Return to Transcripts main page

CUOMO PRIME TIME

Longtime Trump Adviser, Roger Stone, Indicted in Connection with 2016 WikiLeaks E-mail Dumps; FBI Raids Roger Stone's Homes in Miami and New York; Trump Signs Bill Ending Government Shutdown. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 25, 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: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

The central crime that launched the Russia investigation is now been directly linked to the Trump campaign. That link is Roger Stone, a man Trump has known longer and better than anyone involved in his campaign.

Robert Mueller believes he has tied him to the DNC e-mails, stolen by the Russians and dumped by WikiLeaks and they do seem in this indictment to have a ton of evidence that there may have been material lies told to Congress by Stone. Stone says they've got nothing and he is here to tell you that directly.

The indictment is also a window into the campaign and multiple parties who may have made efforts to coordinate with Stone's efforts. So here are big questions. Who are the officials that Stone talked to? Who was the senior official that he interacted with? And most importantly, who was the person who directed that senior official to go to Stone for help about what else WikiLeaks had to damage Hillary Clinton? Cuomo's Court will elaborate over those questions.

The White House insists the charges of the President's associates have nothing to do with him. How is that possible? The two men the President has known the best and the longest, Stone and Manafort taking risks, alleged committing crimes, supposedly on his behalf and he didn't know? My argument on that is ahead. It's a huge night. So let's get after it.

I have to say, when indicted most people become a ghost. You're lucky if you hear from their lawyer, but Roger Stone is not most people. He has decided not only to enter the safe space of the mothership at Fox tonight, he's also willing to come here. Obviously his lawyers aren't going to want him to discuss the details of the case, we know that, but there's plenty to get into on the merits.

Roger Stone, thank you for taking this opportunity, especially on a day like this.

ROGER STONE, INFORMAL POLITICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thanks Chris. After that last panel I feel some need to defend myself. I mean John Dean, a man and I exposed is perjurer and a liar in my book, " Nixon's Secrets," simply by comparing his senate testimony, his testimony to the Watergate special prosecutors and his book, Preet Bharara who lied to a federal judge about leaking federal grand jury information in the William Wilson (ph) case calls me a liar, please and Carl Bernstein, who is the subject of my next book, Woodward and Bernstein, the godfathers of fake news, so I'm glad to be here.

CUOMO: Roger, let's not deal with trading barbs and allegations. Let's deal with what's before us right now.

STONE: They beat me up pretty good. I deserve the opportunity. Go ahead.

CUOMO: And that's why you're here tonight. I want you to have an opportunity to address what matters. The panel is not on my show and they're not here to defend themselves either. So let's move forward. You have told me in the past, I do expect that the probe is going to expose me to some type of action at some point but you never expected what happened at your home this morning. Tell me about that?

STONE: Well, first of all, I always said that there could be some process crime.

CUOMO: Yes.

STONE: There's still no evidence whatsoever that I had advanced knowledge of the topic and subject or the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures. I never received any of the WikiLeaks disclosures, I never communicated with Assange or WikiLeaks other than the limited communication on Twitter, direct message which I gave to the House Intelligence Committee last September, I guess it was.

On the other hand, I don't have a valid passport, either that or it's about to expire in the next few days. I have no previous record. I do not own a firearm, I am not violent and there was no need to have 29 FBI agents with assault weapons, and sidearms, and hand grenades and battering rams to smash in my front door. They could have called my attorney and I would have surrendered voluntarily.

My wife is deaf. She was in the upstairs bedroom. I had a concern that she did not know what was going on and could be shot or injured. My dogs are not dangerous. They're tiny, although they were terrorized. So when you don't have evidence, you use theatrics. I think this was an overreaction and the real proof of it is the judge only hours later gave me a $250,000 surety bond on my own signature. So if you're a flight risk, they wouldn't do that and as far as the --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: He didn't have to give you any bond, but when you say there's no proof. I don't want to dig into the merits. I know the legal council you have been given and I understand it. I'm surprised they have you out at all. But when you say they have no proof, Roger, to be honest with you, I have not seen an indictment connected to this probe that has more proof than this one does of communication that you have had that prove that you didn't tell the truth to the Congress, the congressional panel you were before. STONE: False, everyone of those things is out of context. If you go

to my Web site "Stone Cold Truth" or watch any of my interviews I have actually refuted virtually everything in there and then there's a bunch of things in there that frankly I don't believe are true. No senior campaign official told me to find out anything about WikiLeaks. That doesn't mean Mr. Mueller can induce something to say that but there will be no corroboration for it and no other person in the campaign who's a junior official inquiry of what happened.

[21:05:09] Now what I did here from Steve Bannon, the day after Assange had a press event on October first as to what he said, I responded with two matters of public record. Politico had already reported that he said there would be releases every week for the next following weeks and that all the U.S. related campaign -- or election related material would be release in the weeks before the election.

CUOMO: So the only communication you had with the campaign -- just to be clear, Roger, to allow you to respond directly to what's in the indictment, if you're comfortable doing so, you're saying the only communication you ever had with anybody related to the campaign was this one communication you're talking about with Steven Bannon that you're saying is already public information?

