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Sources: McCabe Opened Obstruction of Justice Probe on Trump after Comey's Firing before Mueller Appointed; North Carolina Election Fraud Questions Reach Second County; Trump Expected to Pick Nauert as Next U.N. Ambassador. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 6, 2018 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: News continues, we want to hand it over to Chris, to see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.

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

We had really big developments that came late today. Rod Rosenstein may have been kidding about wearing a wire to secretly tape Trump after the firing of Jim Comey, but the acting head of the FBI was dead serious enough to do something potentially far more damaging to the President, and we'll tell what you it was and why.

And the President's reported choice do replace U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is raising eyebrows and making me wonder what the President means when he says only the best. Let's get after it.

So Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein discussed wearing a wire around President Trump, remember that, when he was talking with top officials at the FBI. They said it was a joke. Well, according to CNN sources, it happened. And then came in even bigger development. Sure to enrage the right, but very important to process, Andrew McCabe then the Acting Director at the FBI took the extraordinary step of opening an obstruction of justice investigation even before Bob Mueller was brought into the picture.

Now, tomorrow the Mueller team is expected to reveal more of what it knows about Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. So let's gavel Cuomo's Court, it is in session with Laura Coats and Ken Cuccinelli.

It's good to have you both here. Let's start with the Rosenstein information. And really Andrew McCabe, Laura, because again, our sources say that Rosenstein was hash tag kidding/not kidding, about the needing to surveil, and now, that's backed up by the understanding that Andrew McCabe felt after everything that involved Comey and his dismissal by the President, an obstruction of justice investigation was warranted. Your takeaway?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think no one should be really surprised that when they have this very unceremonious firing at the head of the FBI, you had contemporaneously written memos about request for pledges for loyalty. And this discussion of why he asked the question of letting this Flynn issue go, even after Sally Yates had come to the White House to explain that there may be a compromised national security adviser, it should come as no surprise, that one, it was a personal response.

They thought that one of their own had really got the raw end of the deal, but also it was a methodical and strategic and non-emotional decision. You open up obstruction of justice claim early in time with all the information you possibly can to get the evidence and really to lock it in, you cannot wait for the speculative incoming of the special council if one would have ever come. So I think it was both equal parts personal and equal parts prudent on their behalf.

CUOMO: Ken, legitimate response to the facts they had at hand? Or you see this as being motivated by something else?

KENNETH CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no, I think it was certainly an element of circling the wagons among FBI folks. But also, I mean, look at what we know in hindsight. Andrew McCabe was very aggressive overly so in matters related to the President. And, you know, I just have never thought that Mueller was seriously pursuing obstruction because the person overseeing him, who we're talking about here, the deputy attorney general would be right smack in the middle of any such investigation. And would have had to have recused himself.

And I don't think Rosenstein would have stuck around in this for 19 months. I think we're at 19 months now. Had that been a serious pursuit of the special council, because he's literally right in the middle of their theories of obstruction. So I don't think that's ever been seriously pursued, we've talked about it a lot on this show. But I don't think in the special council's office, particularly in light of article 2, that they have seriously pursued that.

And I think we may learn some more tomorrow, but we're going to learn it in the negative, much as we have in the past with the other things like Flynn earlier this week, that didn't mention anything about Russian collusion during the election.

CUOMO: Well, there's a lot of redacted stuff, we'll know more about that by this time tomorrow. We'll be talking about it, but one thing at a time.

Laura, the idea that it can't be any real obstruction, because Rosenstein would be conflicted, he would have been out if it were real?

COATES: I don't buy that here's why, I don't think that Mueller is acting with regard to who his boss will be. I think he's acting under the direction of the mandate itself, not whoever occupies the position to oversee the carrying out of his mandate, if he were to do so, he would be a marionette and somebody who would be compromised in the sense, also objective pursuer of the fact.

CUCCINELLI: But he at least has to get permission to proceed.

COATES: Well, that is true. But the idea that you would act only in regard to a way you could get permission would really be antithetical to his friends. You have no time and no independence, no objectivity. These are not the qualities you want of the special counsel and certainly not the quality that we saw it inside the counsel legislation.

[21:05:05] CUCCINELLI: No, it violates article 2.

COATES: Well, I'm going to finish my point first, Ken. And I'm happy to response to you. When you have these two or three issues, and why the special counsel is appointed in the first place, the independence, there is accountability and also objectivity to pursue justice. It would be antithetical to what you're saying to do so.

Now, I agree with you that article 2 does discuss the notion that these people all do serve under the pleasure of the President. And he certainly has his druthers, it's about who he would like to no longer serve in his cabinet position, or those at the pleasure.

However, you cannot do so for nefarious or some sort of corrupt intent and expect everyone to just evaluate and look at you and take the benefit of the doubt. They're arguably looking at this and the benefit of the doubt and say, listen is there any reason to believe this was not something that was in article 2 dismissal, and in fact, one that is tied to some other criminal investigation, and his own words indicate that. So I think Mueller is acting independently, I do still however think, as I said before, that McCabe, you called him very aggressive. I would not expect a Deputy FBI Director to be a shrinking violet. But certainly I think that they should be aggressive in trying to understand whether there has been a criminal violation.

