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CUOMO PRIME TIME
CNN Sources: Saudis to Admit Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed; Trump: Saudi King Denies Knowledge of Khashoggi's Fate. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired October 15, 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.
Saudi Arabia may be changing it's already sketchy story on the missing journalist. Why should we buy this one? And by "we," I really just you and me because the president seems fine with whatever his pal the king tells him.
Why does he take the Saudi king's word at face value and says let's take a measured response with any strongman? But when it comes to his own standard of proof back home, I'll show you a shocking contrast, so shocking that Congress may have to act for him.
We have Republican Senator Ben Sasse here. He has a story about what the problem really is and how we can make it better.
There's another senator in the news as well. Elizabeth Warren took a DNA test to prove her heritage. Did she clear anything up? Did she help her chances in 2020?
The White House says nope. It's junk science.
And speaking of junk, another big hole blown in the B.S. that is the government saying it's trying to do right by those kids on the border. A 5-year-old persuaded to do something that you will not believe.
There is plenty to test, my friends. Let's get after it.
CUOMO: All right. CNN has multiple sources saying that Saudi Arabia is preparing to acknowledge that Jamal Khashoggi was killed during a botched interrogation. They will further claim Khashoggi's interrogation was only supposed to lead to his abduction from Turkey and that those involved will be held responsible.
Let's discuss this with Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse.
Good to have you here.
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: Thanks for having me.
CUOMO: Author of a new book "Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal." This is something that has to be discus not just tonight. My pledge,
there is a lot in this book. Can't get to it all. Matters in a continuing conversation. Come back, Senator, because it's going to play in the things you ha to deal with. In fact, it does tonight.
So, it's good to have you.
SASSE: Thank you.
CUOMO: We'll talk about the book specifically, but let's talk about connecting the dots in terms of how we get along and why we don't.
The Saudis have given us -- tell me if I'm wrong -- no proof to believe the theory that the president seems to be promoting. And I want to put the words in your mouth. After spoke to the king, he started making public statements about what might have happened and this was the theory he was forwarding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The king firmly denied any knowledge of it. He didn't really know. Maybe -- I don't want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe this could have been rogue killer. Who knows? We're going try to get to the bottom of it very soon. But his was a flat denial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Judiciary Committee, Armed Services Committee -- I mean you deal with what states have t of this proof on differ situations. Do you feel the same level of confidence that the president does right now that, well, he says he didn't do it, it could have been other guys?
SASSE: Yes. I think the Saudis got a problem. They've got a lot they need to explain. I want to be clear about my intelligence versus the president. The president sees a lot more than I do.
CUOMO: Sure, I hope so.
SASSE: I'm not (ph) in the SCIF the last couple of days. So I got a briefing on this the end of last week. And what I Saudi Arabia has some real problems.
I think Marco Rubio has said it well. The ambassador -- the journalist goes into the embassy and he doesn't come out, and one of two things happened. He's in there still alive or he's killed by people who were in there and there's a whole bunch of people who have knowledge of that inside the Saudi family and we need to get to the bottom of that.
Right now, I don't think rogue actors is a good enough explanation.
CUOMO: I mean, look, god-willing you're right, we're wrong, he is still alive, you know, because where the reporting is pointing us I hope is not true. But in terms of what you do about it, even if you were to accept the king's explanation as we currently expect it to be, does that make it OK? Hey, listen, we didn't mean to murder him. I killed him while we were interrogating him. And really, I just to interrogate him and bring him back home. Is any of that OK?
SASSE: No, none of that is good enough, right? So, the Middle East is a mess in a whole bunch of different ways. And it originates in a bunch of different sources. But one of the simplest ways that I think Nebraskans I talked with tried to make sense of the Middle East, is you got Iranian sources of the chaos, and the Iranians want chaos among all of their neighbors.
And the Saudis that sometimes are on the side of long term principles we care about, and other times they're not. And we -- there are a bunch of policies we're going to have to debate, but first, you need to start at the level of principle about what do we agree on, what do we believe about the long term of human rights and what do you believe about press freedom, and what do you believe about human dignity. And right now, the Saudis aren't articulating the kind of song sheet we need to hear from them.
CUOMO: Magnitsky gives 120 days. At this point, if they say, yes, we were right. That's what it was. Some guys went too far, we'll deal with it. Do you think the Senate will make this the moment that they say, no, no, something's going to happen, if the White House doesn't trigger it, we will?
SASSE: I think, you know, in general the legislature supposed to be the place where all long term thinking happens for the U.S. government, and the administration is supposed to be executing policies that are set by the Congress because the Congress is most accountable to the people.
