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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Mueller Revels Flynn's Valuable Cooperation in Probes; Criminal Probe Launched Into Alleged Election Fraud in NC; Labor Secretary Under Fire for Sex Offender Plea Deal. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 5, 2018 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The news continues right now, I want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME," Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. And welcome to PRIME TIME.

Tonight we need to read between the redactions. Predictions that Mueller was just about done seem greatly exaggerated, given all that was and was not revealed in the General Michael Flynn sentencing memo. The hidden parts tell us there is more to come. But about what? And just as importantly, whom? One man in the White House may be more nervous than anybody tonight, and it is not President Trump. What do you say? Let's get after it.

So, here's the vexing question. Why is General Mike Flynn likely not to spend time behind bars, even though he lied to the FBI about the nature and extent of his contacts with Russia and Turkey? Two propositions. Is it because going after him was so wrong in the first place, or because he made it so right with what information he offered up to Mueller? Who else does the memo implicate, by the way?

Let's bring in Cuomo's Court, Asha Rangappa and Jim Schultz. First of all, Asha, do you believe it is about having been wrong to go after General Flynn in the first case or do you think it's that Flynn really did cooperate and provide value?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it's clear from the filing, even with the redactions, that this is about Flynn cooperating. As I mentioned on previous show last night, there is enough in that memo that's not redacted to demonstrate that Flynn could have been charged with other crimes, like not registering as a foreign agent. So I think he got a good deal because of what he provided.

CUOMO: All right. So, let's put up some of the avenues of intrigue here on the basis of the theory that Flynn was helpful, OK. Flynn offered firsthand information about interactions between Trump transition team members, plural, and Russia government officials. That Flynn shows cooperation on three different investigations. And he has participated in 19 interviews. Impressive or no?

RANGAPPA: Very impressive. And you missed one important note, that the contacts with Russia were material to the investigation, which means that what he had to provide about the context of his own interactions with Russia and others were relevant to the bigger investigation.

CUOMO: All right. Jim, I put out the suggestion there that maybe it was just about the fact they felt bad for going after him in the first place, a decorated veteran of 33 years of service. What's your take away?

JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: That's not how this works. I mean, he did meet with them 19 times. That's very serious. He obviously had a lot of information to give. He's been talking to them. They appreciated he's been cooperating. That's why he's getting a reduced sentence. No question about that.

Now, how does that relate to the President? Well, there's no indication in the memo that it comes -- you know that it's directly related to the President of the United States. There's nothing in that that makes -- that leads you to that conclusion.

And it also -- what else it doesn't do, it talks about Russia and the things that he said to folks, and that were repeated. The lies that he said and that were repeated by others. And that's significant as well. But there's nothing in there as it relates to the President of the United States. But it does reference the transition team. It does reference the campaign. And that's significant, no question.

CUOMO: Asha, is the fact that it doesn't directly seem to address the President as satisfying and complete of analysis as it is for Jim?

RANGAPPA: I don't think so. So, first of all, behind those black bars are actual words, and we don't know what those words say. So I don't think that we can conclude with any certainty whom it does or does not pertain to at this point in time. But here's what I will say. What we know, as you mentioned, Chris, is that Michael Flynn has provided information, not just on Mueller's investigation concerning contacts and links with Russia, but on a separate criminal investigation. And then a third investigation that is completely redacted, but I think is probably a counter intelligence investigation.

Here is the question. Did Trump know about any of the information that Michael Flynn has provided to the FBI? Because if Trump did, then we now have a motive that goes to his obstruction of justice investigation, which is a separate investigation, when he asked former Director James Comey to layoff of the investigation of Michael Flynn, and then eventually fired him.

CUOMO: There were reports that Flynn --

RANGAPPA: The President has said --

CUOMO: There were reports, Asha, that Flynn have been --

RANGAPPA: What's that?

CUOMO: There were reports that Flynn had been in contact with the White House and those close to the President even after his dismissal. Jim, you got anything on that? [21:05:06] SCHULTZ: There's no indication that it was actually the

President of the United States. That hasn't been verified. Certainly would be significant and something the FBI and Mueller's teams are looking at without question and have asked the questions. I think it's interesting, though, that, you know, he was never charged with conspiracy, which is, which is telling because if there was a there- there as it related to him and others, it would have been likely that he would have been charged with conspiracy as well. Thereby, implicating others as part of that conspiracy. You didn't see that here. And I think that's fairly significant.

What you also don't see is -- and what we don't know -- I agree with you 100 percent. We don't know what's behind those redactions, and that is incredibly significant as well. I think we all have to take a breath and wait to see what Mueller has to say. I also don't think that this means that a report is not imminent. I mean, he got -- there were questions submitted to the President of the United States that he responded to.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHULTZ: We don't know whether there are going to be more questions or not.

CUOMO: Right, that's true.

