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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Interview With Democratic Senator Dick Durbin; Trump Threatens Government Shutdown if Doesn't Get The Money For The Border Wall Before The Midterms; Obstruction Versus Opinion: The President's Tweets.. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 1, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I love "Full Circle", by the way. So does my 15-year-old. Look at you breaking into a new generation.
And thank you for Randi's setup piece. It is the perfect transition to the case we're going to make. Thank you, my friend.
I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.
Mueller wants to talk to Trump about obstruction. This is a fact. Believe nothing else. This is on the table.
Despite denials by the president's legal team, Trump's tweets are not just opinions. They are potential admissions and potential suggestions of intent. So, tonight, what we know about the probe and why the tweets may come back to haunt the president.
What does the number two Democrat in the Senate think? Dick Durbin is here, and we're going to put him to the test.
And the president does have this new group of fans. They're showing up at rallies attacking his enemies, but they may not be the boost he seeks. The conspiracists that are treading the Internet chat rooms for Trump rallies, Q Anonymous.
There is a lot to test tonight. What do you say? Let's get after it.
CUOMO: All right. I want to take you through this right off the top tonight before I get to anything else because we have new details on the Mueller investigation.
We're learning that Mueller does want to talk about obstruction with Trump, period. They've always wanted to. And there is an ongoing negotiation about how much will be written, questions and answers, how much will be oral, how long it will be, what areas? All that is true, but the biggest news today we see in the president's apparent response to this latest volley from Mueller.
And it's this tweet right here, OK? You remember this tweet. This is a terrible situation. The Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop. That's important, why? Because you're hearing from his attorneys and
his defenders, he would have said must stop if it were an order, this is just an opinion. That's for you to figure out.
But it certainly matters for another reason. Why? Rigged witch hunt. Before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted and his 17 angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to the USA.
Is this an opinion or a dog whistle or both? I'm going make the case to you here at the top of the show.
Now, to Mueller, to you, to me, these tweets matter. Why? He's the president of the United States. These are official communications from our government.
Even the White House was forced to agree with that. And it should tell you something, that the White House avoided owning Trump's tweets as official statements for quite some time. But they are.
And the latest spate has particular significance on two levels. He's calling for the A.G. to shut it down -- opinion, admission, order, whatever. And he's disparaging all aspects of those doing the investigating. OK?
Both aspects of that pose problems. One in law, the other in politics. Seventeen angry Democrats, part of a riff he's been on if you see this collage of tweets that we have here for you.
The White House and his attorneys, again, they say oh no, this is just what the president thinks, it's First Amendment. He's not you. He's not me. He's the president.
He has control over these probes. He has controls over the institutions of government. So, they're not just opinions.
And when you say these kinds of things, he's doing two things. He's discrediting the probe, rightly and wrongly, and he's doing something else that I'm going get to in a second.
Now, what a president can and cannot do to influence an investigation that he is part of is up for debate, all right? There are different takes on it. But it's a real issue.
And we know that these signals that he sends are relevant. His tweets show deceptions about what he knew and when he knew it about Flynn, about why he moved on Comey, about what his motivations were at the time. All of this could very well matter a lot to people looking for proof of corrupt intent that is the state of mind needed for obstruction of justice and to look for acts that were intentional to stop or hinder a probe.
Is that a crime? I don't know. But the tweets could be taken as admissions, proof of fact, proof of intent. And the president keeps making them. [20:05:00]So, that's the legal side I wanted to lay out for you. But
there's something else that is potentially more important. They are a reflection of an ugly reality that Trump has tried hard to create.
The division, as you know, in this country is really raw and it's not really partisan. You could argue it's not partisan at all, that Democrats and Republicans are just collateral damage in what's going on. Both parties are on the wane as independents now outnumber both. And what we see are passions on the rise.
Trump gets this very well. He plays to it for better and worse. I think that doing what works for him and his base, stoking discontent, abusing the truth, feeding conspiracy feelings may come at a cost, OK? His lies have become so frequent, OK, when we look at these kinds of things, right?
"The Washington Post" has the truth detector that they do on it. The fact checker says he now lies at a rate of more than 7-1/2 times a day to you.
And that works. It's reduced the impact on you and the ability of the media to track the same types of data and make the case to you that it matters. This tweet about the -- the tweet about the 17 angry men and the Mueller conflicts, if it smacks of Alex Jones junk, that's because a lot of it is.
