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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Interview with Kellyanne Conway; Discussion of Kavanaugh Controversy; Interview with Michael Mukasey. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 20, 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.
Two big developments that change our understanding of two major stories. First, Christine Blasey Ford, accuser of Judge Kavanaugh, now indicating she will testify even without an FBI probe, but there are several new conditions. We're just getting intelligence on the stipulations posed on a call today between her legal team and the Judiciary Committee. Meanwhile, Kavanaugh says he is ready and whenever they tell him, he will be there to clear his name.
Earlier this week, Kellyanne Conway voiced her support for Professor Ford to be heard, and she many other Republican seemed to change their tone and have started suggesting that Ford may be mistaken. That Kavanaugh should be safe. What changed? The White House counselor back on PRIME TIME tonight.
Then, Michael Cohen, he has no cooperation agreement but he is talking, he's meeting with Mueller for hours, about various issues with investigators into Trump. What he knew and maybe even his taxes.
My friends, there is no time to waste. Let's get after it.
CUOMO: All right. So, here's what we know on the Ford situation. Her lawyers now say Monday is out. She'll testify next week, but they see Monday as more of a pressure tactic than a practical consideration. But they do say again, next week with certain protections.
Her team is pushing for Thursday. What kinds of protections? Security, extra witnesses to make sure that she's not in the same room as Kavanaugh.
Now, earlier this week, her lawyer had asked for an FBI investigation. The question is, why isn't Kavanaugh pushing for the FBI as well? Theoretically, their efforts could help him as much or more than Ford.
And how about the president? Doesn't he want to remove any doubt before he saddles his pick and the court with the stigma of this kind of ugly speculation? Or is he with the new wave of confidence among Kavanaugh's Senate boosters, that he's going to be fine, even before they've heard a word from Ford.
Here to talk about it is one of the president's advisers, Kellyanne Conway.
Welcome back to the show.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: So, help us understand this switch. There hasn't been any testimony, and yet we're hearing more and more Republicans, especially on the Senate committee saying Kavanaugh is going to be fine. We think maybe she's mistaken. How do they know when they haven't heard anything?
CONWAY: Well, Christopher, you just told your audience that you wanted to lay out everything you learned. You omitted cleverly a very important fact, which is that Judge Kavanaugh said that he wasn't there.
And this is not -- this is no longer she said/he said, it's she said and he said he wasn't there. And you keep on omitting --
CUOMO: What's the difference?
CONWAY: Excuse -- what do you mean what's the difference? You keep on omitting --
CUOMO: What's the difference?
CONWAY: -- in fact that Judge Kavanaugh found out the identity of the individual on Sunday for the first time. By Monday, he had already given his statement to the committee.
CONWAY: And so, he has subjected himself again as he did over 30 hours of oral testimony in front of the whole world to see to the same committee as he did in response to 1,300 written questions, to six FBI vets, including one completed six months ago, and on the desk of every Senate member, they can access it easily.
He has submitted himself under penalty of perjury or under penalty for lying to Congress, all of this under oath.
CONWAY: And so, he is willing. He was willing this last Monday, just less than 24 hours after hearing the woman's name for the first time, he was willing to testify --
CONWAY: -- and clear his name and say under oath what he has said otherwise, which is unequivocally and categorically this is not true.
So, he was willing to do it last Monday. CUOMO: Right.
CONWAY: She's not willing to do it the following Monday. We have said from the beginning that they both should be heard, and the process -- because we respect the process, the Senate Judiciary process, and the Senate's process.
CONWAY: They have -- they're charged constitutionally with advising and consenting to the president on Supreme Court nominations. And you need to -- if you're going to be looking for the facts and the truth, you can't omit important facts.
CUOMO: What have I omit ted.
CONWAY: I just told you, you omitted the fact that Judge Kavanaugh has said that he wasn't there.
CUOMO: I've reported many times that he denies it.
CONWAY: Well, you didn't report it tonight. You didn't say it tonight.
CUOMO: But we haven't heard any testimony. I'm going to say it many times tonight. I've said it many times before.
CUOMO: Look, you're missing my point. My point is, you guys said you wanted a process, you wanted her to be heard.
CUOMO: And then you said --
CONWAY: They accommodated her.
CUOMO: I don't remember a lot of things that happen when I was 15, maybe she's forgotten. We don't know what she's forgotten and what she hasn't. She hasn't even testified.
CONWAY: I didn't say she's forgotten. Excuse me, do not put words in my mouth. Let me know if there's a question lurking in there.
CUOMO: Why not make the best efforts?
CONWAY: Here's what you need to know, here's what you need to know. These are our best efforts.
CUOMO: Not having the FBI is the best effort?
CONWAY: Excuse me, the FBI has vetted this man completely six different times. [21:05:00]
CUOMO: They haven't vetted this.
CONWAY: You don't know that.
CUOMO: I do know that.
CONWAY: Excuse me, you don't know that.
CUOMO: I do know that.
CONWAY: And let me just say this, you want to lay the blame at somebody's feet, look no further than your Democratic friends starting with Senator Feinstein. Even the Democrats are angry with her. If Dr. Ford is --
CUOMO: What does that have to do it --
CONWAY: No, no, don't interrupt --
CUOMO: That's just politics. That's Mitch McConnell saying he's OK, that's Feinstein --
CONWAY: Chris, you think you can talk over me, I'll walk away. You guys begged me to come on and then you want to interrupt me. Hold on.
CUOMO: As I've said many times, you're always welcome to come on, but I have to stop you and check what you put out there.
CONWAY: I'm not going to come on and you filibuster.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
CONWAY: No, no, I didn't say, nothing came out of my mouth yet. You're just talking.
CUOMO: We have noise coming for nothing coming out of your mouth.
