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Mueller Releases Key Memo Detailing Flynn Lies; Giuliani: Cites John Edwards Case In Trump's Defense; Russians Used Massive Social Media Campaign To Help Trump; Election Cyber Tactics As 2020 Nears; Senate Report Show Scope Of Russian Election Meddling; New Mueller Memo Details Flynn's 2017 Interview With FBI; Boy's Only Christmas Wish Comes True With Military Dad. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 17, 2018 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:02] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you J.B. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

We have brand new information for you tonight. Here are the lies that Flynn told the FBI. And these notions that Flynn was set up, we're going to show you the reality here in black and white. The redactions don't make a difference.

I'm going to go one on one with a man who sees a lot in this memo and in the President's lawyers making a new defense about Michael Cohen's illegal payments. What it is and what it should mean to you is coming up. And the new report about Russia's social media propaganda campaign to subvert our election.

There's a lot in there. But there's a discovery that no one is talking about, the striking similarities between what the Russians did and what the Trump campaign did. I'm going to go one on one with a Democratic senator on what comes next.

Happy Monday night. Let's get after it.

All right, now we see, this is it, just came out a couple hours ago. What is it, it's the 302 that the FBI took down after meeting with General Flynn back there in January of 2017, 302. It is their written form of what happened in an interview. It's all here.

People have been telling you that this was hidden, this was covered up because they didn't want people to know that Flynn was set up. Wrong. Over and over during this interview, you're going to see that the general lied about his discussions with the Russians. It's also important to point out what it is and what is not in here.

Those of who you said, oh you'll see, he was set up. B.S. Remember, after this happened, the much maligned of Strauch and McCabe, they didn't even think Flynn was lying. Mueller's investigators had to piece it over when they have seen more information later on. So you're going to have to find a new conspiracy.

Let's talk facts with a former federal prosecutor who has been on the front lines of some very high profile political cases. Jeff Tsai, very good to have you on "Prime Time". Thanks for being here. JEFF TSAI, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me. Thank you Chris.

CUOMO: All right, you have had a chance to look through the 302. There are redactions. I don't find them as material as I found the redactions from the Mueller people in the past, other documents. What's your big takeaway?

TSAI: Well, I think the biggest takeaway is that what the 302 tells us is that if you're going to talk, don't lie. It's something I have told my two daughters Ellen and Charlotte year after year. And what we realize is that, if you elect to talk to the government, it's important to tell the truth and tell the full truth.

CUOMO: All right, so Mueller had come to the conclusion that the general was committed to a lie. Here is the thing I don't get. Help me understand this from your perspective as a prosecutor. They ask him really leading questions in here. One of them, he thanks them for, right. Hey, thanks for reminding me about that. But, when you hear an FBI agent talk about a conversation that you know you had, why would Flynn deny the same more than once?

TSAI: Well, I think there are two important things to keep in mind. The first of which is that the government always takes an approach in which in these interviews they start with a broad and they go narrow. So, they tend to like to actually ask open-ended questions to give a person an opportunity to talk. So they try not to lead people to certain kinds of answers. But again, it goes back to the issue that if you're going to talk, that you then tell the truth.

On the question that you're asking about, prompting Mr. Flynn -- General Flynn to a specific topic, that's pretty common, too. Because often when you start with a broad topic, you want to go a little more narrow, especially as it relates to the specific subject matter that's an issue. And that -- that's what I think was reflected here in prompting him to talk about certain of those topics related to sanctions as well as the U.N. Security Council vote.

CUOMO: I totally get it. Very interesting for the audience. Even though I'm not an intel expert, it seemed pretty obvious to me what they were asking and what they were prompting about. But he didn't go with it. We have three interesting examples for -- of these dynamics for the audience. The first one, we'll put up right. And this is where the FBI agents reminded the general, OK. The interviewing agents asked Flynn if he recalled any redaction with Kislyak about the United Nations vote surrounding the issue of his reality (ph) settlements.

Flynn quickly responded, yes. Good reminder. OK. So that shows everybody is on the same page. Hey you remember you're talking about Kislayak, oh yes. Well he has to know that they know what he talked to Kislyak about. They may be forming it, phrasing it as a question Jeff. But he now knows they know. What do you take away from that one?

TSAI: Well I think that's right. And I think that really goes to the issue of when someone elects to talk to the government, to an FBI agent and makes the decision that he or she is not going to tell the truth, that what's happening there is there is a feeling that he or she can fool the agent.

[21:05:00] And I think that's what people often forget when people are confronted, witnesses are confronted with the opportunity to talk to agents and they're answering these questions, that for those who decide to talk, and those who decide that they want to lie, they are trying to direct agents in a different way.

CUOMO: And it's interesting. Flynn, by all the notice that we heard last week, jocular, not nervous, not laughed up, not defensive. Example number two, which is one of the two material false statements that he round up making the FBI agents that he want to pleaded guilty to.