The one carve-out from that is on short term national security issues. You need a president and administration to lead. So, I think there's a number of us who are going to want to hear from the Ambassador Bolton at the White House, and hear some long term view about the Saudi relationship. But I think lots and lots of stuff has to be on the table. This is a big deal.
CUOMO: And Magnitsky would let you guys act unilaterally obviously, concurrent with that statute.
So, then, now, let's get closer to your book. That was like on the outer limits of the orbit of this piece of work. Now, you get into it closer which is how we're dealing with one another and why we're dealing with an "us versus them".
That came up in the interview yesterday. I don't think the president saw it this way when he was talking about it, but he was talking about Kavanaugh. And Lesley Stahl was picking at him about, are you happy with this? Are you happy with the way this went?
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Had I not made that speech we would not have won. I was just saying she didn't seem to know anything.
LESLEY STAHL, ANCHOR, CBS NEWS: No.
TRUMP: And you're trying to destroy a life of a man that has been extraordinary.
STAHL: You seem to be saying that she lied.
TRUMP: You know what? I'm not going to get into it, because we won. It doesn't matter. We won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Do you agree with that?
SASSE: The "we" that are the American people need to win 10 and 20 and 30 years in the future, which is we should have a sense of basic civics what the judiciary for? Why do these confirmation hearings get uglier and uglier? We're 32 years since the late 1980s and the first Bork hearing started going sideways and we've done Hatfields and McCoys for 32 straight years.
The American people are going to win when we have a shared sense of what the judiciary is for. I voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. So, I look for 150 hours of the evidence. I ended up being on the side of believing that he should be confirmed to the court.
SASSE: But the entire process -- look, happy to come back to that --
CUOMO: Go ahead.
SASSE: But the entire process for that month was a circus. It didn't serve anybody well. It didn't serve the Ford family well, who's getting death threats. It didn't serve the Kavanaugh family well.
CUOMO: It didn't serve him well either.
SASSE: They're getting death threats. It doesn't serve our kids well, understanding how we should be deliberating about these things.
CUOMO: A hundred percent. The process was never about getting to the bottom of the allegations which would have helped him. You know what I mean?
There but for the grace, but if you are ever in a situation like that and you knew you didn't do it, you don't know what happened to the woman making the allegation, but you know it wasn't you, you didn't do it, you would invite all kinds of scrutiny. You know, let's get in here, because I want my name back. I want to get cleared.
The process didn't allow for that. The judge didn't push for that. That was his own personal choice.
But the president's language -- I made this speech, you know he tore her down in that speech. You know the speech that we're talking where he was making things up about what she said and denigrating where she was coming from in terms of the pain. And he said, if I hadn't done it, we wouldn't have won.
Is it worth it? Would you do a speech tearing somebody down who is coming forward as a victim if you knew it would get you the political victory you want?
SASSE: You know, I went to the floor. I said that the president shouldn't have done that, the #metoo movement doesn't belong to Republicans. The #metoo movement doesn't belong to Democrats. The #metoo movement belongs to women who are coming forward and saying there is something right in our culture of sexual assault and sexual violence in this country.
And so, when we respond to it in a rally kind of situation, it doesn't facilitate the kind of long term deliberation we need about rights of the accuser to come forward, but also about the rights of accused. There's a whole bunch of due process issues we have to sort through, and a media circus sort of rally environment is not the right way to deliberate about those things.
CUOMO: Now, this book isn't going to be -- it will -- it started off, they're going to be unsatisfied. Then if they keep reading, they'll be satisfied once again and here's why. You are not throwing meat at anybody in this book. You're saying, look, it's easy to blame Trump for everything. He's symptomatic of the things that matter the most. The disconnection, "the us and the them" is deeper than people want to let on and excusing it on the outward manifestation of politics is cheapening the problem.
What is the root?
SASSE: Yes, well said. So political tribalism --
CUOMO: I got it from the book, by the way. So, you're really complimenting yourself.
SASSE: Thanks for reading it.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
SASSE: Political tribalism is ramping in our time. But it isn't the core source of our problem. The problem is people are trying to use political tribes to fill a vacuum, which is about that collapse of natural tribes.
The things that make people happy in life are actually relatively simple. Do you have a tight family? Do you have a few deep friendships? Do you have shared vocation? Do you have meaningful work? Do you have a local worshipping community?
All of those kind of core inputs to the happiness equation tend to be local. Do you live in a place where your neighborhood is thick and textured and meaningful and durable, and going to last for a long time? And when those things are collapsing, which is happening in the digital revolution, people look for alternate tribes, because we're social beings, we're social animals. We're meant to do stuff together. And right now, the digital revolution, which again is going to create more economic output than the world has ever known, but it's undermining plays in ways that our great grandparents and their ancestors didn't have to deal with.
