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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Senator Kamala Harris Grabs Spotlight on Week One of Her 2020 Rollout; Trump, Putin Talked at G20 Without U.S. Translator, Note- Taker; U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump on ISIS, Russia, Iran; Mueller Investigation is "Close To Being Completed," Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker Says. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: But you've got to watch it on facebook.com/andersoncooper full circle. The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for Cuomo Prime Time. Chris?

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

Why are we only now learning about the details of another secretive sit-down with the U.S. President and Putin and, once again, learning from Russia? New information emerging, that's raising lots of concerning questions tonight.

This President conceals what matters with Russia then creates crises where there are none like the Border nonsense he sells you. But don't take it from me. Even his Intelligence Chiefs are publicly breaking with him, directly contradicting what the President has been telling you on what we should fear most.

Plus, we all know 2020 is going to be a brawl, and we saw some haymakers thrown by Kamala Harris in the big CNN Town Hall last night. The question, we know she can throw punches. But is she too aggressive on policy, too Left to beat President Trump?

Another rising star in her Party is here. CNN's newest commentator, Andrew Gillum joins us. What do you say? Let's get after it.

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CUOMO: All right, the 2020 candidates quickly jockeying for position to take on President Trump. The head of the heap right now, Kamala Harris. Well, forget about what the polls say. She got the big spotlight in the CNN Town Hall, and she did a good job in the first official week of her candidacy.

You saw her last night making her case for why she's the best one to go toe-to-toe with Trump. She laid out her left-of-center positions, but is also going hard with a policy that is two steps farther Left than anything any centrist would ever offer. Will it work? Here's a taste.

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JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And correct me if I'm wrong. To reiterate, you support the Medicare-for-All bill, I think initially--

KAMALA DEVI HARRIS, JUNIOR UNITED STATES SENATOR, CALIFORNIA, DEMOCRATIC PARTY MEMBER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF CALIFORNIA: Correct.

TAPPER: --co - co-sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders. You're also a co-sponsor onto it.

HARRIS: Yes.

TAPPER: I believe it will totally eliminate private insurance. So, for people out there who like their insurance, they don't get to keep it?

HARRIS: Well, listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company.

Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on.

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CUOMO: Mm, Ambitious! Eliminate private insurance!

What does Andrew Gillum think? You know him, former Mayor of Tallahassee, Democratic nominee for Florida Governor, but now a new title, CNN Political Commentator.

Welcome to PRIME TIME. Good to have you in the family.

ANDREW GILLUM, FORMER MAYOR OF TALLAHASSEE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey, man. Good to see you. And good to see you in person. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure. So, just to get something out of the way--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --if you are here, does that mean for 2020, you've made a decision to watch?

GILLUM: Yes, I'm absolutely watching, man. I - I - for one, I'm proud to be here. But two, I'm looking forward to what I think is going to be one of the most diverse fields of Democrats to compete for the presidency ever.

We're going to have a great exchange of, I think, ideas between vastly different individuals who may or may not differ greatly on the policy.

But I think what we're going to be looking forward, not only as a party, but I think as a country, are candidates who we can believe in, folks who get out there and, I think, connect with people in a way that they can see themselves reflected and, really importantly, are not Donald Trump and better than that, will cast a vision for the future of where we want to go, as a country, and not litigate the issues of the past.

CUOMO: And, you know, you saw in the Governor's race, the need to be more than just anti-Trump--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --policy matters. Where does it put your Party? What does it mean? So, with Kamala Harris last night, what did you like, what made your brows pop?

GILLUM: Yes. Well first off, coming off of what I thought was a - a pretty spectacular launch the other night, I want to applaud Senator Harris for jumping straight into the arena, going to the voters, doing a nationwide Town Hall meeting and, quite frankly, not getting softball questions.

She was pinned down on a number of pieces of policy that over the course of this race she'll be called to defend, she'll be called to add further explanation, and she showed herself to be, I think, nimble. More importantly, I think she listened well, and I think she responded honestly.

And I don't know what else we would want to, you know, ask for from - from our nominee.

CUOMO: Got to judge the ideas. One of the things about coming out of the box is one, you're one of the first, right?

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: First impressions, you don't get a second chance--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --to make a first impression. Policy wise, though, she's going to have to own what she's doing on healthcare.

GILLUM: Sure.

CUOMO: That may be the defining non-BS issue of the 2020 campaign. Who knows where the President takes it, and what Democrat gets pulled into what rabbit hole with him, what kind of fight they decide to have?

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: But healthcare matters. I want to put up some poll numbers because I think it articulates the challenge well. You say to people, Medicare-for-All, what do you think about expanding access? They like it.

But the more you start talking about Medicare, meaning, you lose what you have, the numbers start to flip. So, you'll see it's positive on that. As you build in more, but you don't keep, but you don't keep, but you don't keep, and when you get to where Kamala Harris was last night, which is--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --all there will be is single-payer. All of those, the majority of the country who gets it through the employer is gone. Is that too far?

[21:05:00] GILLUM: Well I'll - I'll tell you. There are lot of ways to skin this. You heard Senator Harris talk about her plan toward doing it.

When I was running for Governor of the State of Florida, I talked about a federation of states where we might come together and use the collective bargaining power of - of - of those states to get better rates and better prices for--

CUOMO: And to deal with the infrastructure (ph).

GILLUM: --the veterans (ph).

CUOMO: One of the things that is clever about that is no state, you could argue, not even the federal government, can take the transition costs.

GILLUM: That's right.

CUOMO: But if you create a cooperative, you might. I gave you a hard time about that--

GILLUM: That's right.

