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Rep. Chris Collins Interviewed. Discussion of Strzok Hearing; Interview with Chris Ruddy; Rep. Luis Gutierrez Interviewed. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired July 12, 2018 - 21:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson. Thank you very much, my friend.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

So, did the Republicans make the case? Did they show that FBI agent Peter Strzok did things that tainted the Trump probe? That was the bar, and they took ten hours to try.

Early on, literally, there are attacks going in all directions. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the disgrace?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've been out of control since you've been on this committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harassment of the witness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong with that, you need your medication?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's right on point.



CUOMO: So, when lawmakers were actually asking questions of the witness, we saw Republicans unload on Peter Strzok with both barrels.


PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: If you want to represent what you said accurately, I'm happy to answer that question, but I don't appreciate what was originally said being changed.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Hmm, Trey Gowdy, I guess he went back to being captain Benghazi. Remember Trey Gowdy saying, I have to leave, these hearings -- they're all about political partisanship and huff and puff. They're not about life. And then you got that out of him today.

And this was more about making allegations than asking anything. And the result: frustration.


STRZOK: Sir, it is as frustrating to me as it is to you. I can tell you, sir, I would love --

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: You know what, Agent Strzok?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman, may the witness be permitted to answer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend.

JORDAN: If it's so frustrating, answer the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you'll allow him to, I'm sure he will.

JORDAN: He has never answered the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop interrupting him.


CUOMO: Now, we're showing you the highlights, but I have to tell you this was unique what we saw today, the level of disarray, the level of dysfunction on really all sides.

A standout moment, though. A Republican made Trump's case that the probe is a witch hunt by attacking Strzok as a philanderer. Not a trace of irony on his face. Listen to this.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I can't help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lie to her about --



CUOMO: Now, I just want to emphasize this. It was much more heat than light today, and literally, you just heard that Republican congressman from Texas, Gohmert, say, believe Trump, not Strzok, because Strzok had an affair. And he did it with a straight face, and he never, ever has said anything like this about the president no matter what the allegation. Put that in the hopper.

All right. Now, what about Peter Strzok? He didn't come out as might have been expected -- contrite, very sorry about what he did. And, remember, it was his texts that got him in all this trouble. Instead, he came out swinging.


STRZOK: This isn't just me sitting here telling you. You don't have to take my word for it. At every step, at every investigative decision, there are multiple layers of people above me, the assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director and director of the FBI and multiple layers of people below me, section chief, supervisors, unit chiefs, case agents and analysts, all of whom who were involved in all of these decisions. They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me any more than I would tolerate it in them.

That is who we are as the FBI, and the suggestion that I in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply couldn't happen, and the proposition that that is going on, that it might occur anywhere in the FBI deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive.



CUOMO: Who's applauding? Who's booing? This is all about what you see through your partisan lens.

But that's why the hearing was supposed to be different. They were supposed to establish facts that make their case in this showdown with Strzok about the fact that his bias led to bad actions in this probe that make it a witch hunt.

What did they find? Really four things, OK? Strzok screwed up by sending those texts. He exhibited bias against Trump, OK? And that's true. And it's really just one text, OK?

This text came back to haunt him all day long. Trump's never, ever going to become president, right, right? No, he won't. We'll stop it.

He tried to explain it away by saying the American people would vote against him and he wouldn't win. It wasn't that compelling. And he admitted -- Strzok -- the texting was wrong on several levels.

One of them means that he arguably violated the FBI's code of conduct. Strzok didn't have a great rebuttal for that either.

Now, because of that, they argue that Strzok has no integrity. That is relevant only if used to offset competing stories about what happened in the probe, and that is the problem for the GOP after today. Ten hours of today.

No proof was offered that Strzok did something acting on bias, OK? So is it over? No, because ultimately this isn't about Strzok. It's about coming for Mueller.

How do we know? Two examples. Listen to Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Certainly, then when you were removed, was it clear to you that Mr. Mueller was aware of these incendiary text messages?


GAETZ: So, he knew of the text messages but never asked you whether you were biased or not?

STRZOK: That's correct.


CUOMO: Exhibit A. Exhibit B, this moment from Jim Jordan when he was getting after this connection of Hillary Clinton to the dossier.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: One more time. Just say it. Bruce Ohr gave the FBI documents relating to and supporting or part of the dossier, is that accurate?

STRZOK: Mr. Ohr gave the FBI documents which included material that I believe originated from Mr. Steele.


CUOMO: All right. Steele was working for Ohr. Ohr was working for Fusion GPS. GPS was getting paid by the Clinton campaign. So, therefore, she was funding the research that went into the dossier, except we knew that. We knew that Hillary Clinton's campaign had been funding the work of GPS that went into developing the dossier, whether it's worthy or not. OK?

And Matt Gaetz's eureka moment about he never asked you if you were biased? Where was the time? As soon as Mueller found out about the texts, what happened to Strzok? He was gone. So he didn't need to have a conversation with him. He acted, he acted before he even asked him anything about it. If anything, I think that little back and forth may have worked against Gaetz's interest but that's for you to decide.

All right. So, here is the big takeaway. There are three facts that work against the GOP, and I don't know they did anything to vitiate or get rid of them today.

