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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Interview with Kellyanne Conway; Examining the Week's Russia Probe Happenings; White House Correspondents Discuss White House Coverage. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 23, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Thank you, Anderson.
I am Chris Cuomo. And welcome to PRIME TIME.
We are in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., tonight.
The president's former lawyer says Trump directed him to commit crimes. The president says you cannot believe Michael Cohen. Well, does he think can we trust one of his closest friends who says the same thing as Cohen? Today, we learned the tabloid mogul gets immunity regarding those big payments to women and reportedly accuses President Trump of knowing and being involved in everything.
Remember, you know, that may to be why the president actually said that allowing the government to pressure people into working with them to make a case, maybe that should be illegal. Yes, he said that to Fox and yes, he got a pass. But not here.
Tonight, we're going to test what he said and one of Trump's top advocates, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is here, and we'll get after it.
Also, in all the legal news, you may have missed what could be the most concerning tweet of the week from the president of the United States. Did he really support a white nationalist conspiracy theory?
Every day, there is a new challenge. So, what do you say? Let's get after it.
CUOMO: All right, I got one eye on you, and one on my Twitter feed because I expect the president to add another long time friend to the list of people we could no longer believe in his estimation. This time, it will be David Pecker.
Who's he? He's the head of the company that publishes the "National Enquirer" and according to "The Wall Street Journal", he was granted immunity in a federal investigation into Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, in exchange for providing information on hush money deals. Now, according to sources, Pecker told federal prosecutors which seems obvious to most of us, Trump know all along of Cohen's payments to women who had alleged sexual encounter with him.
Pecker also provided investigators with details about the payments that Cohen made for the women.
So, let's get the White House reaction to this and a lot more -- counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway.
Good to have you back on PRIME TIME.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Welcome to Washington. Hi.
CUOMO: Thanks. You literally were just whisked in here as the show started. Timing is everything.
CONWAY: The president sends his greetings.
CUOMO: Send him my best. I hope he's watching.
CONWAY: Said he always liked your mother, and she liked him.
CUOMO: Well, I got that going for him.
CONWAY: Don't embarrass her tonight.
CUOMO: I'll try, I'll try. She likes you too. So, you follow the same advice.
Let me ask you this, let's start off with the onset, I interviewed the president's former lawyer last night, Jay Goldberg, and he says, I don't see criminal conduct from the president when it comes to collusion with Russia. I don't see criminal conduct from the president when it comes to campaign violations. I said, well, what about the lying? He says, oh, he is lying about what he did with the women and the public will have to account for that, that they can't trust him to tell the truth. But it's not a crime.
Do you agree with that assessment?
CONWAY: I think you should --
CUOMO: That there's no criminal exposure, perhaps in your opinion but that he lied about this?
CONWAY: The president has said that he has not lied and the president has said that no charges were filed against him in either the Manafort or the Cohen matters, as you know. And that's important here.
The other thing that's really important to note especially for the CNN viewers, Christopher, is that despite a year and a half of searching high and low, where exactly is this fictitious Russian collusion, which "The New York Times" said in July 11, 2017, doesn't even have legal significance? Collusion means two people are getting together and maybe do something illicit. It's not conspiracy, which is getting together to commit a crime. Where is that?
You spent so much, sweat, economy, invested so many screaming graphics and time and expert to talk to experts talking about everything from impeachment, to collusion.
CUOMO: It doesn't matter. That's why.
CONWAY: No, where is it? And why --
CUOMO: You got to ask Mueller. He's not done with his investigation.
CONWAY: No, let's be fair. You weren't waiting for Mueller. CNN is not, respectfully, you're not waiting for Mueller to finish his investigation --
CONWAY: -- because you've been talking about collusion and promising it to your viewers --
CONWAY: -- for a year and a half. Now, we can talk about the dossier --
CUOMO: Literally not once. In fact, I say that's not a part of my viewers almost all the time.
CONWAY: Why aren't you leading in (ph) to the dossier? Some of your colleagues won awards --
CUOMO: We talk about the dossier all the time.
CONWAY: All right. Let's talk about it tonight because last night, Michael Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis made very clear to your colleague and many other appearances yesterday that there are at least 13, 14, 15 falsehoods about Michael Cohen in the dossier, including the fact they say he's never been to Prague in his life.
CUOMO: Right. You're defending Michael Cohen?
CONWAY: No, what I'm telling you is -- no, no, what I'm telling you is you can't have it both ways. You can't say for a year and a half this is about Russian collusion, that we -- a campaign that I managed to its victory, I was there for the successful part of the campaign that this man who ran and won fairly and squarely as you full well know, you can't promise everybody that this is going to be no implication of that.
CUOMO: I disagree with your assessment.
CONWAY: That he didn't win fairly and squarely. Tell me. Tell me.
CUOMO: Because it's patently untrue.
CONWAY: That he didn't win fairly and squarely. CUOMO: That we don't promise the audience an outcome. We tell them
that you have to respect the process.
CONWAY: Do you think he won fairly and squarely? Do you think the democratic process work here? Do you think he is a democratically elected president?
CUOMO: I think he won the Electoral College. That means he's president of the United States.
CONWAY: Thank you very much. He's your president, too.
CUOMO: I never said he wasn't my president.
CONWAY: And it's time to start showing the respect to this president.
CUOMO: Listen --
CONWAY: We can't even get our agenda covered on CNN because --
CUOMO: That's not true. We cover it all the time.
CONWAY: Let's do it today.
CUOMO: But listen, hold on a second -- the truth matters. That's what we sell to our audience because that's the only reason we have a job. The truth is, he lied about this. You guys should own it.
CONWAY: Lied about what?
CUOMO: And move forward.
CONWAY: I'm sorry. Lied about what?
CUOMO: That he knew about what Michael Cohen was doing with these women and the payments. He lied about not knowing.
CONWAY: He knew about it after --
CUOMO: I know that's a lie.
CONWAY: That payments were made.
CUOMO: That's a lie.
CONWAY: Says who, you?
CUOMO: Yes, says me, says the facts.
CONWAY: Why? Why? What facts?
CUOMO: Because I heard the tape in his voice, it's Donald Trump, and he is listening to his lawyer tell him what he needs to do to finish his deal with his friend Pecker. Everybody's heard it. If you want to, I'll play it again. What does that tell us?
CONWAY: No, CNN plays it on a going loop.
CUOMO: Well, good, then you've heard this. So, really I'm just refreshing your recollection. So, then so you know it already. You know it already and what it shows is he was aware of what he was doing before he did it.
CUOMO: That's the truth. He's lying.
CONWAY: I mean, when he was asked on Air Force One, did you know about that -- that was the question about Stormy Daniels payment and he said no.
CUOMO: And he did.
CONWAY: And meaning not at the time. That was in April. The whole world knew about it by January.
CUOMO: No, he knew about it also.
CONWAY: No, he's saying he didn't know about it at the time. And he said yesterday --
CUOMO: I know. And that's true.
CONWAY: -- that's aired this morning, he said he knew about it after the facts.
CUOMO: I know. But that's not true.
