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Interview With Sen. Jeff Flake; Trump Continues to Refuse to Forcefully Call out Putin for Ordering Election Attacks; The Man Hand- Picked to Run the FBI Says the Mueller Investigation is Not a Witch Hunt. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 18, 2018 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I like the black suit, white shirt and black tie, brother.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC360": I'm copying you.

CUOMO: I may start wearing that myself -- I didn't wear it tonight. Thank the Lord.

Are you in either writes or reads, or neither writes nor reads? Which would you go with?

COOPER: I'd say, well, I would say I pronounce it neither it.

CUOMO: Of course you do. Of course you do. I'll talk to you later, my brother. Thanks, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

With the weight of the free world, the U.S. intel community, his cabinet officials, and most of his party pushing the president to stop lying about Russian interference, what does he do? As of today, still refusing to forcefully call out Putin for ordering the election attack. Why?

Next question. If members of Congress are so upset by the reality of Trump and Putin, what are they going to do? Republican Jeff Flake has harsh words for the president. But what will they do?

And just in case you like Trump are almost completely immune to the truth about Russian interference, how about this? The man the president hand-picked to run the FBI tonight says clearly the Mueller investigation is, quote, not a witch hunt. Impact?

And yesterday, it was would and wouldn't. Now, the White House walks back the word "no". Another cover story to clean up. Another mess for the president.

We've got to get after it. What do you say? Let's get after it.


CUOMO: All right. Clearly, President Trump is not all in when it comes to keeping our elections safe from Russia or anyone else. So, what will Congress do? Is this sanctions bill that we're hearing about, is it for real?

Junior senator from Arizona, Republican Senator Jeff Flake, joins us tonight.

Thank you for making it, sir. I know you were on the hop to make the hit.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: All right. It's good to have you.

So let's get right to it. I know you don't like and a lot of your colleagues within your party don't like what has happened over the last few days. Yes?

FLAKE: That's putting it mildly. Yes.

CUOMO: Right. So what do you think will actually be done in response?

FLAKE: Well, Chris, just today, Chris Coons and I introduced a bipartisan resolution. This is a non-binding resolution but a sense of the Senate. That one, we stand behind the intelligence community and we reject the claims of Vladimir Putin when it comes to interference in our elections.

We know that he did it. And I wish the president, rather than asking him, would have made the statement, we know you that interfered. So, this will put us firmly on the side of our intelligence community. And it will also say that the sanctions that have been passed by Congress, by a vote of 98-2, should be immediately and fully implemented.

And also, it says that we commend the Department of Justice for the investigation that led to the indictment of 12 Russians. We know they did what they did. So, I think that that's important for Congress to state that and we'll bring that up tomorrow.

CUOMO: It is. It gets you into the feels of it. You know, a resolution is what the kids would call a little bit of meh today. You know, it's not going to actually make anything different. But it's a start in terms of coalescing down there in Washington towards a joint purpose.

Let's talk about what that purpose may be in light of what you're up against, which is this from the president today.


JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: You say you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, and I've said that before, Jeff. I've said that numerous times before. And I would say that that is true, yes.


CUOMO: He goes slow when he says it because you know he doesn't mean it. He thinks it's bad for him. We're going to have a whole fact- based wall in a second after this interview about what he's done and why it actually happened.

He is not going to make any signature move against Russia. What can Congress do to force his hand? What can Congress do to do that without him?

FLAKE: Well, before, last year, when he said that he would veto any sanctions that we placed on Russia, we moved ahead and passed something 98-2 in the Senate.

CUOMO: Right.

FLAKE: I think it was 330-2 in the House as well.

CUOMO: Veto-proof, that was the theme.

FLAKE: Exactly. And he found a way to like it after that, or say that he was for it. So, that's what we've got to do, is pass things with a veto-proof majority.

CUOMO: Is there a chance there will be more sanctions put on Russia but by you guys? I know there's a bill walking through right now.

[21:05:00] When I got off the plane from Helsinki, Senator, I could almost feel the energy dropping. People were outraged but there's something about President Trump where people tend to get over it quickly when he does something. I was thinking maybe this time would be different. What do you think?

FLAKE: I hope that's not the case. But I've experienced what you've experienced -- the same thing. That over time we tend to forget about it and move on.

