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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein's Job in Limbo; Kavanaugh Vows Not to Withdraw Despite New Allegations; Interview with Rob Goldstone, Author of Now-Infamous E-mail Exchange with Donald Trump Jr., Was in the Room at Trump Tower Meeting. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 24, 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: Thank you, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Should I stay or should I go? No Joe Strummer, sadly, but the clash between Rosenstein and Trump is in full effect. The deputy A.G.'s fate has been up and down all day.

First, we were told he resigned. Then, it was that he was expecting to be fired. Then he was summoned to the White House, but the president wasn't there. Then he met with John Kelly, and then they decided to decide later.

And what day did they pick of all days? Thursday.

So on that loaded day, we may learn the fate of Judge Kavanaugh and the Russia probe. Think of that.

And speaking of the probe, very few people know exactly what happened in that infamous Trump Tower meeting. Rob Goldstone is one of them. And guess what? He's the one who set up that sit-down with Don Jr. and the Russians and he's ready to tell all live to us tonight.

And as more women come forward with allegations about Judge Kavanaugh, a familiar face is at the mike once more. Michael Avenatti says he could have one or more women with stories that he says must be heard. The questions, who and what do they know? He answers tonight.

So much for easing into the week, right? What do you say? Let's get after it.

(MUSIC)

CUOMO: All right. I argue the big story of the day is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The question, fired, resigning, or maybe neither? All seem equal probabilities, after a cuckoo day of falls starts.

The drama surrounding the Justice Department's number two played out today with a morning meeting with Chief of Staff John Kelly, who told associates that he had accepted Rosenstein's resignation Friday. Then, "Axios" reported the A.G., Jeff Sessions, had already drafted a letter thanking Rosenstein and charting a path forward. Then, nothing.

President Trump today promised this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday, when I get back from all of these meetings. And we'll be meeting at the White House and we'll be determining what's going on. We want to have transparency, we want to have openness, and I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right. No vote of confidence, but no "he's done" either.

So, remember, Rosenstein denied not once, but twice, that he ever sought to record the president or plot his removal from office. Is that good enough?

Let's talk to somebody on the inside, elected by the people to lead a district in Florida, Congressman Matt Gaetz.

Good to have you back on PRIME TIME. Thanks for being here.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: So, what a day. I mean, that was a fair reckoning of the events.

GAETZ: What a day to start let's get after it radio.

CUOMO: And thank you for being on the show, SiriusXM 124, if case you're wondering.

GAETZ: The newsiest day of the year.

CUOMO: It was pretty newsy. And when I was talking to you then, you were like, look, I have pretty good sourcing, we don't know what's going to happen for sure, but I would be unsurprised if he's not working for the United States government tomorrow.

Well, now we know, he should be working for the government tomorrow.

GAETZ: Correct.

CUOMO: But now it could be Thursday. Do you like that choice of day, by the way?

GAETZ: I don't know. I know the president right now is working with world leaders right here at the U.N., high stakes, trade, national security issues, dealing with Russia, Syria, ballistic missiles and missile defense. So, no surprise that the president wouldn't want to be distracted from that important work today.

To me, the important thing is, we've got to get the facts and we've got to get them under oath. Because when you've just got these reports coming out of the White House that are conflicting, what did he say, what did he not say --

CUOMO: Right.

GAETZ: -- what context --

CUOMO: How do you get him under oath?

GAETZ: Well, you bring him to the Judiciary Committee. We have oversight responsibility over the Department of Justice.

CUOMO: How was Judiciary?

GAETZ: We do. We could call him in --

CUOMO: No, I know, but you think he should go to the House Judiciary Committee, put up his hand, be asked about that article?

GAETZ: Yes, and to start, who was in the room? Because let's take the facts that are most favorable to Rod Rosenstein, that he was joking, that it was a moment to relieve tension. I don't think it's appropriate to joke about taking an action against the institution of the presidency while you're overseeing an investigation --

CUOMO: Fireable?

GAETZ: Probably. Probably, depending on the context, to even joke about it. I mean, look, I look back to General Mattis' reaction when he was asked about some of the things in the Woodward book. He said, not only would I not say those things, I would not tolerate them at the Department of Defense. We should not have a different standard for the Department of Defense and Department of Justice --

CUOMO: Do we know for fact that Mattis didn't say those things that he's quoted saying --

GAETZ: What we have is a denial with Mattis. What we don't have is a denial with Rosenstein --

CUOMO: Is that true?

GAETZ: Oh, yes, Mattis unequivocally --

CUOMO: No, no, I know Mattis did. But you don't like those two denials from Rosenstein?

GAETZ: Well, what I don't like about those denials is that he does not explicitly deny saying that he raised the prospect of wearing a wire on the president.