CONWAY: I don't want your viewers to -- and I know your viewers expect to be fed anti-Trump virulence every single night. And they come away quite satisfied. And let's be fair here, that's true. You should just own it. Just say --
CUOMO: You want me to own that? You won't own what is so obvious and I don't get --
CONWAY: Here's what's obvious --
CUOMO: You could say, look, did he lie? Yes, he lied. He's not perfect, but it's not illegal. You could say that. His own lawyer admits he lied.
CONWAY: No, no, that's -- is he his current lawyer -- Jay Goldberg? Where is the last time he was --
CONWAY: No, no, answer for me. When was the last time he was his lawyer?
CUOMO: Well, I would argue when he called to ask how to handle Michael Cohen just months ago.
CONWAY: No, no, when -- you know who his lawyers are now, right, Rudy Giuliani, and Jay Sekulow?
CONWAY: Would you agree (ph) to have that conversation with them?
CUOMO: Oh, I don't think that just because you're not retained currently doesn't mean you're not a good gauge of the character of the client.
CONWAY: Let me tell you something.
CONWAY: OK, the president spoke on this just this morning for the world to see.
CONWAY: He said, she asked him, did you know about the payments? He said, I knew them after they were made.
CONWAY: But let's focus on the two big stories of the week according to CNN and MSNBC -- Manafort, and Cohen, let's focus on those. Where in the Manafort trial is Russia collusion with Trump?
CUOMO: I don't care.
CONWAY: You should care.
CUOMO: The president lied about what he knew about these women. He should not lie to the American people in their face time and again. "The Washington Post" does a blow by blow take (INAUDIBLE) it's the first lie they ever flagged --
CONWAY: Wait, I just have a question for you. I have a very simple question for you. Why is it not important for you to replay and talk about the president's own words? Why don't you show him answering that question?
CUOMO: Because he's lying.
CONWAY: No, but you don't want people to see him answer the question.
CUOMO: What are you talking about? We play him all the time. I play his voice saying to Michael Cohen, what are we going to do? And then how are you going to do it? What do you mean about financing?
CONWAY: Christopher --
CUOMO: Play the tape. Play the tape. Remind everybody what he said to Michael Cohen.
CONWAY: No, not that tape.
CUOMO: Play the tape. Play it.
CONWAY: You know what tape --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up and I've spoken --
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Give it to me and --
COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --
TRUMP: So what do we have to pay for this?
COHEN: -- funding.
TRUMP: One fifty?
COHEN: Yes. And it's all the stuff --
REPORTER: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No, no.
INTERVIEWER: Did you know about the payment?
TRUMP: Later on I knew. Later on.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
CUOMO: Yes, he knew later on. He knew before. He's lying.
CONWAY: Wait, I think we should all --
CUOMO: Is that Michael Cohen and President Trump talking about the deal? CONWAY: You know what tape I want to hear --
CUOMO: Kellyanne --
CONWAY: Excuse me, tell us what's on the tape of Chris Cuomo and Michael Cohen. What's on the two-hour tape with the tape of you?
CUOMO: Tons of stuff.
CONWAY: OK, we'll tell us.
CUOMO: I'll tell you why I can't.
CONWAY: Transparency. Accountability. Facts first. Why?
CUOMO: Yes, I tell you, because there's a little difference between you and the shop you're working for, integrity.
CONWAY: The White House? How dare you?
CUOMO: My conversation with him -- how dare me. You admit he's lying about these things. It's as plain on the nose on my face.
CUOMO: You should admit he's lying, and you don't and that's why people don't trust you.
CONWAY: No, you know what?
CUOMO: That's why.
CUOMO: And you want me to answer your question, I will. Michael Cohen had a conversation with me. He asked me -- excuse me. He asked me not to record it, I said I won't.
He said just to be careful, let me have your phone, I said here. He then said, we'll take our phones. I'll put them away. He did. He recorded me on a secondary device.
CONWAY: How do you feel about that?
CUOMO: I think that that was dishonest and it was a bad thing to do.
CONWAY: Dishonest --
CUOMO: And I'll tell you what? You know what we talked about in the conversation? I'm not going to tell you, you know why? Because it was off-the-record and I respect that, even though he did me wrong. That's called integrity.
What do you do when people aren't watching? I'm still not going to burn him even though he did something wrong. He can answer that for himself. I'll tell you, there's nothing on it that I'm worried about. I know why you guys want to leak it but -- hold on a second, this isn't about me. You tried, you failed. He's on that tape, on there with Michael Cohen and he's lying about not knowing before these payments and you should admit it.
CONWAY: Are you going to talk about --
CUOMO: No, you have to admit it. You have to.
CONWAY: No, I don't. Are you kidding me?
CUOMO: Because you say to people the truth isn't the truth.
CONWAY: The president just answered the question.
CUOMO: He says don't believe --
CONWAY: I didn't say that. Listen to me.
CUOMO: -- what you see and hear --
CONWAY: No, no, he's saying --
CUOMO: And it's all destroying people's sense of normalcy and decency and integrity.
CONWAY: You don't ask question, you just want to --
CUOMO: You've asked me --
CONWAY: You've asked me ten times the same question and let me tell you, the president already answered the question.
CUOMO: He's lying.
CONWAY: No, that's what you think.
CUOMO: That's what "The Washington Post" says. That's what Michael Cohen says. That's what David Pecker says and I think it's going to wind up being the court says.
CONWAY: And Michael Cohen who just said disappointed you by being dishonest --
CUOMO: Yes, you're disappointing me right now. Doesn't mean you're not my friend, doesn't mean I think you lie all the time, just because you're disappointing me.
CONWAY: You've got about 10 times the words I do so far, and I'm guest. So --
CUOMO: Because you're not answering the simple question.
CONWAY: You came all the way down here to interview White House guests.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
CONWAY: Christopher, here's a very, very simple answer to you. When you say to me that this is why the audience doesn't trust you --
CONWAY: -- you know why the audience doesn't trust the White House because all day long on your network, all they hear is how terrible we all are, that we lack integrity, that we lie.
CUOMO: He lies.
CONWAY: What is it that you think I lie about? Here, tell the world.
CUOMO: I'm asking you --
CONWAY: No, no, answer.
CUOMO: -- to admit that he is lying about what happened on these payments? I don't think it is helpful to you to play games about something. I'll give you that free advice.
CONWAY: Do you think it's a lie, true or false, do you think it's a lie that ICE and CBP were honored this week on Monday by the president of the United States for all the great work they're doing, that the mayor of Philadelphia danced the jig or whatever the heck he was doing after he announced that Philadelphia will no longer get data to ICE and turned around and the guy who had been deported, came back five years later, ICE asked for a detainer for the man, Philadelphia let him go and he raped a 5-year-old child, none of this is fact? None of this is true? None of this matters?
CUOMO: Who says it's not fact? Who says it's not true?
CONWAY: How is that less relevant that you trying to get me to answer the same question 12 times. Did the president of the United States --
CUOMO: You keep ducking it. He lied, Kellyanne.
CONWAY: I'm ducking. He answered the question.
CUOMO: He lied.
CONWAY: Why are his words not important to you?