CUOMO: --because who knows that states - there's so much politics involved--

GILLUM: Sure.

CUOMO: --but you said, "Well I got to try."

GILLUM: That's right.

CUOMO: Harris doesn't have that in her plan. The question is does she back off of that as it gets out there, if people don't like it?

GILLUM: Well, I would tell you. First of all, I fully believe that anyone running for President of the United States needs to be able to put forth a proposal of what--

CUOMO: Yes.

GILLUM: --they're going to do to ensure 39 million Americans who today don't have access to insurance. Americans are deeply concerned about what it means to get access, affordability. Too many of us are concerned that we may be one illness away from bankruptcy. And we want to know what our elected officials are going to do about it.

The reason why I had to throw it out as an idea, as a candidate for Governor of the State of Florida was because we weren't hearing any real solutions coming from the federal level.

CUOMO: But it's the money.

GILLUM: It is the money.

CUOMO: It's the money. At the end of it--

GILLUM: But it - but--

CUOMO: --Bloomberg made a strong point today and which is--

GILLUM: He - he did.

CUOMO: --listen, this is expensive, the transition costs. And just so people get it because, you know, you - you--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --advised me well before we started. Let's not get too in the weeds--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --on this stuff because you'll lose people. True. But a simple economic dynamic is to go from private to public--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --you would need transition costs in the trillions.

GILLUM: Sure.

CUOMO: And the mechanism that makes that OK, there's one social, one financial. The social is you're doing the right thing.

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: Financial would be well over time, costs will come down. But, as we know, politics doesn't usually get settled for the long-term. It's usually for the short-term.

GILLUM: Sure.

CUOMO: He's warning people, "Stay away from it." Do you believe you can sell it to the American people in any way beyond, let's use it for the people who don't get insurance through their employers?

GILLUM: I - I've got to tell you. First of all, we're looking for candidates who have big vision. Right now, healthcare costs take up about 18 percent, almost 20 percent of GDP. That is a huge segment of the American economy. When we talk about the cost of healthcare, we almost never talk about

the savings that are associated and are inured to expanding access to more people. And so, what I would say is, is for those who are hitting Senator Harris on this, put forth your plan.

CUOMO: Right.

GILLUM: How do you propose to cover more people? And how do you plan to pay for it?

CUOMO: And give her a chance to engage on it instead of just criticizing--

GILLUM: Absolutely.

CUOMO: --it on the outside and Harris has to take the - those opportunities.

GILLUM: Well she'll have to take them. But you know what? Every candidate will have to put forth their plan.

CUOMO: Right.

GILLUM: It's - it's not enough to simply, you know, rip away at what is being proposed by one candidate. We need to see what is all on the table.

And at the end of the day, I think, American, the people of this country want to know, what are we going to do to reduce costs, and expand access for more people, and get everybody covered?

Right now, for those who are not covered, we're paying for them anyway because they are showing up in emergency rooms, which is the most expensive, and least efficient form of care.

If we're going to pay anyway, it would be my judgment that we pay smarter rather than more expensive and least efficient.

CUOMO: So there's a - so there's a marginal aspect to that, an incremental aspect to it.

GILLUM: Absolutely.

CUOMO: And we'll see if that winds up being where the Party lines up.

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: But that was a very ambitious start. Now--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --as you're here now, as I've gotten to know you in public life, you shy away from nothing.

GILLUM: Right.

CUOMO: They dogged you with the Ethics investigation--

GILLUM: Yes.

CUOMO: --when you were Mayor and taking it into the Governor's race. They have found cause to continue to look.

GILLUM: Right, sure.

CUOMO: No solid findings. What do you want people to know about your position on that?

GILLUM: Yes. Well, first of all, although the race for Governor took 22 months, and a lot of energy spent on these kinds of issues, the politics continue. I am confident that as we move through this, and as a - a Judge looks at the facts, they would determine that I have acted in complete compliance with the law.

What I think people know about me and my state, which is why we became - came within a - a - a and - rounding era--

CUOMO: Risking (ph).

GILLUM: --becoming Governor of the State of Florida is they believe me to be honest. I've been forthright. I have tried to level with people squarely. And I honestly think that's the only way to go.

CUOMO: Well you are considered a big deal in your party, and part of the future. It's good to have you here at CNN as well.

GILLUM: Good to be here, man. Look forward to working with you.

CUOMO: Always. You're always welcome on this show.

GILLUM: Thanks, man.

CUOMO: You may not want to come, but you're always welcome.

GILLUM: I'll be here, man.

CUOMO: All right, Andrew Gillum, everybody. Welcome to the CNN family.

All right, so it was a big deal today. Listen to this. We got this rattling readout today on the greatest threats to America from the people who know the best, the President's Intelligence Chiefs.

What did they not talk about? Take a guess, our Southern Border. Why? Why would they go and say things about the sitting President that we have never heard from them before?

[21:10:00] We go to somebody who did the job, who's going to tell us what's going on, next. You know him.

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CUOMO: We are hearing more about the private discussion that took place between the two leaders at the G20, Putin and our President.

A new Financial Times report tells us that Trump and Putin spoke for about 15 minutes, and did discuss a number of foreign policy issues, and then here's the key part, with no aides or U.S. translator President - present.

This news drops in the same day that the President's top Intelligence Chiefs publicly contradicted him on Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other key national security issues. You have to understand. These are two developments that we have never seen this way in a presidency before.

Phil Mudd brings me in right now, perfect guest for tonight. Thank you for making time.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: Sure.

CUOMO: You've been in these briefings. You've seen this happen.