In this case, I think this is as Dan Coats has put it, this is a clear and present danger when it comes to our future elections. I can tell you anybody who sat through a classified hearing does not question that Russia has been involved and is still involved in trying to thwart our elections.

CUOMO: Right.

FLAKE: So, I hope that that's different.

One other thing we can do is the president seemed certainly a couple of days ago unconvinced, maybe he's changed now, but unconvinced that that indictment of the 12 Russians was serious, or that was valid. One thing we need to do, we're not expecting them to be extradited. But what we typically do is put out a red letter which -- and work with Interpol that if these individuals travel beyond Russia --

CUOMO: You can them.

FLAKE: -- that we can get them. If the administration --


CUOMO: That's something you can definitely -- you can definitely do that. The executive doesn't oversee that. In truth, they've been putting -- they put more energy today into slow-walking a decision as to whether or not to let Putin interview U.S. citizens about his own grievances than they did about how they're going to implement the 12.

Now, let me ask you about one other mechanism. You and I talked about this a little bit earlier today. In terms of leverage, the only real leverage coming up is the Supreme Court nominee. That is the only thing where Donald Trump needs all of the GOP votes. It's 50-49 going in.

FLAKE: Right.

CUOMO: You know, I'm assuming -- and I hate doing this -- I'm assuming that Senator McCain won't be part of it. God willing, he is and he can stick it in my face for even questioning whether or not he'd be ready for a vote. Hopefully he is. But if he isn't, it's 50- 49.

Now, you're a conservative, a real one. Kavanaugh is probably going to be appealing to you on that level as a conservative.


CUOMO: It is your only point of leverage. People will make the case to you that you should consider that and see what you can get for that vote. Are you open to that?

FLAKE: No. I'm not. When you look at using leverage like this, I have used leverage with circuit court judges but not to move the president, but to move my own leadership here on Capitol Hill. I was concerned that we were just doing the president's executive calendar, not moving something to the floor like tariff relief. To make sure that the president misusing his authority on Section 232 to declare a national security emergency and impose tariffs on goods from Mexico and Canada, I said that I would block or not vote for circuit court judges until we had a vote on tariffs.

CUOMO: Right.

FLAKE: But that was something I could do with my own leadership here, moving them.

Here, you'd have a hard time finding a tangible outcome here.


CUOMO: Well, you could do the same thing with McConnell -- you could do the same thing with McConnell on sanctions, you know?

FLAKE: Oh --

CUOMO: And it's not just GOP. I felt the same way about the Democrats when it came down to their big moment with the shutdown. You know, I was saying to the Democrats, this is your moment, this is your only leverage, what are you going to do with it?

The Supreme Court might give you an opportunity and maybe other GOP senators to say to McConnell, you're going to give us a vote on these sanctions. We're going to do something to protect ourselves from Russia, or you're not getting my vote on this. You could do that. It takes away the walk versus talk problem that you guys are having.

FLAKE: I expect that we will get support from Senator McConnell on this issue. Remember, we passed the last sanctions 98-2.


FLAKE: He was a vote in favor of it. So I do think that we'll get it.

What we're unlikely to get is a change in presidential behavior. I just don't know what the ask is. Do you say to the president, hey, until you start not liking President Putin, we're going to not pass your Supreme Court justice? I mean, it's -- you can use leverage here on Capitol Hill, but it's more difficult to use it to move the president on positions, and also to expect conservatives like me to say, hey, we're not going to put a conservative on the Supreme Court or somebody who's qualified, which I feel Kavanaugh is.

We're going to have having some hearings. I'm going to ask very tough questions when I meet with him tomorrow in my office about things that he's written in terms of presidential authority. I think we'll have a fulsome hearing in the Judiciary Committee on those issues.

CUOMO: That's a good one.

FLAKE: But I think it would be hard to argue that he's not qualified --


CUOMO: Well, it's a political decision.

FLAKE: We'll certainly do that.

CUOMO: You're going to have to have your meetings. I'd love to talk to you after that, because you know, he's out there when it comes to presidential authority. That's the one case he said as a circuit judge hasn't been reported much, he says he can't wait to overturn it. He'd love to be the final nail in overturning that 1988 decision --

[21:10:00] FLAKE: Right.

CUOMO: -- that allowed for an independent counsel.

