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CUOMO PRIME TIME
President Trump's Use of Power; National Interests Versus American Values; Donald Trump Proves That Money Matters More?; Ivanka Trump Using Private E-Mail for Government Business; Accusations of Domestic Violence Against Michael Avenatti. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired November 20, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: For decades, this pioneer in publishing -- she was a publisher when, you know, women didn't even have the same access to the literature. She wrote stories and essays impressing the importance of the idea of the need for a national day of thanks.
All of us, all on the same day, and all of us on the same day in the same way. Why? As a building block of our interconnection, our interdependence, our collective fortune and fate.
She even wrote up recipes and rituals to make the day special, like here's how you should do it. She was obsessed. She wrote several different presidents and got nowhere. Then she wrote Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln saw the genius in her suggestion.
Truly an epiphany. How to deal with the rampant war and bloodshed, the utter despair. Clear indications that no matter who won the war, the nation might be lost. How did he do it? He reminded all those fighting, no matter the side, that together you're going to do more than the way you're doing it right now.
And that even in the midst of all this bloodshed -- and it was terrible. It makes what we're dealing with today meaningless. You still should be thankful because there are going to be better days. What a key.
Lincoln spoke as the leader of all, not half. He was the union commander. He did not call himself that. He was giving thanks as a way not just to recognize blessings but to heal. He wrote, with one heart and one voice. That's who we are. And he was right.
Days of division. Can you imagine living through those days? An echo of this perspective. The national holiday still wasn't passed then in 1863. It wasn't until Congress did it in 1941, and, again, think about these dates. Washington in the midst of that early despair. Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War, 1941, we know what was happening there, right? We had just gotten done with the Great Depression, kind of. We still weren't.
The president FDR signed this into law right after Pearl Harbor. Once again, in a time of national crisis, the worst attack on domestic soil at the time, reeling from the Great Depression, FDR saw the coming of Thanksgiving, a point of national resolve, all of us in it together. The truth greater than the vagaries of the time. Even Pearl Harbor.
The reality that we have much to be thankful for as Americans as one of those interconnected and interdependent in a place and during a time where the best is still yet to come.
That's the story of Thanksgiving, and it comes again this year just like it does every year, and it is exactly the right time with what we're dealing with.
So, me? I'm going to give thanks. I have so many blessings. I'm wildly fortunate. And I'm going to include you. Trolls too because we are all in this together. Thanksgiving is designed and forged from hard fates to remind us of exactly that. The best is still yet to come.
Happy Thanksgiving to you, and here's my early Thanksgiving gift. Another hour of me. Don is off tonight, so we're going to have another hour of Prime Time. what do you say? Let's get after it.
Come on, admit. That's a heck of a story. Now, you can dislike your political enemies, but did the president try to cross a line that should not be crossed? We know how the president feels about Hillary Clinton and James Comey, but did he really attempt to arguably abuse his power by trying to have them prosecuted?
"The New York Times" says it all went down last spring, and a source tells CNN that Don McGahn, then White House counsel, squashed the idea, reportedly warning the president once again that if you do something like this, bad things could happen to you.
The news raises even more red flags about Trump's appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting A.G. He once said he would indict Hillary. Cuomo's court in session.
Norm Eisen, Michael Zeldin. Gentlemen, thank you for joining me just before Thanksgiving. I am thankful for both of you handsome lads.
NORM EISEN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Let's bandy it about. Norm Eisen, I'm the president of the United States. I'm in charge of the DOJ. You work for me. I come to you, and I say, A.G., this Clinton, I think she's shady. James Comey, I think he had it in for me. Go figure it out. What did I do wrong?
EISEN: Well, Chris, what you've done there is send a signal about abuse of power. One of the grossest signals of such an abuse in American history.
I had the privilege of talking to the president, sitting in the Oval Office. And when a president says he's thinking that he wants to order the prosecution of someone, that's taken very seriously. That's a signal of intent.
[22:05:04] And you know the proof that it was taken seriously and that this was extremely close to action? Don McGahn felt that he had to act. They had to write a memo. They had to talk the president out of him. So clearly, when you study the facts, this was a signal of an abuse of a very grave kind.
CUOMO: Michael Zeldin, Don McGahn is a nervous Nellie. He writes memos all the time. I'm just throwing out a suggestion as president. And, yes, I'm angry at them. Yes, I think they had it in for me. And, yes, I think that laws were broken. And as president, I am the ultimate executive. The DOJ is under me. I can suggest that they look at things. Who says I ordered it? Prove it. There's no proof of that, but I'm suggesting you go look at it. I don't like what they did. Where's the abuse?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not illegal. I think that the president, acting under his constitutional prerogatives as head of the executive branch, can order the Justice Department to institute an investigation. The Justice Department should then exercise its independent judgment to determine whether or not that prosecution is worthy.
So, in a pure criminal justice sense, I think the president was in his legal rights to do so. From, to Norm's point, from an abuse of power standpoint, from using the offices of the president in a way that is unbecoming of the office, which is in the words of Hamilton in the Federalist papers, an abuse of the position of that office, I think McGahn was correct to say to him, if you do this notwithstanding the constitutional right you may have to ask us to do this, you are treading very close to abusing the powers of your office.
And I think that's what convinced the president to stand down from his request as mad as he was at Comey and Clinton.