Remember, the president is privy to information that's way better than what I have and that what you have very often. He knows that Strzok didn't work the case against him in any real way. He knows Comey and Mueller and Rosenstein are lifelong Republicans that no one in our institutions have any real concerns about.
He knows that Mueller didn't simply pick Democrats to be on his team as a lifelong Republican. He picked experts in money laundering and financial crimes.
He knows the FISA warrants to surveil Carter Page weren't solely based on the dossier. He knows this. He's in charge of the institutions of government.
He knows Mueller isn't conflicted out because of some golf membership or out to get him. He knows these things. He knows what's going on.
So why is he ignoring what's true and cultivating a base that includes those who eat up conspiracies and dark mysteries of power?
That takes us to the topic of QAnon, Q Anonymous. Internet conspiracy collective.
You see them at Trump rallies. They have their Seth Rich signs, "We are Q," that's them. The Seth Rich things that you'll see come up here in a little bit. What is that about?
Seth Rich was a young man who worked for the DNC. He was murdered. And they are ascribing it to a political plot that his family condemns and investigators dismiss. But they're with Trump. Why? Because he tells them on some level
that what they want to believe is OK. That feeling is as good as fact.
He has his people at his rally that look for the number 17, the signs of truth. Q is the 17th letter in the alphabet. Not that that helps make any sense of its significance to them.
And they see Trump tweeting something like this: 17 angry Democrats. They take value in the number 17. A potential sign.
I hope he didn't use that number for them. He doesn't always use the number 17. I don't see that as being intentional. But who knows these days?
But he has their interest. So what are they doing now? Well, they join in support of him and attacks of others.
You saw what happened with Jim Acosta. If we go back to this video, when it gets to where Jim was, you'll see there were a lot of those Q people who were in front of him.
They're even stalking Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti. Why? Why go after Michael Avenatti? Because he's identified as one of Trump's opponents.
And they are now out to defend the president from their imagined array of opposition and not a word from the White House about this. Actually, that's not true.
Sarah Sanders did say this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Unfortunately -- it's now standard to abandon common sense ethical practices. This is a two-way street. We certainly support a free press. We certainly condemn violence against anybody. But we also ask that people act responsibly and report accurately and fairly.
We certainly support freedom of the press. We also support freedom of speech, and we think that those things go hand in hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Well, look, what did she avoid? She avoided saying to people don't shout at a free press, don't be that ugly, don't be that hostile, don't threaten violence like that, be better than that, the Trump supporters are better than that.
She didn't say that. Why? You decide.
And what speech do they support at the White House? They support speech like when Sanders justified the president calling the free press scum, right? A stain on America. The enemy of the people. They support all that as free speech.
But they don't support free speech when they don't like it. That's when they disinvite journalists and they shrink away from interviews and they won't put their people out on shows like this.
So what does all this tell us tonight? The tweets matter. They could have significance to investigators who are digging for proof of intent which the president seems all but too happy to supply. That could be dangerous.
And so could feeding all these fringe groups that are finding comfort in a potential cause for action in Trump's scorched-earth attacks on American institutions.
Now, what is our job? It's to call it out, give the information to you, and let you make informed decisions. We are going to do that job no matter what the president encourages to stop us. In fact, I believe as deeply as anything that the president has made my job more important than ever.
So what do you say? Let's take a quick break and get back after it. Let's do this job.
We've got a senator here tonight who is at the center of two of the biggest problems we face, the Russia probe and those captured kids on the border. He sees big developments coming on both fronts. The Democratic whip, Senator Dick Durbin, next.
[20:18:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: So, big question to chew on. What does it mean when the president responds to more demands from the Mueller probe by saying it should end? Is that just an opinion or is it an admission that the president will stop this investigation? And if he were to stop it, is that obstruction of justice?
Weighty questions. So let's get after it with the Senate minority whip, Illinois Democrat Senator Dick Durbin.
Senator Durbin, thank you for joining us on PRIME TIME.
What do you make of the president's tweet? I'll put it up for the audience -- that seemed to be a call to the attorney general to stop the Mueller probe.
His people are saying no, use the word should not must, it's not an order. It's just his opinion.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINIOS: The President's playing games with words here. We know exactly what his opinion is of the Mueller probe. He's called it a witch hunt and many other names.
It's time for Mitch McConnell to finally let us pass the bipartisan legislation that once and for all protects the special counsel and lets him finish his business. CUOMO: That said the president does have the right to say he thinks that the probe is a joke and that it should end, right? He still has his First Amendment rights as well, no?
