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Interview with Erik Prince; Trump Economy Examined; Security Clearance Rescinding Questioned; Interview with Anthony Scaramucci; Trump Military Parade Postponed. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 17, 2018 - 21:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Thank you, Jim.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

He got a tremendous response. That's how Trump now justifies yanking John Brennan's security clearance. And he signals who is likely next. Is this strongman behavior really a good move? Anthony Scaramucci is well-plugged in to Trump's advisers and thinking, so let's put it to the test.

And, should we let someone else fight our battles? A private military force sound good to you? The man who is trying to convince Trump to run the Afghan War is here -- a man under scrutiny for collusion with Russians by Bob Mueller.

And do you remember that grand idea to put on a military parade and show off our troops? Who came up with it? Our commander-in-chief. But now the president wants you to think he's the one saving your taxpayer dollars by canceling it because costs were too high.

Long week? Relax with a glass and let's get after it.


CUOMO: They call it the graveyard of empires for a reason. Afghanistan now the U.S. involvement, 17 years. Trump added troops and money, but the situation is sideways at best.

Now, if my next guest has his way, he's going to be the one to run it, not the Pentagon. And the president may be considering his proposal. Who is he? Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater.

He's also the brother of Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos. But most relevant, he is someone that's being looked at by Bob Mueller as part of the collusion probe.

Mr. Prince, thank you for taking the opportunity.


CUOMO: So did I get it right? Do you believe the president is considering your proposal?

PRINCE: Look, I've been paying attention to Afghanistan for a long time, longer than most. In 1998 already I sponsored Loya Jirga, an Afghan peace conference trying to get the then King Zahir Shah then to return to Afghanistan and to make peace long before 9/11.

Having been at this for 17 years now as a country, spent trillions of dollars, thousands of dead Americans, and we're still not winning, the president gave the Pentagon what they wanted last year, which was more money and more troops. And it hasn't worked.

You know, just this last week, you've had suicide bombing, killing 50 kids taking entrance exams, four simultaneous attacks across the country. Thousands of Afghan dead. And the U.N. has reported that this is the highest number of civilian casualties ever in Afghanistan.

CUOMO: Why would your way be better?

PRINCE: Look, what worked after 9/11 was a small, unconventional approach. A few CIA officers, a few Special Forces backed by air power, and they decimated the Taliban in a matter of weeks. When we switched six months in to a very conventional approach, we basically repeated the Soviet battle plan is we now how that worked in the 80s. It didn't.

So, going back to small and unconventional, this is not a privatization. You already have 15,000 U.S. troops and 30,000 contractors in country. My plan takes it down to about 2,000 active duty special forces and about 6,000 contractors. That's all you need --


CUOMO: But it removes other things as well. What we're told about why General Mattis and Secretary of State Pompeo, why they don't like it -- and by the way, Mattis said today he disputes the idea that Trump is frustrated by what's going on there, losing his resolve and considering any other way.

But they it lacks too much the way you want to do it. It lacks oversight. It lacks accountability. It lacks planning. It lacks color of authority.

You know, the U.S. flag carries symbolic significance as opposed to a bunch of mercs, mercenaries.


CUOMO: How do you make up for those deficiencies.

PRINCE: But here's the difference. You have continuity. You have chain of command. If we want to really Afghanize this war, then we need the continuity with Afghan forces.

Right now, for the last 17 years, you've had U.S. troops go there for anywhere from six months to a year. They spend a few months learning the area, a few months productive, the last couple of months packing up to go home. And you lift that entire unit up, and you send them home never to return to the same area, send a whole new unit back in to start over.

We've done that 30 times now, and the Pentagon has never addressed that kind of rotation and continuity, and an unconventional warfare --

CUOMO: But at least we know what they're doing, Mr. Prince. There's accountability.

PRINCE: Sure. Sure.

CUOMO: There's oversight. There's standards.

PRINCE: And you know what? And here's the thing -- but here's the thing. The kind of contractors that would go back in there are the same kind of people that are there now, only they're going as a civilian, as a contractor with the same skills and the same discipline and morality that the U.S. military gave them over --

CUOMO: Doesn't always work out that way, right? That was part of your drama with Blackwater, right?

PRINCE: You know what? If you want to color private contractors by one incident, that's kind of bullshit -- I'm sorry. That's kind of wrong. It's like coloring your brother incorrectly for saying something really dumb in front of those fundraisers.

CUOMO: It's actually nothing like that because you had 17 people killed and 14 of them were found to be unjustified and that's death, not political talk and rhetoric.