Now, of course that's not what Mueller is. But it will be interesting to get his thoughts on that.

Senator Flake, thank you for joining us tonight. I know you had to rush. It was important, and I appreciate it.

FLAKE: Hey, thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So, the president keep so the president keeps boasting no one has been tougher on Russia than he has. He says that was even true in Helsinki. Now, I was there, and that ain't true. But what about all the other claims?

It is time to test the facts. I'm going to lay them out. You judge, next.


CUOMO: All right. What do you say? Let's get after it. It's time for the great debate with Ana Navarro and Steve Cortes.

Good to have you both.

Steve Cortes, here's the proposition.


CUOMO: I can't trust the president when it comes to Putin. I can't trust him to do the right thing. He's done it too many times the wrong way.

Make the case.

[21:20:00] CORTES: Well, I'll tell you this. I think in your last segment I think you asked for I believe the word you used was the signature move to show that he's serious in confronting Russia. I'll tell you the signature move. It was the United States military in Syria literally slaughtering hundreds of Russian mercenaries in the battlefield.

So, that -- I mean, if nothing else tells you that he is serious about taking on Russia when it's an adversary to the United States, that certainly does. This is a president who -- and listen, I was critical of his words in Helsinki. I thought he had a poor performance at the podium.

But his actions are the opposite. And in terms of the actions, and I think there's a lot of actions that show his toughness against Russia, I can think of none, though, more serious than actually taking on paramilitary forces from Russia and, again, slaughtering them in the field of battle in Syria.

CUOMO: All right. The counterfactual is the war is far from over there and President Trump wants to pull the people out. But let's take your premise as it stands.

Ana Navarro, is that good enough for you?


ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, of course not. Look, if you take a look at just what's happened in the last seven days, it should be of extreme concern. It should be disturbing. It should be worrying.

We should be scared about what's happening here. The breadth and scope of the conspiracy of the Russians with the United States, with the elections, with what's going on in our nation is very, very scary.

What have we seen in the last seven days? We've seen a debacle in Helsinki, a president of the United States slobbering over Putin, a murderous, corrupt oligarch, like if he was a poodle.

What else have we seen? We've seen a Russian spy get detained, arrested, with, you know -- who had worked her way into the NRA and other conservative circles and gotten very close to the Trump circles. We have seen for the first time in four years that the State Department did not issue a condemnation against Russia for the downing of MH-17. The anniversary was two days ago.

We have seen that this White House is actually considering, has not absolutely ruled out the idea of turning over an American citizen, a former U.S. ambassador, McFaul, to the Russians for questioning because they want him there? I mean, how much more do you want to see? And this is just in the last seven days.

And add to that, you know, what we have seen, the zigzagging of Donald Trump on this, you know, failed cleanup attempt on aisle Russia. It has been a disaster. And I'm just talking about the last seven days.

CORTES: You know, Ana --

CUOMO: So, Cortes, let's do one of your favorite things to do. Let's play the "if Obama did it game".

If Obama had that list of accomplishments over the last seven days, you wouldn't even use his last name. You wouldn't use his first name. You would only call him by his middle name. All you'd be saying is Hussein all the time because you would believe that somehow he had some type of nefarious connection and that's what it was all about.

How do you justify it?

CORTES: No, I wouldn't be saying that. Listen, as much as I disagree with his policies, I would never question his patriotism and his love of our country. Even though on a mike that he didn't know was hot he promised, quote, flexibility to Medvedev, who said I will transmit that to Vladimir Putin --

CUOMO: Winds up looking like Conan the Barbarian compared to what we saw in Helsinki in terms of the weakness of that move.

CORTES: But, listen, here's what's going on. I really believe here's what's going on with Ana and with a lot of people on the left right now, is this has become the birtherism of the left, because it really has --


CUOMO: -- and racist and bigoted.

CORTES: Right, agreed. And so is this.

CUOMO: Where's the racism and the bigotry --


CORTES: Hold on. Chris, I was on record saying it was fake and it was nonsense. It was an attempt to delegitimize President Obama because we didn't beat him at the ballot box and the way to counter that is not by resorting to falsehoods. This is the exact same tactic.


CORTES: Because the left still can't get over -- because the left still can't get over --

CUOMO: Trump lied about Russian interference. He said he agreed with Putin.


