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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Acting A.G.: Mueller Probe "Close To Being Completed;" Roger Stone Compares FBI Raid To "Bin Laden" Take-Down; Former Starbucks CEO Considering 2020 Run As An Independent; Trump Threatening Possibility Of Another Shutdown. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 28, 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: All right, thank you Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo, and welcome to PRIME TIME.

We have new information on the status of the Russia probe. The President's acting attorney general offers up an estimate of when it should end. His words has a key member of the Senate calling them chilling. The investigative minds are seated for Cuomo's Court to take on the relevance here.

Now, $11 billion of loss later, the government is back open but for how long? How could the President even threaten to shutdown the government again? Will Congress be able to stop him? We'll ask the only Democrat to vote for the President's wall last week, Senator Joe Manchin and we're just minutes away from the first big event of the 2020 election cycle right here on CNN. You get to join us on the road to the White House. What do you say? Let's get after it.

So 2.5 years and 70,000 news cycles later, we have gotten the first word ever from the Department of Justice on when the Russia probe could end. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have been fully briefed on the investigation. And the investigation is, I think, close to being completed and I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Close to being completed. That's according to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who was briefed on it as you heard him say, how close. Seemed like he was fumbling with that a little bit like this wasn't planned but hey if he's right, it's going to set off a lot of alarm bells, especially with Democrats. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITAKER: I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed, you know, either through the various means we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: What does that mean? Now, Senate Judiciary Committee Member Chris Coons says that was chilling for Whitaker to say decisions made by Mueller would be "reviewed." Coons also says, he doesn't have full confidence that the Acting A.G. will respect the independence of the probe. Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the committee also joining and saying Whitaker should not be a sensor.

Let's take it up with Cuomo's Court. We've got Michael Isikoff and Mike Rogers.

Mike Rogers, let me start with you. Do you believe that Whitaker meant to suggest that the DOJ will look at Mueller's findings before releasing them?

MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Well, I think there will be some process of redaction that's going to have to happen. So I do think that process will happen. It sounded to me like he was basically saying, hey we have a review process in place for this and that's going to happen. I just don't think he was very heartful in the way he said it.

CUOMO: Nope. So then the question becomes, Brother Isikoff, well is it censoring or is it redacting? How much transparency will we have? What are your questions?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, look we all have lots of questions but regulations themselves do call for the special counsel to submit his report to the attorney general, so the review process that Whitaker inartfully referred to is built into the regulations. So it's not that big of a surprise. And as for Whitaker's comments themselves, look that's consistent with my reporting, with the reporting of others that --

CUOMO: With his wife.

ISIKOFF: Who's wife?

CUOMO: Whitaker's wife. She had come forward and said in an op-ed, you know, this is by all accounts ending soon and people like, what? Turns out she was right.

ISIKOFF: Yes, I don't know how she would know anything about it but those of us who have been following this closely are not terribly surprise surprised by Whitaker had to say.

CUOMO: Right. It's all about, look, when does it end and how does it end is probably more important. So Mike, let's talk about where we are in the most recent developments, all right. Roger Stone gets indicted to use Michael's expression. This is not a surprise to those who have been following this closely. May not have even been a surprise to Roger Stone but how it went down certainly was. Here's some sound from him about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, INDICTED BY MUELLER PROBE: To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down Bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorize my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable I would have voluntarily turned myself in. I would have been able to wear a suit and tie for my mug shot. It would have looked a lot better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Right. Now, they don't buy it, Mike. Now, obviously he's being very hyperbolic and comparing himself to those other crime figures. But here's an interesting question. They went hard and heavy to search and find things that wouldn't be suggested by this indictment. It looks like they have the proof already for the indictment. So why do you think they were so aggressive in trying to capture as much other equipment and information from Stone as they seem to have been?

ROGERS: Well, I'm going to guess on this one based on what we know. And the most interesting thing in the Stone indictment was the piece that said there was another investigation involving Stone, so more charges could be coming.

[21:05:07] And I'm going to guess if you read the indictment in what it was, they either have external information that he may be engaged in some activity that they believe would lead to destruction of evidence and or, they decided this was the time to move because they are getting close to wrapping this thing up. They'll move on this charge, see what evidence they have in the House and in the next series of charges are coming. That's going to be -- I think the answer is going to be somewhere in the middle.

CUOMO: Michael, what's your sense on it?