CUOMO: And also, we also to tend to gloss over one of the things that got McCabe in trouble, which was his being aggressive, to use your word, of trying to secret out to the media his attempts to go after Hillary Clinton.

You know, it's always seen that, well you know, they dismissed him for lying, his lack of candor or whatever they want to call it within the DOJ. But the premise of it matters as well. He wanted it to be known, he wanted to go after Hillary Clinton, you guys always ignore that part but to remind people of why it seems so obvious that the President was motivated not by simple druthers, to use your word, Laura, but by animus was what he said in an interview to Lester Holt, about whether or not he was going to get rid of Comey. Let me refresh your memory.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


CUOMO: Trump and Russia. What was on his mind. And now, one of the contextual things you want in the situation like this, as a starting point is, was the understanding match on each side, did Comey see it the way the President did? Here's what Comey said.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say he wasn't a target of the investigation.


CUOMO: All right, I'm sorry, obviously, that's Rudy Giuliani, everybody mixes together, but not that much. So Ken, the point is this, you had the President's lawyer say, look, Comey wouldn't say that the President wasn't a target, that upset the President, the President says in the interview, you know, I didn't care what Rod Rosenstein said, I was getting rid of this guy, which of course blows the whole pretense of bringing Rosenstein into the picture in the first place. But isn't that enough to say, well, this isn't just dismissing the head of the FBI because that's what he gets to do. It's why he did it, mustn't that matter?

CUCCINELLI: You can say it matters if obstruction was appropriate, but look, there were a lot of reasons to fire Comey. And you're talking to somebody who is advocating it as early as the previous summer, as did Allen Dershowitz on this very station, and, you know, that was happening almost a year before Trump fired him, so there were plenty of reasons for him to be let go, you've just named two.

CUOMO: Because they came out of the President's mouth and his lawyer's mouth, that's why.

CUCCINELLI: All right, but you quoted him for one sentence, but there are plenty of other reasons, and he himself offered many other complaints over the course of the time running up to the actual firing, he being the President.

CUOMO: Right, except, look --

CUCCINELLI: Look, I've already told you, I never thought this was appropriate, nor actually going-forward, because Mueller to Laura's point, this is not an independent council, it is a special counsel. The independent counsel statute died on a bipartisan basis 20 years ago. And he has to get everything approved. Everything important by his oversight officer, who was not the attorney general, it's the deputy attorney general. And it would be totally inappropriate for Rosenstein to be addressing matters related to obstruction, when he is so un-removable from any discussion of the subject. It would be completely inappropriate.

CUOMO: All right. Final word, Laura Coates and then we have to go. We're out of time.

CUCCINELLI: And I just don't think Rosenstein would operate that way.

CUOMO: I hear you, Ken.

COATES: You know, Ken, I agree that we have all thought that Rosenstein has some conflicts of interest when it comes to his participation in drafting the reasons to fire Comey, which could have been quite extensive given the fact that he gave that press conference and you served the role as the attorney general as suppose to being the head investigation.

[21:10:04] Having said that, I think that people are misguided as to why perhaps the obstruction of justice issue is not the end game of Mueller. Why would it be the end game. If you had a prosecutor come to you and say, my end game is to punish somebody simply for trying to prevent me from seeing what I really wanted to see and ending there. There would be absolute fall, an obstruction of justice charge although it has been the foundation of a prior president, et cetera.

The idea you would give somebody a speeding ticket for running away from the speed of the scene of the crime as opposed to investigating the crime would be absurd. Mueller can have as much impact in the investigation as the obstruction, but I do agree, it can't possibly be an end game, and if it is, what were the 19 months for?

CUOMO: We will see. More and more all the time, tomorrow is a big day. We will not know so much about this, I don't think. There will be more meat on the bones of why Mueller's doing what he's doing. Ken, thank you, Laura, as always, appreciate it.

Now, when we come back, there's another big story that we're digging into deeply. There is new evidence of this alleged scheme to rig the vote results in North Carolina. There may have to be an entirely new election for that member of Congress. We just had a huge move from one of the candidates involved. I'll tell you all about it next.


CUOMO: The mess in North Carolina just hit a new level of crazy.

[21:15:01] CNN has found problems with absentee ballots in a second county. All right, this isn't made up, it's messed up. So much so that the Democrat in the one remaining uncalled congressional race just withdrew his concession, it's too close, there's too many problems.

What's the main allegation. People claim they were paid by a Republican operative to break the law. That's the simple truth. The focus is two counties, Robeson and Bladen. The latest issues come out of Robeson, four people there signed off on multiple absentee ballots.

Those four people are all connected to this guy Leslie McCrae Dowless, he's a veteran political operative. He has got a record of insurance fraud, he has been accused of messing with ballots before, two years ago, yet he was hired by the Republican race Mark Harris, the alleged scheme apparently included a practice called ballot harvesting. What's that? A stranger knocks on your door, promising to deliver your absentee ballot for you, doing you a favor. It's against the law, some of those ballots may have been changed or just never turned in.

