Return to Transcripts main page

CUOMO PRIME TIME

A Newly Obtained Russia Document Signed by Trump?; Trump Foundation Dissolves Amid Illegal Conduct Lawsuit. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 18, 2018 - 21:00   ET

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


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

Some big blows to the President's case that he has done nothing wrong. First, a sitting President forced to shut down his charitable foundation after, "A shocking pattern of illegality that involved his campaign." Could the President of the United States really be banned from ever running a charity?

And treason, the Flynn sentencing postponed after a judge asked prosecutors if the general had betrayed his country. Then the judge forced into admit in court the theories of his entrapment would bogus but the White House still insist on promoting that lie. Why?

And we have proof that the President is trying to change the facts as he prepares for the political fight of his life. A key part of the Trump Tower Moscow deal is being twisted up for political effect. We will prove what is true. Facts first. Let's get after it.

Tonight, the facts fly in the face of the story, or at least the story the President would have you believe. Take a look at this. This is the letter of intent for the proposed Trump Tower Moscow. All right. It is signed by Donald J. Trump. How do I know? Well, because we have been told it was by his lawyer and it is. And I'll show it to you in a second.

Now, I want you to take a walk down memory lane to remind you of what the President, himself, has said about this project. First he said there was no deal. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Putin.

I have nothing to do with Russia.

I have nothing to do with Russia.

We have nothing to do with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You know, for a deal that didn't mean anything, it's a lot of pages, man, with a lot of detail about what they wanted, how they wanted. And how he be paid? And there is his signature. OK. Cohen said that -- so Cohen said that this was the case. The President said nothing happened. Then he gave a different story, where the letter kind of came up, but not in the context of his signing it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think you should go back to -- I think it was January, it was just reported very well by Catherine Herridge, who is a terrific reporter on Fox. She talks about a letter that he signed. I don't even remember it. And it specifically talks about this deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Catherine Herridge is a good reporter at Fox, worked with her, know her, respect her. The President doesn't need her to tell him what happened in his own deal. Here's the letter. Cohen didn't sign it, the President did.

Then this weekend the President's esteemed lawyer said, "It was a real estate project. There was a letter of intent to go forward. But no one signed it." Why are they doing this? This is Donald Trump's signature. It's here. We know this.

Now, here's what itself going on, this doesn't matter legally. And that's the point. They're not preparing for trial. Don't examine it that way. They're preparing for a PR campaign to convince you of what they want you to believe. Our job is to help you keep the facts front and center and we'll do that.

Let's discuss this and the other major blow to the Trump theory of the case that went down in federal court today. We've got Michael Isikoff, his reporting on the Trump -- on the Moscow deal has been pivotal to questions of Russian influence and Neal Katyal. He knows the legal questions at play as well as anyone.

Gentleman, welcome back. It's good to have the dream team.

So Mike, help me understand this. It is not news the President signed this letter of intent. Michael Cohen said it. We believed him at the time. That's a good shot of my tie. Then why would the President in a press conference try to push out that there is some other letter about the deal, Michael Cohen signed him, not him. And why would Rudy say there was a letter of intent but the President didn't sign it?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Look, I can't speak to why Rudy Giuliani said --

CUOMO: You must.

ISIKOFF: But, look clearly the President is trying to spin this. I think, especially with the revelations about what Michael Cohen pled to, this became a much more serious matter, because the fact is it went on, the talk about this -- building this Trump Tower Moscow project went on until June of 2016, according to Mueller's filing, that well into the campaign, six months past when they had previously said it had ended and more seriously, you go back to that Mueller filing, which I still think was -- it may have been the most serious in terms of the President, himself.

You had Cohen communicating directly with a Kremlin official about securing land and financing for the deal. So, you know, now the President is going to minimize his role. You got the evidence, we reported -- my co-author David Corn reported, he had signed the letter of intent, in our book Russian Roulette. So I mean, the facts are clearly going to Trump to spin here.

[21:05:10] CUOMO: And I have to tell you, this is no, let's see what happens, I'll put my name on a piece of paper. This is a very negotiate situation. It didn't buy anybody anything. A letter of intent is just that. It means we're going to try to make this happen. But it was very well negotiated. There are a lot of riders on here. There are a lot of specifics in here and Donald J. Trump signed it.

All right that takes us to the other big development of the day, Neal. So, we all thought that General Flynn was going to get sentenced today and that it would probably be just a little bit of time. But oh, no, something very different happened. Why did it get so sideways?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: So, it got sideways because of I think a couple of things, one is that Judge Sullivan, who's a really well regarded judge, who is known to be harsh on the government, actually was very harsh on Flynn for the crime saying, "Look, this looks like you sold your country out."

CUOMO: Treason.

KATYAL: So the degree of -- yes, they even one point in the treason --

CUOMO: Right, he backed off.

KATYAL: But obviously, you know he was really concerned about the gravity of the defense. And as, you know, Chris, you and I talked before, that this is the national security adviser to the President, you know, in my two administrations, when I worked in there that was one step under God, basically, only the vice president and the chief of staff, sometimes have a closer relationship with the President. So this is a big deal that this guy committed a felony and was put in as President Trump's you know, trusted right-hand guy.

