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CUOMO PRIME TIME

FBI Opened Inquiry Whether President Trump was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia; House Republicans Block Iowa Rep. Steve King from Committees; NYT Details Massive Trump Inauguration Spending. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired January 14, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


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

We have new information tonight about how far this President has gone to hide and mislead about his Russia dealings.

Facts first tonight, our most comprehensive reckoning to date, a compilation of all the major reasons that investigators have to be suspicious of the President.

Now in light of these suspicions, shouldn't our officials know what the President has said to Putin? We'll go one-on-one with a member of the all powerful House Intel Committee and get after this.

And there's breaking news, one of the Republican colleagues, Steve King, the House GOP has just punished the congressman in a big way because of his latest racist remarks. How much longer will Congressman King remain in Congress? And why hasn't the President spoken out against him? What do you say my friend? Let's get after it.

Mr. President, are you working with the Russians? Here's the President's answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even ask that question because it's a whole big fat hoax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Not a hoax. He knows it. His lawyers know it and certainly the investigators with counter intelligence and criminal investigations into the President, they know it too especially after he fired James Comey.

Now, does that mean that there is a crime? No. But that's not the bar for wrongdoing by a president of the United States. And how can you dismiss even wild possibilities when you can't trust the President on the topic, including a pattern of concealing his communications with Vladimir Putin. So what are elected officials to do? Especially the House Intelligence Committee? CNN has confirmed the President took possession of the interpreters notes after July meeting with Putin in Hamburg and instructed her not to discuss what they spoke about with any administration officials. So let's bring in a member of that committee Republican Chris Stewart of Utah, member of the House Intel Committee. Good to see you sir. Happy New Year.

REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS STEWART, (R) UTAH: Good evening.

CUOMO: So let's start with the how do we get the transparency that certainly, you guys on the right, all say that you want in this situation. Do you believe you should know more about the President's conversations with the Russian President?

STEWART: I think there's some cases where we would want to know more and there's some cases where there's appropriate executive privilege and he may kind -- I know that's not what you're talking about here, I'm just saying that there are sometimes when the President wants to keep his conversations, you know, between him and other world leaders, but I got to tell you Chris, I mean some of the offhand comments I just don't know how you can say that. How you can say that you know that this President was working with the Russians.

CUOMO: I never said that. I never said anything close to that. I'll send you the transcript, but make your point.

STEWART: OK, that was my understanding of what you said. You said the investigators -- I just don't see that. I mean --

CUOMO: You don't see what?

STEWART: We don't see evidence where someone could credibly claim that this President was working with the Russians.

CUOMO: I understand that. Now, here is what I said Congressman, thank you for bringing up the point. I said you can't question the investigators for having suspicions when the President so consistently conceals, misleads, and lies on the topic. If you can't trust him on the topic, of course you're going to be suspicious. That's my point.

STEWART: OK. And that's a fair point, by the way, as you and I have talked about in the past. I have always supported the Mueller investigation. I want it to go forward. I want all of these things to be ask but at the end of the day, Chris, you have to be able to say, what is the evidence to support the suspicion and not just allegations, not just accusations, actual evidence.

CUOMO: What would you like to see? You've said that before. If I saw a real proof I would be in favor of whatever the committee wants to do no matter who's leading it? What would be proof? What do you need to see?

STEWART: Well, I would turn the question and say what evidence do you see at this point that would support that and we have seen two years now, in fact, more than two years of allegations which were not proof to be -- which were not proven or proven to be just disproved. We have seen leaks and we've seen reporting which was proven not to be true and again -- CUOMO: Well, Congressman, I think you have to tailor your accusation

a little bit. I mean we can put up the numbers for the audience right now to remind them, you know, the output has been staggering seeing how we started with the supposition from the President that none of my people had any contacts or did anything now you have 192 overall criminal counts, 7 pleaded guilty, 4 sentenced to prison, 1 convicted at trial so the idea of it being hoax or unproductive, I don't see the basis for that. I think you mean specific collusion with the campaign and Russia and then that points us to what we just learned about Paul Manafort.

STEWART: But that's what we have been talking about. That's how you introduce this was about collusion between this President and Russians asking the question were you working for the Russians? This isn't about Paul Manafort and his financial misdealings that occurred years before his association with Trump or his -- being his campaign manager.

[21:05:05] CUOMO: He was a campaign chairman when he was given the guy poll information.

STEWART: That's right. But these allegations -- of these allegations of financial misconduct took place years before. And by the way, I think he should be punished for that. I don't think we want to justify that.

CUOMO: Right, but it doesn't point to collusion. I take your point 100 % on that.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: But I'm saying, who knew that Paul Manafort was given this guy poll data and meeting with other guys about Russia policy. Who knew, who knew about the party platform change or in a convention?

