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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Forty-Four Former Senators Write Open Letter to Urge Current Senate to Defend Democracy; Nick Ayers Passes on Chief of Staff Job Offer; Russian Spy Flips; Source: Trump Sees Impeachment as "Real Possibility." Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 10, 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: News continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo, for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.

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

Tonight, we just learned the President is worrying that the Democrats may try to impeach him when they take over power. And you know what? The President has reason for a concern.

The case against him for obstruction of justice has reached a high watermark. Not simply because of what arguments you could make about what he did but because of what he may have known about. Cohen, Flynn, Manafort, have all now revealed they were in contact with administration and campaign members the whole way in each of what they did to break the law.

We have a man who knows White House politics from the inside and he is here to make the case that sent his "New York Times" op-ed speeding around the Internet.

And then we have another stunner tonight. A Russian spy has flipped. What does she know about Russia's efforts to hurt America? And why did the President call on her, Maria Butina, at one of his campaign events? We're going to lay out what we know and then we're going to get deeper into that.

And anyone want to be a Chief of Staff? The President is supposedly on fire once again. This time because Pence's Chief of Staff Nick Ayers passed on the job. We have the latest on who is on the new list to replace General John Kelly. But the real story is how many want to avoid that job and why? It's a Monday. Let's get after it.

Holy smokes, you just can't keep up with the news. It's like impossible to plan this show. Just a few minutes ago a letter, the likes of which I have never seen before came out from 44 former senators, 32 Democrats, 10 Republicans, two Independents.

I'm going to read you this letter in full. It's not the biggest headline of the day but it reflects on what we are going to deal with now and I think you should hear in the full. I'll read it to you. We'll have people discuss it. But I want you to hear it and process it for yourself. Now, they are reaching out because of what we saw in the Mueller probe and what they anticipate coming ahead which obviously our President is doing tonight as well. Redactions are a clue, it means there is more. It means there is a continuation. But also, we read between those lines and we see that the President's knowledge, that people around him knowing about what those who were breaking the law were doing, will be a big deal and it certainly is for Democrats.

His stress level is rising, so is theirs, to be frank with you. They have a big calculation to make. We're hearing from a source close to the President that he is expressing concern about impeachment after the new Congress is sworn in next month. And we all know that the Democrats are wrestling with how much oversight to do early on. Big developments.

We have a former White House Counsel Bob Bauer. He is here to help break this all down. You know Bob, thank you for being here. I read your "New York Times" op-ed. I had known who you were and followed you in the past and that was going to be the show tonight. And little did we know that there would be so much context to have exactly this conversation.

So the headline of the President being worried. Do you believe he has good worry or better reason than he's had up until now to worry that the Democrats could make a move on him?

BOB BAUER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: He has a continuing worry and I think it's a mounting worry and I want to say it's a worry that wouldn't be grounded. I don't think, rationally, in the Democrats doing whatever is politically expedient. It's because his behavior is bringing him squarely within the law and precedents that would in effect point in the direction of an impeachment inquiry.

CUOMO: All right, let's discuss. Make the case. I'm going to test the case. Obstruction of justice is obviously where you put your cross hairs in your op-ed. It's not a topic we discuss much beyond his actions about Flynn and really Comey. Make your case point by point. What's the first big point of why this is a legitimate case for the Department of Justice to look at on behalf of the President?

BAUER: Let's take for example the sentencing memo that was filed in the Cohen case. There we find out that Michael Cohen circulated within the White House. It's not identified with whom it was circulated but certainly they included apparently Trump lawyers the testimony he was preparing to give to Congress.

That testimony included statements he was going to make about the Moscow Hotel project. When negotiations with the Russians took place and when they ended and he was very eager to show to state and he stated it publicly that those negotiations ended before the active face of the Republican primary campaign in 2016. That was not true. That was part of his written statement. The prosecutors say this was pre-meditated testimony. It was circulated within the White House.

[21:05:10] It is inconceivable that White House staff, knowing what the President's personal lawyer was going to say about one of his business deals didn't let him know. So the President, it seems, without an extraordinary explanation to the contrary would have known that Michael Cohen was about to go to the Congress and lie.

CUOMO: All right, first of all, respect for you picking up on what few did in the sentencing memo. It was the last point they made that Cohen had been helpful on which was describing the circumstances around which he gave that Congressional testimony. Many people looked over it because it wasn't a splashy. You seize on it and I understand why. However, here would be the counter.

One, prove I knew if I'm the President. Can't prove it. You didn't talk to my lawyers. You talked to Dowd. Dowd's lawyer says that he didn't expose me to any criminality. So he must not have said what you're saying right now otherwise they'd be lying about what he said, let's assume Dowd's lawyer is acting in good faith.

So you can't show that I knew. And even if I did know, that's not a crime and it's not obstruction of justice for me to know about what's going on. You have to show I had engineered the same.

