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Pentagon Dispute Trump's Declaration of ISIS Victory; Trump Orders U.S. Withdrawal From Syria; Republicans Slam Trump For Withdrawal From Syria; Trump's Promise To Build Border Wall Slipping Away. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 19, 2018 - 21:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Doesn't explain away the whole situation, though, because you still have the President who put that letter in Michael Cohen's mouth and said he signed it. He knows that he signed it himself. Why did they say that? That goes to the P.R. campaign. You would never say things like that if you were worried about winding up in front of a judge or a prosecutor. You would do it if you're worried about how we process it and more importantly, the American people.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And then Michael Cohen lied about it for well over a year, and the White House and Donald Trump let that lie sit out there.

CUOMO: Uh-huh. The lie is all that matters. See another good distraction and other good device here is, was there a deal? Is this a crime? Those are distractions. Let Mueller deal with that. The lying is what matters. When you look at the American people as their President and you lie about what's going on with your business interests, that matters whether or not it's a crime.

BERMAN: Chris, look forward to hearing about that and much, much more on "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

CUOMO: All right, appreciate it, J.B. Let's do that right now. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

As you heard, the President's lawyer tonight says he was wrong to suggest that POTUS never signed anything after our Prime Time exclusive that proved that POTUS signed a letter of intent on the Russia deal. But how about the President? He looked you in the face and he said, listen to me, there was a deal, everybody knew about it, there was a letter, and it was signed by Michael Cohen.

Now, there's another wave in this story. Mueller, it seems, does, in fact, have sights on Roger Stone, one-time key advisor to the President. Wait until you hear what he told me. The spin offensive is in full effect.

And a mistake of colossal proportions. That's what a senior administration official calls President Trump's decision to pull troops out of the fight in Syria. Even Senate Republicans are lit, and we're going to go one on one with a key Democratic senator about what this is all about. And POTUS promised a wall. Now that promise is -- wait for it --

crumbling. What happened? That's the great debate. Hump day, everybody. Let's get after it.

All right. We're getting closer to the truth about the depth of the President's ties to Russia. We showed you the letter of intent that Trump signed to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Lawyer Rudy Giuliani had said the President never signed it, but now he says, "I was wrong if I said it. I haven't seen the quote, but I probably meant to say there was never a deal, much less a signed one."

That's the mayor's statement. I take him at his word. He's invited on this show to make the case whenever he wants. The question was never about having an actual business or a done deal. Just be clear about this. It was about whether or not the President had any involvement with Russians when he told you he didn't, and the answer is he did. So, we still have an outstanding question. Will the President come clean about this?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were thinking about building a building. I guess we had in a form, it was an option, I don't know what you'd call it. 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.


CUOMO: Listen, again, I worked with Catherine Herridge. She is a good reporter. The President does not need Fox to tell him what he signed. I want to bring in two former Intel officials, Phil Mudd and Mike Rogers. Good to see you both.

Mike, here's my theory of the case. They are not getting ready to be in front of a judge or prosecutor. They have never been preparing for that. Rudy Giuliani, the President, et cetera, are preparing to convince the American people he did nothing wrong, and they will spin and they will twist the facts to suit.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I'm not going to disagree with you, Chris. I think there's a lot of it there. Here's the one thing that baffles me on this, however. So, if you think about all of the lying that's gone on that has resulted in either an indictment or a plea deal by any of the folks surrounded by him -- Flynn or Papadopoulos, or Cohen -- there is a key element in all of it. They all lied about Russia.

And that's what -- you know, after awhile, I start thinking there's -- where there's smoke there's fire. The nutty thing is, it would not have been wrong for the President, who is in real estate business in New York City -- guess what? The Russians are there. They're playing in that market.

You're going to bump into Russian businessmen in New York City. Why create this elaborate story other than, hey, yes, we tried to go into business in Russia, it just didn't work out, for whatever reason, I was President, I decided not to go ahead with the deal. But that's what bothers me and I'm with you on Rudy Giuliani. I do not believe he intended to mislead anyone.

I think he is trying to create this narrative or they're trying to create the narrative about the FBI being bad, the Justice Department being bad because there is all of these folks who are now flipping who are going to be in front of judges and probably testify along the way as to what the Trump organization may have been doing that may or may not have been appropriate.

[21:05:00] CUOMO: All right. And, Mike, like I said, the mayor is invited on here. Let's get after it. You layout the case to the audience. You'll get more time than anywhere else.

Phil Mudd, you have had a sour look on your face for much of Mike Rogers' statement. Why?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Because if you look at what we're talking about Giuliani and whether he lied, I think the question is much simpler. He's too lazy to do his homework. Remember the Melania Trump conversation where he said that Melania was comfortable with what the President did and the various payoffs to women.

In a remarkable moment, the first lady's office comes out and says, the first lady has actually never had a conversation with Giuliani about this. I don't think Giuliani lied. I think he went out and said, I'm not sure I've done my homework on whether the President signed or not, but it sounds better to say he didn't sign and that's what I'm going to say.

CUOMO: Exactly, exactly because that's what they're doing here.

All right, let's shift to the next wave of it. The special counsel wants the congressional testimony from Roger Stone. Now, when I hear that I feel like, this is pretty premature, then because certainly if he were getting close to taking any action, he would have already looked at the testimony.

