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Federal Prosecutors Seek Interviews With Trump Org Execs; Trump Faces First Divided Congress For SOTU; Trump Gives Women Of Congress A Shout-Out In SOTU; Fed Prosecutors Seek Interviews With Trump Org Execs. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired February 6, 2019 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Join us as we unpack the State of the Union. And there are criminal probes widening that could potentially put the Trump presidency in peril maybe, maybe more than the Mueller probe. Why are federal prosecutors now seeking interviews with executives from the President's family business? We're going to take it up with Anthony Scaramucci.
And something is surfaced that could be a huge problem for Elizabeth Warren if she's hoping to be the one to make it out of the Democratic scrum in 2020. We're going to show it to you. It's a big night. What do you say? Let's get after it.
The President made his first appearance tonight before the new Congress that now has the power to keep his presidency in check. Here's a slice of one of his pitches for unity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: He also used the opportunity to rail against his newfound oversight warning Democrats don't investigate me too much. He doesn't only have Democrats to worry about by the way. The President's inaugural committee was just ordered to turn over documents by subpoena, right? Donors, finances, activities about who was giving and how and what did they get back. These are federal prosecutors who want to know this.
We're learning they've also requested interviews in recent weeks with executives at the Trump family organization. Lots more to be concerned about than just Democrats and that Russia probe. Let's bring in his former White House Communications Director.
CUOMO: Joining us now Anthony Scaramucci. Good to see you. Thank you for coming in. It's a late hour. I appreciate it.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE: Pleasure to be here, Chris. Thanks for having me.
CUOMO: So give him a grade, State of the Union.
SCARAMUCCI: You know, for the President in a teleprompter speech like that without a rally, I give him you know, B plus, A minus. He did pretty well. I mean, at the end of the day, no real gaffes. No one said everything and I open up with tomorrow. He is -- if you read the speech which I read the speech and also watched it, there's a lot of things in there that are universally American. The applauding for a cancer survivors, the reminiscence of the moon landing and stuff that took place in World War Two.
CUOMO: Things everybody could get together.
SCARAMUCCI: Yes. So he was really trying to find identifying totems that all of us were going to get together. I would have loved to have seen him said, OK, listen, I need some help on the wall and border security and let's cut a real deal on the dream --
CUOMO: He stuck to the regular line on that which is the wall is so necessary because of these things. So what's the calculation there? Is that just the base plate because he knows that half the room doesn't agree with his argument. Yes. So he's now -- he go to figure it out. He's spinning a Rubik's Cube right now. He's got to keep his base engaged. He can't have them not vote, right? So they have to turn out.
They're not going to vote for the Democratic nominee but they could walk away from the polls in 2020. He's got to keep the base engaged and then he has to seek out more moderates and independents sort of that coalition that helped them win in 2016. And so right now that speech was a real setup for the 2020 campaign.
CUOMO: So here's what has happened as I see it. You tell me if I have it wrong. The Democrats were offering money for physical barriers, right? Not as much as he wanted but it was -- and that's not new. They've always offered money for physical barriers until now. He's made the wall such a single priority that it does seem that their political calculus has changed and they don't want to give him any for it to deny him the win even though they had money $1.8 billion on the wall. So what does he do? They had 1.8 on the table. He walked away from it.
CUOMO: Now they're saying you get none. We'll give you border security, not the wall.
SCARAMUCCI: So they're actually playing right into his hands. If they were smart, they would give him something right here because --
CUOMO: On the -- on the physical barriers?
SCARAMUCCI: Yes. I'm going to explain why. Because what will end up happening is he'll push, he'll push, he'll push. Then he'll turn to his base and say, see, I told you. You still have to stay with me. Look at how recalcitrant these people are. Look at how difficult it is to deal with them. And so he's not there yet.
The reason why he pulled back -- you know, Ann Coulter gets blamed or Lou Dobbs or people like that, but it's him. It's his political instincts and his judgment. He's big-time worried. I think I may have told you I had lunch with General Kelly on Thursday.
CUOMO: Oh you did.
SCARAMUCCI: Yes. So you know, the general I buried the hatchet, I called him. I apologized. Look I had you know, a miscue and it was a fireable offense, and you know, we had a good spirited conversation. But he said something and I don't think he would mind me saying this on the air, is that the President has to make sure that that base stays with him and goes to the to the voting booth.
Many of those people when you look at these statistics, they didn't vote in the last two elections. When they saw the president coming in, they said OK, there's finally a champion of our interests, let's turnout at the polls. And so, if he pushes Speaker Pelosi or Senator Schumer and they don't help him, then he can turn to those people say, hey, listen, I did the best I could. You still have to turn up at the polls.
So he felt that trip wire with Coulter and Dobbs and that's why he went back into the bucket there. So yes, if he wins the reelection, you and I will analyze the 35 days shut down, right now doesn't look terrific but you'll analyze it and say OK, at least we have some understanding of the instincts of why he did it.