So put up this one. All right, Flynn stated his calls were about asking where countries would stand on a vote, not any requests of, hey, if you do this, you know, that he didn't do it that way. But again, they're asking him in the text of this -- that wasn't the best excerpt, where they say, hey, do you remember talking to Kislyak about which way they might go on anything? I don't know why that didn't trigger in the General's mind, all right, they know, they know about this conversation. They're just asking these things.

But he lies to them about that and he then admits the same. What goes into that decision, you keep saying when people decide to lie, this is why they should know they are at risk? But what about the mindset of, all right I'm going for it? I'm going, I'm going to lie.

TSAI: Well, some of it is that the feeling I think on some of these witnesses is that they think that if they give some kind of modulated answer, something that is though yes and no or perhaps I don't remember, that that will give them the wiggle room to be able to get out of making a statement to the government or making a statement that they potentially can get out of later.

What I think is probably the most material out of all of this is that there isn't a question as to whether or not General Flynn lied. This is something he admitted to. I think the question is that all of this has come about based on what Judge Sullivan has asked for, is whether or not there was something else involved --

CUOMO: Right.

TSAI: -- in the interview that suggested that something else was at play in terms of the interview that happened.

CUOMO: And also, there becomes this looming question of, who knew? Who did the general think that he was protecting by covering up what discussions he had? You know, whom didn't -- was he in talk -- they talk a lot on this document, people find fascinating, that he was in the Dominican Republic. They talk about the Dominican Republic like he is on Mars. You know, his government block, but it didn't work. He couldn't get a phone call to stick (ph). You I've had OK time when comes on Dominican Republican during and after earthquakes and hurricanes.

I don't understand why it was so hard for him. But again, it just goes to the whole spirit of confusion on this matter. And there were other calls made to Mar-a-Lago and to others, while he was away and while he was in the mix of this conversations. That may wind up where you revealing as well. I don't know that it has to do with the redactions here. But certainly, that's another piece of the puzzle for Mueller to put together.

While I have you, I don't want to waste your expertise. So here is the new argument from the President's counsel. John Edwards, my friends, we've already seen this situation play out in court. John Edwards, same situation as the President and he was acquitted. So as we see, there is no crime. Your take?

TSAI: Well, one of the things -- probably the most important takeaway from the Edwards prosecution is maybe not necessarily the verdict and non-verdict. Because remember, it was both an acquittal as well as a hung jury on the majority of the --

CUOMO: And the FEC didn't bring the case. They used that also. They said, you had to bring the case. DOJ prosecutors, not the FEC. They didn't think anything was wrong.

TSAI: That's right. And the reality is the FEC is independent and operates separately from the Justice Department. And that's how it should be. And the FEC has civil authority, not criminal. That's the Justice Department power. One of the things I think that really is a takeaway from Edwards however as it relates to these set of facts we're talking about is one of the things that Judge Eagles ruled in the Edwards case related to this whole notion of what a contribution is under law.

And as you have talked about before, it relates to this idea of what was the purpose behind the money itself that's at issue. And in the Edwards case, the question came up of whether or not the money that was, again, at issue in that case had to be the sole purpose or the primary purpose for influencing the campaign. And what the judge ruled in that particular case was that it didn't have to be the only purpose, the primary purpose. And that - that I think is probably the most significant point that arises out of that case that could have implication here.

CUOMO: You know what's so interesting is that the President's lawyer Rudy Giuliani stated exactly the opposite yesterday as the outcome of the case. He said, that case showed you --

TSAI: Well --

CUOMO: -- it's got to be for the purposes of the campaign if it's not about the campaign. Yes, that's what the case showed us. If you go and read the decision, the judge held the opposite.

TSAI: That's right. And so the other issue that will come up is the presidential value of that particular ruling. As you know, a ruling from a particular federal district court doesn't necessarily have mandatory authority --

[21:10:10] CUOMO: Right.

TSAI: -- on any other district court judge. And so that's going to be hotly debated. And it's worth noting that the statute itself doesn't say one way or the other. So --

CUOMO: Right.

TSAI: -- it's left for the prosecutors and the defense lawyers to debate amongst themselves. But it is in fact, a very real issue and a material issue. Because, one of the things the judge talked about in the Edwards case is that it's very rare in human nature for people to just simply have exclusively one purpose in mind --

CUOMO: One motivation.

TSAI: -- one reason.


TSAI: That's right.

CUOMO: It's just interesting that if your going to use a case as your defense, you better get the holding right and not say the opposite of what the judge did. I don't know what they are banking on. I guess they are banking on the fact that people will listen on what they say and do no homework.

Jeffrey Tsai, this was really helpful. We're going to get more meet on the bones from Mueller and others. Please come back and help us make sense of it legally and in terms of what arguments are going to be made. Until then, the best of the holidays for you and your family. Thank you.

TSAI: Happy holidays. Thank you Chris.

CUOMO: You too.