STEWART: No, no Chris, I got to stop you there. Paul Manafort and providing information, he may have done that. Indications are that they were. I don't know -- you could argue it's a crime. But in some position, the people have said because it's demonstrably untrue to make the claim that the Republican platform was changed to protect or to benefit Russians, it's just not true.

And when you go back and review the process it's clear that it's not true and it leads to me to this question, and I think this is the bottom line it really, Chris think about this. What has this President done that would lead people to think that he actually is trying to protect or to benefit Russia. He's the first President who sent weapons to Ukraine. He's the first President who went to NATO and said you have to be stronger. You have to pay your dues. The Russian reassurance initiative where we put U.S. Forces back in Russia to deter Moscow, to deter Vladimir Putin. And even the sanctions have been impose. Energy policy --

CUOMO: You guys imposed the sanctions?

STEWART: We did. We did. CUOMO: In Ukraine, that's what you changed the party platform on, it has stronger language. It was change by Trump people reportedly. We don't know why.

STEWART: That's just not true. It's just not true.

CUOMO: Well, that's the reporting on it. So hopefully I -- I mean look, you may well know more about it than we do. That's why I want to see the report and hear your findings --

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: -- because clearly, I have no interest in deception, I have no interest in getting this wrong. All we want to do is find out what happened and then move forward together that's the goal.

STEWART: Well and I wouldn't agree with that.

CUOMO: But when you talk about what did the President do, I could just pick one thing, in fact, if you watch the show after the segment is over, I got a whole wall for it, for people with facts first. But he goes to Helsinki on there. He meets with the Russian President. Nobody is really on the inside, nobody really finds out what happened in the meeting, but when he comes out of the meeting he says hey, Putin says he didn't do it. I believe him.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: That alone strains credulity as we always say, Congressman. You would have never said that knowing what you know and what certainly the President should know from your own intelligence community. Why would he say that?

STEWART: You know what? I agree with everything you just said. I said that when the President made that claim. And not only did he say, the Russian President said he didn't do it. I believe him. He also said our intelligence is wrong on this --

CUOMO: Yes.

STEWART: -- and I was on your channel and other channels within minutes of him saying that.

CUOMO: Why would he say it?

STEWART: I don't know. I just think -- I think --

CUOMO: Are you a little curious?

STEWART: Well, I tell you about this, and again I want to be clear, I disagreed with him and I was clear on that at the time. But I think it's strange credibility to use a phrase or something close to a phrase you said earlier --

CUOMO: Which is?

STEWART: That because he said that, therefore he's a Russian agent.

CUOMO: Oh no, no. In no way do I even want to imply that I think I have a reason to say that the President is an asset of Russia. I would love to agree with him that it is absurd to even suggest. However when you lie and conceal, have no integrity on the topic and can't be trusted, this is the kind of suspicion that arises.

STEWART: You know, I think an analogy or another example might be this, I think President Obama regretted saying into a microphone that he didn't know it was hot, he wait until after the election.

CUOMO: No, no, we don't hear this all the time.

STEWART: But it's true. But it's a good example of people sometimes say something that they don't really mean the way it comes out. They regret it and they wish they could take it back. I hope and I believe --

CUOMO: He has never said that. But he's never said that. And he said tons of chances.

STEWART: Well he hasn't, but he did President Obama retract his comments. I mean it's difficult for presidents to do so.

CUOMO: Well, you don't see the difference between somebody? Look, I think that what you're pointing out with Obama right now is a big part of the reason that the President doesn't want us to see the transcripts or hear anything about his conversations with Putin. Politicians say things to one another, with all due respect. But I was raised by them, so I get a little attitude.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: You say things that you don't want me to hear. That may be helpful in the moment, but you don't want scrutinized in that moment. I'll give you that. Certainly, I think it would explain what you guys love to cherry pick with President Obama.

However we have so much more than just that with the President. I'm not saying any of it is a crime Congressman, because I don't know that it is. I'm saying I get why investigators and why members of your committee and others will be curious about the President given all that he has said and done.

STEWART: Well -- and so I would just maybe end with this. At the end of the day let's have the investigation go forth (ph). As I've said about a thousand times Mr. Mueller, please do it quickly. You owe it to those people under investigation. You owe it to the American people. Do it as quickly as you can and then let's see what the evidence is. But until we --

[21:10:02] CUOMO: When you say let's see, does that include us, Congressman? Can we get it before the White House lawyers will hold and change it?

STEWART: I hope so. I really, really hope so. And let me tell you the reason why. Because if we don't then the speculation --

CUOMO: Forever.

STEWART: -- I fear will be worse than the reality. I think it's better to just get it out there, the good, the bad, the ugly, just get it out there and let's deal with what it is and -- and instead, you know, as you said, Chris we'll be talking about this forever --

CUOMO: Right.

STEWART: -- and the speculation will be, I fear, much worse than what's actually had.