BAUER: Well, let me begin by saying we always assume that we've had the last word from Mr. Mueller and his team and the team in the Southern District always surprise us. So there's still facts to emerge about who received the testimony and who within the White House was in receiving information about Mr. Cohen's intention to lie. But let's now take this to the Constitutional precedence for a moment.

When Richard Nixon was impeached, he was impeached for lying publicly about the investigation in the Watergate --

CUOMO: Yes.

BAUER: -- and whether one had occurred. He was impeached for lying about the activities of his campaign to try to win the election in 1972, his reelection in 1972.

Now if Donald Trump knew that Michael Cohen was about to lie on a business deal that he was directly involved in, in fact, Mr. Cohen was operating on behalf of Mr. Trump in negotiating that deal and he took no action to stop him from lying, then it seems to me he is implicated in what is clearly an impeachable offense.

Whether in fact all the facts taken together rise to the level of an action for which the President would be impeached and for which the President would convict him, that remains to be seen. But on the face of it, we clearly have it. I would add one more point.

The President knew that Michael Cohen was going to lie because Michael Cohen publicly previewed his testimony before he gave it and he was clear that this business negotiation ended before the primaries and he knew that was not true. He said the reason that he did tell that lie was to spare the President public embarrassment and to spare the President having to account for a lie the President told himself during the Presidential campaign.

CUOMO: And to do something that would sounded clumsy at the time which was well, I was reading the reports. I was still close and in contact, said Cohen, and I was trying to coordinate my story so as to not mess up with the narrative that was coming out of the White House.

That was suggestive of something. He had more than a gut of watching my show and reading the papers. He had much closer contact with what was going on in the White House have been met and then you have Flynn and the 18 days between when the President and others were told that he was lying and exposed the problems and when they acted on it and the President even at that time never exposed his criminality as a reason for getting rid of him.

And then you have Manafort saying or lying, rather, about having been in contact with administration/campaign officials about what he was doing and all of that makes you think who knew what and when. Fair point, I don't want to waste your mind on that until we have more facts. When we get them more, come back, we'll continue the case.

Maria Butina, the Russian spy. It is rare for a Russian spy to turn. I don't know how to read the intrigue here.

Do you believe that the investigation that she is now cooperating with to help herself against her boyfriend is about just her own efforts or do you think that there is a chance that this Russian invasion dynamic could have some type of nexus with what's going on in the larger probe?

BAUER: It certainly seems like it would have that nexus. I think what this case demonstrates, again, is the different way.

CUOMO: But Mueller is not doing the investigating. That's why I asked you Counselor.

BAUER: That is correct and where do -- in what way it winds up feeding into the Mueller investigation or eventually into a House proceeding. I think is still not known. What it does demonstrate, however, is the wide range of Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the election and the influence public policy.

And what is striking about this episode taken together with the others is that no matter how much evidence mounts about the contacts that Russians were having with the campaign, with policy makers, the unprecedented cyber intervention that they made into the campaign, the President has consistently told the public in tweet after tweet, public statement after public statement nothing like that happened that he was concerned with really happened. In fact he was more inclined to believe the President of Russia than he was his own intelligence services.

[21:10:08] CUOMO: That's an important point. Counselor, let's let people be reminded by what the President had said.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

FEMALE: Want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging on both economy or you have any other ideas? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK? And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think you'd need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well. I really believe that.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CUOMO: I didn't set that up right. That was an instructive sound because that is the then candidate, now President, obviously, answering a question and calling on Maria Butina the Russian spy in 2015. She asked a question about sanctions.

Now, so people understand why this is curious. One, who the hell is Butina and why did he call on her? And who told him to? Or did he do it on his own? Did he know of why would he do that? And she had infiltrated through conservative groups in the NRA. That's how she found this convenient boyfriend. He's a conservative political consultant work with Buchanan and then others. Why is she asking about sanctions?

Sanctions is only good and relevant with Flynn talking to the ambassador and of course that other Russian plant that they put in that meeting with the President's son in Manafort and his son-in-law and others in Trump Tower. That's the part that makes it more curious.

BAUER: Yes and I wouldn't rule out also the business that the Kremlin delegation brought to Trump Tower in June of 2016.

CUOMO: Right.

BAUER: They were also eager to talk about that policy. So this was a concerted effort from a number of directions. Some of it involved the campaign. Some of it involved the Republican influence industry but as far as we know unprecedented and I don't think it is fair to assume that we've heard the last fact.

CUOMO: And also as Mueller puts more meat on the bones, it's only one course of the meal because if this is going to proceed about a political accountability contest, then you're going to get to the oversight hearings and the frustration for the American people be the redundancy. If they had lived through one process waiting for answer and it's just going to pour into a new process of political accountability. That's why people with you, with your experience and your mind is so valuable as we learn more, Counselor, please come back and let's test what it could and could not mean. Thank you, Bob Bauer.

BAUER: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, now, in the midst of all this, the President is concerned. The Democrats are trying to figure out what to do. Mueller keeps putting more fuel for the fires of anticipation about who knew what and when and why did they keep lying about Russia.