All right, we now know how Russian trolls came up with their novel social media strategy. We have the details of it in a new set of reports. What they did. But there's a new question that we're going to lay out for you. Why did Trump's campaign make similar moves, next?


CUOMO: All right, so we now have the interview with General Flynn and we know what he lied about and how -- what happened in the whole situation. That's good, that's one piece of the puzzle. Now, another piece to the puzzle. The Republican controlled Senate Intel Committee just put out some third-party research and reports, that provide our best evidence to date of what Russia was doing on social media to muck up our election.

Here is what we know for sure. The goal was clear, help Trump. OK? And the Russians used just about every social media platform imaginable. The scope of the efforts unprecedented. But here is really what needs more investigating. The tactics that the Russians used were really, really similar to what we saw from team Trump. Prove it. OK.

[21:15:08] Exhibit A, the Senate's report shows that Russia was targeting three groups to suppress the vote with ads like these. The Senate focuses especially on the ads targeting African-Americans saying they designed these to suppress the vote in that community. All right. That's the point that they're making. Fine.

Now look at this article from Bloomberg in 2016. They are yelling at me in the control room. You went too fast. All right, so what do we see? And this was supposed to be the gold. OK, that's the Russians. A senior Trump official was quoted in Bloomberg in 2016 saying, we have three major voter suppression operations underway.

What were they? The same three groups. African-Americans, young women, white liberals. The Russians were putting out ads like these and Trump was targeting African-Americans with an animation using Hillary Clinton's 1996 claim about super predators. See the similarity?

The reason Trump's own people -- here's what they said. It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out. Now I'm not saying it's a crime. I'm saying it's uncanny, the symmetry continued right up until the end, in the days leading up to the campaign, the actual election, the Russians went all in on what?

Allegations of voter fraud, warnings that the election would be stolen. Sound familiar? Of course it does. You were hearing the same exact thing for then candidate Donald Trump, tweeting about the exact same messages. What's the argument going to be here? Can't be this simple. It won't be.

They'll say, they were just using the tools available to them. Trump, the Russians simply knew how to use social media better than the Democrats. But remember this. Steve Bannon was a key player at Cambridge Analytica, right? They're the ones that were brought in, Jared Kushner, why he picked them, why would they help out in the election.

And remember Bannon and Cambridge Analytica had ties to Russian oil and St. Petersburg University, remember all that. We also know the Russians took Trump up on his offer to try to find Hillary's e-mails. Remember that? The goals and tactics of the Russians and the Trump campaign were very similar. That much can be shown. We just did it.

But why were they so similar? That is for lawmakers or Mueller to expose. But it is a provocative question.

We're going to talk with one of the key senators who put out that bombshell report today. What does he think about the Flynn 302? Did he know about it? What's of interest to him? And what is he going to do about this provocative question, the similarities between the Russians and Trump's campaign? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:20:44] CUOMO: Today's Senate report illustrates that the Russians exploited a massive back door into the foundation of our democracy. The question has always been, find out what the Russians did and then stop them from doing it again. Where are we on that? Now, one of the people who'll soon have a bigger say in all that is Democratic Senator from Oregon Ron Wyden.

Senator, a pleasure, welcome to "Prime Time"

SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) OREGON: Thank you Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So let's deal with the central question, just in terms of the politics versus process. Where are we in your estimation in terms of understanding what the Russians did and having a plan that could be executed to make it less likely that it happens again?

WYDEN: We have a long way go Chris in order to protect the American people and protect the integrity of our elections. Let me give you an example. Facebook clearly was very slow --

CUOMO: Right.

RYDEN: -- to pick up on what was going on with Instagram. And the Russians were targeting Instagram because that was the pipeline for young people. That was where the voters were. That was where the swing voters were. And the fact of the matter is the social media companies, the big companies like Facebook have got to be much more vigilant and much more aggressive going forward.

CUOMO: Well, but Senator, look, I mean -- you know, you are a smart guy. I've seen you in the hearings. You know they can do better than they are doing. I mean if you and I were online having a conversation about our favorite foul shooters from the '80s, you and I would be getting all kinds of ads for throwback jerseys. You know, they know how to monitor conversations when it suits them.

And whether it's Zuckerberg or whoever they come and find you guys and they shine you on or they seem to give selective attribution to why they do things. When are you going to drop the hammer on them and say look, we know and you know that you have to do better, and if you don't here is what's happening?

WYDEN: Chris, I'm dropping the hammer on them right now with my privacy bill. And this, of course, involves Cambridge Analytica, which was a key company in the story. What I'm going to see in my privacy bill is if the CEO at one of this big technology companies lies to the federal government, like the Federal Trade Commission, if they lie to the federal government about their privacy policy and how it affects their consumers, they would pay a big fine and also face the prospect of jail time. That is dropping the hammer, my friend.

