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Interview With Arizona Senator Jeff Flake; Package Bombs Target Democratic Leaders, CNN. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired October 24, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And that's one consideration, but you still need to find out who it is.
And, you know, we talk about this a lot, Brianna, in these situations. The designation of something being terrorism is often frustrating for people. They will be like, well, of course, it's terrorism. Why else would you do this? It's not how the investigation works.
It has to check certain boxes. It has to just not be that they wanted to hurt people, but they had to want to hurt people or cause fear or both for reason. And that reason has to be involved with advancing a political agenda.
So the president right now was asked, do you think that this is terrorism? He said -- he didn't say yes. Now, some people will be frustrated by that. But I think it's a good sign that he didn't say yes, because they don't know.
So if he said it was, he would be guessing. And the less of that we have, the better. So, right now, just to set the scene for you here at the top of the hour, we're here on 58th Street in front of the CNN offices, because we can't go in the building.
And the reason we can't go in is because CNN was targeted in this chain of suspicious packages that were sent in and around New York City today.
We know that President Obama supposedly received one. The Clintons in their personal residence did. Other officials did. One of them is the New York governor, who is, of course, my brother.
Now, that package, they do not know if it was related. It was a suspicious package, but it did not contain an explosive device. It did not contain any substance of concern. So maybe it has nothing to do with everything else. We don't know.
However, authorities are conducting an active investigation. It's interagency and multiagency. They don't know who is responsible. And when I say they don't know, I'm saying literally blank slate. It does not look familiar to them in terms of anyone else they have dealt with. They don't know if its domestic or if it's foreign, let alone if it deserves a terrorist designation. So there are a lot of unanswered questions. But the question that
would matter most, we already have the answer to, is, was anybody hurt? And this did not turn into the God forbid that it could have been.
For the latest on the investigation, let's get to Evan Perez. He's been tracking this.
Evan, what do we know what?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, at this point, authorities have now found five different pipe bombs at different locations.
The first one, of course, happened about 48 hours ago at the residence of George Soros. This one, a pipe bomb that authorities say appear to have been delivered there, didn't come through the mail. And then subsequent to that, the U.S. Secret Service has intercepted a couple of devices, one that was supposed to go to the former President Barack Obama, and another one that was supposed to be delivered to the Clintons.
Again, that that's up in Chappaqua, New York. And then subsequent to that, of course, this morning was a device that was intercepted in the mailroom of CNN. Again, that was according to the New York Police Department. You see a picture of the device there that was sent to the New York offices of Time Warner Center, where CNN is headquartered in New York.
That one was addressed to John Brennan, the former CIA director. He doesn't work for CNN. He actually works for another network. But the sender apparently thought that this package was going to get to John Brennan at CNN there at time Warner Center.
This caused, of course, an evacuation of the CNN studios there in New York City. But that device is now being examined by the experts at the FBI and in the New York Police Department. It was -- it didn't go off.
But, again, the fear was that someone could have been hurt because it was a live device. These are rudimentary devices. Subsequent to that, by the way, we have learned that there was another device that was intercepted at the offices of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman in Florida.
It appears that this device was actually supposed to be delivered to the former Attorney General Eric Holder here in Washington. But because it was incorrectly addressed, it got returned or sent back to Florida, to the Debbie Wasserman Schultz offices there in Sunrise, Florida.
Now, the FBI is going to take possession of the device and they're going to compare it to all of -- to the other ones that we have.
At this point, Chris, the FBI and the experts that are handling this say all of the devices appear to be similar. They appear to be constructed the same. And they believe again that they're rudimentary, but they could have hurt someone, that these were devices that actually could have harmed people.
At least one of the devices that's been -- that's been examined, by the way, contained -- appeared to be shrapnel or something appeared to be shards of glass, the intention perhaps being that when it went off, when the explosion happened, that it would double the amount of damage it caused to whoever was handling it.
PEREZ: Again at this point, Chris, we don't know of any other devices that are that are out there. But the fear is that there could be others.
By the way, there is one more device that is being examined. That one was intercepted at a mail facility in Maryland that handles mail for members of the House of Representatives. It was addressed to Representative Maxine Waters. Again, that one is still being examined to see what relation in has to the other devices that have been found -- Chris.
CUOMO: Right. And that -- look, that could be marked up to hypervigilance. That's the mode that we should be in right now.