ISIKOFF: Well, look, you know, Stone was charged with obstruction. So when you have a defendant who is charged with obstruction, I think it is not uncommon for the FBI to play hard ball like this and certainly Mueller's people played hard ball over the course of the investigation, just look at the searches of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen but I wouldn't read too much into that because, look, if they had probably cause that there was something on Roger Stone's devices, whether his laptops or iPhones, you know, they had over a year and a half to get a search warrant to get access to those devices.

CUOMO: And they didn't ask.

ISIKOFF: And they didn't do it.

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: They didn't have to wait for his indictment to seize those devices.

CUOMO: So you're not a big proponent of the, it's all about WhatsApp and encrypted things and it's all on his phone and that's why they needed the phone?

ISIKOFF: I think they have other ways of getting access to those things and like I said, if they had good reason to believe that there was something on there that was going to unlock the mysteries of this investigation, they would have done this a long time ago.

CUOMO: That's a fair say to break on that. Let me ask you something else, Michael, while I have you. You've done some reporting. You have been in touch with Randy Credico, person number two, for those following along by the investigative code and you learned through him that you might have also been a target of the, what he calls threats from Stone and others. How so?

ISIKOFF: Right, exactly. Well, look, if you -- you know, Credico and Stone had this close relationship. They were texting and e-mailing almost every day, and then suddenly, Stone turns on Credico. The reason I believe, he did is if you look at the timing is at some point when I was wrapping up Russian Roulette, the book I wrote with David Corn. I interviewed Credico and he disputed Roger Stone's account that he, Credico, was his back channel to Julian Assange.

At that point, Stone turns on Credico and all these texts that you saw in the indictment flow from that but there's a couple that Credico had shared before that weren't in the indictment, but they do give you a flavor for it. There was one January in 8th which we played on our podcast this week called (inaudible). This is Stone writing to Credico, you should strap dynamite to your body and invite Isikoff for another dinner. It's the least you can do for your country. So I guess he was suggesting Credico should be a suicide bomber.

CUOMO: Yes.

ISIKOFF: Now maybe he was joking, but in the same sort of -- it's the same sort of tone that you see in the texts quoted in the indictment telling him you're a rat, you're stole (ph) and prepare to die. That's one quoted in the indictment. Another says he should do his Frank Pentangeli, a reference to the character in the Godfather who refuses to testify truthfully to Congress.

CUOMO: Right. Stone says that was about Credico just doing a dead on impression of Pentangeli --

ISIKOFF: And he does a pretty good one, I have to say. We have it on the podcast.

CUOMO: Thank you for putting some meat on the bones of that speculation. So the two Michaels, I say, thank you very much. As we learn more, please come back and help us understand it in the context of all the big questions that matter.

All right. So Mueller keeps proving that President Trump's distant advisers, close advisers and now closest advisers are lying about their activities related to Russia. Can the White House keep saying none of this has anything to do with the President and be credible in anyway? Let's look at it through the facts, next. And in just minutes, Senator Kamala Harris face-to-face with Iowa voters right here on CNN. How will she do in her first big test of her run for the president? You get to see it firsthand right here on CNN. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:12:23] CUOMO: If you've notice, the White House had the same reaction to every Mueller indictment. Nothing to do with me. However when the President's oldest adviser Roger Stone got charged, the same ole from Sanders seemed, well, suspect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The more that this goes on the more and more we say that none of these things have anything to do with the President. In Roger Stone's case the charges of that indictment have literary have nothing to do with the President and have to do with his communications with Congress. So, in fact, I think the further we get into the process, the more and more we see that this has nothing to do with President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Suspect. Why? Because the farther the probe has gone into the process, the more the President has been exposed. We've seen Manafort and now Stone and Trump's friends and advisers for four decades in trouble for Russia related actions. Both were searched for communication with others. Manafort allegedly gave proprietary polling data to a Russian with bad connections. Who knew that he did that?

Now Stone is in trouble for trying to get the fruits of the DNC hack at the same time the President was singing WikiLeaks praises. The indictment makes it clear that the President is relevant to Stone's activities, by all indications, except being named. A senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone is the quote about WikiLeaks. Obvious question, who is higher than senior within that campaign apparatus? Especially when we know that Stone talked directly to Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: And you've said many times, as you know, you remember what you say, that you are in regular contact with the President. Why?