CONWAY: OK, I can leave, I can leave and we can watch him get confirmed next week. Are you ready for that?
CUOMO: How do you know that's going to happen?
CONWAY: Christopher --
CUOMO: How do you know that's going to happen? I understand you're upset, but how can you know he's going to get confirmed --
CONWAY: I'm not upset about anything.
CUOMO: -- before she's even testified? Where does your confidence come from?
CONWAY: I'm not upset about anything. This woman said she wanted to be heard. Her lawyer went on television after 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday and said in response to a question, would your client be willing to testify? Her lawyer, yes, she would be willing to testify.
CONWAY: She will do whatever it takes to get her story out. The Senate immediately started to accommodate that request, and they have -- they said that she can do it through a form of her choosing, she can do it privately, publicly, by telephone, in person. They have bent over backwards to accommodate this request.
There are two people involved here, not just the one you're promoting.
CONWAY: The other man, Judge Kavanaugh, has testified for over 30 hours --
CUOMO: But not about this.
CONWAY: Oh, no, no. Excuse me. He's testified. He was grilled for 30 hours.
CUOMO: Not about this.
CONWAY: I know you're friends on the Democratic side, as Jake Tapper saying --
CUOMO: You can lay it anyway you want, but it's just a straight question.
CONWAY: No, excuse me. This man has denied --
CUOMO: Personal insults of me, nobody cares about that.
CONWAY: Hey, Chris.
CUOMO: Just speak to this.
CONWAY: This man has denied being there. Does that matter to you?
CUOMO: Of course it matters.
CONWAY: Does it matter to you? Do you think this process is fair to Judge Kavanaugh and his wife and two daughters?
CUOMO: I think it would be more fair if you enlisted the FBI.
CUOMO: I think you're hurting your guy.
CONWAY: Do you think it's fair to those young female basketball players who he's coached who have to open up the hometown paper -- we're not hurting our guy at all.
CUOMO: You are because you're making it look like --
CONWAY: Our guy will show up right now and testify. He'll testify tomorrow, he would have testified yesterday --
CUOMO: It looks you are hiding him from scrutiny.
CONWAY: Christopher, who is hiding? He's ready to testify. He's ready. She's not.
CUOMO: Why won't you have the FBI look at it and perfect -- have some kind of objective record of this.
CONWAY: You know -- OK, let's back up, let's say for example the FBI going to investigate. What are they investigating? She said she doesn't remember where the house was, how she got home, how she got there. What do they investigate from 1982?
CUOMO: She remembers people being there.
CONWAY: No, no, tell me what they would be investigating.
CUOMO: She remembers who did what to her. They could talk to the people that she names. They have field agents. They could go places. They know how to ask questions. They can present a record --
CONWAY: No, no, the FBI is in charge of background checks and -- the FBI is in charge of security clearances and background checks. This is now in the Senate. This is part of the Senate confirmation hearing.
Don't forget that. You act like we're in the court of law/
CUOMO: That's a direct analogy to Anita Hill.
CONWAY: No, it's not a direct analogy to Anita Hill. You know it.
CUOMO: How is it not?
CONWAY: And you know it, in many different ways.
CUOMO: No, I don't know that. Give me one.
CONWAY: They were two colleagues and her allegations were about something that happened when those two worked together. Disproven, of course, that --
CONWAY: It happened when they worked together.
CUOMO: It wasn't disproven.
CONWAY: A short amount of time before all of that.
So, you are asking the FBI to get involved, but earlier in the week, you and your network were fine with just having this woman testify because she said she wanted to testify --
CUOMO: I was never fine with any of it from the beginning. I have been asking why the FBI is not involved from the first day.
CONWAY: Are you comfortable with the fact that Judge Kavanaugh's wife is receiving these death threats?
CUOMO: I don't like her getting threats. I don't like Ford getting threats.
CUOMO: I don't like anybody getting threats. I don't like anybody getting threats.
CONWAY: If Dr. Ford is upset, she ought to be upset with whoever leaked her name and breached the promise of confidentiality. That entire chain of custody of that information lies with the Democrats.
CUOMO: She should also be upset with who sexually assaulted her, right?
CONWAY: She should be upset --
CUOMO: Attempted, attempted sexual assault.
CONWAY: Who smoked her out. Who smoked her out.
CUOMO: But that's politics, Kellyanne.
CUOMO: It's all ugly politics.
CONWAY: Christopher, it's not ugly politics.
CUOMO: Orrin Hatch saying I think she's mistaken. How the heck does he know if she's mistaken? You know, McConnell said --
CONWAY: How do you know she's not?
CUOMO: I don't know, that's the point.
CONWAY: We don't know anything, because she won't testify.
CUOMO: That's the point. She is going to testify. She wants certain protections.
CONWAY: When? What's taking so long? What are the protections? Name them. CUOMO: Do you really believe this is an equal opportunity? She's coming into a place as a woman who says someone attempted to sexually assault her.
CONWAY: Thirty-six years ago.
CUOMO: That it's something that scarred her. That she's getting death threats, her family isn't living in her house, she's going to a hostile environment --
CONWAY: You want to talk about death threats? None of you ever care if any of us get it. Never care.
CUOMO: Can we focus on the person who --
CONWAY: No, no, we're going to focus on the culture that has been created here.
CUOMO: You guys are not the victims tonight.
CONWAY: A good man who's been through six FBI vets, who's answered 1,300 written questions, testified for over 30 hours. The time that those Democratic senators wasted raising money for their 2020 presidential bids, saying -- shouting him down, talking more than asking him actual questions to answer. I am Spartacus. He should have said --
CUOMO: So, shame on them. Shame on them for the grandstanding and bad politics. But they didn't know about her.