DURBIN: Well, he certainly does but when he starts trying to influence a man that he appointed as attorney general, it gets dangerously close to obstruction of justice.
CUOMO: What is the line for you? Can a president obstruct justice? And if so, what would you need to see?
DURBIN: Well, of course, he can obstruct justice, and in this situation an investigation which may or may not find him culpable, if he tries to stop it, if he tries to dismiss Bob Mueller before he's completed the investigation -- all of these things, I think, are as I say prima facie evidence.
CUOMO: What do you make of the notion that the law doesn't make it clear enough where a president is involved? Because he has as the Supreme Court is held, and I know you know this, almost absolute firing power. He can get rid of whomever he wants, whenever he wants, in the absence of a law that says otherwise. And there is no statute that specifically does this.
DURBIN: And, coincidently, his nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, has said that he believes that a president should basically be immune from investigation and prosecution while in office. That is certainly a timely choice of a nominee considering what --
CUOMO: In absence of legislation, he too -- Kavanaugh argues as well because of the absence of a statute that says otherwise, a president should be exempt.
DURBIN: Well, we can argue one way or the other. A statute would make it a lot clearer, but we're not going to get a statute through this Republican Congress, and signed by this particular president.
CUOMO: So, let's say that Mueller either doesn't find the sufficiency, or doesn't believe he can charge and indict a sitting president -- which seems to be the case. Do you believe that what you see as potential obstruction of justice is an impeachable office under the high crimes and misdemeanors nebulous standard?
DURBIN: Well, I'm going to wait for Mueller's conclusion, and I have a lot faith in him. I'll stand by his conclusion whether it exonerates the president, or finds him guilty -- or at least accuses him being guilty of some misconduct.
When it comes to the impeachment process, I can just tell you, I've been through that with President Clinton. This is a very high standard under our Constitution. I do not consider it lightly.
And should it go forward, I would be sitting on the jury in the United States Senate. CUOMO: Isn't that one of the best arguments in favor of wrapping this up? If Mueller doesn't have really heavy duty ammunition against the president, and impeachment is largely a political numbers game -- why wouldn't he wrap it up? If he doesn't have something to actually indict and charge on, and impeachment is all but impossible because of the numbers in Congress right now -- where is the progress in all of this?
DURBIN: Chris, let me tell you I trust Robert Mueller. I've known him for 20 years. I have worked with him and headed the FBI.
He's a consummate professional. He is handling this professionally. The reason he's getting battered in the press by the president's constant tweets calling it a witch hunt is because he believes that a good professional prosecutor doesn't try his case in the press.
I'm going to give him the timetable he needs to complete this. This is a historic undertaking, I want it done right. When it's all over, I want the American people to feel justice is being done.
CUOMO: That's got to be the bar. People have to believe it's the truth. They have to believe that they understand the facts and the consequences. That should be everybody's priority.
So in that vein, I want to pivot with you, because the Judiciary Committee that you're on is going to have a roll when it comes to dealing with what is happening on our border right now. This reunification process is pleasing to one of the judges in the litigations, but it's still a low standard. We know there's a not a plan, and most importantly we know from a HHS official now that they knew what would happen if they did this, and they did it anyway.
What does that tell you and what can you do about that?
DURBIN: Well, it tells to me that this idea of forcibly removing children from their parents was a humanitarian disaster from start to finish. There was callous disregard for these children, even though we took them under our custodial care as a government. We did not keep records on their parents or the children. Clearly, no one was even thinking ahead to the possibly of reunifying them at some point.
Now, this judge in Southern California set deadlines which our government has met, partially, but failed to meet in many respects. We have, as of this week, 711 children who have not been reunited. Ninety-one of those children, they say -- they just can't even identify who their parents might be.
That is reckless disregard for the wellbeing of these children. Someone ought to accept responsibility, and that's why I called for the resignation of the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen this week.
CUOMO: The criticism of that poll though did garner a lot of headlines is too low on the totem pole, Senator. You know she's not calling the shots. She's doing what she's told to do. You have Attorney General Sessions out there saying that, basically,
the point of this was deterrence. He's the big shot. You have the president who's been campaigning on this since the moment he came down those fateful stairs in one of his buildings.
Why go after her?
[20:25:00]DURBIN: The president will face his day of reckoning on this decision, and so many others, in due time under our Constitution. As far as the attorney general is concerned, I know exactly where he stands on this issue and so many others, and he is culpable in the process.