SCHULTZ: But the fact the questions were asked is significant as if they're getting towards the end. And the facts, there are a couple things that are significant about the timing on that. One is that the Trump legal team was dragging their feet on the questions. And what that allowed was Mueller to have more time to develop the questions and the angles he'd come out and what he was going to expect as the answers. And I don't have to tell you two.

In this situation, you rarely ask questions that you don't know the answer to. So it's about whether or not the stories will lineup. And now that we know that Mueller believes Manafort has been lying about things and that he came to that conclusion publicly after the President submitted his questions, it creates an interesting dynamic.

But, Asha, Jim is doing something that Trump supporters don't, which is he's being open to the possibilities and the fact that this isn't over, which you don't hear all the time. Kudos to you. But he's being very singular in that I don't see how this affects the President.

Why be so narrow in the context of who this -- who this is about? I mean, if we know for a fact -- or at least Mueller seems to -- that Flynn was talking to Russians about Israeli settlements and how to fix the situation with Palestine, and sanctions at the same time that Trump was working a deal with Russia that may have needed Russian financing, which banks may have been sanctioned, and they were working a Middle East peace process even before they were in office, isn't that a lot of there-there?

RANGAPPA: To me there is quite a lot of there-there. I mean, look. Since this investigation started, we've taken this nothing burger and added a shake and a super size fries and, you know, a sundae at this point and all of the changes --

CUOMO: You're speaking my language now.

RANGAPPA: Yes, exactly. I know I'm making you hungry. But, you know, look, let's just look at this one thing that Flynn did, where he contacted Russia secretly after Obama expelled 35 Russian spies, imposed sanctions, and told them, look, just hang cool, you know. I mean, why would Russia just say, OK, we'll listen to you. I mean, that's a very -- that was a strong public humiliation, actually, that Obama visited on them. And for them to acquiesce to this secret request and not respond, to me seems not in character with how Russia responds to things without adding these other pieces of the puzzle that was going on, the business deal, the talk about adoptions and all of this stuff. So we have to see how all these things fit together. Was there a quid pro quo, is the question.

CUOMO: And, you know, Jim, to your metaphor of breathe easy, I don't know why people wouldn't be right now. You're going to have me on the bones for what happened last week, what happened with the Flynn memo. Now you have Michael Cohen coming out. He is a human set of eyes and ears that had been around the President in close quarters for a decade. These questions about, I wonder what the President knew, if he had been told about this, if he had any inkling about this. If Michael Cohen can't give that information to Mueller, who can?

SCHULTZ: When I say breathe easy, I'm talking about talking heads and those that are speaking about this publicly. I'm sure there are a lot of people that are not breathing easy tonight. No question.

CUOMO: Yes, I mean, this has to make you asthmatic. I mean, when you think about what's going to happen with the Michael Cohen memo -- 70 hours of interviews, Mueller taking the opportunity to put a document in court with his name on it -- not a team member of his -- saying, this man is of value and credible. How significant?

RANGAPPA: Are you asking me?

CUOMO: Jim?

SCHULTZ: No question that it's significant. But, again, you know, you have to -- you have to look -- these are all folks who got caught up in lying. They didn't get caught up, you know, a lot of the folks -- the biggest problem they had was not telling the truth.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHULTZ: And that's what this all comes back to.

CUOMO: I know. And that's what's so troubling, Jim. Why lie about something that didn't matter? Why did all these people around the President lie about something that didn't matter?

[21:10:07] SCHULTZ: In the end, remember, this is a political process in the end, for the President of the United States. Not for those around him. There are criminal implications there. As it relates to the President of the United States, you're talking about a congressional hearings, potential impeachment, you know, high crimes and misdemeanors and hearings and a report that's going to go to Congress presumably. And that they're going to make those judgments and that's part of a political process. That's not a part of -- that's not something that's going to a jury.

CUOMO: It's true. But lies count both ways. And again, for all of the talk about how this isn't substantial, it doesn't matter, then why did they lie? Hopefully we'll have a better sense of the answer to that question at the end of this week. Literally two days away. Asha, Jim, thank you so much. I'll have you back -- both back and soon.

All right. So, there are clues in the Mueller memo, all right, that other people have to be sweating. Who and why and what about? I'll lay it all out for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: OK. So here's what I've seen. People are getting caught up on the when with General Mike Flynn, meaning the time line. The White House hiding what happened, when he said it, Sally Yates when she came in. The when is something, but I don't think it's the main thing. I think it's better to look at the who and the what. Why? Because Mueller uses phrases like "individuals" associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump and "members" of President-elect Trump's transition team. You see what I'm emphasizing, the plural, that there were more people than just Flynn involved in what we thought was Flynn's solo act.

So, if he's not the only one to talk to Kislyak, what else do we know? We know that Jared Kushner was in on at least one meeting, and that meeting went so well, the ambassador set up a separate meeting with Kushner and a Russian banker. And the topics with Flynn and the Russians mattered. Sanctions, OK.