CONWAY: Mazie Hirono now saying that she wants to tell the men of America to just shut up, what is that?
CUOMO: That's politics.
CONWAY: You have to be fair to -- that is not politics. This is a confirmation hearing to the United States Supreme Court. You can't have it both ways.
CUOMO: I know, that's what I'm saying.
CONWAY: You can't say the stakes are high for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and then just say, ah, it's just politics. Well, then Dr. Ford should be very upset that Democratic politics today includes members of her own party smoking her out after she asked for confidentiality, no Republican did that to her. The Republicans are the whole reason she will have an opportunity --
CUOMO: That is a fair line of criticism.
CONWAY: -- to testify.
CUOMO: It is a fair line of criticism.
CONWAY: To testify.
CUOMO: It is a fair of criticism.
CONWAY: What are the conditions?
CUOMO: I've never said otherwise.
CONWAY: I heard because of the media, of course.
CUOMO: Her conditions were about security and she wanted around objective record put together.
CONWAY: The conditions I also understand, maybe she wants him to testify first. Do you have that reporting tonight?
CUOMO: Right, yes, I saw that.
CONWAY: The lawyers talked to CNN, (INAUDIBLE) talk to the Judiciary Committee plenty of times, when they're not headlining fund-raisers for Democratic senators --
CUOMO: I don't want to mix the petty politics of both sides --
CONWAY: No, no, you want transparency and accountability. So let's talk about people's motives here? OK?
CUOMO: No, because that doesn't go to the main matter. The matter is, what do you do now to secure the best chance of obtaining truth when these two people come before you?
CONWAY: OK, can you and I agree that the best way to get the truth is to have them both testify under oath next week about this particular incident?
CUOMO: That's part of it.
CONWAY: This alleged incident.
CUOMO: That is the important part.
CONWAY: What's the other part?
CUOMO: You should try to get any other viable witnesses.
CONWAY: By the way, he's already testified. You know that, right? He's already given his statement about this. CUOMO: He gave a statement, he didn't testify under oath.
CONWAY: No, no, you don't know that.
CUOMO: Mark Judge?
CONWAY: No, no, not Mark Judge.
CONWAY: The man -- Judge Kavanaugh. The accused who says he wasn't there. So, I went early this week, I said that she should not be ignored, she should not be insulted.
Not only has she not been ignored, she's been accommodated. We're waiting for her to testify. Everybody wants to hear her, everyone from the president to Judge Kavanaugh to the Senate Judiciary Committee, they've given her, played good on the promise her lawyer made on TV, that she wanted to come forth and testify. And do what she had to do to get her --
CUOMO: Right, but the opportunity to speak is an important one. There's no question about that. You can't take anything away from it.
CONWAY: So -- remember, she's been --
CUOMO: Whether it's rushed and what the proof of the process is matters also.
CONWAY: She's been thinking about this for a long time it sounds like.
CUOMO: This is what --
CONWAY: She didn't tell anybody for 30 years, but she has been thinking about this for a long time. Judge Kavanaugh had less than 24 hours from the time he learned her name saying it's just no true.
CUOMO: They are completely different situations. If you believe that she believes it -- OK, let's not say it's true. If you believe that she believes this, that she is in good faith in believing that this was done to her, they are completely on uneven ground. You know very well --
CONWAY: No, that's not true, and I'll tell you why.
CUOMO: -- someone who knows the psychology of this, it is very hard for women to come forward.
CONWAY: OK, but he --
CUOMO: It is not unusual for them to have memory gaps about certain details of an event.
CONWAY: Sure, but how is that going to change between now and next week?
CUOMO: As you mentioned earlier -- she went to Democrats saying, I really don't want to do this, I'm anonymous, use it for what it's worth. She wasn't looking to grandstand.
CONWAY: And her friend posted on Facebook, and had to retract it, because like, oh, no, now people want me to go on TV and back it up. I didn't mean what I said. I didn't mean what I said. So, she's not helpful.
CUOMO: She will be her own advocate here, she's going to have to. Here's my concern. This is a struggle, this is hard, we don't have standards, we don't have rules, we don't know how to judge these situations --
CONWAY: There is a process in the Senate Judiciary Committee. There is.
CUOMO: But not to deal with this type of allegation. It's just going to be political.
CONWAY: That's not true. We had. No, excuse me, the Senate has hosted sensitive witnesses in the past, who also had threats to their safety. This is not unprecedented.
CUOMO: It's not about threat to the safety, how do you judge the credibility of these two individuals.
CONWAY: Yes, it is, she's concerned about that, that should be respected.
CUOMO: How do you judge them, how do you figure out if they are both credible.
CONWAY: I think you're prejudging them.
CUOMO: No, I'm not. I'm saying if they're both credible, what do you do?
CONWAY: So, let me ask you this, is it possible --
CUOMO: Do you put someone on the Supreme Court if it's a 50/50 proposition?
CONWAY: Let me ask you a question, is it possible that they're both right? Is it possible that something terrible happened to her, as she describes it --
CUOMO: It's possible, I agree with you.
CONWAY: -- excuse me, and that Judge Kavanaugh was not there? That he wasn't involved, is that possible?
CUOMO: I just agreed with you. That is possible.
CONWAY: OK. Well, then, we should have both of them testify as to that particular --
CUOMO: Why not have everyone you can find that could be relevant testify? Why not use the FBI? Why not send America a message that we care about these allegations enough, and the judge enough --
CONWAY: OK, so let me ask the Senate --
CUOMO: -- to do everything we can to show you that we cared about what matters?
CONWAY: Let me ask the Senate right now then, through your show, because they're employed by the taxpayers, this is a Senate confirmation hearing. The Senate has the resources at hand to conduct the investigation that you just suggested. They can do that. You're trying to involve the FBI --
CONWAY: -- because --
CUOMO: They're objective.