So, politics are filling a vacuum and it's not healthy. Politics should be about building good roads in a cost effective way. It's not about finding good versus evil. And too many people are trying to find good versus evil in politics.
CUOMO: And you see it in what people are willing to forgive if they follow Trump. You see what they're willing to forgive if they're on the left because the identity has become so important.
Let's do this, Senator. There is so much in this book. And people going to read it now and start getting digested and they'll get out there. Come back. You're always invited on the show to talk about what matters.
But there are solutions in here that once people start to digest what it's about, come back. Let's talk about how you think we can fix it. How you can get through it, because it's not kumbaya, Pollyannaish stuff. You have real practical applications of what can change.
CUOMO: You're welcome to talk about it.
SASSE: Glad to be here.
CUOMO: Because we can't keep doing this.
SASSE: We got to do better than this.
CUOMO: Shoulders are strong. Not strong enough to cover this area.
SASSE: Twenty years, only 14 percent of Americans thought the other party was evil, not it's 41 percent. It's triple than 20 years.
CUOMO: And I'm surprised it's not higher to be honest with you.
Thanks, Senator. I appreciate you doing it.
All right. So, you heard the senator and I talking a little bit about there's a difference between how the president regards what is told to him by a Putin or a Salman or even a Kim Jong-un and then how he decides to treat speculation when it helps him back here at home. President Trump's impulse is to take word of some people and not the word of others. Why is this?
I have an examination of stark contrast for you, next.
CUOMO: Facts first, specifically President Trump's unique relationship with facts. The latest example, his take on Saudi Arabia and the murdered or suspected murder of a "Washington Post" journalist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I just spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia. I've asked and he firmly denied that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: The king denied it and look at the language -- firmly denied any knowledge of it.
That's the only fact that matter as far as Trump seems to be concerned. It doesn't matter the evidence or the reports that now appear to be damning, even that the government itself may be ready to change its story in Saudi Arabia that this was an interrogation. They did have something to do with it and it went wrong.
But the king said it wasn't them. And that's enough for Trump. Why? Because when you look at Trump's track record, you see he often gets ahead of the facts, right?
Birthism, remember that? Launch his political career would say. He later admitted it was bogus, but that didn't come easy.
Millions voted illegally and they were illegals, they were Latinos. Remember that? His voter fraud commission that they put together with your tax money came back empty.
Angry Democrats are the ones running the Mueller probe, even though Rosenstein, Mueller, Chris Wray, they're all Republicans, or one way or another, his choice.
And then, of course, the Central Park Five. Guilty, DNA evidence cleared them.
Now, compare that to what we've seen from Trump time and time again when it comes to strong men around the world -- men like Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I believe that President Putin really feels, and he feels strong that he did not meddle in election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Sound familiar? Same way he was just talking about the Saudi king.
And then you have Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He wrote me beautiful letters and they're great letters. We fell in love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: A man whose government found without parallel when it comes to stuff like extermination, torture, enslavement, listen -- no SOT, don't listen. Listen to me.
All right. What if we see -- what do we see here? If Trump likes you, or if he fears you, then he's going to say, all right, I'll take his word. Let's go slow. The case of Brett Kavanaugh, Roy Moore, Rob Porter, they deny it, I'm good with them.
If the allegations work to his advantage or confirm what he wants you to think, then he's more than happy to get ahead of the truth, to believe nobody and anything that anybody says that's different than he wants to be true. His relationship with the facts means that he's often strong when he should be soft and soft when he needs to stand strong.
Now, another example. Pocahontas, the nickname etched in our brains from President Trump about Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Now, works so well at rallies.
Here's a question for you. Warren did a DNA test. Did she just change the game? Does Donald Trump owe her a million dollars? Did he really pledge to do that?
Guess got? We got answers to all of it. We know that this is all about 2020.
What do you say? Perfect stuff for a great debate, next.
CUOMO: So, Elizabeth Warren took a DNA test and the analysis shows she probably has distant Native American heritage. She says it validates what she has long understood to be part of her family's history.
So, after years of calling her Pocahontas, will President Trump deliver on what he once suggested? Actually, he didn't suggest it. He said it. He said he would donate $1 million to charity if she took such a DNA test and he got a big round of applause.
Well, today, he was asked about it and whether he owes her the money. And he said --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If she gets the nomination where I was going have her tested I'll only do it if I can test her personally. OK, that will not be something I enjoy doing either.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Oh, no. Of course, he said it. Of course, you owe the money. There were no such caveats. You know, it's such a beautiful window for you guys into how he's dealt with a lot of business agreements throughout the years. And let me tell you, I know because I've investigated him lo before I was at CNN.