If Strzok wanted to hurt Trump, why didn't he leak? Leaking would be illegal. It would be wrong. But if he's the no-integrity guy that the GOP says he is, why didn't he do it, number one? Number two, if he wanted to help Hillary Clinton, why did he keep

pushing harder for more investigation into the probe on her and the e- mails with harsher tools like subpoenas and even calling for her to go before a grand jury?

Number three, if he wanted to hurt Donald Trump, wouldn't he be desperate to get on the Mueller team? Why would he drag his feet? He did.

He texted Lisa Page, one of like a gazillion of them, right? That he wasn't sure that there was any "there" there with what Mueller was looking at and maybe he should stay working on the Clinton probe or whatever. Why would he do that?

Now, as an aside, I believe that "there" there text works for Strzok, that he should have owned it today and said, where's my bias? I didn't even know if I wanted to join the probe. I wasn't sure if there was anything there.

He didn't do that. I'm not really sure why. So that's the take of what happened today if you didn't have ten hours to spend on it.

Let's get after the political implications with Republican congressman from New York, Chris Collins.

Good to see you, sir.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Chris. It's been a while. I like this time slot better than the 7:00 a.m.

CUOMO: Well, thank you. Hopefully you will use it with me often.

What do you make of the analysis? In your own view, what was accomplished in this hearing today?

COLLINS: Well, first of all, let's start by we have to remember as Americans that the FBI does -- all the agents are not represented by Peter Strzok or Lisa Page. They're a stain on the FBI.

And what we saw today, because there's no doubt about it. Agent Strzok had a very defiant, aggressive look about him and tone. We just have to remember that, you know, we should respect all the other agents within the FBI and call out Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for what they are.

CUOMO: You think your fellow party members did that today in that hearing?

COLLINS: Well, today it was about the divisive nature in Congress. I was in a similar hearing in the Energy and Commerce Committee about the children who have all been united, the kids under age 5.

CUOMO: They've all been united now because the government doesn't confirm that?

COLLINS: Yes, we have. All of the children that could be reunited with their parents in a safe environment --

CUOMO: That could be. We'll leave that for another day. We'll leave that for another day.

So you were like that in another hearing. Let's deal with one catastrophe at a time. This one, you felt in that room today the Republicans were respecting the FBI and only singling out Strzok? It didn't sound like that.

COLLINS: They were not after the FBI. They were after Strzok and his bias, and his bias came through loud and clear in those texts.

CUOMO: Do you think he acted on the bias?

COLLINS: Oh, I believe you can't take the bias out of your actions. I mean, I can't tell you at what step, but there's no two ways about it.

CUOMO: So you believe that every judge, every prosecutor, every cop, every investigator only does what they like to do in the course of their job?

COLLINS: Oh, no, of course not. They are professional.


COLLINS: Agent Strzok is anything but professional. He showed it today.

This was a situation where it lined up on the Democrats and Republicans. It's a mid-year election year. The Democrats were defending him at every turn. The Republicans were attacking him at every turn.

It's no different than the farm bill that we just tried to pass.

CUOMO: No, but it is different. It's very different.

In fact, you know what? Come with me, Aly (ph), we're going back to the white board. I want to show Chris Collins why it's different.

Here's why it's different. Farm bill you can fight about the significance of it. Tariffs, you can fight about significance. They're policy judgments. What's right, what's wrong. Fair point, fair point.

However, this is very different. This is about an investigation being tainted by one man's actions, not just his texts and his feelings. The bar for you guys is show us that he acted on his bias because if that's not the bar, Chris, then all of us are in trouble because all of us have feelings and opinions about one another, but we do the job.

They didn't show me anything today. What did they show us today that proves he acted on the bias? That's the bar.

COLLINS: Well, it comes back to he was actually the agent in charge of both the Clinton e-mail and the Russian investigation.


COLLINS: He's been dismissed, you know, by Mueller. It just goes back again to a lot of Republicans feel the Mueller investigation has gone --

CUOMO: They feel. They feel.

COLLINS: On a tangent.

CUOMO: They feel.

COLLINS: That's correct.

CUOMO: See, that's why I'm stopping you there, Chris. I'm going to get to Mueller because I agree with you. This is about Mueller.

We saw it with Jordan. We saw it with Gaetz. Strzok is just a stepping stone to say that whatever Mueller comes up with can't be believed. And we'll talk about whether they made the case.

But, look, here's what they had to deal with today and overcome. He didn't leak anything about the Trump probe even though he's a no integrity guy as you and all of your party members say. Why not? He pushed harder to investigate Hillary Clinton, subpoena the people around her, subpoena more materials, put her in front of a grand jury.

Does that sound like a guy who is trying to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton? And then when asked to be on the probe team, he writes his girlfriend, well, I'm not sure there's any "there" there in the Mueller probe. Maybe I shouldn't go.

Where is the proof of acting on the bias?

COLLINS: Well, it comes back to the bias speaks for itself. Again, he and Lisa Page are a stain on the FBI's reputation. I'm sure FBI agents across the country shudder when they say the body language and the facial expressions he had today. Not really apologizing for anything he did. It was somewhat absurd.