STONE: It was published by the Times and I responded to it in great written detail.

CUOMO: So that's yes?

STONE: My response to him is entirely public information.

CUOMO: And that was the only communication you had?

STONE: That's the only one that I recall. The only one that I can find in my e-mails. I never discussed this with Donald Trump. So speculation tonight by Wolf Blitzer, by Preet Bharara, by others that Trump directed me to do this or directed someone to direct me to do this, speculation in the Washington Post that I ever discussed this, Chuck Todd asked me about this on "Meet the Press" a year ago and I told him no.

CUOMO: That's still your answer.

STONE: Chuck was asked me about it couple weeks ago, I said no. It's still my answer.

CUOMO: So there's a 100 percent chance in your mind that nobody can offer any compelling credible proof that Donald Trump knew about your efforts to get to WikiLeaks?

STONE: Nobody can supply any corroborated truth. People can have their testimony composed, particularly if they're looking for a reduction in their sentence but there is no proof here. Many of the things in this indictment I already addressed and rebutted in great document and detail. And I have a pretty good idea, even though I have 1 million e-mails and I never deleted anything whatsoever but the idea that they need evidence, they have been in my e-mail, my text messages, my phone calls for two years, they have read them to my various associates before the grand jury, the New York Times reported on January 20th that I was under 617 and I was under surveillance --

CUOMO: But that's why I'm wondering you denied any of these things. You had to know they surveilling, you could get your communication s when they were talking to you and asking you if you'd been talking to Credico and you said, no, I've never communicated with him. Didn't you know that they would be monitoring your communications, and they'd get you the way that they did?

STONE: Here's the irony of that. The text messages that were an old cell phone which I did not recall are entirely exculpatory. They prove that he was my source as I said and he has denied which MSNBC has allowed him to do repeatedly, and that his source is a WikiLeaks lawyer. So yes, I did honestly forget a series of text messages which prove that I was telling the truth.

CUOMO: But even the ones you were having during the testimony, the same day? You know that's the one that really kind of jump the shark, I mean that they're saying have you ever spoken to him about it? You say, no -- you're talking to him that day. Again I don't want to dig into the facts with you because I respect you and your council.

STONE: First of all, I don't even know that that's true, but as I far as Frank Pentangeli is concern, Mr. Credico is an impressionist. That's what he does and he does a very funny Frank Pentangeli imitation. Certainly not an implication that he should kill himself or that he should lie.

CUOMO: But you did tell him that he shouldn't testify, he should plead the fifth. Don't turn anything over to them. That's why they're coming after you for tampering.

STONE: Context.

CUOMO: Please.

STONE: I think all of those text messages need to be seen in some context.

CUOMO: OK.

STONE: And when they're seen in context, they will see that they're light hearted and they're not serious.

CUOMO: The only other thing that came up that was I thought kind of a bright line distinction was that they were asking you, who are you talking to? Who was helping you? Why did you want to mention Corsi? Why did you only want to mention Credico? Jerome Corsi says everything in the indictment is true, but why didn't you want to mention him? You would have saved yourself a lot of trouble.

STONE: Yes, first of all, Mr. Corsi said a number of things that are not true. Firstly, a memo that he prepared for me regarding the Podesta's extensive and lucrative business dealing is some part of a cover up. Covering up what? He never told me that John Podesta's e- mails had been stolen. There's no corroboration or evidence in writing that proves that. That comes from his memory. He told Tucker Carlson and then he told many people. He told, I remember he told everyone he knew. Name one. He certainly didn't tell me and there's no proof that he did.

CUOMO: But even if he was fabricating all that stuff, Roger, you do have the communications between the two of you. Mueller seems to have proof of that.

[21:10:05] STONE: You know, in all honesty, I don't believe he was ever in touch with WikiLeaks and the prognostications he made regarding WikiLeaks on August 2nd all turn out to be incorrect. I don't believe that he had any idea what he's talking about.

CUOMO: So here is the question that has nothing to do --

STONE: And he was not a campaign official. So they're trying to criminalize legitimate either journalistic or political inquiry? I don't think that's reasonable.

CUOMO: Well, they're getting you for lying about it. They're not saying that the actions were criminal, they're saying that you lied about it to Congress and they have the proof on paper. So the question I have is forget about the merits, why put yourself out there like this, Roger. You had a chance to change the testimony. Why would you even talk to them in the first place and put yourself at this jeopardy?

STONE: As you know, perjury requires both materiality and intent. There is none. But secondarily, where's the Russian collusion, Chris? Where is the WikiLeaks collaboration? Where's the evidence that I received anything from WikiLeaks or Julian Assange and passed it on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign? It simply does not exist.

CUOMO: I agree with you on those bases. And again, I keep qualifying this because, you know, I want to keep my word and I told you and council that I wouldn't dig into the merits on this but the argument would be the coordination is you're trying to find out what's happening and you're telling the campaign so that they as Corsi was suggesting to you and maybe other, they could ordinate their message to synchronize what they were saying as the WikiLeaks got dump and that's why you are trying to find out if they had any more dirt about Hillary Clinton to help your friend in the campaign that you believe in for a very long time. That might not be a crime, maybe, maybe not, but it is collusion.