We are hearing that at least one of the devices, as you're saying, Evan Perez, did have the ability to go off. And, you know, the more crude they are, the more volatile they are. But certainly all of them, if they have the right materials, could be very dangerous to human life.
And we saw this in the Boston bombing. And if you talk to any veteran who spend time recently in the theaters of Afghanistan or Iraq, or even Northern Pakistan, they will tell you that these IEDs they deal with, they're very crude. What they use as shrapnel as the devices, what would be the projectiles, very crude and household items.
And they can do a lot of destruction.
So I'm getting some more reporting about what they're looking at right now, just so that you have in your head how meticulous they have to be in figuring out things that may lead them to bigger clues about intentionality, copycats, and authorship of these.
For instance, if there's powder inside these pipe bombs, what type of pipe? What's the diameter? Is it commonly used in plumbing or not? Is it something that had to be sourced in a specific way? If there is some type of explosive within it, Is it black powder? That's one type of designation of explosive. Did they use match heads?
Was there a fuse? Or was there a different kind of trigger? Each one of the answers to those types of questions can lead them in a different direction. Was the end of this device, was there a cap? Was it glued on? If so, how? These things may seem irrelevant to you, but to the types of forensic analysis they're doing, it can lead them in a very specific direction. So that's what we're dealing with right now.
Now, to set the scene for you with where we are, obviously, I'm on the street in front of CNN. We still can't go back inside because safety comes first. And they have to sweep very carefully floor by floor and make sure, God forbid, there's no other similar device that can be a problem.
My good friend and colleague Kate Bolduan has been here from jump. I was watching her coverage on morning.
Scary morning. Turned out the right way for us.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Turned out the right way.
And I think, as usual, your focus is the right way. Thank God that this turned out the way that this -- you know what? Your brother, the governor, actually said it. Use this as a cautionary warning for everyone.
When I spoke with him earlier, there was a press conference here laying out the latest that they knew, that one of the big things that we learned -- learned during the press conference from the commissioner was that this was a live explosive device that they were looking at within CNN and one of the messages throughout was, what was the motivation, the why?
OK, they're still going to -- they have a lot to work out with that. They don't know yet.
CUOMO: They do not know.
BOLDUAN: But they do know -- and when I spoke to the governor, he said, in his eyes, this is an act of terror, and his job is to make sure that he refuses to allow this act of terror to strike fear in the hearts of New Yorkers.
But when it comes to the why, when it comes to the motivation, when it comes to what led to this, the governor had some thoughts on that. Listen to this. I spoke to him a little earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Do I believe the heated rhetoric, the toxic environment is part of this? Yes. We haven't done a full investigation, but a suggestion of the pattern is that they are politically related.
And I think that's a caution to all political officials, elected officials, candidates, and Americans. We can have political differences. We have always had political differences. That's what made America America.
But let's have our political differences with civility. And let's avoid the hostility and the rhetoric and the rancor and the anger, because we are at a boiling point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So he's saying that we are at a boiling point.
And as we were speaking earlier, let's say that whoever did this has no connection to what's happening in our country right now. Let's say they're not even from this country. I don't think any of it matters, because it has been scary enough for us to look around and say, are we focusing on the right things? Are we doing this the right way?
Or is this a moment, whether or not these are related or not, to say, we can be better than we are right now?
BOLDUAN: And two important things on two tracks seem to be happening, an investigation of what is in -- what these devices are, how dangerous are they and who put them together. That's one track of course, right?
But I think another track that should -- that deserves just as much urgency is what the governor is talking about. Take this as a warning that the heated rhetoric that is going on in the country and happening around the country might not impact you or your neighbor, but people -- it can lead people to do bad things.
And maybe that is what we're seeing. And even if that is not what the motivation is here, take this moment to dial it down, from the White House on down, person to person. This -- in the most simplistic terms, this is really scary.
BOLDUAN: This should not happen. People should not be scared to go into the mailroom. People should not be scared to go in their offices. People should not be scared to go to work.
This should not happen, be it an election season, be it not an election season. So don't we take this opportunity, as you're saying, to learn and be better from it?
CUOMO: Might as well, right? I mean, you take what life brings you try and deal with it the best you can.
BOLDUAN: Every moment.
CUOMO: I mean, this morning, I saw a -- maybe it was you supporting that was reporting it that the governor's office had received a package.
I couldn't get him on the phone. I didn't know what was going on.
BOLDUAN: It happened during the press conference.
CUOMO: Is that when it first came out? BOLDUAN: So I was standing next to couple of his aides.