CUOMO: He said it might be somebody else. Come on, man.

NAVARRO: Chris, let me just say this.

CUOMO: Hold on.


CORTES: That's a key word that --

CUOMO: Ana, weigh in. I don't want to dominate the debate.

NAVARRO: Listen, every time you are on, Steve, you like to call me part of the left. Let me remind you that I have been a lifelong Republican.

CORTES: Well, you are.

NAVARRO: Let me remind you that I was a Republican --

CORTES: There's a lot of leftist Republicans.

NAVARRO: Listen, I don't interrupt you. Don't interrupt me. You know I can't stand that.

I was a Republican when Donald Trump was a Democrat. I was a Republican when Donald Trump was independent. I have supported every Republican that's run for president. And I can tell you today that Ronald Reagan who had the strength of

his convictions when he was confronting Russia during the Cold War, when he was confronting Gorbachev, would be rolling over in his grave today if he saw the behavior of Donald Trump and this administration, and he saw the number of so-called Republicans who turned the other way and somehow find a way to excuse this inexcusable behavior.

CORTES: Look, here's I think the reality. This idea that Donald Trump is somehow a Russian agent, this is the birtherism of the left. It is.

I mean, that is the reality of the situation. And why? And let's be honest about this, Chris, because you and many people still can't believe that he won in 2016. And instead of analyzing why --


CUOMO: You couldn't believe won in 2016. You didn't think he was --

CORTES: It's not true.

CUOMO: You didn't think he was going to win.

CORTES: It took me a while, but I did in the end, Chris. I did.

CUOMO: Like after the results is when you thought he could win. Come on, Steve.


CUOMO: Listen, you've got to do better than this. You've never heard me say that Trump is a Russian agent. I get criticized all the time because I practice this I only know what I show edict. I don't know if it's my legal training or just journalism. I don't get into the speculation about what we know. I just say the probe should end.

I'm not saying he's a Russian asset. I'm saying that he sat on his asset when he was supposed to be confronting Putin. That's why he went there, to be man to man, Steve. Remember? Nobody can be in the room.

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: One on one. And he came out of there and said really bad things that hurt the country. And you know that.

[21:30:00] So don't put it on me. Don't put it on fake news. Put it on the president where it belongs.

CORTES: I agree with you. And I was very public about that, that I think he performed poorly --

CUOMO: Well, then don't say we think he's a Russian asset. Don't say that. It's not true.

CORTES: Hold on. NAVARRO: Reason people have questions --

CORTES: No, but this is being said all over -- hold on.

CUOMO: Not here. We're having a reasoned debate.

NAVARRO: The reason people --


CUOMO: Poppycock.

NAVARRO: The reason people have questions is because it is hard to explain. It is impossible to explain and understand this behavior by a U.S. president, to undermine his own U.S. intelligence agencies over and over again. This is a guy who likes to pick a fight with just about anybody.

CUOMO: True.

NAVARRO: And he picks a fight with dead people. And yet when it comes to Putin all we see is deferential treatment.

CUOMO: That's the weird part, Steve.

NAVARRO: So, you begin to ask yourself, you have to ask yourself, if you're a reasonable person who is not a cult member --

CUOMO: That's the weird part.


NAVARRO: What? What is the reason?

CUOMO: I'll tell you what the problem is.

NAVARRO: I mean, it could be he's compromised in some way. Whether it's golden showers or whether it's money laundering, we don't know, but there has to got to be a reason.


CORTES: Here we go. Here we go.

CUOMO: I don't put any stock in any of that stuff, by the way, because I haven't seen any proof of it. But I'm telling you the curiosity is contagious because it doesn't make sense on its face, Steve.

And you guys think that he's doing the right thing by going on Trump TV to the mother ship over on Fox where they don't ask him any questions and he gets to lie about whatever he wants and that's good because it reinforces the base. It doesn't expand the tent. It doesn't reassure the American people, the majority of whom did not vote for him, that he has their best interests at heart.

And that's where you should be focused, not on blaming me with birtherism. That's nonsense, Steve.

CORTES: No, this -- I believe this is birtherism. But by the way, he went on CBS News tonight. He's not only going on Fox TV. So, that's an unfair criticism of him.