CUOMO: And the President will -- if it's all out there, that's the only way the President gets the clarity and exoneration that he wants and look, he's got a very capable team. They can put out their own report and they come on shows like this. I'll give them more time than anyone to make their case to the American people because that's what this is going to be outbound. While I have you given your status as a part of the conscience of your party, Steve King, it was a surprise today.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: Kevin McCarthy, but really in fairness, members of your party wasn't a one man act, decided to take away committee assignments from Steve King. Do you agree with the move?

STEWART: Absolutely. Look, Mr. King I think has become ineffective with our committee assignments for him as if he can't do work in Congress. It's not the first time that he has said things that the party just cringes at and says what in the world are you saying?

CUOMO: It's the first time you have done anything about it, though.

STEWART: Well, and, you know, it's not -- it's perhaps we could have addressed it in a more aggressive manner in the past, but I'm glad we're doing it now. And --

CUOMO: Should he be censured?

STEWART: Well, yes, I wish he would resign, frankly. Like I said, he can't do the work. He's lost the trust and faith of his comrades. For the good of the party, for the good in American, I think it's time for us to make a change.

CUOMO: You know, it's impressive to the audience to hear a member of the same party come forward and criticize one of their own. And the conversation we were just having, the President said, "Yes, I haven't really been following it." As you and I know he's probably watching us right now. He follows everything in almost real time. Don't you think he should say something about this? This is his party. This is the country that he leads.

STEWART: Well, I'll tell you this, I have gotten so I don't reply to the President's tweets and I don't give him council. I don't think he's going to listen to me anyway. So I think --

CUOMO: But I will. What do you think?

STEWART: Well, I've already said what I think. I think we should hold him accountable for his words. It's not the first time that he's said things like this and I -- again, for the good of the party and the good of the country, I wish he would no longer serve in Congress.

CUOMO: The more people speak out about it, in leadership positions in otherwise in your party the more it becomes consensus, the more it gives confidence to people that this is your truth.

STEWART: Yes.

CUOMO: Congressman, it's always a pleasure to have you on the show. I appreciate it. Good luck in the months ahead and the important work you have to do.

STEWART: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

Look, let's take these one at a time. Steve King we have to deal with more in the show. I don't understand why the President hasn't said more. It seems like a no brainer until you get into their history together. We'll deal with that.

Now, on the Russia probe, I can't blame people for cherry picking things that matter that I'm in all this Russia stuff. There's been so much of it. So I'm going to help you. When it comes to what the President has done to trigger suspicion and more, this isn't about lining him up against President Obama and one thing he has said. We have the product of our best efforts to take you through, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:16:46] CUOMO: All right. So here is the main question. What is it that has the President in the court cross heirs? The obvious connection would be business, money, death, pay offs, something that has POTUS partial to Putin. And on the subject, remember, the President lie to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: We don't know how much he had to do with Russia. He wouldn't even let us see his tax returns. But his lawyer made clear there was a deal in the works with Moscow when Trump said there was nothing and there was the campaign. His best case explanation on the Paul Manafort mess is that Donald Trump put a pro-Russian mole in charge of his campaign. Think about that. That's the best scenario.

We still don't know Manafort's role in that Russia friendly platform change at the convention that was about the same thing that he was talking to his Russian buddy about. And remember, 16 other Trumpers had contacts after Trump said no one did then, once he became president, Trump fired James Comey to stop the, "Russia thing." Told you about that on TV and bragged about it to the Russians in the Oval Office while mistakenly handing over top secret information.

That alone could warrant a look at where the President was working for the Russians. Can you blame the FBI for being suspicious? And remember, they warned that then candidate Trump and his campaign to watch out for the Russians. After that warning, all of this followed.

Then you have what happened in Hamburg and Helsinki where the President met directly with Vladimir Putin and that's fine. But he refuses to let anyone, including we now understand his own administration, know what was discussed, not fine. And it matters because we need to know what was said that lead our President to take Vladimir Putin's word over that of his own intelligence agencies about interference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I was there for that. There was a gasp. And then there are his actual policy decisions. He goes after America's traditional allies in NATO which was founded solely to check Russia. He then bails out of Syria, big win for Putin. He defends the soviet invasion of Afghanistan and offers no substantive response to Russia's attack on Ukrainian ships, yet somehow, he keeps pushing this fabrication.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There's been no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia. There's never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You can say it twice, doesn't make it right. Let's see what he has done.

There were sanctions, but they weren't his idea. They were forced on him by Congress. Why forced? How do we know? Because he reportedly complained about them mightily and they were then slow walked by his administration. And now they're trying to roll back some of the same sanctions on one of the guys whose name keeps popping up in the Mueller probe.

Then the administration, meaning the President, expelled 60 Russian Diplomats. Again, he's reportedly not happy about that. Reportedly felt tricked into doing that by -- tricked by his own staff.