Why do we have 16 associates of this President having had contact with Russian difference players before and during and after the election? Why do they lie? In the midst of all of that comes this letter the likes of which I've never seen. Forty four former senators, Republican, Democrat, Independent, two their colleagues in the Senate laying out concerns that are chilling and I don't like that TV word but it applies here. I want to read it to you in full and we'll process what it means, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:15:57] CUOMO: All right, so this letter that I'm about to read you just came out at 8:30 p.m. The "Washington Post" published it. It's from 44 former U.S. senators, mostly Democrats, I think 32, but 10 Republicans, two Independents. And they're all together with one voice warning the current Senate of what they are about to confront as the Mueller investigation draws to a close. Here it is in its entirety.

"Dear Senate colleagues, as former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it's our shared view that we're entering a dangerous period and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the Rule of Law, the Constitution, our governing institutions, and our national security.

'We are on the eve of the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation and the House's commencement of investigations of the President and his administration."

Remember that line.

'The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy, and geopolitical stability. It's a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the President and the Senate.

'We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our Democracy and our national security interests are at stake. And the Rule of Law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

'During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies, at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.

'All other critical moments in our history when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations it has been the Senate that that has stood in defense of our Democracy. Today is once again such a time."

Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as members, as former members of this body we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our Democracy by ensuring partisanship or self-interest, not replace national interest. And if you look at the names that sign this, you'll going to see a lot

of names that have loomed large in our nation's history. I have never seen a letter like this and we have never had a time like this.

What will these words mean to the men and women working in the Senate right now? We're going to take this up in our great debate ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:22:38] CUOMO: Forty-four former senators signed a letter tonight saying that our country is in a constitutional crisis, and that the Senate must stand in defense of democracy. It was a wakeup call, there's no other way to read it. It was people from the past grabbing by the collar those in the job currently and saying, hey, wake up, don't just sit on the sidelines and watch things happen, you were elected to lead and the time is now.

A source close to the President tells CNN, Trump thinks impeachment is, "a real possibility." He's right.

Now he feels confident about his chances in the Senate because, remember, impeachment in the House, removal in the Senate and you need two-thirds and would you have enough Republicans even come close to approaching 67 votes.

What would it take to get that kind of consensus, and remember that's a word that even Nancy Pelosi, the big bad wolf of the left when asked about impeachment by me, she says slow down, we don't know what the American people want, let's see what the facts are. If anything like that happen, it would have to be because it was an echo of their desire for intensions.

Let's debate it Jennifer Granholm and Rick Santorum.

Rick an especially valued guest as a Former U.S. Senator. You were not asked to sign on to this letter but would you have?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. But I think it tells you something that I wasn't asked to sign on to this letter. I mean, if you look at the 10 Republicans who signed on the letter, all very good people, friends of mine, but they are not I would say conservative Republicans or certainly supporters of the President. So, that's number one.

Number two, the fact that they didn't reach out beyond a group of folks who are anti-Trump gives you more perspective on this. And then, the other thing what does this letter say? I mean, it looks like a letter that maybe was put together or the idea was put together to call on the Senate to, you know, to go after Trump or the do something, but it looks like a letter written by committee.

They couldn't really come up with anything other than stand for God and country but it says nothing. And so, I don't know really what this is about. Is it a missive to say, you know, this is sort of a wink and a nod vote for impeachment when there isn't any -- I think any realistic possibility that that's going to occur in the next two years? I have no idea what this letter is all about.

[21:25:00] CUOMO: I tell you what, you tell Alan Simpson, that he's not a conservative. You better say it with your hands up because he's going to --

SANTORUM: I have. Look, I voted against Alan Simpson, when I got to the United States and --

CUOMO: John Warner.

SANTORUM: In favor of Trent Lott to moving up because I didn't think he was a conservative. So yeah, I'll say it to his face and he said similar things to mine.

CUOMO: Come on, if he doesn't think you're a conservative, you guys have to check your definitions.

SANTORUM: No, no, I've got on other issues.

CUOMO: I know, I'm kidding. Gov. I didn't take it the way the senator -- the former senator does. I took it as this stuff matters, you'll be called on. You should be ready. I didn't take it as an impetus letter, in terms of a specific action. But what do you make about the importance? I read the letter in full because I've never seen one like it before.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, first of all, any time you have two parties in this town actually agreeing on language for something, it's a miracle. But in this regard, I think what they're saying, I think the most important part of this letter is that we are about country and not party. And, you know, whatever that means? I mean, they don't know what Robert Mueller is going to find.

I'm sure they are saying and I know in the language it says stand up for the Rule of Law presumably embedded in that, is an understanding to allow Robert Mueller to continue his investigation unimpeded. But the bottom line is I wish I long for the days, where we have people coming together and say, hey, we are Americans. We may disagree at times but, we are united in this that we stand together against our adversaries and for this country.

CUOMO: Rick, I don't know why you're so anti this letter. What bothers you about it? I mean, what are they saying here that you believe is even decidedly against the President?