CONWAY: -- there's all kinds of stall -- no, of course they are. But there's all kinds of stall tactics.
CUOMO: It's not stall. It took three days with Anita Hill.
CONWAY: What about that --
CUOMO: It took three days with Anita Hill.
CONWAY: Chris, that's a different set of facts, and you know it. But I just want --
CUOMO: I really don't. If anything, this would be easier for them to do. They can track people down, it's been too long.
CONWAY: This is -- I think you're really --
CUOMO: Just they did with Anita Hill and said we couldn't corroborate it.
CONWAY: I heard your opening, something I didn't understand at all. The stigma of ugly speculation --
CONWAY: What exactly does that mean?
CUOMO: If it doesn't seem that you made best efforts and you leave Judge Kavanaugh with the stain of this kind of speculation that maybe this happened --
CONWAY: What stain? He's willing to testify.
CUOMO: -- because you guys didn't really vet it well, and you rushed it through, what does that mean for his legacy on the court? What does that mean for confidence in the court --
CONWAY: Chris, he was nominated.
CUOMO: -- that now you would have two of six men with this type of speculation --
CONWAY: No, no, don't you go there. Justice Thomas has served honorably and admirably as United States Supreme Court justice for over 25 years now. So do not --
CUOMO: I can only go where history takes us. Anita Hill came up and she said things. She had an opportunity to speak. And some people believed her, some people didn't.
CONWAY: He was confirmed, he sat on the court ever since.
But let me make one thing clear in case anybody has an amnesia at the moment. The industry that's been the hardest hit through allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment and #MeToo movement is probably the media, I would think.
CUOMO: Maybe that's because we take it the most seriously, and done the most to try to get to the truth of the allegations.
CONWAY: Oh, yes, taken very seriously --
CUOMO: And not rush people through a process and not put them before a hostile panel and try to hire gun to interview them.
CONWAY: You want me to name names of people in the media who are no longer in the media --
CUOMO: Doesn't that show the need to take it seriously?
CONWAY: No, no. They learned --
CUOMO: Aren't you making the point for transparency?
CONWAY: And now I'm going to make amends with all the women that I've hurt and sexually assaulted and sexually harassed. That isn't exactly how it went down, and we can name names. Why waste my time.
CUOMO: You seem to be wasting time saying that right now.
CONWAY: No, no, no, you're not being honest, when you talk about because you're besmirching two good men who have --
CONWAY: Justice Thomas and Judge Kavanaugh --
CUOMO: No, Justice Thomas had the allegations against him, that's a fact.
CONWAY: I'm not going to let you do it.
CUOMO: Judge Kavanaugh has denied it and he should have the right to deny it because not all allegations are even. What I'm saying is why don't you show the American people that you've made best efforts to get to the truth? That's all. That's all I'm asking.
CONWAY: Let me ask you a question.
CUOMO: Last one, go ahead.
CONWAY: Why is it not enough for you -- why is it not enough for you that a man has gone through six FBI vets who said he wasn't there, who's willing to testify under oath, was willing to do it last Monday --
CUOMO: I think that that's all good.
CONWAY: -- less than 24 hours when he found out the woman's name, let alone next Monday when she won't come.
CUOMO: I think that's all good.
CONWAY: Excuse me, has submitted to 1,300 written questions, has produced 1 million pages of documents from his time in government.
CUOMO: I think that's all good.
CONWAY: And I would point out to everybody because you probably buried it by now. My favorite poll recently was the poll that put on Twitter yesterday, last night, asking people, does he deserve the presumption or does she? And by two to one, it said that he deserved the presumption. I know that you're going to say that wasn't science, but science and polling never stop CNN from publishing polls --
CUOMO: I haven't said any of that. It's my poll. I did it on my site. But why would I undermine it?
CONWAY: Yes, but didn't that surprise you? But, look, it should be enough that this man was nominated to the Supreme Court about 75 days ago or so --
CUOMO: People nominated him without knowing anything about this, Kellyanne. Those six background checks --
CONWAY: And there's a reason for that? You know why? You know why?
CUOMO: This is a new issue and that's why I'm saying it deserves the best chance of being proven true or false.
CONWAY: Because he says he wasn't there. Because he says he wasn't there.
CUOMO: I understand he says that. You're going to hear her and what she says and then you should talk to other people --
CONWAY: Chris, we're waiting.
CUOMO: -- you should get the best record of what everybody says and then decide.
I got to let you go.
CONWAY: Christopher, we're waiting -- we're waiting for her to testify.
CUOMO: I know.
CONWAY: The Senate Judiciary Committee.
CUOMO: I hope she does.
CONWAY: I certainly hope she does too. We're all waiting. I think the country is waiting for that. But in the meantime, you should recognize that there are two individuals and two families here who have been hurt.
CUOMO: No question.
CONWAY: And your role as a dad should kick in once in a while. Not your role as an anchor trying to get ratings and ad revenues. It should. It should.
CUOMO: Kellyanne, I will never understand why you think --
CONWAY: It's not fair.
CUOMO: -- coming at me personally is going to change how I am when I talk to you.
CONWAY: I'm not coming at you personally. You're coming at him personally.
CUOMO: I appreciate you judging me as a parent, as a member of the media, when we're all bad people. I get it, Kellyanne. The question stands, OK? [21:20:00]
CONWAY: I didn't say that. No, no, no, don't put that in my mouth. I didn't say members of the media are bad.
CUOMO: I don't have to. You get yourself.
CONWAY: I said that as everyone preens around about these allegations, don't forget the industry that's been hit the hardest.