CUOMO: Right, but we're talking about his behavior, his demeanor, the texting, the affair, all bad. Let's assume it's all bad.

It's not the bar. The bar is, I shouldn't believe as an American citizen what comes out of the Mueller probe because this guy's dirty, and everything he did was dirty because he was out to get my president.

How can I think that after today? What did they give me to go on?

COLLINS: Well, again, the bias speaks for itself. As Comey said --

CUOMO: It doesn't. You have to show it to me. Where did it manifest itself? Was he biased when he wanted to push harder on Hillary Clinton and get her to be in front of a grand jury? I don't get it. Why was he doing these competing things, then?

COLLINS: Well, I mean, even go back to Comey, who said he reopened the Clinton probe because he wanted to make sure after she was elected president, that they didn't feel like it was a whitewash. He did that to protect Hillary Clinton, not to go after Hillary Clinton.

CUOMO: Ask Hillary Clinton if she feels like that, Chris Collins. You let me know if I'm helping you if I came with one of the worst pieces of dirty laundry I could find on you right before your election and I said, hey, Chris, I'm trying to help. --

COLLINS: It certainly did not play out well, but he did not think there was any chance, nor did --

CUOMO: Right. But that's James Comey.


COLLINS: -- she was going to win.

CUOMO: I know this isn't over because Jim Jordan was talking about connecting that the Mueller probe is only about the dossier. And Matt Gaetz was saying that Mueller is not doing his job because he didn't even ask this guy if he was biased or not. But to me, I don't know that they made a great case, and this is going to go on.

I want a promise from you, sir, please. When we learn more, please come back so we can chew on it for the audience.

COLLINS: Oh, absolutely.

CUOMO: We've got a good audience here. They like to think and are open minded.

COLLINS: I'm with you all the time, Chris.

CUOMO: Chris Collins, thank you very much for being with us.

COLLINS: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

COLLINS: All right. Now, we've got to look at both sides of this, all right? We're going to have congressman Luis Gutierrez. He was in that room today and throwing some haymakers of his own, a lot of them against his Republican colleagues.

But up next, we've got some good folks waiting to get in on this. Perfect people to debate the impact of today. A former FBI agent and a former federal prosecutor, they're here, and they're ready to get it on, next.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: But let me be clear unequivocally and under oath: not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Let's debate that statement, its impact, and the outcome of a ten-hour hearing today.

Former U.S. attorney Laura Coates, former supervisory special agent James Gagliano.

I know you both have professional and personal attachments to the different parts of the Department of Justice that are under scrutiny right now, and I like that.

So, Laura Coates, do you believe that the Republicans met their burden today that we can show that Peter Strzok adversely affected and impacted the probe of Donald Trump because of his bias?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely not. I think they failed in their effort to do just that because they were trying to grandstand more than they were actually trying to do what the American people wanted, which is to hear the explanations of Peter Strzok.

And when they tried to use the questioning process to simply further a particular narrative, whether it was favorable or not favorable to him, it's (INAUDIBLE) to the actual role of the hearing, which was to get the information. Had I been in a trial and I had done this very same thing, there would have been so many objections. Let the witness actually answer the question.

It wasn't an opportunity for me to simply give my closing or my opening argument. It was an opportunity for him to actually speak. Now, whether he carried his own burden of proof is a very different story, Chris.

CUOMO: Right. OK. And we're going to get to that as well. All right. So, let's be fair. It's not a trial, all right? These politicians, they can't even agree on what time it is if they had a big digital clock in front of their faces, and there was certainly a hell of a lot more heat then there was light.

But that said, Gags, what do you think came out today that is worthy criticism of Peter Strzok?

JAMES GAGLIANO, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Sure. And, Chris, looking at it from the perspective of what we endured today, it was political theater of the highest order. You had a GOP congressman who, you know, brought the witnesses' family into it. And then you had a Democratic congressman that actually offered to get a purple heart for what Mr. Strzok endured.

I'm going to stipulate something here. I've been a cautious skeptic, as you know, of the Russia investigation from its onset. But I also desperately, desperately believe that it's not a witch hunt, that the people that are working the investigation, to Mr. Strzok's point, there are so many layers of redundancies. They're doing their job. Let it commence. Let it be completed.

However, I do believe that the I.G. did a great job in putting together his report. And in his report, he stated that there was no material acts conducted that they could determine throughout the investigation of Mr. Strzok, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Comey, and all the upper echelon senior exclusives related to the Hillary Clinton case as well as the Russia collusion case --

CUOMO: And the GOP said that's bunk, Jimmy, and we'll prove it. Did they do it today?

GAGLIANO: Well, here's the other thing, Chris, everything that happened today was rehearsed. We already did this behind closed doors.

CUOMO: But they wouldn't release the transcript. Maybe now we know why.

GAGLIANO: Now, we have it out in open forum.

You and I talked about this earlier. It's not that there was a criminal act, the actus reas in Latin, that's evident. It's the fact that Mr. Strzok, in my mind, damaged the FBI, damaged the brand, and reduced the confidence of the American people in the FBI as an institution. Why? Because as you pointed out on the whiteboard, poor judgment decisions.

