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CUOMO PRIME TIME
NYT: FBI Opened Investigation Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working On Behalf Of Russia; Representative Steve King Defends White Supremacy Statement. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 11, 2019 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The news continues, so I now hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": Thank you J.B. I am Chris Cuomo, welcome to "Cuomo Prime Time."
We have breaking news tonight. Law enforcement officials were so concerned about the President's behavior in the days after he fired James Comey that the FBI opened a criminal and counterintelligence investigation to determine whether the President was secretly working with Russia against America. That comes from "The New York Times," you have to put it together with new information about how the Mueller investigators are using the President's public statements against him in their obstruction of justice investigation and now news that the President's lawyers want to control how much of Mueller's report you get to see.
Cuomo's court takes on the significance of all of this new information.
Another urgent matter. Midnight tonight will mark the longest shutdown ever. Hundreds of thousands got paychecks with zeros on them today. We all know the President owns the shutdown. But it is his boy in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who is letting it continue. People are hurting and he went home. A great debate about whom to blame and shame. And where's the Republican outrage over one of their own making racist comments again? Is this really what the party wants to be? It's Friday night, but no letting up. Let's get after it.
Now, we had thought the toughest question for Mueller was did the President know about contacts between his campaign and the Russians? But now in a major report just breaking from "The New York Times" in the last hour, the FBI was looking at the President himself and whether or not he was working on behalf of Russia. The focus on the President's motives and the use of his own statements in a case of obstruction come as we learn of the efforts by his lawyers to keep you from seeing Mueller's full findings.
Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says in a new interview, "as a matter of fairness, they should show it to you' -- you meaning him -- 'so we can correct it if they're wrong. They're not god, after all. And neither is he! And in light of the hyperfocus on the President, should we really let his lawyers doctor the results? What does this all mean? Let's get right to Cuomo's court. We have Asha Rangappa and Jim
Schultz. Beautiful guests for tonight. Experience on the FBI side, experience in the White House. Let's get after this conversation. Asha, how big a deal is this "New York Times" report?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's huge. Look, you know, there are two kinds of investigations in the FBI. There are criminal investigations and there are national security investigations. And there are different predicates, is what they're called in the FBI to open both.
On the criminal side, it's whether there's suspicion or a belief that someone has violated the law, the U.S. code. But on the national security side, it's whether this person may pose a threat to the national security of the United States.
Now, sometimes that can be a low threshold. It could be, you know, they're being targeted by a foreign intelligence service. But in my experience, when you are dealing with first amendment activity, when you're dealing with journalists, politicians, clergy, things that deal with first amendment activity, the bar is so high. And here, we're talking about the sitting President of the United States. The bar here had to have been incredibly high and therefore the evidence that would have been required to form the predicate to perform this investigation, incredibly compelling. And I feel that this is incredibly damning to someone who is charged and has taken an oath to protect the United States.
CUOMO: So Jim, we know that the FBI opened these cases, right? They were then transferred to the special counsel. Once he has had it, we have indications that there has become more of a sensitivity to what the President has said, even publicly, in terms of shaping intent for obstruction of justice. What do you see as the significance of this reporting?
JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: So I think it's important, first to note that Adam Goldman who authored that story walked back in an interview in a few minutes ago on CNN that it wasn't about the President secretly working with the Russians. That it had to do with the James -- James Baker's testimony had to do with conduct, having to do with the firing of James Comey and some of the statements that the President made following the firing of James Comey, and whether that had some impact on national security. So it's a little disingenuous to have that blowing across the screen, saying that he was checking -- that the FBI was looking into whether he was secretly working with the Russian.
[21:05:09] CUOMO: Why?
SCHULTZ: That's just not reported. Let's start -- that's not what was reported.
CUOMO: Wait a minute, that's exactly what's -- I'll read it to you.
SCHULTZ: It's not. CUOMO: Law enforcement officials became so concerned by the
President's behavior, they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.
SCHULTZ: OK, so -- so when you look at that -- but Goldman walked that back, just earlier, as we were -- as -- during an interview --
CUOMO: I think that's your interpretation.
SCHULTZ: As we look -- James Baker looked at the conduct -- James Baker testified that they were looking at the conduct, as it related to the firing of Comey. But let's move on from that. You asked me another question. Let's talk about if obstruction and some of the public comments that he made. So the public comments he made, it's very, very difficult to prove whether public comments that someone makes in the public domain, hardly anyone's ever charged with obstruction, as it relates to public comments that they make.
SCHULTZ: In a criminal context --
CUOMO: All right, hold on, Jim. Let me just stop you for a second. I agree with what you're saying and I accept the argument. Here's my point. Often used as a shield here is, it's not a crime, it's not a crime. It's not the bar. It's not even the mandate for Mueller. In the paperwork that delivers any type of jurisdiction to him, it just says to look into contacts and coordination. It doesn't have to be a crime. And when he writes this story, Asha, in his report, it's not going to be, here are the crimes, there aren't any, so forget it. You know, it's about what he decides to prosecute, what he declines to prosecute, and what he needs us to know. And that's why I think, Asha, that if you take this report from "The New York Times," that they've always had a hyperfocus on the President, they had it before there was Mueller, Mueller has carried it before and believes in it, and that Trump's lawyers know that and don't want us to see the Mueller report, I think those two things go together and tell you what their anticipating in this report. What's your take on it?