CUOMO: Because he's lying. They are important to me. I'm asking about them because they are --
CONWAY: What do you think I lied about?
CUOMO: -- material misrepresentation of fact for the purposes of deception. It's a lie. CONWAY: What crime was committed? What charges were filed against
Donald Trump this week?
CUOMO: The bar of proper behavior by a president is not a felony, OK?
CONWAY: Do you think anything that you've just said, excuse me, he didn't commit a felony. Do you think anything that he can say --
CUOMO: I'm saying, you lied, that matters. That is a crime against the American people. It's a crime of leadership. It's a crime of integrity. Stop lying to them. And he is lying.
CONWAY: And you know what a lie is, that on July 27th, you guys came out with this big report, nobody is retracting it yet, three big bylines.
CUOMO: Oh, so, let me get you on the record the other way. Do you think the president is telling the truth that he never knew about the payments until after --
CONWAY: He's saying the he knew about them after the fact. I never knew about them.
CUOMO: I don't care about when you knew about them.
CONWAY: No, no, you should absolutely care about them.
CUOMO: No, I care about them.
CONWAY: I'll tell you why. You should absolutely care that the campaign manager for the winning part of the campaign think that there's nothing to be gained with meeting with Russians and talking to people in Moscow instead of Michigan, and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina -- you should very much care that I don't know about payments --
CUOMO: No, I care about the president.
CONWAY: Excuse me, and you should be reminded that every single night, CNN was featuring another woman with another story. You play the "Access Hollywood" tape constantly, thinking that it would hurt the candidate, he would never be elected. CNN interfered in the election daily by shifting the scales --
CUOMO: Are we a foreign inimical power?
CONWAY: -- with your phony polling, and everybody saying, excuse me, that he could never win.
CUOMO: People say we didn't cover his lying and bad character enough. That's what I get criticized for.
CONWAY: Christopher, unless you give $50 every time you say the word, it used to be collusion, tonight is lying -- CUOMO: No, they both matter. By the way, both words matter. We
don't know if there's proof of one. There's an investigation going on that our president disrupts every chance he gets, and lying matters.
CONWAY: So, you've covered that more -- you cover that more than the booming economy. You cover that more than the low unemployment rate. You cover that more than the consumer --
CUOMO: He talks about this more than he talks about all of those things.
CONWAY: You were a world class journalist, who used to go to plane crash sites and cover war --
CUOMO: I go now, I was in Helsinki and saw one of the most embarrassing things I've ever seen in my life.
CONWAY: Oh, we saw what you wrote about it. We saw what you wrote about it.
CUOMO: Yes, it was really embarrassing.
CONWAY: Would you take that back?
CUOMO: No, not a chance. It was embarrassing.
CONWAY: It was the story that CNN published on July 27.
CUOMO: It was embarrassing what happened in Helsinki.
CONWAY: That needs to be walked back.
CUOMO: And I'm glad you didn't have to experience it the way we did. I'm not ignoring anything. I'm speaking to what is true. I got to tell you something --
CONWAY: Booming economy, consumer confidence --
CUOMO: Those are all good indices.
CONWAY: If you want to ask one question --
CUOMO: I talk about what matters on this show all the time.
CONWAY: You know what matters, is the president was asked the same question that you were asking me and he answered it.
CUOMO: And he lied.
CONWAY: No, only he knows what he believes, only he knows what he knows.
CUOMO: Only he knows what he believes?
CONWAY: Only he knows what experienced. Only he knows what he --
CUOMO: But that's not true.
CONWAY: Why? Because you say so?
CUOMO: Because it's not a matter of perspective.
CONWAY: Tell me where this is going?
CUOMO: It's not eyewitness testimony.
CONWAY: Tell me where this is going.
CUOMO: He's not the only one who knows if he's telling the truth or not. Michael Cohen knows, David Pecker knows. Mr. Weisselberg maybe knows.
CONWAY: Do you think he should be impeached?
CUOMO: It's not my call to make.
CONWAY: But CNN and MSNBC said the word 222 times yesterday for an average of 3.5, once every 3.5 minutes if you take out commercials.
CUOMO: Do you think we should tell the truth to the American people?
CONWAY: For what purpose?
CUOMO: Do you think he should tell the truth to the American people?
CONWAY: Yes, and I think you should, too. And here's the truth --
CUOMO Do you think he should be impeached if he's been shown to be lying to the American people consistently about criminal conduct?
CONWAY: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo going back to North Korea again because they're trying to denuclearize --
CUOMO: Is he going there before or after he goes to South Africa to help out those white farmers that the president mistakenly told people they're being hunted down and killed and having their land stolen?
CUOMO: You don't want to talk about? The South Africa tweet last night?
CONWAY: No, I want to talk about what matters to Americans because I actually talk to them every day. I'm not perched in some anchor's lair, I mean, chair, telling everybody, pontificating about what's important to them. I read the mail that comes to the White House, good, bad and ugly. I go out and talk to people.
I travel constantly --
CUOMO: And they say we don't care if the president lies to us about criminal conduct?
CONWAY: No, what they care about is that the president is doing everything he said he would do. He's keeping his promises.
CUOMO: Did he promise to tell them the truth?
CONWAY: We were told -- excuse me. We were told that it's going to be global recession, and the stock market will crash, including on this network.
CUOMO: Did he promise to drain the swamp?
CONWAY: We were told that everything, the economy, would never be the same, it would be a huge disaster and it went in the opposite direction.
CUOMO: Does it mean it's OK for him to lie about criminal conduct?
CONWAY: Christopher, is this all you're going to talk about in this show?
CUOMO: I want you to own it. I want you to own it the way his former lawyer did.
CONWAY: No, you want me to say something --
CUOMO: I want you own the truth. That's what I want you to do.
CONWAY: -- that he has denied. And I work next to him every single day. You know what I see? I see someone who's doing his best for this country and the results show it and you know it.
What is the message of this opposition?
CUOMO: Hold on. I don't know it.
CONWAY: You don't know it?
CUOMO: I don't know it. No, I don't. You know why?
CONWAY: Because you and I are wealthy. Because our kids are already --
CUOMO: You're using one simple metric of success in leadership. CONWAY: If you're one of 6 million Americans who received a bonus or
a raise, if you're one of the --
CUOMO: Yes, who did better in that tax cuts, people like us or the people who voted for Trump in the middle class? Who did better? Eighty-three cents of every dollar went to people like us.
You want to play facts, we can. I study them all the time.
CUOMO: Please, I treat you as somebody as somebody who comes in here to represent the president. You know, man, woman, or other you're going to get the same treatment. No one can shut you down.
CONWAY: You're not even letting me speak.
CUOMO: I am, but you are dissembling and you're distracting.
CONWAY: You're shutting me down.
CUOMO: Nobody can shut you down. We both know that.
CONWAY: You're not even letting me speak.
CUOMO: Eighty-three cents of every dollar went to the top, OK? The black unemployment rate went down with the main unemployment rate, but relative to white, it is still just as bad. OK? That's the right measure.
CONWAY: Why doesn't it matter it's the lowest in history? Why does it matter --
CUOMO: It does matter.