PRINCE: Wow, but the difference is --

CUOMO: You'll straight here, my brother. This is a place for straight talk. Stick with that.

PRINCE: Sure, straight talk and those convictions were just thrown out if you follow the detail.

CUOMO: It's not over yet. That process isn't over.

PRINCE: I say again --

CUOMO: What's the biggest idea hot talk aside? The biggest idea is you want to know who the people are and you want to know how to hold them accountable.

PRINCE: Sure, absolutely, and this --


CUOMO: That was the criticism of what happened with your guys in Iraq. And that's the problem with your private force in the UAE.

PRINCE: No, it's not -- CUOMO: Who are these guys? They're Colombians. You know, they're

coming from other places. They're pay for play. They're not Americans.

PRINCE: We're here to talk about Afghanistan, and we're sending U.S. forces -- sorry, former U.S. forces or former NATO forces back in that can be organized to have the continuity with Afghan forces. You combine that with air power and government support.

You do those three things well and it works. It's the same thing that happened with the East India Company or other company -- or other organizations that have been in places for a long time for centuries.

CUOMO: The East India Company? Is that what you just said?


CUOMO: That was an arm of colonial oppression. That's why I brought up the UAE thing. You say we're talking about Afghanistan. That's funny.

You want to talk about my brother. You don't think that's a side step but you think what you're building in the UAE is a side step? You're putting in mercs there to help --

PRINCE: I'm talking about --


CUOMO: -- to help authoritarians to keep back revolt.

PRINCE: When you look at historically how unconventional forces are built to stabilize areas, that's how you do it. I'm amazed at the amount of defenders of the military industrial complex there are, that they want to keep spending $62 billion, more than the entire U.K. defense budget just in Afghanistan.

I mean, you guys are right to complain about this military parade in Washington, which I think is a bad idea. You're blowing through 3-1/2 military parades a day in Afghanistan. I say it's way too much --

CUOMO: But the only alternative isn't to put in mercenaries. I mean, that's why I'm asking you. You have to be careful what happens under your color of authority.



PRINCE: You know that?

CUOMO: By the way, cheap shots aside, you represented this country with honor as a member of a SEAL team. You know what I'm talking about, about the integrity that we have to keep in place. That's the concern about private units. PRINCE: That's why I've never seen we pull all U.S. forces out but go

back to work after 9/11. Remember, after 9/11, it was the CIA that came up with the idea of a few S.F. guys, a few agency officers with air power that worked.

The Pentagon wanted to do a conventional invasion of Afghanistan via Pakistan and they didn't want to do it until the following spring. So, in the days after 9/11, while their headquarters are still on fire, the best thing that the military comes up with is a conventional invasion with a mechanized unit, 40,000 soldiers --

CUOMO: Right.

PRINCE: -- up through Pakistan, and it still hasn't worked. Again, please, for all --

CUOMO: To this point, we're waiting for the latest reports from the military.

PRINCE: -- for all the nameless, faceless people that want to pooh- pooh this idea, I say come out and debate me. In true name, defend the indefensible. It is not working what we're doing in Afghanistan right now and please come up with a better idea.

CUOMO: Listen, I hear you about pushing for better ideas. That's why I have you on the show by the way. But just because it's not working one way doesn't mean that this alternative is the best, but you're right. It should be debated.

Let me transition into something else though in terms of why you're the one offering this. Going to the president right now and fronting this situation and saying this is what should happen, you know, that's a political risky move for the president to consider a plan from you, is it not, when you are someone that Mueller is looking at for involvement with Russians during the campaign?

PRINCE: Look, as I -- as I said, as has been publicized, I met with one Russian two months after the election as an incidental meeting. There's no collusion. I had nothing to do with any of that.

CUOMO: But why did you go to that meeting in the Seychelles? It had nothing to do with the campaign or Trump?

PRINCE: No, it did not. Look, going back to Afghanistan, we're spending too much.

CUOMO: I heard your argument. This matters too, because you're the guy who wants to sell this. People are going to say, wait, the guy who went to the Seychelles meeting?

PRINCE: It doesn't matter as much to the coastal elites because it's generally not their sons and daughters that are doing the fighting and dying.

CUOMO: I think that's another cheap shot. I think sending mercs into a place sounds like what Russia is doing in Ukraine and Syria. It doesn't sound like what America does.

PRINCE: Actually, the way -- the way these subcontracted professionals would be -- veterans, these U.S. military veterans would be employed is as an adjunct to the Afghan force which even under the U.N. definition does not make them mercenaries, OK?