But be that as it may, Roger Stone is certainly going to be part of any P.R. campaign as there is in this situation. And look at the statement that he put out. Vintage Stone and also a great window into how team Trump is going to handle this. Let's put the statement, "This is Adam Schiff's wet dream.

Where's the Russian collusion? Where's the WikiLeaks collaboration? Where is the proof or evidence that I received allegedly hacked or allegedly stolen e-mails from WikiLeaks or Julian Assange or anyone else and passed them to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign or anyone else?"

This is his thing. Make your case. I'm going to fight. We don't believe you, Mike. And that's what we're going to see at every iteration of this, but nobody knuckles up the way Roger Stone does. That's why the President kept him so close for so long. ROGERS: I have to tell you, I worked organized crime as an FBI agent

in Chicago. I met a 100 guys like this. They're pretty tough until the gavel falls and standing in front of the judge. And I'll tell you, I'm not buying it. And here's where I think that he may -- may -- be in some legal problem, if he facilitated, knowingly facilitated the leak of stolen computer information or data -- WikiLeaks -- if he knowingly did that, he conspired to do that, he's in violation of a computer fraud and Abuse Act.

And so that's a real crime that has real penalty to it. I cannot believe that the special counsel -- clearly to me looks like they're preparing at least a charge for lying to Congress, and maybe even the FBI. But I'm going to bet, because he's not cooperating, that won't be the only charge.

And that's where I think he has to worry about it. But I'm telling you, this guy, he dresses like a gangster, talks like a tough guy. Again, I've seen a hundred of these guys. He'll fold eventually when those charges come up and he's looking at a lengthy prison term, four, five, six, seven years. That changes people --

CUOMO: He has sworn, he would never testify against the President. He's not new to this game. I'm just happy he is not Italian. If you're going to characterized him a mob guy, I'm happy he's not Italian.

ROGERS: Listen, I work in Chicago, Chris, I'm going to tell you half the guys weren't Italian.

CUOMO: Good.

ROGERS: They opened up their doors and the Chicago mob had Polish folks and Jewish folks. They had a whole collection --

CUOMO: Plenty of desperate ethnics. They didn't have to all be Italian. Phil, let's take a look at this. What I think is most likely with Roger Stone -- not that it's a problem, but you have to look at the materiality of it, OK. What was he lying about? It seems most logical what he was lying about is who he talked to and what he knew and whether or not he told the President the same. In terms of him helping distribute, Mike's right about the legalities of it. I just haven't seen any proof of that. The changing stories part, listen to these sound bites.


ROGER STONE: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation.

What I actually said in my testimony was it I had never communicated With Assange.


CUOMO: The hype, baby, the hype can get you, Phil, if they find it to be material. If they find out, listen, you lied, man, you wanted to sound like you were the man. You weren't the man. We've got you. Is that material?

MUDD: I think it is. There's two pieces here. One is the simple piece that we're seeing. That is as we saw in cases like Manafort busted for lying, Flynn busted for lying, if you stand in front of -- whether you're under oath or not to Congress, you're going to get busted. I think the most fascinating part of this case, Chris, easily is -- look, we had, as you just had on tape, Roger Stone talking about his communications with people connected with WikiLeaks.

What does Mueller have now? He has communications, including phone and e-mail. I presume text messages. He has a lot of interviews of people who are affiliated with Stone. He has presumably things like travel records, did people affiliated with Stone go to London? Did they go to the embassy, the Uruguay embassy to see Roger Stone? He knows already. I would wager whether Roger Stone had inappropriate contacts relative to WikiLeaks.

[21:10:00] In the meantime he's going to charge him, I suspect, with lying. And that's going to be a hammer when he says, if you want to do something about this charge, you better talk to us about WikiLeaks.

ROGERS: I think it will be more than that. That's the only party I disagree with Phil tonight. I just think there has to be more charge than that. If it's just lying, I think they don't have enough. I think they're going to have to put a case together that has more weight in it. That's my only concern with where Phil is at tonight. And the sour look, by the way.

CUOMO: I know. The timing matters also in that they're just asking for that testimony now? You know, you'd think they have more ducks in a row the time they've been processing this. We always keep it simple on this show. I believe very much (inaudible) racer, you know, go with the least assumptions. Why did they lie? They keep lying about things related to Russia. There must be a reason.

I don't want to waste your guy's expertise on just Mueller. It's important but it's not the only thing. Mike, the theory of the President's quick move to withdraw troops from Syria is, it breaks my heart to write those letters home. And we said we'd go there, do the job. We did it, it's over, we're leaving. Well, if that's his theory of the case, why isn't he pulling us out of Afghanistan? Why pull us out of the most recent theater? Why not Yemen, why not Iraq? How do you make sense of this?

ROGERS: Why not places in Africa where we have U.S. personnel exposed, trying to push back --

CUOMO: Right. So why Syria and why this way, Mike, what's your take?

ROGERS: This is so frustrating to me. This is exactly what Barack Obama did. The only difference is Barack Obama actually planned it out and had discussions with our allies when he announced we were pulling out of Iraq. Many of us, me included at the time, were screaming, hey, this will cause a huge problem, and guess what? It caused a huge problem. We are going to get ready to repeat that same very mistake, only now in Syria. After the President did a great thing, he told the military g forth

and kick some fanny in Syria and get this thing done, and they did. And all the shackles were taken off. They had different rules of engagement. They had different target sets they could do. They could engage in different training exercises with different factions within Syria that I think were very, very helpful.