[01:05:26] CUOMO: Well, we'll see. One quick thing. Did the general tell you he was sorry he fired you or why he did it?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I mean, I don't want -- I don't want to speak for him. Let's put it this way. We had a good understanding, we buried the hatchet. I've been very public about that. I don't think I needed to be fired the way I did. I didn't need to get exploded out of the seat like I was a villain in the Austin Powers movie.
CUOMO: Why did you want to meet with him, because arguably you got reason to be upset?
SCARAMUCCI: My mother is Roman Catholic, I think your mother is Roman Catholic and my 83 year old mother was insisted that I met with him. That's what I'm told. When I walked into the meeting, I said, hey, you know, our first conversation lasted three minutes. You did all the talking, I did all the packing. I said, but let's try to develop a relationship from here, you know. And I liked him.
You know, he's an American -- hey Chris, here's the message, OK. He's an American patriot, tried to serve the country in the White House. He did a good job and he obviously served the country as a U.S. Marine for 40 years. He's made a supreme sacrifice for the nation. He's a gold star family member. And for me, I think it was important to reach out to him. So I feel good about it. I hope he feels as good about it as I do. CUOMO: Good for you. All right, let me play one piece of sound from
tonight and then I want to use it as a pivot into a situation we're dealing with the President. Let's play the sound from the speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.
If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right, so it rhymes so obviously they thought about that.
SCARAMUCCI: Who likes that?
CUOMO: Now, as an idea --
SCARAMUCCI: You'd build the wall, crime will fall.
CUOMO: Yes, right. The premise in both analogies that rhyme is little specious. Now here's the want or the reason on this one. He's got a lot of investigations going on that the right wants to write it off as well this is political payback. We haven't seen that any of these are gratuitous yet. The one that is piquing my interest is this inaugural committee. Do you know anything about that committee? You weren't on it. I know they hit you up -- oh, you were on the committee right? Because I know they were hitting you up for money.
SCARAMUCCI: I was on the inaugural committee. I donated money to it. I need to go back and look at exactly what I donated but it's listed somewhere.
CUOMO: You get a subpoena?
SCARAMUCCI: I did not get a subpoena. I wasn't involved in what I think happened there. And so the way it's been described is that there was some money that came in from foreign entities and there were some people that were at the inaugural that I guess shouldn't have been at the inaugural. I wasn't anywhere near any of that stuff so I didn't get a subpoena. I'm not saying I won't get a subpoena. And if I do get a subpoena, I'm very happy to testify or talk to whoever I need -- I need to talk to.
CUOMO: Did you know that foreign money was coming in?
SCARAMUCCI: I did not know.
CUOMO: Did you hear anything about that, that there was concern about it?
SCARAMUCCI: I did not. I did hear -- you know, we get -- we definitely got a compliance speech either at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. or maybe it was in Trump Tower that you can't take foreign money and you have to be very, very careful.
You know, what I did, frankly, is I went back to my hedge fund managers and I called the dependents donation. I said, look, they didn't really support the President during the campaign --
CUOMO: Not on unusual --
SCARAMUCCI: You know, it was -- it was it was a penance donation. And so, I mean, a lot of those guys did write checks and so I sort of stuck to my close network of financial services --
CUOMO: There's nothing wrong with raising money. It's part of that business. It's who gives it to you and what they get back.
SCARAMUCCI: I understand it. So listen -- but again, I mean in fairness of the President, I'm not sure how much that touches him. Trust me, I don't think he was involved. If all of -- let's stipulate that all of it is true, I don't think he was involved in any of it. So I don't think it's fair to attach him to it.
CUOMO: Do you know about this Stephanie Winston Wolkoff?
SCARAMUCCI: I don't. She the person who made like this $25 million, something like that.
CUOMO: Yes, $26 million.
SCARAMUCCI: So what I would say about that --
CUOMO: The entities that she control.
SCARAMUCCI: OK. So again, the story that I heard and I think I've met with Stephanie once, was that the entities that she controlled, she got the money in a block and she had to pay out an enormous amount of that money so she didn't make the $25 million. but here's the thing --
CUOMO: Well, no -- right. The entities that she I think made $1.6 million which is a nice -- a nice a take from an inauguration.
SCARAMUCCI: Look at what these political consultants make on these campaigns, Chris. I mean, it's enormous. And so --
CUOMO: True. But do you think the SDNY probe is a legit probe?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I have to say that it's a legit probe. Everything that I understand about the United States and the rule of law and my experience having gone to law school and having worked with lawyers and having had friends of mine from law school work there, I would have to say that that's a legitimate probe.
I would say that the Whitewater situation 20 years ago, I think there was some speciousness to that probe and I think there's got to be elements of that going on in the probes around the President. So to me I think there's a blend of probes. Some of them are legitimate and they're following the rule of law and there's right rules of evidence and all the different trip wires that you need to prosecute somebody. And some of it is probably some political --
[01:10:26] CUOMO: But like what at this point do we feel is gratuitous? Like what are they looking at with this president that's gratuitous?