[21:20:05] So this is only some of what investigators have in front of them. This is all before you even get to what they've gotten from subpoenas and witnesses. And also one other note, the President's constant attacks on the investigation and on anyone who cooperates are also certainly part of a deliberate campaign to undercut any findings that may come out. But at this point, almost two years in, it's worth looking at what has become a pattern of behavior by the President of the United States. All right, so they are the facts for you to contemplate.

Segue, the king of the whoppers served them up today at the White House during the shutdown, a fast food party for football players. What about a deal to put food on the table for those hurt by the shutdown and is the President playing dumb about Congressman Steve King's outright racist remarks. He's own party took action tonight. Why won't he? A great debate coming your way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: President said, he wanted to make history and he has, the longest shutdown ever on his watch, 24 days. Each day pain deepens for those directly caught in this standoff close to a million people, families. Will the President do the right thing and cut a deal with Democrats? Will the President do the right thing and say something about Congressman Steve King from his party? The rest of the party just punished King just now for spewing racist remarks.

POTUS crickets set up for a great debate. Let's bring in Van Jones and Rick Santorum. Let's try to get some quorum, Santorum. Do we all agree that your party did the right thing by making a move on Steve King and that the President should say something as well? Do we all agree?

[21:25:00] RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. They -- I think the party did do the right thing even if you take Steve King's best case scenario of what he was trying to say. He said it as poorly as anyone could say it and he did more to undermine what he thinks is his cause, rightful cause than anybody.

So the bottom line is the Republican Party did the right thing, hopefully the President will speak out about it because this is not inconsequential thing. And, you know, I hope Steve and his family consider maybe going off and doing something else at this point.

CUOMO: Tougher for Trump? For the President and this one, Van, because he has history with Steve King. He went there during --

SANTORUM: So do I, by the way. I have history with Steve King but it's just the right thing to do.

CUOMO: I know and you're not President yet. So, I'm saying if you were, you would be in the position of having to act on your authority. But for the President, Van, he went and met with Steve King. Who took the mantle from Tom Tancredo. And he learned about the politics of the border and how they worked with the base, and he adopted them. And Steve King came out his own defense and today, by the way, I'll tell you what I am, I'm a nationalist, who else calls himself that? The President. So do you think he's compromised and therefore quiet?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think so. I mean, part of the thing is, there's this bittersweet thing where you want to be joyful because the Republican Party sometimes remembers -- is supposed to be the Party of Lincoln. It's supposed to be the Party of individual rights and dignity, liberty government and therefore should be the antithesis of bigotry. And so, sometimes they seem to remember that and they do something like this.

But then, they -- yes, we kind of -- it's like you smacked one cockroach but you got a whole infestation going on in terms of what's happening in the country. There's way too much of this white supremacist, white nationalist, that's happening and a lot of it twice the height inside the Republican Party.

And you have --, you know, we all look at different feeds without the algorithms, I think really separate us. When I look at my feed, I see video after video after video of people going up, of white Americans going up to brown-skinned people in super markets, in shopping centers telling them to get out of this country. You know, there, you know, Donald Trump is going to get you. And so, brown people are living in much more fear, I think than most of the country understands. After America's much more fear of this rising tide of intolerance.

And so, on the one hand it is very good that this one person went too far instead it's getting pushed back on but I think the Republican Party could do much more to signal to the country. It does not like what's happening, this ugly tone of intolerance. And I think that this should be the first step and not the last.

CUOMO: Rick?

SANTORUM: Yes. Well, first of, I don't know of any Republican elected official or any party leader who has condoned or had done anything but condemn when it is brought the attention that people would doing those things.

CUOMO: Let's talk about it.

CUOMO: The idea that the Republican Party has to somehow or another, given its history, versus the Democratic Party's history on race relations, that somehow know the Republican Party has to apologize for, you know, for white supremacists who are, by the way, Democrats for 150 years and --

JONES: This is sidelines (ph) --

SANTORUM: -- Republicans have been fighting these battles. Republicans were the majority who voted for the Civil Rights Act. Let's just be clear about which party has a better record on race relations --

JONES: Well -- SANTORUM: -- and quit trying to pin all these, you know, crazy on our Republican Party. They don't fit.

JONES: Rick, you reacted to something I didn't say. What I'm saying is that, first of all, when you have to go all the way back to before I was born to brag on your party on race that's a bad sign. And so, you know, I think both parties can look back at shameful parts of their history.

What I'm saying is that in this moment when you have Donald Trump, who I believe is a Republican, who wouldn't even, today, say of that Steven King, I did something bad and pretended he hadn't seen a television or newspaper or his phone all day. That's a very bad sign. And I think --

SANTORUM: I agree with you.