And CBS News has been no friend to him. But, look --

CUOMO: You think that interview was like what happens when people are on here? You think it's the same standard? You think it's the same job that's being done? You know he picks his venues very carefully.

CORTES: I think CBS News has -- look, I'd like him to come on CNN.

CUOMO: Me too.

CORTES: I'm a CNN person.

CUOMO: It's an open invitation.

CORTES: I think he can handle it. He'd do great.

CUOMO: He would. He's his best advocate. No offense.

CORTES: Yes. And I hope he does. It's one of the reasons he's president, right?

CUOMO: But all I'm saying is this --

CORTES: Here's the thing too.

CUOMO: Go ahead, make your last point. I've got to go.

CORTES: When you talk about -- by the way, the American voters, and you say the majority and the popular vote didn't vote for him, that's true. But you know what? The Electoral College, which is how we elect our president, which is not insignificant, the reason he won the Electoral College vote is he spoke to voters who don't care very much about Moscow, Russia.

They care about Moscow, Idaho. They care about their wages. They care about jobs.

CUOMO: That doesn't mean they --

NAVARRO: Moscow, Russia cared about the elections. And we have no idea what their influence led to.


CORTES: All of those metrics, on all of those metrics he's succeeding immensely as president.

CUOMO: He has good things going for him, but they should not be used as an excuse for the bad.

NAVARRO: He has succeeded in carrying Vladimir Putin's water all over the world. Attacking --

CUOMO: Ana Navarro --

NAVARRO: Attacking Montenegro.

CORTES: This is birtherism.

NAVARRO: Ridiculous.

CUOMO: It's not birtherism.

NAVARRO: Well, did you object when the birtherism was carried out by Donald Trump?

CORTES: I sure did. I sure did.

NAVARRO: Really?

CUOMO: I'm going to check it, Cortes.

CORTES: Yes, I did.

CUOMO: Thanks to both of you.

NAVARRO: How ironic to throw out birtherism when Donald Trump is the guy who birthed birtherism.

CUOMO: This is the birth of irony.

Ana, Cortes, thank you.

NAVARRO: The death of shame.

CUOMO: We're going to talk to a man now who's very concerned about where America is heading. You know the name -- Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans fame. What's he going to do about the troubles that he sees? We'll put it to the former mayor, next.



CUOMO: All right. We can't just traffic in the negative. We have to figure out who out there has the ideas. What's going to be done, how do we get better?

Let's bring in Democrat and former New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, the author of "In The Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History". Good read.

Mitch, thank you for being with us.


CUOMO: I only call him Mitch because he told me to. I believe in deference. Two of his elected office but that's what he wants me to. So, you were listening to the debate.

LANDRIEU: I was. Thank you for not putting me on that panel. I don't ever want to be on a panel with Ana. She's tough.

CUOMO: Ana is tough, she's fair but she believes what she believes.

LANDRIEU: She is. And she's not a Democrat, by the way.

CUOMO: No. I called her that once when we were in south Florida during the conventions. It was a mistake.

All right. So, the argument is this -- you're going after Trump because you can't take that he won. This is the new birtherism because really he's great for the country and he's tougher on Russia than anyone. Do you accept?

LANDRIEU: Well, of course that's not true. You know, I think all of us, or at least I did, I was against President Trump. I did not want him to win. And I'm sad that he did.

But like every American, when he ran, all of us hoped that the person that's in that office will find a way to be tempered by the majesty and the strength and the responsibility of that office and actually hoped that he was going to get better. We've now seen some 500 days after that it's just getting more complicated and more difficult. One of the challenges that I think we have is we spent a lot of time trying to psychoanalyze the president, why is he doing what he does, it doesn't make any sense.

And sometimes if we step back and say actually, just what is it that he's doing. And if you think just in the last 45 days, he tried to kneecap Trudeau. I think he backslapped Merkel. He tried to undo May. And those are all of our friends and our allies.

And at the same time he took a knee to Putin. And I think America --

CUOMO: It sounds like a UFC match.

LANDRIEU: Well, it's just a weird -- it's kind of a weird thing. But here's what Americans have to start thinking about. We expect especially on foreign soil our president to protect our interests. And it appears as though that all of intelligence, you know, folks have now come to say that Russia tried to interrupt our free and fair elections, in other words, a threat to our democracy. That is an enemy trying to hurt our country.