The signatures are what tipped this off. That's going to be the key here as they get more and more proof. When you look through the ballots, there are seven people who are witnesses more than 10 times each, but only a relative or near guardian can deliver a ballot for you. So you got two women who told CNN affiliates that they were paid to collect ballots that they handed over to Dowless. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like I said, I don't know what happened after I dropped them off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you don't know for certainty whether they were sent to the elections office?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were asked to pick up absentee ballots, he told us he would put gas in our car and a little bit of money during the week to help out.


CUOMO: The state board of elections voted against certifying this election. But what are they going to do about this? They have some options. They could order a new vote, as I said, that would be a big deal, the unprecedented but they may have to. Congress could also refuse to seat Harris. Either way, it's quite possible that this new election will need to take place in North Carolina.

So the question becomes, where are the Republicans in the state, what they have to say about this mounting evidence? What are they going to do about this. Let's find out. We got Republican State Senator Dan Bishop. He's the vice chair on the committee of elections, he joins us now.

Thank you so much. I appreciate having you for two reasons. One, this really matters. And two I can't get any Republicans to talk about this. You know, I couldn't get voter fraud out of the mouths of your fellow party members when it comes to blaming it on mysterious Latinos in California. So thank you for taking this opportunity, what do you think should be done with the allegations that we just laid out?

SEN. DAN BISHOP (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We had a press conference today, Chris, fellow senators, and myself, to say that look, the allegations are very disheartening, they need to be investigated thoroughly, promptly, and without any partisan bias.

As you point out, the gentleman we've heard about, Mr. Dallas in Bladen County, has been involved in ballot solicitation activities that have given rise to allegations in 2016 and 2014 and 2010, there were complaints. Those obviously have not been adequately resolved by the efforts to date of the state board of elections, and prosecutorial authorities. We have to get to the bottom of it, there's no doubt about it.

CUOMO: Now. I hear you, that's the right thing to hear. The problem is in context. We understand that there are also issues during the primaries and that they were voiced and there was nothing done. So it becomes a little bit of a crisis of confidence that anything will be done this time. How can you guarantee that there will be a fair outcome?

BISHOP: Well, I think that's exactly the point, Chris, it's not -- I'm not in position to guarantee it, we're in the general assembly. What we have been saying over the last couple years have been a bit of a tug of war with the democratic governor making the point that the board of elections, the elections mechanism, enforcement mechanism should not be a partisan operation. It needs to be bipartisan. And unfortunately, we haven't been very successful in gain his ear on that point. But this is the -- we've got -- actually a -- over 3 different administrations, this state board of elections has not resolved this problem, and so you're right, it extends into the primary this year, and into the general election.

CUOMO: All right. So you have two issues, you have who fixes it, and I'll ask you about that in a second. But just to keep the record clear, Harris paid Dowless. So it's not about your state's infrastructure necessarily on that level, this is about a decision he made, with a man who is a known quantity. And now there's a chance that he gets rewarded for his efforts with a congressional seat. Do you think that should happen? Or do you think that under no circumstances, should this man be seated until this is certified?

[21:20:09] BISHOP: Well, I say follow the facts wherever they lead. And my understanding is Mr. Dowless was involved as I said in the 2016 election.

CUOMO: Yes. He's not new to this.

BISHOP: -- in which there was a similar issue and effect in the gubernatorial race then. And interestingly enough, the same elections official that made the motion not to certify here, which might have been the right decision for the time being, also voted to dismiss a similar complaint in 2016, involving similar activities. So, you know, that -- it's hard to know -- I don't know who knew what about Mr. Dowless. My understanding is, various people recommend him or something. But -- and there are legitimate activities to do pursuing absentee ballots but not the ones we heard about.

CUOMO: Nope, means by definition, illegal. And whether or not people who he paid to do it allegedly, if they knew that, it's different. It doesn't sound from their interviews that they knew what they were getting into. They were just trying to make some pocket money that has to be (inaudible). But that takes us to the ultimate question, who is the final word here, where does the buck stop. Who has the power to figure out what needs to happen here?

BISHOP: Well, we think in the first instance it's up to the governor, we've asked him to establish a bipartisan task force to examine, to augment the efforts of the board of elections and to examine this and its entirety as far back as it goes. Perhaps to 2012, and not just in Bladen and Robeson counties, by the way, but wherever it may lead. We may need to see statewide what's happening. And ultimately, Chris, it may be appropriate to reform the absentee ballot the absentee ballot by mail mechanism that exists. You know, that's always, we face obstacles any time we do something to increase ballot security from various sources, but I think that may be something we have to pursue. But we have to know what the facts are, not just in one particular snapshot or from a biased or partisan point of view, but let's see what the full picture is.

CUOMO: But you can't let this man become your congressman from the 9th district until you figure out whether or not he cheated in the race, right?

BISHOP: Well, and I haven't argued, as I said a moment ago, it's probably the right decision. I think it's certainly not the right decision --

CUOMO: I hear you.

BISHOP: -- not to certify until we know what's going on.