CONWAY: Excuse me. Why doesn't it matter there are 6.6 million able jobs right now for Americans who want it. The president is working on prison reform. He's breaking the back of the opioid crisis.
Yesterday, including --
CUOMO: He's not breaking the back of the opioid crisis.
CONWAY: It is. I went up --
CUOMO: It's terrible. We both know it is. It's spreading.
CONWAY: Let me know when I can talk.
CUOMO: You guys want to address it and I respect that. I can't let you say things that aren't true. That's not what this show is about. That's Fox. You go to Fox for that.
CONWAY: OK, I'm so glad you mentioned Fox because none of you are able to get through most of your shows without mentioning them.
CUOMO: Why are talking about? I almost never mention by their name.
CONWAY: Look, not to be so jealous of Fox News's rating.
CUOMO: I'm jealous of the opportunities they get to test power. They just don't take them. That's what I'm jealous of.
CONWAY: Sure. Ainsley Earhardt asked every question you asked me. That's where you got the answers.
CUOMO: Listen, I'm not in the business of attacking people in business. But let me tell you --
CONWAY: You do. You do constantly.
CUOMO: But let me tell you --
CONWAY: No, no, you didn't let me talk about the things that matter. You're either going to let me talk or you're not.
CUOMO: If you're going to argue the economy, you've got to be straight about it. If you want to talk about African-Americans and the economy, be straight about it. The gap between rich and poor, the gap between black and white is as bad as it's been and it should be addressed.
CONWAY: How do you think poverty went in the last eight years? Do you think it went up or down, the number of people in poverty? Oh, I know up, by over 700,000.
How many -- what is the unemployment rate among African-Americans and Hispanics, veterans, people with just a high school degree or less, women? Way down. Why isn't that good? Why did you say --
CUOMO: It was. It was good when it was happening under Obama, too. Now it's good it's happening under Trump. Of course, it was.
CONWAY: He raised taxes.
CUOMO: Of course, it was. I just did a whole comparative analysis of it.
CONWAY: How many Americans don't have health care eight and a half years after Obamacare? Oh, I know, close to 30 million.
CUOMO: And what did you do to try to wreck it? By removing the individual mandate. Now putting them in cost-sharing revenues. Nice job. Let's see what's happening with people's insurance now despite all over the country --
CONWAY: Let me say, I'm not going to let you get away with saying that we're not breaking the back of the opioid crisis because there's this whole government approach --
CUOMO: You're not.
CONWAY: -- and the House legislation HR-6, I know it'll never get a platform otherwise on CNN because it's too important for America.
CUOMO: Who brought you on TV to talk about opioids?
CONWAY: Wait, HR-6 passed 396 --
CUOMO: Who brought you on TV --
CONWAY: Not you because you're interrupting me.
CUOMO: Who brought you on TV to talk about opioids?
CONWAY: What is it about --
CUOMO: I did on this show.
CONWAY: -- powerful, articulate women on TV that bother you as guest? Hey, Christopher --
CUOMO: You don't have to play cheap with me. Just own what's real.
CONWAY: From 2015 to '16, the number of overdoes deaths in this country increased by 22 percent. From '16 to '17, it increased by 10 percent. We're trying to slow the growth. We didn't --
CUOMO: Slowing the growth isn't shutting it down. I think what you're trying it to do is good.
CUOMO: I think the president saying what he said the other day, you have to look what China is doing and importing all these opioids wrongly into this country --
CONWAY: Fentanyl is. They're synthetic opioids is named fentanyl. If your audience doesn't know what fentanyl is --
CUOMO: Of course, they know what it is. We talk about it on a regular basis. I did a documentary about it. I had you on to talk about it. We cover it as it moves across the country. What you're saying is disingenuous.
CUOMO: And another attempt to make people dislike the media. And that's an un-American.
CONWAY: Fentanyl, impeachment, what did you think is mentioned more on CNN? Twenty-nine thousand people died last year in this country because, 30,000 or so.
CUOMO: It all matters. CONWAY: Zero died because of impeachment. Zero died because of collusion. Zero died because of the word lying.
CUOMO: That's not the bar --
CONWAY: Yes, it is.
CUOMO: -- of presidential behavior.
CONWAY: I'm here to help people.
CUOMO: So if the economy is good, you can lie whenever you want, you can divide the country anyway you want, you can play the racist sympathy whenever you want, but it's OK because the stock market is up? Is that your argument?
CONWAY: Tell everybody what do you think we lie about?
CUOMO: I think the president lied about something that refers to criminal conduct.
CONWAY: Thank you for telling everybody I'm not a liar. He's telling you right now, why do you have her on?
CUOMO: Hold on. I didn't call you a liar. I'm saying the president lied about something.
CONWAY: Thank you.
CUOMO: You refuse to acknowledge it. That makes you complicit in the lying.
CONWAY: Oh, cut it out.
CUOMO: Sure it does. If you won't own something you know is a lie, you're complicit in the lie.
CONWAY: Where is the charge against the president?
CUOMO: You don't need charges --
CONWAY: Yes, you do.
CUOMO: -- to be a liar, and you know it.
CONWAY: Christopher, where's the charge against the president? Show me.
CUOMO: There are none. And by law there probably can't be any, so that's a false standard. He was just named as a co-conspirator with Michael Cohen.
CONWAY: He wasn't named as a co-conspirator.
CUOMO: He's in the plea agreement. Who was the person running for federal office? Was it someone else?
CONWAY: Listen to me.
CUOMO: Was it someone else?
CONWAY: Has the president been able to respond to that?
CUOMO: A hundred million times.
CONWAY: OK, and he did on tape yesterday and today.
CUOMO: And he's lying. Do you understand?
CONWAY: That's your opinion.
CUOMO: "The Washington Post" covered it all. Michael Cohen says it, David Pecker says it, the government says it.
CONWAY: Listen, all of you were against him. You said he could never win. You said he would never make it.
CUOMO: That doesn't make it OK to lie.
CONWAY: Do you think anything you've discussed in the Manafort or Cohen trials -- excuse me or Cohen pleading anything would be discussed tonight would have made Hillary Clinton to go to Wisconsin? I mean, what is it about?
CUOMO: I don't care about that. That is silly distraction, very Trumpy.
CONWAY: No, no, excuse me to quote influence an election. How exactly? How?
CUOMO: How do I care about any of that? He's the president of the United States, he lied about criminal conduct.
CONWAY: You're talking about that.
CUOMO: That's why I'm talking about it. Had he lost, I wouldn't care what he was lying about. I don't care about his personal life.
CONWAY: No, no, excuse me, you're talking about 2016.
CUOMO: No, I'm not talking about 2016.
CONWAY: To influence an election -- you are.
CUOMO: I'm talking about him lying about the these payments again and again to the American people. And he shouldn't do it.
CONWAY: The Manafort stuff was 2006, but the -- CUOMO: And if he wants to pardon Manafort, he can, that's his power.
We heard the talk about it. Rudy says that if the president said he didn't want any pardons until this is all over, maybe that's true, maybe that isn't. It's up to him. That's his pardoning power.
So, if he wants to pardon Manafort he can. That's his right, that's his role.