Now, this was before they were in office, and one of the issues here is that private citizens aren't supposed to be negotiating for the United States of America, the Logan Act. But put it to the side. We also know that Flynn and Kushner were working the situation near the same time that Trump's Moscow deal was in the works, a deal that may have required financing from Russian banks, banks that may have been under U.S. sanctions at the same time they were talking about Russian sanctions.

Then there is the stuff about Israel, and the Flynn documents say this. A very senior member of the Presidential transition team directed Flynn to contact Russia about a U.N. resolution on Israel. We know that very senior member is Jared Kushner. Just a month before Trump told "The New York Times" that Kushner could be the guy to make peace in Israel happen.

[21:15:12] Another point. Trump and company tried to dismiss the Trump Tower Moscow deal as a Michael Cohen gambit. He was freelancing. He was looking for a deal so he could get a slice. There are three reasons that excuse smells. First, Cohen said in court that he briefed family members, and we believe the President, again plural, family members about the Trump tower Moscow deal. Second, Trump himself signed the letter of intent. And then there are Trump's own words. He may have overstepped the other day when he was trying to shoot down Michael Cohen's significance and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I decided not to do it. The primary reason -- there could have been other reasons, but the primary reason, it was very simple. I was focused on running for President. There would be nothing wrong if I did do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I canceled it. So, obviously he knew about the deal and knew enough and understood it well enough to make a call on whether or not to do the deal. And it's not like this was something that he had never heard about. Again, the idea that this was tangential, it was like, you know, a one and done, it was temporary. He wanted to get this deal done for years. He said so himself. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're thinking about doing a Trump Tower Moscow, so we're talking to a group of people about doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, that's from 2013. So, this is not about a new and meaningless endeavor. Certainly it was important enough to, once again, lie. And once again, lie about something involving Russia. So, how do we learn more? Easily and soon. Key reports on Manafort and Cohen are on deck, and those point in the same direction the Flynn one does, to others. Kushner pushed Trump to hire Manafort. They were both in the Trump Tower meeting. And we know from Manafort's trial he and Kushner discussed senior administration jobs long after Trump's folks would have you believe they were done with the former campaign chairman.

We also know Kushner was asked by congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Why? A transcript of what he told them was not released, but if his answers don't match what Mueller now believes, it's big question marks. And Cohen is basically a set of eyes and ears on countless meetings and moments for over a decade. And certainly during the campaign, remember, much of that race was run out of the Trump offices where Cohen was in New York.

The best part is there's no need to speculate because the special counsel is putting more meat on the bones of our understanding almost daily.

All right. Another big story going on. Voter fraud, voter fraud. You've been hearing that cry from President Trump and the GOP for years. But tonight, mounting evidence of election fraud in North Carolina and you hear that? Me either. Where is the Republican outrage? Does fraud only matter when it works against you? Great debate next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:21:06] CUOMO: Scandals unfolding in North Carolina, it could lead to a redo of a congressional election. We're talking about the 9th District there. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 900 plus votes. But officials are refusing to certify the race. Why?

Growing evidence shows absentee ballots were picked up, harvested is the term, by people who promised to deliver them to the state in violation of the law. Why does this matter? Because those ballots may have been altered or destroyed.

Allegations point to a man tied to the GOP candidate. So now there is a criminal investigation. But not the political furor that has surrounded election fraud fears in the past. The implication is a matter of great debate. So let's get after it.

Ana Navarro and Niger Innis, thank you. Anna, I thought that, you know, your party, the GOP was about stopping this rampant election fraud that I can never prove exists until now. Why not equal outrage?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There should be equal outrage. Look, as more facts and more revelations come out regarding North Carolina 9th District, it's evident that something fishy, there is something that smells that went on there.

And, you know, Chris, since I'm from Florida, and, you know, we're always a little bit ahead of the curve when it comes to voter fraud and election issues, we saw a very similar circumstance in Florida, in Miami at a nonpartisan mayoral race about 20 years ago where there were absentee ballot fraud issues that were brought up. It went to court. There was a redo. And the results were changed, about 5,000 of the absentee ballots were found to be fraudulent.

Bottom line is this. This really should not be partisan. Look, the Republicans already lost 40 seats in Congress. This is one where they can prove that it's not about partisanship, it is about the integrity of the elections. And that means that they've got to make sure that these elections, the results have integrity, are transparent and are truthful. The voters deserve that. To me this is a gimme for Republicans. And there's, you know, they've already lost 40. 41 is not going to make a difference.

CUOMO: Yes, it is.

NAVARRO: And this is one where they can come out and have a moral standard.

CUOMO: Yes. It is, it's going to matter, Ana. Come on, every seat matters. You're calling it a gimme. I see it as a takee. And Niger, two things. One, there is a difference between election fraud and voter fraud which to me is a distinction without a difference in terms of wanting accuracy in your elections. And then you have Republicans in North Carolina saying I'll tell you what the fix is. We need voter I.D. for absentee ballots. How the heck will that help you if you're harvesting the ballots? It's not about the person casting the ballot. It's about the person collecting them. Help me out with this hypocrisy.