RANGAPPA: Yeah, I think you're absolutely right, Chris. This is first and foremost a counterintelligence investigation. I think that this needs to be clear to the American public. This is about what did Russia do to interfere in our election --
CUOMO: Who knew and who helped?
RANGAPPA: And who was helping them. And then, secondarily, did what -- did anybody who helped them commit a crime in that process, so that's when you have potential criminal violations, but not everything that, you know, people do to help a foreign intelligence service is a crime. Ss it's still a national security threat. And to what Jim said, look, I tend to agree that probably Trump was not a witting Russian spy, because he'd make a horrible spy, for anybody. I mean --
CUOMO: And we just don't have any proof of that. And we have no proof of that suggestion. RANGAPPA: Yes, and -- but that doesn't mean that he can't take
actions that facilitate and allow Russia's operations to continue. For whatever his motives might be. And that would still be a national security threat to the United States. Particularly as the President, who has almost unfettered authority over foreign policy and foreign relations. For him to take actions that would potentially stymie an investigation into the biggest Russian attack, counterintelligence attack on the United States would be of concern to the FBI.
CUOMO: Right. You know, Jim, see, that's the point -- we've been talking about this, but I think it's important to distinguish what the context is here, you know? There are shows on right now, on television, where every night, tonight they're going to be making a compelling case. Well, that's it, they got the President, here it is. I never make that case. I do not think criminality is a reasonable bar for people to anticipate in terms of when this probe winds up, personally. But what a story Mueller may have to tell about what people knew or what they should have known, what they did with the information, what they did to stymie his efforts, and why it's wrong, and when I hear that the President's lawyers want to see this report and go through it before we get it, it confirms those suspicions. Do you agree with me?
SCHULTZ: So let me go back one second, Chris, to talk a little bit about what -- context of his testimony and James Baker's testimony. I think it's important to note that the reason why he was testifying was dealt with an investigation as to whether there was FBI overreach associated with this. I'm not saying there was. I'm not making the argument there was. But there are people looking into that and that's why he was there testifying.
So getting back to your point, Chris, and the question you just asked me is to whether the President's lawyers, private lawyers or the White House -- the White House lawyers have an ability to review this report. It's going to be much debated if the private lawyers try to get their hands on this thing and work through it and try to correct it, that's going to be explosive. There's going to be a big fight about that. But as relates to the White House lawyer --
CUOMO: Why should they get to do what they call correcting it?
SCHULTZ: There's going to be arguments on both sides --
SCHULTZ: -- because sometimes, when there are FBI reports, the other side gets to take a look and gets to -- and gets to respond to it.
[21:10:00] CUOMO: When? Hold on a second, when is somebody getting investigated by the FBI get to change the FBI's report? When?
RANGAPPA: Chris --
CUOMO: Hold on, Asha. So give me when? Hold on, Asha, one second. Jimmy, when?
SCHULTZ: So let's go back to this --
CUOMO: No, no, no, hold on a second, answer my question.
SCHULTZ: When there are audits. When the FBI conducts audits --
SCHULTZ: -- a lot of times when there are -- when conduct is being reviewed by the FBI, especially in the audit context, because I've handled cases like that, you do get an opportunity to see the report and make your arguments and make corrective action.
CUOMO: No, no, no, you get a chance to argue with the FBI that you don't agree with their conclusions. You don't get to change them before I see the report. You know it and I know it. Asha, get in on the conversation.
SCHULTZ: You do --
RANGAPPA: Yes, look, Chris, you know as lawyer and so does Jim --
CUOMO: Hold on, Jim, let Asha get in. Go ahead.
RANGAPPA: Listen, we're all lawyers here. We live in what is called an adversarial system of justice. That means that the investigators and the prosecutors collect evidence and they present their narrative.
RANGAPPA: This happens in a Court of Law. It happens in Courts of Appeals. It happens in the Supreme Court. And the remedy, when you think that that narrative is incorrect is you present a defense.
RANGAPPA: And you present these two narratives and the decision maker, whether it's the jury, whether it's the judge, whether it's Congress or the American public, they are entrusted with being able to look at these two different narrators and decide what is the truth. I mean, I'm sure O.J. would have loved to take a whiteout pen and go through the prosecutor's evidence when he was on trial, but he didn't get a chance to do that. And neither does the President.
CUOMO: Now, in fairness here --
SCHULTZ: That's a great sound bite.
CUOMO: Hold on a second. But whether it's you or the President's lawyers, I give opportunities all the time for the other side. I believe in it. Because I think it's the best service for the audience. So I've been asking Rudy Giuliani to come on the show for weeks. Jay Sekulow, anybody they want to put on. They have not taken the invitation recently. Rudy Giuliani did put out a response and in fairness, I think we should read it. Here's what Rudy Giuliani says in response to this. Let's put up the statement.
"The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing." Is there more to it? All right. That's his response. Now look, Jimmy, that's very self-serving. We don't know what they found. It's going to be in the same report. The same report that he wants to get a chance to change before I get to see it. So that's not the most compelling response.
SCHULTZ: Of course it's going to be self-serving. Of course what he's going to say is going to be self-serving. He's an advocate on behalf of his client. Asha just made that point a minute ago. But the difference between O.J. and the sound bite that Asha made in this is that this becomes a political debate in Congress at the end of the day. This isn't going before a judge. It isn't going before a jury. So Chris, I want to go back to one other issue.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
SCHULTZ: And the difference between the President's private lawyers and the white house counsel lawyers. There's a big difference there.