He was -- he was speaking. He had just finished up speaking.
CUOMO: Right. The initial report was seen as erroneous. It came out in the morning. I couldn't get him. Then I get him and he said, no, no, no, we're good, we're good, we're good.
And then while you were there...
BOLDUAN: While we were at the press conference, his aides were standing next to me, and they got messages on their phone, and they went over and talked to him. And that's what he came out and said, they have received a suspicious package at his office in New York.
And, look, obviously, on a personal level, we never want to hear that somebody in your family has something like that coming.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely not.
CUOMO: But I got to tell you, you're hearing the right things from leadership in this right now.
And I know people will critique the president and what he says. Does he go far enough, in the context of what he usually says?
BOLDUAN: I think you just take it as is. I think the president said what any president should say in this moment.
CUOMO: Right. And that's all you really can judge right now is this specific thing.
And the biggest concern of law enforcement obviously has nothing to do with what Kate and I are talking about, but there's a larger dialogue around this.
BOLDUAN: Exactly right.
CUOMO: And it was nice to hear people this morning on the radio or here in the street saying, hey, we're glad you guys are OK. We have our disagreements, but there is a line. There is still a line.
So then we have the investigative track. And for that, we have some of our other colleagues who are outside. We're all going to be outside.
If you see anybody in the studio, they're not in New York. So we have Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow, who are on another street corner around here.
Jimmy, can you hear me?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We can.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We can, indeed.
We're right down the street on the other side of the street that's been blocked off.
Key to the investigation now -- and Poppy and I have been talking to James Gagliano, former FBI special agent, is this white powder, because this opens up a whole new question, as the NYPD try to determine, is that a real or fake?
And oftentimes letters with white powder will be sent. That turns out to be talcum powder or other explosives. They will have that added in just to add another worry for investigators. But it's also possible that that substance is real and it could be ricin. It could be anthrax.
And the difficulty with that, we're told, is that it takes some time to determine with certainty what the substance is. It takes time to do the toxicology tests. Could take a number of hours. And, of course, their motivation is to be a certain as possible. But, remember, there is precedent for this.
Soon after 9/11, you had the anthrax letters sent around. And, Chris, you and I were working for ABC at the time. ABC was the target at the time. And there was the child of someone who works for ABC who was tested -- tested positive for anthrax.
Beyond that, if it is a substance like that, it's not just the target who then becomes at risk. It is all the points along the way, the mail facilities, et cetera, because, remember, with the anthrax attack then, there were mail workers who died. They ended up dying.
Now, again, this could turn out to be a fake. It could turn out to be talcum powder, or something more innocent. But that's something that authorities have to establish now before they can clear the building and determine how far this goes.
HARLOW: And, Chris, we just don't know at this time.
As you know, we have no idea when we will be allowed back in the building. All of CNN has been evacuated. We're a block away from where you are. The street that you're on, Chris, is completely shut off to any other traffics or pedestrians, and other than you and crew and a few others to be able to get there.
There are so many unknowns. I would just say, Chris, the response, as you know, that has happened when Jim and I were on air anchoring our show just after 10:00 a.m. morning, the response from the police, the FDNY, all of the first-responders here throughout has been extraordinary.
It has been remarkable. They could not have acted faster or with more urgency. And they are -- protect us every day. They ran in the building, Chris, right, when we ran out.
CUOMO: Right. Yes. Look, that's what they do. That's why we call them the angels among us. I mean, they're the best-trained, they're the best-staffed, they're the best-equipped. And, unfortunately, they have to deal with this most often in the biggest risk profile you could ever think of, which is the most populous city in the world.
Guys, I will check back with you in one second.
I got Jeff Zeleny, who's got information for us.
Jeff Zeleny, what do you know?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good afternoon.
We heard from the president on this for the first time just a short time ago in the East Room, as you may have seen here, and the president not mincing any words. He was calling the package bombs and the attempted devices a despicable act.
He talked about this at the beginning of a bill signing ceremony that was a rare event here at the White House, Democrats and Republicans alike in that room for an opioid prevention signing bill.
Let's listen to what the president said and what he didn't say.
Actually, I guess we don't have that sound right now, Chris.
So, I will just say he did go on to call it an egregious act. And he did something interesting. He did something we rarely hear this president do. He called for civility and unity. But he did not say at all that he is often the one sowing all these divisions.