First, the Russia news, the idea of a United States President going into a meeting with the Russian ruler, let alone Putin, without anybody else, without even an interpreter or a translator, how rare, how do you make sense of it?

MUDD: Well, you know, the President can do whatever he wants anywhere, anytime. I'd have a couple of questions.

Number one is a question of execution. The President makes decisions. He doesn't execute decisions. If he decides to do something in Syria, if he decides to do something related to Russia, in Eastern Europe - in Eastern Europe, if he decides to do something related to Russia on sanctions, who executes that?

The President doesn't. Who is supposed to act on the - on the decisions the President made? I mean there were other decisions.

Let me give you one specific one, the second point I would make, did the President tell the Russian leader something, an adversary, that is the Russians, before he told an Ally? For example, the President has talked about extracting the United States from Syria.

[21:15:00] Did he express to the Russian President Putin that the - that the United States was going to withdraw from Syria before he told the Turks? I - I don't know the answer to that, Chris, but we shouldn't--

CUOMO: Well nobody does.

MUDD: --we don't - but we shouldn't be asking that question.

CUOMO: That's right. That's the point.

MUDD: The answer should be we had told the Allies before we told Putin. I don't know the answer.

CUOMO: The transparency is the issue.

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: He doesn't have to tell me. He doesn't have to tell the media. But he should have his own people in there.

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: And he doesn't do this with other meetings with foreign leaders. And that adds to the curiosity.

Then, the other development, which is the Intelligence Chiefs. You've been in these meetings.

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: You've seen--

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: --these hearings and briefings. The idea that the Border wasn't top of their list, not new, it rarely enters into it. What's new is the President making it an existential crisis.

But what is also new, Phil, is give me some context, the idea of the Intel Chiefs going in there and saying, "Hey, the sitting President, he's wrong."

MUDD: Boy, this is - this is a painful moment, Chris. I was there 16, 17, 18 years ago, and we made a mistake.

The mistake was saying the American people whether they elect a president who's a Democrat or Republican, the American people elected that person. Our responsibility is both to report the facts, but also to support the President, who was elected by the American people.

Back before the Iraq War, I think we went too far towards saying, maybe if the President said Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, we should give him the evidence to say that. And people, including Vice President Cheney, cherry-picked us.

I thought today was a great moment for - for - for the American people, including the American Intelligence Community (ph). American Intelligence leaders said, look, we got burned before the Iraq War. We were too far out supporting American politicians. Today, I don't care what they say. The facts are the facts. We're

going to tell him here's the deal. And if it differs from what the President says, so be it, Chris.

CUOMO: That's interesting. I respect your candor about back then. And look, I remember it well because the country--

MUDD: It was tough.

CUOMO: --went bad on the media for a while because we were talking about yellowcake, and it being fake.

MUDD: Yes, it was tough.

CUOMO: And we were told - the American people were told that we were compromising our troops in harm's way by reporting this way. And the American people believed. And they were deceived. So, I respect the candor.

But what do you think is going on right now? Do you think this is making up for lessons learned in the past? Or do you think they perceive a specific need encountering what this President is putting out there?

MUDD: I don't think it's either, Chris. Let me make it - this real simple. Intelligence doesn't make policy, intelligence informs (ph) policy. You can tell the President the Russians are affecting American elections because they're interfering with Facebook and Twitter, the President can do whatever he wants.

You could tell the President, look, the North Koreans has - have not eliminated a single missile or an ounce of nuclear material, the President could do whatever he wants. You can tell the President there are thousands of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, the President can do whatever--

CUOMO: But they didn't tell him.

MUDD: --whatever he wants.

CUOMO: They did it in public.

MUDD: Yes, they did.

CUOMO: No, they did it in public is what I'm saying.

MUDD: Yes, but - you mean they haven't tell - told him in a - in a - in a briefing in the Oval Office?

CUOMO: I'm not saying they haven't. I'm saying--

MUDD: Oh, I'm sure they have.

CUOMO: --that I get. This part--

MUDD: My point is-- CUOMO: --I don't get. I've never heard this before.

MUDD: Yes. But my point is what they're saying is especially after getting burned on Iraq, we're going to tell the President the truth.

If he chooses, and that's his choice, he's the person elected by the American people to offer an arch - alternate truth to the American people, that's what he can do, and that's who they - who they can vote for.

But we're going to go to the American people too and say here are the facts. If he wants alternate facts, vote for him. That's not our problem.

CUOMO: Well but that's the new part. I've never seen that before.

MUDD: Yes, that's correct.

CUOMO: This is - this is new ground to see them coming out and counter a sitting president. Phil Mudd, thank you for the candor--

MUDD: Thank you.

CUOMO: --and for the perspective, always a pleasure.

All right, I want to go back to the big race that we started the show with. We are seeing immense enthusiasm already, certainly among Democrats. This is an election that they believe is existential that they need to unseat President Trump.

Now, that's powerful medicine in politics. That means that being anti is a big piece of what they want. But what else will it take?

You heard Kamala Harris, the Senator from California take a position on Medicare-for-All here on CNN. That goes very far, and is not going to be easily a point of consensus. Critics are pouncing.

But is there also an advantage for her in where she is right now? It's a great context for a great debate. Let's have it next.

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CUOMO: And thereof, the 2020 race is off and running, and the first real dust-up is going to be over this massive idea of what to do for healthcare. You're going to hear many on the Left talking about Medicare-for-All, but that can mean different things to different people.

Kamala Harris is taking heat from Republicans as well as folks like Schultz and Bloomberg, you know, the big shots with big bank accounts, who are on the outside as businessmen.