CUOMO: So, the legal distinction winds up becoming a matter of the how really, and not the intention behind it but how you get to it. Then what we know about that right now according to the New York Times and CNN's own reporting, Norm, is that the president at some point was in a meeting with Rod Rosenstein. We know him, deputy A.G. He's in charge of the Mueller probe for now.
And then chief of staff for A.G. Jeff Sessions, now acting A.G. Matthew Whitaker. Which is it, Norm Eisen? Is this a man that the president hardly knows, or is this a man who is important enough and significant enough that he would be at a meeting where the president says, where are we on going after Comey and Clinton?
EISEN: Yes. Whitaker is not a stranger to the president. He's been described reportedly as the eyes and ears of the White House in the Justice Department. This is not a cabinet agency that the president doesn't care about. Perhaps his most significant grievance is that the previous A.G., Jeff Sessions, recused himself.
Let's make no mistake about it, Chris. Matt Whitaker was put there because the president knew full well that he would be a compliant A.G. Now, I think when you put that together with the news that the president was tiptoeing up to this abuse of power and you no longer have the resistance that Jeff Sessions represented, indeed you have Whitaker, who says he won't recuse himself.
The opposite of Sessions despite powerful legal reasons to recuse. We can never take this as normal. We are in an extremely dangerous place for our democracy.
CUOMO: I have two questions, one for each of you, and they're about the Mueller probe. Let me ask you each one. Give me a quick answer on it. Michael Zeldin, they now have the answers. They're going to review them. Do you believe that the special counsel comes back to the White House with more questions?
ZELDIN: I think that the special counsel reviews the questions and then determines whether he needs any more information. If he does, then I think he comes back. The question is how does he come back? Does he come back with a second set of written interrogatories, or does he seek an appointment -- permission from the Justice Department to subpoena the president, to say enough with the take-home test. We're going to do this by oral communications in respect of a grand jury subpoena. That's what we look forward.
CUOMO: Norm, I'm out of time, but give me a quick percentage that this is correct, that the president is going to -- the special counsel is going to wrap up his probe. It's going to have nothing to do with obstruction because the DOJ is going to have decided there's nothing. There's no way for them to proceed. What chance is that true?
EISEN: I think there's a 5 percent or less that it has nothing to do with obstruction, Chris. There's such substantial evidence of obstruction. No way the Bob Mueller who I know and Mike Zeldin knows is going to just let that pass without at least attempting to report to Congress substantial evidence of obstruction.
CUOMO: I'm with you. I understand you guys are my betters, 100 percent. I'm just saying there were no questions about obstruction in this set that were--
[22:10:04] EISEN: Because he's got him in the bag, Chris.
CUOMO: Maybe. I'm just saying he didn't ask him anything about it. Norm Eisen, Michael Zeldin, I would never presume to know better than either of you. I'm thankful for you both. Gentlemen, the best for you and your families. God bless. Happy Thanksgiving.
EISEN: Happy Thanksgiving.
ZELDIN: Welcome, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. That's what the president says in defiance once again of his own intelligence community. The CIA with high confidence says the Saudi crown prince had something to do with the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The president -- maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. Why protect the Saudis? Why say America first when you're putting a main value of America last? Even some Republicans are appalled. That's why we must have a great debate, and there they are. Next.
CUOMO: It was a day of presidential pardons for President Donald Trump. Just moments before his annual White House turkey pardon -- he actually did two of them -- he also extended a massive pass to Saudi Arabia for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
[22:15:02] Never mind that the CIA determined the crown prince, MBS, ordered the execution. That's what they find with high confidence. How does the president take it today? He says, well, maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. And besides, it's about money, not morals. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's all about, for me, very simple. It's America first. Saudi Arabia, if we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof. I've kept them down. They've helped me keep them down. I'm not going to destroy the world economy, and I'm not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia. We are with Saudi Arabia. We're staying with Saudi Arabia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Who says that it's all or none? Who says that you can't put America first without surrendering America's first value for the world, which is human rights? What's going on here?
Let's debate it. Angela Rye and Steve Cortes. Steve, I give you the ball first. Help us understand why what the president just said was right.
STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Chris, I will tell you human rights are very important in the United States, but I would disagree with your premise. It's not our first priority. Our first priority is America's interests. And that's why, for example--
CUOMO: Life doesn't come first?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
CORTES: And -- no, and hold on. America's interests come first. That's why, for example, in World War II, we had a close military alliance with Joseph Stalin, a monster, OK? The Saudi royal family is a bunch of altar boys compared to Joseph Stalin. But Stalin and the United States had shared interests in defeating Nazi Germany.
CUOMO: Stalin, the man who used to talk about Russia first and nationalism and enemies of the people.
CORTES: Right. CUOMO: We seem to have adopted that language again, Steve.
CORTES: No, no. He was a monster who starved and killed people cruelly.
CUOMO: Weird guy to echo.
CORTES: And yet, and yet, we had -- no, no, but my point is and yet America had a shared interest there and it made sense. The same is true for Saudi Arabia. Are they perfect? Far from it. Neither is China by the way. If we want to talk about this, China, America's largest trading partner, OK, has a reprehensible human rights record.
There's no freedom of thought. There's censorship. There's no religious liberty. And yet we trade to a larger extent with China than any nation on earth.