But she is the one who is the architect and engineered the process, start to finish. She needs to accept personal responsibility for making a disastrous decision which reflects so badly on our country.
CUOMO: Senator Grassley says it's on you, it's on Congress. The system stinks, and you haven't designed any better laws, and you basically boxed in the executive and the law enforcement officials to have to make bad choices.
DURBIN: My response to my friend, Chuck Grassley, is that, five years ago, I sat down with seven senators, four Democrats, four Republicans, all together, we put together a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the United States Senate with 65 votes.
It didn't include his vote, I might add, but it passed and was sent to the Republican House which even refused to consider it. We need comprehensive immigration reform. There is no evidence this president supports that.
CUOMO: Well, here's what we know: If nothing changes, the situation will stay the same. The courts can only do so much. And we're going to need legal action, and we're going to need enforcement priorities, and you're going to be part of that equation.
So, Senator, thank you for joining us. We'll be talking about that again. You're always welcome on this show.
DURBIN: Thanks, Chris.
CUOMO: And with Democrats like Durbin and the Republicans, what they do will be weighed and measured in the midterm elections. It's fast approaching, less than 97 days now. President Trump's already furiously campaigning.
And someone else is getting back in the political game, President Obama.
Who will be the biggest influence at the polls?
The making of a great debate. And look at those two punims to get after it, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: The president repeated his threat today to shut down the government if he doesn't get the money for his border wall before the midterms. He even argues it would be good for the GOP if there were a shutdown. What do you think?
Let's have a great debate with Ana Navarro and Steve Cortes.
Here is some of the sound of the president saying it today. He was on with Rush Limbaugh, who's celebrating 30 years in the business. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Here you are suggesting that you'd be willing to maybe -- you talked about -- shutting down the government if that's what it took to get this wall built.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's like pulling teeth. Getting these guys to get it done is -- and you have no idea how tough I've been. And I say, hey, if you have a shutdown you have a shutdown. But whether it's before or after. But I actually think it's a great campaign issue. I think it would be great before.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CUOMO: Steve Cortes, shutdown good. Why?
[20:30:00]STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I totally agree. Look, I think it's both good policy and good politics. Good policy because the president ran on this as his signature issue. It is perhaps the foremost reason that he won the presidency, and it's a promise he made to the American people.
In terms of policy, for weeks, Chris, we've been talking about the terrible situation we've had down at the border, particularly as it regards children and families entering illegally. Guess what? A wall solves 95 percent of those problems at the border if we only have guarded accessible points of entry where we can control what happens down there.
But, secondly, and I think this is on the political side, I think quite frankly the Republicans are in trouble. The Democrats are clearly favored to take the House right now. History argues that. Present polling argues that.
One way, though, to crystallize the president's coalition, the deplorables, and to get them excited that President Trump is back on the ballot is to give the Congress an up or down choice. The Congress loves to equivocate and bloviate. We need to make it very simple for them. You either fund this wall --
CUOMO: All right.
CORTES: -- that the American people voted for or we're going to shut government down.
CUOMO: Ana, what happens if there's a shutdown politically?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, the Republicans take the blame.
I mean, I'm almost tempted to say great, go ahead, do a government shutdown because I think it will be so politically costly. It's impossible to think that anybody other than the Republicans would take the blame when you have a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican president.
Look, I remember back when there was -- you know, the entire shutdown debate and shutdown when Obama was president. And it was the Republicans who took the blame. So, it's not a good look for a Republican Party that has the entire power and the entire package to not be able to function properly.
Also, Chris, it's so -- look, Donald Trump likes to flex his muscle, right? He likes to do things that he can do on his own. He likes to impose tariffs. He likes to give out pardons.
He likes to show that he is a powerful macho man that's got all this political power and policy power and can make changes, and there's all these Republicans in Congress begging him --
NAVARRO: -- and he's being the magnanimous guy.
But listen, it is very cavalier I think for a very rich guy who spends so much time at his golf clubs and jetting around to his own properties to throw out the idea of a government shutdown so carelessly. The people who get hurt in a government shutdown are the government workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck.
The first ones that start getting furloughed are people like park rangers, people who are low on the totem pole, on the bureaucratic totem pole, and it inflicts a lot of pain on a lot of people in America including a lot of families.
CORTES: You know, Ana, forgive me if --
CORTES: Forgive me if I don't feel sorry for government workers.