They're saying that last night, her support of getting rid entirely of private health insurance is too much. Let's debate what this means for a very crowded field.

We got Van Jones and David Urban, perfect pairing. Thank you, gentlemen. Good to have you both. So, Van--

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP 2016 CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER, LOBBYIST, POLITICAL OPERATIVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for having us.

CUOMO: --I - I liked what Gillum said. Gillum is a smart guy. And he wrestled with this issue down in Florida.

And I remember testing him on it, and he was like, "Look, I know the transition costs are big. You definitely need Medicare-for-All for the people who don't get insurance through their employers. We got to figure that out. Then, we have to figure out the cost savings." That's as far as he would go.

The idea of getting rid of private insurance, is that just ambitious or is that too much?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I - she's not saying get rid of private insurance for stuff you need insurance for. For instance, you need insurance for stuff that you aren't certain about.

For instance, fire insurance. You aren't certain if your house is going to catch on fire, so you get insurance. You need a farm insurance, crop insurance, you're not certain.

Here's one thing you're certain about. You are going to get sick. You are going to die. You - you don't need insurance for that. You don't need healthcare insurance, you need healthcare.

And so, be very clear. She's saying that for - it never made sense, and we're the only country that does this, to say that we are going to have an insurance program. FDR did this as a deal. He just did it as a deal to, try to, you know, appease his critics.

But in Europe, they have healthcare. They don't have healthcare insurance. They have healthcare. And she's trying to say, "Let's do that here." Now, is that too far for the American people? I don't know.

But nobody can explain to me, I know why you need insurance for your house burning down because you aren't sure if it's going to happen. I know why you need insurance for your crops, you don't know if they're going to fail. Why do you need insurance for something that everybody is already sure about?

And that's the argument against healthcare insurance as opposed to healthcare.

CUOMO: So, the strong point, Dave, is - is coverage. People need coverage.

URBAN: Really (ph).

CUOMO: The big question then becomes, how do you pay for it?

URBAN: Right.

CUOMO: And you saw Harris' idea. It makes you very happy.

URBAN: No, Chris, listen, and - and to Van's point, listen, those countries in Europe, they're called socialist countries, Van, right? They - they take--

JONES: No, they're called our Allies.

URBAN: No, no, they're not. The - Van, listen--

JONES: You can't (ph).

URBAN: Health - healthcare, listen, the healthcare, you know, mandatory coverage, healthcare, universal care for everyone, that's aspirational, right?

[21:25:00] But getting there, as Chris points out, you know, and pointed out with the numbers, Chris, that you showed early, you know, people don't want to pay for it.

Listen, free things are great. Everybody likes free until you ask them, "Are you willing to pay for it?" And people say--

JONES: We're already--

URBAN: --"You know what? I'm not willing to pay for it."

JONES: --paying for it.

URBAN: No, Van, listen, I agree.

There should be lots of - you shouldn't be - you know, healthcare costs should not be the highest, what - which door you walk in a hospital. You go in the emergency room, it's higher than if you walk in a - a clinic, that's - that's - that's ridiculous.

But that doesn't mean we need to scrap the whole system, close down private health insurance companies, and - and - and - and make the government run it all. That's not, you know--

JONES: Can I - let me just say something.

URBAN: --it's - it's - it's a philosophical disagreement Republicans and Democrats have. Republicans believe the free market does things better. Democrats believe the government does it better. It's a simple fact.

JONES: No, that's not true.

URBAN: Simple debate.

JONES: Listen, the - the free - the Democrats believe the free market does a whole bunch of stuff better, and should do it well-regulated and fair - fair to the people and fair to the workers, fair to the planet.

But there's some stuff the free market does not do well. It does not provide public education to kindergarteners very well. That's why we have a public education - education system. It does not, you know, provide for, yes, fire. It does not provide for police.

And in the every other advanced stuff we might (ph)--

CUOMO: Doesn't take care of dangerous prisoners well.

JONES: For--

CUOMO: You know, the private prison sector, they only do well with the low security and maybe medium security. That's why we do that--

JONES: Yes.

CUOMO: --as well. I get you. I get you but it's an alternative (ph).

URBAN: Listen. It's a - it's a debate. It's a debate. But it's a debate about (ph) costs.

CUOMO: But hold on, let me ask each of you a tough question, OK?

The tough question for you Van is, now, let's say you were to do that. Let's say your Party gets behind this model of single-payer. Healthcare or - oh, no, I'm sorry, health insurance for your purposes of how you distinguish the two, is one of if not the largest employer in this country.

You would be sweating millions and millions of jobs that you'd have to find a place for in that industry. If you got rid of private--

JONES: No.

CUOMO: --health insurance, you would have a lot of people looking for jobs, Van.

JONES: Can I tell you something? Can - can I--

CUOMO: What's your take on that?

JONES: --well I - well - well, first, the - what kind of jobs are you talking about? There are layers and layers of bureaucracy when you're trying to get - when you're actually trying to deal with your-- CUOMO: True.

JONES: --health insurance company. So, so, so--

CUOMO: But there's somebody's job.

JONES: --so, OK. Those are great jobs.

But look at the jobs that we aren't filling in healthcare. We need a massive expansion of the number of people who are - who are nurses, especially for the elderly, and we can't do it on the basis of what we have right now for millions and millions of people.

URBAN: Yes, but that doesn't mean you throw (ph) the whole system in.

JONES: And so, yes, you may - you may lose some bureaucrats. I will trade in bureaucrats for nurses any day.

URBAN: But you're just talking about putting on layers and layers of bureaucrats with the government-run health system.