And now, again, I don't think this was just about that. The Turks were saying, hey, we're going to come down into Turkey. That's a hard problem. You've got to face it. The Russians have said, hey, we're going to continuing this. The Syrians have been executing Americans. They just executed a 26-year-old American who was participating in an NGO, the government of Syria.

So, to do that on the heels of that, boy, I tell you, it just gets my blood pressure up. It makes us look weak. It destabilizes our allies who are coalition forces, saying, we can't really leave. And our soldiers who are standing in the ditch right there pointing guns at bad people are thinking, what in the heck am I doing here? Well, this was not the way -- the Twitter is not the way to conduct this --

CUOMO: Well, they put out a video also. I'll just say I hope the timing has nothing to do with a distraction from other stories. I hope he wouldn't leverage the men and women in theater that way. Mike, Phil, let's leave it there. I'm short on time. Fellas, I appreciate it. Thank you very much. Be well. If I don't speak to you before, Merry Christmas to both of you.

MUDD: Merry Christmas.

ROGERS: Merry Christmas.

CUOMO: All right, so here's what the President said today on Syria just so you know.


TRUMP: We have won against ISIS. We've beaten them and we've beaten them badly, so our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back, and they're coming back now. We won, and that's the way we want it, and that's the way they want it.


CUOMO: It's got a lot of Republicans and lot of people in the military shaking their head. They're hearing echoes of mission accomplished from President George W. Bush. Nobody knew this was coming. Why not? Why this move right now this way? Next.


[21:16:17] CUOMO: All right. The President ordering a full and rapid withdrawal of the U.S. military from Syria, declaring ISIS defeated. Tonight someone within Trump's team, a senior administration official, says this will, "put American and allied lives in danger and that it is a mistake of colossal proportions." The announcement of American troops coming home traditionally has been

greeted by scenes like this one, you know? The difference between this and the confusion you now see swirling around because in 1945, the work was really done. There was a plan for peace, and the vision was a way forward, explained to the American people. Compare that to this.

Remember bush declaring, mission accomplished, in Iraq? That's what this is sounding like to Republican ears right now, and even those in military official capacity. 97% of the deaths in Iraq happened after the so-called major combat end on May 1st, 2003, after mission accomplished.

So, this isn't the first time that Trump has tried to declare victory in Syria. That's an important piece of context here. He tweeted his own mission accomplished back in April. Now, since then, the message from his own has been consistent. We're not done. Forget about that mission accomplished. Don't listen to him, listen to us. There's a lot of work to do. There is instability. We have to stay. Don't be rash. Here's Trump's own chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talking about this.


GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: With regard to stabilization, we still have a long way to go.


CUOMO: A long way to go. Chairman of the joint chiefs. Why? Because it's not just about taking land. That's what ISIS wants. That's what the Lavant is about, that area in Syria and Iraq they think is theirs and it isn't, and they got their ass beaten off it, true. But there are more components. There's a major diplomatic effort underway to fix the problems in Syria that let to this mess in the first place. So here's what's happening with Trump's state department. Just last week, OK.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody is declaring a mission accomplished.

I think it's fair to say Americans will remain on the ground after the physical defeat of the caliphate, until we have the pieces in place to ensure that that defeat is enduring.


CUOMO: Where's the coordination, chairman of the state, Joint Chiefs of Staff, state department? We've heard the same thing from people like Bolton, Pompeo, Mattis, that this isn't just about winning battles on the ground. Here's what he said in August.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really comes down to finding a way to solve this problem of Assad's making.


CUOMO: I mean, you know, when you look at it in this context, it's like wait, who is telling him to do this or why is he doing this? And that's why somewhat of cynical suggestion I had exiting the last segment. Is this done for distraction? Is this done to keep eyes off the Mueller probe and him lying about a letter of intent in a Russia deal?

I hope not, because it's not going to work. And more importantly, it could jeopardize all the work that was done on the ground. If the President isn't listening to his own administration, who is he listening to? Well, to be honest, he told us.


TRUMP: Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great, you know -- when you watch your show and all of the other shows and you have the generals --


CUOMO: He knows more than the generals. He watches TV, he watches Fox, the same ones that tell him there's 30,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq. Trump has an answer for that as well.


TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.


CUOMO: Just not true. The President's own party is doing something we have rarely seen. You hear me? Call him out all the time. What's that? That's the sound of Republicans letting the President get away with what is anathema to them. Not this time. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama had made this decision, Republicans would be all over him.

[21:20:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to imagine that any President would wake up and make this kind of decision.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Colossal, in my mind, mistake, a grave error.


CUOMO: All right. The lack of planning, the rashness, not selling it to you, not selling it to Congress -- you have the fact of all this going on in terms of miscommunication. List tone this tidbit. Republican Bob Corker, he's a player. He goes to the White House for a meeting with the President. He's sitting there waiting. He gets sent packing without ever getting to talk to the President. Why? Why diss your own? Key Democrats on the other hand say this move is overdue.