CONWAY: He never discussed with me directly though. He's probably discussed it with his lawyers. But that's --
CUOMO: Do you think he should pardon Paul Manafort?
CONWAY: I think that if you invite a White House guest and the counselor of the president who spend, is with the president every day, talks to him every day, was in three meetings with him just today, you ought to at least have basic curiosity if not decent integrity to ask me what it is we do there, what it is we're working on.
CNN has had all wall to wall coverage today about sessions. You're not covering the meeting that they had together --
CUOMO: You don't think it matters he keeps disrespecting his attorney general, undermining confidence in him by the American people in his own department?
CONWAY: No, this is very simple. The president is very clear on this through his tweets, through his statements, through his interview with Fox News, highly rated Fox News, Christopher. He said to them that since you had to go there, he said that he's upset, he's frustrated, rightly so.
CUOMO: Get rid of him.
CONWAY: No, no, many of us are frustrated that we never had an investigation on the other side. Where is the investigation, Comey, in the cave --
CUOMO: You know, some people investigate on the basis of merits.
CONWAY: Oh, you think it's not merited?
CUOMO: So, you got your own attorney general in there who loves Donald Trump even though he just defecates all over the guy on a regular basis. And --
CUOMO: Well, he does. I've never seen anyone treat someone the way he treats his attorney general. He should just get rid of him. He should give him the dignity of asking him to leave --
CUOMO: -- if he's going to attack him all the time. CONWAY: Something that will actually impact Americans. No American
is impacted by your nonsense collusion, your fantasies about impeachment --
CUOMO: So, if he wants Jeff Sessions to help advance an agenda when he tells everybody that he doesn't respect him all the time?
CONWAY: No, no.
CUOMO: Come on.
CONWAY: They were together after that. Aren't you the least bit interested --
CUOMO: I think it speaks to Jeff Sessions having a hell of a lot sense of duty to the American people.
CONWAY: I mean, what this president has been able to accomplish -- I would at least expect you as someone who love his country and I know you do to say, you know what, Kelly, here are five things Donald Trump has done as president that I can get behind and I'm proud of. Can you name them?
CUOMO: No, my job --
CONWAY: No, you can't exactly --
CUOMO: Because that's not my job. That's not my job.
CONWAY: Your job is not to love this country and to say the president of the United States --
CUOMO: You love the country by making sure that the integrity of its leadership and their ability to look at the people of this country and tell the truth is intact.
CONWAY: The corporate tax rate going from 35 to 21 percent that's unleashed wealth --
CUOMO: Does the truth matter, yes or no?
CONWAY: That's the truth.
CUOMO: Does the truth matter?
CONWAY: The truth always matters.
CUOMO: Good. Is he telling it truth about these payments? CONWAY: Do you ever hear the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
You decide selectively what you're going to cover --
CUOMO: Is he telling in all counts, does he tell the truth about these payments?.
CONWAY: There's wall to wall coverage about a missing woman in Iowa until she was found, and god rest her soul, and then you don't even have he decency --
CUOMO: God rest her soul. You're not letting her soul rest. You're waving like a flag.
CONWAY: No, I would never.
CUOMO: We're hijacking her grief.
CONWAY: How dare you?
CUOMO: If you're not with us about immigrants and you don't care about -
CONWAY: How dare you?
CUOMO: How dare you and how dare the president and you do that. Just like Kate Steinle. So if you don't want to abuse immigrants the way the president does, then if you want to assume they're all murderers, the way the president wants people to believe that you don't care about Kate Steinle and Mollie Tibbetts.
CONWAY: He's never said that. You don't care about the ones who have been murdered to say that this is how it happens. This is how we can all --
CUOMO: Over 17,000 murders in this country in 2016. How many times has he stood up and said this is an atrocity when happened.
CONWAY: Many times.
CUOMO: Only when the people who killed them are someone that he wants to target.
CONWAY: That's not true.
CUOMO: Come on.
CONWAY: What happened to the Democrats, CNN covered 55 minutes of a live meeting in the cabinet room in late January where he was flanked by the Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate to talk about DACA, the Dreamers. Where did they go? Why aren't they there? Why when they felt -- why didn't the Democrats talk about immigration --
CUOMO: They brought out a deal, Schumer told me. CONWAY: No, wrong.
CUOMO: And he denied it. There's the truth.
CONWAY: Why when they talk about immigration, they only think of the Dreamers? Why?
CUOMO: There's the truth. Here we go.
CONWAY: Why don't they respect ICE and Customs --
CUOMO: Here's the nice us them thing.
We're after the farmers in South Africa, the real racism problem --
CONWAY: Yes or no, do you think that's a good idea to have immigration --
CUOMO: It's not my job to make policy decisions. It is my job to test them.
CUOMO: I'll tell you what I think is wrong. Saying you care about Mollie Tibbetts and calling her permanently separated from her family, is that how you describe someone when they're murdered?
CONWAY: I said God rest her soul and I didn't say her name.
CUOMO: He said she was permanently separated from her family. Is that the time to play ugly politics because he's upset and about what happened with him putting kids in cages permanently separated?
CONWAY: But why can't you say what happened?
CUOMO: I did two segments on it yesterday. Of course, there are cracks in the system. Of course, her murder but for that man being here illegally wouldn't have happened.
CONWAY: Do you think we should get a vote on case law? Do you think the grief of Laura and --
CUOMO: I think you should do whatever you can to stop illegal immigration but you don't have to treat the immigrants like crap to do that. You don't have to reduce yourself --
CONWAY: He said he would do a deal on the Dreamers.
CUOMO: Then he didn't.
CONWAY: Where are the Democrats? Where did they go?
CUOMO: They brought him a deal and he said no.
CONWAY: No, he didn't.
CUOMO: He said, I want the whole wall. They give money for the wall. He said I want more wall. It was a fugazi promise. Just like his executive order to fix the kids' separation.
CONWAY: Not true.
CUOMO: He was never going to do anything about it. He put it on Congress. It sits at the top of the executive order.
CONWAY: And you know your party and you have one, just own it. You know that your party --
CUOMO: I have no party.
CONWAY: -- started this year off shutting down the government right after they have voted --
CUOMO: I have no party. What I have is a purpose, and the purpose is to try to test power and get them to tell the truth to the American people. That's the purpose.
CONWAY: Don't you care at all that the president is working on prison reform so that --
CUOMO: Let's see what he does. Let's see what he does.
CONWAY: -- they will pay their debt to society and they're eligible and we're trying to help them reenter into society.
CUOMO: Let's see what he does. I think that's great.
CONWAY: Are the money that we've gotten for opioids, historic amount of money --
CUOMO: You know what's also great, not calling them sons of bitches. That's also great.
CUOMO: People of color. Who was he talking about?
CONWAY: Oh, stop it, Christopher. You don't care that he's trying to help people. CUOMO: How was he helping people by saying that?
CONWAY: Was that about the national anthem and about standing for the flag and you show respect --
CUOMO: And he said get the hell out the country. Is that how you support black Americans?
CONWAY: You do this when they play the national anthem or don't you? Yes or no?
CUOMO: I do.