Now, people can say, if you exhibited poor judgment here, how can we trust you in these other instances?

CUOMO: All right. Is that good enough for you, Laura Coates? Then, I have a second point I want to make about whether Strzok helped or hurt his situation today. But, again, in terms of what we found out about him, what we now know about what his impact was and what that means overall in the legitimacy of the probe, where do we come out on it after ten hours?

COATES: Well, it seems as though people would like to allow only certain people to be able to compartmentalize their professional and their personal life.

CUOMO: Right.

COATES: And it seems pretty hypocritical to suggest that this particular agent, unlike anybody else in Congress or in the executive branch of government or anywhere else, are incapable of doing just that, of separating their personal life from their professional life.

Now, he did himself no great favors, but there's two big points here. While he is asking everyone to be able to compartmentalize and give him the benefit of the doubt, the Republicans in the hearing seemed to have asked the American people to conflate two very separate investigations and also two very separate points in time. Remember, Chris, the Mueller probe began, and when they learned about the Strzok e-mails or Strzok text messages, they asked no questions. They simply said, just like the court of law, any hint of impropriety would be enough to make you go away, and they did just that.

So, asking people to conflate the two, the Mueller probe with his conduct while he was investigating Hillary Clinton, is actually very farfetched, as farfetched it would be to say no one is able to compartmentalize their professional and personal lives, especially in Congress.

CUOMO: Now, first of all, that point couldn't be more true. For instance, the man sharing the screen with you on the other side of me right now once tried to beat me to death with a car antenna when we were standing at a shoot, and yet we conducts himself very professionally when we're here.

Peter Strzok, how did he comfort himself today? Did he help or hurt his cause?

GAGLIANO: I think he damaged his cause.

And here's the thing where I'll take a little issue with what Laura said. I agree as an FBI agent for 25 years, I was allowed to have political adherences. If I wanted to put up a political sign in my front yard, that's OK. If I wanted to stand around the water cooler during a break and converse with a fellow employee and say, who do you think is going to win or this is who I'd like to win, that's OK.

The fact that there were damning text messages -- and I'll give it to Strzok and his attorneys. They were very crafty and skilled here because you had plenty of time to prepare for this. So, he had an answer to everything. He had an answer to the insurance policy. He had an answer to we'll stop it. We'll is not Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. No, no, no. That's the American electorate.

Well, of course, that's an easy way to parse those out, and I'm not suggesting that maybe that's not true.

But he did himself no good service today, and he's made a lot of folks, people that have worn that badge proudly for years, very upset with the way he carried on today. Not because -- he had a right to be indignant about things. He had to endure, you know, congressmen and congresswomen shouting at each other, and it was political theater. But he should have risen above it.

He's an FBI agent. And if you have experience in testifying, when you're confronted with a criminal defense attorney, their job is to get you riled up. So the smug look, so the barking back, so the self- righteous, pious indignation I don't think was a good look, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, give me a quick final thought, Laura, because I got to go.

COATES: Sure. I was going to say, I understand that the FBI certainly is damaged reputation-wise, and I don't think that Strzok or Lisa Page did any favors to the justice system overall to be an objective autonomous unit. However, there is a totem pole you must recognize. If one person

could make a decision about such a comprehensive investigation, then we would really have no need to have subordinates or superiors.


COATES: He did do an effective job of laying out that one person, even if the bias demonstrated in their text messages is not the sole person --

CUOMO: True.

COATES: -- who can make the decisions to do so.

CUOMO: But in terms of --

COATES: In that vein, he wasn't allowed to explain further about that point. I, as an American person and former member of the Justice Department, would like to have heard his response.

CUOMO: Yes. But, you know, in truth, he put himself in that seat today.

COATES: He did.

CUOMO: If it weren't for the texts, we wouldn't be here right now. He opened the door. Now, we'll see if he can shut it and we'll see where the hallway leads us beyond it.

Laura Coates, thank you very much.

Gagliano, you're as good a man as I know. Be well.

COATES: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Major news overseas in the U.K. Huge state dinner with President Trump and Prime Minister May. Huge protests, huge fallout.

We have a Trump insider who is at the palace where the state dinner was. He is a Trump confidant and friend. Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, in a tux, next.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: President Trump is in London after two days of scolding allies for not carrying their weight at the NATO summit. He claimed victory after that even though we don't see any proof that anything is any different in a good way because of what he said.

But let's get some perspective from someone who knows the president, spends a lot of time with him, and is a confidant and close adviser. He attended the black tie dinner tonight with President Trump in the United Kingdom, so let's get his take.


CUOMO: Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, thank you so much for joining us.

I know you didn't put that tuxedo on for me. Good for you, being at such a big and momentous occasion with the prime minister, the president of the United States and many other somebodies.

What was it like in the room?

CHRIS RUDDY, CEO OF NEWSMAX MEDIA: Chris, I wear a tuxedo every time I go on CNN. You know that.

CUOMO: Demonstrably false.

RUDDY: Actually it was a state dinner. So I did -- I did -- I did dress up for the state dinner at Plenum Palace tonight.

It was a great night. It was a -- I would describe it as a love fest between the president of the United States and the British prime minister in terms of their two countries.