CORTES: Why. Not because we like their human rights record, but because again there's a shared interest, a commercial interest in trade.
CUOMO: Remember that time that they killed that Washington Post journalist? Me neither. Angela Rye, that's--
CORTES: I remember when they put -- I remember when they put the Nobel Prize winner, their own, in prison.
CUOMO: In prison. Their own.
CORTES: And he died in prison.
CUOMO: Their own.
CORTES: Yes. He practically died in prison.
CUOMO: yes, that's right. But--
CORTES: They let him out weeks before he died.
CUOMO: They didn't kill the journalist--
CORTES: So, let's not act like China is--
CUOMO: This isn't about China.
CORTES: China is, everything is awful in Saudi Arabia.
CUOMO: Don't destruct. RYE: This is a red herring.
CUOMO: What I'm saying is this.
RYE: It's a red herring.
CUOMO: Look, there are lots of bad guys in the world. Nobody says that there aren't. But here's what we saw today, Angela. The president said, the CIA, I don't trust them. That's what he said. They say the prince ordered it. He said maybe he did, maybe he didn't. He can't say that. He knows nothing better than the CIA. I doubt he even read the report that they gave him about it. But he says they're wrong.
Then he says, I'm not turning down 400 billion trillion, whatever that number is. It's the wrong number. It's $400 million. And he knows that his analysts have told him they need our stuff. They can't buy from Russia or China. It won't be compatible with the stuff they already have which is our stuff. And then he says, I'm about America first. How is America first if its value of supporting life isn't first?
RYE: Yes. Life and liberty. There's a little document that this country was founded upon, right, where these are supposed to be the premier interests of this country. And the ways in which we should protect people representing our country's interests. That is an American interest. That is an American value.
But this president, whose conscience has been seared with a hot iron, which is scriptural, is clear. And he just -- he is -- he lacks decency. He -- anyway, let me go back to my point.
There are three things that Donald Trump did today that I find completely jarring. When faced with a question about the death of this journalist, Donald Trump pushes back and talks about oil prices. When faced with the death of this journalist, Donald Trump pushes back and talks about a jobs program. He's talking about this arms sales program, right?
There are all of these things that he does, and then he goes on to say that they're our partner. They're our ally. He's standing with Saudi Arabia.
My question to Donald Trump would be, if he's watching, which we know sometimes he does, why are you so beholden to the interests of the Saudis over what's in the best interest of this country? When you have a bipartisan outcry saying this is a problem, we want an investigation into this, we want sanctions, this is not sufficient.
And even if he can say maybe he didn't, maybe he didn't, the fact that he does not know with certainty is also troubling. He should have erred on the other side and said because I don't know, all bets are off.
[22:20:01] We're not having any dealings with the Saudis until we get to the bottom of this. That is inherently problematic.
(CROSSTALK) CORTES: I can answer that.
RYE: And all I -- I'm sorry, Steve. I wasn't asking you that. I said I hope Donald Trump was watching.
CORTES: Right. I got you.
RYE: But I also was going to say, the other point is I hope that when the Democrats take over the House in January and well-meaning Republicans step forward and they know -- they remember what we're really all about, that they hold Donald Trump to account for this.
Perhaps some of this information will be found in his tax returns. Perhaps some of the business interests that he talked about today, that he doesn't have -- nobody asked him. Maybe some of those things will come to light. Somebody has something on this guy if he's willing to lay it all on the line for the Saudis and not for this American journalist.
CUOMO: Well, look, Steve, as we already know, Republican senators and Democratic senators came forward with a letter some time ago. Corker put it out again today, Senator Corker by tweet--
CUOMO: -- under the Magnitsky Act, that they're asking for the president to find facts and report to them within a certain statutory period about what happened with Khashoggi. I don't know why the CIA support won't suffice on that level. Maybe they're saying well, if the president doesn't believe it, they want to know what he knows that makes him not believe what the CIA said.
But, you know, one of his guys called me today and said, hold on a second. The president has this right. You don't surrender the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia. We never have. That's why Pompeo came out and said there's a lot of mean people, bad things in the world. True. But that's not what he said, Steve. Nobody's asking him to go to war with Saudi Arabia because of Jamal Khashoggi. But that's not what he said.
He said, I'm all about America first. I'm putting America first. The money, the jobs. Why did he say it that way if that's not what he meant?
CORTES: Well, by the way, which, again, I have to bring this up. That's exactly why we trade with China, with another country with an awful human rights record currently, not just historically. We trade with them because it's in our interest.
CUOMO: But what does it say to China and Russia that you can kill a Washington Post journalist, do terrible things to him, lie about it, and we will say, as long as we're making money off you, we're cool?
CORTES: No. And by the way, too, it's not just about money in the case of Saudi Arabia. And this is crucial. This is why I brought up Stalin before, because there is an emerging alliance of the gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States, all taking on Iran.
And Iran has been now, for a generation, the prime force of instability not just in that region but also exporter of terror globally. So much like we aligned ourselves with the awful Stalin against the even worse Nazis, we are aligning ourselves with the house of Saud as terribly imperfect as it is because they are an ally along with Israel along with the United States in opposing and containing the threat that is Tehran. So, the strategic--
CUOMO: He didn't mention Iran today.