Now, one of them is Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy he joins me now. I wonder, it would be nice to know, Senator, that the reason the President is doing this is because he met with you all, believed you, and decided to just act. But I don't think that's the case. Do you?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: No. Who knows why the President is making this decision today? As much as I think it's been a mistake to have 2000 American troops there who, frankly, aren't close to enough to tip the balance of power the way that he did it is totally handed. It makes the country weaker. He pulled the rug from under our diplomats on the ground in the Middle East.

CUOMO: And your allies.

MURPHY: And our allies. He did it right on the precipice of a Turkish offensive against the Kurds after promising the Kurds the last year and a half we would protect them.

Listen, I think we have vastly overstated what 2000 American troops can do inside a country that has hundreds of thousands of fighters on all of the other various sides. But the way in which he did this is just a head scratcher to both people that support the troops being there and people like me who have oppose them.

CUOMO: Look, you can argue you don't have enough people there. And as long as you're going to add more people, don't call it advise and assist missions because that's intellectually dishonest to the families of those men and women who have to go shed their blood on those battle fields. But like thing move, I don't understand. As you said Turkey has an offensive coming.

You know that Assad is running wild. They just killed an American as we heard from Mike Rogers here who is working with an NGO. The place is unstable. If you leave, there's every indication the same things will happen that when you left Iraq too soon. You will undo the work and create even worse challenges.

MURPHY: Well, listen, these are not apples and apples, right? In Iraq, you had at the time a fairly stable centralized government that eventually got overrun by ISIS.

CUOMO: Yeah.

MURPHY: Nothing like that exists in Syria. And there is frankly no evidence, Chris, to suggest that our troops, having been there for the last year, have relieved any of the humanitarian suffering or the brutal offensive campaign that has continued under the Bashar al- Assad. So, I don't think it's fair to say that well, the same thing is going to happen in Syria that happened in Iraq because what is happening in Syria right now even as we are there is totally unacceptable.

The strategy of putting 2000 troops has frankly not worked. It has not stopped the carnage. And frankly those 2000 troops were not going to be able to stop the Turks from going and attacking the Kurds.

CUOMO: True.

MURPHY: We have always had this belief that we can sort of do just a little to be able to sleep at night without ever doing enough to actually change the reality on the ground.

CUOMO: Yes. And also to motivate others, the virtue of advice and assist is to help people fight their own battles so that you don't have to do it for them as a proxy everywhere in the world, fair enough. But we do believe that the numbers of ISIS fighters have been greatly diminished, land has been taken back. I'm just saying that if you don't want Americans overseas, that's fine. But start with Afghanistan. You have 15,000 men and women there. Again, with these advise and assist, dishonest missions. They're dying over there. And why wouldn't they be taken out first?

MURPHY: Well, listen, it's important to recognize that the Afghanistan mission is authorized by Congress. What is also happening in Syria is as we have had success in pushing back ISIS, the administration has admitted that the troops there are now focusing more on Iran, focusing more on protecting the Kurds.

None of that has been debated or authorized by Congress. And so the difference between Afghanistan and Syria is, in part, one is authorized and one isn't. And that really should make a difference. I don't think that's why the President pulled the troops out, but a lot of us have wanted us to actually debate this before we -- in a bipartisan way endorse the fact that we have thousands of people in harms way in Syria.

CUOMO: Senator Murphy, I appreciate it, I know you have to get to a vote. This is big news. People need perspective from both sides. Thank you for providing it.

MURPHY: Thanks.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

The President's signature promise seems to be going the way of the do, do. Is this going to be the President's read my lips moment? Remember the wall? Now, we have got some great debate on our hands. Next.


[21:28:09] CUOMO: It was the President's signature issue. Now, he made his campaign around immigration. Let's be fair, specifically, keeping people out. But his signature pledge was the wall.


TRUMP: I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words. We're going to build a wall. It's going to be built.

It's not even, believe it or not, it's not even a difficult thing to do.


CUOMO: But to his supporters, today that promise for the wall is sounding a lot more like these failed promises of presidents past.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I intend to keep this promise. If you like your doctor, you'll be able to keep your doctor.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Read my lips, no new taxes.


CUOMO: Is President Trump going to be added to that litany of losing propositions? How bad is this for the President? Debatable, so let's have a great debate. Ana Navarro and Steve Cortes.

Steve, this was the big promise. This is what he said he was going to do. People like me never believed it would get done, but you did. How do you feel today?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ha, I sure did, and I still do, by the way. But listen, I will absolutely concede, you're right. If this wall doesn't get built, then that will join that unfortunate pantheon of presidential lies that you showed from President H.W. Bush and from President Obama.

So, he can't let that happen. Number one, it's bad policy. We need the wall built. Our southern border has been porous and for the most basically part open for far too long. So it's good policy. But it's also good politics. And I'll tell you as someone who has pledged to work for his reelection, in 2020 I can't even fathom us going into that campaign saying we came up short on the wall.

[21:30:00] CUOMO: Ana, what do you think of the state of play? Do you think that he's going to wind up taking a deal of short term C.R. that doesn't have anything like this in it and the Democrats take control and they won't let it happen?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Honestly, Chris, I'm going to have to do a Marco Rubio. And drink some water because --

CUOMO: That was way smoother than Marco Rubio.

NAVARRO: I'm about to do some -- say some good things about Donald Trump, and I may have to sit, you know, lay down and take two aspirin after this.