STONE: But I wasn't doing that. And I will prove that at trial.

CUOMO: And you said a couple of things already that are important to people, 100 percent that you never talk to the President about it, you don't believe he knew anything about it.

Now, address people's skepticism, he has known you the longest, OK. He has got the deepest relationship with you, second only to Paul Manafort in terms of the population of this campaign who of course, you introduced him to and you suggested him once again to help with the campaign. Why would people believe that his oldest most trusted adviser was doing something like this for him at the same time that he kept talking up WikiLeaks and yet he knew nothing about it.

STONE: Well, first of all, he can read, he can watch television and this was getting an enormous amount of coverage and any suggestion that we did discuss it would be conjecture, would be supposition but there is no evidence to that effect. And first of all, when you talk to Donald Trump on it phone in all honest, he does most of the talking, you do most of the listening. We just never discussed this topic and there's been a great effort. I have seen it here on CNN to also conflate the e-mails released by WikiLeaks and Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails which are two completely different things.

CUOMO: Yes, I could conclude those mails. But they have nothing to do with --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: No, I would never do that. You know, what WikiLeaks took or whatever was taken and given to them that's what you seem to want to know about, what was in there that might be a value to the campaign. And I'm just saying it's going to be hard for people to believe that the man who knew you best and longest and trusted you the most wouldn't have known what you were doing on his own behalf.

Let me ask you something, you say you would not testify against the President, you would not bare false witness. I think that's an interesting phrase. But you are open to telling the truth, and is there any chance that the truth you have to tell could compromise other people who are part of the campaign?

STONE: Certainly not the President. I have --

CUOMO: Anybody?

STONE: -- no information. You know, I have to know what the circumstances would be. But it's highly unlikely. First of all, this idea that I was in regular contact with the campaign after Paul Manafort left is not true. Frankly, I didn't have a high regard for many of the people working there. The people in the grassroots, yes, but the people in Washington, many of them had no idea what they were doing and they were not close associates of mine. So this idea that I was trying to curry favor with them. I have no reason to do so. I have a relationship with the President of 40 years.

CUOMO: Right.

STONE: So that's a misnomer. There's a "New York Times" story to that effect. That I was -- I'm trying to burnish my reputation with the campaign, completely unnecessary and false.

CUOMO: Agreed. I'm saying regular contact, I'm saying any contact that you brought up Paul Manafort, did you have any idea that he had given poll data to one of his friends and he had met with another guy who was so closely connected to Russia about U.S. policy?

[21:15:00] STONE: No, I never heard of that guy, Kilimnik or whatever --

CUOMO: Right.

STONE: I have seen his name in the paper. I was not familiar with him prior to the recent stories. And your second question --

CUOMO: You know that he also had a secondary meeting with somebody where they discussed U.S. policy vis-a-vis Russia and Ukraine in a way that was very similar to how the party platform had been changed. Were you aware that Manafort was doing any of that.

STONE: No. No, I was not.

CUOMO: So here is my last question for you, Roger. This is a ballsy move that you're making here. Coming on and taking on these charges, once you have been indicted, especially with what I read in this indictment, it makes me think that you must believe there's a light at the end of the tunnel. You believe that light is not the train but it is the President and he will pardon you for keeping your mouth shut?

STONE: I've never had any discussion with him or communication with him regarding that. I have no idea what he might do. The only persons that I have recommended a pardon for is I wrote a number of op-eds as to why I think Julian Assange should be pardoned because I believe he is a journalist who does the same things with "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" do, and I have come out very strongly and written the President for a pardon pessimistly (ph) for Mark Carney.

CUOMO: For Mark Carney. But what about for yourself? Would you accept one? Would you accept one?

STONE: I don't expect to be convicted, so I'm not going to address it. I don't address hypothetical questions, as you know.

CUOMO: Would you entertain cutting a deal or anything short of going to trial on these charges.

STONE: Again, you're asking me to answer a hypothetical question without knowing any of the facts. I know that I am innocent. My intention is to plead not guilty and to fight the charges and I have had no discussion with anyone regarding a pardon.

CUOMO: You have never been in this situation before. You've been a lot of jams over the years but not like this. Are you worried that this isn't going to go your way?

STONE: Well, I believe in god. I know what I have and have not done. I have a great wife and family that support me. I have to raise $2 million through Stone Defense Fund.Com because I'm not a wealthy man and the legal expenses so far have been very damaging, very devastating, plus the censorship of my radio show on InfoWars. The censorship of my Facebook page, the showdown banning has made the selling of my books more difficult.

So I have to raise a lot of money to defend myself. This is very typical. We saw this with General Mike Flynn where the legal expenses are such that you end up pleading guilty to some crime which you did not commit. I don't intend to do that.

CUOMO: He admitted, as you know, he admitted lying about a couple of different material matters, but I take your point and I really appreciate you on a night like tonight doing something that is very atypical. Coming out and addressing the charges and the indictment against you, and I appreciate that.

STONE: Well, I was up a little earlier this morning than I had planned so.