The five richest counties in America by income are all in the Washington, D.C. metro area. There's a reason for that. It's because Washington, D.C. and the establishment crony swamp has siphoned the wealth and prosperity of the American people for its own benefits and it's done that for decades. That's the reason Donald Trump was elected.
And if the government non-essential services need to be shut down, it's already happened twice this year, it wasn't Armageddon, if that needs to happen again so they can finally get it through their thick heads on Capitol Hill that the American people voted for a wall and demand a wall --
CUOMO: Steve --
CORTES: -- then that's what we need to do.
CUOMO: Steve, what did it cost --
NAVARRO: But nothing looks more like a swamp -- but nothing looks more like a swamp than Donald Trump's cabinet, OK? If you want to talk about people siphoning off money.
Do you think that park rangers who work around the country are making six figures? Do you think they are making what Betsy DeVos or Wilbur Ross make on one day? They're not. And they're going to suffer. And they've got to feed their families.
And so, it's very cavalier and it's very nice, you know, to throw out the entire drain the swamp line and all of this stuff, but there's very real people. Some of whom, by the way, are probably Trump supporters who are going to feel a lot of pain in their pocketbook.
[20:35:00]CUOMO: Steve, what do you think the 2013 shutdown cost?
CORTES: I don't know the number.
CUOMO: And neither does the president, I would guess, right? Twenty billion dollars, 0.3 percentage points in gross domestic product. Federal government had to pay additional interest on payments that were late because of the shutdown.
CUOMO: Hundreds of patients were prevented from enrolling in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health. Four billion dollars in tax refunds were delayed.
You really think this comes for free?
CORTES: Chris, do you think a porous border comes for free? Do you think that's cheap? That's massively more than $20 billion.
CUOMO: I think you're conflating two things.
CORTES: No, I'm not. I'm saying --
CUOMO: If you don't like one thing, why would you hurt me with something else? And the number I let go of before I wanted to wait for Ana to speak first, 95 percent? Why don't you say gigagillion percent? Because it's as accurate as saying 95 percent.
You don't know at all what percentage difference a border wall would make on who comes across and what kind of problems we would have. You don't have any basis for that number that you said.
CORTES: Well, what we know right now --
CORTES: -- is that what we're doing isn't working.
CUOMO: No, no, 95 percent better? That's like where is that coming from?
CORTES: Yes, I believe that.
CUOMO: Oh, that's what you believe. Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that.
CORTES: It's not as though I just pulled it out of thin air.
CUOMO: Yes, you did.
CORTES: Where you look at where walls work. Places like Israel.
CUOMO: Like what, China? Like the great wall of China? Most of the drugs --
CORTES: I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about technology --
CUOMO: -- that we're worried about in this country come either from overseas shipments and the cartel, which I had the misfortune to spend all this time with doing this El Chapo documentary. They did the majority of it through tunnels. You know, you guys make up this B.S. to make people think that the wall -- we're a wall away from no one ever getting in again.
This isn't "Game of Thrones," Steve. Why talk that nonsense?
CORTES: Chris, it will --
NAVARRO: Not to mention that he's not going to get it.
CORTES: By the way, you don't have to take my word for it. You can take my experts' word for it.
CUOMO: Nobody says 95 percent. Nobody says 95 percent.
CORTES: People like ICE, people like the border patrol who were there on the ground.
CUOMO: I was there with them, watching them humanely deal with people who come across, dealing with body after body of desperate people trying to make it across because the process doesn't allow them in. They can't make it their legal way. Nobody says 95 percent.
CORTES: No, that's not true. Tom Holman --
CUOMO: It's a waste.
(CROSSTALK) CORTES: Tom Holman who is the former head of ICE, said again and again what a difference a border wall would make. The Border Patrol Officers Association --
CUOMO: Nobody said 95 percent, period.
Ana, make your final point.
CORTES: Obviously, that's my educated guess --
NAVARRO: The final point is not only will it put --
CUOMO: Ninety-five percent is not an educated guess. It's nonsense. It's hyperbole.
CORTES: Yes, it is.
CUOMO: Ana, go ahead.
CORTES: Why is your opinion more valid than my opinion, Chris?
CUOMO: I'll tell you why in a second.
NAVARRO: Oh, Jesus --
CUOMO: I'm saying go ahead.
NAVARRO: Not only will it put pain on the people of America, it will put a hell of a lot of pain on Republicans who are in purple districts like the one I live in.