SCARAMUCCI: What I would -- at this point I'm super interested if the Mueller report is going to be released. Let's assume it is. Did the president collude with the Russians.
CUOMO: What about if he knew that some of the money coming in was a little funny?
SCARAMUCCI: OK, so that's -- OK, so that's a --
CUOMO: What if he knew what Stone is doing, what Manafort was doing?
SCARAMUCCI: OK, so that's a Nixonian thing, right?
CUOMO: No, not even. Not even.
SCARAMUCCI: Yes, but when did the -- when did the president or the candidate know -- no I understand. It wouldn't look right.
CUOMO: But they had Nixon on a crime. They have him on a crime but it could still be --
SCARAMUCCI: I understand but you and I were both with the law school. There's the letter of the law and there's the spirit of the law.
SCARAMUCCI: And so you'd be in that area, that bridge where the spirit of the law is being violated. It won't look good for the president. So will he escape it? Will he be exonerated? I predict that he will. I think that the Democrats if they want to get rid of the President Trump, they have to beat him at the ballot box. They have to come up with a credible candidate to be in at the ballot box.
But he seemed very tough to beat because a sitting president in a rising economy, Chris. You can go all the way back.
CUOMO: It's true, very tough to beat.
SCARAMUCCI: You can't dislodge a sitting president in a rising economy. So -- and he's a very formidable campaigner and he's also the -- talking about the NFL, this guy is the verbal NFL. He's coming across the debate stage like Ronnie Lott did the secondary. I mean he is the verbal sparring --
CUOMO: There's no question. Whoever gets against him, it's going to be a food fight.
SCARAMUCCI: Whoever gets against an internationally-recognized nickname for the rest of the world. That's why you and I should stay on the right side of this, Chris. I don't feel I get nicknamed.
CUOMO: Well, I think it's too late for me, but Anthony I'll just keep doing my job and thank you for helping me do it.
SCARAMUCCI: It's great to be here.
CUOMO: Always a pleasure.
CUOMO: All right, we had some campaign news break just before the speech tonight. Senator Elizabeth Warren's team is now doing damage control after she once went on the record identifying herself as an American Indian. Does this matter? If so, how much? Our brain trust of political minds will tackle this next.
[01:16:00] CUOMO: So what was tonight about? It was about the president, obviously, and his agenda, what he's accomplished, and there was a message in there about his desire to work with Democrats on a number of bases. But in the crowd, there was another group sharing the spotlight. There was a sea of women dressed in white. Why? Tribute to women's suffrage.
They erupted in cheers when the president acknowledged women in the workforce and when the president said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Don't sit yet. You will like this. And exactly one century after Congress passed, the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: It is interesting because most of the women cheering are those who are vehemently opposed to him. And almost all of them were on the Democratic side, and they started saying, "On this side, on this side." David Gergen, S.E. Cupp, and Chris Cillizza are back here with me.
So now, what is -- Chris, let me start with you this time. The significance of that. The president obviously was trying to make it just a net positive.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes.
CUOMO: You know, we have more women, that's good, period. Let me try and get some of that love. They obviously were standing up in opposition to him. What is the meaning ultimately?
CILLIZZA: Yes, so fascinating because -- you know, Trump is celebrating them in one way, but the reason there are so many more women in Congress -- at least, one of the big reasons is because they were motivated to run by Donald Trump's victory in 2016 and spurred to victory in many cases by women voting for them against Donald Trump. That said, he is -- I think he is bad, generally speaking, reading off of a teleprompter in a very formal setting. It's just not what he's good at. He's good at in riffing more. I actually think that moment surprised them a little bit right he said, I didn't expect it, right? And then --
CUOMO: You said you weren't supposed to do that.
CILLIZZA: He actually to his credit, for someone who sometimes his asides are disastrous politically, he was actually fine congratulations. You know, he was as good as he can be in a setting like that reason. Not naturally comfortable and what he's taken aback a little bit by people sort of seizing what he thought was going to be the moment, kind of seizing it from him. He was -- I spray the first time I've ever said this about Donald Trump, relatively gracious in that moment.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought -- I thought he was very gracious.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Because --
CUPP: You know, he was poised. He showed uncharacteristic and uncharacteristic sense of humor in that moment. And I thought --
CILLIZZA: About himself, which he never does, right?
CUPP: Yes. Well, I thought he was almost self-effacing.
CUPP: And it could have gone in a -- in a very different direction. I heard about this earlier because I thought it was one of the most remarkable moments in that, that moment, he showed this poise and some graciousness either because he didn't realize the irony of this moment that they are there because women came out largely -- women came out to vote against his policies and Republicans. Or he didn't believe that the two things were connected to his presidency.
CUPP: And their midterm success.
CUPP: Or wasn't thinking that deeply about it in the moment. Whatever it was, it worked on many layers, and I mean, I could -- I could analyze that 30 seconds, that minute, probably for days.