So has Warren disarmed the president's favorite line of attack or did she make it worse?
Let's ask our great debaters, Jennifer Granholm and Ken Cuccinelli.
Ken, I'm going to start with you on this. We both know that this is the Trump of old. That guy wouldn't pay anything on a contract unless he absolutely had to. And he's putting in conditions here that never existed.
Should he have owned, look, I don't like the numbers, I don't think she is really Native American. He could have said any of that.
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
CUOMO: But he said what he said, right?
CUCCINELLI: Yes. Well, and, of course, she goes from Pocahontas to Nocahontas. I mean --
CUOMO: Oh, you had all day and that's what you came up with?
CUCCINELLI: Hey, look, it all rhymes. I think it's pretty cool.
But -- I mean, she's the one who made this an issue first years ago. So, let's not blame anybody else but Senator Warren and it's ridiculous. And as Cherokees were saying today, they're offended by it. So, she is glomming on to their history and it's ludicrous.
What president said, you know, a million dollars to charity of his -- I mean that's, you know, almost like a common bluster sort of thing that he says. And I wish he didn't say it but --
CUOMO: That makes it OK? As long as it's common, that he does it all the time, then it's OK.
CUCCINELLI: Let's flip it. If she was a Republican, you know, the rest of the mainstream media would be crucifying her. Instead, the media is coming to her defense and talking about the president's comments and other stuff. For anybody else, if these were Republican, if would be about what Senator Warren said --
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh my God.
CUOMO: And I'll tell you what, Ken, it's a good point but too soon, my brother. Too soon. And here's why. That is the problem for you guys, that she took the DNA test.
It seemed to be that this was a way of getting the Pocahontas thing out of the way, put the test out there. Now she can move forward. I don't think does it that for her. I don't think that the standard --
CUCCINELLI: No, it doesn't.
CUOMO: -- of what was found in there is going to be satisfying to people and I read the Cherokee Nation's statement on it. But that's just going to be one point of feedback.
Do you think she helps herself by doing this or do you think she made -- made herself look vulnerable?
GRANHOLM: I think that this is such a non-story except for the fact that the president of the United States once again is always out there calling people names so much so that she's actually got to jump through the hoop of taking some test to being able to prove that she, in fact, has some small amount of Native American blood.
She didn't claim to be part of a tribe. She said it was part of her family heritage. So that's been proven, but it's part. I don't think if that test came back with 100 percent Native American heritage, it wouldn't satisfy the president --
CUOMO: It would have satisfied me. I would have been all over the president and forcing him, you know, through this show to say, you better own up now because you've got the problem. But I think the test doesn't really allow her that advantage.
GRANHOLM: Well, what would be the percentage that would be acceptable? Is there any percentage that would be ever acceptable to the president to have him pay a million dollars? This is a man who doesn't pay his taxes. He's not going to pay on a bet. He's a welcher (ph).
CUOMO: Ken --
GRANHOLM: And it's a ridiculous thing that we're even wasting the valuable real estate time that you have on cable TV, with all due respect, talking about this.
CUOMO: There's actually no due respect in that statement, Gov, I want you know, by the way. There was nothing respectful about that.
CUOMO: But you know what? I don't necessarily disagree. I'm trying to do it a little differently, where it's not going to be about crucify Trump for what he said.
That's not the way I am, Ken. What I'm saying is that it works both ways. I don't think this test helps her in terms of what came out about it. It's better than they're having been absolutely no trace of anything ever.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, I agree.
CUOMO: But on the other side, it was, and you know why she's been saying this, because she's used it to help herself, you saw the reporting that was done on this. I had made it to a full screen for you guys. That's just not the case, all right?
If you ask Harvard Law, if you ask me four employers before that, the position she had, nobody ever consider it. She never put forward that she was Native American as a way of helping herself get a job. That's not fair either.
Fair point? Ken?
CUCCINELLI: Well, I mean, she has talked about it. No. I don't -- I don't just accept that at face value.
CUOMO: Put the full screen up if you guys have it.
She didn't put it on applications. She didn't put it forward for getting perks.
CUCCINELLI: The next hurdle for her about this that actually matters is if she's going to consider being a 2020 candidate. And if it isn't Republicans that matter, it's Democrats that matter. It's what do a Democrat-based voters think about this? That's really the hurdle that matters for her for 2020.
GRANHOLM: There is nothing about this story that is going to cause Democrats to move in another direction, Ken. You know, with respect you to, that point is ridiculous.