They may disagree on certain policy issues; they didn't get into that at that -- at this dinner. It was a -- I think a celebration of the very special relationship the United States had.

CUOMO: The United States wants to spend a lot of money on defense. It is the most powerful and richest country in the world. So, it winds up spending most. It's always been that way in NATO, as you know.

RUDDY: Well, it's unfair and we've always said and complained about it and as -- as we're seeing today and in the past two days, and I think the Brits basically -- look, they're very simpatico.

Of all the countries in Europe, they're the most simpatico with us.

This president likes the interpersonal connection with people. He's a very people person right? And he seems to do very well. I was just with him tonight and I saw him with the prime minister sitting there, Prime Minister May.

And I said to him, the special relationship is better than ever. And he said it is. And I could see the body -- the chemistry between them was very good. And I think there was friction initially in that relationship, but I think --


CUOMO: Well, of course, there was because of the things that he says. That's why you have thousands and thousands of people protesting a U.S. president in the U.K. When's the last time we saw that? He even said himself; they're not being nice to me. I don't know why I would stay here.

RUDDY: I think the coverage that you folks at CNN; you have an international reach and an international arm.

CUOMO: The coverage. RUDDY: "The Washington Post", "The New York Times". There's no balance when it goes international. And like in the United States, you have the Newsmaxes the FOX News and others giving some. Internationally, they're just taking what "The New York Times" and what "The Washington Post", what you guys say about him.


CUOMO: Chris, that's not just unfair to international press.

RUDDY: Look, I've been here in Britain --

CUOMO: These are his words. They're his words, Chris. They're what he says.


RUDDY: Chris, I've been hearing Britain and I ask people why do they hate Donald Trump so much? Well, why do people here -- and they never have any specific reasons --


CUOMO: The signs tell you why. They don't like that he's separating the kids. They don't like the travel ban. They don't like the way he talks about his partnership with the rest of the world.

Don't put this on us, Chris. We are a mirror of what Trump says to the rest of the world.


RUDDY: Let's -- there were 12,000 kids that came to that border, 10,000 of them, and it started during the Obama years, came. They were sent without parents. They were sent by --


RUDDY: Well, who's so desperate that would send their own child hundreds of miles to a foreign country with no money, no food, and they leave them on our border -- it was obviously a set up to embarrass the United States. Nobody ever talks about that. Nobody blames anybody who is behind these children --


CUOMO: Chris, because we don't -- because there's no there there. Who does it? How about thousands and thousands --


RUDDY: No, because you keep blaming Donald Trump. If Donald Trump was doing it --


CUOMO: I'm not blaming Donald Trump.

RUDDY: -- you'd be talking about it.

CUOMO: I'm saying you want to know why they send them to the border, Chris, you know why.

RUDDY: Hey --

CUOMO: Because they're persecuted, because they're desperate for a better life for their kid who's instead of living in the dirt with no better --


CUOMO: So, they risk it all for --


RUDDY: Let me say on the record, I did not support the child separation policy. I do not believe that crossing the border is a crime equivalent to a capital crime or a federal or a serious crime, a felony that would deserve somebody to be separated from their child, not all crime --- it is a crime to cross the border illegally. Not all crime is the same.

CUOMO: It's a misdemeanor, you do it a second time, it's a felony.

RUDDY: Yes. I -


CUOMO: But the reason that the Bush administration and the Obama administration didn't do it this way, Chris, and this is an important point, I'll see if you want to own, you know, your understanding on this as well, they didn't do it because they knew if they did they would be overwhelmed. And even though Bush built facilities, I had Chertoff on the other night talking about it, they knew they'd be overcapacity, they knew it was too harsh, they knew it was a message they didn't want to send to the world.

Donald Trump took a different path. He wanted the harshness. He didn't have you -- he didn't have the administration prepared for it.

RUDDY: I don't think --

CUOMO: And we got a catastrophe.

RUDDY: Chris, I don't think Donald Trump decided and made a decision to do this. I think the decision was made lower level.


CUOMO: John Kelly was talking about it a year ago as his understanding with the president --

RUDDY: He signed the order. Do you agree that the president signed the order to end the policy

that had been in existence before?

CUOMO: No, I do not -- are you talking about the executive order?


CUOMO: Are you talking about the executive order?

RUDDY: His order saying -- right, he said that they should not separate the family.

CUOMO: He didn't say that. You know what it says on the top of that piece of paper? This executive order is affording Congress a chance to stop the separation of families. He said he was stopping the separation, but the executive order didn't do it. It gave Congress a chance --

RUDDY: Well, according to all of the press reports I'm seeing --


CUOMO: -- was let me keep kids longer. It was a ruse. I said it on the show then, and it is proven true every day since. Fugazi.

RUDDY: Why do you think, Chris, when you have all of these litany of criticisms of President Trump, why do you think he's up 20 percent in the polls? His poll approval numbers according to Real Clear Politics are in the mid 40's.

CUOMO: Right.

RUDDY: This is pretty close to where he was when he started and when he came in as president, despite the huge media criticism. Don't you think it's backfiring, the constant attack?


RUDDY: He's taken the GDP rate --


CUOMO: Which was first of all --


RUDDY: Let me finish.