CUOMO: So it was very interesting --

KATYAL: The only thing that --

CUOMO: Let me ask you, if you thought this was interesting and go wherever you want it, Neal, the idea the judge said, hey, what you put in these papers, you think you were setup? You think you were ambushed? No, no, no, we weren't and no, I wasn't. I wasn't entrapped. I wasn't. Well, you said it in here.

So I want to hear you say it again. No, no I wasn't, I admitted, I did it all myself. That's a big blow to the President, Neal, because that's their theory of the case. The only reason Flynn lied is because he got framed and he had to. And then Sarah Sanders, even after the general said, it didn't happen,

says we have no reason to back off that. No, you mean you don't want to back off it, but they have every reason to back off it.

KATYAL: Oh, absolutely. So I think that loud sound you heard at 12:30 Eastern was the sound of 10,000 conspiracy theories by the Trump defenders exploding, because Flynn and his lawyer exploded them totally. You know, you know, and so, this started last week, when a bunch of conservatives started saying, oh, you had to have read, basically Flynn has Miranda Rights are warned him that he was being investigated which is preposterous like, you don't -- we don't like the FBI doesn't go tell --

CUOMO: It wasn't a custodial interrogation.

KATYAL: -- Robert Hansen -- yes, right, I mean, you don't go and tell people that you're -- plus, he's the national security adviser, I think he knows better.

CUOMO: And he said that today.

KATYAL: You know, it was such a bogus claim, you know, when it comes from people who I don't care when 5-year-old, sir, I have to sign away their rights as immigrants to this country or their parents. You know they're perfectly fine with all that, you know, when it comes to Michael Flynn, something else. So anyway, his lawyer, and he, Flynn, himself, directly when asked about this said absolutely not.

CUOMO: Right.

KATYAL: Which is 100 percent a law, this is like, you know, bad, bad law of being floated by Sarah Sanders.

CUOMO: Right, but remember, it's not law, though. I mean this is something that we keep trying to get the audience to understand this. Trump, the President of the United States and his team, Mike, they're not preparing for litigation. They're not preparing for trial.

They don't think that this is ever going to be a legal contest. OK? You know this as well as I do, they think it's going to be a PR campaign with the American people. That's why they fudged the facts about the letter of intent. That's why they stick by a story of Michael Flynn being entrapped even after he admits it's not true in open court.

KATYAL: Right.

ISIKOFF: Look, you know, the judge couldn't have been clearer about how he used the word disgust, which I think really startled a lot of people to hear a federal judge say he was disgusted, with the defendant's conduct. I think that really sent a chill through the spine of Michael Flynn and his lawyers, signal that he was prepared to send them to prison, to send him to prison.

But that said, you are right, Chris, about, you know, the likelihood that this is going to be a criminal case, keeps getting smaller and smaller and in fact, what emerged in court today is both the prosecutor and the defendant said that as far as the Mueller investigation goes, Flynn's cooperation is basically complete, which means they don't need him or they don't plan to use him to bring a criminal case against somebody else.

CUOMO: Right.

ISKOFF: Whether it be Donald Trump, Jr. or Jared Kushner or whoever and, you know, that is a further sign that Mueller's investigation I believe is nearing it's end that there is not plans for other big criminal prosecutions on the, you know, collusion coordination front, because now we've had the sentencing of Flynn and we've had the sentencing of Michael Cohen.

[21:10:21] CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: And Sullivan made clear, Judge Sullivan made clear, this is unusual.

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: He said it's rare, you usually don't go to sentencing until the cooperating witnesses had completed their cooperation, including in cases that might be brought in the future.

CUOMO: Right. Neal?

KATYAL: But there is still one big mystery, you know, which is why did Flynn lie about the Russia stuff? I mean, you know, that nothing today has answered that question. You know, it's preposterous to think he was lying, you know, forgetting about sanctions on Israel.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You know they prompted him during the interview.

KATYAL: -- there was something bigger --

CUOMO: You know they prompted him --

KATYAL: Exactly and --

CUOMO: And had a chance to talk if you wanted.

KATYAL: They asked again and exactly, Chris --

CUOMO: He had to know they knew.

KATYAL: -- again and again and again. And here's the important point. It connects up with some of this document that you discovered today about the Trump Tower thing, and why is it that Trump keeps lying? This isn't spinning, with all difference to Mike Isikoff. This is lying to the American people, 23 different times he said he had nothing to do with Russia.

The story keeps on changing. Now he's caught red handed signing a letter of intent, which I can tell you is a big deal. As a lawyer, you know, that's not something you just kind of whip off. That is a very serious document. And he pretended it never existed up until this literally this minute.

CUOMO: And clearly, because we're not going to likely wind up in a courtroom. It's going to be incumbent upon journalists to keep track to the facts. Because it's clear, Mike, that they're going to twist where they can out of convenience. And you know what else they're going to do. If you are one of the people calling them on the facts, they're going to come and try to kick you in the teeth. And you felt that today from the President of the United States. I want to put up the tweet.