CUOMO: I don't know how that's relevant in anyway. I really don't. But I got to let you go. Let's see what happens next week.
CONWAY: Have you given all those women -- I hope you'll have all those women on sometimes who have made credible allegations against people in the media, many of those men are not even any longer in the media about.
CUOMO: And I'm glad you see that as a good way to reflect on what should be done in this situation here now.
CONWAY: No, no, no. I'm saying everyone deserves to be heard.
CUOMO: To be heard, 100 percent.
CONWAY: I said that first about her, but Judge Kavanaugh has been heard and he's willing to be heard again under oath.
CUOMO: I understand, I'm not taking anything away from that. I think you're handicapping him by not letting the FBI look at this and making it look like you're trying to rush this through.
But I've got to go. I have to go. We'll talk about this more next week when we see how it turns out. You're always welcome on the show, be well.
So, Michael Cohen reportedly has been spilling the beans to Mueller and company. Last week the president's former campaign chair agreed to cooperate, the list is growing. Does it matter? And if so? How?
We've laid it out for you on the magic wall, next.
CUOMO: All right. In this big flood of Russia-related news, where does this latest reporting on Michael Cohen rank?
ABC News is reporting that Cohen sat with Mueller's team for many hours. What's the focus? Trump's dealings with Russia, whether there was any talk of a pardon for Cohen. He's also been meeting with New York state officials that handle taxation and charity activities.
Now, keep in mind, this has not been a great month or so for Donald Trump when it comes to the Russia investigation. Why not?
Well, let's go to the end of August. Reports came out that Trump's own counsel was sitting for extensive interviews for some 30 hours. That was followed by Cohen pleading guilty to numerous counts and implicating Trump personally in campaign violence violations.
Now, at the time, this is a point of confusion for some, Cohen has never signed a cooperation agreement as part of his plea agreement. So, he is now talking voluntarily, but he's talking a lot.
Who else is?
About two weeks ago, George Papadopoulos was sentenced. He's been spreading stink on Jeff Sessions and what he knew about his efforts to make connections to Russians.
Less than a week ago, you had Paul Manafort. He spent hours at Mueller's office just today. His relevance, well, if you knit him with Michael Cohen, you have two people who are very close to the president for a lot of talk time. And Manafort was, of course, at that infamous Russia meeting at Trump Tower.
Now, Trump says he knew nothing about that meeting. But what can Manafort say? What can Cohen say? That's what we're waiting to understand.
Just yesterday, Michael Flynn, a federal judge set a sentencing date for Trump's former national security adviser. People take that as a signal that he's finished being of use to Mueller.
Now, we don't know what information all these people are sharing with the special counsel. But, clearly, Mueller is either closing in on Trump or getting ready to close down the probe or both. We know Cohen and others are being asked what the president knew and what he said and did. Could that lead to proof of crimes?
Look, my take is, it's very hard to say yes. I know many on TV are architecting the president's demise on different crimes. I've just never seen the proof to protect such speculation.
Could it show wrongdoing of a political nature? That's much more likely. But at a minimum each of these meetings, each additional Trump man to meet with Mueller, makes a meeting of Trump and Mueller a little less likely, because there's a little better chance that investigators will hear and corroborate things making the chance of catching Trump in a lie that much better.
So, big questions tonight. What does Cohen meeting Mueller mean? And how will senators decide what to do after they hear from Ford and Kavanaugh? What is the right standard of judgment?
"Cuomo's Court" in session next.
CUOMO: Tonight, a source tells our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta that Dr. Christine Ford's legal team is talking actively with the Senate Judiciary Committee, trying to make testimony happen next week. There are areas of agreement and disagreement.
Earlier today, Ford's lawyer e-mailed the committee explaining, quote: She wishes to testify provided we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible. Her strong preference continues to be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow a full investigation prior to her testimony.
So, should Grassley respect her wishes? She didn't seem to want to do that, although it's not his call on the investigation front if it involves that FBI. That would be for the president.
Let's bring in "Cuomo's Court" here. Laura Coates and Ken Cuccinelli.
So, Laura, the idea of these conditions from Ford if they are seen as a backing off of an original intent to testify no matter what, is this a show of weakness, of less credibility? How do you see it?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't see it as a show of weakness to say you'd like to have process and you'd like to have time to do so. Remember back in '91, Anita Hill had about two weeks from the time that the FBI investigation was concluded -- that only took three days. The time that she actually testified on the Hill, are we suggesting that now, 27 years later, less process is warranted when you are aware that there should be a protocol in place to judge and evaluate people and these sorts of claims?
I think that's the real oddity to rush it, when there are Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have set an arbitrary 12th hour, and called this the 11th hour. It seems to me they're trying to check a box to placate a particular movement as opposed to saying, I'd like to have a few more days to get all the information I need, maybe it's Tuesday.
COATES: Maybe it's Wednesday. Have they done it last week, we'd already have that three-day or more investigation complete.
CUOMO: Well, Ken, what do you think of the idea of how do you best protect Kavanaugh? He says he wasn't there, he says he'll testify, any time, anywhere he's coming, OK? So, you give him credit for that.
But if you are one of his sponsors, why not bring in the FBI? Why not show everybody that you did everything? You talked to everyone she wanted you to. You gave her every benefit of the doubt that she asked for, and at the end of the day, it isn't there?
That is -- isn't that his best chance of not just safe passage with a political vote, but of securing his reputation?
KEN CUCCINELLI (R), FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, I would have agreed with you just as you said it, Chris, three or four weeks earlier in the process. And look, this just didn't arise. You can't ignore the fact that a late decision was made. I mean, Laura may call the Republican's move 12th hour, but literally
within hours of Chairman Grassley, knowing of Ford's name for one, and desire to testify. He set the time based on Senate rules which require at least a week's notice, and that's what he did. He did it immediately and he very quickly said under whatever conditions she wants. We'll do it in California by staff.