CUOMO: So I hear.

STONE: I could use a good night's sleep.

CUOMO: Roger Stone, thank you very much. As you know, we have someone who knows you very well, Kristin Davis coming on the show to talk about what this means to you in her opinion as well.

So there was Roger Stone. There you see Kristin Davis. She worked with Roger Stone. She shares a home with Stone. They got searched by the FBI today and she was questioned by Mueller's grand jury, not Stone. Her reactions, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:21:42] CUOMO: All right, so look this was a very big day concerning Roger Stone. His home in Florida wasn't the only one the FBI searched this morning. Agents also showed up at the Manhattan duplex that he shares with my next guest.

Kristin Davis once testified before Mueller's grand jury. Welcome back to PRIME TIME, thank you. I know this is not what you want to be doing right now, but you want to support your friend. How concerned are you?

KRISTIN DAVIS, FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE OF ROGER STONE: I mean, I'm concerned. They obviously indicted him already and he's been arrested. I'm also concerned because I watch CNN all day long and everyone had an opinion but nobody really knows Roger personally and most of their opinions are based on their own agenda. So I think we should put some things in context.

CUOMO: Like?

DAVIS: I mean, first of all, Randy Credico, for example --

CUOMO: Person number two in the indictment.

DAVIS: Right, right. Person number two, we all know that. They're frenemies. They've had a horrible off and on relationship for 20 plus years. They threaten each other all the time and then the next month they're going out to dinner. So a lot of these things are taken out of context. Randy Credico has personally threatened Stone on many occasions. They got into a fist fight in 2010, one of my campaign events. Instigated by Credico. So I think that people are seeing, he threatened the dog. No, no, no. What he said was I'm going to take your dog because Randy doesn't treat his dog well and Stone is an animal advocate. So everyone wants to make him out to be this awful guy based on his public image but that's just who he is as entity.

CUOMO: You don't believe Roger ever intended to threaten him not to testify.

DAVIS: No, no. I think behind the scenes Roger is telling him tell the truth and that's where you see him actually threatening him like, hey, you sold your friends out. Why aren't you telling the truth? Why are you telling that you're not the intermediary? I mean, quite frankly, I'm the one that, to my knowledge, that testified for the Special Counsel, that Randy Credico was the intermediary and then two weeks later he was subpoenaed. So I have known this since 2016. Since before it was even an issue.

CUOMO: Why do you think Roger went before the congressional committee in the first place? He could have pled the fifth.

DAVIS: I think he felt like it was his duty. I think like he felt like it was his duty. He's been destroyed in the press. He's been under constant surveillance, or at least he believes to be, and he thought that by going there and giving his side, that it would somehow alleviate the pressure of everything that's going on.

CUOMO: You know Rudy Giuliani talks about this idea of a perjury trap. Camp with the President in front of Mueller's guys. It's a perjury trap. Perjury trap is where we only -- they only bring you in to prove that you're lying because they have you already. Not for legitimate investigative purposes.

Now, I'm not saying that's what this was, but Roger had to know and he was sitting there that they were asking him such specific questions two and three times. Did you ever talk to this person? Are you sure you never talked to this person? You never talked to this -- and there was enough information and questions that they had to know they had his communications. I don't get where his head was on that. Do you?

DAVIS: Well, Roger Stone gets roughly a thousand e-mails a day.

CUOMO: So you really think he might not recall.

DAVIS: I really think. As someone who's testified in front of the Special Counsel, I don't recall half of what they asked me. And it's a stressful setting. You don't have any attorney present. Your adrenaline is flowing and you just sort of zone out, so you remember 50 percent. So could I remember everything they asked me? No. I personally would answer a question conclusively yes or no because that's not safe.

[21:25:05] CUOMO: You were part of this, not only did you speak to Mueller but you got the FBI calling you early this morning also, a little bit of irony. It was an FBI guy that you have been in contact with in the past about a case that you were part of, what was that about?

DAVIS: You know, the way it was presented to me, they called me at about 6:15 and they said, hey, we're at your door, please get ready and make yourself presentable. And we have a search warrant to execute. And it was the officer that arrested me in 2013. And he said I have been sent. I don't know anything about this but I have been sent because, you know, I treated you kindly in the past and you have a young child. We want to treat you kindly now.

CUOMO: But didn't you move?

DAVIS: I moved. So there's no joint duplex anymore. So it's --

CUOMO: So did they search the right place?

DAVIS: Well Roger Stone doesn't have a New York apartment anymore. So --

CUOMO: So they searched your apartment.

DAVIS: No, they searched the remnants of the apartment that we had that's currently being liquidated to storage.

CUOMO: Did you go to see what they would take?

DAVIS: No, no. I mean, most of the stuff was already out of there. It's already in a storage spot or being moved to a storage spot.

CUOMO: So you don't know what they got or whether there was anything to be had.

DAVIS: No. I don't particularly want to walk into a place where the FBI is. That's not my list of priorities.