ROGER STONE, INDICTED IN MUELLER PROBE: I think I said occasionally. I don't speak to him every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Two of Trump's closest advisers both messing with those that would enable Russian interference in the White House, things doesn't involved the President? Maybe the White House standard for involvement is being named in an indictment, you know, as POTUS was in the Cohen papers, individual one, but by any other standard, every shady moment from the Trump Tower meeting to George Papadopoulos running around Europe and Michael Flynn's meeting with Russians and now you have both the campaign manager and Trump's own political conscience discussing the very information the Russians used to interfere in the election. All of them were about Russia and all but one involves people close to the President.

The timing of all of this also is all about Donald Trump. Remember the testimony where Stone is accused of lying to Congress. Do you know why you probably didn't hear about this sooner? Trump's Republican buddies were sitting on the transcripts. Mueller only got them when POTUS lost the majority in the House in the midterms.

[21:15:08] The connection of someone Trump has known since the 1980s to the DNC hack is sure to add fuel to the Democratic investigations that will encircle Trump between now and 2020 which brings us to what may be the worst and best defense for POTUS and it's the campaign was too disorganized to pull off any real collusion.

Now, this isn't a new argument but with the 2020 race underway is incompetence really the case you want to make as you ask voters for four more years.

All right. We're just minutes away, talking about 2020, in four more years, the first town hall, the first state that votes a senator vying to become our first female President, a lot of firsts as we await Kamala Harris. Would a third party candidate like the former CEO of Starbucks stand a chance? Or would it practically guarantee the President a second term. Great start for a great debate, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: We go again, tonight's CNN Town Hall with Senator Kamala Harris means the 2020 race is fully underway but there's a new wrinkle this time. The former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER CEO, STARBUCKS: I'm seriously thinking of running for President. I will run as a centrist independent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The next each Ross Perot (ph) or something else. Let's debate, Ana Navarro and Mike Shields.

Mike Shields, Schultz runs, do you think he does or he doesn't? If he does, whom does he help and who does he hurt?

[21:20:03] MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he's going to run. He has already got a team around him and he's paying them and he's putting this together. And look, you know, I mean, there is no real room for a third party. We have seen that over and over again. It's hard to get on the ballot. It's hard to establish the kinds of things that for instance the Donald Trump is doing now, which is getting grassroots activated, raising money, doing those sorts of things. But, you know, he's a liberal on global warming, he's a liberal on minimum wage and health care.

CUOMO: He splits the ticket on the left.

SHIELDS: Yes, I think that what he is seeing is that the Democratic Party is so extremely liberal so far as to be socialist that even a liberal like him doesn't fit in anymore and that's a huge statement about where the Democratic Party is right now.

CUOMO: Ana Navarro, how do you see it?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually agree with Mike. Look, last year I was at an event that Mitt Romney puts on, in Utah during the summer and both Mike Bloomberg and Howie Schultz were there and both of them spoke. At that time, we were thinking that both, either, one or the other might wage an independent candidacy for President.

Mike Bloomberg took a cold hard look at the data, took a cold hard look at the data concluded that you could not win the presidency as a third party candidate and that instead what you would do is help Donald Trump win re-election and decided not to run that way.

I think Howard Schultz, you know, what I heard from Howard Schultz he came across as earnest, likable, sincere, deliberate, knowledgeable. But listen, you want to do is help reelect Donald Trump then go at it. You're free to run. What you want to do is make sure that a man who has been dividing this country creating culture wars, fabricating, you know, problems, destroying international alliances, threatening the environment, if that is your goal to get rid of Donald Trump running as a third party candidate only helps Trump and maybe Putin.

CUOMO: Michael Bloomberg sent that message to Schultz directly today saying exactly what you said, Ana. You know, it is intriguing though, Brother Shields and here's why. You know, remember, coming out of the great recession, let's call it. That was Bloomberg tweet. The message for Schultz, this was kind of like the high water mark for him in terms of his public profile.

Do you remember what he did? He put out the bracelets that said we are indivisible and you bought them for I think five bucks in the money went to help people who are getting gin up by the recession? And it was a great kind of thing to see a big corporation doing. He got a lot of wattage out of it. It would be a very relevant message today against this President.

Going against disunity, literally with the definition of it with our constitution and formative document of being indivisible, is there room for that message within the Democratic Party? Why does he have to do third party?