CUOMO: All right.

BISHOP: But what we do, need to do is we need to have a full picture of it, and it needs to be done as promptly as possible.

CUOMO: And if it seems that the race is just effective, and it's defective in many different ways. Do you back the idea of a new election?

BISHOP: Look, I think it's one of the things that can be done.

CUOMO: What else could you do?

BISHOP: The board needs to approach that decision in an even handed matter, and pursuing it in the way that they -- the same sort of analysis they've undertaken before. But you've got 285,000 I think votes that have been cast in that race by -- lawfully, and you've got to give -- that has a significant. Well, it's -- you don't know exactly the number, but what we're talking about from what we've heard so far the numbers pale in comparison to that large vote. So you've got to make the right decision about that, and the state board needs to do it with the possession of all the facts, and they need to get to it as quickly as possible.

CUOMO: All right, we're going to stay on this story, and I look forward to having you as a resource on it, Senator Dan Bishop. I appreciate it, I appreciate your candor and you're taking the opportunity. You're in a very elite group on this occasion.

BISHOP: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Be well.

The President has reportedly made another big decision, who should replace our U.N. ambassador, our ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley was the one there, right? Rumor, maybe she could run president someday. He was the governor of South Carolina, his idea I have a hint for you. He is a former Fox & Friends anchor. Let's see what our great debaters think of that. Does this qualify as only the best?


[21:27:01] CUOMO: All right. So first the President wanted his personal doctor to be the head of the V.A. Then he wanted his personal pilot to be the head of the FAA. Now he wants a former anchor from his personal favorite morning show to be the choice to replace former governor Nikki Haley as the U.N.

This is a cabinet level position. That means that now it would be have tremendous responsibility for maintaining our foreign relations. She's been at the state department for like a year and a half. All right, originally as a communications person. How does she qualify for the President's pledge to bring us only the best?

Let's ask Jennifer Granholm and Mike Shields. Two pieces of information to get you guys going here. And thanks both for being here. This is now her bio, I just pulled it from online. It's 2 1/2 paragraphs all right, of what she's done professionally. And this is not to disparage. I know Heather, I've watched her on TV for a long time. She was a good anchor. It doesn't make you a diplomat.

Now, it's interesting that governor, we had Mike Pompeo and John Bolton both supposedly think according to the latest reporting that this position should be downgraded from cabinet level. Yes, no surprise, if you're putting up a name like a Fox News Anchor in order to do the job. What's your take?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, being at the U.N. is you are the center of America's face to the world. So there's 195 countries in the world. And the people who go there from those countries, they are the people who have been in the midst of foreign policy for decades. So my concern -- I mean I'm sure she's a smart person, and that she a great P.R. person, and great spokesperson. She could be doing maybe Sarah Huckabee Sanders job. But most people who go, Adlai Stevenson, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Madeleine Albright where people who had either been steeped in scholarship, or had been steeped in governmental service by being elected or had been steeped in foreign policy service.

She has none of that, and so the concern is, of course, how she will be viewed not just by the people at the U.N., because it's such a deep serious position, but also will she be able without that deep chops to be able to stand up to someone like John Bolton or Donald Trump, or at least speak her mind in a way that suggests strength like Nikki Haley was able to do.

CUOMO: Well, you know, Nikki Haley is, bounce point to you, Mike, she didn't have all that foreign diplomat experience either, but she was a governor of a state. And so you understand a level of government and import and executive decisions and how to deal with that kind of gravity, you know, so you give her the nod, and let's be honest but most accounts, she did a very admirable job in the time. How do you feel about this selection? MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, guess what? Nikki

Haley was criticized by Democrats for not having any foreign policy experience, and then she did a great job once she was given the chance.

CUOMO: But again, she was a governor.

[21:30:00] SHIELDS: I think it's commendable that the President has nominated a -- could potentially nominate a second woman for this position.

CUOMO: There's lots of women you could give this nomination to by the way.

SHIELDS: Yes, great, I'm glad that he's doing that, and I think we should give her a chance before we suddenly decide that someone who's been working at the State Department, who's in the inner circle of Mike Pompeo, who has the trust of the President and the secretary of state, who are formidable leaders obviously in government. And they have her trust, and we've already decided that she can't do the job. Why is that?

CUOMO: Because she's never done anything like it on any level anywhere.


SHIELDS: Sure, she's being given a chance. And by the way, it wouldn't be the first time, if she was downgraded and it was through the secretary of state, that's happened before, that wouldn't be the first U.N. ambassador that the government had been set up that way. And that's up to the President and the secretary of state how they want to do that, but I actually think it is really hypocritical for the left, and for Democrats to talk about promoting women, to talk about giving women a chance.

CUOMO: It's not just any woman. Governor, it's not like I want you to be the quarterback for the jets just so we can say we have a woman doing it. You got to have some experience.

Hold on, Mike, I take your point but this is the problem with the evolution of gender sensitivity. It's like, hey we're going to throw you a bone, Gov. We put on of yours in the position.

GRANHOLM: Exactly.

CUOMO: She's a woman, shut up, you should be happy. You know, what's the real basis of satisfaction?