CUOMO: Fair point. So here are the big questions. The two big questions I want your head on. First one will be easier for you. What is the chance that Roger Stone realizes these guys aren't messing around, this isn't a PR campaign, that this morning he got a taste of what kind of power these men and women have. And once his lawyers process what's in this indictment and see that this is a hard case he's facing objectively, do you think he would cut a deal?

DAVIS: No. I mean, I think Roger Stone is one of the most resilient men I have ever met. He manages to take a horrible situation and turn it around and I've seen it all the time. So I never doubt him anymore. So I would say that he's -- don't count him out.

And I also think there's a lot of legitimacy in the fact that he's a 66-year-old man and forgetful and people should be entitled to understand that he's also a human being. And being in a stressful situation, even such as this, you forget, you don't say what you want to say, you're not articulate and he testified in front of the Senate, I mean, by himself, no attorney present for hours. I can't expect any normal person would remember everything they said.

CUOMO: Yes. He was in front of that House Committee and that's what got him in the trouble. One other thing, your head is on this. The hard thing for me to accept is that Roger Stone who has known the President longer than anybody involved in that campaign has believed in him as a presidential contender longer than anybody ever has maybe even including the President himself.

He's going out of his way to do these things. He's taken efforts. He's all over the place. He's contacting all these different people. And the man he is doing it for has no idea. Do you find that hard to believe?

That doesn't expose Roger Stone, by the way. I'm not talking about him and his exposure. Do you believe that he would be doing all of this and that Trump would know nothing about it or do you think that's protective Roger Stone?

DAVIS: I think what we know of Trump as a President is that he does what he wants when he wants and he doesn't really answer to anyone so I think that's probably how he also ran his campaign is that like Roger said, when Trump calls he talks and you listen and maybe provide a little bit of advice and that's how he is as a human being.

CUOMO: Roger said I will not bear false witness but he can tell the truth. And you know the old expression. In this case, the certain, the truth may set him free in terms of what this case could mean to him.

Kristin Davis, I appreciate your perspective once again on this matter. Thank you very much. Good morning.

DAVIS: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. All right, so look. There is a big question tonight and you just heard me talking to Kristin Davis about it.

We know what the investigators believe Roger Stone was doing. But he was doing it for someone else. He was doing it for Donald Trump. Maybe not directly the suggestion is that the President didn't know. But that's the key question. That's something we have to digest with people who have done these cases many, many times. Cuomo's Court is in session, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:32:49] CUOMO: Thank the lord, good news, the government shutdown is over, yes, for now. But look, for the families who have been hung out to dry, this is good news. President Trump signed a continuing resolution that provides funding until February 15th. After that, we don't know what's going to happen. The President once again threatened another shutdown among other options. It's hard to believe that the pain that he must now know for sure exists in a shutdown would be repeated.

But the longest shutdown in American history without any funding for President Trump's border call comes to an end. And we will stay on the story to see when people get paid back and to make sure that they get back on their feet.

All right. Back to the big story, the latest Trump associate charged by Bob Mueller defended his innocence here on PRIME TIME tonight, the same day he got indicted. This Cuomo's Court by the case. Asha Rangappa, Neal Katyal, and Jim Schultz, good to have all three of you.

So, Asha, I start with you, Roger Stone says I don't recall, I didn't do it, they can't prove it.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Mueller can definitely prove it. That's why he put it in the indictment. That means that he has the receipt, he has the evidence to back it up. So, I think that Roger Stone might be in a certain amount of denial if he believes that that can't be substantiated with evidence.

I also want to point out that Stone, you know, try to suggest that he had no direct contact --

CUOMO: Yes.

RANGAPPA: -- with Russia or anyone from Russia. You have to read this indictment along side the indictment that Mueller filed against the 12 GRU, Russian intelligence officers for the hack of the DNC server and in paragraph 44 of that indictment, there's a person, a senior -- a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the Trump campaign who was in contact with Guccifer 2.0 who are doing --

CUOMO: Right.

RANGAPPA: --the hack and then passing it to WikiLeaks. So, I think that that would be a good question to ask if there's another opportunity because it's pretty clear that that person in that indictment is Roger Stone. So there was definitely a direct link.

[21:35:03] CUOMO: Right. No, I remember that. Interesting, though, didn't come up in this indictment. Interesting. You know, Mueller has this -- Neal, Mueller got this pattern of not always going as far as he can with each of these people the first time and I know that it could be a part of a circumspect -- strategy, but there's no mention of Guccifer 2 in this indictment and I remember when that came out, we all thought it had to be Roger Stone. But what I'm struck by is the brazen defiance of what seem so obvious in this document. What would be Stone's play here?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Yes. So, I mean, look, you know --

RANGAPPA: I don't know.

KATYAL: -- you do with your different, your past guests. You know, that he likes dogs or something like that. But it's remarkable that he come on TV with such a brazen defense. As a lawyer, I'd always worry about any criminal defendant being on TV. I worried about with Carter Page, for example, and the like.

I don't worry about it here and you want to know why? Chris, because I think actually his audience is not the court. It's not Mueller. It's not even the American public. It's one person. It's Donald Trump and what's going on is Roger Stone is following the President's December invitation and seeking a pardon.