CUOMO: Be interesting to see how that plays. I'm sure you've been talking to them about what their take is on the buildup to the bill. But I will follow that. And that's good to hear. Senator, I just laid out in the wall, that there is some really interesting similarities between what the Trump campaign did and what the Russian troll farms and accounts were doing on social media. Do you believe that's just a coincidence, that it's about savvy use of social media and obvious messaging or is there something to the similarity?

WYDEN: This is another question going forward Chris, because Mr. Parscale who was the digital director before seems like he is going to be the guy in 2020.


WYDEN: So there are some real questions that ought to be asked about what he did in his relationship with Cambridge Analytica. But I come back to the fact that this highlights the need for a privacy bill like mine which has real teeth and real enforcement capacity.

CUOMO: Look, I'm all about that. I mean we have to figure out in our society how we balance privacy with access and the reach that we want. It's going to be evolving. But all the main players have to know they have skin in the game and they're going to lose some skin if they don't play the right way.

But, I don't understand why this question is not getting more play. You know, the specific ads, the specific groups, the specific tactics that the Trump campaign used, how could they have come up with the same parameters as Russian troll farms?

WYDEN: Again, going forward, it better gets more play. For example, just today the NAACP said that there ought to be an investigation into how the Russians targeted the African-American community. I strongly tonight stand with the NAACP. I'll be telling our chairman Richard Burr and Mark Warner, we ought to respond affirmatively to what NAACP wants.

CUOMO: And look, I mean if they're going to look into why they did it, why don't you look into why the Trump folks did it? They admitted, they were doing the same thing, they wanted to press the vote -- suppress the vote, not illegally but to put our messaging that would keep African-Americans at home.

[21:25:09] And, you know, people can judge the politics. I'm not saying it's illegal, but what I'm saying, wow what a coincidence, they picked the same group and did it with the same messaging.

WYDEN: Look, there is a long history of, for example, politicians saying, I don't think we can get so and so to vote for our guy. Let's try to keep the other --

CUOMO: Sure.

WYDEN: -- people home. What is different now is the social media companies have an obligation. They have an obligation to take this seriously, to be more vigilant, to catch it early on. I'll give you an example, Chris. If one of these companies has an address that says St. Petersburg on

it, or the company gets paid in rubles, I mean let's just face it, that ought to be a wake-up call and the social media companies somehow didn't move in spite of that overwhelming evidence.

CUOMO: Even the (INAUDIBLE) knows that that something to be suspicious of. Let me ask you one more thing while we have you Senator. Have you had a chance to take a look at the 302 from Michael Flynn?

WYDEN: Chris, I heard what your earlier discussion was all about. And I of course as a member of the intelligence committee, I can't get into specifics. But let me just cut to the bottom line. Mike Flynn is a general. He is an adult. He pled guilty to lying to the FBI. Period. End of discussion. And I know we're going to have discussion in the press about these various documents and the like.

But to me, the bottom line is clear. They were talking about important matters like --

CUOMO: Right.

WYDEN: -- sanctions and Kislyak. He pled guilty to lying. Bob Mueller has been a straight arrow, he has been methodical. Doesn't hold press conferences and Flynn just pled guilty and for me, that's the heart of the matter.

CUOMO: Let me push it just one step. You can -- you know, you can always pretend like you didn't hear it. The IFB trick works very well for Angus King by the way. The idea of why would General Flynn not take the suggestion from the agents that they knew what he had asked about? You know, he is an intelligence pro himself.

He let them refresh his recollection with respect to the vote on Israeli settlements. He said, oh thank you for that. Thank you for reminding me. They even tell him, hey did you talk about sanctions? Did you talk about asking about what they would do? Obviously, they knew. But he lied. And it raises the question, who was he covering for? What did he put a higher value on than the truth in that one instance? Is that something that you guys are looking at?

WYDEN: Chris, again, I can't get into stuff that goes on in the committee. But let's just put it this way. In these kinds of things, there may be a host of possible explanations for Flynn stirring this up. Was he tries to get a better deal with Mueller? Was he hoping for a pardon?

Who knows? But again, I just want to come back and -- the essence of your question is logic. I mean here you have somebody who is an adult. He should have understood that he was lying to the FBI. It's a serious matter. For me, that continues to be the bottom line.

CUOMO: Why lie? We ask it here all the time. Senator, thank you so much. Best of the holidays to you and your family.

WYDEN: Thanks so much. CUOMO: All right. All right, here is a simple question, but we got to get to it. If there's a shutdown, who wins a shutdown over the wall. Great debate, next.


[21:32:22] CUOMO: All right. So this record of this interview with General Flynn just came out tonight. Some of it is redacted but you have to read it because there's this question that will drive you crazy. The General was an intel expert. He knows they knew what he talked about with Kislyak. You can tell when you read this. Why did he lie?

And then we have this other question. The shutdown talk. Who wins if it happens? Let's debate to the best. Jennifer Granholm and Rick Santorum, help me with this first one.