NIGER INNIS, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: Well, I think we have a Christmas or, it's a little too early for that. Maybe it's a Hanukkah miracle that there are actually --

CUOMO: A 9th ward miracle.

INNIS: -- and Democrats out there. Saying that, yes, voter fraud exists. The fact is that voter fraud, voter mischievous behavior goes all the way back to ancient Greece and ancient Rome when they used to use pebbles to cast their ballot if you will. And, you know, it's unfortunate that it took this race to get both sides, like Ana said, to actually come to the table and maybe admit that there is voter fraud --

CUOMO: This isn't about recognition. We know that there is fraud.

NAVARRO: But this is --

CUOMO: We know there's fraud. It's never insignificant numbers. Ana, go ahead.

NAVARRO: No, but let's make a difference, distinguish between election fraud and voter fraud. This is not the voters doing wrongdoing apparently. This is a guy who apparently was running a scheme where he was paying people 100 bucks and the story gets crazier and crazier. There's opioid use, all sorts of things going on in the story.

[21:25:03] He was paying people, needy people a hundred bucks, people who needed the cash for Christmas gifts so they would collect illegally against North Carolina election law the ballots, and God knows what happened to them. The results don't match any other part of the county. It's a very weird pattern. This is a guy who had a very shady past to begin with, precisely involving this kind of election fraud. So it's not the voters that were committing fraud here. It is the people running the elections and campaign consultants that were committing allegedly the fraud.

INNIS: I agree.

CUOMO: Go ahead, Niger.

INNIS: I agree. But inadvertently, there might have been individuals that got swept up in this corruption perpetration by this particular individual that you're talking about. It may not be on purpose, but it reminds me it is a mirror of Tammany Hall, it is a mirror of daily Chicago where you had creative voting from the graveyard.

CUOMO: Right. But why then so quiet, why are the Republicans there so quiet? If you want to own this issue, why aren't you owning it now?

INNIS: I wish they should pounce. I mean, look, we live in a constitutional republic, a constitutionally based republic where the right to vote is sacred. And my organization, Chris, and Ana, you know, my organization in the 1960s, three boys, Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman gave their lives and were martyrs of the civil rights revolution for registering blacks to vote in Mississippi. So there's nothing more sacred. And when there is mischievous behavior on the part of this particular official or when there is voter fraud of any type that is taking away legitimate votes of people that want to vote and want their votes counted.

CUOMO: All right. Next topic. Let's see if I can get you two guys on the same page about something else. The Labor Secretary Acosta, why does he still have a job? Ana, given what we're learning about the Jeffrey Epstein prosecution?

NAVARRO: I can't tell you how disturbed -- how horrified I am by the story. Listen, --

CUOMO: Fearful disclosure, this wasn't 100 percent on my radar. Ana sent me this story 10, 12 days ago. And saying hey, you want to pay attention to things and go deep, don't forget about this story. Fair point. We're on it now. Why isn't anything being done?

NAVARRO: Absolutely. Listen and I thank you for doing this because I feel that in the barrage of news of daily news that we're dealing with, this story is getting buried. And it involves sex trafficking of maybe up to 80 under-age girls that were as young as 13 and 14 years old when they were getting sexually abused and molested by this multi-millionaire who got a sweetheart plea deal from Alex Acosta when he was U.S. attorney. I know Alex Acosta. He's been very well regarded in South Florida. This is something that got swept under the rug. It happened 11 years ago when there was a very different climate when it came to Me Too, when it came to sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

You know, there's allegedly things that may have broken federal law. The girls didn't even know that there had been a plea deal. Some of them found out about it during the news. There are now lawsuits going on. I think Alex needs to clear his name. I think Alex Acosta needs to explain fully. I was very disappointed he did not comment on this story.

This was over a year of an investigation by the "Miami Herald," and approved investigative journalism and why supporting local newspapers is still so important. It is disgusting. It is grotesque. It is a gross miscarriage of justice what happened to these women, the way they were silenced, the way they were abused. Not only by this man, but them by the system that was supposed to be protecting them is unacceptable.

CUOMO: Right.

NAVARRO: And we cannot let this go by unnoticed. I am begging the people watching to go look up the story. I will re-tweet it. It is grotesque. And these women deserve justice.

CUOMO: And women is getting a little ahead of the maturity curve here. Many of them were as young as 13. Many of them were young teenagers.

INNIS: Frightening.

CUOMO: And so here is what we hear from Acosta, Niger. And this is the part -- I've never really heard this from the federal prosecutor, let alone someone who is supposedly politically ambitious. Usually they take on cases you want to argue to be hyper aggressive. Here, they say well, started as a state case. So really, you know, it was a little tough for the fed -- that's never true, especially when there is interstate movement, which therein arguably was.

Acosta has said, well, it was tough to prove. One of the local investigators says it wasn't. And then they say, well, you know, in truth, we were bullied by Epstein's lawyers. When have you ever heard the federal government say, it's hard for us to bring this case. And this guy is really lawyered up. They're coming after us, we got the brush back on it. It just doesn't make sense and he got a pass this that nomination hearing, the confirmation hearing. What do you make of it?