Look, at some point you've got to be less political and you've got to do what is right. You've got to govern for the people of America. Forcing a government shutdown is going to put a lot of people in pain, a lot of government workers, a lot of federal workers are going to be in pain. Is that what we want over the Christmas holiday? We are right now heading towards the worst December in stock market

history, in Dow Jones history, since 1931, which was the great depression. The last thing this country needs right now is a government shutdown and all the economic, emotional, and family circumstances that that means.

And so if it means disappointing some of his supporters, listen, they'll get over it. If they got over him cheating on his wife who had just given birth with a play boy bunny and cheating on the play boy bunny with a stripper, believe me, they will get over him doing a stopgap bill on a border wall instead of a government shutdown. It is the right thing to do. And every now and then, he's got to do the right thing.

CUOMO: Feel better, Steve?

CORTES: No. Ana, let me -- you know, a couple things. First of all, the border -- this isn't just my opinion or just Donald Trump's opinion that we need a border wall. It's the opinion of the Customs and Border Protection Union. They polled their own officers. 89% of them say that they need a border wall. Those are the front line cops, the cops of American's border.

CUOMO: American the overall. Put up the whole numbers while Steve is talking, put the whole numbers. Go ahead.

CORTES: And I believe them and I think that we should give them the tools they need to do their job properly. But more importantly, too, you talk about the government shutdown, that it would inflict some pain. I believe that's true. It would on some people near term. But, you know what?

There's long-term pain that is permanent pain because we have an open border and I'm talking specifically about the people American citizens, many of them Hispanic, who have been injured or killed by dangerous illegal aliens because we have tolerated for decades in this country lawlessness on our southern border and combined with sanctuary cities unfortunately --

CUOMO: One thing at a time. One thing at a time. I thought I was going to put up --


CUOMO: Hold on. I thought I was going to put up a number that showed support for the wall. But it wound up being the same kind of thing. Who supports a shutdown over this wall as context, and the GOP support is 67-19. So people in your party, they resonate off this issue.

But Ana, here's what I never understood about this. No, I'm not a rue when it comes to politics. I get the idea of a big promise. Don't get me wrong. But you heard what the President said, right? It's going to have slats in it. Do you know why he said that? I'm not a mind reader, but I know the answer do this question. That's what's there now. That's what was always going to be there. He was never going to build a brand-new wall. The CBP Union that

you're talking about, Steve, I've talked to those men and women. They didn't want a brand-new wall. They want to fix what's there, add to what's there, give them the technology they need. I get that's not as sexy as saying give us a brand-new wall like the wall of China and a big door and all that stuff.

But that was never going to happen anyway, Ana. Couldn't he win here by saying I'm going to give us more money to make us safer on the border than we've ever been before? They'll have what they need, the border will be safer than ever. Would that be enough?

NAVARRO: Look, it certainly would be enough for a lot of people, including me, who understand that the border is mountains and rivers and the geography and to topography is such that a border wall like a Great Wall of China does not work. I'm not sure if it's enough for some of his supporters who voted for him, precisely because of this.

But they also voted for him saying that Mexico was going to pay or this wall. And they have moved from that, right? Now they are OK with the American taxpayer paying for this wall because they know Mexico is not going to pay for this wall. And they're willing to go to a government shutdown.

Listen, sitting here in an air conditioned TV studio, I am not willing to dismiss the pain and suffering of federal workers, some of whom, a lot of whom live paycheck to paycheck, who have to pay rent, who have to pay kids' tuitions, who have to pay clothes, Christmas gifts, people who have to keep national parks open, families, all sorts of American families who are planning to go visit the capital or visit national parks. I am not willing to dismiss the pain of those people because I'm not going to be affected. I think some people may. That's not me.

CUOMO: Well, let's look, the reality of furlough, Steve, as you know, is that it creates cash flow issues for people who don't have huge savings. They wind up getting paid at some point.

[21:35:03] CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: Time, value and money matters when you're living paycheck to paycheck and a lot of working people are.


CUOMO: The reason I said one at a time to you, put up the President's tweet when he talked about winning on this issue and what that looks like. So many money has been poured down the drain for so many years but when it comes to border security and the military, the Democrats fight to the death. We want a military which is being completely rebuilt. Not really true. One way or the other, we're going to win on the wall.

Look, winning, not winning, that's politics. You're not going to stop that game. But I'm telling you, you are never going to have a brand- new wall built. Any who works down on the border who is in a command position knows that. And by the way, the last thing they want is a wall they can't see through, because for surveillance issues, that's why they designed what they have down there.

CORTES: Clearly you have able to --

CUOMO: Wasn't the original plan. Wasn't his original plan.

CORTES: That's why -- but he's changed that clearly.

CUOMO: I know.

CORTES: He's not a wall architect, even though he's a great builder of many great structures all over the world. But look, there has to be an actual wall. Not a virtual wall, not a metaphor. There has to be a wall.

CUOMO: But in some places it does have to be virtual. But that's what they want. In some places they want sensors. In some places they fencing, they want different things in different places.

CORTES: Look, here's the thing. Walls work. And one thing I'm tired of seeing constantly in media, is for people say this is some sort of medieval idea. All we need to do is look around the world, places like Israel, Hungary, Saudi Arabia --

CUOMO: San Ysidro. Go to San Ysidro. They were able to control the flow there with new phenomenon of mass caravans because of the physical barriers in place. You can put all media together, but that's not fair. No question more and better.