Chris, we go to campaign rally after campaign rally, and hear the sounds, the attacks against all of the people who were targeted, the Obamas, the Clintons, Maxine Waters, Eric Holder, and certainly CNN.
The "CNN Sucks" chant Monday night in Houston was as loud as I have heard it for months. The president smiled and said, "I don't like them either."
Now, we do not know if there is a correlation necessarily between the person who sent them, but we do know the president is responsible for his rhetoric. So the president said he has been briefed several times by law enforcement officials and he said he will receive more briefings.
He said the federal government will get to the bottom of this.
But, Chris, I asked him something at the end of the event, if he believes that this is an act of domestic terrorism, like Bill de Blasio, the mayor, there said. The president looked at me, Chris, but did not answer that. So that will be one question here going forward. Does he think this
is an act of domestic terrorism? And he is going to a campaign rally tonight in Wisconsin. We will see if any of that rhetoric changes -- Chris.
CUOMO: Well, look, and that's the right question to ask, Jeff, because we only know what you showed.
The president said the right thing. We should be more civil, because let's be honest, the insults are just used as a proxy for insights. People don't have good enough arguments these days. So they're attacking each other personally, but we will have to see what the president does.
He's clearly compromised in this area. Jeff, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
I want to bring in James Gagliano, I mean, FBI a long time, military- trained. You understand these kinds of investigations.
One thing that struck me early on, Gags, that Jimmy Sciutto was just talking about when we had the anthrax scare at ABC News. That was a time pre and then post-9/11 where we were acutely aware of the foreign threat.
One of the things that I think stunned us this morning was that there was a suspicion that this was us doing this to us. And I don't need to tell -- you have told me -- well, yes, the main terrorist threats in this country are homegrown.
Islam is something that we talk about politically, but it's not a practicality the way homegrown terror is, white nationalist terror is.
But us doing us to ourselves in this moment of such disconnect and toxicity, it really does bring a point home, does it not?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So, Chris...
CUOMO: If it was domestic.
GAGLIANO: Absolutely. And we don't know that. We're doing link analysis.
The number one thing that law enforcement right now is focused on, making sure that another package like this doesn't actually detonate someplace.
The second piece of this then is, let's track down the folks that might have done this, the person or the people that did this.
CUOMO: How hard?
GAGLIANO: Chris, I mean, there's a lot of thing -- look, stamps were used on this.
And this was indicia to me of an amateur packet job. Why? The excessive tape, the fact that they typed out the labels because they think that they're going to be surreptitious and no one's going to find out because they're not using their handwriting.
And then, second of all, the DNA that can come up of the stamps if somebody's licked them, or the other DNA coming off your fingers and things like that. The FBI is going to break this down into two components. There's a domestic terrorism component, and then there's an international terrorism component.
So, to your point, they're not going to make any presuppositions right now. They're going to keep everything out in the open. They're going to follow the evidence wherever it goes.
CUOMO: The politicians can call it terror if they want to. You guys won't until you know what the intent was and whether or not it was done to advance a political agenda.
GAGLIANO: Yes and no.
So, the FBI has to assume in instances this terror first, until proven otherwise. But, to your point, there is a very narrow definition of the term terrorism. It is people that are effecting violence or the threat of same for political or social goals.
We don't know that yet. Now, President Clinton back in 1998 signed a presidential decision, Directive 62, that gives the FBI purview. That doesn't mean that the FBI is a first-responder. This morning, we saw the brave emergency services units from the NYPD. We saw all the cops and the firefighters respond.
The FBI then is going to come in and work with them. This is going to be a collaboration, Chris, definitely not a one-way street.
CUOMO: Let me ask you something. How big a deal you think this is?
GAGLIANO: It's big for number of things.
First of all, the fact that our country right now is so absolutely divided. And I think that there might be people that might have bad intentions or people that might exploit that division. Could these things be inert? Meaning the NYPD is now taking these up to...
CUOMO: Could they have gone or not gone off?
GAGLIANO: Right. Absolutely. And they will take them up there.
If those devices need to be controlled, there need to be a controlled that nation, where they a put a shape charge on it, try to separate the initiator from the actual explosives. They will do that. If not, they have got software now on small tablets that the bomb techs can literally take a picture of that and see if the four components are there. Is there a battery source, right? You need some type of power source. Is there an initiator, something like a det cord?
Is there actually explosives? And that's the big piece. Is there PETN or C4, something like that? And then, lastly, is there a switch?
And, Chris, a switch, remote detonation, you can use a key fob or something like that, a cell phone or a trip wire, as you and I dealt with on the Austin case and cases like that.