CILLIZZA: And it's the moment I do think we're talking about it, I think the morning show that, that the women high-fiving and hugging in him there and not being offensive in that moment. CUPP: You'll say congratulations. That's great.
CILLIZZA: Will be the thing to the extent that you remember something.
CILLIZZA: It may be the line about -- you know, peace and war, and you can have investigations. That I think is probably your second victory. Your big story is that visual moment.
CUPP: It really was.
CUOMO: Right. But also, look, we got a point of contrast here. They were liking that, right?
[01:20:04] GERGEN: Sure.
CUOMO: Recognizing the reality. But then, when he was talking about the codification of Roe v. Wade at the state levels and called it infanticide.
CUOMO: And when they cut to the faces, very different reaction.
GERGEN: Very solemn, yes. Let me put the real, warm, and let's assure a broader context. Because I thought this was the smartest speech of his presidency. And that assure there was plenty of red meat for the base on a portion and a wall, and you go down the list. And he'd made some additional outrageous statements like. "If I hadn't been elected president, what would Korea -- North Korea are they?
CILLIZZA: We would be at war with North Korea.
GERGEN: You know -- it's not -- outrageous statement. But I thought for the first time, he actually tied to see in a serious way, appeal beyond his base. Go for the moderates. And you goes back here to conversation with Scaramucci, earlier. That this is a -- this is a pathway to 2020. When he wants to keep his base.
But he knows in order to win, he's got to get some moderates in. And he did some things tonight we have not heard. Paid maternity leave, that coming from Donald Trump? I didn't -- but childhood cancer, the HIV/AIDS, we're going to -- we're going to conquer this epidemic in 10 years?
There are a lot of things in there that went from the cold, uncaring Donald Trump to a warm -- more warmhearted person. I think it may be too late.
CUPP: Well, it -- it's -- It is.
CUOMO: Yes, I saw your -- I saw your tweet about that. That the people he's reaching out to may have already made a decision. Look, he does have to deal with a very stark contrast between what he says in moment like that and how he behaves on a regular basis. There's also a second exigency, you know this well as a message master.
GERGEN: I do.
CUOMO: Saying it, good. Doing it, better.
CUOMO: And those are some tough ticket items he has there. I don't know what he can get done right now.
CUPP: I mean, there's two things. It's a little late, and it's not believable. You know this is a guy who told us as a candidate, America is not that great. In fact, we need to return it to greatness. And he spent most of the first two years of his presidency telling us why X institution, free press, you know, law and order, not that great either.
Now, his newly discovered fondness for the country seems phoned in and phony. And thirdly, I'm not sure it's what anyone wants. Ann Coulter has already weighed in, she hated the speech. His -- like diehard supporters do not want comity from this president. His detractors don't want Democrats to reach out across the --
CUOMO: Comity. C-O-M-I-T-Y?
CUPP: Correct. Don't want unity. They want him to go after. I know you did.
GERGEN: Well, that's right.
CUPP: They don't want -- they want -- they want Democrats to go after the president as well.
CUPP: And I -- it's my sense that everyone else in the middle thinks the lot of them can all go away. I just don't -- I think it was unnatural and unnecessary.
CILLIZZA: Yes, because what is -- his natural state I think is more -- I mean, we played this earlier in the day on something else, I had forgotten he said this. He literally says during the campaign, "The American dream is dead."
CILLIZZA: To S.E.'s point. And then, during his inauguration, how could you not remember the -- this American carnage. That I think is his more natural state. I will say this though. Pick this speech up. Read this -- it's impossible. You're an alien, you lend this plenty -- read -- you've learned the language, you read the speech.
CUOMO: If there are wall, you'd never get in, by the way.
CILLIZZA: Good point. Well, it have to be a space wall. That's what space force is for. The -- but if you -- if you read the speech, take Donald Trump out of it. I think you -- this is the to David's point, there's a lot in there that I think, a random Democrat, if I showed it to mixed it, what do you think of this? They said, now, do you -- some of the abortion stuff, obviously. But you can't separate the two?
CUOMO: We can work with this. But to David's point as you said on Twitter -- You got to take the mess now. What did Kellyanne say? "Don't pay attention to messenger, just pay attention to the message.
But they really do go together as companions.
GERGEN: Absolutely. You know, I think that -- I think, S.E. is absolutely right. Right now, people going to think he was (INAUDIBLE). It didn't seem like the real Trump, it looks something like some speechwriter, giving him a speech, and when I read it.
GERGEN: And it was his heart wasn't in it. And soul wasn't in his speech.
CUPP: It was an attempted Capra in there.
GERGEN: Yes. But people -- but what I am saying is that thinking --
CUPP: But it would Donald Trump is not Capra or Mr. Smith.
GERGEN: What it seems to me is -- there -- is this White House may be trying to pivot to a different direction, and maybe they can pull it off. I think it's awfully late.