CONWAY: OK, why?
CUOMO: Because it's my damn choice, that's why. Because it's my damn choice, because I'm an American and I'll exercise my freedom anyway I want to and that doesn't hurt anybody else. And that's what they're doing, too, OK?
CONWAY: Because pretty much everybody in the stands is doing that. I've been there.
CUOMO: God bless them and that is their right, and it's your right not to. Last time I checked there are few things as much of a signature right in America as I understood it than to protest injustice in a nonviolent --
CUOMO: That he should stop saying that he's going to make war if people don't do what he wants.
CONWAY: No, no, he has said he likes to bring peace wherever he can. He said that. That's why he went to Helsinki.
CUOMO: Did he?
CONWAY: That's why he went to Singapore. That's why he got -- he tore up the awful Iran nuclear deal, which just shoveled over piles of cash and turned over too much to them. That's why just this week, Benjamin Netanyahu said that this is the best friend Israel's ever had.
This is why a very Democratic councilmember I believe or a state assembly member from Queens said thank you to the president for deporting this Nazi --
CONWAY: Cover it. Say, Kellyanne, you know what I disagree with the president, I'm going to hound you all the day long -- CUOMO: It's not about disagreeing with the president or agreeing with
the president. It's about holding him to account for what he says and does.
CONWAY: OK, but you know what? Hold him up when he does things like, his ICE deports a 95-year-old Nazi who's responsible for many, many deaths.
CUOMO: When you refuse to tell the truth to the American people --
CONWAY: Why wasn't he deported before?
CUOMO: -- you surrender the right to get applause, OK?
CONWAY: Why did other president say that they are going to do that and not do that? Why did other presidents say I'm going to move the embassy to Jerusalem and failed to do that?
CUOMO: But I will tell you this now, and I make it to you as a promise, all right? As you know, nobody works harder than we do to do this job, all right?
CONWAY: Who, you?
CUOMO: In this place, on my team, in this shop of CNN. We work very hard to tell people what is true and test power.
CONWAY: (INAUDIBLE) for humility.
CUOMO: Nobody outworks us every day. I'm telling you this --
CONWAY: Chris, let me just have a word about that.
CUOMO: All I wanted to tell you was that you need to own the truth.
CONWAY: You sound like a scold most of the time.
CUOMO: I sound like a scold. You called me --
CUOMO: You said in a condescending fashion and I never said anything to you about it. Listen, we know what it is and I'm saying that's your style, that's fine. I got to go now. I'm out of time. I gave you more time than anybody else would.
CONWAY: Except me. No, you gave yourself a lot of time because you talked pretty much the entire time.
CUOMO: I don't think that's true. I'll give you a word count at the end.
CONWAY: Well, Christopher, look, the guest should have many words. You know, I don't. CUOMO: No, I don't. I think the job is to test power and if you won't answer the question, you're going to get that.
CONWAY: You didn't test power. You didn't test power.
CUOMO: You are power, I'm testing you.
CONWAY: I am power, but you don't even ask what we work on. And once in a while --
CUOMO: I'm asking about things that matter not just what you want to talk about. He's lying to the American people about criminal conduct.
CONWAY: OK, you want to talk about the truth --
CUOMO: He should have disclosed loans that he didn't, he should have told the truth about what happened, he shouldn't have been part of a conspiracy to get around election laws. Those are things he could own and still not have any criminal exposure.
CONWAY: Do you respect me in the job I'm trying to do on behalf of the country?
CONWAY: Do you think I need to be in the White House?
CONWAY: Why do you think I'm there?
CUOMO: Because I think you think you're doing the right thing.
CONWAY: And I am, because I love this country and I'm one small molecule in the government that's trying to do well.
Do you respect our cabinet? Do you respect the vice president? Do you respect the president? Do you see what we're trying to do --
CUOMO: I respect what I see and what I hear.
CONWAY: When the veterans have the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Accountability Act, V.A. Choice that allows them to access care --
CUOMO: And you have his country club buddies making decisions for the V.A. who haven't been vetted, who haven't been asked whether or not they are qualified.
CONWAY: -- Secretary Wilkie yesterday. That is not true.
CUOMO: It is true.
CONWAY: That's not true. It was Secretary Wilkie yesterday, he was confirmed by the Senate something like 86-9. CUOMO: And he had these guys from Mar-a-Lago who are helping on the
side that should have never been done that way.
CONWAY: Again, you're not telling the veterans that he gave them disposition of their G.I. Bill benefits at --
CUOMO: That part matters.
Look, I've got to go. I'm giving you too much with the show.
CONWAY: At the V.A.
That's OK. Next time, let the guest speak. And they won't --
CUOMO: Look, I will always give you an opportunity to come on about what matters.
CONWAY: Remember, the whole truth also includes all the good economic news.
CUOMO: No, that's not how the truth works. The economy is true --
CONWAY: Now, thank you. The truth is just what you think it is.
CUOMO: No, no, it's what you try to make people believe it is.
CUOMO: The truth is how is the economy doing, did he lie about these payments.
CONWAY: Thank you for admitting that.
CUOMO: Separate but equal.
Thank you for coming on this show.
CONWAY: God bless you. Christopher is endearing. He's not a scold.
CUOMO: Stay don't leave yet. We've got to wait for the commercial.
All right. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll debate what everything that happened this week means. Both sides represented as always.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: It has been a big week. No question about it. The real question is what does it mean?
Let's put it to a great debate. We've got two great people there you tonight, Jason Miller and Paul Begala.
I think this is your first night on the show. No? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is. Congratulations by the way.
CUOMO: Welcome to PRIME TIME.
Jason, good to have you back.
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you.
CUOMO: So, look, let's just distill something that is actually useful from the back and forth about truth. The president now demonstrably we know was not telling the American people about the truth about these payments and what he knew and when he knew it. I'm not saying that makes him a criminal. I'm not saying that exposes him to legal jeopardy. I'm saying it's what about the truth?
Doesn't that matter, Jason, absent whether or not there's anything criminal? I know that he can't be charged. I know what the DOJ guidance is, but telling the truth matters also, doesn't it?
MILLER: Well, I do think that the White House needs a better answer on the president's side of the story. I think as this process moves along that's what they're going to have to get to.
I would caution you on one point, Chris, that so far we've only heard one side of the story, and that's Michael Cohen.
CUOMO: No, the president has told us what he thinks many times.
MILLER: But hold on --
CUOMO: "The Washington Post" did this very, very detailed --
MILLER: We're talking -- Chris, but we're talking specific to these two so-called allegations that are against the president that Michael Cohen has made. They're coming from Michael Cohen who's now a self- admitted eight time felon, someone who --
CUOMO: And David Pecker and the U.S. government.
MILLER: Someone who didn't pay his taxes for five years who's now making these allegations against the president, or we assume that's to the president.
CUOMO: I know you haven't gotten bad on Michael Cohen, right? You used to say he was a man of high integrity, that you trust him, that you like him. That he was good for the president. That didn't just change because he's on the other side now, didn't it?
MILLER: I've always said there's issues with Michael Cohen.
CUOMO: You have not always said that. But continue.