SHIELDS: Yes, I mean look, he's a liberal. There's no question about it. If you look at the policies he talked about on 60 minutes, he had one thing to be said, oh, you know, the debt -- I'm a little bit more conservative on the debt. Every other single thing he said was a liberal. And so he would be defeated by the President. Because the country doesn't want a liberal like that to be president but it's amazing to me that he doesn't want to run as a Democrat because he looks to the Democratic Party and sees they're actually going the way of socialism.

And so I can't compete with it. They're going to have a race to the left and to be as extreme about impeachment and government run health care and guaranteed job wage, and guaranteed jobs, government handed out job. On the left they're going to have a race to that and even a liberal like Howard Schultz doesn't fit into that anymore. And so it's a statement about where the Democrats are and we're just getting started.

CUOMO: So Mike hit that point twice, Ana.

NAVARRO: Look, I also think it's a --

CUOMO: That's a robust talking point, what's your response to that in the context of having Harris on tonight right after our show and what she is going to try to demonstrate?

NAVARRO: Look, I think part of it is that there's like a post Trump stress syndrome that's being suffered by Americans and the last thing Democrats want is to nominate another billionaire corporate guy who has never served in public office to run against Trump. They want somebody that can offer some sort of experience having run a government or having been part of a legislative body. Knowing how government works. It's hard for the Democrats to nominate somebody that is like that.

Also, they've got this, you know, very deep stable of Democrats running who have held elected office. Who represent a broad spectrum of ideology. Look. I hear a lot of Democrats, in my mind, you can hardly get more liberal than Bernie Sanders. And I hear a lot of Democrats say we don't want Bernie Sanders to run because after he lost the nomination the last time, he became an independent and now he wants to run again and become the Democratic nominee again. No, you don't just put the shirt on and take it off whenever it suits you.

[21:25:00] CUOMO: Ana, what do you hear about Harris?

NAVARRO: More something else. Look, I think Harris, what I hear about her, I have heard more good things about Harris from Democrats than I have about anybody else, and I tell you this as an unofficial poll through my Twitter feed. I can tell you that, you know, when I write about Elizabeth Warren running, a lot of people say to me, I like her, but. When Bernie Sanders is talking about running, a lot of them say, look he's an independent. I think Kamala Harris is engaging and it is -- and she is capturing people's creativity in a way of no other candidate until now has done.

CUOMO: And look, she's capturing your friends on the right enough that they came after her with a BS birther shots. So obviously she has guys on your side spooked as well, you know.

SHIELDS: Well first of all, just one thing about what Ana said about a -- about a billionaire sort of business man running. One of the pitches that the Schultz campaign is made is that we need a disrupter. There is a disruptor, he's in the White House right now. And so the market for disruption, that's a great campaign for Donald Trump because he is disrupting politics the way we have never seen before.

On Kamala Harris, I don't know that she -- look, she's a good politician. And I don't know that we actually know what she is. When she was a D.A. and an A.G. she tried to be a tough on crime Democrat. Now she's moving far to the left because that's what her audience wanted. So she sort of a shape shifting a little bit. And that's what, that what really good politicians do. They're very political. They read polls. She was sort of became a protester in the Kavanaugh hearings to sort of show off a little bit how liberal she could be. And so we're going to --

CUOMO: Liberal.

SHIELDS: -- see just like --

CUOMO: Just like she was going after obvious holes in a narrative and she's obviously warranted enough scrutiny --

SHIELDS: Yes, but --

CUOMO: -- she get cheap shots from you people on the right.

SHIELDS: In the first Kavanaugh hearing, not once we had the accusation but the -- his first hearing that people thought was just going to be sort of a boring hearing, she and Cory Booker were sort of taking turns at who could sort of attack him the most because she's running for president. And so I think you're going to see in her tonight, starting tonight, right after this show and moving on through all the Democratic nominees, a fight to change their old narrative and move harder to the left.

CUOMO: Well look --

SHIELDS: Going to watch that process.

CUOMO: -- the real challenge --

NAVARRO: You know, you know --

CUOMO: -- the real challenge Ana is -- go ahead, go ahead, give me a point and ask a question.

NAVARRO: To me, Harris's sweet spot is that she comes across as a no nonsense woman. She comes across as tough. She comes across as knowledgeable. She comes across at a bad ass who doesn't take crap from anybody, but at the same time, she's likable and she does it with a smile. I don't hear people talking about the dislike ability issue like they do with an Elizabeth Warren. You know, and folks try to say, you know, people who like Elizabeth Warren try to say, well, you know, that's a sexist remark. When did you ever hear a woman -- a man being referred to as dislikable.