CUOMO: You think he's a little cute in the denials?

GAETZ: I do. And if you look at him, he really does leave that prospect open. But it's unfair to the country for you and I to be having this discussion in the absence of facts under oath. That's the only way we're going to get it done. And here's what I worry about, Chris. I think that our leadership

wants to send us home at the end of the week and tell us to go campaign for the midterms and that we won't really get these answers. Rod Rosenstein's impeachment can be brought up for a vote by any member of Congress at this point. It lights a two-day fuse. Mark Meadows and I have said, if we don't get these answers under oath, we may invoke that vote to keep the Congress in town so that we can get to the bottom of this.

CUOMO: That wouldn't make you very popular.

GAETZ: I'm already not very popular.

CUOMO: You are here.

Let's talk about the popularity of the ultimate move, OK? So let's say it plays out your way. That Thursday isn't satisfying for the president, he wants to know more, or not. And let's say he is okay with it and there winds up being a move.

Forcing him to resign or firing him. Which would you prefer?

GAETZ: I don't have a preference. To me, it's more about whether or not the department of justice can be trusted to execute their mission. With Rosenstein, it's the guy who hired Mueller the day after Trump said he wasn't going to hire Mueller to be the FBI director. It's the guy who signed the FISA warrant. It's the guy that many in Congress believe improperly redacting information that we have a right to see --

CUOMO: The guy Trump picked.

GAETZ: Yes, well, no, true. Absolutely true. Fair point. But I think the president has illuminated his thinking on that, it was the beginning of the administration, it was who Jeff Sessions wanted, and now you see Jeff Sessions, barely the attorney general, on the most important investigation in the country.

CUOMO: There is a practical consideration here, though here, and a political one, obviously. If he resigns, legally, the president replaces the two positions, deputy attorney general, attorney general in charge of the Russia investigation, he has both hats. He can do it, replacing them. If he fires Rosenstein, then he can't. Then he's got to put up a nominee, go to the Senate for confirmation. There's a process.

So, it matters from a practicality standpoint.

GAETZ: Yes, it's just not something that a member of Congress has any impact or influence over. To me, the bigger question is, are you going to allow this activity to occur within the administration? We know that there are people inside the Trump administration that are actively working against the president. The deputy attorney general should not be one of them.

CUOMO: And he says he isn't, in fairness to him. He wasn't under oath. True enough.

GAETZ: He does (ph).

CUOMO: Now you have the other specter of this. If Rosenstein goes, friends over at Fox say, don't do it, it's a trap. They're looking to set you up and saying, this was your move on Mueller. Don't take the bait. You've heard this theory.

But it also does show something else. No matter if it's because of what Rosenstein says with his hand up or otherwise, it is a move by Trump ostensibly to stop the probe. Does he want that on his account for 2020?

GAETZ: I don't know. I think that the chief of staff would be the appropriate person in the event of a staff member being derelict in their duty or being recalcitrant to the goals of the administration. So, I think there's a way to do it, to isolate the president. I'm not an expert --

CUOMO: I don't think Kelly can fire him. I don't think Kelly can fire Rosenstein.

GAETZ: Well, you may be right about that.

CUOMO: I think he can carry it out, but I don't -- I think the order has to come from the commander in chief.

GAETZ: Well, I would have no basis to dispute that. So, I mean, look, I am not aware of what the political implications would be. I'll freely admit that. But you just can't live in a world where you've got someone leading an agency, sowing discord within that agency.

And again, we can't know until we get the testimony on the record. That's why that's -- like, so often in Washington, we want to jump to the conclusion, without engaging in the process. You were critical of this, on the Kavanaugh matter. You said you wanted more investigation, more of the facts to be out, and that we shouldn't be out saying the man is guilty or innocent in the absence of that factual development.

I feel the same way regarding Rosenstein.

CUOMO: And, look, you saw Kavanaugh's interview tonight at Fox, right? We can talk about his choice of Fox for that kind of interview, what that portrays, whatever. But he's playing it safe right now.

GAETZ: Martha MacCallum is a pretty solid journalist. I think it's a great choice.

CUOMO: I'm sure you do. However, what he does with optics is one thing. In terms of what is done to him, that's something else.

My concern, from a procedural process is, if you're Kavanaugh and this seems rushed or they don't really process the allegations or people don't get a chance or they don't talk to the people they could, looks like you're trying to protect him. And then he's stained by speculation.

Whereas, if his truth is as 100 percent as he says in that interview, if I were he, I'd be say, Gaetz -- well, you know, you're in Congress. I'd be saying to the senators, bring them all in. Anybody who says that they have something to say, bring them in. Have the FBI look, because I want this to be 100 percent. I have nothing to hide.