INNIS: I think it is a horrific case, and I hope that Secretary Acosta comes out and defends himself and certainly before we ask for his resignation or for him to be fired, he should have the opportunity to address this. This is very, very serious. I mean, this billionaire is a sexual predator, a sexual predator of young women --

[21:30:08] CUOMO: A lot of fancy friends, too. Not implicated in the behavior, but they hung out with him. The President is on the witness list. Again, no indication that the President had anything to do with these young girls. He got stuck out there with an awful quote about him where he said, hey, it's said that Epstein loves women, beautiful women as much as I do.

He likes them pretty young, too. But -- so now that's being hung around his neck as a statement. Certainly an awkward one as a context. But no implication of him as to these types of actions, but why put him into the cabinet level business, why do that? What happened to only the best?

INNIS: I don't know that the President was aware of --

CUOMO: Everybody knew.

INNIS: -- about the scandal.

CUOMO: Everybody knew.

INNIS: It is horrific thing on the fact that --

CUOMO: It's been going on since 2007.

INNIS: -- he got a slap on the wrist, I believe --

CUOMO: No slap.

INNIS: -- it was 13 months in county jail. CUOMO: No slap, he got a no prosecution deal on the federal level, it

was only state time. He did 13 months. Work release six days a week, Ana. Six days a week he got to work from home.

NAVARRO: Six days he did work release six days a week, 12 hours a day. I mean, it is laughable. And, you know, look. Let me tell you this. When Alex Acosta got nominated by Donald Trump, I actually said it was a good thing because, as I said, I've never him as a U.S. Attorney down there. I've known him as dean of the FIU, Florida International University Law School down there. Alex Acosta has a lot of explaining to do. I don't think we had known as many facts and dug as deep as this "Miami Herald" investigation has done.

INNIS: Yes.

NAVARRO: But now that we do know, there's a lot of Republican leaders out there, including the senator of my state, who supported Alex Acosta, knows Alex as well also, who are very engaged in issues and have been leading and have been vocal on issues like sexual trafficking. Well, if you are vocal on sexual trafficking --

CUOMO: That's what this was allegedly.

NAVARRO: If you want to prove you are against sexual trafficking, then you have to take this up. Because molesting 13-year-olds or 14- year-olds is sexual trafficking. You know what this guy Epstein said? He said the one that he pled to, he said was a prostitute. A 14-year- old prostitute. Well, I've got news for you. A 14-year-old cannot be a prostitute because if you don't have the legal age to consent, you cannot be a prostitute. It was sexual trafficking. And what happened to these women is a crime. It's immoral. It is incomprehensible.

Alex Acosta needs to explain. Republican senators need to demand that he explain. I am grateful to Ben Sasse who has asked for DOJ investigation of itself in this case, and it cannot be let go. We've come too far. The Me Too movement has come too far. The voices of women count too much. We cannot do this to these girls who were 13, 14, 15 years old.

Some of them had braces, for God sakes when they were going into this man's house. It was a pyramid scheme involving dozens and dozens and dozens of young girls. They shutdown the FBI investigation because of this plea deal. It is grotesque, grotesque. People need to go read this and they need to demand answers.

CUOMO: And we have to bring these up this -- the election fraud in North Carolina, because if you can't get the gross examples of misfeasance and malfeasance right you'll never get to the pernicious types of corruption that can find their way in the government that are tough to root out. If you don't deal with the easy ones you'll never deal with the tough ones. Niger, Ana, special thanks to you, and Niger, thank you for having the debate. Appreciate it.

INNIS: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. We're not going to have to wait too long when we're talking about Mueller for the next big steps, all right. Mueller is supposed to put out new filings on Paul Manafort's sentencing and Michael Cohen's. And those two gentlemen are central to understanding what we just saw in that Flynn memo. Great analysis for you from Intel and DOJ insiders, what they're looking for, what their questions are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:35:48] CUOMO: We are just two days from another big day in the Russia investigation. New information could break on three fronts. You've got former FBI Director Jim Comey whom Trump supposedly asked to, "let this go when it came to Flynn." He's going to answer lawmakers' questions once again. Won't be in public, but we're going to find out what he said because he's going to talk about it right afterwards. It's part of their agreement.

Special Counsel Bob Mueller's team is going to explain in court what it means Paul Manafort has been lying about, even after pleading guilty. And former Trump lawyer and confidant Michael Cohen's sentencing memo is also due by the end of the week. Nobody in the mix has spent more time closer to the President than Michael Cohen. We may not know where all of this will lead, but if Michael Flynn's sentencing memo is any indication, there is a method to Mueller's machinations.

Let's discuss with Republican Mike Rogers and Harry Litman who worked in the Clinton era Justice Department. Gentlemen, it's good to have you both. Harry, welcome to the show.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: So let me give you a chance to knock me down right out of the box. Do you agree with my assessment that there is a method to the machinations, that we are seeing a prosecutorial methodology here, things are building on one another in terms of disclosures?