JONES: And I think when Trump does stuff like that it gives a aid and comfort to the worst people who are abusing your party and who are trying to sneak into your party and make it somebody's not supposed to be. And so, when the crazy people doing stuff in my party, I speak out, but I do think there's something happening where this is much more, in other words, than just a Steven King says something bad.

I don't think a lot of white Americans, we call these the algorithms. You're not seeing in your feeds the same thing I see in my feed. There's a much deeper current here. I think the both parties need to do more but because of Trump, I think Republicans have a little bit more of a burden to speak out, to continue to speak out as he did today.

CUOMO: Let me use this moment to just get you on record with one other thing, Rick. Do you think today is the day it's been enough? The President should say to Mitch McConnell, "Go ahead, put bills on the floor. Let's see what people want to vote on. Let's see if they want to reopen the government?"

SANTORUM: No. Look, listening to you and to others here talking about that this is Donald Trump shutdown. Any shutdown, it takes two to tangle.

CUOMO: I mean, just taking him at his word.

SANTORUM: I mean, the bottom line is, the bottom line is, Chris, that the President has done more to move to the middle on this, has put more things on table, has put thing on the table --

[21:30:06] CUOMO: Moves to the middle --

SANTORUM: -- but the Democrats want --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- with a pretend promise, Rick. And you know it. You know the wall was a farce. SANTORUM: And the Democrats are the ones saying no funding for any

additional walls when they voted for hundreds of miles of wall in the first place.

CUOMO: Well, they'll give him money for additional walls but not the kind of money he wants.

SANTORUM: This is the problem, but they don't want to negotiate. They don't.

CUOMO: I don't think that that's a fair representation, and I think it's what makes it inherently unfair is that the president is fixing the game and he's got Mitch McConnell, your party, your former colleague saying, I'm not going to do my job until the president tells me to. Do you think that's right?

SANTORUM: He is doing his job. He's --

CUOMO: By doing nothing?

SANTORUM: -- doing his job by saying, we will get a negotiation that will fix the entire problem before we're going to, you know, try to (INAUDIBLE) this thing and break it apart.

CUOMO: Isn't his job to let his membership vote on what matters?

SANTORUM: What's that?

CUOMO: Isn't his job to let his membership vote on what matters?

SANTORUM: His job is to run the Senate in a way that's going to get to a result which he thinks is in the best interest of the country.

JONES: Listen --

SANTORUM: That's what leaders do.

JONES: I think --

SANTORUM: And they have done it, Democrats and Republicans, for a long time.

JONES: But I tell you what, I refuse to take away from Donald Trump the one thing he's earned. He did tell the truth one time. He said that this was going to be his shutdown. He just have to earn it. When he tells the truth, we should celebrate and not try to take it away from him. It's his shutdown and it's his shutdown for a couple of reasons.

First, let's not forget there was $25 billion on the table this summer and people came together and did exactly what you're suggesting, senator, they compromised, they came up with a proposal this summer, and the president scuttled it. Then people came together again in December, and compromised and said we're going to have a clean CR. And the president scuttled it. And so it's -- when people are doing their jobs on one side of our government, the president makes it impossible for people to do this. And so they -- you should not be worried (ph), you should not be --

SANTORUM: So Van, what you're telling me is you support Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer saying the president isn't going to get a single dollar for any new wall. You support that.

CUOMO: That's not what they're saying.

SANTORUM: You think that's what reasonable negotiation --

JONES: That's not what they're saying.

CUOMO: That's not what they're saying.

JONES: Listen --

SANTORUM: They are saying it.

CUOMO: That's not what they're saying.

JONES: -- hostage taking -- listen, hostage taking is not the right way. You cannot reward this kind of behavior. I do think that there is a compromise out there but you can't say -- we can't scuttle a deal in the summer, scuttle a clean CR in December --

CUOMO: Right.

JONES: -- and then, you know, threaten to set the House on fire.

SANTORUM: Clean CR that don't solve the problem. They didn't solve the problem. They've never solved the problem.

CUOMO: But here's the thing, let's just be honest, we're going to end on this. Shutdowns have been going on for a long time. I've said it before, I'll say it again. Whoever shuts down the government sucks, you should not put your failed negotiations on the back of Americans. They don't deserve it. They don't deserve it. I'm sure we all agree on that.

Van, Rick, thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate it. Great week to you both.

All right. What sounded alarms within the Intel Community that President Trump might be working for Russia? Why would they look at that? It's so absurd, why would they waste their time? Because they're out to get him? No. Because they can't believe what happened at the time. It shocks the conscience. How do I know? You're going to hear from two intelligence insiders who understand the process and the implications. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:35:45] CUOMO: The President loves falsely calling the Russia investigation a big, fat hoax. Now, more and more, that description applies more to his posture than to the probe itself. The lengths to which the president has gone to keep his conversations with Putin private, the need to subpoena an interpreter. What happened to transparency that the right keeps calling for?