This is a President that pardoned Arpaio, who pardoned Scooter Libby for very similar crimes and the Stone appearance here tonight on your show is acrid with the stench of a pardon. That's what is going on and we should make no mistake about it. This isn't some guy who's trying to defend himself. You know, he's defending one person, Donald Trump.

CUOMO: Acrid with the stench of a pardon. Jim Schultz, let's go from poetry to prose. Do you think the President would consider pardoning Mr. Stone?

JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I have no idea whether the President would consider pardoning Roger Stone and certainly his lawyers are going to advise him at this point in time that that's not a wise thing to be talking about at this point in time, especially in advance of the Mueller report coming out. So hopefully we won't hear anything like that from the president in the coming weeks.

CUOMO: Do you think he can pardon him, Jim?

SCHULTZ: I think he has the ability to pardon him if he so choosy because that's the power of a president --

CUOMO: Can he pardon somebody to keep that person from incriminating him?

SCHULTZ: Well, look, I don't think you'll see anything at this point in time, where the prior to Mueller where you see any movement to the Mueller report coming at. See, any movement toward a pardon in this matter. This thing would have to be done and finished and long over before any of that is considered I would imagine.

CUOMO: Asha, what do you think of that idea?

KATYAL: I agree with that.

CUOMO: You're going to pardon Asha -- you're going to pardon Stone because he won't testify against you even though to use Neal's phrase, because it's a beauty, the acrid stench, and now I'm going to fill on my own word, of communications, the idea that Trump's longest time adviser and friend is doing all this stuff on his behalf at the same time that Trump is saying to the world that he loves WikiLeaks and he hopes there's more and Trump didn't know a damn thing about it. What are the chances, Asha?

RANGAPPA: Well, it would be a little counterproductive for the President to pardon him because if he pardons Stone, then Stone no longer has criminal liability for the actions that he has done, which means he cannot claim the fifth in terms of, if Mueller wants him to talk or if Congress subpoenaed him again to come in.

But, you know, what was really interesting to me, Chris, listening to this as a former investigator, your question to him was, do you think the President will pardon you? And Stone's answer was, I mean, we didn't have any discussions about it. It's not like we have discussed it or anything and he mentioned like having some kind of discussion like five times, and I, you know, maybe that's just where his mind goes, but I have to say, like, when people volunteer an answer, which is not actually the question that you asked them in a certain amount of specificity my antenna goes up.

CUOMO: Neal.

KATYAL: Exactly. I 100 percent agree. I'm not saying the pardon is going to happen now. I'm saying that there's only one reason he would be on your show tonight which is ultimately to demonstrate his bonafides, go through trial and look, if he believes all of the stuff that he just said which seems like nonsense when you read page 16 and other pages of the indictment which are detailed allegations against him. But if he believes all of that, he's going to have to take the stand and do it.

And there's only one way he would take the stand and lie like that after he has already lied and that's because he's confident at the end of the day there's going to be a pardon. Mueller is too careful and too consciousness a prosecutor to have the indictment that was issued today unless he knew he could back it up, and boy, there's e-mail after e-mail, text message after text message, it is devastating.

CUOMO: Jim, do you see it the same way.

SCHULTZ: Yes, there's some real problems here on paper as it relates to this indictment for Roger Stone without question that he talks about context and other things that bring to it. No doubt about that. But here we have -- do not underestimate, Neal, Roger's love of the limelight here.

[21:40:02] CUOMO: True.

SCHULTZ: This was a day where he comes -- he walks out with his hands up in the air, signaling just like Richard Nixon did.

CUOMO: Yes.

SCHULTZ: He loves the limelight. He loves being on television. He loves being the object of this attention. So to say that he's just going on here to --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: -- a pardon to the President who is known for 40 years --

CUOMO: Right.

SCHULTZ: -- not something he needs to do on television if he so chooses to do it. I mean to say that's he's out here, that's the only reason he's out defending himself, I think, is underestimating his love of the limelight.

CUOMO: He also said something else. I don't know if -- if you'd picked up on.

KATYAL: Jim, I'm just reading -- I'm reading the tweet that the President himself issued in December --

CUOMO: Right.

KATYAL: -- which was effectively Roger stay firm and, you know, and other people are rats and they're not going to get pardons but someone like you is. So he's just following the President's lead here which I found --

CUOMO: Well, we'll see. I mean --

KATYAL: -- very, very damaging to the rule of law back in December.

CUOMO: Asha's point is smarter than where my head was on it about, you know, whether or not he'd be able to pardon or would be seen as a self-pardon effectively because he was rewarding this guy for not going against him but what it would expose Stone to in terms of susceptibility to further question is a great point, Asha, that would also have to be in the mix here and certainly works against a pardon.

But there was something else he said that I felt was interesting. I said if you were to tell the truth, because he said I will not bear false witness, very biblical. You know, there's as one of the commandments. But will you tell the truth? Yes, I'll always tell the truth. Well, is there anything you could say that is truthful that would effect anybody else who was a member in the campaign. And he said, not the President. You know, that's something at play here too, Asha, you know.