CUOMO: Which is just staffed 17 with lawyers to fight this fight. Go ahead.
SCHULTZ: So hold on a second. So let's -- I'll get to that, too. But the White House counsel lawyers will and should have an opportunity to review this for executive privilege. And whether this -- and whether there are items in that report that are privileged and are subject to executive privilege and whether they can go before Congress or the American people. Because remember, the Department of Justice still is an executive agency.
Now, the White House will have to balance the politics and the public relations associated with redacting that report or attempting to redact that report. And that's a judgment call they're going to have to make. But any lawyer that works in the executive branch, I don't care whether he's the Obama administration, who made similar arguments during the fast and furious case or the Trump administration, are there to protect the executive powers. There's always this push and pull between congressional powers and executive powers. And they're all trying to get in their own, in each other's lane, all the time.
CUOMO: But to be fair --
RANGAPPA: Chris --
SCHULTZ: But hold on a second, Jimmy, one point at a time. To be fair, they had chances to exert -- to assert executive privilege and they didn't. And now they're trying to do it late in the game in a way that's self-serving. And you talk about politics. Asha, I'll give this point to you. The idea that the same people who say that FISA applications should be made public, even though they're full of classified information, full of information that could hurt people who were out there trying to protect American safety, they say, well, we need it in the interest of transparency for the American people! But not the Mueller report. No, no, no, no that we have to redact. That we have to go through with a fine tooth comb and make sure that the American people don't get exposed to anything that's dangerous. It's so hypocritical, it's obvious. Asha, your point.
RANGAPPA: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, I think that there is definitely a hypocritical point that there's a public interest in revealing information that could, itself, the revelation could be a threat to national security. And what they are trying to do here. But to Jim's point, you know, executive privilege is a limited privilege that the President hold for -- you know, conversations, deliberations that he has with key advisers in the function of his executive role. It does not allow him to just redact things at will. There may be very, very specific conversations or pieces of evidence that relate to the firing of James Comey that may be subject to the second privilege --
[21:15:14] CUOMO: And they said they had nothing to hide, so they gave him things that they could have kept. Remember that! Remember, Rudy and Jay Sekulow and the lawyers saying, we could have kept this stuff. We're not, because we believe in transparency. Now they don't?
RANGAPPA: Right. And also the Nixon President does not allow the assertion of executive privilege.
CUOMO: Fair point.
RANGAPPA: When it is being used as a shield to cover up criminal activity and in an obstruction of justice investigation, that's exactly what these conversations or evidence would be, being presented to prove. So I don't think that executive privilege would even be relevant in any significant degree in this situation.
CUOMO: Jimmy, button it up. Last point.
SCHULTZ: Well, so, last point. I want to talk about the addition of the staff at the White House Counsel's Office.
CUOMO: 17 new lawyers.
SCHULTZ: When Congress flipped in 2010 -- right. When congress flipped in 2010, they staffed up to 45 lawyers in the Obama administration. We started in the White House Counsel's Office when I was there with 25 lawyers. I fully expect that they're going to get close to 50 lawyers, just because you have to deal with oversight once the opposing party takes over on the other side. It's tradition. It's always happened that way. And necessary in order to properly and appropriately respond to the oversight requests that are coming in. For folks to say that this has to do with covering up the Mueller report, it's just absolutely disingenuous and absolutely false.
CUOMO: Look. I take both of your points. They're good arguments. But there's one thing we all have to agree, transparency is going to have to be paramount. This is not going end to end in a prosecution. It's going to be a political process. I could be wrong, that's the way I see it. It's going to be about the court of political opinion, it's going to be about political pressure. What elected officials want to do with this report? And if you don't let the American people see as much as you possibly can, you will never get the clearance that the President wants at the end of this, the exoneration that he wants. People will always be suspicious. And what a waste that would be. Asha, Jimmy, thank you for doing this for me on a Friday night. You got blessed with good news for doing it, though. It's a big story. Thank you.
We're going to stay with this breaking news. This is a big report by "The New York Times." Before the Mueller probe, the FBI was so concerned -- and remember, this isn't about feelings. As Asha taught us tonight, you have to have a predicate. You have to have a reasonable belief that there might have been a crime. You have to have a reasonable belief based on proof and evidence that someone might be compromised or a threat to national security. They felt both of those things regarding the President and his actions towards the investigation, and specifically James Comey. So that's a big deal. We're going to stay on this. The possible counterintelligence inquiry into the President, so stay with us, we're going to debate the political implications, because that's what this is going to be. This is politics, not law, next.
[21:21:05] CUOMO: Breaking news tonight. After President Trump fired James Comey, "The New York Times" reports that the FBI was so concerned about Trump's behavior, they opened a counterintelligence investigation to see whether he was secretly working on behalf of Russia.
Great debate. Paul Begala and Niger Innis. Let's see if we can all agree on something before we get into the huff and puff. The idea of giving the President's lawyers an opportunity not to review, not to rebut, but to redact and change the information that the American people get to see in Mueller's findings, does anybody here agree with that?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Chris, can you --
CUOMO: No, for you, Paul, no, I know, but Niger? Silence is acceptance.
BEGALA: I was working for Bill Clinton --
CUOMO: All right good.
BEGALA: -- in his --
CUOMO: Good, we agree, I like it.
BEGALA: -- Ken Starr gave us his report ahead of time and allowed us to do finger painting on it? It's preposterous.