CUOMO: Well, but it still raises -- you know, you raised the legality of it. You're not supposed to be training people abroad as an American as part of foreign conflicts. You know, that's something you'll have to get over also, right?

PRINCE: All of this is done through the color of U.S. law, under U.S. authorities. Men can be held accountable under the UCMJ.

CUOMO: But they're not all Americans. They're like Colombia. The guys you have in UAE, they're Colombians. They're South Africans. Who knows where you're getting them?

PRINCE: No, no, no. If you read what I've written and I've even done some videos on YouTube on this matter. U.S. or NATO forces working there can be held accountable through the Uniform Code of Military Justice just like U.S. forces are, actually a higher level of accountability than any of the 30,000 contractors that are there. And, again, taking it from 30,000 contractors down to 6,000 is hardly a privatization.

CUOMO: All right.

PRINCE: It is a rationalization which this country needs. We have $21 trillion in debt. Let's stop blowing our blood and treasure endlessly in Afghanistan.

CUOMO: I get the -- look, I get the motivation behind the debate. I don't question that. That's why I had you on.

One last quick question: have you had any contact with the probe? Have you coordinated with the probe? Have you volunteered information to Mueller and his men and women?

PRINCE: As I said two months ago in an interview, yes. I was asked. I was interviewed by the Mueller people, cooperated, and haven't heard from them in months.

CUOMO: All right. I appreciate the candor on that. Erik Prince, thank you for making the case.

PRINCE: You're welcome.

CUOMO: All right. Trump has the Manafort verdict, the Mueller probe, and the security clearance calamity as well as a cloud of prejudice all hanging over his head. So you know what? It was a great time to bring up the economy. Best ever, he says.

This is his popular prophylactic against criticism. I'm going to take you through the numbers, and you decide if Trump doth boast too much.


CUOMO: All right. Let's start with the suggestion that I don't know that a strong economy makes up for calling a black woman a dog, mitigating the immorality of white power, putting kids in cages. After all, America is a country, not a company, right? The bottom line only justifies so much. It certainly shouldn't be as important as our reputation for decency and freedom.

But let's deal with this claim about the economy that Trump makes so often. Let's fact-check this prophylactic, this protection he uses every time he says or does something that makes America wince.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the strongest economy that we've ever had.

We're setting records on the economy. We're setting records.

The massive tax cuts and all of the deregulation has really kicked us into gear. Black unemployment, the lowest in history. Hispanic unemployment, the lowest in history.

The economy is maybe better than it's ever been. The numbers are coming out. The best they've ever had.

So, we're very happy about that. And I think for that reason, I think in November we're going to do extremely well.


CUOMO: All right. So, let's talk about the facts.

The economy grew at a 4.1 percent rate in the second quarter. That is the fastest pace that we've seen in nearly four years.

Trump says the fastest ever. Wrong, not the fastest ever. Not better than Obama ever did.

The national unemployment rate, all right, fell to 3.9 percent in July. But take a closer look at that rate. It is better now, but it's part of a steady decline since 2010. Again, don't buy this idea that Trump made everything change.

And remember this. Trump used to mock this rate, the unemployment rate, under Obama. He used to say it's not the real measure of the job market. Why? Because it doesn't include those who are working for less money, who are working just as temp workers, or who just quit looking for work altogether. That's all part of underemployment versus unemployment.

And you know what? He was right. So why isn't he telling you this number right now that includes all those folks? Seven-point-five percent. Almost twice the rate that he's boasting about now. Why? Because he's looking for an easy score. That's why. And here's why it matters, OK? The numbers don't tell what matters

most. Growth is only as good as the people growing with it, right? So is it the working class people who voted for Trump? Not nearly as much as it is the rich people like Trump.

A few pieces of proof here, all right? The gap between the 1 percent and everybody else, growing. See this part going like a "Y" this way? It's the wrong way, right? You want it to go the other way. It's getting bigger, OK?

Big reason for that, wage stagnation for most Americans. Investors in the market killing it, but paycheck people, something different. According to Pew Research, our average wage has the same purchasing power now as it did 40 years ago, 23 bucks an hour now, same as 4 bucks in 1973.

But now, there's this new pat on the back that they're doing. New pat on the back about what works and what doesn't. This is just a quick look for you.

What happens in terms of income and tax cut? You see how much you get when you make more? All right. Now, they pay more, but, still, is this a middle class tax cut? Do they get the majority of the benefit? No.

How people of color are treated. This is this new part of the riff of let's look at the economy. The president can't be racist. Look at how black unemployment is doing under Trump. Better than under Obama. That's their basic argument.