Michael Isikoff I believe I have the same man on my show he was the first to report dossier allegations, and now seriously doubts the dossier claims. The whole Russian collusion thing was a hoax. But who is going to restore the good name of so many people whose reputations have been destroyed? Michael, your response?

ISIKOFF: The President clearly didn't read very far into what I said, because I made clear that in broad strokes that the Steele dossier was on to some very serious stuff, that there was a major Russian effort to interfere in our election. There were extensive efforts to cultivate members of the Trump campaign, and there were multiple contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and people associated with the Russians that are concealed from the American public.

All that is clear. What I was referring to, that the President jumped on, was that some of the more sensational allegations on the Steele --

CUOMO: Were not corroborated.

ISIKOFF: -- dossier remained uncorroborated and likely not to be. In fact, the evidence for them seems -- the sensational allegations seem to be getting weaker rather than stronger. And I specifically was referring to the allegation that Michael Cohen went to Prague to meet with Russian officials --

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: -- to talk about paying hackers, or hacking the Clinton campaign.

CUOMO: Uncorroborated.

ISIKOFF: That was you're running of the more serious, and it was probably the most specific serious allegation in the Steele dossier.

CUOMO: And wrong.

ISIKOFF: And the fact that, you know, Cohen did not have to plead to lying about that which he flatly denied.

CUOMO: Yes.

ISIKOFF: To the Senate is a good sign Mueller doesn't have the evidence that that's true.

CUOMO: Michael Cohen denies it. He has proof of where he was during the --

ISIKOFF: And Mueller hasn't charged him for lying --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- collaborating testimony.

ISIKOFF: That's the point.

CUOMO: So, not everything in the dossier was true. But we see what's happening time and again the President and those around him who support him, they are mounting a PR campaign and that's why I keep telling people, don't be a sucker. We'll keep the fact straight and Michael, good for you for defending yourself and clarifying the record. You're always welcome to do that here. You're a mentor and one of the best. Michael Isikoff, thank you very much.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

CUOMO: Neal Katyal, you're just good looking. And that's more than enough on television.

KATYAL: I know.

CUOMO: Thank you for the legal analysis. I'll have you both back soon.

All right, another big thing that happened today. I don't settle lawsuits. I heard the President say that for most of my life. However, tonight he may be settling, shuddering a foundation and maybe agreeing to be shunned, another shocking example of our new normal, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:17:2] CUOMO: Seventeen, that's how many known investigations there are that involved our President. Think about that. It's almost instructive. The President waives away all of them as partisan attacks, every one of them. But today he folded on one, his foundation. He agreed to shut down the Trump Foundation amidst allegations that he and his family use charity funds for their own personal and political benefit. The attorney general says that that's what happened.

Now, the President says, they did nothing wrong. But in the settlement, the New York A.G. says investigation found, "shocking pattern of illegality that included repeated and willful self dealing." Many of the allegations that led to this first came to light through "The Washington Post," David Fahrenthold, he did a lot of that reporting with us on "New Day."

Look at the Trump Foundation's largest gift, 264 grand. You know what it was spent on? Renovating a fountain outside of Trump's Plaza Hotel. That's what they used it for. All right, hold on a second. Hold on a second. That's what the use it for.

What else -- $12,000 to buy Trump a Tim Tebow helmet and jersey. And even the small donations. Look at this, Donald Trump has to donate $7 bucks to the Boy Scout. It matched the amount that it would have cost to enroll a young man in the boy scouts, Trump Jr. was 11 in 1989. You can connect the dots. It allegedly, infected the 2016 campaign, what they were doing with the charity. Investigators say, Trump raised more than $2 million at a fundraiser for troops in Iowa. You remember this? This is when we brought Fahrenthold in on "New Day."

His then campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, wrote in an e-mail, "is there anyway we can make some disbursements this week while in Iowa? Make no mistakes. Donations were directed to veterans.

OK. Let's keep the allegations clear. But the A.G. has multiple e- mails suggesting that the donations were also done in key states that helped boost Trump's candidacy, all right? Then, there is this $20,000 portrait of Trump, himself, paid for by the charitable foundation. There's no word on where the painting is. But if it's in one of his homes or businesses that would certainly violate the law against self dealing.

Now, keep in mind, this is just one New York State investigation hanging over Donald Trump. Michael Cohen has also met with the New York A.G., which has vowed to keep pursuing the foundation. A new attorney general is going to be coming in. She has said, "I'm going to be looking and see what's there." They're still seeking more than $2.8 million in restitution from the institution -- from the charity and that's not over yet.

[21:20:18] And, listen to this, what the New York A.G. wants is to ban the President of the United States and his kids from serving on the board of any other New York non-profit, for different periods of time, ten-year on Trump. Can you imagine that? Sitting President of the United States banned for 10 years from sitting on the board of a charity?

Donald Trump has pointed his fingers at others like the Clinton Foundation. Now it's his own charity that's been found to be dirty and the idea that they could deal with this type of disrespect at the time that he occupies the presidency, it is just something we have never, ever seen before. It's unprecedented and it should be unthinkable. But it's also known now as the new normal. Those are the facts.