CUOMO: Right. And Niger, look, this is going to be a political process. I often say, on this show -- you know, you're on it often -- I don't make a case of how the President's going down in a criminal prosecution, that the presidency is going to be over. That's not what I do here. Maybe I would be more popular if I did. But I don't do it, because I don't see it. This is going to be a political question. This is going to be a political process. And that's why I think the information for the American people will be so important. And I see these three pieces of information that have come out in the last couple of days together, Niger. I see this "New York Times" report tonight that the FBI started a counterintelligence and as we know, a criminal investigation, into the President and his motivations before there was ever a Mueller probe. They passed those on to him. Mueller has believed in those two aspects, as put more meat on the bones of them. So much so that he believes that the President's public statements count as probative of intent in obstruction of justice. And the third piece is, and his lawyers say, we want to look at report and doctor it before the American people see it. What's your take?
NIGER INNIS, CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: I don't buy the -- looking at the report and changing the report, unless there was something extremely sensitive to national security. So I don't buy that. I believe that Mueller should come out with his report and as the President or Rudy Giuliani or Sekulow had said before, they should come out with their narrative and their report, as well. But let me say this, though. I disagree with you, Chris.
INNIS: This is more than just politics. There's a lot of politics involved in this situation. No President has been investigated by as many government agencies, state and federal, as this President has, and there's a lot of politics around that. But if the President of the United States, and that's what this "New York Times" story is talking about, it's saying that the President of the United States may have undermined the national security willingly, cooperated with a foreign government, and undermined the national security interests of the United States. There's one word for that. That's called treason. So that's -- it's more than just politics as usual. Now, that was the investigation. It's been a year and a half. I will say what I said on this show before. Where is the beef? Mueller, he comes out with his report, better have more than a stain on a blue dress.
CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you this, though. I'm not disagreeing with the logic of what you're saying, but in terms of following it through to the practicality. Because they opened an investigation does not mean that they ultimately came to a conclusion that he was working on behalf of Russia or anything like that. I haven't seen anything that has proven --
INNIS: But then they have to say that. They have to say he is not guilty of committing treason! My god!
CUOMO: Then you let him say it. You're the one who used the word "treason." I haven't seen that anywhere. But I'm saying, let's see what the report says. My concern Paul, is that this transparency thing is going to be a problem. It's going to be an issue going forward. The same people who said, transparency matters so much that we should open up all the FISA applications. It doesn't matter how classified it is. It's got to come out. The American people have to know. But now all of a sudden, they're selective. Executive privilege, which they effectively waived early in this process. Your thoughts?
[21:25:11] BEGALA: Well, executive privilege is important. Presidents have to have a right --
CUOMO: Yes, and then they shouldn't have waived it by giving that information they didn't have to by Mueller.
BEGALA: Well, that's right. But as Asha pointed out earlier, if those conversations are in furtherance of a crime, in this case, obstruction of justice, it's no longer privileged. I have to say, I'm in full disclosure of all of this so we can clear the President's good name or know whether our President has, in fact, undermined our national security. What we already know from public, though, is really astonishing. What's been publicly transparent. For example, the President of the United States met in the Oval Office, the sanctum sanctorum with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador who has been reported to be of Russian spy master and in that meeting May of 2017, widely reported, it's been in the papers for months or years, gave them highly classified information. That, itself, undermines the national security. Case closed. That alone! If I had done that as a White House aide, I would a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay. That's just one time he's done it in public.
In the campaign, on July 2016 he had a press conference and he said, Russia, if you're out there, I hope you'll find Hillary's missing e- mails. On that day, Russia began hacking Hillary's e-mails. All done out of public! So, I'm for more transparency. But I have to say, the President has been extraordinarily transparent as a useful idiot of the Russians and Mr. Putin.
CUOMO: Right. Well, look, though, I mean, that's your language. I wouldn't adopt it. But we're in different positions. My point is this. There's a difference between saying stupid things and doing stupid things and being an agent of Russian interference.
CUOMO: And that's a meaningful legal distinction. And I think that's another point of this report. But Niger, my point to you is, you used "treason." I would never use that. I've seen no basis for that conclusion.
INNIS: I'm saying, that's what the investigation was about, was the fundamental question that this investigation, this "New York Times" story is saying is that this investigation was investigating if the President committed treason!
INNIS: That's exactly the bottom line.
CUOMO: I think what the story says -- no, I think you're exaggerating it for effect. I think what the story says is that they believed, because of the circumstances surrounding the firings of Comey, they need to look at it. They needed to look at why he would do something that was so ham-fisted, so obvious, and so jaundiced. That's different than saying that they thought they had reasons that he was treasonous. You're trying to set a high bar, so they have to back off it.
INNIS: No, but there's a comma and more information, which is that undermine the national security interests of the United States. The President --
BEGALA: But Niger, doesn't --
INNIS: -- the constitution!
BEGALA: But doesn't it undermine our national security for the President to give the Russians highly classified information in the Oval Office, a Russian spy?
INNIS: I am not familiar exactly with what you're talking about there, Paul.
BEGALA: May 10th, 2017, Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval --
INNIS: -- particular and I don't know what document or if -- No, I'm not familiar meeting, I'm not familiar with that document that you're making reference --
CUOMO: It was seen as a mistake at the time, that the President had mentioned something he wasn't supposed to mention.
BEGALA: It was reported that it was information about Syria that we had gotten from some of our very close allies.