RYE: Not at all.
CUOMO: He didn't mention Iran.
CORTES: Why would he had?
CUOMO: But let's say that's true, OK? Wouldn't it be nice, Angela, if you had some kind of collar around that dog that Iran may be some kind of deal that kind of keeps them in check and makes them worry about their ability to trade.
CORTES: We do. Sanctions.
CUOMO: Yes. We had a much better one with the deal, right, that you took off their neck.
RYE: And he also want--
CUOMO: And isn't it odd, Steve--
CORTES: And a billion and a half in cash.
CUOMO: Angela, as soon as they took it off, that was money already owed them and you know that. That was several generations old, the money that was owed to them.
CUOMO: But the point is they took the collar off Iran, and they said they'd start to heal more. Boy, they've got a weird way of getting in line, don't they?
RYE: I guess my issue is this. It's very simple. Donald Trump stood up before the American people and before the world to see today that there is no penalty whatsoever for killing an American journalist on foreign soil, like that is a huge-- (CROSSTALK)
CORTES: He's not an American.
RYE: I'm sorry, but he works --
CORTES: He's not an American. That's not true.
RYE: -- he works for an American publication.
CUOMO: "The Washington Post." Right.
RYE: "The Washington Post."
CORTES: If they had killed an American, this would be an entirely different conversation if he had killed an American.
RYE: My God. The point--
CORTES: If they had killed an American.
CUOMO: But actually, it could be. Angela, just so you know a point--
CORTES: The Saudis killed a Saudi--
CUOMO: Wait. A point to Angela's side -- Steve, you better not say that. You better not say that because you better not be drawing a distinction about which lives matter more, because the rationale better hold if it was an American.
RYE: We do--
CUOMO: If it was an American who got killed--
CORTES: To America, American matters a lot.
CUOMO: If you were a human being who got killed, God forbid who got killed in the United States had a different posture as much as the president goes out of his way to get people to try to hate us--
CORTES: To the United States--
CUOMO: -- then what would that send us a message about your strategic alliance? Is it just that he wasn't American, so it's OK? But if it were an American--
RYE: Yes. So, let me get back to my point.
CORTES: No, no, of course it doesn't mean that it's OK.
RYE: Yes. Yes, of course -- of course it does because-- (CROSSTALK)
CORTES: But it means that it's not -- there is not a U.S. national security interest when a foreign country that we already know as the president--
RYE: What do you mean?
CORTES: -- kills one of its citizens, it is not remotely the same as killing an American citizen. And, Chris, come on, let's be honest. You know that those aren't even in the same universe.
RYE: This is someone -- time out.
CUOMO: What matters is what you value. Go ahead, Angela.
RYE: You regularly make judgments -- you regularly make judgments about the weight of an ally, and this is someone who was an ally to us. The problem is -- and this is where I was going initially -- is Donald Trump sees the press as his enemy. Donald Trump sees the press more of his enemy than the Saudis because he can put a dollar figure next to it.
[22:25:00] He is aligning himself with the Saudi prince, with the Saudis, because he sees and understands what it's like to be questioned. He sees questions and accountability as a tax. That is the real issue here.
So, he is siding and aligning himself with people who have been threatened by the mere questions, threatened by the mere seeking of accountability of folks in power. And he has already made it very clear with folks who also sit on this network that the press is his greatest enemy. That is the truth, and that is a painful pill that you all don't want to swallow.
CORTES: And all he has done is criticize the press. He has not done one thing to infringe upon the freedom of the press in this country. The press is able to say--
(CROSSTALK) RYE: I'm sorry. Jim Acosta. Jim Acosta. Jim Acosta. April Ryan.
CORTES: He can say--
RYE: Abby Phillips. Yamiche Alcindor. Are you kidding me?
CORTES: They can say whatever they want whenever they want about the president of the United States.
RYE: And get their press pass and rescinded Jim Acosta. There's a temporary restraining order that's going to get lifted and he's making it again. Are you serious?
CORTES: His press pass -- his press pass was removed for very poor behavior. Nothing was done to the organization of CNN.
RYE: Come on, bro. You don't mean that. You don't mean that.
CORTES: Nothing was done to the organization.
RYE: He asked him -- no, do not do that to Jim.
CORTES: And no, I'm tired of constant -- I'm tired of constantly hearing about how he somehow abusing freedom of the press. That is simply, that is a lie. That's fake news.
CORTES: He has done nothing to impinge upon--
RYE: No. What's fake news is your whole presentation right now.
CORTES: -- the freedom of the press in this country, and you cannot compare him to MBS or to anybody in the house of Saud, whoever it was, who ordered the murder of a journalist.
CUOMO: That's not our standard, Steve. You don't have to kill somebody--
RYE: I'm sorry you have to die for it to be an attack on the freedom of the press.
CUOMO: We're not there yet, pal. The line isn't everything's OK but murder.
CORTES: What he has done -- no.
CUOMO: We're not there yet.
RYE: That's actually sick. CORTES: What he has done is criticized the press with his words.
CUOMO: He's done a lot--
RYE: No. He's actually put -- time-out. He's actually put people's lives in danger. Do you know there are people who sit on this network who are getting death threats because of your president's rhetoric? That is the truth.