The great debate is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Once again, plenty of breaking news tonight. Moments ago, the Senate overwhelming passed the Criminal Justice Reform Bill. And just hours ago, the White House finally banned bump stocks.

You know, we all learned the ugly reality of what they can do in Las Vegas. That's what the sniper used. And the space force moved a step closer to reality tonight. Those are all positive things the President could have been talking about. But what's he focused on? Attacking our justice system, shuddering his foundation for bad business practices and the theory that Flynn was railroaded, even though it just got blown up in court.

Big blows to the story that the President is selling to you. What's the impact?

Let's bring in Angela Rye and Scott Jennings for a great debate.

You know, it's really interesting, Angela. I've been making the case to our audience, the President is not preparing for a legal battle, he's preparing for a political fight what's he's going to try and shape what people think about what's brought out this fact.

And that's the only thing I can figure out about this letter of intent. He knows that we reported that he signed it. He knows that we're going to find the letter, so I had it. Why put out that Michael Cohen had a letter he signed? Why would his lawyers say this weekend there was a letter but no one signed it? What do you make of it?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's more of the same, Chris. I think we've seen over and over again this President's inability or lack of desire to tell the truth on that every turn and you just went over it in the last segment. At every turn, anything wary or bearing the Trump's name is running into legal trouble, whether it's in a civil court or it's in a criminal -- under criminal investigation. Whether we are talking about the Trump organization or Trump University or the Trump Foundation now, right at every single turn, anything attached to Donald Trump is under -- is embattled and under severe -- not just attack, but under investigation.

[21:25:30] And I think there is something to be said for that. You called at this it is new normal. I reject that. It's the new abnormal. It couldn't be more abnormal. And we could -- we should continue to ensure people understand this is not OK. It's not a good thing. And I think one other note.

You brought up the first step act. We should note that our colleague, Van Jones, has worked diligently on this and despite of what Donald Trump demonstrated himself to be. And this is a big victory for him. But, maybe Donald Trump knew he would need criminal justice reform, and that's why he signed that.

CUOMO: Well, look, you know, with the point is, though, Scott, he had good news to talk about today.

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: Bump stock is a big deal. Criminal justice reform, where has to be done. But, it's a good first step, as the act implies, even a space force, yes, I know, fiscal conservatives, would be like guy were more govern more -- whatever, there is an ambitiousness this to it, he ignores all of it and attacks what's happening in the probe, even though he had a bad day on the facts.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I'd like to see the President get focused on the good news on a routine basis now it's in actually in the cycle. I think he has to recon figure his thinking. He said it works on his own re-election and when you are headed towards your own re-election, you can't let the days where good news is possible go by without the notice from the White House.

If you run as an incumbent and run as someone who kept promises, run as someone who got a positive track record of results. You have to actually trumpet those results. I'm glad the First Step Act passed tonight. I'm glad it did so with the White House to support, with Jared Kushner's support, with the Senate Republican leaderships' support.

It's a really good achievement, a bipartisan achievement. And I think the Republican Party, lead by Donald Trump that can fairly take credit for being many, many a disparate sides together to finally get something done. But, as you point out, there will be other things that dominate the news today, other than that, which unfortunate. The President's team has got to get him focused on these days where you really have something to tout. To tout it and don't let other things distract you.

CUOMO: Right, but, look I'm just saying. You know, the idea what likes -- what they like to say is, you guys never focus on the good news, is not true. I do it all the time. But I'm not going to disrupt the President of the United States, which is what he thinks is important.

And today, Sarah Sanders went out of her way to say we're not backing off the idea that Flynn was entrapped. How can you not back off it when the general, himself, said several times, in open court, it didn't happen, it didn't happen. I own it. I admit it. I knew what was going on. I knew all the rules. I was not entrapped. Why do they say they're not backing off?

RYE: Exactly.

JENNINGS: Yes.

CUOMO: No, it's not for you, it's for Scott. Go ahead. Why not?

JENNINGS: Oh yes, look. They got it well I'm just -- they got let this got -- this guy lied. He admitted that he lied. You know, we can debate the circumstances --

CUOMO: Aren't they lying?

JENNINGS: -- of the interview all we want --

CUOMO: -- aren't they're lying?

JENNINGS: -- but they doesn't change what Flynn said in court today. They got to let this guy go. They got to cut -- look when they fired him, they said we got to fire him because he was liar, he lied to the Vice President. They need to cut this loose. And understand that in an investigation like this, in a situation like this, you don't want to draw your principle closer to the bad actor. You want to separate this person from the bad actor --

CUOMO: The narrative is so important --

JENNINGS: -- is the bad actor.

CUOMO: The corrupt intent narrative, as false as it may be, as so important, so central for this White House that they don't let it go even when the man they're pinning it on says in open court, it's not true. And we see it also with what happened with the foundation today, Angela. This is for you. Seventeen investigations, all bogus. All bogus.