JONES: No. Medicare is the most efficient--

URBAN: There's no bureaucrat--

CUOMO: All right, well now--

JONES: --Medicare is just (ph)--

CUOMO: --OK. Now, hold on. So, hold on, so now, here's the tough one--

JONES: --the most efficient and the most popular.

CUOMO: Go ahead. No, I hear you on that. I get you. I get you about the transferability of where they'll be need, and you'll have to transfer jobs. I hear you about that, valid answer.

Dave, tough question for you.

URBAN: Sure.

CUOMO: By getting rid of the mandate, you guys exposed the problem with healthcare. You didn't fix it. You exposed it. If you don't have the pool as big as we can get it, if it's just guys like us--

URBAN: Right.

CUOMO: --or just like you and me, it's going to be expensive. Van probably hasn't been to a doctor in 10 years. He's healthy as a horse.

But the - if we don't have the young guys in there--

URBAN: Right.

CUOMO: --the young men and women, and by--

URBAN: There's a problem.

CUOMO: --getting rid of the mandate, you created a problem. The costs are running crazy. This Administration has done nothing about them, whereas, this may be hyper ambitious, what are you guys going to present--

URBAN: Look, look, yes, listen--

CUOMO: --and the former President Trump that combats (ph)?

URBAN: --listen, Republicans have a failure of ideas here. That's why this is a - vacuum is being filled (ph), right.

There are - the - the - I - I am of the "Fix it. Don't trash it school," right? The - the overly ambitious Republican Congress should have tried to tweak what the Obama plan does, not throw it out.

There are - there are lots of common-sense things that can be done. And - and you don't have to scrap the entire system. I think there's - there's this false choice of either you have completely government- funded healthcare or you have a completely private system.

There's - there's probably - there's - there are many ideas that - that fall in the middle that are - that are very - that are very viable. And - and, unfortunately, it's an incredibly political issue, as you note, and - and the sides can't come together, just like they can't--

CUOMO: But there is no more important--

URBAN: --come together on Border security.

CUOMO: --domestic policy issue. Van--

URBAN: Yes.

CUOMO: --last point to you.

JONES: Yes, well listen, everybody knows immigration is an important issue. Donald Trump took out the most extreme position, the wall, the wall, the wall. And now, at least we have to talk about the issue.

I think when you take a strong position and a passionate position, the way that she did, I think it actually moves the debate in your direction. Hey, I don't - I have not heard her lay out how she would get there, what the transition time is.

She's got plenty of wiggle room to make this a little bit more palpable if she wants to, but I am proud that you got Democrats out there with strong answers for strong problems.

URBAN: Yes, but, you know, they're going to continue to - someone's going to come to her Left, Van. You know how this works. No one's going to - Republic - primaries aren't run to the center. They're run to the - the fringes of the parties.

CUOMO: Look--

JONES: If - if - if Democrats run to the aid of people who need to see doctors, if Democrats run to the aid of people who need to see nurses who can't see them right now, I'm - keep running, keep running.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what. I'll - I'll tell you what. Here's what we all agree on right now.

URBAN: I - I - I get it. At what cost?

CUOMO: No reason to be creating crises because we got plenty of real ones, and a cost of healthcare--

URBAN: And, Chris just--

CUOMO: --is one that's hitting people--

URBAN: Right.

CUOMO: --all over this country.

[21:30:00] URBAN: And - and smart people can sit down and solve this.

CUOMO: Well--

URBAN: This can be solved.

CUOMO: --that's true--

JONES: I agree with that.

CUOMO: --about a lot of things. And as you've said, politics often gets in the way and creates, shall we say, a wall to progress.

URBAN: False narrative.

CUOMO: All right, Brother Urban, Brother Jones, I love you guys. Thank you for making my show better.

URBAN: We love you back, Chris.

JONES: Thank you. We love you back (ph).

URBAN: We love you back.

JONES: We love you back, brother.

CUOMO: Not guilty! That was Roger Stone's moment. And his plea, once again, today, in front of a Judge, seven criminal charges in the Russia probe, he says, "No way. You can't get me."

The acting A.G. got some eye pops when he suggested that Mueller is almost finished. Why is he talking about this? And what did he mean by review? What is going on with this probe? What is the right way for these things to be handled?

Oh, ho boy, do we have a great guest for you to do that tonight. The man who did the job of Attorney General, Mr. Mukasey joins us next.

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CUOMO: The President is now putting distance between himself and Roger Stone. He didn't really work for the President on this campaign when it mattered. His longest political associate entered a guilty - not guilty plea today. He says you'll never get him.

[21:35:00] Then, the acting A.G. sparked outrage about reviewing the Mueller findings. What did he mean? Well his comments added fuel to a bipartisan push to make everything that ends up in Mueller's final report public.

So, there's lots to sort out with former Bush Attorney General, Mike Mukasey, always good to see you, sir.

MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: So, imagine that. He would never have entered a plea of guilty, that's for sure. Roger Stone believes--

MUKASEY: Not on--

CUOMO: --they'll never get him.

MUKASEY: --not on arraignment.

CUOMO: That's exactly for sure right? That would have been very odd.

So, the idea of just, in general, what's happening here, let's start with something that I need your help with because you did the job. When Mueller gives his report, as it says, a confidential report, to the A.G.--

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: --or the acting A.G., or whomever gets it, what review is allowed by the DOJ before it goes anywhere else?

MUKASEY: Well the - the - the regs authorize a public release of whatever can be publicly released. That's the determination of the Attorney General. As you've said, when it's given to the Attorney General, it's a confidential report. Also, if there's any recommendation that the Special Counsel makes

that the A.G. thinks he shouldn't follow, then the A.G. has to report to Congress about what those recommendations are, and why he's not following them.