MILLER: There are some issues with Michael Cohen. So, but I am very clear that obviously, these are some serious charges and the White House is going to need to tighten up their answer on this as this process moves along.
CUOMO: Tighten up their answer, give a better answer. When our kids are lying to us, did we say give me a better answer? We say tell the truth, right? Just tell the truth. You don't even have legal exposure. You're the president of the United States. They can't charge you if they wanted to. Tell the truth.
BEGALA: He can't.
BEGALA: First of all, he's incapable. He's a pathological liar. But in this case, he's a liar of necessity because the truth is not his friend.
The truth is we know he's a liar. That's proven by his own words on tape as you showed Kellyanne when finally lets you asked a question. And also, he does have real legal jeopardy.
In the Cohen plea, he accuses the president of the United States of cooperating to subvert the campaign financial laws. Now, as you know as a lawyer, that's a five-year statute of lamentations, which means the act occurred in October 2016. He can be charged with that after he's president should he be defeated in 2020.
CUOMO: So let's flip it for a second.
BEGALA: So he has real legal jeopardy. That's why he's not telling the truth.
CUOMO: Let's flip it a little bit and see how many people I can get angry with me one night. I read that information, what they called the charging document, when there are no charges, because it was a plea deal, I'm not impressed by these campaign finance violation charges. He pled guilty, I get it, that was his decision. But they never proved it.
And this -- they're cutting it very fine with what they say he did. And I don't think we know that this was some grave campaign finance conspiracy going on. I think they were lying about it. I think they were being sneaky about it, but I don't know that there's criminal exposure for the president especially with all the DOJ guidance about when you can move on a president. They'd have to impeach him first.
I don't know that this is high crime or misdemeanor for the purpose of that. Of course, it's up to all the politicians. It's just a political situation.
I'm trying to make a different value judgment. The reason I'm pushing on Kellyanne about this, I knew she wasn't going to answer me, but I think it's important for people to see the exercise because the truth is the truth, Jason.
It's not about a better answer. It's not about working on tightening it up.
MILLER: Hold on. But you have one person's allegation.
CUOMO: And what David Pecker and what the government was able to deduce.
MILLER: Again, we don't know exactly what David Pecker was saying. But right now, we know what Michael Cohen is saying. We don't know exactly what David Pecker is saying.
CUOMO: But we knew from the president's voice on the tape that he knew about the payments before --
MILLER: We have someone of Michael Cohen who has very little credibility.
CUOMO: The tape has 100 percent credibility.
MILLER: But we don't -- it was cut off. We don't know all the details surrounding it.
Chris, you cannot -- here's the deal. You cannot go and say now that Michael Cohen has absolute complete credibility --
CUOMO: No, I'm not saying that at all.
MILLER: No, so we're only hearing from Michael Cohen going up there and making these allegations against the president.
CUOMO: Right, and David Pecker and there are other evidence and the changing stories from the president.
MILLER: We don't know exactly what David Pecker said. All we know right now is that Michael Cohen --
CUOMO: All right. So, let's say David Pecker were to come onto this show tomorrow night and say, you know what, I'm better than this. They gave me immunity because I deserve it. Trump knew before, he knew during, he knew after, he wanted us to do this. He didn't want to embarrass his wife and his family, he was worried about it on the campaign on the heels of the "Access Hollywood" tape, so I did him a favor, I thought I was going to get paid back, I did it, and by the way, I'm not happy about that.
What would you say about that?
MILLER: I mean, Chris, I mean, you want to go and put me on a hypothetical on a million different things.
CUOMO: I think it's very likely that --
MILLER: All we have is someone with very little credibility who's making these allegations. And you even said it in the first place, if these charges, I mean --
CUOMO: We have more than just Cohen. We have more than just Cohen. MILLER: But we don't know what they're saying. We don't have all --
CUOMO: Where is this going to go?
BEGALA: I think you make a good point. The president has a defense, which is this is not obstruction of justice, it's obstruction of life. Now, he lies about the affair. He says there was no affair. I think he's lying.
But he could have a plausible defense in saying I didn't want my wife to know that I had failed her -- that's why I paid --
CUOMO: I'm fine with all of it.
CUOMO: I'm fine with him saying, look, I lied because it's none of your business --
BEGALA: Because that's just the beginning.
CUOMO: Because I would have taken care of it anyway, it's not a crime, I lied, I should have lied I'm sorry, let's move on. You get an applause for me for that.
BEGALA: Mr. Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, my former colleague in the Clinton White House, is hinting that Cohen can place Trump in knowledge of the hack of the Democratic Party. And acknowledge about the Trump tower --
CUOMO: He's going to have to do one of two things. He's going to allow them to show what he knows, which he's going to have to proof or he's going to have to corroborate things for them in a way that they have two, three, four layers of truth up against what Cohen is saying because it won't be enough.
BEGALA: It's not just the payment to Stormy Daniels, which is problematic, but I think, you're right. Reasonable people could argue that.
It's the Trump Tower meeting, which was collusion with the Russians, which he may or may not have known about. Strong circumstantial evidence that he did, with this call from Don Jr. to a blocked number. Mr. Trump has a blocked number. There's that.
There's this question of whether he actually knew about the hacking of the Democratic Party and the release of the emails, hinted at by Michael Cohen's attorney. There's the question of the Trump Foundation, which the state of New York is going after him on and now subpoenaed Mr. Cohen about.
The walls are closing in on multiple fronts. This is why Kellyanne -- Kellyanne is really gifted. I'm (INAUDIBLE) campaign days. The reason she was freaking out is this White House is in crisis and the walls are closing in and Kellyanne is smart. She knows it.
MILLER: Paul --
CUOMO: Give me your last button, quickly please.
MILLER: You are a masterful storyteller. None of this has nothing to do with Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen does not have a cooperation agreement. We know what Michael Cohen has gone and pled to.
The fact of the matter is the reason why Lanny Davis is on TV begging for the Mueller folks to pay attention to him because they don't want anything to do with him. He's a toxic witness. He does not have a cooperation agreement. You can go and rile --
BEGALA: We don't know that. He could have one under seal.
CUOMO: All right. We've got to leave it there.
MILLER: -- allegations against the president. The fact of the matter that has nothing to do --
CUOMO: We've got to leave it there. We know the process is going to play out. It seems like Congress will act to stop anything the president tries to do to frustrate those efforts. He seems to be suggesting he won't do anything. So, it will play out, then we will.
And here's my hope for common ground. If two guys as different as you can both decide to wear ugly pink ties in the same night, there's a chance that we can agree on things that matter.
BEGALA: These are beautiful pink ties.
CUOMO: that's why I wear black as often as possible. I don't want to make that mistake.
BEGALA: You need to bang on Cuomo.
CUOMO: Jason Miller and Paul Begala, thank you for the decent disagreement. Appreciate it.
All right, the president picks a fight with his attorney general. You heard me talking about that with Kellyanne. He watches two members of his inner circle get convicted, he mauls his own impeachment, and my next guest has had front row seat to all of it. There's the three of them.
Where do they think we are? Where do they think this goes? And how is their heart strength? Next.