That's the reason that a Paul Ryan and a Mitch McConnell don't want this to happen before the election or after the elections, because they are going to look like a bunch of dysfunctional boobs incapable of getting anything done and they are going to lose even more seats because people in Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's district who are going to have to vote for a new candidate, people in Carlos Curbelo's district and people in so many purple districts around this country are going to make someone pay for that level of dysfunction in Washington.
CUOMO: All right. Last word to you. And the reason that I get to check it that way is because the burden of proof is on you. You said the number, Steve. I don't have to justify that it's wrong. You have to justify that it's right and you have no basis.
CORTES: Your opinion that my number is wrong is no more valid than my opinion saying it's right.
CUOMO: A hundred percent, because you have no basis for it. And I'll tell you what, send me proof of 95 percent.
CORTES: And you have no basis -- CUOMO: Dinner's on me. I don't need a basis. This isn't logic.
Time to go.
CORTES: Well, I hope we find out because if we get the wall, we will find out.
CUOMO: That's not a great basis. I hope we find out if I'm right, not on my watch.
We deal with facts here. Steve, you send me the number dinner's on me.
CORTES: No, no, I'm saying I hope because I want the wall. That's what I'm -- I'm saying we will find out once --
CUOMO: Everybody wants the border to be more secure. I'm saying you don't have to lie about the facts to get it.
CORTES: Oh, really?
CUOMO: And I'm out of time. I got to go.
Ana, I'll always buy you dinner.
NAVARRO: Thank God.
CUOMO: Steve, you're going to have to prove the 95 first.
Robert Mueller, let's turn to him. He has been scouring President Trump's tweets for possible proof of a pattern, proof of intent.
Now, some will say oh, tweets, dismiss them. No. It's never been the case. They matter.
Now, did the president just hand him some damaging evidence? We're going to get back to our top story with a former senior aide to the president's campaign, Michael Caputo.
You know a wall isn't going to be a 95 percent improvement to who comes across the border. Come on.
[20:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: Obstruction versus opinion. Let's dig into the president's tweets with Michael Caputo, former aide to the Trump presidential campaign.
Always good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Hey, thanks for having me, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. So make the case. They're just opinions. They shouldn't really matter to anybody. Why?
CAPUTO: I think words have consequences, words really do matter. That's why when the president used the word "should" instead of the word "must", I think anybody examining his tweets for evidence of obstruction will have just as much luck as they are having trying to find collusion on the campaign.
It's not there. It's the president's opinion. He doesn't suspend his First Amendment rights when he takes the oath of office.
CUOMO: But it is different when he says something like that than if you or I do. Would you agree with that?
CAPUTO: No, the word should has a meaning, for the president or for you, Chris. It's should, not must.
CUOMO: I understand the difference between the words. Thank you for pointing it out, Mr. Strunk & White.
What I'm saying is this is one tweet that is one among many that has shown a clear intention by this president to want the probe ended. And when you look at the tweets as a suggestion of a state of mind of his intentions and you put it into context with the things that he has done, is it any surprise that the Mueller investigators want to talk to the president about obstruction of justice?
CAPUTO: I'm not surprised at all. I also won't be surprised if they'll find no proof of obstruction in his tweets just like they've found zero proof of collusion in his campaign.
You know what? All along, Chris, I've thought that the Mueller investigation should, you know, work its way out and, you know, find its way to an end. But I'm with the president now. This thing needs to be shut down.
It's been two years. We know that Paul Manafort and a very questionable FISA warrant, were going on even before that investigation, even before Paul was on the campaign. This has been going on long enough.
There's zero proof of any collusion. We're not going to have any. And looking at his tweets for obstruction is not what this is about. This is about collusion on the campaign. We are not finding anything --
CUOMO: Why --
CAPUTO: -- of the sort and we're never going to find it.
CUOMO: Let's just step through this stuff a little bit. One, Manafort is what it is. We have to see what they have. They're going to trial right now. So, obviously, there was a sufficiency met legally there.
In terms of duration, by what standard is this too long? I can tell you as somebody who's been in and around many federal investigations, they take a long time. And sometimes they never end. So, I don't know that duration is indicative of anything in this case.
But then oh, the tweets, as if the tweets are somehow inconsequential. They are statements --
CAPUTO: Well, then, how long is long enough, Chris?
CUOMO: I'm saying all I know is we don't know that duration has a certain scale when it comes to investigations. They looked at Clinton much longer than this --
CAPUTO: What? Is five years long enough, Chris? Is ten years long enough, Chris?