GAETZ: So when we last had this discussion, there was one accuser. I propose the hypothesis that if you are to do just what you've described and at every inflection point launch a new investigation, then this becomes an interminable process. That next week, the following week, there could be some other allegation with no evidence, with no substantiation, with plenty of contradictions, and that could extend the process further.

What I predicted is precisely what has happened.

CUOMO: But there are two possibilities. One is, you were right, and this is the variability of criticism. That if there's an opportunity, it will grow. Or, it's, you have similar allegations that suggest a pattern of behavior with somebody who needs to answer for it.

GAETZ: And the reason I think that's less likely is because this is a man who's been confirmed before, he's been investigated by the FBI six times before. He's been serving on what many call the second highest court in the land in D.C. So, I think if this was a pattern of the man's behavior, it just seems so bizarre that you would see this spike in not only one allegation, but multiple allegations at this point.

Also worth noting, you were critical of Democrats for sitting on the information with the first allegation.

CUOMO: Don't think it looks good.

GAETZ: It smells political opportunity (ph). I think that this Ramirez allegation would supercharge that concern on your part because it is even more delayed. Feinstein sat on it with for an even longer period of time. The accuser needed six days with lawyers to be able to make the point.

And so, I think that if you had concerns with the Ford allegations, there's no way that those concerns would be diminished by the Ramirez allegations.

CUOMO: The only way you know, though, as you're saying, is put them under oath, do an investigation, get some answers.

Congressman Gaetz, thank you for being on PRIME TIME, as always.

GAETZ: Thank you.

CUOMO: I'll see you again.

GAETZ: Congrats on the radio show. CUOMO: Thank you very much. And we'll see how it plays out Thursday.

What a day that's going to be.

So, what happens next? We're talking about Congressman Matt Gaetz, it's a big deal, there's a difference whether or not Rosenstein resigns or he's fired on Thursday.

There is an easy path for the president short-term. But it could cause even more problems long-term. It's complicated, but not when we lay it out for you on the magic wall, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. Don't get all caught up in the politics of punishment and all of that. There are two big questions. Will Rosenstein be fired or will he resign? Now, the answer matters politically and practically.

The practical first. Rod Rosenstein, all right, now, technically, he has two roles. He's the deputy A.G. and he's acting attorney general in charge of the Russia probe. So, when it comes to who takes over the Russia probe, it wouldn't matter if Rosenstein were fired or to resign. That follows a line of succession.

Noel Francisco, great name, the solicitor general, he is next in line. He's a known conservative. He is expected to do Trump's bidding regarding the probe.

But, when it comes to the deputy A.G. job, the president wants Rosenstein to resign, if he wants him out. Why? Because if he resigns, then Trump can immediately replace him with someone else, with the title acting deputy A.G.

No need for confirmation. No need to deal with Congress. Delays, doubts, we see what's playing out with Kavanaugh.

And let's be honest, the president's record with picking people to do big jobs doesn't exactly inspire confidence. However, no early Christmas present for Noel if the president utters his signature phrase, "you're fired". Why? In that case, there has to be a nomination, a confirmation process.

That's what happens if Rosenstein is fired. And that could last almost as long as reasonably the probe might go. And just think about the toxic politics at play down there in D.C.

Keep in mind, once a new deputy A.G. was confirmed, they would take over both of Rosenstein's current roles. But, practically, that's the difference.

Politically -- all right, now, I'm going to argue this more in the closing, but there is a third option that may be better than fired or resigned. Well, what else is there? Well, that's because we're looking at it in this binary way, fired or resigned.

The third way is -- nothing. I will argue in the closing, while the president doing nothing with Rosenstein may be the best course.

All right. The other big story of the night, Judge Brett Kavanaugh isn't waiting until Thursday to clear his name. He appeared on television tonight, and our next guest's name came up in the interview.

Michael Avenatti is back in the fray. How does he fit into this drama? The counselor will tell you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The confusion swirling around Trump's Supreme Court pick only grows as we head to the now-planned Thursday hearing. A familiar tormenter of the president is stepping into the mix, with what he describes as, quote, credible information about Brett Kavanaugh.

That tormenter, of course, none other than Michael Avenatti. What does the counselor have to say?

Michael Avenatti, thank you for being on CUOMO PRIME TIME once again.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Good to be here.

CUOMO: Well, you find yourself in the middle of the maelstrom again, Michael. What do you believe that you know from your latest client or is it clients, plural?

AVENATTI: Well, at this point, Chris, it's clients. We're going to make a public disclosure within the next 48 hours of detailed allegations, as well as the identity of at least one of my clients relating to what she witnessed and experienced concerning Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge.

