Return to Transcripts main page
CUOMO PRIME TIME
Mueller's Office: 2016 Manafort Meeting with Kilimnik at Heart of Investigation; Nadler: Whitaker to Testify Before House Judiciary Tomorrow; Jeff Bezos Accuses National Enquirer of Extortion; Supreme Court Blocks Restrictive Abortion Law for Now; Fact-checking Trump's claim: GOP didn't investigate Obama. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 7, 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] COOPER: --hand it over to Chris Cuomo for Cuomo Prime Time. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CHRIS CUOMO PRIME TIME: Thank you Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to Prime Time. We have new information. The Special Counsel says that Trump's then campaign chair meeting with a Russian operative during the campaign is at the heart of the investigation.
New details show that Paul Manafort was lying about meetings that mattered and President all day today crying harassment and even theft of his staff. Why he has reason to worry so much about the questions that Democrats want answers to?
And a key member of Congress, staunch defender of the President is here to explain these fears of harassment and his role in an ugly scene at a hearing on guns.
And did the President's pal really tried to blackmail Jeff Bezos in writing? I have the letter, I'll read it for you. Friday adjacent, what do you say, let's get at after it?
All right so this comes directly from the office of the Special Counsel. They say that Paul Manafort's 2016 meeting, while he was campaign chair with an alleged Russian operative named Constantine Kilimnik, you've heard that name before.
They say that meeting is not a throw away, it's not a detail, it's at the heart of their investigation and there is new evidence emerging tonight. Mueller's team says it has proof that the President's former chair continued doing work related to Ukraine in 2018 after he was indicted, think about that.
He continued to keep in touch with Kilimnik and discuss Ukrainian politics means through last year and remember, Ukrainian politics means Russian politics because that was the context of the discussion. How to do things vis a vis Ukraine that would be good for Russia?
Where does this come from? A transcript of a closed door hearing on Monday. The big question, did the President know about the Manafort meetings? That's what Democrats want to know so does Mueller. All right, let's bring in one of the President's top defenders in Congress, Judiciary Committee member Matt Gaetz.
Always good to have you on Prime Time.
MATT GAETZ, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me, Chris.
CUOMO: Do you share the concern about these Manafort meetings? Why he was doing this? More importantly why he'd lie about it and whether the President knew?
GAETZ: Little early for us to tell. I think we need to see what the Special Counsel's able to produce in terms of evidence but as you well know Chris, there are lot of foreign agents to interact with campaigns and candidates, matter of fact, you had a lot of those Ukrainians making pretty big donations to the Clinton foundation in exchange for what some believe was favorable treatment with the state department.
So this is part of Washington, it's an ugly part of Washington and I think that we look forward to testing the evidence that's presented by the Special Counsel and whatever proceedings available just like you like to test peoples assertions on your show.
CUOMO: First of all, I have a question about what you just said but do you agree that whatever that Special Counsel puts out should be delivered to the American people in the majority of substance?
GAETZ: I do, Chris. I'm a transparency guy and frankly, I think it's a little silly to suggest that this wouldn't be leaked anyway. I mean most of the information that we see from the Department of Justice--
CUOMO: We don't want it leaked. We want it all - I don't have to depend on leaks.
GAETZ: I got no problem, I got no problem with that.
CUOMO: But Bill Barr says--
GAETZ: It's a silly fight, it's a silly fight to be arguing about whether or not the full context of the Mueller report is going to be made available. I believe you have everything in the marketplace of ideas and then you'll have everybody hash it out.
CUOMO: Well, you know what William Barr says, he said to at least one Democrat, Senator Durbin, I don't know, you know, the law may kind of hand cuff me a little bit in terms of what I can do.
That's not what he said in his nomination hearing, he said that's my priority is to get it to the American people, there's some stuff I may have to do, seems like a reversal, should we be worried?
GAETZ: Well there are always exceptions to FOI law and public records laws and I'm sure the Attorney General wouldn't want to impose those exemptions but that's not really what you're talking about, what you're talking about is whether or not there's going to be any evidence or any conclusions of law or fact that the Special Counsel comes to, that would be hidden from the American people and regardless of what Mr. Barr says, I just am not someone who believes that you ever enrich the discussion by shielding information from the body politic.
CUOMO: All right, good, that's good to hear. Now one of the counters that you use in there, I just want to flush out a little bit. You know the deal that became known as Uranium One, they looked at it and they wound up running it down and leaving it alone.
We don't have any of that certainty when it comes to Paul Manafort.
GAETZ: No, that's not true.
CUOMO: You had a whole look at it, with Paul Manafort, we don't know anything.
GAETZ: No, that's not true, you're saying things that aren't accurate. So the Little Rock field office, the FBI right now has the Uranium One case, it's an ongoing investigation and they're analyzing it so for you to say, we've gone down that road.
CUOMO: It's almost two years.
GAETZ: Well, I mean Special Counsel Robert Mueller's had his investigation for about the amount of time.
CUOMO: There have been tons of people indicted and all of this information without him even really wanting to offer it up.
GAETZ: Right, right but those indictments largely our ghost indictments of Russians, the non-appearing and if they did, if those Russian showed up and utilized our criminal process for discovery, that would be devastating to our counterintelligence mission in the United States.
[21:05:00] So again I don't think--
CUOMO: Well, that's true. I don't think half a dozen of the indictments of people close to this President.
GAETZ: You can't say positively that Uranium One was clean and I didn't reference Uranium One. What I said is that there were a lot of Ukranians--
CUOMO: Well, that was the Ukrainian donations to the campaign (ph).