He was talking to officials Mueller believes he can show, OK, and that is collusion. If they were working through Stone to try to find out what Russia was going to put through WikiLeaks because they were told in July to be careful about Russian interference efforts and what they were doing online, and they're trying to get it and coordinate campaign message with what they think is coming from WikiLeaks, that's a problem, isn't it?

RANGAPPA: It is a total problem, and I'm so glad that you brought that up, Chris. The FBI gave this campaign a security briefing in late July, early August, 2016, telling them, guess what, the Russians are trying to interfere in this election. They may reach out to contact you and if they do, please let us know. That's what the FBI does. And then this is happening -- there have been contacts before that they don't report and then this goes on after.

And I just want to add on the point about Roger Stone's potential contacts directly with Guccifer. I think the problem when you have a counter intelligence investigation that converges into a criminal one is that you may not want things that you have gleaned from sensitive, confidential, classified sources like NSA intercepts, allies giving us intelligence to show up in a criminal indictment which then needs to be disclosed publicly.

So that could be a reason that some of those pieces did not show up here. They showed up in the other indictment because Mueller doesn't expect the GRU officers to show up in court and actually challenge it, but here he does have that possibility.

CUOMO: Also a better point than I had in my head. Let me ask you this, before I let you guys go, who thinks that Stone cuts a deal? Nobody. You think he -- all of you think he rides this out on the basis of what's in this indictment?

KATYAL: I think he cuts a deal with the President, absolutely. And, you know, and he defends himself at trial to Asha's point. He loses and ultimately gets pardoned but this is a remarkable indictment. We stand where you began, Chris. This is one of -- someone who's very close to the President for 40 years. He knows the President better than almost anyone and he'd even better than his wife. But, you know, I guess that's not saying that much. But, you know, there is something really, really significant about today's development.

CUOMO: Give me a button, Jim. Final thoughts.

SCHULTZ: And let's not forget, Chris, I think there's an interesting point to be made here that there is some indication that the Clinton campaign was reaching out, trying to stop all of this from coming out as well and reaching out to folks in order to stop it. Remember, these are political campaigns.

CUOMO: So what?

SCHULTZ: They're looking for dirt on one another. They're trying to use dirt against one another.

CUOMO: There's a difference between trying to find WikiLeaks to give you e-mails that Russia stole --

SCHULTZ: Let me finish, Chris.

CUOMO: I'm just saying I don't like false equivalencies.

SCHULTZ: There's been no facts or evidence so far where you get an allegation that anybody from the Trump campaign had contact with the Russians relative to the intrusion into the DNC servers, the hacking and the stealing that went on that.

CUOMO: But they do know that his oldest and most trusted adviser was trying to get an advance on those things --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: It's not about a crime, it's about collusion --

SCHULTZ: There was nothing relating to the dissemination of it either. But you're right, Chris, as it relates to hey, when is this going to happen, is there going to be something, can we get a heads up? CUOMO: Yes.

SCHULTZ: Those things seemingly were going on according to this indictment, but there's no indication that they were involved in this -- in the theft, there's no indication that they were involved in the public dissemination.

[21:45:04] Remember, this was all in the public domain. And it was after heads it up in the public domain --

CUOMO: Right. But that's a legal standard.

SCHULTZ: -- these folks started asking questions.

CUOMO: That's a legal standard for a felony.

SCHULTZ: Agreed.

CUOMO: This is going to be a political process. There's going to be report --

SCHULTZ: Agreed 100 percent. We say that every week, Chris.

CUOMO: -- story about who did what and what the President knew and when.

SCHULTZ: No question.

CUOMO: And you don't have to have a crime, let's be honest, for an impeachable offense. It's whatever Congress says it is. Guys, you made us better tonight. This is why I have smarter people on this show as guests. Thanks to each and all of you.

All right. So, look, a lot of this is about how you want to see things when you look through the lens of this. That's been true about the Mueller probe from the beginning but there are some things that you can look at it in indictment today and what Roger Stone told us and it creates some provocative thoughts for what happens, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: I got to tell you, this is a tough one to figure out. You do not see people in Roger Stone's position going on television, let alone the day they are indicted. So what does that mean? Does it mean what we're hearing speculated on by those brilliant lawyers that he just loves the limelight? He loves it and he wants to put himself out there. This is his moment, or does it mean that he doesn't get what he's up against?

D. Lemon, come on in here and help me have some perspective.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It could be both.

CUOMO: It could be both. Could be both.

LEMON: Could be both. [21:50:00] CUOMO: But here's why I don't get it. All right. Here's

just one paragraph from the indictment, OK? And they only need one lie to get you, OK? Written communications between Stone and person one, Jerome Corsi, and person two, Randy Credico, continued through his testimony.

Indeed, on about September 26th, 2017, the day that Stone testified before the committee and denied ever having sent or received e-mails or text messages from person two, Credico, Stone and person two, Credico, exchanged over 30 text messages. On the day I asked you if you've ever talked to someone and you told me you didn't, you talked to them 30 times. They got you right there. I don't get his play here. Help me.

LEMON: Well, I can't help you. I mean it's -- I'm flummoxed by it. I don't -- to me it's a big deal because we learn that senior campaign officials reached out to Stone about WikiLeaks. That's a big deal.