CORTES: You know, hey, Angela, you know what? I do know there's people getting death threats. You know why? Because I happen to be one of them, OK?
RYE: Yes, but it's not because of Donald Trump's rhetoric.
CORTES: Because the vitriol in this country -- the vitriol in this country -- no, it's because of the left. It's because of antifa, quite frankly. The vitriol--
CUOMO: Is that why that guy sent me a bomb? Is that why we have bombs sent here, because of antifa?
CORTES: Are you saying that antifa is not violent? That they have not acted--
CUOMO: I'm saying that's not who sent the bomb to my office, Steve. This is over.
CORTES: Threaten people like me?
CUOMO: Let's take it up after Thanksgiving.
RYE: Steve, I want to give you a round of applause because you are an epic at--
CORTES: That antifa is not real?
CUOMO: Steve, Steve, please.
RYE: You win. You win because you come -- you go on all kind of tangents that have nothing to do--
CUOMO: When somebody threatens you and your family and your safety, I hope that the first thing that comes to mind is, well, you know, there are bad things that other people do too. I guess I won't take it too personally. Steve--
CORTES: No. That doesn't come to my mind at all.
CUOMO: -- don't destruct to something like somebody sending a bomb to our offices because he was picking up on what was being put down by the president of the United States.
CORTES: Chris, my point is this.
CUOMO: Don't hide from the fact. It's not becoming. All right?
CORTES: I'm not hiding. There is political violence.
CUOMO: Yes, there's political violence--
CORTES: There is political violence and political threats on both sides of this country and that's a problem.
CUOMO: It's not a both sides situation. We've got one president, one man who sets a tone, one man who says I'm evil, one man who says I'm an enemy, one man who gets people crazy enough to come up to me in the street, all right, and it is not nobody from antifa. I'll tell you that right now.
CORTES: OK. All right. Hold on. Plenty of people -- Chris, plenty of people, number one--
CORTES: -- plenty of people come up to me in the street.
CUOMO: Yes, good.
CORTES: Number two, you cannot say that it doesn't have it on both sides. Tell that to Steve Scalise.
CUOMO: They should kiss you and say, Steve, thank you for being a beautiful expression of the tolerance in the first amendment in the United States.
CORTES: Tell it to Scalise that it doesn't happen in both directions.
CUOMO: I got to go. Listen--
CORTES: I think--
RYE: He doesn't. And that's how you're trying to clean it at all.
CUOMO: Listen, let me just make this very clear in the spirit of Thanksgiving, all right? I'm telling you right now that a tone is set on the top in this country. That's where the tone comes from.
If this president did not speak the way he does, he would not get the coverage that he does. If he did not abuse the truth the way he does and villainize his opponents and demonize those that he wants people to turn against, there would be a different tone in this country.
If he takes his own advice that he gave to the turkeys today, peas and carrots, we would be in a better place. It is on him to lead. That's why he was elected. You were not, my brother. Neither was I. Angela probably would be, but she's not there either.
CORTES: OK. If we're going to stop demonizing--
RYE: Not likely.
CUOMO: That's what it is.
CORTES: If we're going to stop demonizing how about mainstream media stops calling all of us racist? Stop comparing us--
CUOMO: Have I ever called you a racist? Have I ever called you a racist?
RYE: I don't call Steve a racist, but, boy,--
CORTES: You have not, but plenty of people are.
CUOMO: Let's leave it there. I'm way out of time, and we are now unproductive.
RYE: Red herring, Steve. Red herring, Steve.
CUOMO: Red herring. That's not going to stick unless the president gives him a nickname.
CORTES: I've been call words.
RYE: That's definitely going to stick.
CUOMO: We all have. Steve, be well. Have a happy Thanksgiving. The best to you and your family.
CORTES: Thank you. You, too. Angela, as always, be blessed and thank you for being on my show. RYE: Thank you. You too, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. So, look, when the president comes out and says, I don't know about my CIA, and look, we've got a lot of money on the table, and the world is a mean place. This Khashoggi thing, it is what it is. How does that make America look to the world? What do you think?
[22:29:56] Let's talk to somebody who advised six secretaries of state, helped shape America's policy in the Middle East. What does he think the message is? Next.
CUOMO: We've never had a President, at least in my memory, say outwardly that, look, I know somebody was murdered, but we've got a lot of money on the table. The President apparently proved today that the money matters more. The politics and the convenience matters more. So Saudi Arabia is going to have his support even with overwhelming evidence that the Crown Prince ordered the murder of a Virginia resident and a Washington Post journalist.
He wasn't an American citizen, but he did work for an American company, and he was a journalist. And by the way, he was also innocent. So where does that leave us? What message does it send to the world? Aaron David Miller joins me now. Welcome back to Primetime. Let the audience know in complete transparency I lean on ADM on a regular basis for understanding a lot of these machinations. Sometimes I talk to him directly. Sometimes I don't.
ADM, I would have called you if I couldn't get you on TV tonight and asked you, am I being naive? I know there are bad people in the world. I know that we've had lots of strategic alliances with bad people. I didn't need Steve Cortes to remind me about Stalin. I think Steve Cortes and a lot of Trump folks should be reminded about echoing Stalin's rhetoric that they're doing these days.