CUCCINELLI: I didn't challenge it one way or another. I just threw it out there for Democrat voters.
GRANHOLM: I'm just saying that this is a Donald Trump talking point at a rally. He likes to say it because he gets a laugh. He's not going to stop saying it. He's going to continue to say it.
She will have put it behind her and her mind she will have demonstrated to her voters that, yes, there was something to this story in her family tree. There was a small amount of Native American blood. That's all she is saying. It's nothing more than that.
You guys don't need to make a huge big deal about it, because she hasn't used it to benefit herself in any way, shape or form in any job he's ever had.
CUOMO: That part, Gov, I think is demonstrably true. What I'm saying is, look, here's how I see this situation. I tee it up for you guys to talk about it this way. This is us versus them. This is what the president does best in terms of rhetoric. He did it so many times just in the 60 minutes interview. You know, did you hear what he said when he was talking about Ford and
the Kavanaugh situation, how he answered Stahl because he didn't have time to think? She was on him a little bit. So, he says, hey, look, if I didn't give that speech about her, where just dragged her through the mud in a way that we know doesn't help everybody else that we want to come forward and tell the truth about what happen them, if I didn't give that speech, Ken, we wouldn't have won. Who is we? Who is we?
Is it a one-sided victory when you appoint a new Supreme Court justice nominee? It's not about me and whether or not I win as a citizen, and my kids? And the generation of jurisprudence that's going to come down. It's really just about saying what he had to say --
CUCCINELLI: That's not how he's talking about it.
CUOMO: -- to get this guy through? Ken, are you OK with that?
CUCCINELLI: Yes, that's not how he's talking about it.
CUOMO: That's exactly he talked about it.
CUCCINELLI: If you're the president and nominate somebody -- yes, I agree with your point on that. I mean, but he -- and he owned it. You know, I nominated this guy. If he gets through, I win. If he doesn't, I lose.
CUOMO: No, but he didn't own that he dragged her through the mud and it was wrong. He says the opposite. He said it was right because it helped me win. It was right to drag her down because it helped me win. You're OK with that, Cuccinelli?
CUCCINELLI: Well, look, Chris, one of the unfortunate -- no, I'm not OK with the ends justify the means type politics. And that has become commonplace. And that's not a good thing.
And unfortunately, I think that it's become much more accepted and, frankly, defended even in the media that the ends are what matter and so we end up with politics like we have today.
Do I think that's a good thing? No, I don't. I don't think Trump owns that. I think that was going on long before Donald Trump began his rise in 2015. And there are a lot of influences on that in both parties, and it's a sad state, take a lot to turn it around but I think we're a long way off from that.
CUOMO: Gov, last word.
GRANHOLM: Well, I was just going to say, I think this largely is driven by the guy at the top who is, you know, calling people names, gaslighting them, and telling people in America things are simply not true. I know we don't have time to talk about it. But I really wanted to get to the climate change comment he made last night on that Lesley Stahl interview where he basically said it's not man made, when even his own reports coming out from the White House said it. CUOMO: He didn't basically say it. He said exactly that. He said
something is happening. I don't think we did it. And I think it's going to change back.
And he can't find any reputable science to back that up.
CUOMO: Nobody who knows what they're talking about in any kind of community would echo, but that's what he put out. Why? We don't know.
We'll talk about it another right, Ken.
GRANHOLM: OK, very good.
CUOMO: We'll take it on another night. I promise you, Ken, you'll there to take it on.
Jennifer Granholm, Ken Cuccinelli --
GRANHOLM: And me, too.
CUCCINELLI: I'll be there.
CUOMO: I don't know. You took a shot at the show.
No, I'm kidding. You'll both be back. Thank you very much.
All right. I'm going to bring in one of Senator Warren's colleagues in the Senate, fellow Democrat Chris Coons, all right? Would he have taken a DNA test to prove the president wrong? Would he like to see a Warren-Trump matchup in 2020?
The tough questions for Chris Coons from Delaware, next.
CUOMO: Senator Warren from Massachusetts took a DNA test. It turns out there is some Native American blood somewhere from six to ten generations back in her lineage.
So, is that good enough for Trump? Of course not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you owe her an apology? What about the money --
TRUMP: No, I don't, absolutely. Do I owe her? She owes the country an apology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Warren's colleague in the Senate is Chris Coons. He is also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He joins us now, Democrat from Delaware. Senator, a pleasure.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Great to be with you again, Chris.