SANTORUM: I guess my point is there's nothing in the letter that raises any kind of concerns, because as I said it doesn't say anything, but the fact that it's sent says something. The fact that it's sent says something. The fact that's sent at this point and times says something. So, to me it just smacks of, you know, trying to cast a poll on the Senate that somehow they're not acting in the best interest of the country.

CUOMO: Because they just been -- I think that's a little different.

SANTORUM: I don't think that's true.

SANTORUM: Let's look at it differently. I think you see this as a manifesto, I don't. But again, you know, that's why we have different voices on the show. I think this is about something that's very true which is that you cannot sit idly by in times like this as if what's going on with the probe doesn't affect you. Did you see lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, in the House and Senate, when they get asked about this stuff more often that than, now if they're key players on committees, it's different, OK? They here in the game, but they are looking to stay out of it.

SANTORUM: Well, hold on one second, because number, the House and Senate leaderships have said the Mueller investigation will continue. They're not sitting idly by. They've actually sent very strong words to the President lead Bob Mueller alone, let him finish his job.

Number two, I mean, they're confronting the President right now on Saudi Arabia.

GRANHOLM: Except they're not passing legislation.

SANTORUM: They're not sitting idly by --

CUOMO: No, no. Don't conflate Saudi Arabia with this stuff. I understand what they're doing on Saudi Arabia. We'll see what they do. OK? They triggered Magnitsky, they want an investigation. We'll see where it goes. But let's be very clear McConnell said "No vote need." You know, if the President would do something --

SANTORUM: There isn't a vote needed.

CUOMO: Hold on a second.

SANTORUM: Mueller is still doing his job. No one is impeding him to do his job.

CUOMO: Hold on a second. Hold on. Let's just employ some common sense outside the D.C. Beltway, thank you for one second here, all right? The idea that you don't pass legislation to protect something because it haven't been hurt yet is the stupidest rationale for non- criminality I've ever heard in my life. You protect something, so nothing happens to it. You don't do what Mitch McConnell said which is, let's wait for the President to do something to Mueller, then we'll act. Too late, and that's nonsense.

SANTORUM: There's a question of whether it's even constitutional, and let's they didn't pass the law.

CUOMO: There's no question.

SANTORUM: He'd veto it. What's the point?

CUOMO: There's no question.

SANTORUM: The bottom line is the President has the authority to fire Bob Mueller. The Senate notwithstanding and what the President doing --

CUOMO: The President does not have the ability to fire Bob Mueller. You should know that. He would have to do it indirectly by going after the person in charge. He cannot fire Bob Mueller. That's the Saturday night massacre.

SANTORUM: He can direct fire someone to fire Bob Mueller.

CUOMO: It's a big difference. And that's what they want to protect, but again --

SANTORUM: The point is --

(CROSSTALK)

COUMO: -- job to fire or hire Bob Mueller.

CUOMO: The letter is a call, Jennifer, to not be passive. That when people ask you what things mean don't say, you know, it's really hard to know, I really know, I don't know what's going on. We'll going to have to wait and see, because you won't have time once this report comes out, you're going to have to be ready to defend things and make statements of intention.

And I'm not saying remove the President. I don't even know how that happens frankly on the facts as we understand them, but you're going to have to be ready to lead, so don't just sit by.

GRANHOLM: There is an argument though, Chris, too, I mean, I know this was directed at the Senate from former senators as well. But there's a story out today as you pointed out earlier that the President is worried about what's happening -- what's going to happen in the House --

CUOMO: Yes.

GRANHOLM: -- and a lot of discussion about that.

CUOMO: With good reason.

GRANHOLM: Right.

CUOMO: They're doing a lot of saber rattling.

GRANHOLM: This letter could be an indication to make sure the House allows Mueller to do his job as well. You don't want to see parallel investigations. If the House starts to do some sort of impeachment proceeding, nor calling witnesses, which interferes with the parallel track that Mueller is on that would muck things up.

[21:30:09] CUOMO: What happens if it happens after it ends, Jennifer? I think challenge for your party is Mueller ends, there's a long report written, there's a ton in there, it's embarrassing, it's exclusive, it shows if they were think people doing stupid things, reckless things, showing that they were open for business, that they are open and suggestion, a dozen of them close to the President doing these kinds of things, not crimes.

What do you do with that information? If you start a new round of oversight and committees over here and committees over there, all looking at the same stuff we just read about, is that good for your party heading into 2020?

GRANHOLM: Well, first of all -- I would -- Mueller has already identified a couple of crimes and we know he's got a lot more underneath what we saw filed on Friday.

CUOMO: Not against the President.

GRANHOLM: Well, I think -- yes, individual, number one, is implicated certainly. And so the President may be implicated in crimes at least two that were identified on Friday and others. But I would say this, I think that what Mueller -- We'll see what this report is. We don't know what his report will say.

CUOMO: Yes, true.

GRANHOLM: But if the report says anything about how Russia has infiltrated -- I mean, Maria Butina's plea today, she was using the NRA --

CUOMO: Yes.