But other than that--

CUOMO: So, there's built-in transparency even if he decided to negate what--

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: --Mueller says should be done and what is--

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: --he would have to go to Congress.

MUKASEY: OK. But under - understand there are things that are being done now. There are prosecutions that are being--

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: --handled now. So that, I think, is principally going to be the responsibility of the new Attorney General when he's confirmed as he will be, I think, in a couple of weeks.

CUOMO: Now, Barr said, "Hey look, my main influence here is to get the people as much as I can."

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: Do you think that happens? Do you think that there won't be a real question about how much of the Mueller report made its way to the media, and to the American people?

MUKASEY: Some people are going to raise questions no matter what he does unless he discloses every single comma and semicolon. But I don't think there's going to be a serious issue because he said, he's going to err on the side of - of disclosure, and I believe him.

CUOMO: And also, you got Congress as a check. Also--

MUKASEY: Correct.

CUOMO: --those committees are going to get whatever Mueller puts out.

MUKASEY: Now, what he might conceivably do, I suppose, and I don't know whether he's going to do it, is to delay the release of the report until the lawyers, for whoever's mentioned in the report and criticized, have a chance to look at it, and file a statement of their own, responding to it, so that you don't get one side before the other.

CUOMO: Could take a long time. MUKASEY: Not necessarily. I don't think this - I mean both sides been working on this for a while. I mean he can give him a week. He can give him four days, five days, whatever.

CUOMO: And that doesn't change the report. It just adds on--

MUKASEY: No.

CUOMO: --to it. There could be an appendix.

MUKASEY: Correct, right.

CUOMO: All right, all right, so I get that. Then, you have Whitaker saying, "Oh, yes, I think it's going to wrap up soon." Nobody has said anything. You wouldn't have said anything.

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: Why did he say that?

MUKASEY: I don't know why he said it. And that may just have been his sort of his offhand observation. I don't know what it's based on. I don't--

CUOMO: He said "I was just fully briefed."

MUKASEY: Yes, that I wouldn't - I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in that.

CUOMO: Why not?

MUKASEY: He's been fully briefed. But the question of whether that expectation is reasonable, based on the briefing he got, is something that nobody knows, including him.

CUOMO: All right, now, I want to put you in the position that you like least, which is we're owning, I want you to own the decisions of the President on this very important issue about disclosure to the American people about his meetings with Vladimir Putin.

Make the case for why it's OK that he keeps meeting with this man, and does things to conceal it not just from us, but from staff. How is it OK that he keeps doing this with just this man?

MUKASEY: Chris, thanks very much, but that case can't be made.

CUOMO: You must make it. That's why you're here.

MUKASEY: Yes, well, if you got somebody who apply thumbscrews, maybe you'll get it. But there are so many reasons not to do that that it's hard to know where to start.

CUOMO: I mean the idea of - I mean look, we all lived through Helsinki, right? I was there for that.

MUKASEY: Right. CUOMO: It's not the first time he did it. Twice, he denied his own Intelligence people and sided--

MUKASEY: Right.

CUOMO: --with Putin. He went in - now, we learned today that they went in and had a meeting that no record was released of. The Russian side released it, and he had nobody with him.

MUKASEY: You have no authoritative view of what happened at that meeting from our side. Any deal that's made, if a deal is made, isn't provable from our side. It's may be provable from theirs but not from ours. There is nothing to recommend it.

And then there's also suspicion about whether something was discussed relating to deals or whatever, which people have raised before.

CUOMO: The readout, again, it's from the Russian, so who knows how - how true it is. But the - the reporting says, they did discuss Syria, and then not long after the meeting, we saw that the President took a new position on Syria to pull out troops.

Right or wrong, it's just about the timing. So--

MUKASEY: To tell - to tell our adversary--

CUOMO: Before an Ally.

MUKASEY: --before we tell an Ally--

CUOMO: If that happened.

MUKASEY: --if it happened--

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: --if they discussed Syria and what was discussed was a dis - disclosure of what we were going (ph) to do.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: It'd be - it was before he told members of our own military.

[21:40:00] CUOMO: Right. Now, my early defense of this proposition, a few meetings ago, used to be, well maybe this is just his thumbing his nose at the media and saying, "Now, you guys make too much of everything I do with this guy. I'm not going to let you know anything."

But I can't make that case anymore because he keeps it quiet from his own people. And it's happened too many times. And the question becomes maybe I don't have any proof of a crime. Maybe Mueller doesn't have any proof of a crime.

But why do they keep lying about Russia and concealing things around Russia, the way the President and people around him do if there's nothing to hide?

MUKASEY: Some people - man, I used to have a client who would as one of - one of my partners said would - would lie when the truth would do. It may be that it's that, may be that he's just playing games. I don't know. And I'm not going to speculate here.

But I think it is, from a policy standpoint, and from an Operations standpoint, a disaster.

CUOMO: But also political, I mean look at Roger Stone. White House comes back, says nothing to do with the President. It can't have nothing to do with the President. Forget about the obvious.

MUKASEY: Yes. It--

CUOMO: It's his campaign.

MUKASEY: --it actually - it actually can have some - nothing to do with the President.

CUOMO: It's his campaign.

MUKASEY: That - that indictment, by the way, suggests the non- existence of a conspiracy, but go ahead.

CUOMO: How does it exist? How? How do you get to that?

MUKASEY: Two ways. Number one, you know the paragraph that everybody made a big deal about, about how somebody asked him--

CUOMO: Directed by - yes.

