaders are. Our leader is Nancy Pelosi. Our leaders are the chairs of the various committees.

And to think that somebody -- we have 62 freshman members of Congress, and they're only three that are being talked about. That's not a decision Trump should make. And the press should pay attention to all 62 of our new members and all of our members.

BASH: But they do have leading voices. They have incredible followings on social media and well beyond their particular districts. Isn't that fair?

SHERMAN: They are attacked by Donald Trump, and so they get a lot of coverage. It's chicken-and-egg situation.


Trump should not choose who speaks for the Democratic Party. The face of the Democratic...

BASH: And do they speak for the Democratic Party?

SHERMAN: They speak as much as I do. They represent their district. I represent my district.

I have been doing it for 22 years and have been entrusted with a subcommittee chairmanship by our caucus. They are relatively new members. That doesn't mean -- especially, Alexandria beating Joe Crowley shows a real capacity to win a race against a major opponent.

But many of us have done that. And many of us have beaten tough Republicans, as well as beating tough Democrats.

BASH: Congressman Brad Sherman, thank you so much for coming in.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it. Thanks for giving us your tax expertise, as a CPA.

SHERMAN: No charge.


BASH: Thank you.

And just a short time ago, experts said it could take 10 to 15 years to fully restore the Notre Dame Cathedral. Up next, we will talk to someone who knows the cathedral better than most. He's been a tour guide there every summer for 10 years. And he said watching it go up in flames was like watching his own house on fire. As we look live now at the streets of Paris, you see people who are

gathered for a second night to honor the history lost and hold candles as symbols of hope.

We will be right back.