GRANHOLM: Can I just say that it's a really insulting thing to say, let me throw a woman up there, and therefore our woman problem will be cured or therefore the Democrats are hypocritical if they criticize, this would be the least experienced U.N. ambassador in the history of the United States. That's nothing to say, oh let's just give her a shot. Let's just try it. I mean, can she stand up to Russia and to China? SHIELDS: Well, let's find out?

GRANHOLM: If they're asking to alleviate the sanctions?

SHIELDS: Let's find out.

GRANHOLM: I mean, let's find out. There are 325 million people in America whose future counts on someone --

SHIELDS: I'm saying let's find out before you criticize her. Why don't you let her have a day in the job. If she can't do the job then sure, let's come back to CNN in this debate and you can see --

CUOMO: Why would you do it that way. I thought you meant.

Hold on a second. Mike, I thought you meant that maybe we should go through some confirmation and see how she holds up to scrutiny even though I believe that's a completely plastic protocol, frankly. It's meant to push people through, unless you're an aberration of cause. Just being in the media alone, she should get through that process. But Mike, since when is that your vetting standard. Let's give them a crack at the job? Let's see how they do with these people --

SHIELDS: No, I didn't say that was a vetting standard. What I'm saying is politically -- that's not what I'm saying as a vetting standard. There is a vetting standard. It's gone through the -- the President, by the way, has been considering lots of other candidates, he's been talking to lots of other people about this, he didn't just sort of wake up one day --

CUOMO: He can't find anybody better than a Fox & Friends anchor to do the job?

SHIELDS: It's been reported many times that he's considered lots of candidates. He and Mike Pompeo have obviously and John Bolton has had a big influence and they changed the foreign policy structure at the White House over the last 6 to 8 months. And they're continuing to do that.

CUOMO: So you think she's the best --

SHIELDS: What I'm saying is before you come on here and decide that this young woman can't do a job, why don't you actually see what her performance in the position is before you decide if she can't do it.

CUOMO: Because that's not the way it should work, you shouldn't risk the values, the interest and the policies of the United States on a farm team play. That's not how it works, fine, give her the shot, put her in charge of something at the State Department where she's not as exposed to the universe of global diplomacy, so that we all have to pay the price for her on the job training.

SHIELDS: I also think that there's a difference in this President's approach to how he addresses things like the United Nations. The United Nations is not a body that this President and this administration believes in deeply. This is the United Nations that is completely anti-Israel and continues to be, including the vote that happen --

CUOMO: Well, that's an interesting that Mike's making. Mike, you make an interesting point. Governor, let's pick that up. Mike's making a point. Let me if I get it wrong, contractively that, hey Trump doesn't like the U.N. to begin with, so they're going to downgrade this position. It's going to --

SHIELDS: I'm not saying they're going to downgrade it. I'm saying he's going to choose his kind of person.

CUOMO: -- and he's going to put somebody in there that is basically going like this to the U.N. and say, this is what I think of how important you are.

SHIELDS: He's going to choose someone he trusts, is my point.

GRANHOLM: Well, I mean, but the point is that he's choosing somebody who doesn't have the experience of negotiating with heads of states or others in a diplomatic arena. Even if you want to minimize the U.N., which sends a whole other signal about how much he wants the U.S. to be retreating from the globe. How he wants it to be U.S. alone as opposed to us in partnership with allies to make us all stronger. We've got an extremely complicated and dangerous world out there. And to be able to put this in the hands of either a weakened U.N. where the U.S. is minimized or somebody who doesn't -- isn't steeped in this history and in the knowledge of diplomacy is dangerous for the United States. That's the point.

SHIELDS: Every woman who's in a senior leadership position at some point, didn't have the experience and wasn't put into place.

[21:35:00] GRANHOLM: Stop this, do not be all feminist with me. Do not do that. It is insulting to say that the person who is the least --

SHIELDS: I'm sorry. I know you don't like it. I know you're offended by it, but I believe what I'm telling you.

GRANHOLM: No, stop it. Stop it. Would you just let me finish.

SHIELDS: No, let me finish.

GRANHOLM: You cannot put someone in there who is the least experienced person in the history of the United States. For this position.

Listen, it would be fine to give someone a chance who was not in such a pivotal critical position for the United States' safety. But you -- I mean, this position is a serious heavy position. It's not like --

SHIELDS: I know women hear that all the time when they want to get a promotion, don't they? This is too serious for you.

CUOMO: Mike, are you kidding me? Hold on, I'm out of time. But I just want to be serious. Mike, are you playing at a point right now? Or you really mean this? You really believe -- SHIELDS: I really believe Republicans --

CUOMO: Heather is an example of --

SHIELDS: We need to create leaders, I want more women leaders in our party.

CUOMO: And you think a starter job for somebody because that's how you describe it. She needs a chance so can become something great somebody?

SHIELDS: No, it's not a starter job.

CUOMO: The starter job is the U.N. Ambassador?

SHIELDS: What I reject is that the President and secretary of state have faith in this person, and she's in their inner circle. They trust her.