But is the reality that we need Saudi Arabia so much that there can be no truth to power about what happened to Khashoggi?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean you don't have to be a Middle East expert, Chris, to know the answer to that is no. You know I worked and voted for R's and D's and I have never, ever in 25-plus years in government ever seen a statement quite like this. I have to applaud the President in his economy of language. In 633 words, he managed to undermine the credibility of his intelligence organization, particularly the CIA, boost the credibility of a regime that willfully planned and executed the murder of not an American citizen.
[22:34:50] But in full disclosure, a friend of mine, and a guy who was going to come to the Woodrow Wilson Center as a visiting journalist, he emptied the frame of American foreign policy of any ethical or moral sensibilities and values and principles. And at the same time to boot, he managed to exaggerate what exactly the Saudis have done for the United States. So no, the U.S./Saudi relationship is important. They're not an ally, Chris.
They're a security partner. We don't share common values with the Saudis. And frankly to Steve's point, it's not a question of values or interests. If John McCain were here, he would tell you our values are our interests and vice versa. But in this case, not only are the Saudis undermining American values. Over the last year and a half, as a consequence of MBS' reckless and impulsive policies, they've been also undermining American interests.
So we don't need to throw the relationship out. We don't need to undermine or destroy it. We need to find a way to inject greater balance, greater symmetry, reciprocity, and rationality into this. And frankly, that's going to be a real heavy lift in the coming weeks and months.
CUOMO: Are they so key to our plans for the Middle East and stability in the region?
MILLER: I mean I think there's a lot of magical thinking in the administration on this point. I think the President -- he went to Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem, Riyadh and Jerusalem, Chris, first foreign foray. Most of his predecessors went to Canada or Mexico. So he invested heavily in two countries that he accused Obama of undermining. And the reality is, yes, he's made Saudi Arabia the linchpin of our regional strategy.
They're supposed to keep oil prices stable. They're supposed to help us contain Iran. They're supposed to help us facilitate Israeli/Palestinian peacemaking. But the reality is a lot of those are project incompletes. And some of them with respect to containing Iran, I think they've produced the opposite effect. I think the Saudi war in Yemen has enhanced Iranian room to maneuver. And their economic siege of Qatar has cemented ties between Doha and Tehran.
So far from a force of stability, I think a case can be made without some course correction, Chris, that they're a force for instability.
CUOMO: Is there merit to the argument, in your opinion, that the posture of America here is a nice, wide-eyed message for strongmen in other parts of the world.
MILLER: A hundred percent. And you didn't need -- the most tragic manifestation of this is the way that we have acquiesced and enabled the Saudis to conclude that frankly there's nothing they couldn't do that we wouldn't somehow acquiesce in. Not support. I mean this isn't on Trump. This is on MBS. But the reality is we've been coddling dictators and authoritarians since the beginning of the administration.
And by the way, this is not the first administration not to put human rights as the centerpiece of its foreign policy agenda. But the reality is I think that this President has literally emptied the entire frame of American foreign policy of its moral values and its ethical principles. And frankly, that's really bad for America.
CUOMO: Especially if something really bad happens. And now we're going to have to see what America's posture is going forward and how it's perceived in those situations, ADM, love and respect for you, the best to you and your family.
MILLER: Chris, likewise. And I hope you have a safe and a wonderful thanksgiving, Chris. And maybe we can see fewer arguments at thanksgiving tables across the country. I am hoping to try to enjoy mine.
CUOMO: Good. Just don't come to my house, then, if you're looking for peace. It's never like that in a good year. Aaron David Miller, thank you and God bless.
MILLER: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Ivanka Trump, you know what happened with her. Did she break any laws by using private e-mail for government business? Even a powerful Republican wants more information as the President comes to his daughter's defense. See it, next.
[22:40:00] CUOMO: President Trump, of course, defending his daughter, Ivanka's use of personal e-mail for official White House business. Here's the defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no hiding. There was no deleting like Hillary Clinton did. There were no servers in the basement like Hillary Clinton had. You're talking about a whole different -- you're talking about all fake news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: This is not fake news. Even Republican and House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy, Captain Benghazi, sent a letter to the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, asking for more details. Let's get after it with April Ryan, Ryan Lizza, and David Swerdlick. It's good to see you all.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Let me play proxy here for a moment. April Ryan, it is something that must be looked at, because after she was given notice not to use it anymore, she did. However, is it Hillary Clinton? Is it the same type of communications from the same kind of position, from the same kind of person? I could argue easily no, you?
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Chris, one thing. Anytime you're at that level and you defy what you've been told, something's wrong.
RYAN: But nonetheless, she heard her father, who she supports as a senior administration official. She heard her father talk about this on the campaign trail. Lock her up, why lock her up, because of these e-mails and this server. And in turn, she essentially did the same thing, using her private e-mails to send business from the White House on private e-mails.
And I even asked the President today. I tried to ask a question of the President today as he was leaving to go to Florida. You know, Mr. President, what do you think about Elijah Cummings and this possible investigation about the e-mails. And he smiled and walked away and pointed at me and then said whatever.
So you know he gave that answer that you just played a minute ago. But he's very flip about this. This is very serious. It's very serious, Chris.
CUOMO: Yeah. Be careful if you ask a follow-up question, April, by the way. I don't want you to be...
RYAN: I didn't ask a follow-up question. I was respectful. I was respectful.