And yet, he is shuddering his foundation in a firestorm of allegations that are ugly. The sitting President of the United States may be banned from sitting on the board of a charity for a decade. Talk about the new normal the new abnormal, whatever you want to calm it. It's crazy sauce and there are no rules for us how to process it.

RYE: The crazy sauce is the nicest thing you can call this, Chris. I think what's interesting is their response to the foundation finally being shut down. As we've been trying to do this in 2016. Yes, you were trying to do this, kind of like you were trying to do Donald Trump's tax returns without any type of accountability or oversight.

And so, the reality of it is now there is someone saying this is how this has to be shut down. This is why you were funneling money to your campaign. Remember the big publicity stunt during the campaign when they were raising money for veterans, instead of him going to debate. That was a stunt to raise money for his campaign. They funneled resources to his campaign after that.

[21:30:05] So again, I cannot emphasize this enough. Whether we're talking about what happens in Mar-a-Lago, whether we're talking about what happens in Trump Organization, at the Trump Foundation, at Trump University, which was also shut down. Why? Fraud. They were taking money from unsuspecting students and they filed a fraud claim. They had to pay $25 million.

All I'm saying is, this isn't just a pattern anymore. This is -- I don't know with -- I think he is running -- I don't know like a mob boss. It's not the White House. He's not the commander-in-chief. He is a mob boss. It's not even a "Apprentices" just like he wants to be the new star of power on stars, I guess, I don't know, I don't know, it's crazy.

CUOMO: Well, Scott, look, what seems pretty clear is they are gearing up for the political fight of his life. They don't think they're going to be in a courtroom. They don't think they're going to have to be face-to-face with Mueller. It's not going to be a valid legal struggle. It's going to be a about PR.

That's the only explanation I have for why they fudged the facts about the letter of intent. It makes no sense. Why say he didn't sign it? Why suggest that some Fox reporter was talking about a letter that Cohen signed? Why distract from something that I can hold in my hand and show to my audience? Why set yourself up for that? JENNINGS: Yeah. They need to prepare for both fronts. I mean they are going to have a PR fight, of course. But they may have a legal fight. We don't know what legal fights they are or will not have on a number of fronts so my advice would be to gear up on both fronts. You cannot assume you will not going to have a legal fight over this or several different issues. I actually think there is a possibility they may have already indicted the President on the Cohen campaign finance issue and just put it under seal, which you know could come out.

So I am worried about what legal fronts they may face. This doesn't absolve them of needing to prepare on the PR side. And the White House is going to prepare a communication strategy to put their principle in the best possible light. But this legal front is not going away. And they're going to have to win it as much as they women the PR battle.

CUOMO: The irony is that they are basically making the decision the facts don't matter, we will going to fudge it, we'll going to go for it, and as long as the people wind up on our side and the poll numbers show that they don't really want impeachment, we will going to be OK. The irony is the lion may be exactly what triggers consensus in this country about what they feel is too much, coming from the President of the United States.

Angela, Scott, thank you very much. I appreciate the arguments, as always.

Nobody saw this beat down of General Flynn in court coming today. I'm telling you, you could see Mueller's guys were shocked by this certainly, Flynn's guys were shocked. They were celebrating when he came in, his family today. They thought that this was going to be a good day. It wound up being a postponement, because his people were so worried the judge was going to drop the hammer.

All right, so what did what happened in that courtroom mean to the President? Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey is here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:35:40] CUOMO: Seventeen probes involving the President of the United States. He says they're all bogus. Well, then why is he shuddering his personal charity tonight after New York prosecutors say he made a mockery of charity and they may get him to agree along with his kid to be banned from sitting on the board of charities for a period of years, in his case, one year and there.

He says General Michael Flynn was railroaded. Flynn says, no, he wasn't today. As this judge held his feet to the fire, POTUS and its lawyer pushed away the signing of the letter of intent, and the Russia deal but we have a copy of it right here. Why do this? It boggles my mind, so I need a better mind to help me understand these legalities and tactics, former Attorney General under President George W. Bush Mike Mukasey is here.

Always a pleasure, counselor. MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: So help me with easy one first, we know --

MUKASEY: Which one of those is easy?

CUOMO: We know he signed a letter of intent.

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: I have it in my hand. Why would the President suggest, yeah, some reporter said there was a letter. I think Cohen signed it. No, you signed it. Why would his lawyer say, yeah, there was a letter about the deal but no one ever signed it. It's right here. Why do this?

MUKASEY: I don't know. The closest I can come to guessing is the notion that there was no contract and there wasn't any contract. A letter of intent is as you know different.

CUOMO: True.

MUKASEY: They negotiate over letters of intent. It's supposed to show you are serious about doing something and you have the means if you go ahead.

CUOMO: Yes.

MUKASEY: And they never go ahead. So whether there was confusion about that, I have no idea. I can't come up with any other reason.

CUOMO: Michael Mukasey wouldn't use the word letter in terms of drawing that distinction he'd say there was no eventual contract. The deal never got done.

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: You would say there was no letter of intent.

MUKASEY: Not if there was a letter of intent.

CUOMO: It's right in front of you.

MUKASEY: OK. Got it.