CUPP: Yes, yes.
GERGEN: But, had this been the tone and tenor of this inaugural address?
GERGEN: And of a speech in 2017?
GERGEN: He would be a very different presidency.
CUPP: Yes, yes.
CUOMO: One of the things, when we talk about discipline, you know, often we discuss a political culture and behavior in ways that make sense to us but doesn't translate into how people live their lives.
But consistency people get in life. And the greatest problem for the president is -- you couldn't look it at it as a skill on one level. He has a great ability to pivot in a moment. His lens though is always self --
CUPP: Remarkably consistent.
CUOMO: Right. It's self-protective.
CILLIZZA: And it's heavy on us -- it's heavy on us. If you persist today has nothing to do with yesterday or tomorrow.
[01:25:00] CUOMO: That's right. So the trick for him is what you say is the authenticity -- the believability because of the inconsistency. But let's pick up this point. Let's take a break, we'll come back, and figure out where this leaves the president tonight. Where this leaves is opposition. And then, there is a big piece of news about Senator Warren. Don't yell at me. It is the news we'll figure out what it means when we come back.
CUOMO: All right, the president was doing a little kumbaya but not too much. Tonight, he railed against investigations he rhymed. So, you know it was intentional. But the State of the Union part of it was also a warning. OK?
And we had news today, and if it's any indication, the president wasn't just talking about Bob Mueller and those investigations. It's also likely a reference to the work of federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. OK? In recent weeks, they've called up Trump Organization execs for interviews. They've also hit the Trump inaugural committee with subpoena.
A lot of people are conflating these. They could be too -- we know there are separate investigations. They could dovetail, but they're separate as well. David Gergen, S.E. Cupp, and Chris Cillizza are back with me. We have two developments. We have this SDNY stuff to talk about with the president. We also have will come out -- came out about Elizabeth Warren. We should touch on both.
[01:29:20] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right.
The President was doing a little kumbaya but not too much. Tonight he railed against investigations, he rhymed, so you know it was intentional. But that State of the Union, part of it was also a warning, ok. And we had news today and if it's any indication the President wasn't just talking about Bob Mueller and those investigations but also likely a reference to the work of federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York -- ok.
In recent weeks, they've called up Trump Organization execs for interviews. They've also hit the Trump Inaugural Committee with subpoena. A lot of people are conflating these. They could be -- we know they're separate investigations. They could dovetail but they're separate as well.
David Gergen, S.E. Cupp and Chris Cillizza are back with me.
We have two developments. We have this SDNY stuff to talk about with the President. We also have what came out about Elizabeth Warren. We should touch on both.
Now, Chris Christie said, David -- I'm more worried about those probes than I am the Mueller probe. Why?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it could be easier to prove, you know. If you're a foreigner giving money and they've got records, you may be able to find things much more rapidly than you could in these very complex situation.
I do think that we ought to be a little cautious about assuming that they're going to find wrongdoing.
GERGEN: I mean Tom Barrett who ran the inaugural has a reputation, and I think it's well-earned, of being one of the honest people around Trump as well as being a good CEO.
CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE) that he have control of everybody and what they were doing.
GERGEN: I think that's right. My understanding is that he would argue that yes, he did have control and he ran a pretty tight ship. But there were some things that were beyond his control that may have happened and he may not even know about.
CUOMO: Caution is always the right instruction. David is 100 percent.
However here's why I would be a little worried, ok. The Southern District had a couple of big wins on this. There is politics at play. I'm not saying to go after Trump but there is an optic about I don't care what they say. There's an optic about we're doing great here. Let's not go after something and miss because it will make everything that we did look like it was fugazy. And I think that's part of what your calculus has to be here also.
I know that we're not supposed to say that. I know they'll say it's not political it's just about the law and the facts. But let's be honest. CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: There's a momentum to these
things and they're not -- for everything that you see, they're not unaware of sort of the way in which they are perceived, the way in which it lands in the broader political environment dealing with the President of the United States' company, you know, or former company I suppose. It's run by his sons.
CUOMO: Right. The suggestion of the investigation is pretty obvious. It is we want to look at everybody who gave money and what they got. And that's why they want it to in the dovetailing with the Trump Organization. We want to see who gave money, how it came in and what people got for it -- just allegations.
CILLIZZA: And the question is how do you prove that? Because lots of donors to Democrats and Republicans give money because they are aware that that money helps them get access either to the candidate or bend the candidate's ear on something.
CUOMO: Did a guy from the Saudi family give you money to give to me for my inauguration?
CILLIZZA: Now, that's just the as if -- I can't imagine they would do this but as if I write you e-mail and say "Hey Cuomo, I'll give $200,000 to the Trump inaugural but you need to do x."
S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED": Right.
CILLIZZA: Transactional, no. Broadly, well, you know, hey I'd like to give and you remember I did give to the committee. That stuff does happen. Does it reach the level -- is there that proof or the funneling of foreign money which is obviously against the law?