GRANHOLM: -- as a means to get into the Republican Party. This is instructive for us. When the Russians are coming and infiltrating organizations that are political organizations in order to influence people, that is instructive for us so those things, I think, regardless of what Mueller's report has, I think those are worthy of hearings. If for nothing else than to say we have got to be on guard as a nation, because our Democracy is in peril.

CUOMO: No question, everybody should be on the page -- same page and hopefully that's what this letter invites. Rick, I hope you're wrong in terms of how people read it. I hope it's more of that be aware, remember why you're there and make sure that comes first before anything else. We'll say but I appreciate your take on it. Jennifer, I appreciate your as well.

GRANHOLM: Bipartisanship is a good thing sometimes.

CUOMO: I would say it's good.

SANTORUM: Well, I don't disagree with that.

CUOMO: I would say -- well, it's the first time I've heard you to agree, and that's kind of the point.

GRANHOLM: Wait, did Rick just agree with me on that?

CUOMO: He did. He did. He was smile on his face.

SANTORUM: Again on Sunday, you agreed with me so there we go, two days in a row. CUOMO: And then it becomes a fight with who agreed with who first. Commenting in here, Jennifer, Rick, thank you very much.

All right. So, there's another big situation going on inside the White House, who's going to be the chief of staff? Now that job matters. You could argue that it matters even more in this administration. The General John Kelly he was hired for obvious reasons, he was a general. They thought he'd bring in discipline. He would keep the President on task, didn't work, right?

However one of the fallout victims of that move was the new communications director at that time, Anthony Scaramucci. He knows what's happening in the White House to this day. What about the struggle to find a chief of staff? Why is it so hard? What is it mean? What does he make of this letter, the President's anxiety. Perfect night for Anthony, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:36:47] CUOMO: General Kelly, the four-star marine tasked with bringing law and order to a chaotic White House is out as Chief of Staff. Did he want to leave? Was he told to leave? Who knows?

Nick Ayers, who's the Chief of Staff for the Vice President was supposed to get the job. He is not going to take the job. So now we're hearing -- heard the President is, "super pissed" as first class reporting right there about the frustration over how to get this process going all over again.

Even though he tried to play off the Ayers' job off as fake news, that is a lie. Ayers was offered the job, he was going to take the job, things changed. Let's bring in Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR CUOMO: Sure, like you're inside the White House --

CUOMO: I know he was offered the job for sure.

SCARAMUCCI: OK.

CUOMO: But, well, you're telling I'm wrong?

SCARAMUCCI: I don't know.

CUOMO: Was he never offered the job?

SCARAMUCCI: You know what? I saw Nick and Bill Shine, Kellyanne and Sarah Huckabee by accident in this Trump international hotel on Friday night, never came up. So I have no idea.

CUOMO: You saw Nick Ayers --

SCARAMUCCI: Yes.

CUOMO: -- with Bill Shine and Kellyanne Conway. SCARAMUCCI: Yes.

CUOMO: Do you see them three together a lot?

SCARAMUCCI: No, they were having a staff dinner at the White House and then they have a staff party effort. I accidentally ran into them because I was doing a book signing downstairs.

CUOMO: They weren't together. You just saw them individually?

SCARAMUCCI: But they were having a party. No, they were having a cocktail party.

CUOMO: It's interesting and he's with the two of them if he wasn't the person that they wanted to take the job.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. And that doesn't read anything into it. I mean, I don't know if he was offered the job at that point. OK, let's --

CUOMO: Anyway, the point is this --

SCARAMUCCI: -- let's not even go into that because you just like to fight --

CUOMO: No. No. It's not true.

SCARAMUCCI: Try to knock me off the game by telling me I'm fatter than I look.

CUOMO: I never said that.

SCARAMUCCI: I mean, it's like unbelievable.

CUOMO: I never said that. People are listening to the conversation that was never said.

SCARAMUCCI: All right, go ahead.

CUOMO: Anyway, Anthony, it's good to have you here.

SCARAMUCCI: It's great to be here. What do you want to talk about?

CUOMO: Merry Christmas early, (inaudible) to you and your family.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, God bless. You too.

CUOMO: Why is it so hard to fill this job?

SCARAMUCCI: Who says it's hard to fill this job? I think there will be hundreds of people, if the President wanted to hire a thousand people, if he went into the CEO community, if he went into the political community they would line up out the door for that job. They just would.

CUOMO: Big-name people?

SCARAMUCCI: Big name people.

CUOMO: Who are known?

SCARAMUCCI: Sure.

CUOMO: I don't think you're right and I think that the fact is that they've had trouble staffing. Still have a lot of open positions.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't think they had trouble staffing. They've had people that have not staff the place properly, OK. But I don't think have trouble staffing if you get the right people to be the Chief of Staff, well that absolutely no trouble staffing.

CUOMO: So you believe --

SCARAMUCCI: Good people, A people hire A plus people, C people they hire D and F people.