It's driving me crazy, Rick. We have been told that the 302 with Flynn was hidden because it would show that he was set up. It's nonsense. There's absolutely no indication of that in here of anything.

He clearly was driving the train throughout the interview which explains why Strzok and McCabe for all of the negativity they get from your side of the aisle right now didn't think he was lying. But indeed he was and he admits that now. Why do you think General Mike Flynn, when he had to know as an intel expert these guys knew about his conversations, why did he lie?

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: My guess is because he didn't recall or maybe had thought differently. I mean, there really is no reason to lie. I mean, you say he lied to protect someone. How are you protecting someone if they already know the information? He knew that they, in fact -- I think he at some point references that they knew what he'd said, because he thought that they had that information.

So the only reason someone who knows the other person has that information and therefore you are not protecting anybody by lying, because they have the information, the only reason you do it is because I suspect you don't recall or you recall it differently. And that's the only thing that comes to my conclusion. It certainly makes no sense for him do it for any other reason.

CUOMO: So if he admitted that he lied, Jennifer and it's interesting --

SANTORUM: Well he admitted he lied for -- that's a bigger story, Chris. I mean, you have the power of the federal government coming down on you.

CUOMO: You guys say that whenever it's convenient.

SANTORUM: You know what, but it's also true.

CUOMO: Did you say that about Bill Clinton when he lied under oath? Did you say, well, he had to. I mean, there are common --

SANTORUM: Well that's little different.

CUOMO: I know because it worked to your advantage. That's all I'm saying. Look, but let me ask Jennifer this question. Rick, I hear you want it. But, look, he admits he lied. Rick wants to say he had to. They were turning the screws on him, whatever.

It makes you wonder, those calls that he was making down there in the Dominican Republic, calls to Mar-a-Lago, conversations during those 18 days before they made a move on Flynn and when they did, they never talk about any of the criminality that had been suggested to them by Sally Yates or anybody else. I wonder if he thought, I have to stay saying this because there are more people involved, Jennifer. What do you think of the speculation?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Of course. Of course. I mean, there was the whole question in the past couple days about who from his firm was going to go, you know, going to go before the grand jury. It's all wound up in that. We won't know the answer to it fully until Mueller's report is revealed.

[21:35:02] But I think that so much of him trying to protect people he was working with, maybe his family, maybe his son. It's all bound in this. And that's why he lied. It was to cover up.

You don't forget stuff like conversations like that. Especially with all of the stuff swirling around, Russia, et cetera, you don't forget that. He was trying to protect somebody, trying to cover up. And the kind of what's he was hoping, I'm sure that this would somehow not rise to an offense that he would be charged with.

CUOMO: Do you know how many conversations these folks have about these issues? And to suggest that he is lying to cover up -- he knows they have the conversation. He is not covering up anything. This makes no sense. Makes no sense at all other than the fact that he simply got it wrong.


GRANHOLM: You don't know that, Rick.

SANTORUM: And not saying he's lying --

CUOMO: He said it during the interview. They were prompting him about what he talked about.

SANTORUM: Just to be fair about the conversation, I'm asking about it because it doesn't make sense to me. And I'm hoping that --

CUOMO: I agree.

SANTORUM: -- it will make sense other than that.

CUOMO: With the President and Rudy Giuliani, I get it. I get why the President lies about things. They're not getting ready for trial. They're getting ready for a publicity contest. Rudy's actions and words and deeds make perfect sense in that context. They are never going before a judge.

I guarantee you those answers they gave Mueller were safe and open ended. They gave it all to him. You know why? They don't want any trouble with him. But with us, they will lie all day.

All right, now the tough one for you, Jennifer. Hold on, you'll going to like this, Rick. I don't get what you Democrats are on the shutdown. I don't get it. I think that the President has boxed you in because it seems like you don't care about border security.

GRANHOLM: Wow, really.

CUOMO: He is saying, I'll shut down because it matters so much. And you guys are saying, let's play the current state of play. And then you'll have the context and the audience will -- for my disposition. Here is the state of play.


STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: We're going to do whatever is necessary to build a border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration. This is a very -- if it comes to it, absolutely.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: President Trump should understand there are not the votes for the wall in the House or the Senate. He is not going to go get the wall in any form.


CUOMO: So I don't get the politics. Because it sounds like, he wants to build some brand-new wall. I get that was the original (INAUDIBLE). But you know that they've moved off that. They call it a wall system now. And it seems like the Democrats, Jennifer are saying, yes, we're not into this border security the way he is.

GRANHOLM: Well, Democrats are into border security. They want do to do it in a smart way and studies that have been done even about the wall that's been built. There was a 2006 act called the safe fence act or something like that that ended up covering a third of the entire border between the U.S. and Mexico.

And study was just out between Stanford and Dartmouth saying that it was by far way ineffective. The costs far outweighed the benefits. It did not significantly reduce immigration. It was by 0.6 reduction. There are much better ways to get at border security.