Let's get some context on what makes sense here and what doesn't. Phil Mudd and Mike Rogers join me right now. Great to have you fellas. Happy new year to you both.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Thank you.

MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Thanks. Good to be here.

CUOMO: All right. So, the idea, Mike, that the FBI needed the look because in context at the time, a president sitting, asking for loyalty, asking him to go easy on Flynn, Comey complaining about the same, firing him, bringing up Rosenstein to come up with a reason to fire him, then saying, you better put Russia in there. Rosenstein says, no, I'm not doing it. He gets upset. Then he tells the world, I did it because of Russia. Are you really surprised that they look at him to see if he were compromised?

ROGERS: Well, here's the one thing on this, Chris. From what I read, if only his public statements were used as the predicate to open the investigation, candidly, I will be very concerned. I've got to believe that there were other things that they had access to other than what we have seen publicly.

If it's just that we think that he might and you're talking about a sitting president of the United States, I think that's really dangerous stuff. So, I'm hoping that there's more there.

That being said, listen, you know, the President is his own worst enemy. The only time he's not shooting himself in the foot on the Russia investigation is when he's reloading the gun. He keeps jumping into these circumstances and having these conversations when he should just leave it alone. Let Mueller do his work. Clearly, there are -- and by the way, everybody that's been, you know, sucked into the Mueller investigation got there because they were not truthful about their relationship with Russians.

And so to have the President go and do that, that means just the optics of that are very bad, let alone, you know, people -- it allows that narrative to continue on, that he must be doing something in that meeting that is untoward and all of that are self-inflicted mistakes by the president.

CUOMO: Well, the President, Phil, hasn't been honest about it either, directly and indirectly. Indirectly, when he tried to doctor up the statement about the Trump Tower meeting. Now, we find out that he may have met with Putin during that period, except we're not allowed to know anything about what happened. And directly -- you know, he kept saying, I had no business dealings, I have nothing going on in Moscow. We know that wasn't true.

So, when you're investigating somebody and you know that they have no integrity on the topic, how suspicious do you become?

MUDD: There's a difference between being suspicious and opening what we used to call a special interest matter. That is, when you open an investigation on somebody like a politician, a member of Congress, for example, when you open an investigation on somebody who's a member of the clergy, that's a special category and people are going to look at that very carefully.

I agree with Mike. When I saw this story, my first response was they better have more stuff than what we see. There's a lot of stuff out there that says the President's behavior is erratic. There's a lot of situations where he's lied. By the way, that's not only relating to Russia. That's relating to everything from Stormy Daniels to how many people showed up at the inauguration. There's a lot of situations where he did weird things in foreign policy, the U-turn on North Korea is a little bit of a head scratcher.

But taking the leap from that to say we should open an investigation on a sitting president of the United States, I didn't see information there that led me to that judgment.

One more quick comment. If you read the inspector general report on how the FBI handled another sensitive political matter, that is the Hillary Clinton investigation, the inspector general hammered James Comey on judgment and now we have another judgment question at the highest level about political issues, and I'm looking at this judgment saying, I'm a little confused here.

CUOMO: We don't know what Comey had to do with opening up on this. Obviously --

MUDD: No.

CUOMO: -- he -- you know, he took the wheel into his hands with a firm grasp on Hillary Clinton. So then you get to the point of transparency, Mike, and how we figure these things out.

Now, some of it, most of it, let's be honest, we got to leave to Mueller. He's got to come out with this report and the White House lawyers, the President's lawyers should not be able to doctor it before the rest of us get to see it. They can put out their own. They can have an appendix in Mueller's report that has all their findings and counterfactuals, but they shouldn't doctor what the American people get to see. I know you agree on that.

[21:40:14] ROGERS: I do.

CUOMO: But what Putin said, what Trump said, talking to an interpreter, don't you think we should be airing on the side? Of course you respect the executive privilege. But don't you have to know these things if you are a sitting elected like in the role that you used to have in the House, with the Senate intel committees.

ROGERS: Yes, I mean, clearly, and it's not just because of one event. It's because of all of the instances surrounding the one event and certainly the timing of it is suspect. Clearly, if the president believes that this is a hoax, I hope that he cooperates and allows those notes of the interpreter to get into the hands for people to review. CUOMO: Why would he take them in the first place?

ROGERS: You know, again -- you know, he probably had some discussions that he believed he didn't want to be public. And he -- in his mind --

CUOMO: Not even from his own staff.

ROGERS: Well, you know, I can't tell you how strongly I disagree with that. Mainly because now we have to put our trust in Vladimir Putin who by the way was the only trained intelligence officer in the room. And he's pretty good information operations and manipulation. And so --

CUOMO: It worked pretty well. You had the President of the United States walked out after one meeting say, I agree with him. Not my intel officials.