CUOMO: I believe that is part and parcel of a strategy, which is, we're not going to court. I'm never going to have to deal with the Mukasey. There's nobody who was going to throw this letter at me. And say this is why you can't believe this guy about anything. It's all PR. And people will believe what I tell them if I say it enough.

MUKASEY: But if that's the case, then how come if you know there is letter there, you are not alerted to the fact it will blindside you publicly if not in a courtroom. I don't see the distinction, other than some sloppiness about whether you got a signed, binding document in the sense of a contract --

CUOMO: Sure.

MUKASEY: -- or whether you simply got a letter of intent, which itself is some indication of seriousness, but of course, you don't got ahead with the deal?

CUOMO: Right, the problem with -- you are 100% on contract law and the legalities and practicalities of transactions.

MUKASEY: Right. People sign letters of intent.

CUOMO: All the time, and nothing happens. True.

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: But what they don't do or shouldn't do is say I never talked to Mukasey about a deal. I don't know what you're talking, I got nothing to with them. And then somebody shows me a letter of intent that's like 50 pages long with all these details negotiated. Not a good fact.

MUKASEY: Not a good fact.

CUOMO: So today, General Michael Flynn gets raked by Judge Sullivan and some of it I thought was --

MUKASEY: Bizarre.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: Bizarre performance by the judge.

CUOMO: The judge not knowing the time line a little bit about what happened --

MUKASEY: -- not knowing the timeline.

CUOMO: Treason?

MUKASEY: You know what, you take that job, you are either told or you know that job being a judge, it's not a fair fight. You get out on that bench, you can say things to a lawyer. You can say things to a defendant. And they can't respond in kind. So generally, you watch your mouth. And he really let it go today in a way that I thought was inappropriate. I think a lot of other people did too.

CUOMO: And then he backed off, but it was enough to spook Flynn's counsel to say, hey, let's postpone this.

MUKASEY: Put yourself in Flynn's place.

CUOMO: Make sense.

MUKASEY: Judge comes out, and stuff comes tumbling out -- you know, treason come living out of his mouth. Of course, you are going to put it off.

CUOMO: Now, there is one fair point that gets put back on Flynn and his counsel. They went out of their way in their memo to say things that really weren't true and painted a picture of inappropriate behavior by the government and the judge didn't like that. Mueller didn't like it.

MUKASEY: I don't know that's not true. But put yourself in this situation, you are a defendant, you got a guideline range of zero to six months. The government is saying, you ought to be sentenced to zero. You don't, understand those circumstances, file a memo accusing the government of anything. You go out and say, I'm sorry, you move on.

[21:40:00] CUOMO: Mukasey knows that --

MUKASEY: I have no idea. No idea.

CUOMO: So then, all right, do you think this would be a part of it? Would you please bat it aside which you do with equity. Anyway, the idea that, well, this is what the President wants me to say because is his theory. Look for Sarah Sanders to get up on a podium, and again, not legal, political and say, yes we're not backing off the entrapment after what the general said in open court.

MUKASEY: There are two --

CUOMO: How do you stand by it?

MUKASEY: There are two categories of behavior, this Flynn's behavior for what he was in court and there's government's behavior, neither one of them, neither one of them was anything to write home about. Comey boasted in public about having circumvented procedures about having -- He said, I got away with something I couldn't have gotten away with, if there was a better organized administration and don't it the right way.

CUOMO: But it doesn't mean it was the wrong procedure. This was in a custodial interrogation you're dealing with an intelligence expert.

MUKASEY: No. No. No. No. Its not -- of course it was not a custodial interrogation. You don't have to warn.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: I'm talking about not consulting the lawyers at the Department of Justice before you send two agents in to conduct --

CUOMO: They putting off Flynn.

MUKASEY: -- to conduct, wait a second, to conduct and investigation of what a violation of the Logan Act. That was what the paper --

CUOMO: But they put it on Flynn -- they said if you want to bring in a counsel --

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: -- that's fine. But then we have to bring in the DOJ --

MUKASEY: OK. And the question --

CUOMO: -- and Flynn said no.

MUKASEY: Right. And the question is, why did he do that?

CUOMO: Why? You tell me.

MUKASEY: OK.

CUOMO: I hate when you turn questions on me. Like, you're already smarter than I am if you're asking the question, why am I even here?

MUKASEY: No, no, no. That was a rhetorical question. I'm going to answer it. I'm not sure but he would do that only if he thought that something more serious was going to emerge. And the only thing more serious was the fact that at one time, not then, but at one time he had served as a lobbyist for the Turks without registering.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: And that's crime. In fact, two of his associates were charged with that crime --

CUOMO: Yes.

MUKASEY: -- today.

CUOMO: Yes. They pleaded not guilty.

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: So answer me this. So, he's savvy, he's in the intelligence business. They are clearly --

MUKASEY: Those aren't necessarily the same thing. But go ahead.

CUOMO: He's in the interview and they clearly are prompting him in a way that would make me the rube feel, well, Mike, already knows what happen. He sees -- asking me to refresh --

MUKASEY: He knew that they knew.