Here's the original problem. The original scene here was what the President said. He lied. He said he was going to build a big brand- new wall and Mexico was going to pay for it and it was B.S. It was never going to happen. Now he's in a hole. Period. Now he's in a hole of his own making. He's a great builder. He dug a big hole. Now he's in it.

CORTES: I believe this is still going to happen. He has to make it happen, by the way. Look, the Congress I think has abdicated its responsibility to secure our American border. However, that doesn't absolve the President of his responsibility.

CUOMO: You're going to give more money, Ana, you're going to give more money for security?

CORTES: And I think the best way is to trade DACA for the wall. That's a big --

CUOMO: It's not going to happen because you guys didn't let that bill happen. That's when all the old white men came to the President and said --

CORTES: And that's a clean --

CUOMO: Chain migration, right, family reunification, they wouldn't give it to him. CORTES: Right. And I'm saying --


CUOMO: But it didn't happen. Ana, go ahead.

NAVARRO: For almost a year we heard -- and even after being elected President -- we heard Donald Trump go to rallies and fan the flames of his supporters saying, we need a wall and who is going to pay for it?

CUOMO: Build that wall.

NAVARRO: Mexico will.

CUOMO: Who is going to pay, Mexico will.

NAVARRO: Exactly. And that in itself was a lie. And I think we've now accepted that. And even his supporters have accepted that that was a big fat lie. Mexico is not going to pay for the wall. American taxpayers are going to pay for the wall. And my question is, well, what do you do with the almost half undocumented immigrants who come here by plane? Who come here by other means other than crossing through the Mexican border? You know, it is a --

CUOMO: Nothing.

NAVARRO: -- complex issue. The wall is not going to solve this issue.

CUOMO: Right. The answer is nothing.

NAVARRO: That would seriously and comprehensively --


CUOMO: No, no, no, I'm saying nothing is the answer.

NAVARRO: Do a government shutdown and make people suffer.

CUOMO: Right.

NAVARRO: And pay? No.

CUOMO: He knows there is pain connected to the shutdown. That's why he pulled back from it. But Steve, I'm not saying do nothing. I'm saying nothing has been done. Look at these two -- God forbids we just dealt with, the seven-year-old girl losing her life, this 5- month-old who is now on the hospital. People want to demonize the men and women on the border and say they did something wrong to the kids. I've seen no proof of that, but I'll tell you what, there is a culprit. There is a culprit and you know who the culprit is?

Congress. And you know why? Because that system is busted. And the rules don't match the resources. They are overwhelmed. I've been there I've been down there many times, by the way. Not just this last trip. I've never seen caravans that size before, either today. Nobody is working on those real problems. The wall matters, physical barrier matters, technology matter. It's not a panacea. And you're playing this game about the wall as if it's one and done.

CORTES: I agree totally.

CUOMO: He should be working on --


CORTES: I've never said that. Don't put words in my mouth, Chris.

CUOMO: I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about the President.

CORTES: The wall solves the problem at the border. The border is not the entire problem. But we wouldn't say, you know, if you had cancer in one part of your body and another, we wouldn't say, well, that doesn't solve all of them, I'm not going to solve --

CUOMO: In fact, that exacerbates it. If you had a wall like you want everywhere you know what happens? More flow through the ports of entry, Ana, they're overwhelmed. They don't have places to put these people. They don't have ways to take care of them. They don't have the resources. They can't process.

NAVARRO: I think the only way --

CORTES: We don't have to put them inward because they don't --

NAVARRO: I think the only way --

CORTES: -- come in, that's the point.

[21:40:00] NAVARRO: I think the only way that we'll ever get comprehensive immigration reform is if American people trust that their border is secure. And border security doesn't necessarily call for a wall that extends the entire extension of the border. And, you know what? Go read up on El Chapo and the tunnels that he dug from Mexico --

CUOMO: I've been in them. I did a documentary on it.

NAVARRO: -- into the United States and all the drugs that he was able to traffic into them. Do you think you can't traffic people through tunnels, you are grossly --

CUOMO: The overwhelming majority of drugs come through this country through containers in the --

CORTES: The Israelis have shown us --


NAVARRO: Right now today as we sit here this week --

CUOMO: This border is attraction of her own. Go ahead and they -- NAVARRO: Listen, as we sit here this week, the President is a

Republican. The Senate is majority Republican. And the House is majority Republican. This is right now, maybe not after January 3rd, but today on December 19th, this is an entirely a Republican problem. And it's Republicans who don't want to go along with the wall. He can't get a majority vote --

CORTES: I agree with that, Ana.

NAVARRO: We can't blame Democrats. It's Republicans who don't want to spend the $5 billion responsibly --

CORTES: I'm blaming Republicans, absolutely.

NAVARRO: It is Republicans who don't want to go along with an unnecessary wall. They will go along with other measures --

CORTES: Fiscally responsible.

CUOMO: Yes, fiscally responsible.

CORTES: That Congress has run up a $20 trillion debt in this country, and now they're going to worry about $5 billion expenditure, which is pocket change --

CUOMO: And that's because your party has been co-opted by Trump and Trump doesn't echo your fiscal conservatism. He passed a tax cut that doesn't pay for itself that was anathema to you guys an administration ago.