And ultimately, we're going to let the American public decide who's telling the truth.

CUOMO: So this is about high school, if you're talking Mark Judge and Kavanaugh, that was his friend in high school. One client will come forward, but you may have multiple ones.

What's the difference between the one who may come forward and the others? Is it a lack of certainty, a lack of disposition about wanting to enter the fray?

AVENATTI: Well, it's about a lack of disposition wanting to enter the fray, but we have corroborating witnesses, corroborating clients, Chris, if you will, relating to the individual that is going to surface publicly and what she's going to state.

And let me just be really clear about something. If anyone has been paying attention over the last six to seven months, they know that I do not traffic in rumor and nonsense. I state facts and I have evidence to back it up. I made a lot of predictions over the last six, seven months. I've been proven right time and time again. And I would not make these accusations lightly. I understand the magnitude of the water, if you will, that we're in

presently. So I'm highly confidence in the accusations that are going to be made and the statements that are going to be made by my client.

CUOMO: So we're not in court. There are different standards. There are no real rules. We're trying to figure out how to provide the sufficiency for allegations.

Do you believe that your client can say something in a compelling way? Or can they actually show something?

AVENATTI: I think my client can do both, together with these other corroborating witnesses. I think that --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Meaning people who were there at the same time, Michael? Give us an understanding of what that means. What can be corroborated?

AVENATTI: That's correct. While I'm not able to get into the details of what exactly can be corroborated, but we are talking about witnesses that were present at the same time, generally, that she was. We're talking about the early 1980s. I think that America is going to find her credible.

And you know, above all else, Chris, there should be an FBI investigation. We called for an FBI investigation earlier today. I do not understand the rush to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. The Republicans held the seat open relating to Antonin Scalia for some 400 days. And now they want to rush this confirmation process without an adequate investigatory time period, without an adequate investigation conducted by the FBI and others.

And if Brett Kavanaugh has nothing to hide, then why aren't we hearing from his close friend, Mark Judge? Why such a rush to get through this process without all of the facts?

CUOMO: If time is so precious, why are you waiting 48 hours?

AVENATTI: Because we have to make sure our ducks are in a row, especially as it relates to security and other measures, we don't want to rush into this. We want to be smart about it. We want to be deliberate, deliberative about it.

And that's why we're waiting. And I don't think it's a lot of time to wait, quite frankly.

CUOMO: All right. So, Brett Kavanaugh and his wife just gave an interview with Fox, where he sat up there and gave pretty much every perfect answer that he would need to give in this situation.

You came up in the interview. I want to play you that excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: We're talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I've never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter, and the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends --

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS HOST: So you're saying through all of these years that were in question, you were a virgin?

KAVANAUGH: That's correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: So the idea of you having a client or clients who could say otherwise, Kavanaugh says, I never had sex in high school. Never had sex afterwards, I drank, but basically, as a senior, he said, because the legal drinking age was 18. May have had a few too many, but never forgot anything. Never drank to excess so that I blanked out. Never did anything like anyone is saying.

AVENATTI: Chris, I just think it's absolutely unbelievable. And I think the American people are smarter than this.

You cannot reconcile the individual in the Fox News interview with the individual who wrote what he wrote in his year book. You cannot reconcile the individual on Fox News with the individual that was joined at the hip with Mark Judge throughout the years at issue. You just can't. Those -- you cannot reconcile those two.

And I don't believe that America is going to believe what Brett Kavanaugh just stated on Fox News. And I also want to say this. So what exactly is he saying? Is he saying that he did not have sexual intercourse? And are we going to get into a definition of exactly --

CUOMO: That's the word he used.

AVENATTI: Well, exactly. I mean, are we going to get into a definition of sexual intercourse? Does that mean he performed oral sex or had oral sex performed on him, does that mean any host of any other sexual activities occurred? Or does he want America to believe that the only thing that he did until well into his college years was effectively kiss or French kiss a woman?

Is that what he wants America to believe? Well, I don't believe it.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Well, what if the senators believe it? Does that clear him?

AVENATTI: Well, I don't believe it. And I think it shows that he's lying. And I am aware, I am aware of many, many witnesses that will testify that that is an absolute lie.

CUOMO: As counselor to this woman or women, you're going to have to put up some proof that shows he's not telling the truth. And --

AVENATTI: One hundred percent. That is our burden, and we're going to embrace it. And we're going to meet it. And I'm confident that Dr. Ford is going to embrace it and meet it.

And I think that there's going to be others that are going to embrace it and meet that standard.

But this Fox News interview and the statements that Brett Kavanaugh just stated tonight, I think, will ultimately be shown to be 100 percent demonstrably false.