CUOMO: So how do you explain President hiring so many people --

SCARAMUCCI: He missed --

CUOMO: -- close around him, who's stunk up this line?

SCARAMUCCI: He misfired with his two chief of staff selections. I mean that's the honest truth about the whole thing. So he picked guys --

CUOMO: You think General Kelly was a mistake?

SCARAMUCCI: I think General Kelly, I honor his service, I honor his as a marine and I honor his service to the military. But yes, I do think it was a mistake because he didn't have the right personality to deal with President Trump, he didn't have the right personality or way to handle a civilian culture inside the White House. And I do think it was a mistake.

And by the way he said he was humiliated today. Well, how do you think I felt on the first day when he fired me? You know, you just don't have to fire people like that. OK, it's just nonsensical.

So, on Wall Street, you're going to fire somebody you say, hey, Anthony not working out, you made a gaffe on the -- with the report over the weekend whatever it was, not working out. Let's let you go by Labor Day. Hey, no problem, John, I get it. You don't fire people like that.

[21:40:06] And so that was indicative of the way he was going to handle the 17 months that he was in the job. And so -- and by way I'm not saying it's over importance by me I'm just pointing out that culturally that's style and that operating style in a civilian system is not going to work.

CUOMO: But he was supposed to bring order the whole theory of the case was bring in the general.

SCARAMUCCI: Those say that that's the media saying that.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- message discipline, go to the President say, you say you respect me because of the uniform and all the medals.

SCARAMUCCI: No.

CUOMO: So listen to me when I tell you to do this and this.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, well, I don't think -- look, first of all the President doesn't need somebody like that. What the President needs was, OK, you're the boss, here's the agenda, he need somebody tough enough to talk to him honestly. You and have had this conversation off the air. Sycophants, that's a word closer to selfishness and self-preservation. That's not loyalty.

CUOMO: But that's what Ayers was.

SCARAMUCCI: But loyalty --

CUOMO: Ayers was a kid.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't know. I don't know.

CUOMO: A kid who was seen as being gung-ho, smart and he's not going to be a problem. He's going to be compliant. Why don't you look for guy like that?

SCARAMUCCI: I think you're underestimating the guy, the guy is unbelievably successful, he made a fortune in the private sector. I don't see him like that at all. I thought he had a good political operating skill set and I think the President enjoyed that about him. And by the way, you know, people like Jared and Ivanka talk honestly to the President.

The President needs somebody that is not going to alter their behavior when he enters the room. That's what the President needs. The President need somebody that actually does not need the job, doesn't really care, loves the country, really loves him and likes him, wants to do a good job, will have his back.

OK, you're going to go into Major Trench warfare. I read this 44- person letter that you are describing. You have major trench warfare over the next 24 months and you're going to need somebody in there that's going to defend you but also recruit people that are loyal to you. OK. They flooded the staff with people that were not necessarily loyal to the President.

CUOMO: But even big shoot, as a cabinet level, we've never seen turnover like this. He said he was going to clean up the swamp, you know, the extension of the metaphor would be that he's introduced more alligators than we've ever seen.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't think so.

CUOMO: The number portrayed the reality.

SCARAMUCCI: He just went with people -- I think the President's core mistake is that he went with people that were in government, OK, did core mistake. OK. That was a mistake.

CUOMO: The turnover has been --

SCARAMUCCI: Yes.

CUOMO: -- rose the malfeasance, the misfeasance --

SCARAMUCCI: Well, let me say something. The entrepreneurs --

CUOMO: -- has been on board.

SCARAMUCCI: -- turn over.

CUOMO: Not a guy run and hugs.

SCARAMUCCI: He needs a surgeon in the first couple years --

CUOMO: You wanted to put, no pilot in at the FAA. You want to put your personal doctor at the V.A.?

SCARAMUCCI: Come on Dr. Carson seems very stable, he seems --

CUOMO: But we just don focus on him. He hasn't created scandal. That's not usually the bar of success at a Cabinet level position --

SCARAMUCCI: Why -- get the gun back on the bird of the President and what he's going to do. OK. He's had two years of great accomplishments. He's got the economy still growing. OK. There's a little uncertainty about the trade but he's dialed into the trade situation. He's going to fix operates situation --

CUOMO: The anxiety level on the street about trade and other things. I don't have to tell you that, you see the inverse curves --

SCARAMUCCI: I don't think the street has anxiety.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: I've been in the markets for 30 years, the market volatility is more related to the algorithmic trading and some issues around where Federal Reserve guidance is going to be and, you know, also a lack of liquidity as the result of the evacuation of capital from the local rule.

CUOMO: But the feds said to people she gave her speech and they give him out and say --

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. Yes. Yes, absolutely --

CUOMO: He gave his speech and now he came out and said something --

SCARAMUCCI: I agree with all that. CUOMO: I think it's a little bit more Trump fact.

SCARAMUCCI: But I think the President is going to get the trade deal done, he's going to pick a great chief of staff, he's going to help him galvanize --

CUOMO: Who do you think it should be?