Take a listen.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When President Obama left after eight years in office, eight years in office, he had only created 195,000 jobs for African-Americans. President Trump in his first year and a half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years.


CUOMO: All right. Now, that's not true, OK? If those stats sounded too good, it's because they were. But don't be surprised. Sarah Sanders apologized, but what they don't apologize for is exaggerating everything for effect about the economy.

Here's the truth of those numbers. As I told you, overall unemployment has been dropping. It's the same for black workers. Everybody has been getting less unemployed.

But let's look a little bit more closely, OK? Six-point-six percent for black Americans, 3.4 percent for white Americans. So, lowest rate ever sounds like something to boast about, but not when you consider the disparity because this is the challenge, OK? Forty-eight percent lower than it is for black Americans, black unemployment. So, the falling tide is helping everybody, but he hasn't done anything

for them specifically. He hasn't done anything for the workers specifically the way he promised that he would. Eighty cents of every dollar of that tax cut went to the top 1 percent.

Now, you could say, well, that's okay. They pay the most, like I said earlier. But that's not what he called it. He said it was for the middle class, OK? So blacks are not improving relative to whites. That's the challenge.

All right. So the lesson is when the White House tries to get away from the latest embarrassment of pulling clearances, let's say, by pointing to the economy, remember what they are not telling you. Often that's the most important thing.

So, the president was all too happy today to answer questions on his stripping of John Brennan's security clearance. It's exactly what he wanted, everybody talking about it and distracting from everything else. What's worse? If this is just about distracting from problems, is this something worse than that?

Is it the kind of strongman tactic, silencing critics, that Trump wants to do more of? That is the making of a "Great Debate". We're having it, next.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: "The Washington Post" is reporting the White House has drafted documents to revoke more clearances of officials who have criticized the president or were part of the Russia investigation.

Why? To change the news cycle, distract from Omarosa's tapes. That's what they're reporting. That's what their sources tell them.

So is this really just about tactics, or is there a darker desire at play for Trump? Let's put it up for debate with Catherine Rampell and Rick Santorum.

What say you, Rampell?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Look, this is about going after critics by pursuing their wallets essentially. Again and again, Trump has used the weight of his office and of the broader federal government to inflict financial pain upon journalists, upon critics, upon whistle-blowers, peaceful protesters who express speech he does not like.

He has done it clearly with Brennan because if Brennan doesn't have a security clearance, that limits his job opportunities, right? It means that he can't go work for Booz Allen or one of the other contractors out there that would require a security clearance.

And I'm not so much worried about him but as -- but instead about all of the other potential critics out there who do need to continue having their security clearance. But it's not only about former government employees who have been critical about him. He's done this with journalists. He's done with this NFL players.

When "The Washington Post," my publication, publishes information that Trump does not like, he threatens various kinds of government action against Amazon because --

CUOMO: Join the club, sister. You're not on an island.

RAMPELL: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Yes, exactly, because --

CUOMO: Let's bring Rick Santorum in here, though. Is this a strong arm tactic? Is this how he wants to roll, flexing his muscles, saying you come at me, you mess with power?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think it is at all. I think actually there's a larger issue here, which is why does he get security clearances anyway? I was a United States senator for 12 years. I sat on very important committees that got lots of intelligence, and as soon as I left the United States Senate, I lost my security clearance.

I don't know why these people keep their security clearances in the first place.

CUOMO: He's not getting rid of everybody. Go ahead, Catherine.

SANTORUM: Hold on --

RAMPELL: I just want to clarify one thing, which is that to my knowledge -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- members of Congress and senators do not go through the very intensive vetting process that career intelligence officials and political appointees go through. They didn't -- you know, as soon as you got elected, once you swore an oath, you were entitled to view classified information. You didn't have the FBI calling up ex-girlfriends and former roommates and verifying former locations where you lived and asking them questions about whether you were a potential terrorist.

SANTORUM: Yes, but --

RAMPELL: You got access to that information because you were a senator.

SANTORUM: And the answer is that is correct. We do not have to go through the clearance process. But we don't get access to all -- you know, all the intelligence. We have certain classifications we're eligible for. Others we're not. We have to be specifically cleared for those.

But having said all that, look, the idea that a former intelligence person has a right to keep their clearance --

CUOMO: Nobody says they have a right.

SANTORUM: Well, they shouldn't. And the reality is --

CUOMO: About why you're taking it away and whether that's right. RAMPELL: This is clearly punitive.

SANTORUM: The only reason that we keep these clearances, at least in the law from what I understand and from my understanding when I was in the Congress, is so these people can be a help to the government because they were there before.