CUOMO: Now, there'll be two lines of scrutiny. One will be for the women. They're going to have to stand up to scrutiny here, even if they are alleging that they were victimized.

And that's a hard thing for us to grapple with. This is all a struggle. We don't like putting it to accusers like that, but not all allegations are equal.

Will they stand up to vetting? When people look into their past and their behavior and their reliability and credibility, will they stand up?

AVENATTI: Well, I can't speak to other women, other than the individuals that I represent. I believe that all of my clients will absolutely stand up, and if I did not believe that, then I wouldn't be on television with you right now talking about representing a client in a circumstance, because, again, I don't traffic in rumor and nonsense. I traffic in facts and evidence.

And if I didn't believe my clients, then I wouldn't be representing them, especially in a matter of this significance.

And let me also say this: as it relates to the woman whose name will be publicly disclosed, this is a woman who had a number of security clearances issued by the federal government over a number of years, including a public trust security clearance as well as a secret security clearance.

So, let this be a warning to Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and other surrogates, including those on the Senate Judiciary Committee. I will caution you, be very, very careful if you launch some smear campaign against my client, because you will be ultimately shown to be a fraud.

CUOMO: Is she a victim or is she a witness?

AVENATTI: She's both.

CUOMO: One other thing, one other line of scrutiny will be with you involved, you have made predictions, they have come true in cases for sure. You did promise early on that you had other women that you were vetting, that you were going to bring forward. It never happened.

If people point to that and say, we've heard you say you had people before, there were never more, what does that mean for this time?

AVENATTI: Well, that's actually not what I said. What I said was, we have been contacted by many women and we were vetting them to make sure their stories checked out. A number of their stories did not check out, which is why I never agreed to represent them.

CUOMO: Michael Avenatti, thank you for coming on the show and sharing what we should know. You say in the next 48 hours. Appreciate it.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

CUOMO: Forty-eight hours. That means everything's going to be coming to a head, Wednesday, Thursday this week.

All right. So when we return, we're going to introduce you to a key player in the Russia investigation. The music publicist who landed at the center of the Trump Tower storm, he's the guy who set up the meeting between Team Trump and the Russians. His name is Rob Goldstone and he has some story to tell, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: If you think about it, there's really one episode at the center of the Russia investigation. The notorious 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then campaign chair Paul Manafort all met with a Russian government connected lawyer.

The purpose of the meeting? Get dirt on Hillary Clinton. How do we know (AUDIO GAP) mail written by my next guest, the man who set up the meeting. His name is Rob Goldstone.

But before we talk with him, let's run down quickly what we know. Goldstone met Trump through his work as a publicist for a Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov. I'm sure he'll correct my pronunciation.

It was Goldstone who helped make Trump's dream of bringing his Miss University pageant to Moscow a reality. And as I said, Goldstone is also the author of his now-infamous e-mail exchange with Donald Trump Jr., in part, promising information that would incriminate Hillary and that the high-level and sensitive information was part of the Russian government's support for Mr. Trump.

The meeting that ensued from that exchange is now at the center of the probe. Goldstone was in the room at Trump Tower. Critics of Trump say the evidence, at the very least, about that meeting, could show an attempt to collude with Russia.

And the biggest reason that they say that is the e-mail. And so let's get after it with Rob Goldstone. The book, "Pop Stars, Pageants, and Presidents: How An E-mail Trumped My Life."

Rob Goldstone, thank you for taking the opportunity.

ROB GOLDSTONE, PUBLICIST WHO HELPED SET UP TRUMP TOWER MEETING: Pleasure.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

Wish you never wrote it? Not the book, the e-mail? GOLDSTONE: You know, I've thought so much about that. And knowing

what I know now, 12, 14 months later, I would probably read each of those 137 words of that e-mail, then read it again, and then go, oh, no, no, no, no, and hit delete.

CUOMO: So the short version is, you did it because your client asked you to. Not because you're a Russian operative, not because you had dirt yourself, none of what we've heard speculated is true.

GOLDSTONE: And not because I even knew that they had dirt. I did it because my client, who I managed, as well as handled publicity for, had asked me to do something which he felt was simple, just get a meeting.

CUOMO: Why do you think they wanted the meeting? Do you think they had connections to the Russian government?

GOLDSTONE: Why they wanted the meeting, I'm not sure. I think there may have been an element of grandstanding. I've always believed that maybe this attorney who knew Emin's father and was a staunch advocate of the Magnitsky Act.

Now, at the same time, I'd never heard of the Magnitsky Act. Now, I should actually be a spokesman for or against the Magnitsky Act, because that's all I've heard for a year.