CUOMO: So you think that is a big deal because of the number of, because of the timing, and because of the targets?
GAGLIANO: Chris, hard to believe, but seven months ago this week, we were embroiled in the Austin bomber, the serial bomber.
The thing about bombs is that they're not specific. So it's not necessarily the targeted person. Obviously, we're concerned about them. But the people that handle it all along the way. If this device is an active device, the one that was sent to CNN, it would have likely gone off while some mail handler downstairs in the basement was handling it.
So bombs are indiscriminate. They're very serious. It's a major threat. And even though what it appears right now in the face, this was a clumsy, rudimentary device, from every bomb tech that I have spoken to this morning. It's still a serious threat and there could be other devices out there.
CUOMO: All right, Jimmy, let's go to Pam Brown.
She's got some new information for us.
Pamela, what do you know?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to law enforcement sources, Chris, the suspicious package that was sent to Congresswoman Democratic, Congressman Maxine Waters,had similarities to the five other suspicious packages that we have been reporting on throughout the day.
One source that I spoke with said this is based on a number of clues. Of course, one is the timing, when the package was received. It was intercepted at a congressional mail facility in Capitol Heights, Maryland, and we as we reported today.
Also, the packaging. What was on the outside of the package? The similarities there and, of course, the device on the inside, there were similarities of the device on the inside of this package addressed to Maxine Waters and the other five packages. So six in total that law enforcement believes are linked at this point. Chris, we should note that it's not clear if the device inside the package addressed to Maxine Waters was capable of exploding.
But certainly all of this is very concerning to law enforcement, as they try to figure out if there are any more packages with potential explosive devices that have been sent to other people. That is what the main focus is right now.
We have heard from President Trump from the East Room earlier address this, saying that we need more civility, we need to all come together. But as my colleague Jeff Zeleny pointed out, he's going to be at a rally tonight in Wisconsin. And it will be interesting to see if he tones down his rhetoric, given some of the targets with these suspicious packages have been targets of attacks by the president himself and his rhetoric on the campaign trail.
And I spoke to one senior White House officials who said, so far, there haven't been these discussions in the White House about whether the president needs to tamp down his rhetoric on the trail when he goes to this rally tonight. This official saying it's too early to tell, we still don't know the who, what, when and where, what the motive is behind this.
So they're waiting to see how this plays out, what law enforcement determines, and that this official just basically said, look, we're not there yet, in terms of talking about the president's rhetoric.
CUOMO: Yes. And that's one of the frustrations that we have had in covering this White House. If this isn't the time to discuss how he communicates to the American people, I don't know when it is.
Pamela, thank you very much.
Some good news. People going back inside the Time Warner Center, where the CNN studios are.
Kate Bolduan just told me that people are heading back in. I think they wanted to shoot it, or maybe you can grab it from where you are, and you will see people going back in. That's a good sign of progress, life getting back to normal. That's always the antidote to anybody who's trying to scare you, is to show you -- show them that it didn't work and that you're going on with your life the same way.
Now, Pam Brown just gave us some incremental information about who these packages were designed for and addressed to and what that means.
We have Josh Campbell, I believe, at the ready, former FBI agent, obviously, in terms of what that information means.
Josh, if you can hear me, what's your take on what Pamela reported?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, well, obviously, there -- it's very multifaceted when we talk about this investigation.
And we have been talking about these two aspects, Chris, that investigators are really looking on. We have been talking to our sources since this began with the Soros incident and actually progressed until what we have right now.
Two aspects to this. There's a forensic examination, which you talked at length about, looking at these devices, trying to identify commonalities, trying to identify the ingredients. These will all be taken back to the FBI's TEDAC. This is the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center at Quantico, Virginia.
And people will ask, well, if it's in multiple jurisdictions, why would it all go to one place? It's important for one set of investigators to look at each device to identify those commonalities.
And the FBI also brings something else to the table. At TEDAC, they actually have a repository of devices that have been recovered in investigations around the world that all go into this database that they can look and identify signatures, again, try to determine where particular ingredients come from, if they match a particular signature.
So that's the forensic side. There's another separate aspect, Chris, that's under way. And that is the criminology, trying to get into the mind-set of the person or persons who made be responsible.
Now, one commonality which we have been talking about pertains to the target set here. The people that were targeted all have a few things in common, one of which, the most glaring being that these are Democrats. These are people that are progressives.