CUOMO: Right.

SANTORUM: And so they might be a good reference in the past. Well, if the administration doesn't feel they're a help to the government anymore, then they should revoke their clearance.

CUOMO: Clapper says that he's been contacted by senior members of the intelligence organization for the president right now. He didn't want to name them because he's worried about them being punished. But now, you've take than resource away from them, Rick. Are you good with that?

SANTORUM: Yes, I am actually good with that because there's lots of other people.

CUOMO: Lots of other people?

SANTORUM: I think if there's specific things that someone in the administration wants to talk to Jim Clapper about, then they have him --

CUOMO: If Trump cares so much about the integrity --

RAMPELL: This is really about the integrity --


CUOMO: Hold on. I've got another topic before we end here. The idea -- the president says, I care about security clearances very much, right? You guys both heard him say that.

He didn't care about them so much when it was his son-in-law, right? He didn't care so much when it was Rob Porter, did he? Where was his concern for security clearances then, Rick Santorum? I don't remember this scrupulous adherence to all of these types of questions you're raising now.

SANTORUM: Look, security clearances for former -- for former, you know, employees are there to benefit the government. Security clearances for people and governors to make sure that the people who are in government should be eligible to see that sensitive information. It's two different things.

CUOMO: Two different things? Catherine Rampell, he's so worried now about these guys abusing the clearance. He wasn't worried about his son-in-law. Wasn't worried about Rob Porter and what kind of guys were or weren't getting vetted.

SANTORUM: They were going through the process. CUOMO: Excuse me?

SANTORUM: They were going through the process.

CUOMO: They weren't. The process was being frustrated. It was being circumvented. He was giving him access despite not having a clearance, completely contradicting what he's saying matters now.

SANTORUM: The president has the right to do that.

CUOMO: And he also has the right to be a hypocrite, which is what he's being. Rampell?

RAMPELL: Exactly. This is clearly punitive.

SANTORUM: This is all --


RAMPELL: This is clearly punitive. This is unprecedented. No previous president has taken this action. The reason why this administration is taking this action is to punish these people, not because, oh, you know, we don't want these clearances floating around to people who shouldn't have them.

Clearly, that is not something that they care about. This is about punishing people who have been critical of the administration.

CUOMO: Go ahead, Rick.

SANTORUM: The benefit is not to the individual. I mean, these clearances, the benefit should not be for the individual. The benefit should be for the government.


RAMPELL: Well, then why --

SANTORUM: So, if there's no benefit to the government, the president has the right to clear it. You're making it sound like he's taking away some sort of, you know, tremendous good.

RAMPELL: But why go -- why have this big --

SANTORUM: That's not what it's there for.

RAMPELL: Why have this big, splashy press conference, and why according to my own newspaper, "The Washington Post," are they sitting on something like a dozen other drafted revocations of these security clearances that they're planning on doling out when it's convenient for them depending on the news cycle? Why go through all of that if it's really just about, you know, we want to cull the roles and make sure there aren't security clearances floating about that we don't plan to call upon.

CUOMO: It's a good point. Answer that. SANTORUM: No, if it's being done for the purposes of sort of waiting

and dropping dimes when people do things they don't like, I don't like that.

CUOMO: That is what it is. You know it.

RAMPELL: That's exactly what happened.

SANTORUM: Well, we don't know that. That's your reporting but we don't know what that list is going to be used for. It may be used to say, you know what? I'm tired of having all these people with security clearances and let's get rid of all of them.


RAMPELL: If you think it was not politically motivated, the timing of the announcement that Brennan was losing his clearance, to what do you attribute the fact that they made this announcement this week just as everybody was wondering about whether there was an Omarosa tape, you know, using the N-word or whatever, or all of these other unflattering news stories that were coming out?

Clearly, they wanted a distraction. They wanted to silence their critics, and they said you know what? Let's kill two birds with one stone and let's do it now. There was nothing that happened in the last few days --

SANTORUM: With all due respect --

CUOMO: Last word to rick.

SANTORUM: With all due respect, there's always a nasty story about the president coming out, and so, the idea that he sort of waited for this moment, I think this was simply a matter of course of looking what Brennan did. And now, it's sort of raised this issue up to the president.


SANTORUM: The president looked at it and said, let's get rid of them. By the way, let's look at some others.

CUOMO: Here's what we'll know, here's the beautiful thing about this one, which is unlike a lot of the things that we debate on this show. We'll know by what they show. If they get rid of all of them, then they're making the kind of policy gesture you're talking about, Rick. But if they don't --


RAMPELL: If they only go after the critics, if they're not clearing the rolls --

CUOMO: Then we'll see.