And if there was ever a time for our president to battle for us it would be then. But he didn't do it.

CUOMO: That's what we thought he was going to.

LANDRIEU: So, instead of -- I'm not saying people shouldn't be angry about it. We should. But we ought to start thinking, well, if he's not going to do it, well, who is going to do it? And so, I wonder as an American citizen where our leaders are. And in the balance of power now shifts to the House and to the Senate to basically kind of exercise what the Founding Fathers gave them --


[21:40:00] CUOMO: What should they do? Jeff Flake came on and said he and Democratic Senator Coons passed a resolution. That's nice but it doesn't mean anything.

LANDRIEU: Well, that's talk. You have to have action. Now, obviously the executive is really the power person when we're talking about the chief executive officer. But it doesn't mean Congress and the courts can't check the president. It's a weird thing to have them checking the president in a relationship with an enemy.

And the public I think is beginning to understand that really simple notion. Ana kind of made the point that he seems to be fighting our friends and hanging out with our enemies and it's just a weird thing because I don't feel protected by that and I want him to protect the safety and security of free and fair elections. That's just a fact.

The other side can argue all they want. It really isn't consistent with the birtherism movement. There's no racial intent to hurt the president. We're just looking at his behavior and we're judging his behavior as opposed to where he might be born or his legitimacy.

CUOMO: That's some talking point they came up with.

LANDRIEU: He is the legitimate president of the United States. Democrats freak out about this because he didn't win the popular vote. But he won the electoral vote and that's kind of the way it goes.

CUOMO: Right. But the reason, look, I check that all the time, Mitch, because first of all, it's counterproductive. You're not going to re-litigate the election. It's over.

But also, it cheapens the interference in the Mueller probe because the president can't separate the two, in part because -- in part because of some Democrats who he feels think they're going to get rid of him through this because of what happened during the election.

But collusion, who was involved with the Russians, relevant, but that it happened at all, more relevant, he can't separate the two. We play that -- saw that play out on the world stage.

LANDRIEU: I think a lot of Americans saw that the other day and they were humiliated by it.

CUOMO: It was embarrassing.

LANDRIEU: It looked like collusion in motion, which was just really -- it was just interesting. So, I think the question people have is if you don't have anything to worry about why are you protecting somebody who is clearly our enemy, while so easily just smacking kids who cross the border --

CUOMO: They say because we need Russia to fix the worst situations in the world -- Syria, Iran, Middle East peace in general, you need them. LANDRIEU: That may be true, but as nations talk to each other, there

are boundaries. And when you come into my yard and try to steal my stuff, even if you're helping me cut my grass, you've got to say, hey, man, you can't have my barbecue pit.

CUOMO: Right.

LANDRIEU: I mean, you know, it just -- it seems somewhat simple in that regard. But I do think that if the Republicans in Congress are not going to exert their responsibility to be the balance and the check on the executive, the best thing to do is to change them and then see if Congress will exercise their authority. If they don't change them again, because now the president has succeeded this week in uniting the United States of America around this issue.

There are other important issues that are always raised, infrastructure, trade, immigration, all of those things are critically important. But Congress isn't making much headway on that either.

CUOMO: He was making ground on NATO. I understand why what happened most recently with one of his Fox friends where he was saying, well, Montenegro, I don't know that we defend them until they pay in. I get why that is offensive to people who understand international politics and diplomacy.

However, to the ear of the American -- yes, I don't want to pay more than they do, they should pay up. It plays well. The economy plays well.

LANDRIEU: As it should.

CUOMO: Him telling the allies you guys get too good of a deal off us plays well.

LANDRIEU: As it should. Everybody should pay their fair share. Everybody should honor their responsibility.

But beating them into a pulp while at the same time taking a knee to Russia when Russia tried to actually take our democracy away, people go, well, that's kind of weird. And I think there's a weirdness to it.

CUOMO: Here's the problem for you guys. You think you can beat him?

LANDRIEU: I think it's not going to be easy to beat him. And I think the Democrats have to be very thoughtful and circumspect about that. Independents in the country are now beginning to say, well, do I really feel more secure? Is America heading in the right direction?