And this President, who has said repeatedly that Mexico is going to pay for the wall and all that malarkey, the Democrats came to him and they said, we have two offers to make. One is, pass the rest of the appropriations bills. We will make that sure we pass them in the Senate and in the House.

And just put a continuing resolution, meaning just keep the Department of Homeland Security at the same level until we can figure out a resolution to these other issues, like DACA, like a permanent solution to immigration, like border security that actually works. And he, so far, has been playing a bit of the drama queen and just dragging it out to the last minute.

And even the Republicans who came out today from meeting with him this afternoon, John Cornyn said, we have no idea what he wants. He hasn't given us a signal or plan. So I think the Democrats are in the right place.

CUOMO: OK. Rick, is it true when you hear from Pelosi and Schumer, they seem really confident saying you don't have the votes on your side for this new wall. You hearing that?

SANTORUM: I'm not hearing that. And the reality is that the votes have been there in the past for a wall. Like Chuck Schumer voted for a wall. Barack Obama voted -- I mean, you go down the list. I mean, that's the thing that the Republicans have, is they have Democrat after Democrat who were in Congress right now --

GRANHOLM: Then they should put it up for a vote. Put it up for a vote then.

SANTORUM: And they even the past supported it. But now that it's Donald Trump's wall, they're not going to support it. And it just looks what we hate both parties -- they hate most about Washington, which is just an opposition for the point of opposing. And it's just a partisan block.

GRANHOLM: That is not true.

SANTORUM: That's what's going on here.

GRANHOLM: It doesn't work, though, Rick. I mean. that's the point. And you know what?

SANTORUM: Are you suggesting --

GRANHOLM: From a perspective of people, two to one, people will blame Donald Trump and the Republicans for a shutdown in this. Americans don't see this as a priority. 69 percent of Americans say, this should not be a top congressional priority.

[21:40:03] CUOMO: CVP says they need the barriers.


CUOMO: Hold on a second, Rick. CVP says they need the barriers. The barriers are helpful. They also say you guys are hyperfocusing on one aspect of a very complex problem.

SANTORUM: Because he campaigned on it. And the Democrats don't want to give it to him. That's the bottom line. And the American public knows that.

CUOMO: Hold on a second. He is responsible also because he is pitching it so that he can tell the American people, I got a brand-new wall built. And you know there is no new wall. There's only a continuation of the types of fencing and the different structures and the technologies that they want in different places that they need fixed and added to. There is nothing new. There's no additional, right? I mean, it's just more of what we already have.

GRANHOLM: With $5 billion for nothing new? $5 billion of --

CUOMO: That becomes a concern.

GRANHOLM: If it shut down --

CUOMO: Hold on a second. Hold on. Because this is not a political argument, Jennifer. Just so you understand. I spend a lot of time reporting on this, Rick. And I'm telling you, the idea of what we are told during the campaign, which is right where we see all the big barrier fences and sometimes they put some heavy mason line right on top of it, you know, extra little kicker there to make it tough to get over, that you're going to see a brand new wall put in front of that one, that's not true. Those types of structures that we saw they had to put down in San Isidro (ph) and they need more it, that's what they are talking about.

And the President sold it as something different during the campaign and he said, Mexico is going to pay for it and you say, well that was never relevant to be here, of course not. But he is responsible for making the wall into something that it isn't. I mean, Democrats are responsible for fighting the idea overall. And I think that there are disadvantaged. Jennifer disagrees. Make your point.

SANTORUM: You have just made the point that the President has moved. Because what the President has said is, you know, we'll going to put the money in, as you just described, in places that the border folks believe will be effective.

CUOMO: But as you said, Democrats have funded that, Republicans have funded that. Everybody has funded that.

SANTORUM: But they're not funding it to the extent that the President --

CUOMO: So it's about more, not about new.

SANTORUM: It's about more. It's always been about more. It's about more border protection. And that is a key part of keeping the number of illegal immigrants out.

CUOMO: I think the idea --

SANTORUM: If you want to keep the number of --

CUOMO: Everybody wants -- everybody you talk to down there who is doing the job of keeping us safe, they all say barriers matter. They say it's not a panacea. You know, because once you fix the walls, if nobody could ever get in illegally that way, you are now going to have more pressure on the ports of entry than ever before. And the rules don't match the resources and there going to be even more crashed and there going to be a lot of ugly situations.

GRANHOLM: And, Chris, what -- why aren't we looking at the cause of this? We end up removing help from countries that are the -- that are among the top five most violent in the world. Who can blame people for wanting to protect their families and get out of gang-ridden violent murder-prone countries?

CUOMO: I get it.

GRANHOLM: Who can blame them? But why aren't we figuring out how to get to the root of the problem and not just addressing a $5 billion symptom that is not effective?