CUCCINELLI: She can do did here, public, private. I have never seen ever, I can't remember a time where a Senate committee gave that kind of accommodation to a witness ever, ever.
CUOMO: Well, this is an unusual allegation.
CUCCINELLI: I'm sure maybe it's happened. But I sure can't. It's very unusual.
CUOMO: So, let --
CUCCINELLI: One of the other problems is, it's so late. And it's already knocked the Senate off their schedule, and that's been the Democrats' strategy all along.
CUOMO: Well, the schedule is subjective.
CUCCINELLI: I'm not saying Dr. Ford is participating in that.
CUOMO: The schedule is subjective.
CUCCINELLI: But you have to account for that. And if you're the Senate and you allow this to get knocked back any more, then every single -- let's be clear -- male Republican nominee for the Supreme Court will have someone come forward?
CUCCINELLI: And it will be the end. And we'll say, oh, gee, we should hear this out.
CUOMO: That assumes that it's a fraudulent allegation.
CUCCINELLI: There's a process element that's important (ph).
CUOMO: Time doesn't mean that you're going to have people jump out saying that you attempted to sexually assault them. That shouldn't be the risk of having more time in the process. But timing is just one element.
CUOMO: I want to get your minds on something else that I think matters more than timing. What is the standard?
Laura, we don't have the comforts of beyond a reasonable doubt, the presumption of innocence, findings of due process, how we vet and test and procure and proffer evidence at trial, as frustrating as all of that can be. We don't have any of it.
So, if she gets up there, and she's credible and she can corroborate a little bit, but not everything, and there are holes, he gets up there, and he is credible, and he says, I wasn't there and I didn't do it, what is the standard of judgment?
How do you decide whether or not you vote up or down on this, Laura? What do you think the standard is?
COATES: Well, this is why it's painfully obvious that although many lawyers, former lawyers sit on the judiciary committee, this is not a court of law. I'm glad that Ken mentioned the notion of the Senate judicial rules and process of at least a week as opposed to within a week. I'm glad he mentioned the fact that he's never seen anything like this before, because the rules that apply to a court of law do not apply or protect the people involved here.
The standards should be to understand that the role of the Judiciary Committee is not as a fact finding body like a jury, they are there for a political purpose, to essentially advise and consent. Not as somebody to actually ascertain the facts and purely evaluate credibility.
Having said that, that's going to be the key role they will have to perform when they hear the testimony of both Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford.
And I would say if they do not take their mission seriously of actually allowing it to be a meaningful, comprehensive testimony and hearing, and they essentially deprive the American people, who are their constituents, of understanding the character and integrity of somebody proposed for a lifetime appointment.
CUOMO: I mean, look, that's the trick. We're used to dealing with this in terms of usually he, should he, keep or lose his job, OK? We're not talking about a crime where there's an ability to prosecute it. This is about wrong behavior, bad behavior, but this is about rewarding somebody at the end of it, if either she's not proven false, or she doesn't say I'm not sure it was him, or she doesn't recant, if she is credible.
But so is he, Ken. What should be the basis of judgment on whether or not you decide this person should be elevated to the highest purpose of integrity in our democracy?
CUCCINELLI: Yes, I would take a little bit of issue with Laura's exposition there. I do think in a situation like this, the Senate is a bit of a fact finder, and as I've said before, each senator gets to set their own standard. I mean, that's the way this process is, and there's no one else to do this. I do not think --
CUOMO: They're not digging into the facts here, though, Ken.
CUCCINELLI: Pardon me? CUOMO: They're not digging into the facts. They're interviewing two people, they could interview more. They could have the FBI assist them with field agents and trying to develop some type of objective record. They're not doing it. It doesn't look like they're trying to do it.
CUCCINELLI: You know, look, Chris, one of the reasons that we look differently as a system at older claims is because evidence goes away, people's memory fades, and the FBI is not any more reliable -- well, some of their agents might be.
CUOMO: Come on.
CUCCINELLI: But they're not going to be the decider, I wouldn't trust them. I wouldn't trust them.
CUOMO: They wouldn't be the decider. Just like with Anita Hill.
CUCCINELLI: It's a random guess --
CUOMO: That's your conscience calling right now, Ken. That's your conscience calling knowing that the FBI should be involved and that there should be a better vetting of this. That was your conscience.
CUCCINELLI: Chris, you asked a good question, it's too bad you're belittling the subject like that.
CUOMO: Oh, come on. I'm just talking about your phone. Give me your last point.
CUCCINELLI: There are senators that are already declaring themselves. I -- Orrin Hatch on one side, and, you know, Hirono on the other side to use an example --
CUOMO: Mitch McConnell, the president, the White House.
CUCCINELLI: And at least -- hey, the president came out and said, hey, look, something ought to happen here, to hear her.
CUOMO: Right, and the FBI, it's his call and he won't make it.
CUCCINELLI: Let's not kid ourselves. She asked -- that is not who should be hearing this, this is about the Senate and their advice.
CUOMO: Right, but they could help -- and the president also says he feels bad for Kavanaugh, he doesn't feel bad for Ford. I'm just saying partisans are coming ou.t
COATES: Hold on, Ken. The idea --
CUOMO: Last word to you, Laura.
COATES: The idea that she delayed in her reporting may be an inconvenience and memory lapses, and she's involved in it. But because you delay does not mean that it did not occur. I think that a forgone conclusion --
CUCCINELLI: I agree.