Obviously, Brennan is the outlier, but he's been someone who's received a lot of wrath from right-wing circles. So you look at those commonalities, again, will help investigators get into the mind-set of the person or persons who are responsible here.
All that will be taken together. Everybody will be tracked. These law enforcement agencies will be fusing resources across the country, again, in order to track back where this came from.
I would say lastly, Chris, knowing that how far investigators have progressed in tracking packages sent through the mail within the last decade, I -- it baffles me to think that people still try to do this, to try to send packages through the United States Postal Service and other delivery services.
It's so sophisticated, Chris. And I have no question that this person will likely be wrapped up in short order. The question is, will there be additional devices that investigators uncover as this progresses?
CUOMO: Right. Josh, thank you so much for the perspective on that. Understand it and appreciate it.
There are a lot of questions that need to be answered. And we do know that the authorities are giving it their full attention, even if they were crude, even if they didn't go off, thank God. They're taking it very seriously because they want to make sure there aren't more and they catch the people involved before they have that opportunity.
So, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona here in New York City on the street now standing by my side.
Senator, good fortune. What brings you to the city?
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Well, I was here actually for a CNN function a day or two ago. And I had some other meetings here. So just happened to be close to Columbus Circle.
CUOMO: What's your reaction to what happened, these suspicious packages?
Obviously, there's a pattern when there are this many this close. And so I hope law enforcement can track it down quickly. This is terrible.
CUOMO: What do you make of this?
We dealt this not too long ago in Austin. It an individual somewhat depraved in doing this. Here, the concern with the targets is that it's more political in nature.
FLAKE: Well, obviously, politicians and news organizations, that's -- it's political.
And so I just hope they get to the bottom of it quickly.
CUOMO: And then you get to the why.
And if we make some assumptions that this was homegrown, it's somebody here, and it's a response to what's going on in our politics, is that something you accept? And what does it mean to you?
FLAKE: Well, I don't want to make any assumptions now. But whatever the case, the overheated rhetoric has gone too far.
We have seen it for the last couple of years. Those of us who were on that ball field where somebody had the list of Republicans in his pocket that he wanted to target. We're seeing it here, where people on the other side of the spectrum are being targeted.
We have seen it on all sides. And everybody needs to cool it down.
CUOMO: Kate and I were talking before, Kate Bolduan, and I, that even if this has nothing to do with what is happening in our politics, it's scary enough that it's a moment for us to have some perspective.
What do you think would change the level of discourse?
FLAKE: Well, I hope different -- different rhetoric.
Words matter, and particularly when they're spoken by those of the top of government. What the president says matters. And if he were to take a more civil tone, it would make a difference. It would help.
And so I hope that he does. What he said just a few moments ago was right. We all need to come together. We need to tone down the rhetoric, and I hope that he will follow his own counsel there and do so as well.
CUOMO: A lot of the divisions are ugly ones. It's not like we're fighting over some kind of budgetary items between left and right.
So how do you kind of reconcile the two, that this is about how we recognize differences and diversity and how we treat people? These are fundamental issues.
FLAKE: I mean, we have always had big differences. Differences -- if we treat our opponents as just political opponents, rather than enemies, that will make a difference.
So it needs to come. I mean, civility can't wait until after an election. The president shouldn't refer to the press as the enemy of the people. We all need to watch the rhetoric that we use. It makes a difference. People hear that, and they follow us.
And those of us who are in public office, those of us who are candidates for office need to keep that in mind. It's -- the stakes are too high right now.
CUOMO: Let me put a question to you that I get all the time. And I get to duck it by saying, I'm a journalist. I'm in the question business, not the answer business.
What gives you hope that things will get better?
FLAKE: We have to. We can't go on like this. We got to big of problems to solve than one party can solve on its own.
And so we have got to reach across the aisle and find common ground. And if we don't, it's just going to escalate further.
Right now, all the incentives, though, are to pull us apart. And for candidates for office and for political -- those in politics now, I mean, all the incentives are to rush to one extreme or the other. Otherwise, you will be pilloried by both sides if you express any -- frankly, any thoughtfulness in the middle.
And that's got to change. It really does. And that starts with the voters acting differently and rewarding those who practice civility and want to reach across the aisle, instead of punishing them.
Right now, if you talk about, as a candidate, reaching across the aisle, that ends up in your opponent's ads, not yours. And that has to change.
CUOMO: It's often said politicians will act out of fear of consequence, even before conscience.