RAMPELL: -- of everybody who has ever worked in the federal government and ever had a security clearance, I think you can put two and two together.

SANTORUM: I don't think they should clear the rolls of everybody because there are people that actually have valuable information and cooperation with the government, and they should keep those in place. But those who are not benefiting this administration and those who are running it don't need to be kept on the rolls.

CUOMO: Let's see who they cull and what the category seems to suggest, and we'll talk about it again.

Rampell, Santorum, on a Friday night, thank you for including me in your plans.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

SANTORUM: Always nice to spend a Friday with you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. What's really going on inside of Trump's mind right now? Why does this make sense for him to exercise power this way? Anthony Scaramucci thinks he knows.

I also want to ask him about the Omarosa tapes. There are reports she could have as many as 200. He was mentioned in her tell-all book. What does he have to say about that? Anthony, next.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: This fight between the president and the intelligence community is escalating.

On the one hand, you have former intel folks. They are signing on to a letter supporting Brennan. They're saying, pull my clearance as well.

They're calling Trump out for his move to publicly punish people that he blames for the Russia investigation and/or who criticize him, saying now, I'll do it again. Always double down. That's the key to being strong and wrong.

So, let's bring somebody in here who can talk to us about why he's doing this, why he thinks this works for him -- former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.

Anthony, thank you for coming on short notice.


CUOMO: Appreciate it. Why does he think this works for him?

SCARAMUCCI: You want me to tell you why?

CUOMO: Please.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think he thinks it works for him because he's looked at the landscape of things that happened from the dossier to the investigation to the allegations that Director Brennan made about him, and so I think he thinks it's helping him by sending a message to these guys, that they're not necessary, not necessary for the further intelligence apparatus of the country, et cetera.

I don't agree with it. I support the president as you know, and I'm a very loyal person and worked very hard on the campaign. But the reason I don't agree with it is you have to understand the historical context of our national security apparatus post-World War II. That was always off the table and always a bipartisan commitment from everybody that we would bring everybody together.

So if you start splintering these guys, what happens is if we go into a crisis, you're going to want to get everybody in the room at the same time, and I just think it's a mistake.

So, the president obviously would disagree with me on that. I listened to the debate very carefully. I don't think it's related to them leaking things out related to Omarosa, though, because she's got 200 tapes apparently, and she'll be talking about this probably for two years. And so, that strategy wouldn't work, and there's very smart people inside the White House whether it's Sarah or Bill Shine, the president, Jared, et cetera.

CUOMO: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't see that on a match game theory analysis working for them by doing that. But maybe they're doing that. I don't --

CUOMO: I don't see it as working for them either. But they do it a lot. They try to distract, and he does it by tweet a lot. So, the timing here was a little suspicious, right?

SCARAMUCCI: We know that every politician wants to get the gun off the bird in certain situations, and so I'm sure the president is adept at doing that. But the notion that he's going to hold back these security clearances to protect himself from Omarosa, I just don't believe that.


CUOMO: Well, no, no. I don't think that's the speculation. I think the speculation is the timing was self-serving to distract. We'll see what he does.

You know, Santorum makes a very interesting but dangerous argument in support. If he's going to say I've decided that this is a vestige of a bygone era and there is no reason for what Anthony is discussing here, I want all of them to have no clearance. They have no use with my administration, that's one thing.

But if it's just punitive, it's something very different and a little dark, I'm afraid, which is this is the president's next step --

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, if he's decided --

CUOMO: -- towards being an autocrat. First, it was the pardons. He's always looking to exercise absolute power in a punitive way. This is his latest attempt. What's next? Pulling it from Mueller?

SCARAMUCCI: OK. But let's just -- let's split the thing quickly, OK? If it's the former, let him come out and articulate why and let him present a new vision for where we want to go directionally in America that is going to make Americans safe here in the United States and safe in Afghanistan as service men, or safe in Iraq as service men and women.

So, for me, I think it's a very bad strategy. I think you're going down a slippery slope. You don't want to be against McRaven and Petraeus who have dedicated their entire lives to the United States.

I know General Petraeus personally. I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I understand the issues. I don't like the attack on the intelligence agencies. I didn't like it in Helsinki. I don't like it now.

And what I would say to the president directly is that you've got the rank and file in the intelligence agencies. By and large, those people are very supportive of you. But what's happening is there's three or four pin dots at the top that you think weaponized against you, and they probably did, and they probably have been doing that, Chris, for 150 years.