CUOMO: And who directed that senior official.

LEMON: And who directed that? Listen, and as far as Roger Stone, he says there's no -- there are no charges of collusion. Of course not right now, but Mueller is not going to --

CUOMO: Oh no, there's collusion. Collusion is not a crime. It's a behavior.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: What Manafort did was collusion if true. What is that -- oh, is that him doing the peace sign?

LEMON: That's him but this is a long time ago. This is a long time ago. This is when he was kicked off of Twitter for saying disparaging homophobic things about me, also about Jake Tapper and other folks, so.

CUOMO: He is capable of incredible ugliness.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: He'll call himself a street fighter. He can explain it any way he wants.

LEMON: He lives a couple blocks away from me by the way. Did you know that?

CUOMO: Well, I don't know if he does anymore. I think they got rid of that. Kristin Davis said they got rid of that duplex they used to have.

LEMON: Up in Harlem?

CUOMO: Nut he's never been a fool. And it makes me wonder if he isn't playing a long game of hoping the President saves him. But I got to tell you. That's more complicated than you think even at this point.

LEMON: And you don't know because, listen, I'm not saying it was but what if it was -- what if the senior -- who is the senior official? What if the senior official was the guy, right?

CUOMO: The President?

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: No. The President would have to be the person who directed that person. If he fits into the equation at all, that would be how. But let's pick it up at the top of the show.

LEMON: OK. But just so you know, one count of obstruction, two to six counts of false statement.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: And then --

CUOMO: Seven counts. Two of them are about him messing with Credico in the process, five are lies.

LEMON: Crazy. Yes.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: I'll see you right at the top.

LEMON: Director Clapper, we'll you see. We'll be on.

CUOMO: Oh Clapper.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Great guest.

All right. So what did the President know? That's the question. And what you've heard every time with Manafort and now with Stone, this has nothing to do with him. He doesn't know what those guys are doing. I'm going to remind you of the defense that's been offered, and then we're going to blow it to pieces with nothing but the truth. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:56:16] CUOMO: This idea that the President didn't really talk to Stone, it was relevant. Manafort, only with the campaign for a minute, never that close to the President, all bologna. The President has known these two longer than anyone in that campaign, including some of his kids. Stone met Trump through his infamous lawyer, Roy Cohn, in the late '70s. Stone always supported Trump as a political contender. Listen to POTUS himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was a poll that came out that Donald Trump would be a great president, that a lot of people would like it. All of a sudden, everybody said I was running for president. I never said I was running for president as you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you hired Roger Stone, a well-known political consultant.

TRUMP: No, I didn't hire him. Roger is a friend of mine. He's a good guy, and he looked at the possibility of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Roger is a friend of mine. The President met Manafort, who was partners with Stone, through Stone in the '80s. Manafort then became part of this tight circle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PUAL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Roger's, you know, relationship with Trump has been so interconnected that it's hard to define what's Roger and what's Donald. While it will be clearly a Trump presidency, I think it's influenced by a Stone philosophy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The three amigos. The idea that Trump wasn't close, didn't know, wasn't aware of anything about who these guys were, what they're capable of, it all strains credulity. So what? Well, did the President know what Stone was up to with WikiLeaks and with his campaign? Did he know what Manafort was doing, meeting and giving proprietary poll data to his Russia-connected buddies allegedly? We need to know if the President was capable of allowing or even enabling such wrongful behavior, or reverse it. How could he not know?

The president's older adviser is doing this kind of stuff that the President is talking about all the times. WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks. And yet he knew nothing of Stone's efforts to contact Wiki on his behalf? Manafort comes in to save the convention, winds up being the face and central point of the campaign, and yet the President doesn't know what he's doing?

And if he did know and lied to you about it, you know what? That may not be a crime. But it is a really big breach of public trust, and one that may incite a popular call for political action. Is it impeachable?

Look, it doesn't have to be a crime to be impeachable. It is whatever Congress says it is. And we've never had a sitting president stand accused of seeking to coordinate or exploit the efforts of a foreign power, let alone an inimical one, let alone Russia in their attempts to interfere in an election, let alone efforts that were meant to be to his benefit in his election. This is serious stuff.

And for now, it comes down to the three amigos. Almost 40 years of wheeling and dealing that got them where they always dreamed of being, the White House. But how did they do it and what role did the President play? In fact, it may come down to just one of the amigos, Stone. He left something out today in his bravado moment. I want you to listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STONE: There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the President, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Roger Stone is clever. Who said he has to lie? Who said he has to bear false witness? He just has to tell the truth. Now, he struggled with that according to the indictment. But if he's staring at prison time -- and this indictment is about as damning as we've seen in this probe so far -- will he tell the truth to investigators even if it compromises people in the campaign, even if it reveals something about the President of the United States? We need to know, especially now in one of darkest moments of our democracy.

That's all for us tonight. Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" picks up the coverage with D. Lemon right now.

LEMON: You know who else said the same thing? Well, he didn't say I will not bear false witness, but that he wouldn't flip on the President.

CUOMO: Moses?