I don't know but I will say people have always told me, look, the Russia stuff is not good but it's Trump's finances. You know, Allen Weissenberg, Cohen -- these are the people who really know where Trump is truly vulnerable.
Because he has -- and he says this all the time -- that's why he says he can't release his tax returns -- very complicated financial structure. I think that's true, he does have a very complicated financial structure and it's like that could be problematic under a deep dig.
CUOMO: Right. There's a fundamental difference though between a Mueller and the Southern District and it's a common point of confusion for people.
Mueller is not just looking for crimes. People say yes, he is -- that's what the statute said. I know what statute said. I know it's section 606 (ph). But the top line of what Rosenstein wrote in the letter -- I don't know if we have it for you tonight -- we usually have it as a standing graphic on the show.
Look for proof or look for coordination and contact with those involved in Russian interference. That's not necessarily a crime. Anthony was very quick tonight -- Scaramucci to say well look, no matter what happened with the inaugural committee, I don't know that the President knew anything about it.
At what point, S.E., does that get tired as an explanation for the American people? So you didn't know what Stone was doing. You didn't know what Manafort was doing. You didn't know what these other half dozen guys were doing who got indicted. You didn't know what your own inaugural committee was doing. You don't know what's going on with your cabinet people. At what point does that become a problem?
CUPP: Well, there's two competing forces here. There's that. There's this idea well, gosh there's just this preponderance of accusations, maybe evidence. The American people might just decide I don't believe him. I don't believe what the President says.
The competing force is this political idea that there's a witch hunt. And while I might not believe it's a witch hunt, that narrative that Trump has drummed about the Mueller investigation in particular, he hasn't had as much time to do it on SDNY but he might, has been successful. It has worked to undermine --
CUOMO: Especially the idea that it was not a crime, it's all fine. You know, that's very Trumpy because it rhymes.
Let me ask you something about that's equally important -- David. And you make a point whatever you want.
[01:34:54] CUOMO: This Elizabeth Warren stuff. She has been dogged by this. Now there is this -- what's on your screen right now -- this is from 1986. It is state bar of Texas registration. What does that mean?
This could mean almost nothing, like this was something that she gave -- this is how I should be identified in the logs of those who were admitted to the Texas bar. It's not her asking to be a lawyer, it's nothing that significant. But it is her on a piece of paper saying I'm an American Indian.
Is this the kind of hammer that she hands to Trump that he will beat her out of the race with?
GERGEN: Absolutely. Yes, he'll celebrate it.
CUOMO: You think it's important enough?
Mazie Hirono laughed it off, the senator from Hawaii. It doesn't matter. He's the one who's the liar. She's ok.
GERGEN: Look, there's a growing view in the Democratic Party who are not going to tolerate anything which could put a shadow over her capacity to win in 2020. That's essentially a zero tolerance kind of policy.
I think she's going to be under pressure to explain herself and help us understand why she filled it out that way. I don't think she can just laugh it off. I have had several conversations with her in recent months. I've come
away with high respect for here. She's more practical and I thought she was more pragmatic.
But this is something that she has not handled very well and given the stumbles that have already occurred and the way he jumped on them, I do think there's a burden on her now to come forward and clear this up once and for all.
CILLIZZA: The problem is -- yes, the problem is when this all came out, the "Boston Globe" reported on it. The "Boston Herald" reported on in the 2012 campaign against Scott Brown.
When it all came out she said I was unaware that I was listed in these directories as a Native American or American-Indian. I had never volunteered that information. I sought no advantage from it. You know, I didn't know about it.
This is not to say she sought advantage, as you point out, this is a registration card -- she's benefitted not at all from it. But it does suggest that the "I was unaware that I had ever -- that anyone including myself had ever claimed that I was American Indian" is in fact not right.
S.E. and I are talking about this before the break -- during the break. Issue is she can't tell her story -- so much of a presidential campaign is you don't know me. I'm going to tell you about who I am.
And now that story is so clouded, every time she talks about that story, it's going to be Donald Trump calling her Pocahontas. And why was it a DNA test? Did she actually -- can you claim that based on blood or DNA. It's just a whole swirl that does her no good.
CUPP: Nothing has, I think, defined a candidate as well and as badly as Pocahontas. I don't like it. Some of this is unforced. I mean she walked into this, releasing the DNA test. It's disastrous. Releasing her video about her Oklahoma roots and talking -- walking into it -- disastrous. I don't see how she shakes it off. Nothing she can do will shake this off, in my opinion.
CUOMO: Well, we'll see. They're trying to shake this off. They're trying to spin it. We'll see what the campaign comes up with.
David, S.E., Chris -- what a panel. Thank you very much for being with me at a thousand o'clock in the morning.
So where will all of these investigations of Trump world lead us? How serious is it for the President himself? Certainly more serious than we're acting right here.
Great debate, two handsome men -- let's see if they can deliver, next.