CUOMO: So, and yet he doesn't answer the right way. If you know that they know that you talked about these things, why would you deny it, unless you are protecting something that matters more to you in the moment than telling the truth?

MUKASEY: He did -- If you look at the 302 that they finally disclosed today about the interview, itself, not months later, but the interview itself. His answers were equivocal. They were -- I didn't take lot of time persuading him, I didn't do this, I didn't do that and then entirely recall. Remember he's called on vacation on -- for this interview.

CUOMO: The Dominican Republic.

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: Where seemingly no devices work. Even though he had fine combs every time I've been there but continue.

MUKASEY: The point is that that's a very thin false statements case. And yet, he pleads guilty to it.

CUOMO: What does that tell you?

MUKASEY: It tells me that he would rather stay off in other subject, which I think is Turkey.

CUOMO: Do you think it was Turkey? You don't think it has anything to do with those 18 days and who knew what about what was being said in the White House?

MUKASEY: Because he had every right to these things. Are you talking about what he was saying to Kislyak? He was then the designee for national security advisor.

CUOMO: Yes.

MUKASEY: He had every right and reason to be talking to the Russian ambassador. In fact, it would have been malpractice for him not to be talking to the Russian ambassador.

CUOMO: It depends about what else though?

MUKASEY: No it doesn't depend to that one.

CUOMO: Why not? What if it was about sanctions and about what to do with before they were even installed?

MUKASEY: He was talking about what was going to happen after they were installed. You know, people were saying at the Time, you shouldn't have done that because we have one President at a time.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: That's a two-way street. We have one President before January 20th. And we have one President after January 20th and he had, I think, a good reason to talk about what was going to happen when the President who was going to be President after January 20th took office.

CUOMO: Let me ask you this as the wise old owl. The idea of the President --

MUKASEY: Keep off the owl keep off the wise, keep off the old.

CUOMO: I was going to say, the idea of the President shuddering his charity and maybe being kept off of any charitable board for 10 years. The President of the United States, did you ever think you would hear that?

MUKASEY: No, on the other hand, I never associated this President with charity. I associate him, frankly, with ego. Everything he has done up until now is, I mean look at all his buildings. They've all got his name on it. Look at his charity it's got his name on it. You point out before they put money into the park. The park was right near his building.

He promotes himself. On the other hand, it was a charitable contribution, albeit one that brought him benefit. What, a little hesitant about is the fact that they're shuddering the charity now amid all kind of allegations, but nobody has brought a case.

[21:45:09] CUOMO: And it's all civil. It's not criminal.

MUKASEY: It's all civil. But they haven't even brought a civil case.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: He wanted to shut it down two years ago. I said, no, no we'll conduct the investigation.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: They conduct the investigation for two years and then they shut it down.

CUOMO: Well, they thought he was going to hide transactions or that whatever, the people in control of the foundation would hide transactions.

MUKASEY: But I'll tell that they didn't.

CUOMO: It's things that we would never know. Well, about what they found was enough.

MUKASEY: Look, the porter does in for what, $30,000 that's not worth zero? As I said --

CUOMO: Why is it worth zero, he is now President of the United States. It's probably worth more. Not you but --

MUKASEY: Not to Michael.

CUOMO: Mike Mukasey, I got to tell you, it is always edifying and enjoyable. Thank you for being here.

MUKASEY: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: And we're going to have to do this a lot more because it just keeps piling up, my friend, it does. All right, thank you very much.

So, you know the words, I hope all those so many want to forget them. Give me your tired, your poor, huddled masses, yearning debris free, you know, Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus. This is enforcing us. This is reflecting our greatest value or at least it used to be, E pluribus unum, right, one out of many. Well, that's not what one of the Trump trio over in Fox things and now advertisers are pulling away from his mouth. Is that the right reaction? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right, the Fox fear train ran into a familiar roadblock. The same rancor that fuels their demonizing of migrants and drives their numbers also tends to turn off advertisers that turn ratings into revenue. More than a dozen companies have pulled their ads after this comment from Tucker Carlson about migrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FOX NEWS: Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world's poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I don't know where his people come from, but dirtier? Is he really talking about human beings that way?

Let's bring in Don Lemon. I don't know ordinarily play hateful speech on the show, but it's important for people to see what someone's trying to pass off as news.

[21:50:08] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. Well, I was going to ask you. You first. You've sort of given what you said about how you feel about it. I don't want to -- I try not to criticize colleagues. Remember the whole thing with Megyn, whatever, but it was part of the news, and people ask.

Here's how I feel about it. We don't usually like to criticize colleagues. But if you turn on Fox any night, it is the CNN, MSNBC criticism channel. They almost always lead with something that we're doing that they hate, and they hate because we're actually talking about real news and the Mueller investigation and what's actually going on in the country.

So another reason I don't like to do it is because people in glass houses shouldn't throw bricks because one day it could be you or me, because we sit here and we're live. I'm live for two nights at least every single night, and sometimes you say things, and it comes out, and you didn't realize you said it, or it comes out the wrong way, and you offend people.