CUOMO: All right, go ahead.

RUDDY: Let me finish this one point.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

RUDDY: One point five percent average GDP growth for eight years. It was 3 percent. He increased that by 100 percent the first year. The estimate is this quarter -- in the last quarter that just closed,

it's going to be over four percent, somewhere between 4.2 and 4.5. That's a 300 percent increase of the GDP rate in a year.

Now, that wasn't Obama's policies, that wasn't Hillary Clinton's policies or Barack Obama -- that was Donald Trump doing that.

Why doesn't CNN give him any credit?

CUOMO: We say all the time -


RUDDY: He has the lowest black unemployment -

CUOMO: We say all the time --

RUDDY: The lowest Hispanic -- no, you don't, I watch your show.

CUOMO: Of course we do.

RUDDY: You never talked about it.

CUOMO: Listen, when the numbers come out --

RUDDY: What show are you watching?


CUOMO: -- we talk about it all the time. Every time economic data comes out, we do it, and we do it in context.

Now, you have the wrong numbers about Obama, and I don't think you want to compare yourself to the Obama administration because he was coming out of such a deep hole because of what happened under Bush, that once the ship was righted -- and we can argue about whether is was done the right way, there was tremendous growth but we were in such a deep hole. Does he deserve credit for a strong economy? Of course -

RUDDY: I would say Obama -

CUOMO: Let me answer you. Does Trump deserve credit for the economy? A hundred percent. Could you argue that it's an extension of certain economic growth trends that were happening already? Yes, but every president has to own the up or down of their own term --

RUDDY: Wait a minute -

CUOMO: -- and he gets the up right now. Can we -

RUDDY: I'm going to send a message to the Trump campaign that you said he gets 100 percent for the economy. Chris Cuomo CNN says --

CUOMO: Every president does, whatever happens on their watch.


RUDDY: I'm going to quote you. I'm going to quote you on that.

CUOMO: Every president on their watch has to own the negative --

RUDDY: That is great. Thank you. Thank you.

CUOMO: -- and they get to gloat about the positive.

Why are his numbers where they are?

RUDDY: No, but I think in this case, this president really has driven the economy. I don't agree with everything he does, but I think that on the major issues -- illegal immigration is down very significantly, regulations are way down. He's holding accountable these countries on their tariff policies, and I think it's the NATO spending -- I think it's fine what he's doing.

He's overturn -- it's a very confrontational approach, it's not the approach you would use or I necessarily would use -

CUOMO: I don't know what I would do.

RUDDY: -- but let's see how it works.


CUOMO: I don't know what I would do. I'm not in that --


RUDDY: Let's give him a little time. Let's -

CUOMO: I just test the impact, Chris. What I'm saying is this, does the president deserve credit for things? A hundred percent. A hundred percent he does.

Does he deserve criticism for things? A hundred percent. Are those two things mutually exclusive? Never have been.

But everybody plays games on the partisan side. That's OK. If you want to know where his poll numbers -- why they are where they are, I'll tell you right now, but I look at it in the reverse from you, they should be higher with the economy that we have and the lack of terror that we've seen in the country, in recent history --


RUDDY: And I have an explanation for it.

CUOMO: But the reason it isn't is, he does not expand the tent. He doesn't reach out, he doesn't try to make people better or sweeter. He plays to anger, he plays to hostility, and that is going to keep him small.

RUDDY: Well, I think he could do a better job reaching out to the middle. I agree with you on some of these issues like immigration and things like that. I think there have been some dark angels in the administration pushing policies that I think are not in keeping a consistent with the populism that Donald Trump annunciated in the campaign.

CUOMO: Populism doesn't have to be angry, by the way.

RUDDY: But look, you know this is a president that's come in. I remember watching networks more so MSNBC than CNN, but the day he was inaugurated, the days around that time, they were calling for his impeachment then.

They haven't given him a moment to breath. There's a major investigation underway by Robert Mueller. He is being probed.

There's been in two years, no evidence of Russian collusion. But if you watch CNN and other networks, you would think there was Russian collusion.


CUOMO: And if you listen to the president of the United States, you'd think that Russia didn't do anything in the election. And one of his bases for that opinion is that Putin says he didn't do it. Now, is that an acceptable basis for you? For denying everything your intelligence community tells you in the Senate?




RUDDY: I think -- I think the Russians did interfere in the election.


CUOMO: Then why won't he say it?


RUDDY: Actually think they hurt Trump -- well, I think he has made a statement to the effect that he did agree with the intelligence agencies after he made some of the initial comments. But you've got to ask the White House. I don't represent --


CUOMO: I have. Many times. So many times I'm losing hair line.

I'm also losing time, Chris Ruddy, and I know it's very late where you are. You're a busy man and you took the time to come here and make the case for the administration and I appreciate it. You're always welcome on this show.

RUDDY: I want to make a case -- I want to make case for fairness. I'm not here to represent them but I think on balance -- I think your views on CNN, Chris, and I think you're ultimately a fair minded guy. I think the president thinks that you can be. And I think that --


CUOMO: He called me a boiler waiting to explode, a chained lunatic. But every diamond has many facets, I suppose.