CUOMO: Right, and that he shouldn't have shared it. And people were upset about it but --
BEGALA: It would be a crime if I did it.
CUOMO: Right, I understand --
INNIS: But Presidents make mistakes all the time.
CUOMO: It's not like that.
INNIS: As we recall when Obama was -- as Obama was hot miked saying that, don't worry about missile defense. We'll deal with that situation after the election, when he said it negative --
CUOMO: That's different than people giving people classified information.
INNIS: -- at a summit.
CUOMO: But listen, let's just take our point --
INNIS: Well, he was talking about a national security decision on the part of the United States that would favor Russia!
CUOMO: Right, but he was talking about a political policy --
INNIS: -- to curry favor with the Russians. And that was caught on a live mike.
CUOMO: He was talking about a political policy, he wasn't talking about classified information that could compromise military positions. But again let's put that to the side, because we agree on something. And I love it and I think I'll go for a twofer. Let's see if we agree on something else.
The Republican Party is not about embracing racism. I accept that as a premise. So tell me, Niger, why isn't the party and the President coming long and strong against what Steve King didn't just say this time to the "New York Times," but what he keeps reiterating whenever he gets a chance about white nationalism?
INNIS: Well, let's slow our role here, I know Steve King.
CUOMO: Me too.
INNIS: I met with Steve King last week, I saw him OK. Steve King, I mean he's a strange kind of racist and white supremacist that supported Herman Cain when he ran for President in 2012. That supported a guy --
CUOMO: Why does he say these things?
INNIS: Is he occasional sloppy with his words?
INNIS: As a bunch of politicians are?
[21:30:00] CUOMO: Cantaloupe calves?
INNIS: Well, he was trying to be -- make a dynamic point about drugs.
CUOMO: Dynamic point? He was trying to say these people carry so much drugs across the border, they have huge calves from carrying the weight. Then he said, we can't continue our civilization with someone else's babies. Then he said that white nationalism and white power are good things. You know, being a white nationalist, that's a good thing. That that's what he learned about in school.
INNIS: He has been rebuked and correctly so --
CUOMO: By whom?
INNIS: Senator Tim Scott.
CUOMO: Yes, the one black GOP senator. Yes, he came out and said, this is why people think bad things about our party. But what about everyone else? What about the President?
INNIS: I applaud Tim Scott for what he did. I don't know that the President is going to make a statement or a comment on it. I think Steve has been wrapped on the hands for saying what he said. I think the biggest mistake he made --
CUOMO: He's been doing this for years.
INNIS: -- was doing a "New York Times" interview alone, you know, without aides.
CUOMO: But he's been doing this for years. Don't you think you should do something about it?
INNIS: But Chris, you know I'm not one that conflates every so-called racial incident as racism, as such. I abhor white supremacy. White nationalism gives me a little bit of cause.
CUOMO: A little bit of cause?
INNIS: -- that are not afraid of the term nationalism. I have many American nationalists.
CUOMO: How does white supremacist, how does that phrase become offense I have? He said that! When did this phrase become offensive? You don't have a problem with that?
INNIS: That's -- I do have a problem with that. And that's why I said that Steve should never have gone into a "New York Times" interview --
CUOMO: Oh, yeah, because it's about "The New York Times." You're right, he was a lot safer when he was talking to that white power outlet in Austria, about this stuff! He was much better off. Listen, Paul, this isn't the Republican Party. You remember with Trent Lott and George W. Bush, how Lott was making a joke about Strom Thurmond and George W. Bush came out and said, this is not who we are. Segregation was a horrible period. It was a divorcing of ourselves from our values in this country. Lott apologized. He actually stepped down from a position. That was the Republican Party. The conservative values, character counts. What the hell happened?
BEGALA: Well, I will say -- let me carry a brief for my Republican friends for a minute. Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House and Steve Scalise, and two Republicans in the House of Louisiana --
CUOMO: Yes, and Grassley.
BEGALA: Liz Cheney from Wyoming, the number three Republicans in the House have all disavowed Congressman King's comments. Good for them.
CUOMO: But it's mild what they say. They're not up in high dungeon about other things that certainly don't matter as much. CUOMO: I know but that's politics. What I'm more upset is by our President. You're right. We need our President to be a moral leader, most especially on race. Let me remind you about George H.W. Bush when he was President, David Duke was ascended, he was running for governor of Louisiana, and he had pretty chance to win and President Bush Senior, Bush 41 said, said this. He called him a charlatan. He called him a bigot. He said, he has a long record and an ugly record of racism and bigotry. He disavowed David Duke in powerful language. I want President Trump to do that today about any racism, wherever he sees it, instead of, as he said, shamefully in Charlottesville, there were good people on both sides of a Nazi rally.
CUOMO: Right. Look --
INNIS: And Paul, I look really forward to Democrats doing a self- examination of the virulent anti-Semitism and anti-white racism that exists among itself midst. The democratic party of John F. Kennedy is no more. The Democratic Party, ideologically speaking with its racial identity politics has much more in line with --
CUOMO: Who's a bigot in the Democratic Party?
INNIS: -- than JFK or --
BEGALA: I don't know if you have a feedback there, Niger, but I'm about as white as they get. If I were anymore white, I would be clear. I mean, I don't hate white people, I don't think any Democrats do.
INNIS: Well, I would suggest you, Paul, put up the mirror to the anti-Semites and racists in your own party.
CUOMO: Niger, give us an example? Who you talking about? Who's an anti-Semite in the Democratic Party who's an elected official on the national level?