[01:38:21] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: The President's legal woes will likely not disappear soon, even once the Mueller probe ends. Right now, the probes include whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia, Trump campaign finances, the Trump Organization's finances, Trump Organization taxes, the Trump inauguration's funding; Trump Super PAC funding and the Trump family foundation. And yet tonight the President warned of economic doom if the investigations continued.
Let's debate this. Bakari Sellers and Steve Cortes.
Steve Cortes -- make the case for why the investigations must cease if we are to enjoy any prosperity?
STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well now, I think that's a bit of a reach. Look, I'll say this. This president has been incredible at creating jobs. Unfortunately he's also been good at creating job -- or I should say the situation has been good at creating jobs for a lot of attorneys on both sides whether it's the Mueller probe, SDNY or his own personal force of lawyers.
But I think that that is a -- listen I think there are a lot of reasons why particularly the Mueller probe is totally wrong and needs to wrap up as quickly as possible, but to then tie it to the economy as he did tonight, I think that's a stretch.
CUOMO: Bakari, how much oversight is too much oversight?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think there is such a thing. I think that the House has a responsibility or the United States Congress has a responsibility -- a constitutional responsibility for oversight. I think that there was just cause for Mueller to get involved and investigate.
I think that the irony is that you go from no-drama Obama, a president who served for eight years and had no indictments, no arrests, no convictions, no imprisonments to someone who served for two years and they have enough people to fill up a county jail who either worked for the President or in the President's orbit and there are more yet to come.
And I just think that goes to -- you know, the President would -- we would watch this, with you Chris -- back on the mornings and we would watch the rallies and the clips from rallies and he would say drain the swamp. Well, he drained the swamp and he filled it with his own alligators.
I mean it's a culture of corruption in D.C. unlike anything we've seen in a very long period of time, in my lifetime which is only 34 years, I give you that. But this is a culture of corruption, and it's become cancerous and it's permissive and pervasive throughout all branches -- all different facets of the President's administration.
CORTES: Bakari though -- when you talk about --
CUOMO: Steve -- before you answer, there's nothing Bakari could have said that would have hurt as badly as what he said his age. CORTES: That's right. It actually made me feel very old.
CUOMO: This debate was over as soon as he said it that I almost went to commercial. 34 -- this tie is 34 years old.
CORTES: We're too old to be up this late -- Chris. He's young and he can stay up.
CUOMO: 34 -- I could be your daddy. Go ahead -- Steve.
[01:44:51] CORTES: Listen, regarding culture of corruption though, before we completely exonerate the Obama administration, let's remember that the Obama DOJ, including the FBI which was weaponized against our campaign, against the Trump campaign under the guise of national security, which I think broke countless laws which have yet to be -- those figures have yet to be held accountable for that.
CUOMO: Give me some specifics. What did they do -- Steve?
CORTES: Specifics -- taking opposition research from Fusion GPS, dressing it up as though it's real evidence and presenting to the FISA court for permission to surveil an opposition campaign.
CUOMO: -- stuff that t were corroborated, other parts were used for that FISA other than what came from the dossier.
CORTES: But the most -- but we know the most salacious parts are totally uncorroborated. And regardless even if they're --
CUOMO: But they didn't use those.
CORTES: -- even if they're corroborated though, it is not ok for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party to pay for a partisan opposition research and then to use the national security apparati of the United States to weaponized it and turn it into a law enforcement and surveillance --
CUOMO: All right. So fact checking the question. The question to you Bakari -- is going to be about distinguish what Hillary Clinton did in terms of getting oppo research from what was done allegedly by the members of the Trump campaign and Russian interference.
SELLERS: That's an easy one -- Chris. I'll take that. First just to add a slight fact check, I need Steve and everyone else to understand that this opposition research was actually commissioned by Republicans first during the primary season. And it's opposition research which was always done throughout campaigns.
CORTES: Not when Christopher Steele was involved in it.
SELLERS: We're seeing what happens in Virginia when you don't do opposition research on your opponent or yourself. CUOMO: Right. The fact check I was going to bring up, I want you to
answer that question but just for the audience.
The fact check is Trey Gowdy, ok, Captain Benghazi said that those FISA applications were not just about the dossier. That's your boy -- Steve. So I'm just saying there's a
CORTES: I didn't say only. I didn't only about them.
CUOMO: No, but I'm saying he said he didn't have any problem with it on that basis.
CORTES: Well, I do.
CUOMO: I got you. That's fine.
But Bakari -- now answer the question. What's the distinction?
SELLERS: Oh the distinction is this. The distinction is that she did not have her campaign chair, or deputy campaign chair and many other people in her orbit plead guilty to crimes, ok. That is the difference.
Donald Trump literally had criminals working for him. And I do not say that sensationalistically (ph), I don't know if that's a word -- I do not sensationalize that. I am not stretching the truth when I say that.
But I am saying people who stood in federal court and put their hand up and said I committed these crimes. His own personal lawyer -- his own personal lawyer admitted that on the behest of Individual One, who is the president of the United States, he committed federal election law violations. I mean this is serious stuff.