CUOMO: Did you complain about the length of the probe against Bill Clinton? No. Why? You liked it. Now you don't like it.
CAPUTO: I'll tell you, I look back on that now --
CUOMO: Now. Of course you do now.
CAPUTO: Sitting the jackpot where I sit now --
CAPUTO: -- I look back on it, I never supported the investigation of Bill Clinton over his personal life. And I think the special counsel law itself needs to be changed --
[20:45:00]CUOMO: Well, there is none now.
CAPUTO: -- people's lives being destroyed by this.
CUOMO: We don't have that statute in place right now, which is why so much is unclear about what a president can and cannot do.
But dismissing the tweets, Michael, I don't get it. I've always been a big buyer of the president's tweets. They are statements, official statements from the president of the United States. How he decides to speak, what language and forethought he decides to use is up to him. But they matter, Michael.
CAPUTO: Well, it's no doubt words matter, Chris. And nobody knows that better than the president of the United States.
I'll tell you what, if the president offends the delicate sensibilities of the liberal left, I don't really care.
CUOMO: No, it's about the truth. It's not about liberal -- it's about saying it's free speech what he says, he can give his opinion whenever he wants. This is America, we heard from Sarah Sanders.
CUOMO: But not when you're an official who he doesn't like. Then you accuse him of politicizing a process, which is exactly what the president's doing. And you want to pull their clearances.
So when he does it, the president, it's OK.
CAPUTO: No, no, no, no. Not at all, Chris.
CUOMO: It's just free speech. But when any of these intel guys do it, pull their clearances, they're politicizing it, they're a disgrace. Talk about a double standard. Give me a break, Michael.
CAPUTO: Well, I'll tell you what. The same men who we are all on the Trump side supporting we pull their clearances are the ones who were trying to stop the president from winning the election, and then now, people who were involved in the intelligence agencies, the intelligence community are trying to get rid of the president.
These people who have these top secret security clearances should have them pulled because the administration is never going to ask their opinion on anything. Anything.
CUOMO: Well, Michael, that is on -- that is on them.
CAPUTO: Chris, at the end of the day the president's tweet says the word should, not must.
CUOMO: I understand it says should. But it's about context --
CAPUTO: So, we're really just examining lint in our navels here.
CUOMO: Hold on, I'm not saying the tweet is dispositive of anything. I'm saying it's suggestive of something and that's why they want to look at it. And if the president didn't tweet this way and were more careful with his words you and I would be spending more time personally and not professionally.
I've got to go. I'm out of time. Michael Caputo --
CAPUTO: Yes, I'm wondering if you're going to buy me dinner too, Chris.
CUOMO: Well, you say something as dumb as 95 percent safer if we build the wall, you'll get the dinner too. Because I'm as tight as two coats of paint and I know I'm not paying on that bet.
But I'll always take you to dinner. You're a good man and be well.
All right. There were only three White House briefings last month. Why? Because they don't like dealing with the media and dealing with the tough questions. They prefer their rallies.
But Sarah Sanders was at the podium today just in time to answer questions about her boss's eye-popping tweet. We're going to show you how that went and what it means to you, next.
[20:50:00] CUOMO: Let's bring in my man, Don Lemon, for a second here. I want to get his take on something.
Don, are you there? Hey, how are you doing?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": I'm here. What do you want? What do you got for me?
CUOMO: All right. You know Steve Cortes, I know Steve Cortes.
LEMON: He was on last night.
CUOMO: All right. You know, he's a gamer, he supports the president. He brings it. I want you to hear something he said tonight. Listen to this.
LEMON: All right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORTES: Chris, we've been talking about the terrible situation we've had at the border particularly as it regards children and families entering illegally. Guess what? A wall solves 95 percent of those problems at the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: See the brow go down?
LEMON: I do.
CUOMO: Never a good sign when the brow goes down, my brother. And it went down for a reason.
Ninety-five percent, you know where he gets that number?
Well, I'm glad you used your ear because some people would say somewhere else.
CUOMO: Be delicate, be delicate, Don.
LEMON: But, you know, I was looking down as I was listening to that and -- because I was trying to do a little research here, because one of the bigger problems where immigration is people who overstay their visas.
CUOMO: Yes, 80 percent.
LEMON: Yes. Well, "New York Times" said in 2016, I think it was 629,000 people overstayed their visas. Again, that's according to "The New York Times". And those countries are mostly European countries. CUOMO: Yes.