CUOMO: Be careful, decorum, decorum, also known as censorship. Ryan Lizza, where do you think this goes with Ivanka?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, all of these issues that over the last two years have been, you know, major media stories and then they just sort of die. Well, that's all now going to change come January when the Democrats take over the House, and they have this enormous power to investigate anything they want.
[22:44:57] And so I think the Trump administration is about to realize what kind of change and what it's going to be like when another party controls one of the two chambers. So undoubtedly, because of -- look, I am probably the only person in Washington who never really thought that the Hillary Clinton e-mail thing was that big a deal.
It was significant, you know, anytime the FBI gets involved with something, it's obvious very serious. There were legitimate questions there. But I always thought it was sort of blown out of proportion. And frankly, what I have seen of this story is, yes, legitimate. These records acts are very important. It's important to preserve these records.
LIZZA: But, you know, it doesn't seem like a high crime. I mean I think the issues related to whether Ivanka Trump should be serving in the White House at all and the precedents over nepotism are far worse than this e-mail thing. But having said all that, House Democrats are certainly going to investigate this because the irony is so rich, right?
CUOMO: The hypocrisy is so rich.
LIZZA: That's right.
CUOMO: But here's the problem. David, let me put this to you.
CUOMO: Here's the challenge. The Democrats get this power, OK? They have the chairmanships. They can do oversight. They can subpoena. Do you really want to come out of the box looking at Ivanka Trump's e- mails? Is this really how they want to come out of the gate, showing how they flex?
SWERDLICK: I think you make a good point, Chris. I don't think that should be their top priority, partly due to Ryan's point that this may not be the biggest fish to fry. It may not rise to the level of some of the other issues that are facing Democrats as they come in and look at the Trump administration. But I think what it raises is this bigger question of Ms. Trump acting as if, if you go by the Washington Post reporting -- excuse me -- the New York Times reporting.
The rules don't apply to her and don't apply to her family, as you said, the hypocrisy. That, I think, is what is going to come out as this story spools out. Whether or not there's any, you know, criminal implications, whether or not there was anything classified in there, it's about not following the rules that everybody else has to follow.
CUOMO: April, you know, I was joking around before. You know, in truth, I really shouldn't. I really don't know what's going to happen in terms of what kind of rules and who gets to vet them and is there any kind of agreement, and what is really due process, and are we going to have to wind up having to go back to a judge to have a determination about what the First Amendment entitles reporters to.
But what's your gut on this, April, in terms of where -- I heard that you were hopping around in your seat during my debate segment with Steve Cortes and Angela Rye when he said that the President has never done anything...
RYAN: I was.
CUOMO: He's never done anything to free speech in this country, never. He just criticizes us.
RYAN: Oh, my god, your producers know too much, yeah.
CUOMO: You were on camera, my love.
RYAN: The President has done something. I know I was.
RYAN: You know here's the problem, Chris. We have -- this moment in time is a historic moment, because you have to remember every time there's a challenge to one of the amendments or freedom, you know, it sets a moment where it could go one way or the other. And if it goes in the wrong way, we lose access. We lose the freedom that the founding fathers put in place. We lose that robust back and forth with the President of the United States.
And again, it's not about us. It's about the American public getting the information. And you said something so succinctly. You said censorship with this decorum and these guidelines. You know once you get a question and he gives an answer or she gives an answer, you sometimes want to flush it out to find out a little bit more. It doesn't just end there.
The President wants to call on who he likes, who he feels likes him, who he feels will make him look good in this wonderful light, give him a halo. Well, right now, everything is not halo-worthy. Everything is not pretty. Some of it is on a garbage can lid, and we have to report it. And it's not about what you like. It's about the fact that you are the President of the United States, and what is Presidential, we report on.
CUOMO: A hundred percent. I think that the President should pick on only the people he likes. Do it any way he wants. He just can't stop the questions from coming. That's the whole problem. I don't care if he never calls on anybody that he doesn't like. That's on him. He'll be judged for that. That's politics. That's his power of persuasion. It works, or it doesn't work.
But, Ryan, the problem is when you start creating rules to stop questions from coming that you don't like to answer. And is there any question in your mind that if this judge hadn't stepped in, if CNN and all those other media companies that joined hadn't sued, he would have gladly put together rules to bounce you out on your ass if you say something he doesn't like.
LIZZA: I think you're right. Although I think, you know, the litigation is always a gamble with these situations, because you don't know if some new case law is going to be created that could go the other way against our interests in the press.
CUOMO: Scared money never wins, Ryan. Scared money never wins.
[22:49:55] LIZZA: The outcome CNN got was pretty good, is that he was reinstated. The hard pass was reinstated. And these rules will now be tested. I mean the White House has always tried to control that -- those press conferences, right? But we've never actually -- the way that they usually control them is just having a preplanned list of the reporters they're going to call on, right, or call on people who you think are going to treat you a certain way.
But having basically a content restriction now, right? Not the force of law but a regulation with the threat of a penalty, that is absolutely new and unprecedented. And you know...
CUOMO: I don't think it would pass muster.
LIZZA: I don't think it would either. But, you know, I know April and others in that room are going to test it on day one. And, you know, I think we'll be back at loggerheads.