What a striking day it's been in terms of so many different developments from Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and likely murder at the hands of the Saudis, to the result of Senator Warren's DNA test that you just referenced. I think it's really striking that Donald Trump got his start in politics by challenging President Obama's citizenship, his birtherism escapade, where once it was proven, of course, that President Obama was in fact born in Hawaii, in the United States, Trump really did not ever concede that he'd been wrong all along.
I frankly think this is just another episode where although the president very publicly said he'd pay a million dollars to her favorite charity if she took a DNA test, she's done it. She put to rest his I think juvenile offensive and inappropriate suggestions using his nickname for her that somehow she didn't know her own family history. And I think it's best for everybody if we move on here and recognize that this is just another episode that was beneath the president.
CUOMO: You no he what? I agree. Jamal Khashoggi, look, hopefully, God willing, I'm wrong, we're all wrong. He's alive some where.
But if the CNN reporting is right and the Saudis adjust their story as is anticipated that he was in fact killed. Now, they're using the word "killed" instead of murdered, right, because they're trying to say it was an accident during an interrogation, question, number one, what if everything they're saying is true and just like the president parroted for his friend the king today, it was rogue actors. They were just trying to take him and bring him back.
They killed them during an interrogation. It wasn't supposed to go that way. Is any of that OK to you as a senator who signed on to the Magnitsky letter?
COONS: It's not OK. And as you referenced, 20 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an equal number of Republicans and Democrats signed a letter to President Trump starting the 120-day process under the Global Magnitsky Act under which he has to determine what happened and recommend the impositions of sanctions if he finds a violation of human rights -- of course, Chris, it's not OK for the Saudis to send a team to the Turkish -- to their consulate in Turkey, in Istanbul, whether it was to kidnap and interrogate a journalist or whether it was with the intention of killing him. Either way, they bear the responsibility for an interrogation, whether it was intended to lead to his death or intended to simply lead to his kidnapping, either of those count as fundamental violation of human rights under the Global Magnitsky Act, forgive me.
And it is something that I think we in the Senate should take a strong stand here. If President Trump won't send a strong signal that the United States still puts values, values like protecting human rights and protecting journalists ahead of our interests, such as arms deals with the Saudis, then the Senate should step forward and do it.
CUOMO: Well, look, we'll have to figure out on a different day what you guys want to do. Will it matter? Will they do this anyway? What's the appropriate action?
I know the media has been pushing the president and pushing you guys, what are you going do? What are you going to do? That's not my question.
CUOMO: My question is when will you do? Because as you learn things, then you act. And my question about that process is how measured the president is here, how willing he was to accept the rogue actor theory, how willing he was to accept this king's denial?
When as you just mentioned, when it came to birtherism, he knew that was B.S. We grew up in the same place. I know him for many years. I know when his nose is tweaked by things that make sense and when it doesn't.
He forwarded it because it was good for him. But when it's Putin -- Putin says he didn't meddle. Well, you know, I think we got to listen. He really believed it. He really believed it.
What is it about the president when it's a strong man, then he's OK with the baseless denial of a situation? When it's million of voters voted illegally, he'll say it without any hesitation with no basis at all? Why such a difference, Senator?
COONS: Well, what concerns me most about his conduct in the world is the way he weakens us when he seems more eager to stand up to our close and valued allies like Justin Trudeau in Canada or Angela Merkel in Germany, and to embrace or excuse or believe dictators like Kim Jong-un or Duterte in the Philippines, Putin in Russia, or in this case, MBS or the king, King Salman, of Saudi Arabia or the crown prince?
If this proves true that they directed, ordered a kidnapping and murder of a journalist, an American resident, a critic of the Saudi royal family at times, then that would be the latest in a disturbing line of incidents where it may be that our own president's statements, his calling the press the enemy of the people, made the suggestion to the Saudis that they could do something like this and get away with it.
So, here is an opportunity for President Trump to step forward in the tradition of Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and show that we do put human rights first. That's something that both Republican and Democratic president have taken strong efforts and decisive actions to show the world that we don't just lead with our interests. We also more importantly at times lead with our values.
CUOMO: Well that, would be good. But we're coming off an interview where the president said last night, hey, listen -- Lesley Stahl was pushing him about the speech he gave about Professor Ford. He was like, look, you know, I said what I had to say, basically. If I hadn't given that speech, we wouldn't have won with Kavanaugh. How do feel about that?
COONS: Well, that win at all cost approach to politics is I think dangerously debasing. The reasons that people do get into public service or politics, which is not to win at all cost but to win based on principle. I mean, he also in that same interview, Chris, in answering the question, what sort of action will you take against the Saudis if these allegations are true, he cited $110 billion in defense contracts. First, that's just wrong on the facts. That got four Pinnochios from face checkers. It's more like $4 billion in defense contracts that have been signed since his visit last year. Nothing like $110 billion.