COATES: -- a foregone conclusion is not the same thing as having a meaningful hearing. If they'd like to understand, and frankly, I don't -- if you're Justice Kavanaugh or Judge Kavanaugh at this point, I don't understand why you're not on the highest soap box possible saying, I would like an opportunity to rebut this credible allegation. If I'm not saying that from the highest soap box, that should also be investigated by the members of the Judiciary Committee, period.
CUOMO: Laura Coates, thank you very much.
Ken Cuccinelli, I appreciate you on as always. Whoever's calling you, tell them they should be watching the show. It's all good. It's always good to have you. I love your mind on the show./
CUCCINELLI: They're calling to agree.
CUOMO: I'm sure they are. Take care.
When you are not in a court, this is a really key consideration, because we don't have a good answer. This is new this struggle about how we deal with these types of allegations of wrongful conduct in a political context. It's not going to go to trial. The rules of trial don't apply.
And then what do we see with Cohen and all these other people going to Mueller? What is the worst case scenario? What's the best one? A perfect mind for both matters, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey joins us to explore, next.
CUOMO: If you were keeping track, it was just over a week ago that the FBI received Professor Christine Ford's letter accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Now, they could have gotten it sooner. They didn't bring it forward.
Why? They say they were respecting the anonymity. They were respecting the request from Ford. But then, who leaked it?
All right. The Justice Department says, the FBI responded by forwarding the letter to the White House council's office, it seems then that the buck stops with the president, only he can reopen the background investigation and ask the FBI to get a role here, just as George Bush did with Anita Hill.
So, just today, we hear that the president's former lawyer has been meeting with Mueller a lot. What does that mean?
Two big stories, one perfect guest. Michael Mukasey, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, joins us right now.
Thank you for being here as always.
MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thanks for having me.
CUOMO: Let's get -- there are two points that I want your head on. The first one is, if you sponsor Kavanaugh, if you want Kavanaugh to make it through, why wouldn't you err on the side of showing everybody that you did everything you could to give Ford due process, let's call it in this, you know, loose sense?
We checked every box. We brought the FBI in. We talked to everyone that she put out there. We had them do what they could.
Kavanaugh came up and testified. So did she. They got equal time. That's it, we did everything we could.
Wouldn't you want that to be the impression?
MUKASEY: You have to look in part. Sure, you want that to be the impression, but you have to look in part at the circumstances under which this arose. This arose in part based on the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee having received an anonymous letter, from somebody who says that she was trying to protect her anonymity.
Now, if you were trying to protect your anonymity, would you send a letter to the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee? No.
CUOMO: Maybe. No. Look, I understand the suspicion, but if I wanted you to know something, but I didn't want you to expose me.
MUKASEY: You want to know something so that I could use it, and the candidate could be derailed. The only way that's going to happen is if the facts come out.
CUOMO: I think that's the fair assumption. I think there was some naivete going on on the part of Christine Ford if she thought it would be quiet.
MUKASEY: She would have to have been numb in order to believe anything else. And she wasn't numb.
CUOMO: What does it lead you to as a --
MUKASEY: What it leads me to is that there was a mutual interest in delay, that was served by giving the letter to Senator Feinstein who then kept it until the hearing was over, and then tried to start the clock again. And you can't encourage that kind of behavior.
In that respect, I agree with Ken Cuccinelli. I agree also that -- with your other guest whose name is --
CUOMO: Laura Coates. MUKASEY: Laura Coates, whose name on my mind for a moment, with Laura, who said that this is not a court, that it's a political decision. And part of the political decision is whether you want to encourage that kind of behavior. And I don't think you do.
CUOMO: But regardless of the process, and even if it was delayed. The problem with the delay argument is, delay of what? There is no hard time for what this needs to be.
MUKASEY: No, there is delay for the purpose of pushing it beyond the midterms. That is the perceived goal.
CUOMO: But there's no reason for it to get to that point. With Anita Hill, you have precedent. The FBI looked into it three days, then you have the testimony, you set the time. At least you show you checked the boxes, shame on the Democrats for how they handled the letter.
MUKASEY: If you could do that in three days, then I would agree you could do that. That that would be adequate.
CUOMO: Why wouldn't you be able to?
MUKASEY: Because there would be demands for another witness and another person and another question to be asked.
You had somebody on your program last -- I think it was this week, actually. Somebody who you said was a lifelong friend of Dr. Ford's.
CUOMO: Yes, Samantha Guerre.
MUKASEY: OK, the one -- and I don't whether you asked this and it got cut or whatever, but the one question I was dying to hear and never heard was, when for the first time did you hear about this?
MUKASEY: OK, what does that tell you?
CUOMO: Well, it can tell you a lot of things. You know, as we know from the study of people who are in this position, that it's not easy to talk about it, Mike. They don't come forward some never do, when they do, it can be very long afterwards.
I don't think you can see delay as dishonesty.
MUKASEY: It tells you also that there's no corroboration.
CUOMO: Well --
MUKASEY: And so, what you're ultimately going to rely on is account --
CUOMO: She told other people.
CUOMO: She told her husband, she told her therapist. She --
CUOMO: 2012, the husband, and when Kavanaugh's name started to come up for these positions --
CUOMO: -- she started to talk to friends about it and whether or not she should do anything.
MUKASEY: She talked to friends. We haven't heard from any of those friends.
CUOMO: That's the kind of the point, right? They don't -- maybe they don't want to talk. Maybe if an FBI field agent said to them, talk to us, they would.
MUKASEY: How do you know she talked to friends?
CUOMO: Well, that's the reporting on it. They've been out there.
MUKASEY: From where?
CUOMO: Different sources that are reporting on it. But look, you're making a good point. Do we know for sure?
MUKASEY: I haven't heard of a single friend.
CUOMO: But why not vet it? Go to them. Go to the names she offers, say, who have you told this too?