Well I heard plenty of people including myself call Ted Cruz dislikable. The reason Kamala Harris I think called dislikable, is because she ain't. It's not a woman thing. Maybe it's an Elizabeth Warren thing.

CUOMO: So, I don't know -- look, I think that Mike is playing the convenient and that's fine, that's where I want you guys on in terms of, oh the problem with the left is its going to be so far left. It's a challenge for them. I don't know if it's as frightening or is daunting as Mike is making it out. But I think another challenge for them at is, how hard do they play the anti-Trump card? Harris gave a very rousing speech, big on truth, speak truth, seek truth.

You know, it's not an original line but it is a clever one in this context. Do you think they have a big challenge to figure out how to move past just saying anybody but Trump?

NAVARRO: Look, I don't think that they have to say anything other than anybody but Trump. But I think they have to say something in addition to that.

CUOMO: Right.

NAVARRO: It's not enough to think that people are going to run away from Trump. Hillary Clinton tried that. You need to be able to attract people towards you. You need to be able to get people to be enthusiastic about you. You need to be able to get people to come out and vote for you in droves. We saw it here in Florida. You know, Bill Nelson thought Rick Scott is tainted with Donald Trump, there's no way the Puerto Ricans are going to vote for Rick Scott.

All the Puerto Ricans voted by larger numbers than anybody expected for Rick Scott. If he worked that vote. Politics is still local and sweat equity still matters. So you can't -- you know, in life and in politics, you can't take anything for granted. You can't take any group for granted. You can't take any vote for granted. So it's not enough to say to people I am the alternative to Trump, therefore you must vote for me. You must also give them something to be happy about to vote for.

CUOMO: Can't just be against. You must also be for. Good points made by both, thank you very much setting up our big night tonight. Appreciate it. See you both soon.

All right, we're getting very close to this first town hall. This really does kind of mark the unofficial beginning of the 2020 race. Kamala Harris is going to take the stage in Des Moines, Iowa, the state that votes first, you're going to see it only here on CNN with our man Jake Tapper.

Now as we wait, got another big issue. We'll see how she deal with this tonight. The government is back open again. But for how long? What's going to happen right after Valentines Day on the 15th?

[21:30:02] Should there be a law on the books as we're hearing senators from both sides of the aisle discuss to prevent a shutdown from ever happening again. Who should we ask? How about Senator Joe Manchin. Would he vote for that? The lone Democratic defector last week is here. Where's his head and his heart right now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Today the acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker told us three things. One he's fully briefed in the Mueller investigation. Two, the investigation according to him is close to being completed. And lastly that Mueller's report is going to be reviewed. Some Democrats are not taking kindly to the review part or really to any of that being said. Let's get some perspective from the Democrat from West Virginia, Joe Manchin. Welcome back to Prime Time Senator.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Good to be with you. How are you?

CUOMO: I'm doing well. Thank God. Let me ask you, do you think the acting A.G. did the right thing making those disclosures today?

MANCHIN: I didn't. I don't know where that came from or why he thought it was important to do that. I would say that overwhelmingly Democrats and Republican have all the faith and confidence in Mueller. I think we're waiting and we've been waiting anxiously and I think he's wrapping it up, I hope.

[21:35:02] And this will be coming to an end and I hope to see the report and basically be -- basically unfeathered to where nobody else has their hand print on it. And he's done a job for a long time, I think he's been thorough. He's gone into every nook and cranny and when it comes out I think it will be factual report and we need to take that and go with it.

CUOMO: Now you know this for the people watching, there is a man date, right. He is supposed to deliver our report confidentially to the acting A.G. or whoever is over him at the time. And there is a review process for reductions and other stuff of classification. But --

MANCHIN: Sure.

CUOMO: -- what is your concern about review?

MANCHIN: Well, this has been so public and had so many twists and turns to it that if anybody sees something that could change the outcome or change the report in it's entirety or in any type of concept, that could be very damaging and I don't think that anyone is going to stand for that. I think that basically this has been long awaited. It's time for it to come out. The President has been very clear, he keeps saying he's not involved. There's no collusion or whatsoever. This report should -- this report should basically exonerate or point fingers wherever they may go and we've seen a lot of indictments to where he's had overwhelming evidence that he felt that he was able to indict.