ROGERS: Well, I mean, that was bad enough. But what I worry about in a case like that, is that -- and that was a long meeting. I mean, there's lots got talked about in that meeting. And when you -- those read outs are important for the intelligence committee for a couple of reasons.

One, it allows you to kind of see where the president is going and B, you're allowed to take that information compared to what we know from intelligence collection to help better guide policymakers decision in the future on all things Russia. That piece is gone.

And so now you have our own intelligence officials and the DOD, our defense department folks, trying to figure out what did happen and here's the worst of it. If Putin decides he wants to engage in information operations says, you know, President Trump told me X that I could have Crimea and it was great and I should -- I should take the rest of Ukraine too. There's no way. Now it's just President Trump.

CUOMO: That's why you want a record. He lies about it. You can say, I never said that.

ROGERS: I never said that for the record --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Also because Mike Rogers says it, you know, in my many years of being around you when you're on Congress and now, I'll be like, oh, Mike says it. But when the President says it, it's the highest elected office in the land, kids should aspire to it, we should all respect it, you cannot take this President at his word automatically and that's a scary proposition from the American people. Mike, you were so good, no reason to hear from Phil. No. Thanks to both of you. Appreciate you being here. A very good week to you both.

All right. So we've been talking about Steve King tonight, Republican, congressman, Iowa, just got reelected, closer and everybody thought. Now, he tried to argue that his remark should taken out of context. This isn't one off. I asked him to come on the show. I told him I'd give him plenty of time to argue his case, he didn't get back to me.

The party stepped up and punished the congressman. Are we done with this? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:46:56] CUOMO: All right. Guess what? We got news right now from "The New York Times." Let's bring in Don Lemon right now. We were going to talk about Steve King. But this is breaking news right now. At Trump's inauguration. All right. This is one little tidbit. $10,000 for make up and lots of room service. In 72 days, it layed out about $100 million, roughly twice as much or more than was raised by Obama or Bush -- W. Bush for their first and second presidential inauguration.

So here's the story, Don. They raised like $107 million. A ton of money. Private donors. OK. What did it get spent on? And the line items are staggering especially when you look at Trump vote. 1.5 million to Trump's hotel. Now you have the obvious question is do you make money on your own party? But this takes us back, the reason I'm bringing this upright now is it's furthering our understanding of something that they brushed aside.

The administration said, come on, come on, we didn't raise that much more money and we did it all right. We didn't juice any of the numbers. That 1.5 million sticks out to me. If he made money by raising rates in his hotel for his own party, that's going to be something he's going to hear about.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, here's what I don't know. I have to read the report. It just came in and we were both reading it at the same time, but do you remember the Trump Hotel was reportedly having trouble in Washington before?

CUOMO: Not now.

LEMON: Yes. And then his brand was suffering and then after he became the nominee and he won, all of a sudden, it didn't -- it wasn't having trouble. But if they got $1.5 million, I'd have to read the report and see how it was issued but it yes, it does raise a red flag which is one reason that he should be divested from his businesses.

CUOMO: Right. And that's what he said he did. Remember he came out with all of the paper and said look at this, we never got to see any of it. Remember he came out with that -- the lawyer, the woman who was his lawyer, all the paper, we never got to see any of that.

LEMON: The stacks of things that he had at the news conference.

CUOMO: Yes. Another line item in here that's worth looking at. Now, the one guy who anecdotally got rich during the campaign because usually you don't get rich when you're working on the campaign, you get rich later on when you have those contacts where you're able to go back out into the private sector.

LEMON: Out of office. CUOMO: Yes, but the guy who's running the campaign right now, Parscale, he got $2 million for digital work in connection to that. All right.

LEMON: Nice job if you can get it.

CUOMO: And he got a ton of money for digital ads during the campaign. Now who cares? Right? They decided -- well, here's why you should care. Because the amount of money and where it came from matters because you want to know who was influencing those decisions at that time and I'm telling you as somebody that's been around the business a long time, $2 million for digital work is huge.

LEMON: Do you know what they're going to say, though? He won. Money well spent.

CUOMO: Well, this was the inauguration so during the campaign he made millions of dollars also.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: Fine, to the victor goes the spoils. It was a good investment. But this was something else and it goes to the accountability and the transparency of this administration that's why it matters.

LEMON: Well, we have to go over those numbers. Again, I'm just getting it so I can't really give you a full assessment of the numbers. You mentioned we're supposed to talk about Steve King.

[21:50:08] CUOMO: Yes. Yes.

LEMON: The guy who's going to oppose him in 2020 will be on this show. So make sure you tune in. I'll just give you a word he said -- two words, caustic behavior. That's what he says.

CUOMO: At a minimum.

LEMON: At a minimum.