LEMON: So, you know, this whole thing about the border is in crisis, and oh my gosh, people are melting down, there are a lot of Europeans who are here illegally, they shouldn't be here.
CUOMO: It's a hundred percent true.
CUOMO: What's the point? We know we have problems. The mistake on the left is to assume that there are no problems and if you do nothing you're better off.
CUOMO: That's a mistake. They're going to have to deal with that with these calls to abolish ICE and everything else. They're going to have to find their strength on it.
But our whole deal about the facts matter that we put out as a network is because of instances like this.
CUOMO: And no personal disrespect to Steve. I understand --
LEMON: No, he's a really nice guy.
CUOMO: I understand what he's doing.
CUOMO: But they just throw stuff out there, and the president is the master of it, and then it becomes true because it feels right. If we can't get straight on the facts, we'll never get straight on what to do.
LEMON: That's what you talked about at the top of your show and we're going to discuss it as well. That sort of behavior led to this whole QAnon movement. All of these conspiracy theorists, the president picks up on that, he gets his people involved, they get riled up, they got on the Internet, they spread all these conspiracy theories.
LEMON: And then facts don't really matter anymore. So, we're going to be discussing that as well.
CUOMO: I'll be watching and I got one for you. Why did the president change from 13 angry Democrats to 17?
LEMON: I don't know.
CUOMO: Seventeen is the QAnon number.
LEMON: Oh, that's right.
CUOMO: Q is the seventeenth letter in the alphabet.
LEMON: Angry Democrats. But, you know, he talks about the Democrats, you know, on the Mueller investigation --
LEMON: -- when Mueller's a Republican.
CUOMO: Yes, I get it. But I'll be watching you and I'll tee you up for that now and I'll see you about it later.
LEMON: All right. See you, Chris.
CUOMO: Be well, Don.
CUOMO: All right. I don't want you to forget about a story, it matters too much. That dispute in Florida last month, black man left dead -- there's a new development part of our closing argument next. Remember this video?
CUOMO: Markeis McGlockton was shot and killed after shoving a man to the ground in Florida and it didn't warrant an arrest. Two scary notions at play. Deadly violence doesn't have to be the absolute last resort. And fairness under the law goes from light to dark as skin shade does the same.
Here are the basic facts. Michael Drejka, he was upset that Brittany Jacobs parked in a disabled spot and an argument ensued. Her boyfriend McGlockton heard it and came outside and this happened.
You're going to see him shove Drejka, all right? A moment later -- now, we don't know exactly what was said. A moment later, he's shot in the chest and he dies from the wound.
No arrest. Why? Here's the Pinellas County sheriff explaining his reasoning yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF BOB GUALTIERI, PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA: My decision not to arrest, is because Florida law creates a situation where someone is immune from arrest if their conduct is arguably within the parameters of "Stand Your Ground". So, look at the law, the law says the law enforcement, quote, may not arrest. Look at Florida statute 776.032.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: But he's leaving out the part of the statute that says probable cause is still a standard for law enforcement like that sheriff. There's no question that a law in Florida says if a shooter makes a basic showing that they feared serious injury, the burden of proof shifts to the prosecutor to show self-defense wasn't in play.
This law may be the crown jewel of the NRA efforts. You did know that the NRA came up with this one, right? It came from one of their lobbyists who was watching a case in Florida and didn't like it. Now, you've got two dozen states with some various form of this.
But the bar for an arrest, that's the point I want you to get here, it didn't change, that's in the law too. You see there? There is probable cause that force was used or threatened was unlawful. It's a lower standard. The sheriff didn't even think that that standard was met, why? The law is also not color-blind, even with this ridiculously low standard.
We see the system is still harder on blacks. The facts show "Stand Your Ground" is used more often and more effectively by white people.
So -- the good news is the state is new looking at this case, but so should you, and here's why. Everything about the situation is too casual. Not even an arrest, not even probable cause. Prosecutors have a higher burden, that's what the state law says, he's not the prosecutor.
This assumption and this standard that it's OK that this law is fair has to be examined. If we reach a point where a shove results in a gunshot death, and again, we have to be opened to learning new information about what might have happened that we don't see on that tape, but it just so happens that the shooter is white and the victim is black, and the law just makes it so easy to justify, so much so that the sheriff doesn't even think an arrest is worth it.
Is that justice defined as fairness under the law? More importantly, as a social instruction, is that who we want to be? That's the question.
We will stay on this case. I ask that you do the same.
Thank you for watching us.
"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon is going to start right now.
I'm not letting that case go.