CUOMO: They have faith on Matthew Whitaker --

SHIELDS: She's an official state department and having a --

CUOMO: They have faith on Matthew Whitaker, they have faith in his pilot. He has faith in his doctor.

SHIELDS: That she doesn't have the requisite experience is exactly what women are told all the time --

CUOMO: That's not true. I'll tell you what, I could find you 25 women in a quick Google search --

GRANHOLM: Oh my gosh, yes.

CUOMO: -- who worked at the State Department right now who are imminently qualified from this.


CUOMO: Mike, she's not going to pull off her apron and run off to the U.N., hey, I'm getting a shot. You're painting it like it's the 1950s. Come on now, Mike, you got tons of qualified women in this position. Come on, I mean like, we're holding women back because we don't let someone who's completely unqualified at a starter job, to put her at the U.N?

SHIELDS: You're already making the arguments against her that sound sexist to me. That's what I'm talking about.

GRANHOLM: No, she's a perfectly qualified person to be a spokesperson with her history as an anchor. I'm certain she is a smart person. This position is not a good match with her skills, if the Republican Party really wants to do better with women, how about adopting policies that women support, this is why you lost so big in the midterms, this is why you're going to have a problem in 2020 is arguments like the one you are making right now, which is pandering and not putting someone up who has the experience for position.

SHIELDS: Thou doth protest too much.

CUOMO: Thou doth protest too much. And you always actually great about that?

GRANHOLM: That is hilarious.

CUOMO: You look at the context of when that was said in the play, that shows the perils of putting a woman in a position when she's not ready for it. Come on, it's not about man or woman, it's about qualifications. Mike, I respect you, I respect having you on the show. Thank you very much. Governor Granholm, as always, I appreciate you both. Thank you.

GRANHOLM: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Doth protest too much. We don't protest enough when these things come out. You got to get in there early when something is outrageous.

The President says you cannot trust undocumented immigrants. You have heard him say this so many times, right? But there seems to be a but. But you can apparently if you work for him as an undocumented immigrant. Because we're going to introduce you to somebody who's made the President's bed, dusted his golf trophies, even cleaned his toilet. Talked to him, interchanged with him. Wait until you hear her lawyer explain why she must speak out to you now, next.


[21:41:57] CUOMO: The New York Times reports undocumented immigrants are working at one of President Trump's golf clubs. Two housekeepers both came into the country illegally, are saying they were among many illegal workers at the resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The Trump organization is pushing back here its response. We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices. If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately. Well, what if the facility helped them get those documents and encouraged their employment, even while knowing they were undocumented? That is the suggestion of the lawyer for these women, his name is Anibal Romero, and here's his story. Mr. Romero, thank you for joining us.

ANIBAL ROMERO, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Thank you, Chris, thank you for having me.

CUOMO: All right. So let's get right to the main point here, which is, is it true that you can prove that there is at least one Trump property that employs undocumented immigrants, and it's not just one, it's many?

ROMERO: Absolutely, Chris. Both of my clients are willing to cooperate, with federal authorities and with state authorities. In fact, we have already been in contact with federal and state authorities, and they're both willing to cooperate.

CUOMO: They've been working there for years, and at least one case, what kind of jobs, what kind of contact have they had with the President?

ROMERO: So both of them, in the Sandra, she worked there from 2010 until 2013. Vicky started working there from 2013 until today. They were both housekeepers, they both worked cleaning President Trump's house. Ms. Ivanka Trump's house. They were in charge of bed sheets, toilets, serving food, whatever they need. They were both always available for the President and the first lady.

CUOMO: And they had contact at least one of them with the President, right? And those exchanges according to the reporting were pleasant?


CUOMO: That your client had a positive image of the President? Tell me?

ROMERO: In fact, yes, both of them had a very positive image of the President. In fact, they were both at some point -- the President apparently gives them tips once in a while. And in the beginning everything was great since he became President, the staff at the club has in a way have become empowered. And now there is plenty of abuse, they have at least Vicky has been physically assaulted on numerous occasions. They have been both -- they were both threatened with deportation. They were coerced into doing work they didn't want to do.

CUOMO: Did they ever go to the police about the abuse or these activities as you describe them?

ROMERO: We have been in contact with federal authorities and we have been in contact with state authorities, they have both contacted us, and that's all I can say about that at this time.

CUOMO: All right. Let's test what you've said so far, you agree with me that they came here under false pretenses, they came in illegally. They got illegal documentation, in the reporting in the New York Times it says there is no proof that the Trump organization knew. So then what did they do wrong, if your employees falsified their documents --

[21:45:14] ROMERO: Sure.

CUOMO: -- and posed as legal and able to work here, what is the fault involved in the Trump Organization?

ROMERO: Sure. I believe the article says that President Trump didn't know or Trump executives didn't know. But something I think is very important here. This isn't a hotel with 200, 300 employees. This is President Trump's house and Ms. Ivanka Trump's house. Both of these houses were managed by three people. The supervising head of maintenance, the direct supervisor and the woman who is described by one of my clients as President Trump's son's nanny. CUOMO: So the question is, why come forward now? And you seem to be saying because things have changed? That after the President became President from just the owner of this golf club in New Jersey, that they got a different notice, that there were different rules and different treatment. How so?