CUOMO: Everybody's so busy when they cover the White House that it was just easier for me to come down here and get a group of them together so we could talk about that because these are familiar faces to you at home. You're watching coverage of the president. How do they think we're doing and where do they think where this is all headed?
So, joining me now is Francesca Chambers, Kaitlan Collins and Brian Karem.
Sorry for giving you my back here.
Good to see you. It's good to see you. Good to see you.
So, listen, you saw a little demonstration there why I can't do your job. I'd get kicked out in about two minutes and I never be invited back. I make Brian Karem seemed polite.
But in terms of your sense, Francesca, I'll start with you, the state of play between the free press and the presidency, are we?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, DAILY MAIL WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're having White House press briefings now about once a week, and I think that's been pretty telling as this crisis has went down, we didn't see the White House press secretary out there. You had Kellyanne Conway on there tonight, but mostly speaking, we haven't seen senior advisors to the president out on television helping to manage with this crisis. So, I think that's number one.
But number two, and I pressed on this yesterday in the White House press briefing with this Paul Manafort and a potential pardon, they are not ruling it out explicitly and even Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney has said he's just saying don't do it right now while the special counsel's investigation is still going on. I also think that's really telling.
CUOMO: The basic argument is you only cover what's bad for the president and you don't say all the good things. So, you really not about the truth either?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So I think a lot of this has to do with the president creating a lot of these problems for himself. Key point, Jeff Sessions today, Kellyanne Conway was saying more people should have covered the prison reform meeting that the president had with Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, and a few other advisers today at the White House.
But it's the president's comment in that interview where he's going after Jeff Sessions, saying that he's never taken control of the Justice Department, that he's easy on Democrats, and that he only picked him because he was a loyal supporter during the campaign, that's why we're raising questions about whether or not the president is going to fire Jeff Sessions, because he's making it pretty clear he wants to fire Jeff Sessions.
That's why no one is talking about the prison reform meeting, which we would love to talk about because that's actually a pretty big issue, and the Department of Justice and Jeff Sessions really disagree with Jared Kushner and others in the White House. It's a big thing.
CUOMO: And we follow. We follow power. And that's not a criticism. If he talked about it more, we would too. It's the battle over the truth. Who's winning?
BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, and here's you know, you asked where we're going. Here's where we're going. They're in a bunker mentality. We have a weekly daily press briefing.
You saw with Kellyanne Conway what we face every day in that White House. For example, she says we don't want to cover anything. Well, then make yourself available to answer questions about those things.
You set up the problems, as you say, Kaitlin, and we have to deal with the answers, and then you come after us. Now, instead of answering questions, Kellyanne tried to flip it and make you answer her questions. We're not there for that.
She says we don't hold him up, that we put him down. We're not there for that. They're there to put a spin on it, we're there to find out what's really going on.
And it's impossible to do that when you're dealing with an administration, Chris, that on any given day, won't return a phone call, won't return an e-mail, will not show up in the West Wing, except in their offices and then get angry when you show up to ask to questions about what the president is doing.
CUOMO: I gave her so much of an opportunity tonight that I ate all your time.
This is what I want get though from each of you. Do you think from this point going forward, things get better or worse in terms of the dynamic in this country between the press and power?
CHAMBERS: Well, I think that's up to the White House. And I did want to make a point, as you were saying, by the way, Kaitlan, on prison reform, that's not a meeting that was open to us today.
CUOMO: Fair point.
CHAMBERS: So, that's not something that we could have attended and covered if we --
CUOMO: But if he talks about it a lot instead of other things, we would be able to cover it.
CHAMBERS: Absolutely. And we're just covering what he's tweeting about because that's what he's talking about.
CUOMO: Right. Better or worse.
COLLINS: I actually think it's a small group of people that have a strong dislike for the media. I think a lot of this country realizes that the media is important.
And I speak with a lot of people. I'm from Alabama. When I go home, I think a lot of people are really thankful for what we do and that we're in there covering the White House. And you see that in your feedback from viewers and stuff.
I think a lot of people are really grateful for what the media does, and that we're there telling them. We're not there to criticize the president or make him look bad. We're there to say what the taxpayer funded people in the White House are doing so the American people who are at work every day how what they're doing and how that's affecting their lives.
CUOMO: Strong point.
KAREM: Appearance or reality? What do you want to deal with? If you want to deal with reality, I'll take you to Tuesday night in Charleston, West Virginia, at a rally. Every time he says CNN, every time he says MSNBC, NBC, he screams "fake news" and everybody cheers.
And then individually, they come over and want to talk to you and ask you questions. Where do I think it's going better or worse? I actually think -- this will sound awful weird, Chris, but President Trump has made our job, as highlighted our jobs, has reinvigorated the press corps. I think we were asleep for many years and I think it gets better because I think we are getting better at doing our job.
It's starting to remind me of the press room when I first went there in '85 and ''86 and watched Helen Thomas walk up and bang on the door and say, you got to come out and talk to us and speaks. And now, you have younger reporters and some of us older farts who are doing it again. So, I'm encouraged.
CUOMO: I think it's a strong point. Let's the courage and I'm big fans of all of you. You're doing a job that matters very much and I'm reaping the benefits of it because I get to make sense of it at night.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right?
We're going to take a quick break.
When we come back, there's something that slipped out last night in all the fog of legalities that should matter more than anything else and it came from the president, next.
CUOMO: Last night, the president tweeted this: I've asked Secretary of State Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and large scale killings of farmers. The South African government is now seizing land from white farmers.
The South African government is not seizing land from white farmers. Like all conspiracy tripe, there's a kernel of truth. As the country in South Africa tries to get right and right to shift after apartheid, it's reconciling the systemic oppression of blacks. And that theoretically could include expropriating land. Expropriating is a fancy word for taking it even if you don't want to sell it. But no private land has been seized yet and the scary part offered from his pundit pals at Fox that there's rampant killing of white farmers. First, the crime rate in South Africa is much higher than it is here.
But a low of 47 farmers were killed last year. Make no mistake, the killing is bad, the politics are problematic, but it ain't what Trump is selling and I don't think this is about the facts.
I don't think he got it wrong simply. I think he's sending yet another message to the ugly parts of his base. The proof: white nationalists are cheering. Former KKK leader David Duke gave a big cheer (ph): big thanks to Trump. White supremacist Richard Spencer said opening up space to talk about white South Africans, getting his base to seriously discuss white dispossession is a monumental achievement.
Mr. President, you don't want to keep this company.
Now, Trump and his folks are going to say, he's getting a bad rap for racist sentiments. So, here's a pro tip on how to avoid such scrutiny. Don't advance a bogus cause that white nationalists are selling. Don't refer to African and Central American nations as S- hole countries and say you want more people from Norway.
Don't call American black athletes sons of bitches and un-American for being inherently American in protesting injustice. They're not sons of bitches. They're our sons and brothers and countrymen.
Don't rip away immigrant kids and put them in cages.
And please know, I don't call of this out to attack you or to bring you down. The truth is, Mr. President, this is much bigger than you. This is about us. This is about America.
E pluribus unum. We are one out of many because diversity is our strength.
Thank you for watching.
"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.