SCARAMUCCI: I don't know who the participants are. I dot know who are names --

CUOMO: You know the names that are out there. Meadows is out there, Christie is out there, Kellyanne Conway's name is out there.

SCARAMUCCI: I think Mark Meadows dropped out. That's what I heard this morning. Jim Sciutto reported that on CNN. Again, if he's still in, Mark is a competent guy.

CUOMO: I hear he keeps saying it'd be an honor to serve and he was asked about it and said honor to serve but he said, I'm a little different than the other guys and there was no answer to it.

SCARAMUCCI: OK.

CUOMO: Mel is in the control room and she'll tell me if I'm wrong.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. Well, I got the --no, but I got the impression that he --

CUOMO: Let's say everybody --

SCARAMUCCI: -- thought he was most valuable inside the Congress. But I don't know, I like Mark Meadows, I think he's a great team player.

CUOMO: Do you think he's better? You think --

SCARAMUCCI: He's been very loyal to the President. You know, Chris and I are personal friends. So I mean if Chris gets the job I think Chris --

CUOMO: Do you think he should be --

SCARAMUCCI: -- he should be loyal to the President.

CUOMO: Would he be great?

SCARAMUCCI: He's got the right skill set. He's a type of guy that has the right skill separate job like that and he's also a guy that as a trench warrior.

CUOMO: Would you tell him that Kelly --

SCARAMUCCI: Kellyanne is a personal friend. I like her as well.

CUOMO: Would you tell her to take it? SCARAMUCCI: You know, it depends on what the parameters are. OK. I don't know what the internal discussion would be with the President. I think somebody would need to have an honest discourse with the President, would be able to talk to the President in a way the President likes but also to challenge him here and there, to point out that strategically we could be doing better.

If you look at the list of his accomplishments, we should be at a 60% approval rating. And so we can talk about how we can get there. I really believe he can.

CUOMO: But one of his --

SCARAMUCCI: He needs to collaborate with more people.

CUOMO: Hold on a second.

SCARAMUCCI: One of the President's negatives -- you want me to talk very honestly.

[21:45:01] CUOMO: Com on, I mean, I like to go --

SCARAMUCCI: One of the President --

CUOMO: -- from point by point but go ahead, if you want to get it out, go ahead.

SCARAMUCCI: Good. No. No. No. No, it's your show, congratulations.

CUOMO: When I am on the cover.

SCARAMUCCI: No. No. No. It's your show, congratulations on the ratings, my name wouldn't fit on this cup but God bless you. OK. Good go ahead. Say what you want to say. Go ahead.

CUOMO: What I'm going to say -- what I'm going to ask you is this. His accomplishments, you say he should be at 60 points. Go ahead. You can't talk to me at the same time, 60%, 65%.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, go ahead.

CUOMO: The reason he isn't is because of the way he speaks and how he has continued to divide the country. That has to be true, Anthony. You look at the rejection in the midterms. And let's not have that discussion anymore. It was a wide rejection. He lost by millions more than he even did in his own election. Even thought it was a smaller pie. The point is people reject the negativity, they reject the divisiveness.

SCARAMUCCI: Picked up points in the Senate but you are right.

CUOMO: He picked up two seats. He should have picked up five.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm going to cede a point to you. OK. That what I don't like is I don't like some of the rhetoric, I don't think it helps him. OK. I got my wife yelling at me over the Rex Tillerson tweet. Even though Rex went after him, to use those words my wife says to me Jesus, I'm glad that our two kids can't read. She doesn't like it. OK. And so I would --

CUOMO: Not say to the American people.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. So I would be signaling to the President you want these suburban --

CUOMO: He cannot do it, Anthony.

SCARAMUCCI: You went through. I'm going to send you my audio book. So you listen to me in the court. You're interrupting --

CUOMO: He cannot do it. You're saying he should do things that he's never shown the capacity to do it. It's not 17 --

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: He can absolutely do. One of the problems that he has because I think I know him reasonably well, he doesn't feel like he's got fortification of media surrogates. And so he ends up using the Twitter system as a way to get his message out there.

He needs more media surrogates go. You know, he should do go back and read my comps plan. OK, I was ready to execute it the day I got fired. There's a nine paragraphs, 10-paragraph comps plan fortifying with more media surrogates. He'll dial --

CUOMO: I remember the plan, it was a good plan but you got to follow it. Anthony, I'm surprised they're not asking you to take the job.

SCARAMUCCI: No, come they're not going to ask me to take the job but let taste a bit. They ask m to take the job you're going to be my deputy.

CUOMO: Well, that gives us a good indication of what's going to happen next.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. Yes that's gives you 0.0% chance.

CUOMO: Mark Meadows says, Mel Bucks says that he says he's open to a conversation.

SCARAMUCCI: OK.

CUOMO: But other sources are saying he said no way, whatever far for the course.

SCARAMUCCI: I like Mark. I think he's a great team player and he's been supportive for the President from day one.