MUKASEY: --right. To go ask Assange what he had and when it was going to be released.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: If there was a conspiracy, Chris, he would have known what he had, and when it was going to be released. That's what--

CUOMO: You're talking about to (ph) satisfy the criminal definition.

MUKASEY: Yes.

CUOMO: Yes, but see, that's not my standard. That has never, as you know, this is never - but I get it that it's yours. But I think it's too convenient--

MUKASEY: But it's--

CUOMO: --a standard.

MUKASEY: --but it's - it's Mueller's standard. That's what he was sent--

CUOMO: For a crime. MUKASEY: --to do.

CUOMO: Well, no, no. When you look at the readout for him, yes, he's looking for crimes, but he's also looking for coordination--

MUKASEY: No, he was--

CUOMO: --and proof of contact.

MUKASEY: Not at all. He--

CUOMO: It's right in the mandate.

MUKASEY: --he may be a - no, the mandate was to investigate criminal violations.

CUOMO: That is in there under the main statute. But the actual directive says to look for proof of coordination or contact. And I'm just saying let's say there is no crime, there's no conspiracy.

What I'm saying is if you knew that your guy was going to Assange to try to get the WikiLeaks information early to help your campaign, and you told us you never knew anything about it, that is political malpractice. And that is something that could spark political action against you because--

MUKASEY: Correct. If it's sparks (ph)--

CUOMO: --high (ph) crimes of misdemeanors is just a non-existent legal standard.

MUKASEY: Well, it's not - it's not a legal standard.

CUOMO: That's right.

MUKASEY: But it is - it is a - it is a political standard with--

CUOMO: That's right.

MUKASEY: --with a meaning.

CUOMO: What are you looking for in there? What do you have?

MUKASEY: I was just checking (ph)--

CUOMO: You were looking for the mandate. I'm telling you--

MUKASEY: Correct.

CUOMO: --I put it up on the screen many times.

MUKASEY: Correct.

CUOMO: You're right that the Special Counsel Law that Section 600 or whatever says you're looking for crimes in this area. But--

MUKASEY: No, I'm talking about the letter that Rod Rosenstein--

CUOMO: Yes, the letter says, look for, I'm telling you--

MUKASEY: --sent.

CUOMO: --I'll bet you lunch that it says look for proof of coordination or contact. And I'm just saying, the idea that it has to be a felony to be wrong to me doesn't pass political muster.

MUKASEY: No. You don't appoint a Special Counsel to look for anything other than defined crimes. You look--

CUOMO: I know. When this report comes out, if it's the case that the President's guys were trying to get an advance, to help their campaign, of Russian ill-gotten gains, and he knew about it, and lied to us, it's a big deal.

MUKASEY: It's a big deal. The question is whether it's an impeachable deal. I don't know that it is.

CUOMO: Understood. Because that's going to be about political will--

MUKASEY: Right. But the - but the--

CUOMO: --and what the people want.

MUKASEY: --but the stuff in there suggesting that they were looking for or that he was asked that he would - that Stone talked about getting information that could only have been on Hillary Clinton's server, we never got that. That suggests that he didn't know what he was talking about.

CUOMO: Maybe. That's always a case. But I'll tell you what. They were searching for other communications for a reason, the Feds, because based on that indictment, they have all the proof they need already to make a case against him for - for false statements. So, I wonder what else they were looking for.

MUKASEY: I think - I think he's--

CUOMO: We'll have to see.

MUKASEY: --yes. The false statements things are kind of beside the point. The point is conspiracy.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: And there's no proof of that--

CUOMO: Well, he wasn't charged with it, either.

MUKASEY: Correct. Nobody's been charged with it yet.

CUOMO: But again, that assumes that the only thing that matters is that a felony was created. And if there wasn't a felony committed--

MUKASEY: Well--

CUOMO: --then everything's OK.

MUKASEY: It's the only - the only thing that matters to a Special Counsel.

CUOMO: Hmm, not to the American people.

Mr. Mukasey, always a pleasure.

MUKASEY: Great to see you (ph).

CUOMO: I always seem to lose. And yet, I feel good about that--

MUKASEY: No, you don't. No, you don't.

CUOMO: --at the end of all of this.

MUKASEY: It's - it's--

CUOMO: Now, I appreciate you helping the audience. These are complex things.

MUKASEY: Thanks.

CUOMO: And you help us see through the chaos. I appreciate it.

MUKASEY: I enjoy it. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so it's wintertime. You know what that means. It's cold, in some places, really cold. How could there possibly be global warming if it's so cold outside? Huh!

It's not me. That's the President. Yes, that's what he said, and now here comes science, next.

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CUOMO: A polar vortex. That's cold air recirculating again and again in one area, it's gripping much of the north, and it means record- smashing cold. Look at the numbers on your screen. Holy Moly!

So, the President sees this, and it prompts him to tweet the following. "In the beautiful Midwest, wind chill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can't last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!"

I give him points for hell and global warming. I wonder if that was intentional. And spelling, well, that's extra credit for this President. So, we'll assume we know what he's talking about.

Facts first, climate change hasn't gone anywhere. Weather and climate, OK, you have to separate those a little bit in the analysis. You can Google it.

Even his own government agency, NOAA, had to correct him. Again, the Intel Chiefs weren't enough. "Winter storms don't prove that global warming isn't happening."

Let's bring in D. Lemon. This is an argument that--

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DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Oh, my gosh (ph).

CUOMO: You should have been like in shorts and like bermudas and been like, it's still global warming, it's still too hot. That's a nice hat.