Chris Ruddy, you're always welcome here --


RUDDY: It shows that you're on his radar screen.

CUOMO: I'm happy to be relevant. We work hard --


RUDDY: Chris, great being on with you.

CUOMO: I'll see you soon. Thank you for spending a late night with us.

RUDDY: Cool. Glad to be on. Thank you.


CUOMO: Cool.

He really did call me those things, by the way. You can look it up for yourself.

All right. Now, our top story is without question what happened for ten hours in this House Committee hearing this morning, into this day, and then into this night. Let's get the other side of the ball -- a Democrat who took a wrecking ball to the Republican pileup on Peter Strzok today.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez is on PRIME TIME, next.


CUOMO: While Republicans hammered Peter Strzok and Strzok hammered right back, there were lawmakers with a "D" next to their name who took their own opportunity to play for the cameras. There were those who came with posters like this and props, and those who used their time to apologize.


REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: We should be honoring you for the work that you have done over the last 22 years to keep this nation safe.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: I thank you, and I'm so sorry for the treatment you've received here today. REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: If I could give you a purple heart,

I would. You deserve one.


CUOMO: Really?

And then there was Luis Gutierrez.


REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: So what we're to believe from our Republican majority that you're so biased, you're such a Democrat, that you can't hold back from trying to destroy Donald Trump. Yet you never told anybody that there was an investigation into Donald Trump's campaign on collusion with the Russians. You never told anybody about that?


GUTIERREZ: You never talked to a reporter about that?

STRZOK: Never.

GUTIERREZ: But you did have almost a magical bullet in your hand to derail the Donald Trump investigation, and did you use it?

STRZOK: No, sir.


CUOMO: The Illinois congressman joins us now. Thank you for joining us, sir. I know it has been a long day.


GUTIERREZ: That's an understatement, but it's going to be with you, Chris. Happy to be with you.

CUOMO: What was achieved in there today in your estimation?

GUTIERREZ: I think the Republicans acted like the defense team of Donald Trump, and I'm sure the Kremlin is very, very happy with their performance today. I mean, we know from our intelligence community that they intervened, right, in our electoral process in order to derail the Hillary Clinton campaign and elect Donald Trump.

And what they want to ultimately accomplish, I believe -- and many members of the intelligence community and certainly in the Senate -- is to destroy our democratic institution. So, if you destroy the FBI, so what they do is they say, Mr. Strzok, you said inappropriate, unprofessional things you shouldn't have said. You shouldn't have been texting around, right?

And now they say, all the FBI agents. Well, that's to believe that the FBI agents who are average 45 years and mostly white males, 45 years -- that's the only demographic group that isn't for Donald Trump.

Look, the vast majority of FBI agents are just like the rest of Americans. They're Republicans, independents.

CUOMO: Right.

GUTIERREZ: They're of all stripes and all colors.

CUOMO: But --

GUTIERREZ: And I'm sure that they all have different views, which they share probably at the family table.

CUOMO: Right. Listen, I hear you on that. I mean if you take everybody who has a personal opinion about the job that they do out of that job, we're going to have a much bigger unemployment rate.


CUOMO: But Strzok put himself in that chair.

GUTIERREZ: Absolutely.

CUOMO: These texts weren't about the ball game. They were about Trump. They were ugly. They showed a bias --

GUTIERREZ: Terrible.

CUOMO: -- against him. And there were a lot of them. And some of them don't sound good, especially the one that we all looked at a million times today of her saying Trump isn't going to really be president, right? And he said, no, we'll stop it.

GUTIERREZ: Agree, agree. I agree with all of those things. Yet the report that was issue issued --

CUOMO: By the inspector general.

GUTIERREZ: By the inspector general. What does it say, Chris?

I brought it here with me because I think it is important that we look at the report. Now, this is an exhaustive report, and here's what it says.

It says, at a minimum, we found the employee's use of to be systems and devices to send identified messages demonstrated extremely poor judgment and gross lack. We found no documentary or testimonial evidence directly connecting the political views of these employees expressed in their text messages and instants messages to the specific mid-year investigation.

In other words, what they're saying at this very exhaustive inspector general's report is that although he expressed these opinions, he never used them, nor did any of the other agents involved use them in order to gain the final results of the investigation.

CUOMO: And they say that's impossible because if you are biased, it bleeds through into everything that you do.


CUOMO: And you have to also include, the I.G. did say --


CUOMO: -- he couldn't conclude that there wasn't bias in the prioritization.


CUOMO: -- of the Trump probe before the Clinton one.

GUTIERREZ: Sure, and that eviscerates the fact that Mueller has five guilty pleas, right, already. He's indicted six people. Mr. Cohen is about --

CUOMO: Indicted a lot of people, but not specifically for collusion between the White House and Russia.


GUTIERREZ: But -- OK, but let's be very clear, the chief policy -- foreign policy adviser to the president was indicted because he lied about Russians, right? His contact with the Russian ambassador. His senior policy foreign affairs adviser lied about the Russians.

There are a lot of Russians that were also indicted and there are others that are indicted. So, look, let's give this an opportunity, right, to see where it goes. What's the rush?