CORTES: I agree.
SELLERS: We're not making this up.
And this is the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
CUOMO: All right. Steve -- counter.
CORTES: If he actually committed it -- this is adding a crucial point. If Michael Cohen did commit federal election crimes at the behest of President Trump, that would be a massive deal. And I know he said he did but that doesn't mean that he did.
In fact, what happened Cohen was caught with some very serious crimes that were totally unrelated to Donald Trump. It had to do with medallions, tax fraud and a lot of really serious financial crimes unrelated to Donald Trump either as president or as private citizen.
CUOMO: Right. CORTES: But when the government, and this is how it often goes down, you're both lawyers, you know this -- when the government has you, they have you. And they can get you to plead to things that you may have been able to successfully fight if you weren't guilty of these other terrible crimes. So he clearly could have fought the charge of FEC crimes.
SELLERS: I was in federal -- I was in a federal court today. I was actually doing (INAUDIBLE) for Fusion in federal court today. I'm in federal court often.
And I can tell you that that's just not true in the way that federal government works and the United States attorneys who do diligent work day in and day out work. The federal government has a 97, 98 percent conviction rate because they do good work. They have wiretaps. They have all the resources at their hands and at their fingertips. And they're just not getting people to come in and admit to crimes just to fulfill some quota.
CORTES: No, I would argue that conviction rate, first of all is --
SELLERS: They're actually getting people like Michael Cohen --
CORTES: That conviction rate is nothing to brag about, by the way, first of all. That is not illustrative of a free society. That's something you hear from totalitarian regimes.
It's because our federal court is so expansive that once you are in their snares, they hardly ever miss. And actually that conviction rate backs -- it backs up my supposition which is that again, he had to plead guilty to that because they had him on --
CUOMO: He could have done it any way he wanted to but when you know that you're looking at more time if you fight it than if you admit what you did early on, sometimes that's the calculus.
But I'll tell you what. I never thought I would see so many members of the right go after the FBI and the DOJ as we have these days. I always thought that you guys embraced them.
CORTES: Only the political leadership --
CORTES: -- Chris not the rank and file. Listen, I think the rank and file members are tens of thousands of people doing dangerous work.
CUOMO: A convenient distinction.
CORTES: But no. No, it's not a convenient distinction. It's a critical distinction.
CUOMO: Those bosses bubble up through the ranks and they're very respected by the same men and women --
SELLERS: I mean Donald Trump actually --
CORTES: People like Mueller and Comey did not bubble up through the ranks. They are political operators.
CUOMO: All right. We've got to --
[01:50:00] SELLERS: Donald Trump appointed the United States attorney in the Southern District of New York.
CUOMO: It's true.
SELLERS: I mean what are we talking here?
CUOMO: No, it's true. That's his guy.
We've got to leave it there right now. Although I'm sure if the Southern District goes sideways, they'll say the President never really knew who the guy was. And he's part of the problem.
Fellows -- thank you very much for making the case. I appreciate it.
CORTES: Thank you.
CUOMO: Speaker Pelosi -- excuse me -- tweeted tonight that it will, quote, "take days to fact-check what she called President Trump's misrepresentations." In fact you can see her mouthing about them during the actual speech. Does she have a basis?
Let's have a real fact-check from our team right now, going through the words, facts and reality.
CUOMO: The President made a lot of claims, not unusual in the State of the Union and not a lot of new policies but lots of big talk on how things are going two years into this administration. So with the President's penchant for abusing the truth, we need to dig into what is fact and what is fallacy.
Tom Foreman is here to help us with that. What have you got, my friend?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris -- you know, I think the only thing the President likes talking about more than immigration or as much is the economy. And so he did tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [01:54:55] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More people are working now than at any time in the history of our country -- 157 million people at work.
All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: And when it comes to the economy, he does have things he can brag about. The unemployment rate has been very, very low and yes, the number of people working has risen.
But here's a little context to bear in mind here. Generally, men and women alike, that number goes up because the country gets bigger. Many presidents could say that.
And when you look at this as a percentage of the population, we're still below where we were before the Great Recession came along in 2008. And women, yes, they made a lot of strides here but compared to other advanced economies, they're not doing that great right now, American women. So if you look at the raw numbers, what he said is true, but there are a lot of caveats there.
He also said some things about people in minority communities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: African-American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: "Have all reached" -- this is trickier because, yes, last year that's what they reached. And that's what he was apparently talking about because since then, they have gotten a little bit not so good. Now, they're still in pretty good shape but not here.
The fact that he only talked about what they have reached and didn't mention this means in the past tense, what he said was true, in the current tense, what he had to say was false -- Chris.
CUOMO: Tom Foreman -- thank you very much. Appreciate it.
So thank you for watching. We're going to have an encore of the State of the Union and the Democratic response. And we're going to do it right now.
[01:56:51] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)