It's just easier to tag it now because of all of the fishbowl nature of everything that's going on with our social media and et cetera.

CUOMO: But look --

SCARAMUCCI: But what I would tell the president that if you really understand the 75-year historical context post-World War II order, I think it's a bad move.

And, you know, listen, I know John Brennan personally. He's been to my conference. I want to make sure that I fully disclose that. I've sat in on intelligence briefings with him, and I have a lot of respect for him.

I'm going to tell you something. These guys, Chris --

CUOMO: You sat in on briefings with him when?

SCARAMUCCI: We have by and large -- uh, you know, when I was at BENS. I was on the board of the Business Executives National Security. It wasn't a deep level intelligence briefing --

CUOMO: Oh, I got you.

SCARAMUCCI: -- as much as it was a civilian understanding of what was going on in the CIA.

CUOMO: I got you. I got you.

SCARAMUCCI: But I like the guy. I don't agree with him politically. I don't like his personal attacks on the president. I am a supporter of the president. I want to see the president succeed. You were commenting on the economy. You and I could debate that. I

think the economy is very, very strong.

CUOMO: It just depends on for whom but let me ask you something before I lose you. Omarosa --


SCARAMUCCI: Wages are going up, and he did cut the slack in the employment markets.

CUOMO: Yes, he did.


CUOMO: But I think it's endemic to a trend we've been seeing. I don't think it's because of his tax cut. I don't see the economic benefit being derivative from the companies because they're buying back stock more than they're doing anything else with their savings.

We'll talk about it another day. I promise you.

I want to get you about Omarosa while I have you.

SCARAMUCCI: We can -- we can debate it, but believe me, there's a lot more capital investment going into the company. I mean, one of the things -- I spent 11 days in the White House, but for the last 13 years, I've run an $11 billion fund.

So, I look at the economic data very carefully. But let's go to Omarosa.

CUOMO: Omarosa wrote about you in her tell-all book.

SCARAMUCCI: Before I get out a girly cry here on live TV. So, yes, she did.

CUOMO: Well, that's what she wrote that you in the book, that you were hurt by what happened, which is understandable.


CUOMO: How do you feel about what she wrote about you, and what do you think she represents to the president in terms of a threat of revealing truths?

SCARAMUCCI: I -- I don't -- I don't really care what she wrote about me, so I'm not really going to comment. And I wish the president would care less about what she wrote about him and not comment.

At the end of the day, Omarosa did help him. OK. She did rally support in the African-American community. She's articulate on TV.

I wouldn't have left her in the Situation Room for two hours before I fired her. If you guys wanted to get rid of her, there was probably a classier way of doing that. You're not going to silence somebody like Omarosa. Omarosa is going

to say whatever she wants anyway.

And I would just ignore the situation because at the end of the day, when somebody turns like that and someone becomes that disloyal to you after 15 years of service over a firing -- OK, look, they fired me brutally, Chris, OK? I was there for 11 days. I made a mistake. You had your buddy come on CNN, play the tape.

They fired me brutally. I worked for the guy for two years on the campaign, countless hours of media advocacy.

CUOMO: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm not going to lose my friendship with the president because of the way they fired me.

Omarosa is a different beast. OK.

CUOMO: Understood.

SCARAMUCCI: She wants to take a different tack in the situation. I think it's a mistake for her, but it's an even bigger mistake for the president of the United States --

CUOMO: It always is.

SCARAMUCCI: -- to sit there and tweet about her.

CUOMO: That's true.

SCARAMUCCI: -- and say things about her he should not be saying.

CUOMO: It's true, the big man in the room --

SCARAMUCCI: So, he may not like me for that. I actually don't care.


CUOMO: The big man in the room does not need to punch down.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm my own guy, Chris. I'm not a yes person.

CUOMO: But we see it time and time again. We'll see what he figures out of how to punish Omarosa.

Anthony Scaramucci --

SCARAMUCCI: If I am -- if I am going to have a girly cry, if I am going to have a girly cry, it's when you beat me in a debate. So, since that's never going to happen, Chris, I'm going to be good without the girly cries. Just so you know.

CUOMO: Two points. Crying is not girly. It's a show of sensitivity which is strength. You should tap into that. Get a little emotional intelligence going there. (CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: And second of all, when you wake up from this dream of superiority, give me a call. I'll tell you what happened in the interim.

SCARAMUCCI: Now you're going to cut to commercial like you did last time --

CUOMO: Yes, right now. Good-bye. Take Anthony off the screen. Thank you very much.

Ever wonder what happened to the Gipper? You know, what happened with what President Reagan would think about President Trump. We like to think about these historical retrospectives, if he were alive today obviously.