The rush is that I believe the noose is really tightening around the president's neck and what the Republicans want to do is to say, let's destroy the FBI. Look, there was one member of Congress who basically extrapolated and said Mr. Strzok you did terrible unprofessional things and you showed bias, therefore, prove to me that the whole rest of the FBI didn't follow lockstep with you.

Well, you know, Mueller's a Republican, the FBI director is a Republican --

CUOMO: Well, he was a big shot, too, though.

GUTIERREZ: I'm not saying he wasn't a big shot.

CUOMO: Luis, he was a big shot, he was running the probes.

GUTIERREZ: I never said that, but here's what the inspector general -- they investigated it more exhaustively than I'm sure even CNN has or I possibly can. And what conclusion? Look, Chris you remember when the president and the Republicans kept telling us and heralding, just wait for the inspector general's report.

CUOMO: Right.

GUTIERREZ: Well, we waited for it.


CUOMO: Well, they got that text out of it though that they beat him over the head with.

GUTIERREZ: And they got the text out of it, and that was terrible and that was unprofessional and that's in the report. But that doesn't mean there weren't many, many layers, right, that were independent of Mr. Strzok.

CUOMO: Right.

GUTIERREZ: And the other thing in the inspector general's report. So, look, let's set that aside. Let's just set that aside.

We know -- here's what they want us to do. They want us to forget that the Russians undermined our electoral system and look, there's a lot of good hearings we could have. Why have a hearing on this? Why don't we have a hearing on the 3,000 kids that are separated? Why don't with have a hearing of hate crimes in America?

CUOMO: Because this is playing to the advantage of the party in power right now.


GUTIERREZ: That's exactly right. So, all I'm trying to say is there are many things the American people are concerned about.

CUOMO: Right.

GUTIERREZ: How women are treated in the work force. We had a member of the judiciary committee that had to resign because he offered, right, one of his employees a million dollars in order to carry a baby for him.

Look, let's talk about women in the workplace and make it a better place for them to work in. I think that's the job of the judiciary.

CUOMO: Well, look, Congressman, as we know, you have to time and resources to do it all. How you spend your time is what the votes will wind out being about.

But, Congressman, thank you for spending time with me tonight, especially after such a long day. Appreciate it.

GUTIERREZ: Chris, always pleasure. Pleasure to be back. Thanks.

CUOMO: Thank you.

Even bigger pleasure, Don Lemon standing by with a preview of "CNN TONIGHT", just minutes away.

Did you see my white board, Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": I'm going to get a black board.

CUOMO: You always have to make it about that. The white board lays it out with what happened today and in term who was they met their burden in showing that Strzok tainted this probe by his actions, and not just by his texts and I don't know that he made it.

LEMON: I was just watching your white board last night, saying I don't want to do the same thing. So, I get a blackboard.

But, yes, your point is taken. We'll talk about that. Is it a show? Was it just for the cameras? What was going on?

More than half the time, I'd say 80 or 90 percent of the time, the guy was asked questions, he got out one word and was not allowed to answer and it was a question -- what was the point of today? We're going to have two Democratic congresswomen from the House Judiciary Committee who were inside the room, had very contentious talk with the people who were in charge of that meeting and with Peter Strzok and we're going to see what they have to say about it.

I saw you at the top of the show with the Republicans. We're going to have two Democrats coming up.

CUOMO: Strong, I like the balance, be well.

LEMON: See you.

CUOMO: A lot of noise today on Capitol Hill. But did we learn anything new? The answer is yes, next.


CUOMO: That hearing today was 10 hours of traveshamockery. The travesty wrapped in a sham, wrapped in a mockery, not my word but it fits. You had the angry Republicans who didn't make the case that bias tainted the probe, the high dungeon Democrats who had contempt for the other side.

But it is Republican Paul Gosar who takes the prize for showing this situation at its best, for that I mean at its worst.


REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: This morning, I watched -- by the way, I'm a dentist, OK? So I read body language very, very well and I watched you comment on actions with Mr. Gowdy. You got very angry in regards to the Gold Star father. That shows me that it's innately a part of you and a bias.

PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: Sir, I disagree. I don't know if you're saying this experience is like being at the dentist if that's what you're suggesting, but what I would -- what I would tell you, sir, what you see in my response, what you see in my response is a genuine passion for the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: I'm a dentist so I read body language very, very well. Is that in the same vein as I'm not a dentist but I stayed at a holiday inn last night and I gladly do your dentures? Crazy.

Anyway, he followed up with this.


GOSAR: We are not a democracy, we are a constitutional republic, that is why we have two ways both from a democracy voting and then from the -- where we have the Electoral College. So, make sure --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time of the gentleman has expired.


CUOMO: What say? First of all, a representative -- a constitutional republic is a form of democracy and yes we have the popular vote and we have the electoral vote. My 12-year-old knows that even if it stump it had congressman there for a second.

What we don't know is why these two sides can't come together for you. They worked for you. We asked all the big Republicans to come on who were big at the hearing today, none of them came on. They all went on Fox, all right?

Thank you for watching.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon will start right now.

We asked them all, we gave them the opportunity to make the case, they all went to the mother ship and as long as it continues that way, it can't be common ground.