NAVARRO: Yes, maybe after losing --

CORTES: The hill Republicans, what they want to do is the easy route here. They want to pass a continuing resolution so they can go home for Christmas and say, we'll deal with this in February when, by the way, they don't have the gavel any more in the House. But to me --

CUOMO: But they don't want to vote for the wall. Nancy Pelosi was right, Steve. When Nancy Pelosi --

NAVARRO: Listen, I'm not criticizing Republican --


NAVARRO: No, no, no. Let me say this --


CUOMO: All right, hold on. One at a time. Ana, let Ana go.

CORTES: -- very clearly in 2016.

CUOMO: We'll see. Go ahead.

NAVARRO: I'm not criticizing Republicans. I am saying Republicans own this. I'm actually very happy to see that Republicans are finally standing up to President Loco and telling him when something is loco. That they are standing up to him on Syria, because I don't know what he's getting Melania for Christmas, but I know what he gave Vladimir Putin for Christmas. Lifting sanctions on that Russian company and leaving Syria.

That is a gift to Vladimir Putin. And I am glad they are finding those spines they donated to science and saying to him, enough is enough, and we are not going to go along with this.

CORTES: I find it fascinating that globalists like you want to defend borders in the Middle East, but not our own border here. That is exactly backwards. And the President has it right, saying we have no compelling American interest to be involved in a Syrian civil war, and we are rightly getting out.

But we have an absolute interest in defending our own border. That's America first. That was the crux of the 2016 movement. Was we are not going to be any more -- we have our policy dictated by globalists, interventionists who want to defend people all over the world, but won't defend American citizens from an onslaught of illegal immigration. It doesn't make sense for our national --


NAVARRO: If you think -- listen, you love to come after me personally. So let me tell you this. I am old enough to remember when Republicans were globalists. When they gave a dam what was happening all over the world.

When they stood up against human rights abuses in Russia and Central America and Angola and all over the world because we are not one single country in this planet, we are part of a global nation and what happens in those countries affects what happens here. If you don't know that, then look at what the caravan is --

CORTES: I am not part of a global nation, I'm American.

NAVARRO: Look at who the people are --

CORTES: I am not a global nation. I'm an American citizen.

NAVARRO: Oh, Steve, I'm going to give you a mirror so you can look at what you are because you think --

CUOMO: All right. Let's leave it there.

CORTES: An American citizen.

NAVARRO: I am an American citizen, too, but I don't forget where I came from or who or who I am. And most Americans, most Americans come from immigrants, including you.

CUOMO: Ana, Steve, thank you very much.

CORTES: Love legal immigration. Absolutely.

CUOMO: Well, not that much. You want to cut it down. We'll talk about it another. Thank you both of you.

CORTES: No. Don't put words in my mouth. Chris, that's not --

CUOMO: Well, just to be fair. I don't want to put words in Steve's mouth. That's not what we do on this show. The President just says, he wants to cut illegal immigration. He wants to cut legal immigration. Look at the court battle that's going on right now, changing asylum laws.

A federal judge just said you can't deny people an asylum request just because they say they're coming from gangs. You have to have to find a showing of fact. The President doesn't like it. But that's about legal immigration, not illegal immigration. That's a distinction with a difference.

All right, one of the greatest movies of all time, I say, is getting a modern remake. The question, can Macaulay Culkin recapture the magic? Social media says yes. We're going to show you why next.


[21:48:46] CUOMO: May he rest in peace, great writer Tom Wolfe told us you can't go home again but Macaulay Culkin says, yes I can. 28 years later he's reprizing his role as Kevin McAllister and he's got a new toy. Take a look.


MACAULAY CULKIN: Hey Google, what's in my calendar today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have one event called house to yourself.

CULKIN: Oh yeah. Google add aftershave to my shopping list. Hey Google, remind me to clean these sheets later.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too bad Acey ain't in charge no more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone's at the front door.

CULKIN: What do I owe you? Looks like you paid online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep the change, you filthy animal.

CULKIN: Ok, cool.


CUOMO: Let's bring in D. Lemon. What do you say, do you like the nostalgia or he shouldn't play with a classic?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I can't believe it's 28 years. Man, I am old. I actually kind of like it. Before when I was single, that was every night at my house, man. You just get home and do whatever.

CUOMO: You try to evade men that were trying to hurt you in your own home?


CUOMO: Listen to us, man. Like we're old men here.

LEMON: You should know of all people. I know, right.

CUOMO: It's so funny. Hey, you remember the cameo the President had in one of those? Do we have that?

LEMON: Oh, where he is like -- was he in the Macy's? No. It was at the plaza.

[21:50:00] CUOMO: Yes, we had that cameo on there, Donald Trump then a citizen. He had a cameo there. It's amazing how long ago it was and how so much has changed. But now Macaulay Culkin is showing that some things stay the same. I like it. It made me smile.

LEMON: You know, I like it too. I always wonder why people redo things, like when they colorized "It's A Wonderful Life" or when they redo -- what's the scrooge movie, right? You know what I'm talking about? I never really liked that. I don't like it when they redo songs. There's a reason that a song is a classic, and I don't think people -- there are very few people who can redo them and do them justice.

CUOMO: It's true.

LEMON: But I actually think in that one, Google and Macaulay Culkin did "Home Alone" justice.

CUOMO: It looked good. We have the Trump cameo.

LEMON: Can we watch it?

CUOMO: Yeah. Yeah.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. Where's the lobby?