It was important for this attorney to get a meeting. And I think the Agalarovs simply said, we can get you a meeting. Well, I'd always been the conduit for them to the Trumps, ever since Ms. Universe.

So, I heard on your show once, you had an attorney on, basically said it was a ludicrous idea that me as a music publicist had been asked. Well, why not? I'd been asked every other item. What would have been ludicrous to me is if I hadn't been asked.

CUOMO: So the stuff that was in the e-mail, this is the Russian government, this is the kind of stuff they're looking for. Did you know either of those aspects to be true?

GOLDSTONE: No.

CUOMO: So why'd you say it?

GOLDSTONE: So my client gave me very vague information, but it was quite specific. There just wasn't a lot of it. So he said it was a well-connected attorney, either a current or former prosecutor, who had some kind of potentially damaging information on illegal (ph) Russian funding to the Democrats, and their campaign.

CUOMO: Did you know she was connected to the Russian government?

GOLDSTONE: First of all, I didn't even know it was a she. I just knew it was an "it" at that stage. No.

So I said, connected, what does connected mean? And Emin said to me, connected. I asked again, connected? And on the third attempt, I flippantly said, connected to the power grid, maybe? In an attempt to get an answer. And there was silence.

And as you know, you've pushed people, you push and push, and then you go, OK, connected.

CUOMO: Right.

GOLDSTONE: Who else could they --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You would think to the Russian power structure, not the grid.

Now, one of the gray areas. So you send the e-mail, but then there are conversations between your client and Donald Jr. We know this, that there are records of the conversations. Donald Jr. says, I don't remember any of those.

But you say in the book, oh, he remembers. He has to remember, because after those conversations, that's when the meeting was made. You weren't on those calls.

GOLDSTONE: I wasn't on those calls.

CUOMO: But your confidence is 100 percent they talked about this.

GOLDSTONE: I can only go by what I've read and what I've seen. So I've seen testimony from Don Jr. in which he's said, I believe there are a few short calls.

But then Emin about a month ago gave a full interview on, I believe, Vice on HBO, in which he said, no, we did speak. And he laid out what they said, and it seemed a bit vague, but he said, at the end of it, Don said, if you're asking for the meeting, I'll do it.

So I've always said this, my e-mail was designed to get Don Jr.'s attention, not to get a meeting.

CUOMO: And it worked.

So, Manafort and Kushner, you didn't invite them. Did you know that they were going to the meeting?

GOLDSTONE: Not until after that phone call.

CUOMO: How do you think they got invited to meeting?

GOLDSTONE: If my e-mail from Don Jr. is to be believed, he said, also joining us will be Paul Manafort and my brother-in-law, Jared Kushner. I assumed -- I always had assumed, after that call, he invited them -- which is why I always thought, that call is what's important.

CUOMO: Do you think that there's any reason to believe that the president or then-candidate knew about the meeting, wanted his guys there, wanted his son there, or any combination?

GOLDSTONE: I have no reason to know that's true or to know it isn't true. I've been asked this a couple of times and -- over the past year, what do I think? I've always brought it back to me, because I think human nature is the same.

If my father was running for president and I was holding a meeting with important Russians in my father's conference room, with his campaign chairman and my brother-in-law, I would tell my father.

CUOMO: Stands to reason.

One step backwards before we get to the meeting itself. 2013, the way you knew the Trumps was through the pageant. One of the things that's come up as a point of intrigue was the dossier and the salacious tape. You say, I don't know about any tape, but you know where he slept when he was in Moscow.

How do you know and are you 100 percent sure where he slept?

GOLDSTONE: What I do know is that Donald Trump didn't know where he was going to be sleeping until at least a couple of days before, because Emin and I were fighting over which hotel to put him in. And I had always said, the Ritz Carlton is a place for Donald Trump, in one of their elegant suites. We never specified which one. Eventually, Emin agreed.

And so when I read the provenance that that's why Trump wanted to be there, because the Obamas had slept there and the alleged peeing incident, to me I was like, well, if it happened, he must have worked really quickly, because he barely knew where he was staying anyway, and there was only this very small window of time when it could have taken place, because all the rest of the time, he was with us.

CUOMO: But is it true he stayed there, because he has said on the record, I didn't stay there?

GOLDSTONE: Well, the old Rob Goldstone publicist would have said, 100 percent he stay there had. This experience I have been through has allowed me to keep a 10 percent question mark, where I go, of course he stayed there, we dropped him off there, he came down the next morning at 7:00 a.m.

Could it be that in the middle of the night he was whisked away, maybe on a sleigh by Santa Claus, sure!

CUOMO: Come on, that's --

GOLDSTONE: Anything is possible in this story that keeps on giving. I believe he slept in the Ritz Carlton.