CUOMO: Twenty reporters in the last briefing asked follow-up questions. Let me ask you each quickly before I let you go.
CUOMO: Thanksgiving is coming. Swerdlick, I start with you. What are you thankful for?
SWERDLICK: I'm thankful for my family and I'm thankful that, you know, we as Americans still can find things to agree on, even though there is a lot of the disagreement and a lot of, you know, discord in the country right now. There's no question about that.
CUOMO: Ryan Lizza, what have you got?
LIZZA: Sorry, Chris, no follow-up questions here. You know a lot of personal things I am thankful for. But, you know, in the wake of the elections, and I don't mean this in a partisan way. I am thankful that our system works the way I think our founders intended it to work. We had a big controversial presidency for two years and a midterm election that offered a correction the way that I think the system was meant to work.
And you know I am thankful that as dark and scary sometimes the Trump presidency is. The system is actually adjusting.
CUOMO: April, I saved you for last because frankly, you're my favorite. What are you thankful for this year?
RYAN: Oh. I am thankful for love. I am thankful for my children. I am thankful for the April Army that's supporting me in the midst of all of this, Chris. I didn't know there were people out there who were really watching. And they thank me, and I thank God for freedom of the press. I thank God for freedom. I thank God for this country.
CUOMO: Beautiful. Thanks to each of you for what you are everyday. I am thankful for my brothers and sisters that make truth a priority in this country. Be well, be blessed, the best to your families, happy thanksgiving.
SWERDLICK: Happy thanksgiving, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Not such a great thanksgiving for Trump antagonist, Michael Avenatti. He's being ordered to stay away from the woman who accuses him of domestic violence. We have new information on the allegations and what they could mean for him, next.
[22:55:00] CUOMO: All right. We are learning more about the accusations of domestic violence against Stormy Daniels' outspoken attorney, Michael Avenatti. Aspiring actress, Mareli Miniutti, got a restraining order after accusing Avenatti of physical and verbal abuse. Avenatti was arrested last week, but he's free on bail and has not been charged in the case. Athena Jones is following, joins us, thank you for jumping in on this. What do you know?
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know that, as you said, Mareli Miniutti has accused Avenatti of physical and verbal violence. She says in this incident last week, he called her a number of things. He called her an ungrateful expletive female dog. He forcefully hit her, she says, with pillows from the bed. And then also from the restraining order she says he dragged me on the floor of the apartment towards and out of the door into the public hallway.
I was wearing only my underwear and t-shirt at the time and suffered scratches to the bare skin on my side and leg. That's coming straight from the restraining order she was granted just yesterday.
CUOMO: Avenatti response?
JONES: Avenatti is denying this repeatedly and vehemently on Twitter and through his lawyers. One of his tweets today, he said when the truth and facts are fully disclosed including the security camera footage, I will be vindicated and a lot of people and news organizations are going to owe me an apology as well as money, completely bogus. In another tweet, he put out a statement or signed a release authorizing the building to release all relevant video footage.
Of course, neither he nor his lawyers are saying there is any video footage from inside the apartment.
CUOMO: Well, that wouldn't be that unusual. You know there are cameras like everywhere in buildings now. If there is video, it would be very helpful. He has been adamant not just about this won't stick or I'll beat this case. He's been adamant in saying he's innocent. You know to a lawyer, innocent means that you didn't do any of these things, not that it's a bad case, not that it's too close to call. You know what I am saying?
CUOMO: It's a distinction with a difference for a lawyer. So he's definitely putting everything on the line that this did not happen.
JONES: That's right. He says he never laid a hand on Miniutti that he hasn't done -- hit any woman ever. And he believes he will be fully exonerated. He believes the video evidence, and his lawyers support his statements. But again, even if there was video in all kinds of hallways and exteriors, we don't know that there was any video from inside the apartment, which is where...
CUOMO: Hundred percent. And when the arrest originally happened, there were at least reports about swelling on the face. And I wonder anything from police about, yeah we have pictures of the scratches, you know, we have pictures of her face or anything that would be indicative of violence.
JONES: It's interesting, because Avenatti, in one of his many tweets, did a sort of point by point by point rebuttal of one of the reports that came out last week from another outlet, saying, you know, just that idea that this woman had a swollen face, that that wasn't at all true. In this document, the restraining order, there are pictures that are part of it. They're a little bit hard to make out.
But those are not of this woman's face. They show a slight bruise perhaps on a body part, maybe a leg or a thigh. It's not clear. But know there are no photographs and there's no information in here about any sort of swelling or redness on anyone's face. That is something, again, that Avenatti has specifically denied.
CUOMO: All right. Look, it's being taken care of in the right form, you know? This isn't done in just the court of public opinion. You've got investigators. You got police. They're looking at it. We'll see if there are charges and all the proof will come out. Avenatti says he wants to invoke that process and help it. Let's see if he does it. Thank you very much, best of thanksgiving to you.
JONES: Thanks. Happy Thanksgiving to you, and we'll be following this closely.
CUOMO: Yeah, 100 percent. All right, and thanks to all of you, my friends. I hope that you have a very happy and safe thanksgiving. The news continues here. Stay with CNN and be blessed with your families.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Lock her up. Turns out it wasn't just a campaign slogan after all. John Berman here in for Anderson, our breaking news, new reporting by "The New York Times" and CNN.