INNIS: How about the attorney general in Minnesota. The newly elected attorney general, former congressman that has been --
CUOMO: Keith Ellison?
INNIS: -- affiliated and associated and that has refused to distance himself from Louis Farrakhan.
CUOMO: First of all, that's not true. How about members of the black congressional caucus that got into a sacred covenant with Louis Farrakhan.
CUOMO: Begala, what do you have to say about that?
BEGALA: I can't stand Louis Farrakhan, I completely disavow.
CUOMO: I know but what do you think that he did enough?
BEGALA: I don't know I'm not familiar with --
CUOMO: Do you think there are Democrats that embrace Farrakhan?
BEGALA: Not that I know of. And they should --
INNIS: Oh, come on Paul, you know better than that.
BEGALA: It is no the same, it is false equivalence to say, well there is --
CUOMO: Farrakhan says ugly stuff on a regular basis.
BEGALA: Mr. Farrakhan over here is not a congressman from Iowa. Steve King is. And what Steve King said, reportedly, was reportedly highly controversial --
INNIS: Your Senate Majority Leader Schumer had to put the kibosh on an anti-BDS bill, because he knew the number of Democrats that would vote against protesting this BDS movement against Israel. Schumer did that! He killed a vote on the anti-BDS bill in the United States Senate, Paul.
[21:35:16] CUOMO: I don't know the motivations of what Schumer did, so I can't back it up. But I will say this you've got to call it fair straight down the line. If you're sitting next to Farrakhan and you're playing up his politics, you're a problem.
BEGALA: I agree.
CUOMO: Because that's somebody who's looking at an exclusivity of who's good and who's bad and it's wrong, just like it as what we call out about Steve King. I won't have it any other way on the show.
Paul Begala, thank you very much. Niger Innis, appreciate you both. All right.
BEGALA: Thank you. Thanks.
CUOMO: All right, there's someone who might know exactly where the President's head is on all of this. Anthony Scaramucci. We got lucky. Had him lined up for tonight. I didn't know this news was going to come. So we'll talk about this "New York Times" report. We'll talk about Steve King. We'll talk about what's going on with the wall. This is a man who understands the thinking inside the White House. Next!
CUOMO: All right. Anthony Scaramucci joins me now, Former Communications Director for the Trump administration. Good to see you, bud.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Hey. Happy Friday.
CUOMO: Happy Friday. So big news here. But there's really only one part of it I want to see if we're on the same page about it. No matter what is in this Mueller report, the idea that the President's lawyers want to go through it and decide what the American people get to see, I don't think they're going to get that right. But I don't even think they should get the suggestion. Do you agree with me?
SCARAMUCCI: I do agree with that, yes. It doesn't -- that's not a fair process and the President and nobody in the society is above the rule of law. And since there is a special prosecutor in place, whatever his findings are, and I think you and I also agree on this, that Robert Mueller is a pretty straight-up guy. I mean, these are serious guys with impeccable reputations, so, you know, he's going to be up the middle on this thing. It's going to be incumbent upon him. It reminds me a lot, Chris, of Justice Roberts during the health care situation. I think Mueller actually has to -- even if he doesn't like the President, he has to tone it down and get into the middle for all the obvious reasons. So, to me, I think whatever's in the report, we have to accept and we have to have open access to it.
[21:40:25] CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you what. My push back would be, a little bit in defense of the White House or at least the President's mind-set on this. You don't have to accept it, you can fight it, you can put out your own version of it, you can contest what's in it, that's all fair and it's going to needs to happen. Because this is going to be largely a political process, there will be legalities involved, of course. But ultimately, the reckoning on this will be a political one. Does any of it warrant political action against the President? So, you know, the White House, his lawyers, fair game! Push back. Tell us what you don't think is true. Tell us what you don't think goes too far. But don't sensor what the American people get to see.
SCARAMUCCI: No question.
CUOMO: Right? All right, let me ask you --
SCARAMUCCI: Yeah, I agree with all of that. No question that they're going to push back and they should.
CUOMO: Yes, and that's their right and that's part of the process.
SCARAMUCCI: It's their client.
CUOMO: Absolutely. So let's not belabor that point. Let me move on to a different topic, the shutdown. How do you feel about the President's decision to allow this shutdown?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, there's a combination of things. But I really wish it didn't get to this point because now the egos are in there. And you know, I pointed out to you and many people, anytime I put my ego into something, I've always made a disastrous decision, hence my 11 days inside the White House. But if you look at the situation now, and this is what I would say to the President, if you were Mr. Trump at the Trump organization, watching President John Smith and Nancy and Chuck go at it like this, boy, I got to tell you, he would be upset about that. He would probably be on Howard Stern right now saying, can you believe these guys can't get along or bridge the gap or drop their egos to come together? So I'm not here blaming the President, Chris. I know there's a lot of people who want to blame him. I think there's blame on both sides. But I think that the big thing here now is that you've got 20 days, longest government shutdown in history. You're going to start to affect the stock market and the economy --
CUOMO: Well, he's already hurting --
SCARAMUCCI: It's so dysfunctional --
CUOMO: He's already hurting people. He didn't have to let it happen. McConnell didn't have to let it happen. But those were their decisions. How about this?