CUOMO: And also, and why wouldn't he tell the truth about that? We don't know. You can't answer that.

One other thing. The -- well, there's many other things. There's a lot that's in this book. The idea of meeting Putin during the pageant, it was supposed to happen, it didn't. They said that another dignitary was stuck in traffic, so it couldn't happen.

How important was it to Trump to meet Putin and why?

GOLDSTONE: I think it was important. I mean, we'd asked him if that if he did want to meet him, he should dictate a letter and have it written and sent. And I noticed that when I was shown it, he'd scrawled at the bottom, lots of beautiful women.

And to me, that's a very Donald Trump invitation. Come, it will be great! Or let's meet. Or -- and it's anybody else's normal way of saying, what a great event. His is lots of beautiful women.

I think he wanted to meet him. He asked me on the last day, what's the status of this? I asked Emin. He said what he'd always said, official protocol had been done. If it could happen, it would happen at the Kremlin.

It didn't happen, because the king of Holland was delayed in traffic. And I dedicated my book to the king of Holland, because when I was giving testimony on the Hill --

CUOMO: If that meeting had happened, you'd be in the soup.

GOLDSTONE: That's it.

CUOMO: Don Jr. had reason to know that the information he wanted at this meeting would be coming from the Russian government. At least that's what was suggested in the e-mail, and you don't know that your client ever told him otherwise.

GOLDSTONE: Correct.

CUOMO: So as far as you know, he was fine with going to a meeting where the Russian government w as going to provide him dirt on Hillary Clinton.

GOLDSTONE: He never said otherwise.

CUOMO: One other quick thing. So you go to the meeting and it all becomes about the Magnitsky act. That's all true. Nothing happened in that meeting that was dirt about Hillary Clinton.

GOLDSTONE: Nothing.

It's more complicated than that. I've always believed this was a classic bait and switch, but people were quick to dismiss the switch. I believe the switch is as important as the bait.

Magnitsky, as I've learned, is a hugely important thing. And not to me, and not to you, but to Vladimir Putin.

CUOMO: Right.

GOLDSTONE: If you remember, he spoke about it at Helsinki while standing next to Donald Trump.

CUOMO: Needed (ph) a sanction structure (ph), he did lots of stuff --

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDSTONE: So when the attorney talked about adoptions, she was talking about really just the punishment that the Russians --

CUOMO: Right.

GOLDSTONE: The very people that she talked about, who were doing this illegal funding to Democrats, the Ziff brothers and Bill Browder.

CUOMO: Right.

GOLDSTONE: If I'm not mistaken, they are the architect of the Magnitsky Act.

So, it's all connected in some way. And hopefully the incredible job, and I don't know how they do this, that the Mueller team are investigating all these pieces, maybe they will find that that is what it was. That it was a bait and switch, but it's hugely important.

That's what the attorneys seem to be giving them.

Look, these people who are these bad people, who are giving money to the Democrats and to the candidate, Hillary Clinton, are also the architects of the Magnitsky Act. Lift those sanctions.

CUOMO: Rob Goldstone, there's a lot more in the book about your experience, how it changes your life, what it was like to be with Mueller and his men and women as opposed to congressional people who are looking into this and it's a really interesting read. And it matters now as much as ever.

Rob Goldstone, thank you very much.

GOLDSTONE: A pleasure.

CUOMO: Ahead, remember the president's prediction that Nike would get killed by making Colin Kaepernick their new poster boy? Was he right? The facts, next.

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CUOMO: I win on this. Tell everyone. That was the basic message from President Trump to Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones about the NFL anthem controversy. Nike took the president's action on that. They made Colin Kaepernick the face of their new ad campaign about empowerment.

And how did it go? They cashed in, my friends, to the tune of $6 billion in market value. That's almost as much as the president says he's worth.

Earlier this month, President Trump claimed Nike was getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. We judge that a wrong.

Don Lemon is here. "CNN TONIGHT" is just minutes away.

Wrong, all caps, underlined, my friend.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: By the way, there is no proof that he's actually a billionaire. I've spoken to a lot of people who deal with money, and they say there's no proof.

Yes, $6 billion is a lot of money. You know what that shows you? The loudest voices aren't always the majority, and maybe you shouldn't always listen to the loudest voices or the people who burn their gear or who react politically to every single story.

I think the majority of the country, the right-thinking people understand what Colin Kaepernick is respectfully and peacefully protesting about, and so they got behind Nike. I was in the gym this morning. I know you think I don't work out, but I do, with my trainer, someone who never really talks about the stock market.

He said, hey, I've been watching Nike. According to him it's gone up 5 percent. He bought some stock, so he's happy about it. So, there you go. It's trickling down into the culture. I think they did the right thing.