ROMERO: Sure. So in the case of Vicky, she claims that once Mr. Trump became President Trump everything changed. There were -- she was not allowed to go inside of Mr. Trump's house, although on a couple occasions, when no one was around, they asked her to please come and clean the house. This direct supervisor became more abusive. And what they are saying now is, that's enough, we're tired of this, we want to come forward. The rhetoric that is coming from Washington really bothered them and they are really upset, they said, enough is enough. We want to tell our story.

CUOMO: Bother them enough to risk coming forward in one prove that they're here illegally, and probably risk being deported.

ROMERO: In the case of Vicky, she is -- yes, she was here illegal. We have filed an asylum claim for her. Her family, her father-in-law was slaughtered by people in Guatemala in front of her Children, I believe we have a really strong asylum claim. And in the case of Sandra, remember Sandra worked there from 2009 until 2013. Sandra is now a legal permanent resident.

CUOMO: So two questions, one, an asylum claim usually you have within a year. It's about an emergency situation. Your client has been here many years. And with the other client, how can she now be here legally, if she obtained the legal authorization under false pretenses?

ROMERO: Sure. So in the case of Vicky, well allege that there's been a change of circumstances and I believe there are exceptions to the one year rule that we will argue either in front of an asylum office or in front of an immigration judge.

In the case of Sandra, she actually came in with a B-1/B-2 visa. Her daughter who also at one point was undocumented, became a legal permanent resident and American citizen and then petitioned for her mother. So Sandra has now been a legal permanent resident I believe a couple of years.

CUOMO: Do you plan a civil suit?

ROMERO: We have thought about it. There are many facts that still have to come out. I have to sit down with them. And we haven't made that decision yet.

CUOMO: And just to be clear, you have two clients but you're suggesting that a number of the employees there mirror their situation?

ROMERO: Absolutely.

CUOMO: That they are under equally undocumented and illegal situation?

ROMERO: Absolutely. Both of my clients are in direct contact with not one, two or three. There are many people who are still working there who are undocumented who share the same story, yes.

CUOMO: And they believe that at least those in direct management are aware of this, and in fact facilitated their illegal employment?

ROMERO: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Mr. Romero, thank you very much, as you learn more, please pass it along.

ROMERO: Thank you, Chris. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Now, first of all, there's more to this story. Mr. Romero makes other allegations that I did not have time to vet. And in the interest of fairness, you got to take that time. So there is more here. There's more than he said, there's more than what was in "The New York Times". We are checking on it now, and giving the Trump Organization a chance to justify or to reject those claims and we will have more on this, probably tomorrow.

Now, Kevin Hart, the comedian chosen to host the Oscars, he's facing backlash over old tweets that say bad things about gay people. In one 2011 tweet, he wrote, "Yo, if my son comes home and tries to play with my daughter's doll house, I'm going to break it over his head and say in my voice, stop, that's gay."

And another from 2010 he says, "Someone's profile pic looks like a gay billboard for AIDS." And in 2009 tweet he says, "Call someone a fat faced" -- you read it for yourself. Hart has been deleting some of the offensive tweets.

Here's what he's saying now.


[21:50:00] KEVIN HART, COMEDIAN: If you don't believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don't know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past, then do you. I'm the wrong guy, man.


CUOMO: What, did he just like wake up and come to that thought? That's what it looked like in the video. Let's bring in D. Lemon.

Don, we have not heard from the academy about this yet. What's your take?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I just -- I had a little problem with my earpiece, Chris. Go on. It's just hanging right here.

CUOMO: That's all right.

LEMON: Say it again. What was your question?

CUOMO: Kevin Hart is deleting tweets now that are ugly about gay people that he's had from back like 2009, even earlier. He's been deleting them. He says if you're going to hold somebody responsible for what they were a long time ago instead of what they've grown in to today then do you, I'm not the guy for you then.

LEMON: OK. So let me tell you how I feel about this, and not knowing -- what Kevin said I think is destructive. Right? I think it's terrible. Gay people are marginalized. They are in many way brutalized, especially folks who are in the trans part of the LGBT community. Suffer dire consequences all the time. It is terrible. He should never have said it.

That said, when someone gives an apology like that I want to take them at their word. I want to take him at his word. And I think that people can change and they can evolve. Remember, our former president, who actually encouraged legislation to be signed into law that gay people can get married, evolved on that issue.

CUOMO: A lot of politicians do.

LEMON: So I believe that Kevin Hart can evolve on this issue. I think that Kevin Hart is the kind of person, hopefully he will be, that will work with the LGBT community to make good on his past regressions and his past sins. So -- and if he doesn't do that, then I may have a different opinion about it tomorrow or after, on and on.