And, frankly, regardless of how large the contracts might be in matters of principles, of values, we have to weigh them very heavily and at times put them in front of, sort of narrow or short term economic interests for the country, because what America stands for that distinguishes us from other countries is that we will put our values at the head of the line of our national interests.
CUOMO: Senator Coons, always welcome on the show to talk about what matters to the American people. Appreciate it.
COONS: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. Ahead, the painting everybody is talking about today. You've been online? Did you watch "60 Minutes" last night? Did you see the reaction? It's surprising a lot of people that it's hanging on a wall in the White House.
I am not surprised, but I believe there's a man who you like is going to take the other side, next.
CUOMO: All right. So a picture is worth 1,000 words, right? Well, I have a picture that may be worth even more than that.
This is actually hanging in the White House. This picture was in the background during part of the president's "60 Minutes" interview. The fantasy painting shows President Trump surrounded by Republican presidents, sitting right across from Honest Abe, while Nixon, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, both Bushes and originals gather around him as the center.
I want to bring in Don Lemon. And, Don, I --
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes, I was starting to look (ph) at some pictures, but go on.
CUOMO: I fixated on what everybody was drinking here. I love that he has a Diet Coke apparently, in front of him. As we know, he is not a big taker of the booze and everyone else seems to be drinking something of a more adult beverage nature. LEMON: Except Ronald Reagan. Reagan has a fruity drink. His father
was an alcoholic and he said Nixon had a glass of wine because he enjoyed --
CUOMO: George W., I'm told, has a Coke also.
LEMON: Yes, yes, because he is recovering, right?
But what I did think of?
LEMON: You know, it's -- the president looks fit. I've never seen him that thin, even when he was a young man.
But all portraits are -- he said he wanted to flatter every single president. He did one of the Obamas, of a Democratic president, one with President Obama. And that was flattering.
But also, I mean, come on. Even our photograph here, like -- look at that.
LEMON: When was that, 1987?
CUOMO: No, it wasn't.
LEMON: You look so young and your hair was real then.
CUOMO: No, my hair --
LEMON: Look at that handsome guy.
CUOMO: Now, let's be honest.
CUOMO: Let's just be honest for a second. Honestly, for a second. You're a good looking man. I would say none other than that. But put that picture back up again.
You honestly tell the audience right now that your hair isn't colored in that photo? Don't it take off. Put him back on TV.
LEMON: I swear to you my hair is not colored.
CUOMO: Are you sure --
LEMON: Here's the thing --
LEMON: Yes. It's not -- the photo, I don't know what they do, but I had that much hair.
CUOMO: They do something. I'm looking at your head right now.
LEMON: Well, that's because my hair is shorter, and plus, I'm older. This was 2015. And you know, I actually did look like this because I had the flu and I lost 15 pounds, so that was 15 pounds ago in three years.
CUOMO: I think that everything about the photo -- the painting is perfect. Now, obviously, the president didn't paint it. It was painted for him, and he likes it and he puts it on the wall.
The main thing that I'm sure he took away from it --
CUOMO: -- he is the center of --
LEMON: Of attention.
CUOMO: -- of everyone's attention. There is even more light on him --
CUOMO: -- in the photo than everything else.
LEMON: Even more so than the Democratic picture. Yes. And it's obvious. It looks like he and Lincoln are having a -- you know, the conversation and everything is center around them.
I think the one who's look -- well, are two who look realistic to me and that is George W. Bush and I think Nixon. I think they -- no, I'm sorry.
CUOMO: I think they all look good. I think whoever did this picture other than trying to do Trump a favor with the slimming did a nice job. I like Teddy Roosevelt. I like the sleeves rolled up.
LEMON: Do you like Kamala Harris in the background?
CUOMO: Where is she? Who is that all the day in the background?
LEMON: There is a woman in the background who is supposed to be the next president --
CUOMO: Can you zoom in on that, Eli?
LEMON: But when every reaction I've had, I even had the critic on, a Pulitzer winning art critic --
CUOMO: Are you sure it's not a man?
LEMON: No, there's a woman right there in the shadow, that's a woman next to the president. I'm not saying Kamala Harris is going to be the next president, but the art critic had the same reaction that I did to that photo. I was like, who is that? He said at first, I thought it was -- I'm going to be the art critic on, Pulitzer Prize- winning one who had the same reaction as I did.
CUOMO: Very interesting. Although this segment was crushed by the fact you lied about your hair in that photo.
LEMON: No, Chris, it's all mine. I don't know what they did to it. But this is all my hair. I actually have hair.