SANTORUM: And this is an area I would agree with you, Jennifer. And you are absolutely right. This country, under the last three administrations, has ignored central and south America. And Bush did it for a reason because he was fighting a war. But the Obama administration let Venezuela go to seed, Nicaragua, Honduras, all of these and did nothing.

In fact, promoted the leftists who have been ruining these economies. So, you can say we should do something now. You've got to take responsibility for the last eight years of disastrous foreign policy (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Fine. Let's always look backwards when convenient. But the President has said he wants to pull more money.

SANTORUM: I blamed all three, I blamed two Republicans.

CUOMO: And I going to tell you, I think it's going to be tough for you to get people in your party that call themselves Trump supporters to justify giving money to people that he's demonized. I think it's going to be a really tough sell. But we'll see.

I appreciate the arguments on both sides as always. Jennifer Granholm, Rick Santorum, if I don't see you, Merry Christmas. Best to your families.

GRANHOLM: Merry Christmas. All right, thanks.

CUOMO: I want to turn to something that I shared on Twitter and you may have as well. I'm going to save the best part of the moment for the other side of the break. But I'll I tell you what. It's all about the holidays, the holy days and it gave me one of the biggest ideas I've had, next.


[21:47:12] CUOMO: All right. So this boy wanted one thing for Christmas and he got it. Watch this.









CUOMO: Just kills me, kills me every time. I have watched it like a dozen times.

Let's bring in Don Lemon. But we've seen these before. They get me every time, that these men and women give up everything, their kids are home, they are waiting for them, they don't know when they're going to see them, all the fear, all the frustration. What a moment.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You are a big wuss, that's why.

CUOMO: We ask so much from them now.

LEMON: I'm joking. How could you not cry with that? The only thing is that that is a brave kid because the moment I saw something crawling around in there, I would have been on the other side of the room until I figured out it was my dad. Look at him. He is like looking. He doesn't flinch. He's like what's in there?

CUOMO: I love all of these. I love when they show up at graduations and they show up in the gym. And I just love it. I love that these moments are able to be made possible. He is a bad ass, of course. Who knows how long he was in that box. I would have been freaking out if I were the guy waiting in the box. I wouldn't have been able to handle it.

It give me an idea. I had an idea.

LEMON: Do that with your family.

CUOMO: Why can't the -- no. They would never open the box. If they know I was in there, they would like immediately put in shriek (ph) and put it the ocean. The idea of these kids, active duty kids and veterans' kids, they should be able to write letters --

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: -- not just to Santa Claus, but to an organization that's called a grateful nation.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: And they should be taught that the rest of us owe them for what their family is about. And they should be able to write for what they want. All we do in this society is raise money for charitable efforts, right? Nobody comes through. And I did some checking on the local level, you'll find things on your communities where people help out kids of veterans and they're beautiful organizations. You'll find them on a local level.

But there's not a huge one. There's not a huge one that does only that, Don. So that this kid, let's say he wanted a play station 4, OK? His parents shouldn't have to think about getting it for him. It should be on us. He should write a letter to a grateful nation. We should raise money, that's all this country does, raises gazillion to dollars with people that are in need. We always say we support the troops. We don't do a damn thing for them. We can't even get their V.A. payments right?

The one promise we give them is that you'll be able to go to school. Congress tries to school with their ability to pass them on to their kids. Now, they don't get their payments even where they live. They're not going to have them until 2019, the middle of the year. It's a joke.

[21:50:05] But what an idea that would be. I want to talk to big charities. Why don't, you know, look, we can't be in the charity business here but --


CUOMO: they should do that, and I would definitely donate because why should these kids be denied anything with what their parents give up?

LEMON: I think you're right. I do think that there are organizations that do help out.

CUOMO: They do, but not on a huge level.

LEMON: Right. And you're saying that they should -- like Santa's list should be taken care of every single year.

CUOMO: Yes. You've got toys for tots. You've got a lot of beautiful and amazing organization many geared towards veterans, especially when someone falls in the line of battle, in the line of duty. But I think it could be bigger than that. I think that we have to start culturally reminding people that it's not just words because we're really getting there. This V.A. stuff, Don, I'm telling you, it's scary.


CUOMO: What Congress is ignoring, what they're not jumping up and down about, we're screwing these veterans, and nobody is doing anything about it.

LEMON: And we should be doing more and we should be talking more about it. And listen, I think the onus is on all of us to do more and to go visit the V.A. hospitals. And even the hospitals, like even St. Jude's and Shriners, what they do for kids, I think there's so much more that we could do for this country. Yes, you're right about veterans. Yes, you're right. Those kids' Christmas lists should be taken care of every year. There is enough in this country. There is so much waste. We waste 40 percent of our food. I just think about -- let's just be honest. Let's think about yesterday, the lunch that you and I went to. We had pizza.