LEMON: It's for Kevin. It's for my trusty Floor Director here. Here you go, buddy!

CUOMO: Oh, he's - the good-looking - the guy looks like Wolverine.

LEMON: He looks like, yes, and they call him Hugh Jackman.

CUOMO: Yes, I know. So, this is an argument that I should be having with Cha-Cha.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: You know, but Daddy, it's cold outside. There is no global warming.

LEMON: Well that's--

CUOMO: He turns nine--

LEMON: OK. So here's the thing.

CUOMO: --in a few days.

LEMON: This is why, I think, it's important to refer to it as climate change, right, because then people think, "Oh, my gosh, you know, it's always got to be warm. And if it snows - and it's" - I don't think he understands.

Not only, as you said, NOAA is saying the President is wrong. His own Intel community is saying he's wrong. Here's what they say, right, this is from the Intelligence community.

"In a written assessment of worldwide threats, the U.S. Intelligence community laid out the potential security challenges posed by climate change, including threats to public health, historic levels of human displacement, assault on religious freedom, and the negative effects of the environment - of environmental degradation."

[21:50:00] So, the Intelligence community is saying that he is wrong about it. I don't think he understands it because maybe he does just doesn't understand the science. He doesn't want to believe in. And he's rather believes in his (ph)--

CUOMO: He thinks that there is some raw--

LEMON: --people.

CUOMO: --value in being contrary that if you go against--

LEMON: Well--

CUOMO: --what "They" say that somehow you, you know, you're - you're striking a blow for the regular guy who doesn't want to have it put upon by all of these Big Brother arms all the time. That's his best defense, and it's a terrible one.

LEMON: Well maybe he's just playing to a crowd. Maybe he's just reading the room and he understands that his folks don't want climate change to be real. So, he's trying to re-confirm their beliefs already.

It could just be that simple because it would - it would be stunning that anyone who has any knowledge in any education that they wouldn't believe in actual science and scientists. I, you know--

CUOMO: Stunning is the word.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: What's the big sell for your show D. Lemon?

LEMON: That's part of it. How much time we spent fact-checking this President, not only on issues like global warming or climate change, but on what's happening in North Korea, what's happening with ISIS, what's happening in Russia and on and on, we got a lot of folks that are talking about that, that is a good part of our show, and I think people want to tune in to see it.

CUOMO: A 100 percent. I'll talk to you in a second.

LEMON: See you. It's cold in here, man.

CUOMO: Give him the cold shoulder.

All right. So, the President has a bad habit of diminishing global threats. Russia is another prime example. But the big question is the one that you hear us talk about often, and

I have new proof for you of the same suggestion. Why do you keep showing so much deference to just this one leader from Russia? Why are there so many lies about something that doesn't matter?

The latest evidence, next.

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CUOMO: If you did nothing wrong, then why aren't you telling me the truth? That's what we tell our kids, right, so they know to just come clean. You know the drill. Well, the President apparently does not.

So, why all the secrecy around Russia and Putin? Here's the most recent example, the G20 in Buenos Aires. We were told there'll be no meeting because of what the Russian Navy did to the Ukraine. OK. But they did end up talking over dinner. No word to us.

Now, a Russian official tells Financial Times that the leaders spoke for 15 minutes, and they talked about Syria. Why does that matter? 19 days later, Trump stunned everyone by announcing a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

Now, the two first met at the Hamburg G20 in July 2017 when Trump took away his interpreter's notes. That night, they met again at this dinner. Trump signals to Putin from across the table. Then they talk. The only other person in the conversation, Putin's translator.

And then, there were the big WTFs where the President did something we have never seen before. After meeting with Putin in November 2017, our President took the word of an inimical power over the word of his own Intel agencies about election interference. He told reporters then, "Every time he sees me, he says, "I didn't do

that." And I really and I believe - I - I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it."

He was admonished by the media, elected officials on both sides of the aisle, and his Intel folks. So, of course, he doubled down on a dumb move. July 2018, he meets with Putin in Helsinki. No one there but interpreters. Even now, some of his own people are still in the dark about what happened.

And then afterwards, the President of the United States said this.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

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CUOMO: I was there. World media and locals in Helsinki stopped me, and shook their heads. So look, just put it all together.

First, POTUS told you there were no contacts with Russia by his campaign. There were dozens. How did he not know?

Next he said there was no collusion with anyone around him and Russia. Then his kid met with a known Russian government operative to get dirt on Clinton with his son-in-law and Campaign Chair, he says he didn't know about the meeting. Then, they all lied about POTUS drafting this statement about the meeting. How could he have not known?

Then his two oldest advisers, Manafort and Stone, he's known them close to 40 years, they get accused by Mueller of mixing with the bad guys, and the word from the White House, "He didn't know."

Why does Putin command such deference and secrecy from and by our President? The lesson we all learn as kids looms large here. If the President has nothing to hide, why lie? Why do the President and those close to him keep lying about Russia-related matters?

What did the President know about all that happened around him and for him? We need to know. And whether the Attorney General is Whitaker or Barr, no matter what they told the President to get the job, they will hopefully remember that they work for all of us, not just the President.

Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight With Don Lemon starts right now.

LEMON: But not even good lies, right? Not even like sometimes plausible ones, just you're like "Well, that's so outrageous, maybe it's true." I mean, you know what I'm saying?

CUOMO: I think, you know, I was talking to Mike Mukasey, who was the A.G. under George W. Bush.

And it is an interesting theory that I don't know what's more frightening that they're not telling the truth, because they're hiding things that they know they did that they shouldn't have done--