LITMAN: Yes, I do. Maybe methods. But one, if you wanted to state a general method, we've seen Mueller actually framing sort of separate chapters and depositing them in the court. They may be temporarily under seal. But they will each be valuable narratives that will be unsealed one day in the not too distant future. And that's vital because they will be outside the reach of say, Matthew Whitaker or anyone else. And they will be almost historical documents that Mueller has found a way to bring to the public, even if it's a couple months away.

CUOMO: Mike, full disclosure. I was one of the people who thought that Flynn was very limited. That it was about him and what he said and he got caught lying. Maybe a little bit about why he did that, and that this was a one and done and that he'd been quiet because he just wasn't that important. I was wrong. Based on the reactions, he is significant with multiple people and in multiple investigations. Your read?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I'm sorry, did Chris Cuomo just say he was wrong?

CUOMO: Yes, it happens on the daily basis. You must watch the show.

ROGERS: I'm just kidding of course. I'm kidding, of course.

CUOMO: Go ahead, Mike.

ROGERS: Listen, I think Flynn -- what startled me originally is the fact that they only charged him for lying to the FBI. We knew for a fact that he had likely not filed correctly with the foreign agent law. And so there was much more that they could have charged him with. They only charged him with that. That told me early on that he was going to cooperate and cooperate soon.

And I think what I see at this sentencing, and now they teased out a little bit -- excuse me, Yes, the sentencing process and what they teased out, guess what, it's not only the investigation about Russian collusion, to whatever end that might take. There's also other investigations he has been incredibly cooperative on. And why that's important, Chris, he was the one guy in the campaign that was in those meetings from the very beginning all the way through.

So he -- all the Kushner meetings, all the family meetings, all the people who were kind of around the President at the campaign in New York. And he had his own problems in Russia prior to all of that. And then he went into the White House. That tells me that there is that trail -- if I were the former FBI guy, that trail becomes really important to coming to some conclusion on this investigation.

CUOMO: You know, Harry, Jared Kushner's name always comes up when people go through cycles of disclosure with the Mueller probe about names that are relevant. But we've never seen meat on the bones until now because Flynn, talking about sanctions, well, Kushner was in one of those meetings with Kislyak. And in fact, he wound up having a second meeting set up by the ambassador and some Russian businessmen. And the Israeli discussion that you had with Flynn and Kislyak, well, that was something that involved Jared Kushner. So when Mueller puts in the memo individuals that Flynn talked to them about, transition team members that he was talking about, how does Kushner escape that mix?

[21:40:10] LITMAN: Yes. So, those are both dead on. And more generally, Kushner and Flynn are definitely partners in crime, as it were, in the transition period. They formed quite a relationship. And one more thing about Kushner. He is, as you say, he's sort of the dog that didn't bark. We've never heard of his testifying in the grand jury. What might that mean? One very real possibility is he would have been called, but his lawyer, who is very fine, Abbe Lowell, would have told Mueller, my guy is going to take the 5th amendment.

Don't go through the charade of calling, and Mueller would likely have done that. So the fact that we haven't heard from him in the actual investigation may mean he's got kind of a bull's eye on his head already. But certainly, if you're doing the tea leaves and it's hard, you need x-ray vision for the Flynn filing. Kushner is someone, in particular, who looks to be in real hot water. CUOMO: Mike, the pushback is poppycock, there's no proof of collusion

with Mike Flynn. It begins and ends with him. There is no exposure to the President. Kushner, this would be about discretion, not a crime. And the reason he's not going to jail is because they know it was wrong to go after him in the first place, they had nothing. The FBI said originally he didn't even lie.

ROGERS: Yes, listen, I have always said I have seen nothing out there that actually ties the President to any of this. I do think that the smoke is starting to generate here on what happened in the team around the President. And I think that's where Mueller is going. And I think Flynn is important in that, because remember, he was one of the first ones, early ones to cooperate.

And once he did that, you know, it's easy for an investigator to walk in and say, guess what, Chris, you can tell me five lies or you can tell me what I already know and I'm going to show you what I already know. And I think that helped accelerate cooperation with these witnesses down the path. And I think that's why you're seeing these folks tumble as quickly as they are.

And by the way, I'll make a prediction right here. When Roger Stone actually -- if, in fact, he gets indicted or for any reason, it will be about 32 seconds before he cooperates as well.

CUOMO: He swore he would never flip. That's why he's strong, in the words of the President. Guts, guts.

ROGERS: If Sammy the Bull Gravano who killed people on behalf of John Gotti who was the mob boss for the Gambino crime family in New York, decides it's in his best interest to cooperate, trust me, Roger Stone -- if the weight of the federal -- of a federal charge is on him, it won't be long. And so I think this is all posturing and it's all -- it completely posturing.