CUOMO: Well, we'll see what happens. Anthony, thank you.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. All right, God bless. CUOMO: All right, back to the big concern on the President's mind. The reporting tonight is that he is real in his concern that they may try to impeach him, the Democrats, when they take over. Why? Would that be right for the Democrats to do? Could it back fire on them? We'll discuss next. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: CNN has learned from a source that the President does think impeachment now to be a real possibility. There are signs Bob Mueller's investigation could be drawing to a close. The reductions show that there's more there. I know, I know I keep saying that. But how much longer is the point. And what happens after that, all right? That's where the Democrats come in. They're going to take control of the House of Representatives in January. They have tremendous oversight capabilities.

[21:50:16] Let's bring in D. Lemon. Now, I've been saying for a while now, and I know its crude, but that's the way I think. Deal-making, ball-breaking, the Democrats have to make a decision about the balance. If they decide to go heavier toward ball-breaking, oversight, and after the Mueller report comes out, there's now a new phase of investigation into the President, his anxiety that we're reporting tonight is well founded. But there is risk for the Democrats as well.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Well, here's the thing. I think we should wait for the report, everybody, including the President, especially the Democrats, to see what happens before they decide what approach they're going to take on impeachment. I would say everyone hold their horses, hold your breath, lets see what's -- or take a deep breath, rather that's a better thing to do and to see what happens.

If they're high crimes and misdemeanors, fine. Then I think that they have every right to it, with any president. I'm not just talking about Trump but with any president. But I think right now we should wait and see. Yes, he should be concerned.

And then think about what we're talking about here, Chris. We're talking about campaign finance violations for what we know to be true, that he paid off two people just before the campaign, two women with whom he is accused of having affairs, then lied about it a number of times and continues now to try to shape public opinion in by lying about it. And then coming up with the excuse, saying it's the same as the Obama administration. It's not the same as the Obama campaign.

CUOMO: No.

LEMON: It has nothing to do with it. Legal experts can tell you, and you know that yourself.

CUOMO: No question about it. And that's just legal exposure where those payments come in. Political exposure is what I'm talking about. I'll make a case next and then I'll see at the top of the show, D. Lemon.

LEMON: See you in a little bit.

CUOMO: Pleasure.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: All right. So I think we know some things now that we have never known up until this point. So the closing is about things have changed in a very real way, and it means something to all of us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:56:20] CUOMO: Tonight is different. I have made no secret of the fact that I tell you to slow down when it comes to seeing the Mueller probe as somehow winding up with some grand prosecution of the President of the United States. I'm just telling you that my legal acumen and what I understand from my reporting is I don't see the basis for that given the rules that are in place regarding a sitting President.

So that's why I say go slow. Also you only know what you can show, and we haven't seen much from Mueller. However, we have reached a high water point that I should not ignore either.

Sixteen people, associates of the President, all meeting, open to, soliciting, receptive to Russian influence, and many lied about the same. Again, the central question, why lie if you have nothing to hide? Why meet? Why not do what any seasoned political hand knows to do when contacted by a foreign power, let alone Russia, report it?

And how could the president not know about all this if the people in the cross hairs say that they were in contact with people in the campaign and the administration high up?

Now crimes? Not necessarily. Still don't see it. High crimes and misdemeanors? Well, we're going to have to see what meat Mueller puts on the bones of what I just put there above. But a basis for political debate and aggressive oversight, without question, his personal attorney, his campaign chair, his national security adviser, errand boys, coffee boys they ain't. And they all say that whatever they were doing, they were in touch with the administration about the same or the campaign to varying degrees. And Mueller has cited their cooperation on those bases in each and every case. And then we have the line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, why would he say to the best of my knowledge? That's legal speak, careful speak from a man who seems to see being careful as weakness. It is hard to believe he didn't know. We know that he talks to these people. We know that he is obsessed with this type of intrigue. And then there was this from the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It was a well known project. It was during the early part of '16 and I guess even before that. It lasted a short period of time. I didn't do the project. I decided not to do the project, so I didn't do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, again, this was exposure of a lie. He told you he had no dealings with Russia. That was a lie. He had dealings with Russia. He had them when he told you he did not have them.

Now he's explaining the deal. He's explaining what he lied about. And in his answer you see the problem. It was going on, all right, I lied about that, but it's not a big deal. I decided not to do it.

Wait a minute. You and all the people that you have called people like me were arguing that you knew nothing about it, that it was Cohen freelancing, looking for a deal that he could get a piece of. None of that was true. Why lie?

So, tonight we see that the president's concern that the Democrats may be out to impeach him is a justifiable concern. Do they have a case? Here's my final point. That's up to you. A lot of pressure, but all of this will come down to you.

This is not going to be about a criminal prosecution. I don't see it. If I'm wrong, I'll be the first one to admit it. But impeachment is about an echo effect of the public sentiment on the same. There will be polls. There will be reporting. There will be chances for you to be heard on this. That's what will drive what happens next.

Thank you for watching us tonight. Happy Monday. So much news. Let me get you right to Don. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.