CUOMO: I mean the man has been saying racially inflammatory things and bigoted things for many years. I mean look, this is one of those tough situations in the media. The party steps up and does something, the GOP, steps up against this guy, does what they can do. They didn't censure him. They could do that. But taking away his committee assignments makes him basically powerless in Congress.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: But they had him there for such a long time saying this kind of stuff, that you have to look at in context.

LEMON: I know you got to run, but Rick Santorum did something that was very slick there when he talked about.

CUOMO: Slick Rick. LEMON: When he talked about the Republicans and they're, you know, doing the most --

CUOMO: The history thing.

LEMON: -- the history of whatever. L listen, after Johnson, all of those racist Democrats moved over to the Republican Party. So what he's doing there is very slick, but it's not actually true. It doesn't mean anything. And I think Van was smart to catch him and say, you have to look back before you were born to point to your party doing good things for civil rights. There is a huge issue there.

CUOMO: Whenever somebody wants to explain what they're doing now by what happened many, many years ago.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Be suspicious.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: D. Lemon, talk to you in a second.

LEMON: See you in a bit.

CUOMO: All right. So much of this is complicated with what we're dealing with Mueller. But you know what? Simple things become complicated when you can't believe what you're told. It's easy to get overwhelmed by all we're learning and the questions that remain in the Russia probe. But there is one theme, in fact, one culprit that stands out as why we are here, and I'm going to take it on for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The President says to you that it is absurd to ask if he were working for Russia. Is it wildly unreasonable, or is that what you get when you consistently mislead, conceal, and lie about your campaign contacts, business dealings, taxes, conversations with Putin, the legitimacy of the probe, and the people running it? Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

[21:55:13] The famous words of Sir Walter Scott in a love poem many years ago. And, indeed, let's stick with that theme. This apparent affection for Putin and for avoiding the facts around the President in the Russia probe has put the same President in a place where he really cannot be trusted to be forthcoming about anything that matters.

And so even the idea of his being a Manchurian candidate essentially must be asked. Sad? Yes. Absurd? No. Now, a love poem may be too flowery a way to relate how the President has created his own problem in the Russia probe with his mouth, so here's a better way. "You are only as good as your word. You can be smart, aggressive, articulate, and, indeed, persuasive. But if you are not honest, indeed, your reputation will suffer. And once lost, a good reputation can never be regained. As the saying goes, if you haven't integrity, nothing else matters. And if you don't have integrity, nothing else matters."

Think about it. The President first overstated his relationship with Putin during the election. Remember that? I know him. I don't know him. I was in the green room. Then he asked the Russians to get Hillary's e-mails, and they tried to do exactly that thereafter. His people had many dozens of contacts with Russians about what only Mueller has a clue. The President denied all of it, said none of it happened.

Then he asks Comey for loyalty, to give Flynn a break, sets up a dupe to get rid of Comey, then basically admits it was a dupe, dismisses interference by the Russians, believes Putin over his intel agencies. He denies his role in covering up the Trump Tower meeting, denies what his lawyer tells us about a business deal in Russia. That's not even close to all of it, but it is more than enough to see the President has surely defied the advice I just read to you about integrity and, therefore, his integrity on this issue is shot. As bad as his misleading answers have been, his wild attacks on the people working for him in the DOJ are worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Just look at what is now being exposed in our Department of Justice and the FBI.

These are nasty people. They are nasty and dishonest.

And our FBI have to start doing their job.

Disgraceful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: My father, may he rest in peace, used to say, integrity in practice maintains the integrity of purpose. It keeps things together. When he attacks his own, when he attacks our own in order to create convenience for himself when he knows the questions are legitimate and we know his answers are lackluster, that is something that cannot be missed as a political mistake but also a failure of leadership to you.

So while I wish it were absurd to even consider the notion that a U.S. president could somehow be compromised by Russia of all places, if you think about it, the President has not given us much to lean on in terms of giving him a basis to believe him about anything to do with the Russia probe. He has almost never shown integrity on the matter, not on the probe, his dealings, his campaign's dealings, the process, none of it.

And at the end of the day, the web is very tangled, and the President's integrity is hanging by a thread. And there is a reason a wise and respected man once warned a graduating class of exactly the predicament the President is now in. If you surrender your integrity, you have nothing else to give.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: We must cultivate patience each day. We must maintain a sense of humility and, most importantly, we must never, ever sacrifice our integrity. If we do each of these things, we will have the best opportunity to be successful personally and professionally, and our time will indeed have been time well spent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That's right. You're looking at Robert Mueller. That was six years ago when he was director at the FBI at a commencement for William and Mary University. He was right then, and we are living the proof of that right now.

Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON" starts right now.

I was told about his address today on the radio. And I looked it up, and I was not just impressed by the message. It's a good solid message, but the context and the contrast to who and what he's dealing with right now. And it is the root of the President's problem. He can't be believed on the topic, Don. So every question becomes reasonable.