CUOMO: I'm not saying that they gave you more hair. I'm saying they colored your hair in the photo. They retouched it.
LEMON: Oh, my gosh. Listen, we're going to have the art critic on.
LEMON: Also, Katie Couric going to be on tonight. Katie says that Sarah Palin, she's going to tell me what Sarah Palin got right. That's what you're going to hear at the top of the hour.
CUOMO: Good tease. D. Lemon, thank you very much.
LEMON: All right. See you. Nice hair.
CUOMO: All right. A story that I could not believe this weekend. In fact, I spent a lot of my weekend trying to disprove it. Why? I couldn't believe that my government would allow a five-year-old to sign away her rights in this country. I couldn't believe it.
The truth and how it fits into something that you need to acknowledge, next.
CUOMO: All right. Full admission: I could not believe what I'm about to tell you. I wanted it to be fake. But this is what it looks like.
This is a waiver of rights signed by a child. I wish I could tell you that kids are home from the border, and that the policy has changed, but that would be a damn lie because this has been an exercise in deception from the start. The argument: Trump's executive order in June, he said, I'm doing this to stop the separations. Remember? I told you then, and now, that was B.S.
Just look at the title -- affording Congress an opportunity to address family separation. It was always on Congress. He was never going to stop anything. He never did anything. Why? Because this is always what he wanted.
And now, the policy is the same way it always was for all practical effect. Then they said they were fixing it and the DHS secretary said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Yet, these documents, please put them up, show an obvious effort to develop a policy of separating kids. Why? Because it was never about just enforcing the law. It was always about sending a message.
Listen to the president, please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, when you don't do separate -- when you allow the parents to stay together, OK, when you allow that, then what happens is people are going to pour into our country.
LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS: So you're going to go back to that?
TRUMP: Well, we're looking at a lot of things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Stop saying he was just enforcing the law and he doesn't want it to be this way. He does. It's by design. They're finding more ways to do it because he likes the message.
You just heard it. Be harsh. It will keep them away. So now they have to admit they're considering a new family separation policy because they've always wanted to be on this page.
And here it is -- you come illegally with a kid, you get two choices, stay together up to 20 days, and then the parent has to make a decision or whoever the guardian is. Option one, stay in detention with their child for months or years as they wait for their case to be heard. Or option two, allow the kids to be taken into government custody, basically forcing the family to split up.
These are people seeking asylum, by the way, all right? Not just an illegal alien entrant. They're asking for asylum. So, you build your wall, they'll be people standing next right next to it saying, help me, I need to come and you still have to deal with it.
Now, some of them will be fake. But what about those who aren't? That's why Lady Liberty cringes at this.
And now, more proof of how preposterous it. I just can't believe it. This document signed by a five-year-old. Her name is Helen. She's an asylum seeker from Honduras.
This is Helen, too, in a photo reminiscent of a mug shot. She fled from her home with her grandmother and her teenage uncle after gangs threatened their life. The plan: meet up with Helen's mom in Texas.
But Helen never came to meet them. You know why? Because someone handed the 5-year-old this document, a request for a Flores bond hearing. It has a lot of legalese about being a danger to the community and the suitability of sponsors. Not exactly good night moon.
But basically, she had a right to see a judge and she signed the right away. It's smart to say, I withdraw my previous request for a Flores bond hearing. Smart for a five-year-old.
Now, the "New Yorker" did this story but I learned something else today. On the link, there's a second page to this document. The first one is shocking enough with the kid's signature. I get why they went for that.
But that second page, I have it here, look it up on the link, in fact, I'll put it, I'll put it on Twitter, you'll get the link. This page, it says parent or guardian, the lawyer working pro bono for the family told me that, and I checked it out, that's how I got the page. Who signed it?
A government employee signed it, works for the same department that was processing Helen was appointed as her guardian. That's some guardian. I'll tell you who it wasn't. Any of the people listed for Helen that the government could have reached out to. Why didn't they reach out?
Because they're not looking to make it easy. They're not looking to be fair. Even to asylum seekers, they want them to get the hell away, stay away.
Fear coming this way ever again. Don't look to us in these situations.
Helen's back with her family after two months. She got a party, princess themed, pizza, like a typical kid. Now, she cries, also typical of kids in her situation because she thinks her family might disappear in the night and they might.
We can enforce the law and not do this. Not to kids. Not to anybody. We can respect the Constitution and still have compassion.
But more and more, I don't think that President Trump wants that. He wants what he says he wants. He wants the harshness and the agencies involved are doing things like this that seem to make good on yet another signature promise.
Thank you for watching.
"CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON" starts right now.