Where I think the President makes a mistake is interjecting himself in it. If he believes as a President he isn't involved in any of this, then don't talk about it. These folks will go through their process, the crimes that they have admitted to committing. They've gone to a judge and said, yes, I committed this crime. That will take its course and they'll have to pay for those crimes.

And I think, you know, the President's strategy here of trying to diminish the investigation -- and I think publicly attack these people -- is, to me it's unconscionable for the President of the United States to do it. He shouldn't do. It is very unseemly. I don't think it's a crime. I think be it's

unseemly. I think he would do best to stay out of it and focus on the business of being the President and it would come out a lot better for him. Because at the end of the day, Chris, honestly, I'm not sure that Mueller comes out and says, we should indict the President for these three things. I'm not even convinced that's going to happen.

CUOMO: I don't even think it's possible.

ROGERS: Well, I don't think -- I don't think it's possible, but I'm not even sure they can get there. I do think people around the President are going to have more problems than we're seeing today.

CUOMO: Yes. I mean, look, this is the vexing question. And Harry, we'll have you back about it, Mike is tough to book, he has a lot of social engagements. But the idea of why do they keep lying about Russia if it doesn't matter and there is nothing there? It's just a vexing question and we're getting a little closer to an answer with each one of these disclosures from the special counsel. Mike, always great to have you. Harry, welcome to the program. Appreciate it.

LITMAN: Thanks very much, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So, very different kind of politics at play. PETA usually worries about what you put in your mouth, right? Now it's focusing on what comes out of it. But it's new vegan vocabulary is causing some people to have a cow. Are we really supposed to start bringing home the bagels? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:47:17] CUOMO: All right. Are you ready? I'm going to take the flower by the thorns here and see if we can feed two birds with one scone. You have no idea what I'm talking about even more than usual. It's because I'm trying to be the test tube and roll out the new alternative phrases PETA wants everybody to use instead of traditional meat-based idioms like, take the bull by the horns, guinea pig, two birds with one stone.

Now, look, I hate to feed a fed horse, as PETA says, but you get it. Let's see if we can bring home the bagels with D. Lemon. PETA says using phrases like, don't make me laugh, bring home the bacon is right up there like using homophobic or racist language. Here are their suggestions. Replace kill two birds with one stone with feed two birds with one scone. Don't beat a dead horse, feed a fed horse. You know, and instead of take the bull by the horns, take the flower by the thorns. What have you got?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: PETA should have several seats. That's one. Is that one up there? PETA does some great work. I'm sure, but, come on. Pick your battles. Really? And to compare it to, you know --

CUOMO: Racist to homophobic language.

LEMON: Homophobic and races as someone who knows a bit about both of those, come on. Listen, an animal who gets eaten doesn't get eaten because of their gender, right? And I just, I just think it's too much. That's all I'll say. I don't want to get in trouble because I know PETA I'm going to get all the PETA folks or whatever.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: I don't really care. There are bigger problems to worry about when it comes to human beings. I don't think animals are offended by hearing those phrases. Certain people who are really sensitive about things, maybe they should be more sensitive about other things. Maybe they should actually be concerned about homophobia and about racism and realize what's important when it comes to what's important. CUOMO: True. And also, look, to the PETA folks out there, we're

having the discussion. All right? And I'm not outright mocking what you want. I'm putting it out there and people can respond to it I don't live in fear --

LEMON: I'm not mocking them, I'm giving you -- you asked me.

CUOMO: But what I'm saying is, this is my problem with political correctness. I think we put too much weight on what we say and not enough on what we do. And I've never cared, you know, if people find it curious that I'm Italian American and they want to talk about the sopranos, go ahead. As long as you're treating me fairly, I don't care about what you understand about my ethnicity.

LEMON: I've done it.

CUOMO: But this is my thing with political correctness, you know, --

[21:50:00] LEMON: This is not political correctness. We're talking about animals here. We're talking about animals.

CUOMO: Well, but animals matter too. They're sentient beings.

LEMON: Of course they do.

CUOMO: They're alive. You got to respect them.

LEMON: No one loves my dogs more than me.

CUOMO: Tim does.

LEMON: OK. Well, maybe him. He spends more time with them.

CUOMO: Yes, takes care of them.

LEMON: Well, by the way, we're on your sister-in-law's food, you know that Ollie, right?

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: Yes. So there you go.

CUOMO: Expensive. I didn't tell you to go on it.

LEMON: But it's just -- it's not even political correctness. This is just way too far. Come on, cut it out. And, don't worry about everything.

CUOMO: My concern is this. When you push it this far, you're going to lose some people that you could have on your side.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: That if you talk about the methods of how we destroy animals and conservation efforts.

LEMON: Perfectly legitimate.

CUOMO: And what people eat and where it comes from, I think you'll have wide acceptance.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: You know, documentaries like Food Inc. and stuff like that, really opened people's eyes. And I think PETA makes a lot of good argument in that regard. But when you go to this, grab the bull by the thorns, you know whatever it is, first of all, dopes like me will never get it straight. I'm going to wind up mixing metaphors all the time. And you wind up getting people focusing on the wrong things instead of the right things.