CUOMO: So we know the market cap is up $6 billion. I wonder how many new individual investors Nike has like your trainer, who has a huge task by the way. But in terms of whether or not they have like a lot more people who are interested in the commodity of that company because of the president. What do you think about that?

LEMON: Well, I don't know. I think there's probably some, but I think the bulk of it really comes from -- and by the way, I got that little snarky joke. I just ignore you.

CUOMO: Or not.

LEMON: But I think the bulk of it comes from people buying Nike gear. I know people who went out and bought a lot of Nike gear, ordered it online. I live up in Harlem. There's a sneaker store up there. People go up there and buy Nikes and designer sneakers all the time, and the lines were long. So I do see that.

By the way, I had this great friend who lives in L.A., this lady, middle-aged, Jewish, white lady. You know what she wanted for her birthday?

CUOMO: No.

LEMON: A Colin Kaepernick jersey. And by the way, the women version of the jersey, sold out everywhere. You can't get it.

CUOMO: And also, look, not just to make it all about politics, it's a great ad campaign.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: It's amazing footage. It reminds you of what people take on and what they overcome. It was a lot of things in effect. It is good to have you back, D. Lemon. LEMON: It's good to be back.

I heard the snarky things you were tweeting about, and my other half said, Chris is tweeting about you. You need to talk about it.

CUOMO: It's not true. It's fake news.

LEMON: I got to share some personal stuff for you.

CUOMO: Please.

LEMON: Coming up in the show tonight. It's about abuse. So I think everyone wants to tune in to that.

CUOMO: Good. We need the insight and perspective. Thank you for making that part of the show. I'll talk to you soon.

LEMON: See you.

CUOMO: I want to go back to a question I posed earlier. Fire or resign? That is the kind of calculus that we're looking at with Rod Rosenstein right now, right? And it's still very much unclear tonight, right? Well, we have some final thoughts for you in our closing argument about what may happen and why, next.

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CUOMO: OK. The person who never makes a mistake is the person who never does anything. I'm paraphrasing Teddy Roosevelt attacking inaction. But sometimes it's a virtue, not a vice. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.

My argument is that applies to the president and Rosenstein. The situation as described by the media as almost exclusively binary. Fire or resign. But why?

Full disclosure, this is not just my argument. Some Fox folk suggest that Trump should do nothing as well, and we know how the president listens to them almost more than the people who actually know things in the government.

Second, let's remove it from the rabid politics and apply simple reason. What does firing get the president? The Democrats will cry foul, accuse him of crushing the probe. He has to go through Congress to replace him, and he looks weak, that he fears the probe so much so that he must end it.

And if Democrats get control of the House, they will remember, and maybe once again serve up this move as their best reason to impeach. I can hear it now. First it was Comey, and then Rosenstein.

What if he pushes Rosenstein to give in and resign, or if Rosenstein has had enough and resigns? Then Trump gets the easiest path except there would still be this stink in the form of speculation that he forced Rosenstein out, and maybe the push ploy doesn't work. Maybe Rosenstein doesn't want to let go of the biggest job he'll probably ever have, and he doesn't want Trump to take over the probe, seeing as how he's the one who saw the need for it in the first place and picked Mueller.

So what does that leave? Nothing. Trump meets Rosenstein. The deputy A.G. appears to kiss the ring at the White House on Thursday. Trump seems like the bigger man. Let's stop right there.

Imagine the value in that shocker. I tell you, after Thursday, the president had the chance to fire -- and let's be honest -- trash talking the boss as "The New York Times" suggests is certainly fire fodder. But he didn't do it. Imagine how that would resonate with you. How surprised you would be, pleasantly so.

Maybe he even says that -- to you, he says, I didn't do it. And the reason I didn't is because I don't need to compromise the probe. Let's let it play out.

That would be the best proof to date that he really believes he has nothing to fear. And then if there are no significant charges regarding collusion, he gets the ultimate vindication.

Now, the best part of this argument in my opinion is that it relies on something that's actually true. Messing with Mueller is a mistake for Trump. It is a bad look and creates bad outcomes. If he does nothing, however, and the probe winds up and he doesn't get touched, it is over, period.

Anything short of the probe finding its natural end, like what happens if he fires or gets a resignation, the stench of speculation will be forever. A stink that is omnipresent but with no identifiable source like the stink of a basement with a dead rat in it that you just can't find.

Is that what the president wants? I argue no. And that's why against all odds, what may happen with the president and Rosenstein is nothing.

What do you think of the argument? Hit me on Twitter @Chris Cuomo and let's have it out.

That's all for us tonight.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.