CUOMO: So he's got to do something before the Oscars or --

LEMON: I think he's doing something now. But he can't -- listen, yes, there is -- there is a part of the culture now that they want to find fault with everyone. He's right about that. But people have the right to be upset with what he said about gay people, especially gay kids. Gay kids are bullied all the time. Gay kids face consequences that straight kids don't have to face. Gay kids grow up thinking it's bad because of the way and a big part because of what Kevin Hart said.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: I don't want my kid to be gay, I don't want -- they have horrible childhoods. They have to go to therapy and all that stuff. All of that is wrong. But if you are truly sorry and you tell me that you've truly evolved and you've truly changed, then I need you to show me. And I do think from the limited -- I know Kevin just in a limited way. I've interviewed him a couple of times. I've run into him just like, you know, at some place and just say hello. I don't know him that well.

But I do believe that he is the kind of person who will back up what he said. What he did was terrible, what he said was terrible. Let's see what his actions are after this because maybe he can end up becoming an ally and doing some good instead of harm.

CUOMO: I hear what you're saying. You know, look, we'll see what he does. That was not a great start. That video in bed of what he was saying. There was a nonchalance to it --

LEMON: That's why I think he can't just blow it off --

CUOMO: The situation warrants more than that. And also the academy has to step up and explain this. Didn't they vet him? Don't they know what he said in the past? What's their position on it? So we'll see. But, Don, I respect your points, and I'll see you in a second. Thank you, my brother. D. Lemon, everybody.

All right. So we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, look, the mandate of this show, why it was created, was part of our facts first. Right? You remember all the cries from the President and Republicans about the phantom election fraud in Florida? Remember the millions of illegal Latinos who voted in the last election? That was a lie.

Well, now there is evidence of a problem that is real. But it works against Republicans. So you know what you hear from them? Nothing. Crickets. The facts and the fiction of election fraud right under our noses, next.


[21:55:42] CUOMO: All right. For months, the President and his echoes on the right did their damnedest to convince you of the lie that millions voted illegally in the 2016 election. That's why he lost the popular vote and it's one more reason that you must condemn the brown menace, as they have become, Latinos, who enter the country illegally. They're the ones who perpetrated the fraud in California. None of it was true. It was as ugly as it was obvious.

The studies, the legal actions, they all reflect the reality that voter fraud is statistically insignificant. People who aren't supposed to vote who do. Trump doubles down. Uses your money to form a commission to look into these hollow allegations and is forced to shut it down because it was a sham. Then what happens?

North Carolina's 9th district, the congressional race, still hasn't been certified. Why? Allegations supported by significant proof that someone connected and hired by the Republican candidate potentially rigged a number of absentee ballots. And you know what? If he did it, he's good at it because he's been doing it before and called out (ph) for it before.

The race is separated by 900 votes. Two different counties now report irregularities. We just learned today that the same person supposedly witnessed close to 60 absentee ballots from people on all different areas of the county. How can that happen? You're not even supposed to collect people's absentee ballots for them. It may sound like a nice gesture but it's illegal. Only certain people can do that. Who? Family members, guardians. Not somebody who just walks up on the door and says let me help you out.

The Democrat has now withdrawn his concession in the race because of these allegations. And the facts that have come out, the state as I said hasn't certified the election. You heard me talk earlier to a state senator to try to figure out what happened. They're going to try to figure out what to do about it. And all those Trump supporters who were supposed to be so determined to expose fraud, crickets. Where are you now? Is it that fraud only matters when you can play it to your advantage? What about all the president's high-minded rhetoric about the sanctity of the process and making sure the count is right?

The only response from the GOP locally so far has been to call for voter ID as a remedy. How would that help keep someone from harvesting absentee ballots? Your solution is to create more of a burden to participation. Come on. The hypocrisy. The Greek gave us the word hypocrisy. It comes from the word to pretend. And this is pretending to care.

If you care about keeping elections fair, you would call this out. Because it's a real case of potential election fraud instead of selling people on a lie. And then we see this carried through, into another truly egregious action, another hypocrisy. These vulgar moves in Wisconsin and Michigan to nullify the people's will.

We always say elections have consequences. We say it all the time on the show. People will complain, say I don't like this administration's policies, I don't like what the President said. Too bad. Vote someone else in. That is a key. It's a cornerstone to what motivates turnout on Election Day. The ability to influence the outcome of change. It's a right, not a privilege. But now we see again Republicans trying rush in laws to keep the people from those two states, Michigan and Wisconsin, from getting the change that they voted for.

Imagine this. Last-minute legislative moves to limit the power of the offices they lost and to reserve powers in the places where they have a majority. They are literally codifying changes or trying to, to directly contradict the mandates delivered in their statewide elections.

Ignoring the fraud in an election is one thing. But manifestly and intentionally trying to subvert the will of the people to reinforce what they rejected, that is beneath contempt. The people who are doing that, the Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin, you embarrass your party. You expose yourselves as frauds and you will damage the will of the people to participate. And given all the barriers to entry and the toxicity in our political culture that is already creating such disaffection, you doing this is the worst.

We see you. We see what you're doing in Michigan and Wisconsin. Shame on you. We will call it out. We will stay on it to make sure it doesn't happen if the people have anything to say about it. Because that is the right thing to do and what you are doing is wrong.

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