What really does make America great? This strain that's running through this country about nativism and isolationism, everything that I know about every organization is the more insular you get, the more isolated you get, long term you get weaker you don't get stronger. You get smaller, you don't get bigger.

And so yes, the economy is moving in the right direction. That always benefits the incumbent president.

CUOMO: A hundred percent.

LANDRIEU: We can argue all day long about --

CUOMO: And negativity's not --

LANDRIEU: But he's got -- he get credits and he will get credit for a strong economy and the growth.

CUOMO: He should. He should. And negativity's not enough. '94, sweeping change took pop out as governor of New York.


CUOMO: 2010 after Obama. Those weren't just negative movements. They weren't just negative reactions to Democratic administrations. They were also positive messages of a promise of something better. Where are you guys on that?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I don't speak for the National Democratic Party. I'm just a citizen now. I can tell you, this that having run, been in office for 30 years, 16 as a legislator, six as a lieutenant governor, six as a mayor -- if you don't give people hope about a better tomorrow --

CUOMO: The reason to believe --

LANDRIEU: -- they'll stay where they are.

But I can tell you this, we are in fact better when we're doing stuff together, when we honor our diversity, when we actually bring people in and when we actually grow and we actually do things that are productive. Putting people back to work is critically important. When you find a nation that is afraid, they're wet, they're cold, they're hungry, they're scared, demagogues can move them in a strong way.


But if you can come up with a hopeful message and say, look, everybody has responsibility, everybody has opportunity, and by the way, we might be doing OK now, but what price glory? How much of our soul do we want to lose? Do you actually have to take people's civil liberties away?

CUOMO: I hear you.

LANDRIEU: Do you have to discriminate against people for a better job?

That discussion is not something we had in the last election.

CUOMO: True.

LANDRIEU: We kind of have time to have it now. And that really probably is going to be the talk for the next couple of years.

CUOMO: Two questions, one macro, one micro. The macro one you just asked. You know, at what price do you do what you do?

LANDRIEU: There is a price for it.

CUOMO: The micro is at what price are you willing to pay? I'm going to ask you this question several times between now and the next election.

Where are you in terms of wanting to get in the race?

LANDRIEU: I'm not running.

CUOMO: A hundred percent?

LANDRIEU: Well, you never say never. You know that.

CUOMO: Yes. I say never all the time. My kid says I want this, my wife says I want this, I say no, never.

LANDRIEU: Then you suck up to them and give them what they want. You know how that works.

CUOMO: That's true.

LANDRIEU: But no, I don't intend to do that right now. You know the world can change. There are a lots of things going on. I think there are going to be a plethora of candidates.

Having said that, it is absolutely not a fait accompli that Donald Trump is not going to get re-elected. And I think that when the country starts thinking about what they want to be and we're talking about what really makes America great, how we really can be strong, how we can all work together --

CUOMO: That's the best chance you think?

LANDRIEU: I think that's the best chance to frame issues.

CUOMO: So, Mitch Landrieu is not in but you are not 100 percent out.

LANDRIEU: Correct.

CUOMO: Politician.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. And a good one I hope.

CUOMO: I appreciate it.

All right. I'm looking forward to seeing you this Saturday, by the way, Mitch Landrieu. He's going to be on "THE AXE FILES" with David Axelrod. That will be a great conversation.

LANDRIEU: And he told me not to answer any of your questions.

CUOMO: He is a much -0 well, you will answer his. He's a better mind and he's a better interviewer.

All right. So, Trump's case needs to be tested when it comes to NATO. You heard us talk about this a little bit. What is our responsibility? How is it supposed to work?

Look who we have. What a great guest to talk NATO. General Anthony Tata, he knows the law. He knows the reality. He knows what's right, next.



CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in Brigadier General Anthony Tata, author of the novel "Dark Winter", coming out this fall.

Thank you very much.

General, I'm not going to take a lot of your time. I just have really one question. This idea that the United States will back you as a NATO ally if you pay your share, is that the right message to send?

BRIG. GEN. ANTHONY TATA, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think any discussion on the threshold on decision-making with regard to combat or decision- making regarding coming to the aid of a NATO member is a good discussion to have, because, if you remember, 9/11 was the first time Article 5 was enacted by --

CUOMO: That's right, in our defense.

TATA: -- by the North Atlantic Council, and they employed eight measures to assist us as we went to Afghanistan --

CUOMO: Right.