So, I just -- you know, I don't want it to have any more or any other hands on it than necessary.

CUOMO: Most recently, we saw the indictment of Roger Stone. The White House keeps saying this has nothing to do with the President. How can you have his two oldest, closest advisers, not only both indicted but indicted and accused of doing things they shouldn't have been doing with people with bad connections to the same people who were trying to interfere the election on behalf of Russia. How going to have nothing to do with the President? I'm not saying legally. I'm just saying logically.

MANCHIN: Well, its not a good situation whatsoever. I've been around the process like yourself for a long, long time. And when you have unsavory people such as that to prey on and use that for types and trick to make themselves important, and want to be part of the decision making process, and then all of the sudden say, you know, it wasn't me. He made a living doing this for many, many years way before Donald Trump. And, you know, those type of people basically come out of the woodwork at different times. This is something that's going to be very troubling, I believe. And I'm sure is be very concerning.

CUOMO: I mean what's the chance Senator --

MANCHIN: I mean for the White House and for the President.

CUOMO: What's the chance back your two oldest and closest advisers could be doing something like this and you wouldn't know a thing about it even though you're calling for the same thing that Roger Stone was looking for publicly on a regular basis. WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks give us more. Would you be surprised if there is absolutely no suggestion that the President knew what they were doing?

MANCHIN: Well be hard, that would be hard for anybody. I mean, you know, we have a lot of different people. Some of us have little different approaches to how we govern. I want to know what was going on. That probably is more like your dad. As a governor, wanted to find out if there was a bridge down, if there was a road out. If there was something not happy to take of people. Public service I took very serious. It's all about serving the public. I wanted to know.

Maybe other people were disconnected more than I. I wasn't that way. So, I'm not going to speculate. I know I would know, I know would definitely, now I would heard from to the rumor mills how they gotten to the bottom of it and if there was any type of problem, they would have been gone.

CUOMO: So, switch topic, shutdown. God forbid on February 15th we wind up where we were. The President is threatening it. Hopefully that's all it is, hopefully he learned that the pain is too real. But then you get the problem of, well, how do you fix it? Lamar Alexander, I think Portman and also Warner have proposal, so both sides in the aisle that you got to change the ability to shutdown the government. Do you agree with changing the rules so that you can't shutdown this way?

MANCHIN: I want to change the constitution. I want a constitutional amendment that basically says the day that the government shuts down, not one member of Congress gets paid. Not one staff member gets paid who basically that drives. A lot of the thinking if you will and the policy. Not the President gets paid. Not one member of the President's executive staff in that White House get paid. You stop the paychecks, you'll never have another shutdown Chris. All the -- these are all very good, very smart, very policy driven people. They understand the process. I have utmost respect. I don't -- the only thing I can tell you, I went to an awful lot of federal employees and people that really gaining harm, not one Congress person, not one senator got harmed. Not unless you gave up your paycheck, but you didn't get harmed. And now all a sudden, the people are getting harmed, you know, the first question they would ask me, are you still getting paid Senator?

CUOMO: Yes, the right question.

MANCHIN: You know, give an answer like all, does the constitution makes them pay us.

CUOMO: Right.

MANCHIN: Well, I tell you one thing, I think it would be the quickest approved constitutional amendment you've ever seen.

[21:40:00] CUOMO: Well, constitutional amendment, I don't even think we could get that kind of consensus right now on what letters are in the alphabet. But in terms of changing the law, do you think that this is real? Or do you think these are just big voices playing what's popular?

MANCHIN: You know, there's some good thoughts out there. There's some good processes out there but it's still a process. Until the hurt is felt here in Washington, until the members of Congress and their staff, if they see real hurting, if you didn't go out and talk to the people in your state, if you weren't going out and talking to the correctional officers, if you weren't talking to the TSA people, if you weren't talking to the FBIs, if you weren't talking to the people on the front line, coast guard, everybody, you didn't see the pain, you didn't even feel the pain.

When people told me, hey, Joe, I cannot -- my insurance, I have to pay for my prescriptions for my daughter who has diabetes. I have to pay for that up front. Now, I'm essential. I have to go to work. I've got to make decisions. What little money I have, do I put food on the table? Do I buy my daughter's medicine? Do I go to work and put gas in the car? These were some tough decisions and people were hurting very bad.