CUOMO: How about the idea of declaring a national emergency, he probably has the right, maybe a bad precedent politically. But maybe he could do that. But the idea of reaching into pockets of military projects that would go to taking money away from Puerto Rico, maybe, Florida, maybe, Texas, maybe. All of these communities struck by real natural disasters, do you think he should do that?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, if you remember, that was like a "House of Cards" episode, where they were moving disaster money into a jobs program. So I mean he probably has a discretionary authority to do that, but when you're moving into a precedent-breaking standard for future Presidents. So, you can be sitting there with a democratic president that decides to ban all handguns or assault weapons and says, hey, it's a national emergency. We've got five or six --
CUOMO: No, but I'm talking about taking money from communities that are really hard hit to fund a wall --
SCARAMUCCI: I understand that, Chris.
CUOMO: -- to fund a wall that is a farce.
SCARAMUCCI: I think he has the ability to do that.
CUOMO: I'm saying, is it right to do it?
SCARAMUCCI: -- strongly caution him -- no, it's obviously not right to do it. I would caution him not to do it. I hope he has people inside the room with him who are saying, hey, don't do this. This is a domino effect. You have so many wins on the board, OK. You've got the economy going very well. You've got the trade situation you're about to tie up with China. You still got a deal on the table with the North Koreans and the potential denuclearization of the peninsula. Why give up so many points on the scoreboard for these ego-driven, north-going/south-going acts. It's like that Dr. Seuss children's book. I would not be involved with this at all. He's been great --
CUOMO: Well, look, I give you one out of three of those is a clear win, but the problem with this thing with the shutdown is that the wall -- I don't have to tell you this, you were there. The wall was a pretend promise. It was never going to be. He was never going to do it. It was a stunt. And now he's leveraged so much and so many people just to put up more bollard fence?
SCARAMUCCI: I don't think so, Chris. I think he was always intending on doing it. I think the Mexico paying for it --
CUOMO: Go ahead.
SCARAMUCCI: I'm just saying, I think the Mexico paying for it was probably more of the probability. But I think he was very much so intent on building a wall, fence, whatever you want to call it on large part --
CUOMO: And that's fine, you can build a physical barrier. But why say it's a cure-all to keep back this demonized group of people, like this marauding horde that doesn't exist. He created all of this. It's all bogus, Anthony.
SCARAMUCCI: OK, but Chris, you know, he won the election, so in my opinion, he has the right to put down what he would like as it relates to border security. They're pushing back --
[21:45:04] CUOMO: He doesn't get the right to make up facts? Remember the Old Italian guy who said, you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.
SCARAMUCCI: -- make a facts, but he does have the right to promulgate a plan that he thinks would work on the border. By the way, I think we both can stipulate this. There's an 85% reduction in illegal immigration at the border. That's helped the United States. That's helped the economy. It's improved wages in lower-income area. It's tightened up the unemployment numbers of the African-American and Hispanic American communities.
CUOMO: I think there's a lot of dispute in the numbers.
SCARAMUCCI: All of that is the President is doing.
CUOMO: I think there's a lot of dispute in the numbers.
CUOMO: I think that we have seen certain reductions --
SCARAMUCCI: I've looked at the numbers.
CUOMO: But you've got to look at why. I mean it depends on how you look at them, also. But the point is taken. We'll see what happens going forward and what the President decides to do. Anthony Scaramucci, out there on a Friday. Thank you for making time.
SCARAMUCCI: I want peace. I want peace.
CUOMO: You are part of peace.
SCARAMUCCI: All right, God bless. CUOMO: You're a part of peace. God bless. I'll see you soon. Happy New Year.
SCARAMUCCI: Have a good weekend. You too.
CUOMO: All right, big story out of Wisconsin. Have you heard about this? Thirteen-year-old kidnapped nearly, what, three months ago. They didn't have any leads. They didn't know where she was. A woman is walking her dog in the forest, boom, runs into her. This 13-year- old escapes, an amazing family reunion. But remember, her family I irreparably damaged. Her parents, gone. What we learned about the escape, next.
CUOMO: Have you been following this story? It's been going on for months. A 13-year-old girl was missing three-plus months. There were like no leads. Tonight, she's back with her family. Her name is Jayme Closs, and she escaped the home where she was being held by a man who police say killed her parents with the intent to kidnap her.
This here, this is the first picture of her now together with her aunt, who is named Jennifer, and dog Molly. Police have arrested the man I told you about earlier, this guy, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson. Investigators say Jayme led them to him.
Now, there's a lot about this that's not yet known or fully understood. She led them to him. He knew the Closs family, they believe. They're not sure. And they're also not sure if he had any real connection to Jayme before her abduction. Police say three years ago, Patterson worked for a single day, one day, at the same factory where Jayme's parents were employed.
[21:50:08] Let's bring in D. Lemon.
Don, I got to tell you, over the years I've covered a lot of these stories. When all hope is lost, people sometimes find it within themselves to be their own savior. This young girl, 13 years old, we'll hear the full story hopefully when she's ready to tell it. But to escape a monster like this, make her own luck, and the woman who found her in the forest, thank God for that. What a story.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Here's the thing. A woman who found her walking her dog, said the girl told her -- and this is a quote -- I'm lost, and I don't know where I am, and I need help. And she came to the rescue for that little girl. It is bittersweet. She's alive. We're grateful for that, but her parents are gone, right? And I'm sure she's going to get all the love that she needs from her aunt, but can you imagine the horror she endured that time?
I was just talking about it with the guys here in the studio. There was a movie, remember, in 1997? The movie was "Kiss the Girls" with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd --
LEMON: -- where girls were being kept in this wood, in a dungeon like, and then one of them escaped.