TATA: -- over flight rights and early warning and that kind of thing.

CUOMO: Right.

TATA: And the president has been consistent in his message, you've got to pay your fair share. And, you know, it's a good discussion to have.

CUOMO: But the idea that it's an if/then, if you pay, then I'll take your back, that's not the way it's supposed to work.

TATA: Well, the way it's supposed to work, let's look at what President Obama did when France was attacked, when Belgium was attacked, when Turkey was attacked, when Germany was attacked, he flicked lint off his suit, right, and did nothing. He didn't even talk about Article 5.

You know, France had over 260 people killed in two separate attacks by ISIS --

CUOMO: Right. TATA: -- an enemy that we were fighting at the time, and there was zero discussion of implementation of Article 5. So, I think it's perfectly valid for the president of the United States now to have a conversation about what is the threshold and should member nations --


CUOMO: Well, that's fine, if that's what he's talking about, but his threshold is financial. He's not talking about some of the higher concepts that you are. That's why I wanted to bring you in for this conversation.

I understand your point, it's just not the point that he's making. And it's interesting that making it about money and saying you have to pay into NATO, first of all, as you know and the audience should know, there's no such mechanism. Nobody pays anything. It's about your commitment to your own defensive preparations.

TATA: That's right.

CUOMO: And, you know, what he's saying goes against what one of his main advisers says. Listen to what Bolton said in 2016 about the idea of what Trump is saying right now.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER AMBASSADOR: He offers this hypothetical, if a Baltic state is attacked by Russia, that he would decide then whether or not to come to their aid, only after reviewing whether these nations have fulfilled their obligations to us. That is an open invitation to Putin to attack.


CUOMO: That's the situation we're in right now. Do you share the concern?

TATA: I don't think that's the situation we're in, Chris. I think Montenegro -- I've been all over the Balkans, I've been in Bosnia, Croatia, been through Montenegro. I've been in Macedonia, Kosovo.

Montenegro is well-protected. You know, they may have some cyber attacks or whatever. But I don't think there's any threat from Russia.

And so, I think it was just the president being very consistent with his messaging with regard to NATO. Member nations must pay their fair share is essentially what he's been saying. And it makes the alliance stronger, Chris, if everybody does. And then that sends a message to Russia that this is a stronger alliance.

Meanwhile, our military has the largest budget it's ever had.

CUOMO: Right.

TATA: And we are a stronger military. We have exercises going on all across Western Europe. We're in the face of Russia. We have attacked Syria, a Russian, you know --

CUOMO: Right.

TATA: -- state, for lack of a better term. Russia has a naval base right close to where several of our attacks came in.

CUOMO: Now, I hear you, General.

TATA: We killed about 200 Russian mercenaries and didn't apologize for it. We just steam-rolled right through them --

CUOMO: But I'm just saying --

TATA: -- as part of our ISIS fights. So, Chris, you know, we've been very tough on Russia.

CUOMO: All right. I hear you, General.

TATA: Yes.

CUOMO: I hear you. I'm just saying that it's been a mixed picture, given what we saw in Helsinki a little bit before and we'll see what happens after it. Now, I'll have you come back to help us make sense of it.

General, thank you.

TATA: Thank you, Chris.

[21:55:00] CUOMO: All right. So, Russia says its willingness to help the U.S. investigate election meddling is a little contingent on whether or not the Trump administration hands over a former ambassador for questioning. Crazy talk, right? The White House says, we're considering it, next.


CUOMO: Don Lemon is here. There is some outrage over pump entertaining the prospect of caving to Russia's demand to turn over former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul.

You're taking it on. What's your take?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": Well, it's absurd. And we're going to talk to James Clapper, by the way, at the beginning of the show, who has some idea about this.

But I think it's absurd. I think what the White House said, Sarah Sanders response, I thought it was odd. Instead of just saying, no, we're not letting you interview the former ambassador to Russia, no, we're not letting you interview any Americans.

Listen, Chris, Russia is not a democracy in the way of United States is. They don't care about the rule of law. They don't care about due process. And the fact that the president and his administration now are saying they might possibly entertain this, I just think it's really outrageous.

And I think, you know, most people do as well. Intelligence officials are responding, members of Congress are responding.