But here's the difference, and I don't think people should be boycotted for something that they do that's a one-off, or occasionally you make a mistake and you say something wrong. But when it's how you use your platform comprehensively, how you use it on an overall basis, on a general basis every single day.

CUOMO: Mm-hmm.

LEMON: I come at that. You come at that. And the people on this network come at that through truth, through journalism, and telling people what is real and what is not. Now, the folks who are there are opinion journalists. They don't have to abide by those rules.

For the most part, Tucker Carlson uses his platform to demonize immigrants almost on a nightly basis, to demonize this network almost on a nightly basis, to spread false information, misinformation, to spread the President's lies, to cover the President's back, to carry his water on a nightly basis. So you be the judge of how you feel about what's happening with him and his advertisers, that's one thing.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: But what he said about immigrants in this country, about making the country dirtier.

CUOMO: Dirtier.

LEMON: And poorer. That is completely false. That is the opposite of what we do on this network every day. We give the truth about what's happening with the so-called caravan, what's happening with legal immigration, what's happening with illegal immigration. And we know, the studies show that immigration has and continues to make this country a better, stronger, more productive, and vibrant country. That's why you're here, I'm here. That's why we do what we do, because of immigration in this country. Some of us immigrated through slavery, didn't want to come here. Some, your ancestors, wanted to come here. But we're all better for it at this juncture.

CUOMO: Diversity is our greatest strength. It always has been. Again, on the coin, e pluribus unum, one out of many. But you know what? As long as that has been true, so has its ugly opposite. People have been trying to divide this country on the basis of the us and the them for a long time. What Tucker Carlson does is not new, and you said he's your colleague. I worked at Fox News. It was my first real job in this business. I worked for Roger Ailes --

LEMON: He once worked here too. I wasn't but --

CUOMO: Yes, I didn't work with him. I don't consider him my colleague. I think the Trump trio are in a different business than the one that I'm in. They have different tactics. They have different reasons for doing it, and they have different goals of what they're trying to do. So I don't consider him a colleague. It doesn't mean he doesn't have the right to say it, but so do advertisers have the right to respond to what he says, same thing for us.

LEMON: The other thing that is interesting, it is a tactic -- demonizing immigrants is a tactic for the people you mentioned, for the folks over there. And also demonizing other networks and conflating liberals and Democrats with actual journalists and news networks. It is a tactic to them. They do it every single night.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: They know it's not true, but they do it because of what? They are exploiting --

CUOMO: I hope you're right on one level.

LEMON: Of course. They're exploiting it for ratings.

CUOMO: I hope on one level you're right because it's more scary if he believes it.

LEMON: Well, people do believe it because it's division. As you said, it's dividing people. It's fear every single --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I don't know what's worse. If he knows it's effective but doesn't believe it but does it for effect, I think that's worse than if he's just ignorant but he's not an ignorant guys, he's a smart guy, deluded enough to believe that kind of jingoism, that kind of ugliness. And it's not like I'm looking for a fight. When the guy is -- I guarantee you in person he's not going to be that loud and proud, you know, puppy dog puss.

This is about TV and what he comes across as. The reason not to fight it is I don't want to give it too much of an audience, although they already have a huge audience within Fox. But we've got to call it out. I don't care what advertisers do. But the want to be in, they're in if they want to be out, they're out, that's the business model.

But the idea of saying that we are forced, they're forcing us to take in these people, who's "they"? Who's us? That's what we need to call out because it needs to stop. But I'll be back with you at the top of the hour.

[21:55:10] LEMON: I know you got to go but you won't believe the conversation I just had with Van Jones. And we're going to be talking about criminal justice and also Cory Booker is on.

CUOMO: You know what? It's so sad that the President didn't jump on his own success. Van Jones, others very involved with the first step act, criminal justice reform passed tonight on our watch.

LEMON: OK.

CUOMO: The President could have been talking about that, but he wasn't.

LEMON: I'm just told Cory is not available. Another night, but Van Jones will be here in minutes.

CUOMO: Good.

LEMON: We'll see you.

CUOMO: See you.

All right, lists, that's what you do about holiday shopping season, right? Everybody is making lists right now. Who do you have to get what for? That's not the list I'm making. I have one index that stands out to me, and it's like nothing I've ever seen before. I'll share it with you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The final fact is 17. That's how many separate investigations of the President of the United States there are, federal, state, local levels. Shout out to Garrett Graff, by the way, from wired. He compiled the list and here it is. Start scrolling it. It takes time.

His charity, taxes, business dealings, contact with an alleged Russian spy, his campaign's involvement in Russian interference, maybe his own personal interaction with what he knew and when, him benefiting from the presidency with his businesses. It goes on and on, and where it ends no one knows. But here's what we do know. They're not witch hunts. It's not a hoax.

We saw that today with him shuttering his own charity amid really ugly allegations, and none of it is OK. It's not normal. It is like a perverse reality show where the truth is what the President says he wants it to be. His problem? That's not reality. In reality, the facts must come out. And more importantly, they must be kept straight. That's my job. That's our job together. And I say, facts first let's get after it together, again tomorrow.

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