MUKASEY: Has she mentioned names?
CUOMO: Has she been asked to offer names?
MUKASEY: Of course, she's been asked to offer names.
CUOMO: I don't know that. I'm serious, I don't know from the process that anyone has said to her, who else can we talk to?
CUOMO: Yes, but I'm saying by the Senate has she been asked who else can we talk to? Who can prove this? Who can point this to?
MUKASEY: Your station ran today a line under the zipper that her lawyers asked for no additional witnesses. Now, that was early in the day. I don't know whether that's changed or not.
CUOMO: No, they want additional witness.
MUKASEY: And they've provided no names?
CUOMO: They want more -- I don't know what the process is, maybe you're right. Maybe you're not. MUKASEY: Maybe the zipper was right?
CUOMO: Maybe I it was, I don't think so.
But, regardless, I still think we all get to the same point on this, which is you want to show best efforts. I guess you're right, you don't want to reward bad political behavior.
MUKASEY: Correct. And it is a political process.
CUOMO: But do you want to err on the side of punishing political behavior at the price of not judging this the right way?
Let me ask you something real quick while I have your head here.
CUOMO: The idea of Manafort, Cohen meeting with Mueller, people say, these are Trump's guys, they're getting too close to him, can't be good. What's your take?
MUKASEY: Can't be good for who, for the president?
MUKASEY: I don't know that. I doubt that it's good for the president, that they're sitting there extolling the president.
On the other hand, that's not what a special counsel is for, that is to dig up, quote/unquote, dirt on the president. The special counsel is there to investigate crimes relating to collusion with Russia. I haven't even seen a definition of what the crime was, let alone evidence of any crimes. And it's been going on what, two years?
CUOMO: Yes. So meetings not enough, it's what they say and whether or not it equates with a crime, and that's what we're waiting to see.
CUOMO: Michael Mukasey, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
MUKASEY: Thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right. I'm going to find out what happened on that zipper, figure out who's right and who's not, and I don't even think it's called that.
All right. Assuming that we hear from both Ford and Kavanaugh and no one else, this is the plaguing question: then what do senators do? How do they judge what they hear? How do they decide what the standard is for whether or not Judge Kavanaugh gets elevated to the Supreme Court?
A closing argument, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: All right. Welcome back.
The struggle is real. How do we handle an allegation like the one against Judge Kavanaugh outside the criminal context? In what we call the court of public opinion, we can't take comfort in accepted hurdles and protections of beyond a reasonable doubt, due process, the presumption of innocence.
They don't apply here, in part because we can't test, we can't develop evidence, we can't put it to just one body to decide like a jury does. It's tricky enough when this plays out in the media. Too many allegations have been stifled because of sexism and cultural bias over the years. #MeToo as a movement energized the legitimacy of accusations, but we know not all allegations are legitimate. So simply coming forward can't be dispositive, as difficult as it may be.
Now, on top of those difficulties we see in this current controversy playing out in the worst place for, it a toxic arena of competing agendas. Ford stands in the way of the GOP getting a generation of jurisprudence to go their way. She comes into this with a huge power imbalance.
Kavanaugh has the White House. He has those in charge of the committee all behind him. Democrats are desperate to stop that, and some argue Ford has been stained by her indirect connection to their efforts, which did cause a delay.
And for all the talk of sympathy and empathy, before a word of testimony has been heard, with each passing day more and more partisans are doing what they do worst.
They're twisting the situation to suit their purpose.
Just a few hours ago at the White House, we heard their communications director saying that they are still 100 percent behind Judge Kavanaugh. What happened to she should be heard, he should be heard, there should be a process?
A hundred percent? How can they be 100 percent unless they've done something to discover the truth or falsity of these allegations? If not, how can they be certain?
All these questions seem to suggest that they don't know or maybe don't care enough about what the truth is. And let's say both do testify. This is the hardest part. And then no one else does. And the FBI isn't used to at least create a catalog of statements from players that they can find with their agents and resources.
So, if they just go with the two, the he said/she said, what's the standard of judgment? Imagine Professor Ford comes, presents herself as credible, and can somewhat corroborate her story. I know that's hard to do. I know that with no other witnesses allowed, assuming she could produce any, and that it might seem prejudicial and harsh and very difficult and onerous for someone who says she was assaulted to come forward, or that someone attempted to assault her, let alone doing it with a world audience.
But if she does stand up to questioning and so does Kavanaugh, who says I wasn't even there, and it can't be proved otherwise, if they are equally resolute, cogent, compelling, passionate, then what? If there's an equal chance that they're telling the truth or lying, does Kavanaugh get gifted the highest court in the land? Conversely, does he get denied that gift despite a lifetime of achievement?
And remember, this isn't just about him. This is why I'm arguing to check every box of transparency, because if Kavanaugh moves up after anything short of Ford being proven false or recanting, it would mean that two out of the six men on the court had some type of suggestion of misconduct in their past. What will that mean to the court's legitimacy on matters of women's rights?
Now, these are all questions that are easy to ask if you think about it a little bit, but they're hard to answer. This is tough stuff. And that's why our desire for it to be clean and clear, you're not going to be satisfied.
That's why you need to deal with the struggle. And the best way to do that is to show that everything that could be done was done to get to the truth. The problem is that's not happening here.
You can't look at the situation and say that Ford is being treated with the same respect as Kavanaugh and that maximum effort is being made to get to the truth. You can't, because that's not what's going on. It's politics punishing who what others see is bad politics.
But here's the thing. It's not too late for our leaders to show that they care about the right things instead of just about political interests. They have to put the right things first.
All right. Michael Cohen reportedly talking and talking to the Mueller team. We have Congressman Adam Schiff paying close attention. What does this mean to him? Next.