CUOMO: Well, we'll see what can be done because you guys can make rules and make --

MANCHIN: Well, this is ridiculous. This should never happen.

CUOMO: Right. The rob on the other side is that you got to have the continuing resolution process because otherwise you'll never be able to stop bad programs. You know, they would live forever essentially because you could never stop. And so you've got to thread it through, but you can do it.

Let me ask you something else while I have you here as a Democrat. What do you think of the idea of a Howard Schultz entering the race as a third party candidate? Would you suggest he not do it because it hurts your party? MANCHIN: Well, I think that if anyone has ever looked into that deeper and researched it more than Michael Bloomberg, I don't know of anybody.

CUOMO: Right.

MANCHIN: He is the most practical person, extremely, extremely bright business person. He looked at every angle was and didn't see a path way forward. And will say that this person that Mr. Schultz would be wise to take Michael Bloomberg's advice. I truly believe that.

CUOMO: All right. Senator Joe Manchin, always a pleasure. Thank you for giving us the straight talk. Appreciate it.

MANCHIN: We can't -- this cannot happen. This cruel and unusual punishment cannot continue again. It cannot.

CUOMO: The irony of it coming the day after Valentine's Day. Hopefully there will be no heart break pun intended. We'll stay --

MANCHIN: Dear Lord, help us all.

CUOMO: Absolutely. Every day. Joe be well.

MANCHIN: Thank you. Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: After -- absolutely. So almost time for the big event in Iowa. Lots of enthusiasm building for Senator Kamala Harris. Can she maintain it? Can she harness the enthusiasm and make something bigger of it and become the Democratic nominee? This would be that first step. We're live in Des Moines for CNN's first down hall of the 2020 season. Our man Jake Tapper is there. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:46:23] CUOMO: Oh exciting, exciting. Take a look at that. That is the live picture in Des Moines, Iowa. Just a few minutes, we'll going to have the Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris taking the stage for the town hall. The first of the 2020 season right here on CNN. Now this comes after Harris's really impressive gathering yesterday in her native Oakland, California. Thousands turned out to see the pictures there. A rally, some reports say, it was even larger than the kick off for Barack Obama's first White House bid.

CNN Political Director, David Chalian joins me from the town hall. That's the kind of crowd you want to see. That's the kind of energy you have and you want your competitors to see it as well. What do you see as the plus minus on Harris going into the race?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. That last point you made, Chris, is critical. What she clearly wanted to show some muscle there, right? She wanted -- it was a show of force to all the other Democratic contenders. By far, it was the biggest, most organized robust event we've seen of this political season. The Harris operation wanting to come out of the date with a big statement, certainly.

But also, what you saw in that announcement were twofold. You saw the contrast with Trump where she was very clear that he represents an America she doesn't believe in, that this is not our America. She said America, we can do better than this. So that was the Trump contrast.

And then of course she understands she's got a battle for the Democratic nomination ahead of her. So she was making sure to put the issue set front and center that she thinks will jazz progressives including Medicare for all, debt-free college, middle class tax cut and her criminal justice reform plan. So she was putting the issues at front, contrasting with Trump and showing some force with that big crowd.

CUOMO: All right. So we're real early here now but, David, when you hear that checklist, where does that position her within her own party and what does that expose of her flank for the other party?

CHALIAN: Yes. Well, the one place in her own party that she's already receiving a little bit criticism for is her record as San Francisco's district attorney, California's attorney general, her prosecutorial record, and if she was sort of too tough on crime in exchange for some civil liberties.

You've seen a critical op-ed that appeared in "The New York Times"--

CUOMO: Yes.

CHALIAN: -- about the -- her answer to that is no, no, no. I'm a progressive prosecutor. I have dedicated my career to criminal justice reform and she will be out there to push back on that notion.

The other issues I think she's lumped in a lot with the Sanders by taking Medicare for all, Chris. What I'm curious to see is, now that Elizabeth Warren is out there with her tax to wealthy plan, will folks like Senator Harris get on board with that? That has not been the case so far. That's not where she has put her attention.

CUOMO: What does she mean to the right?

CHALIAN: Well, you know, some people see her as a threat. But I don't think she's been largely defined by the right just yet. Which is both an opportunity for them of course for the president to sort of define her for the Republican machine to sort of get out there and create a caricature of her, they haven't done that yet. They've done that with some of others but that's what is so critical about nights like this, Chris. This is Kamala Harris coming out, introducing herself to Americans. She's not that well known. She maybe getting some progressives excited about a potential but she's not that well known.