We went home with more stuff. You probably put the pizza in your refrigerator. I put the extra pizza in my refrigerator. I'm probably not going to eat it. I'll go next week and I'll look at it and I probably won't eat it. And there are families who are starving in this country, and it's not just me and you. We all do it. And I think we could all be better. I think --

CUOMO: True. True. Sadly, I went crazy on that pizza last night about 11:30. I should have left it alone.

LEMON: OK. Can I tell you a secret?


LEMON: So after we saw you, we went to town line.

CUOMO: Yes, you went to a barbecue joint after that.

LEMON: We went to town line. And then after town line, we came back, decorated the tree. Then we ordered Chinese.

CUOMO: What the heck? What are you, pregnant?

LEMON: What do you say? Feed a cold, starve a fever? I'm feeding whatever it is.

CUOMO: Yes, you took care of that.

LEMON: Oh my gosh, my appetite is out of control. So there you go.

CUOMO: D. Lemon.

LEMON: I'm a pig. So listen, we've got a lot of good stuff coming up. And I will say, you're right about that. Let the show take care of itself. Figure out a way to do that. Somebody out there and get in touch with Chris Cuomo.

CUOMO: Yes, hit me on Twitter. Let's have a conversation about it you at home. Don, thanks, brother. I'll see you in a second.

A grateful nation. Take care of these kids. You say you want to do it. You say you care so much when we always fall short.

All right. Now, I talked about this a little earlier in the show. Why is Rudy Giuliani saying these things? We hear from lawyers all the time. He's making these crazy statements. He's never made a crazy statement. He's been preparing for something that people didn't realize, but we did. And we're right where we thought we were going to be.

I got a closing argument for us that points the way forward, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:55:58] CUOMO: So former prosecutors and practicing attorneys, so many of them noticeably nonplussed by what Rudy Giuliani says. They see it as malpractice. He's laying out inconsistencies. A prosecutor will feast on these. It doesn't have to rhyme, but that's their point.

The President and his lawyers, however, they were never planning for a trial. They are preparing for political battle. They are planning to pitch you, not prosecutors. That's what they're doing. They want to cloud whatever is revealed to keep the country from a consensus about what it should all mean, especially for holding the President to account. That's why the President keeps tweeting and abuses the facts with seemingly reckless abandon, because that's exactly what he has.

That's why his lawyers admit to things that the President denies, and they keep defaulting to the idea that if it's not clearly a crime, then it's OK. Why? Because they're not worrying about Mueller or being under oath in these efforts. The President chickened out of that a long time ago. His puffery about wanting to go at it with Mueller in person, remember that? It's as real as his promises about Mexico paying for the wall.

And, in fact, both were made for the same reason. Sounds strong, and I'll never have to deliver. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with us.


CUOMO: That was a bold-face lie. He didn't say that to Mueller. You heard Giuliani on ABC yesterday, right? With all but a smile on his face. To Mueller, he thinks back and listens, I think that we put it so that the communications with Cohen about the Russia deal, they went well into November of that year, of the election year.

Wait a minute. That's completely contradictory to what the President just said. Well, you don't think they know that? Why would they contradict the President of the United States? Because they don't care about the lie. Because they think you don't care about the lie. That if it's not a crime, it's not obvious, it's not just collusion with Russia, whatever that means, you'll be OK.

He never paid a dime to those women. Oh, wait, the payments? No, they were all paid back. He knew nothing about those payments. Oh, wait, no. He knew, but he didn't direct them. Kellyanne must have said it a dozen times. It's as irrelevant to the law as it is untrue. He knew. He directed. He wanted them paid. He knew about the scheme. He knew it was wrong. All the facts show it.

So, the President wants to keep clear one thing. Give me the benefit of the doubt. We don't want to go through all this. Hence the morass of mendacity. They're banking on not being held to account because you won't know what to believe in large part because the President is going to keep lying to you and his lawyers are going to make it confusing, and they're good at it. This is why I have the President's lawyers on, to defend and test the notions.

I may not do it well enough, but that's what my effort is, to let you see what it's about, to let you see through it, how they default to deflection, how they immediately demonize me for asking about their contradictions. This is just starting. That's why I'm saying it tonight. Rudy made a big statement yesterday. He let you know they gave different answers to Mueller than the American people get from the President.

The report's not going to be the end. It's going to be the beginning of a political punch fest. And in the irony of ironies for all the investigating and all the hearings that they're going to have and the gazillion pages of documents I'll read to you, you know what the deciding factor in all these may be? The measure we like the least -- polls.

Lawmakers, especially GOPers, are going to be desperate to see if you want them to be Republicans or Republicants when it comes to impeachment. It's all going to come down to you. Here's the good news. I'm comforted by that. I don't like the polls, but I'm comforted that it's on you. I trust you to smell B.S. And put the proper emphasis on things and put it in the proper context, which is serving your interest.

That may mean doing something, it may mean doing nothing. We don't know enough at this point to go any further in that responsively but we will soon will. And I'll be here to you separate fact from fugazi (ph), but know what game is being played.

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