LEMON: That's because you're bullheaded. Am I supposed to say that?

CUOMO: Yes. You have to say I'm rose headed. My guess, I don't know. Bagel headed.

LEMON: Or fool headed. I think that's good.

CUOMO: Yes, that's fine.

LEMON: No, you're right. Listen, if you're concerned about fur and all of that, that's great. Don't go around throwing red paint on people. But if you want to show people what happens to animals, you know, when they become fur coats, I think that's completely legitimate. You want to talk about the process from getting food from either the forest or wherever, to the table, I completely get that. That's legit. But this is just ridiculous. And by the way, more serious things. John Dean is on. John Dean is the expert when it comes to what's happening in Washington when it comes to Flynn and what's going to happen with Manafort later this week.

CUOMO: John Dean, he's the bee's knees.

LEMON: Oh, shoots.

CUOMO: I don't know if that's OK. I think it passes. D. Lemon, I'll be seeing in a second.

LEMON: Don't be a chicken head. OK? I don't know what that means. I just said it.

CUOMO: Most of what you say offends logic more than PETA.

LEMON: Goodbye.

CUOMO: Take him off the screen.

All right. So, when we come back, today was a national day of mourning. But I actually think it was something else as well, and it's a real important message that came through loud and clear for me, and I hope it does for you as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:55:04] CUOMO: We learned a lot today, or certainly I did, of former President George Herbert Walker Bush, the most powerful man in the world at that time was not all about might. It would seem his greatest strength was his restraint. Not always, of course. He was flawed as are we all. His political legacy will be as much a balance of pluses and minuses any President. But there was something about his attitude that made him ascend. His colleague and friend, Senator Simpson, remembered this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: That's the greatest humility. Those that travel the high road of humility in Washington D.C. are not bothered by heavy traffic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You know, only one other time have we had father and son presidents. That was with the Adams and we've never saw what we saw today, a President eulogized their president father. And 43s memories were mostly that of his son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And we're going to miss you, your decency, sincerity and kind soul will stay with us forever. So through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man. The best father a son or daughter could have. And in our grief, let us smile knowing that dad is hugging Robin and holding mom's hand again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That was as beautiful as I'm sure it was really tough for the president. And I'll say more about that in a second. But, you know, it wasn't easy for Bush 41 to sell his stubborn sense of civility, even back then, that his penchant for kindness wasn't a weakness. And let's be honest. It's certainly not in vogue today.

Our current climate is crude. There's no escaping the contrast between who President Bush was and who our President now is. The question is how do we reconcile the two? What do we do about this? The picture of the day, former presidents and their wives, appears to be this stunning sight of five presidents in one place for the same reason, this consensus of good conscience, respect for a man and his meaning. But it was as much, if not more, a simple suggestion of one not being like the others. There were selective and awkward greetings, even today, even by those who are supposedly the best among us.

The Bush family in respect of what 41 wanted made sure to extend a hand to all, including the current President. But it wasn't the rule of the day. Again, not even today. And this isn't a dig. It's a direction. The power of the President's passing is not simply an instruction in the obvious, what is wrong, but to remind us of the tougher task, to reflect on what is right, a time of political business without complete bitterness, when opponents weren't simply enemies, when there was collegiality, and that gave an opening to compromise.

You know, a congregation testified to that today in that church. Some things matter more than power politics. You had rivals sitting in the same row, left and right today were defined by the side of a church, not political division.

And at the end of the day, you know, back to what we saw with the 43rd President, President George W. Bush. This was about the loss of a father for a family, and that is hard. I'm sure many of us have lost parents, grandparents, great grandparents. You know, President Bush 41, he checked every box.

The toughest part is figuring out what to remember. The pain of the loss of a big love goes so deep and for so long. And I think for the rest of us, the answer today is to remind ourselves that we've not always been where we are right now. We know that there has been a better way to do it in the past. You can rise to the top without crushing all those in your path. The strongest of men often say more with their silence, and they often succeed more out of sensitivity than we believe to be the case again in this current climate.

Bush has passed away, but just as his family is going to keep his spirit alive as a father, a grandfather, great-grandfather, great friend, the rest of us would be well served to remember that there is, to use his words, a better way, a kinder, gentler way to create our political reality. And I hope that message is part of what's remembered today as well.

Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.

It was a beautiful honor to be there today, to see the pain. You know, there's a purpose in the pain of mourning. I've been through it. You've been through it.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

CUOMO: And it's going to be hard for this family. They lost a towering figure who meant so much to them, and I think that there's meaning for the rest of us as well.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, I thought there were some really beautiful, beautiful moments today. George W. Bush, I mean, had me in tears, and him holding back, and just the entire family is just really classy.

CUOMO: Yes. They've accomplished a lot. Huge clan. I watched them coming. They just keep coming in waves today.

LEMON: Did you see all the cars and buses for the entire family?

CUOMO: Yes.