So this kind of opportunity to talk to Iowa voters where it all begins and watch her and how she interacts with voters. it's a critical introductory moment to the nation.

CUOMO: So here's who I am. Best foot forward. Give me two more things she has to achieve tonight.

[21:50:05] CHALIAN: I think she's got to show interplay with voters. We've seen her in the last week do interviews. We've seen her give the big rally speech. What we have not seen is the human to human interaction with voters. Is there an authenticity there? I believe that is one of the tests that she's got to pass tonight.

And then as you noted, we're going to start to hear what issues are on their minds. And then some lines are going to be drawn inside this Democratic nomination fight. Is she moving left -- as far left as the party base is to try to court them, or does she try to hold as much flexibility, which seems to be her approach, as possible to not be boxed in as somebody who may be seen by the right as unelectable in a general election, that she moves too far left. So I think watch her ideological positioning tonight, and watch her one-on-one, human to human interaction with voters.

CUOMO: And you gave me a great tip before I did my first one of these town halls. You said, hey, remember, it's not a debate. But at the same time, remember you're there for the audience. And it made me see that there is one of the classic blunders that you can make as a potential candidate up there, which is don't give canned answers at a town hall because they are listening differently.

It's different than when you're going against your opponent, and you have a moderator, and it will be interesting to see how she handles that tonight. It's usually a strength for her. Will -- when she gets a tough question, will she own it, acknowledge that it's tough, acknowledge what she's doing on that? It will be interesting to see.

David Chalian, can't ask for better than you. Enjoy the night.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So now in the context of what Harris has to do, what any Democrat, what any challenger has to do, there's one word to hit on President Trump's greater weakness, and senator Harris used it as a lot at her official announcement yesterday. The word, and then my argument for why that one word is a good word, but it's just a start. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:56:06] CUOMO: OK. So in just moments, a rising name for the Democrats, Senator Kamala Harris from California, will join our man, Jake Tapper, for a Democratic presidential town hall live from Iowa. And we know exactly where Harris is taking her campaign right off the bat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In this moment, we must all speak truth about what is happening. We must seek truth, speak truth, and fight for the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: To speak the truth, we must seek it. That's a clever, if not original line that hits at Harris' two biggest opportunities. Hit Trump for his monumental mendacity. We've never seen a president abuse the truth as he has in his short tenure. The latest line crossed for this President is this nonsense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Women are tied up. They're bound, duct tape put around their faces, around their mouths. In many cases, they can't even breathe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Where is he getting this? VOX exposed an e-mail from CBP asking exactly that. If any of its members can substantiate what the President just said. Again and again, we catch the President creating a false crisis on the border. So attacking him for truth abuse is fertile ground.

The other angle is the need to seek truth, which Harris says she'll offer and could easily speak to the need for the Mueller probe and its findings. Again, fertile ground. Exposing questions about the President's openness to corruption and enemies abroad. That could be something.

The truth is powerful. But in politics, it is a companion, not the driver. So in that context, there are two challenges for all challengers to Trump. Set aside the general public discounting the existence of truth in politics anymore, and their potential inability to ever believe any politician is a pure truth-teller. The real challenge is that the truth must be part of a message that is more than just true. It has to capture the voters' imagination, their hunger for more and better that gives them a reason to believe. And that's just not about the truth. It's about the power of the message and the persuasiveness of the messenger. Now, let's take a look at where Harris is on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: We can achieve the dreams of our parents and grandparents. We can heal our nation. We can give our children the future they deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, while all that may be true, it's all conditional on what is done. And to beat this president, pointing to his truth abuse may not be enough. It requires something else. Harris or whomever emerges from the rapidly expanding field of those who think the presidency must change, they have to offer something to the country that combats all of the President's barbs and blusters with a rigid adherence to the truth, yes, but also that shows you can be on offense without being offensive and that you can convince people that you have something to offer that they need, that you know how to get it, and that you are the right man or woman to do it. My father said this much better than I ever could. He used to say, any jack ass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good man or woman to build one. What's the point? The negative will be powerful, but it may not be enough. And that, my friends, is the truth. Let's see how it plays out right now. This is the exciting beginning of the CNN campaign season.

Thank you for watching us. CNN's presidential candidate town hall with Senator Kamala Harris starting right now.