Well, his daughter says she has a good idea what he would think. And she just shared it, next.


CUOMO: President Trump loves Ronald Reagan but what would Reagan think of Trump, specifically his rhetoric, his attacks on the press?

Don Lemon is here.

Key interview, what do you have coming up?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": It's his daughter. And I was going to ask you, you sort of stole my thunder, because I was going to ask you, who is the gold standard when it comes to Republican presidents? That would be none other than Ronald Reagan.

Patti Davis says her father would never stand for what's going on, would not want to label the press as enemy of the people. He realized that the press had a certain role and that there was a compromise they had to reach when it came to his personal life and personal space.

But as far as what happened, policy wise at the White House, you know, and beyond and the briefing room, that wasn't personal. That was the press's business. That's what the press did and they can respond whatever they want, but not the enemy of the people.

I can't wait to talk to her. She wrote a really fascinating article, as you know, for "The Washington Post".

CUOMO: Give me one little more taste because I don't want to ruin it for people who --

LEMON: Yes, one little more taste of this or what else we have coming up? What do you want to know?

CUOMO: You have something better than that? Tell us.

LEMON: I want to talk to you about Anthony Scaramucci, because I -- you were talking about Omarosa. I agree with just about everything that Anthony said about Omarosa and it sort of what she says. If you want to really get under Trump's skin, then you cut off his oxygen, meaning giving him so much attention. I think it's the same thing with Omarosa.

I just disagree with him on one point, where he said that Omarosa really helped this president with garnering votes and attention and support from the African-American community. That's not true. She has no credibility when it comes to the African-American community. That did not happen.

CUOMO: All right. I appreciate it, D. Lemon. We'll be watching.

LEMON: See you soon.

CUOMO: It's good to see you on a Friday.

LEMON: Yes, you as well. I'll see you soon.

CUOMO: All right. So, the military parade is off. Trump says he is saving you from paying too much. What is the truth behind the parade? And I have a way that he can boost America for free.

The final closing argument of the week, next.


CUOMO: No one loved a parade like Joey Heatherton when she sang, except maybe President Trump. Can you see him singing that song? You know, the hair, by the way, wasn't that bad a match for Joey and the president.

But this isn't about ticker tape and celebration. It's about deception and a despotic lust for power.

Today, President Trump cancelled his big planned military parade. Why? He says he was being cost conscious.

First, this is not Trump catching the government wasting money on something we don't need. This was his idea. You remember, after him coming home from France. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's one of the greatest parades I've ever seen. To a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.

I don't know. We'll have to try and top it.


CUOMO: So, the price tag wound up being $92 million. The original Pentagon estimate was $12 million. Now, $21 million of that $92 million were local costs. City of D.C. had to provide police, transportation, all these other transportation services for a parade.

So, 21 out of 92 is what triggered him? No.

My argument, covering up for a bad idea by blaming someone else. That was his play.

The local politicians, he said, who run Washington, D.C. poorly, know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Maybe we'll do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes down. Now, we can buy some more fighter jets.

First off, an F-35 fighter jet costs around $90 million, so you could only buy one for the cost of this parade. And was he really suggesting he might deny the military what it needs to blow millions on vanity fair for himself? I guess so.

But this was never about the "we". Always about the "me". Proof: A Quinnipiac poll from the time found that only 18 percent of people thought this was a good use of government dollars. And that's back when it was just a fraction of the cost.

So, here's the real motivation. Trump likes the big military parades in places like Russia, China, North Korea, tactics used by strongmen showing might makes right. But remember, they are despots and autocrats. Not role models.

So, two arguments, if you want to celebrate veterans, don't have a parade. Stop having your country club pals run the V.A. Take reform there seriously. Don't privatize what needs to be managed closely for veterans.

Stop letting essential protections slip like G.I. bill transferability and giving them cover from predatory payday type lenders. Give them the tax relief you promised. That's what they want. Not a parade.

Second, if you want to rally the country -- two ideas, both are free -- stop dividing it. Stop blowing on the fires of racial animus and political division. Stop attacking our fundamental institutions for nonexistent or wrongful reasons. Stop trash talk, period, especially as a mode of disagreement.

Instead, parade our best qualities. Not just on Pennsylvania Avenue but around the world. Show our empathy, our openness.

Celebrate our differences as a projection of freedom and sweet strength, not harshness. Be that kind of president and then the people may just throw you a parade instead of just paying for one that you throw for yourself.

Here's a great hashtag. #Makethepresidencygreatagain.

Thank you for joining me.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.