CUOMO: Remember what we saw in Ohio.
CUOMO: Remember Jaycee Dugard.
CUOMO: I followed that case very closely and met with her. Diane Sawyer did a brilliant interview in a special where we looked into the system and how she was able to be hidden so long, but this one was different. This wasn't about a system of neglect. They had no leads.
CUOMO: Thank God for this girl's wherewithal to stay strong and steady ready to get away and not lose hope. What a story.
LEMON: Yes. And I hope she gets -- obviously, again, I'm sure she'll get the love from her family members that are -- have survived, but she's going to need a lot of support, emotional, right, and mental support, and I hope she gets that as well. And we want her to be a whole person.
There's a lot of breaking news to talk about, Chris, that we have to get to. You know, you've been reporting on this new report from "The New York Times" regarding Russia and the investigation into the President himself. This is not about collusion.
We have the former director of national intelligence. He's going to talk to us about that and give us insight on what's going on. He can actually take us inside an investigation like this.
CUOMO: Strong guest, especially on a Friday night. I'll see you in a second, Don.
LEMON: See you.
CUOMO: All right. There's a congressman still in office who doesn't understand why white supremacy became such a bad word. Crickets from many of the Republican colleagues. Yes, the leaders have spoken out but not the way they do about a lot of other things. And where's the President when one of the members of his party that he leads is talking this kind of ugliness? Next.
CUOMO: Yesterday, Congressman Steve King of Iowa, Republican, was quoted of saying white nationalists, white supremacists, western civilization, how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization? Today he said he was misquoted and said this to clarify.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STEVE KING, (R) IOWA: What was that conversation? It was about how those words got plugged into our dialogue, not when the words became offensive as, which is what the technical interpretation of this is. How did that language become offensive? It's how did that offensive language get injected into our political dialogue?
CUOMO: First, I'm not really clear on what he was just saying there. To be generous, perhaps his point is that he doesn't understand why these notions of white nationalism, white supremacism, western civilization doesn't go with those other two.
[21:55:10] But maybe he doesn't get why they're offensive. I'm not sure I believe that because he has used offensive language again and again in different contexts for many years. He endorsed Toronto mayoral candidate with Neo-Nazi ties. He met with a far right Austrian party and said, what does this diversity bring that we don't already have?
He added to that Chinese food, Mexican food, I guess that's good. But what else? He follows online an anti-Semitic activist who proposes hanging a portrait of Hitler in every classroom. He tweeted, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." He is the father of the cantaloupe calves comment. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: They aren't all valedictorians, they weren't all brought in by their parents. For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another hundred out there that -- they weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, none of that is true, but all of it is toxic and no secret. In fact, I went at it with Steve King more than once and he was never apologetic or intent on saying he was misunderstood. Here's the taste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: An Italian American, a Christian American, a Jewish American, you do realize that they are all equal, right? They are all the same thing. We don't need babies from one of those groups more than we need them from another of those groups. Do you agree with me?
KING: Well I would say --
CUOMO: Why do you pause on a question like that, Congressman? It doesn't depend on any definition.
KING: Because --
CUOMO: You're either an American or you're not.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Seems I cut him off the whole time, but I wasn't. He qualifies things like that. He struggles with accepting something that should be an inherent part of understanding what America is about.
The problem here is not the noise. It's the relative quiet from his party. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate spoke out but only to confirm the problem in his party in regard. Here's what he said. "Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism, it's because of our silence when things like this are said." Amen to him on that.
Some of the leadership, let's be fair, Steve Scalise, Kevin McCarthy, Chuck Grassley, they made comments decrying this as well, but they've been a lot louder about a lot of other things.
Scott is right. Here's the big point. What you ignore or treat lightly, you empower. And more importantly, when you treat other things as horrible as Republicans often do and then something like this gets perform to reach treatment, quiet treatment. It sounds like tacit acceptance.
Steve King's comments are deplorable. They deserve to be called out loudly and disrespected. And if you don't do that, and you are in a place of public trust affiliated with him, you are deplorable. You need to say something and more importantly, do something to confirm that this is not what your party is about.
Now the big question, where's the President? He spends more of his time commenting on what people say that bothers him. He's comprised here, isn't he? Why? Because he is what King claims to be, a nationalist. They both say they're the same thing.
He has said similar things to Steve King and being caught into by some of the same ugly folk embracing King as some kind of ally in white supremacy. And to be honest, the President actually agrees with King about immigrants and migrants and in fact he got a lot of the stuff he's selling you now from Steve King early on in the primaries.
Look it up. Trump is a King acolyte when it comes to demonizing migrants. Rapists and killers from asshole countries, cantaloupe calves, what's the difference. It's all going to do the same thing. To moralize and demean a group of people. The silence tells the story. The President is the head of that party, head of the GOP. And one of his own is saying ugly things and he is saying nothing.
Now White House official says the President hasn't weighed in publicly because, "The President is focused on the shutdown, not Steve King." So he won't meet with the Democrats. He won't negotiate. He's letting 800,000 people get policed.
But here's the irony. The White House is right. They're actually making my point. POTUS is focused on the shutdown. And this shutdown is in part about the hate that King spouses. A wall, it's just a political stunt, design to demonize the same people that Steve King does. So maybe the President is not calling out Steve King because he is now doing what King always dreamed of.
Republicans, what is your party about?