TRUMP: Down the hall and to the left.



CUOMO: There he is.


CUOMO: He looked back, and he said, are you illegal?

LEMON: Yes. That was about the time -- no, he didn't.

CUOMO: No, he didn't. That was "Home Alone 2." LEMON: No, he didn't. You're going to get me in trouble. That was

around the time he said that nobody knew -- he told Larry King that nobody knew about campaign finance better than he does, right?

CUOMO: Well, look, that is a very interesting dynamic. We had reported last week, all of us, that he knew about John Edwards back at the time, and he had been interviewed about it. Now there's more meat on the bones of that. I forget who came out with it tonight. I know you have it on the show.

Look, there is very little reason to believe that the President of the United States didn't know what was going on or that it was wrong. Every fact and piece of context about the situation with Cohen and the payments suggests they knew exactly what they were doing. They did it to hide it because it was wrong.

LEMON: Yeah. OK. So I just told you that we're going to talk about that. We're going to play the clip. So this was me watching ANA and Steve at the end just moments ago.

CUOMO: Yes. Yes. Well done. Well done.

LEMON: That was -- oof.

CUOMO: I don't know why he makes it personal with Ana Navarro. It is a mistake 10 times out of 10. And this new stick that Trump folks try to use with his globalist thing. Do they really want us to be completely isolated in America? Do you really believe that's the way the world works?

Look what's happening in Syria. Why were we there, right? Now, he has to come back. Why are people in Afghanistan? Why do we do trade deals? You need other people in the world. You always have. I don't understand that reckoning.

LEMON: They may want it. I think they -- I would hate to believe -- this is similar to our conversation last night. I would hate to believe that they don't believe in what they say, right? I think they want it, but it's a fait accompli. Never going to happen. We've gone too far.

CUOMO: Well, we'll see. Look, you can have both. America first does not have to be an isolation from the rest of the world.

LEMON: America alone, right.

CUOMO: That's all. America alone, exactly. D. Lemon, I'll see in a second.

LEMON: See you in a couple minutes.

CUOMO: All right. President Trump defines his agenda in four simple words, right? Make America great again. And supporters of his often rationalize their tolerance for the many offensive things that he says and does with two simple words -- promises kept. But what is the truth behind Trump's promises? Closing, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:56:34] CUOMO: All right. There were four signature Trump promises, and they all seem to be crumbling tonight. Number one is border wall. Take a listen.


TRUMP: And we need security. We need the wall. We need a wall. We'll build the wall to keep the damn drugs out. More than ever we need the wall. Don't worry, you're getting the wall. Don't worry, OK?


CUOMO: Not big cheers tonight. That was then. The reality now, the President seems to be abandoning his pledge to shut down the government if he doesn't get funding for the wall. And if they do a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government until they come back after the holiday, Democrats take control.

They don't want the wall in earnest. They believe it's a farce, and many Republicans may agree with them. So the wall may never come to be. Instead, the President is talking about artistically designed steel slats. See the tweet? You know, the same kind that exists right now thanks to previous administrations. The sad reality is the new wall was always a farce.

Building more of the barriers, you know, what they call a fence, it's not a fence. The pilings are this big, 35 feet high. Sometimes they put masonite on top of it. It is a wall for all intents and purposes, but nobody in the security wants a wall they can't see through. They want to be able to do surveillance. It never made any sense. It was a pipe dream.

And he played people for a sucker, and that's the truth. So you're going to build more of what's there. You're going to add tech solutions. That's what they're asking for. It's always been the right course. The President just sold you something he could never deliver.

Number two, defeating ISIS. Take a listen.


TRUMP: We have won against ISIS. We've beaten them, and we've beaten them badly.


CUOMO: Do a quick Google search and try to find members of his own administration that say that's the case. The Pentagon estimates that 30,000 ISIS fighters remain. We've seen this movie. It has a horrible ending. It was called Iraq. Remember what happened when we left too soon there. Mission accomplished. Over 90% of our deaths that we suffered happened after that point. Number three, a soaring stock market. The President had been bragging

about the stock market as being up massively, hitting all-time highs, as a bellwether for the success of his economy and his presidency. Take a look at it now. The Dow is currently on track for the worst December since the great depression.

And just as important as what is the why, the gains have been erased, but the reasons, his talk on trade and tariffs rattled markets. So it wasn't just indexes and realities. It was his mouth. It introduced uncertainty, and uncertainty is toxic to traders. There are other fundamentals in play, but he put that into the system, and it's had a negative impact for him.

Number four, I have nothing to do with Russia. You remember this?


TRUMP: 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.


CUOMO: Now we have his signature on a letter of intent for a Trump Tower in Moscow. It's not like the President hasn't had successes. He did cut taxes. He can argue about how they're paid for, but he cut them. People like that.

Bipartisan criminal justice reform that passed last night, low unemployment, historically so, deregulation, two conservative justices on the Supreme Court and a slew of other federal judges that could change the culture of this country. But remember why that doesn't get the attention that the negativity does.

It's not on me. It's not on the media. It's on the President. He doesn't highlight his wins. They don't matter to him the way the fight does. His mountain side minus is his mouth and as long as the president insists on lying to you and saying divisive things instead of talking up his accomplishments, they're always going to live in the shadows of the darkness that he too often brings to his presidency.

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