GAETZ: No, no, they were others. Well, how do you know that, right? Like if you already know that the Ukrainians were given money because of Uranium One, then you're making my argument not yours.
CUOMO: No, I'm saying that's the speculation that comes from the--
GAETZ: No, no, no.
CUOMO: I just want to hash it out.
GAETZ: No, I'm not speculating. What I'm saying is, Russians and Ukrainians gave a whole lot of money to Clinton foundation. There's argument that they got favorable treatment, not just on Uranium One but you'll recall, the friend of Bill designation that would appear on the ledger for large donors to the Clinton foundation.
And so I'm only - I'm only putting that in context of the Manafort information because it is an ugly part of Washington that you got a lot of people-
CUOMO: Well, I think you're doing a little bit out of convenience to distract from these questions. We've never seen people go down like they've gone down around this President. Let's just be honest. We have never seen a campaign as rife with coordination and contacts for people they should have known to leave alone, Matt.
People you'd never meet with and they got caught lying about it.
GAETZ: The Hillary Clinton was - no, look, Hillary Clinton was also interacting with a lot of foreign actors and foreign agents. Now she was the former Secretary of State so she knew a lot of those people and had situations - about that activity.
CUOMO: Very different context.
GAETZ: But the Trump campaign--
CUOMO: And she's not the President.
GAETZ: You remember covering the Trump campaign, they were careening from one rally to the next, it was - it was a campaign largely driven on the--
CUOMO: He sure had a lot of time to lie about who they met with.
GAETZ: What are you talking about? The President hasn't lied about anything.
CUOMO: I didn't say the President. It's amazing that you jumped to him. I'm talking about all the people who have been convicted of it, Matt but look, let's not - let's not hash this out too much. I got two other things I want to talk to you about.
Matthew Whitaker, I don't understand what's going on here. I get being afraid of a subpoena but the letter that Nadler sent to the acting AG is, Hey, let us know if the President wants to exercise immunity or privilege on any of these questions so we can hash it out before you come. Don't come here and surprise me with, I'm not answering those questions.
That's all they asked for in the letter, Whitaker doesn't do that but then the DOJ says, he's not coming there under threat of subpoena. Well, then just answer the question about whether or not you're going to exercise the immunity. What's all the huff and puff about?
GAETZ: It's a lot of Washington gamesmanship. The real reality is that Matthew Whitaker is going to be a private citizen at some point, next week when Barr's confirmed by the Senate. So it seems a little ridiculous to be conducting an oversight hearing with the guy who's going to be out of a job in a week.
I think the real reason Democrats want Whitaker in is because they want to hurt Barr and if they ask Whitaker questions and he provides answers and then Barr deviates in any way from what Whitaker says then that's problematic for Barr down the road. But I do not think this is going to go well for the administration or Republicans, tomorrow.
I do not find Matt Whitaker to be a very compelling witness. I think when he talked about these issues in public, he's largely an admissions volcano and I think this is a really bad idea and it's probably not going to be a great day.
CUOMO: All right, let me play what happened to the hearing, some sound from you and one from one of the Parkland parents and then make your case to the people about what why it was worth it. Here's the sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAETZ: I hope we do not forget the pain and anguish and sense of loss felt by those all over the country who have been the victims of violence at the hands of you illegal aliens. HRA would not have stopped many of the circumstances, I raised but a wall, a barrier on the southern border may have and that's what we're fighting for.
Well, is there a process in the Committee whereby if the very same people are repeatedly interrupting the time of the members, that those people will be asked to depart the committee.
MANUEL OLIVER, PARKLAND FL. SHOOTING VICTIMS FATHER: He started saying that we should never forget those victims of gun violence that were attacked by illegal aliens and how that is a big issue that we need to solve and the solution is the wall.
That's when I was able to stand up and said don't what - what about us, don't forget about us and our kids so I guess that's the only option that you have as a father is make sure that the shooter of your song, it's an illegal alien so they can mention him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Matt, what's your response? What were you trying to achieve there? What do you think about how it went down?
GAETZ: First, let me say how sorry I am to Mr. Oliver that he lost his son. These are senseless acts and we are all on the same page to try to make them less likely. There are disagreements as to how to make gun violence less likely. Mr. Oliver brought his pain and his anguish to our committee but he wasn't the only one.
Savannah Lindquist is a 24 year old rape survivor. She told the story of how she was violently raped in a gun free zone because she could not carry her firearm with her and Mr. Oliver was less than 10 feet behind this rape survivor yelling and screaming repeatedly, Chris and I looked at her and I could tell that she was scared and so I know people react to trauma differently but I was not trying to get Mr. Oliver thrown out or removed like your network has suggested. [21:10:00] I simply was asking the Committee Chairman what you're supposed to do in a circumstance where one person who's like two or three times the size of this young lady seemed to be doing things that - he didn't mean to intimidate her but they were intimidating her.
She actually complained to some of us on the right that, that was an uncomfortable setting for her and so look, I want to commend the Democrat Chairman Jerry Nadler. I think he did a good job giving Mr. Oliver, a final definite warning that you don't just get to show up in Washington and because a terrible thing has happened to you that you get to jump up and scream and yell at people.
CUOMO: I hear you about that but it looked like you're taking on the victim's parents.
GAETZ: No, no, that not true.
CUOMO: And grandstanding something that had no bearing on the situation.
GAETZ: No, that's not true.
CUOMO: And Oliver feels the same way by the way.
GAETZ: Well, I'm sure he does feel the same way, he wanted to have a hearing about gun violence and I wanted to highlight the fact that there are victims of gun violence who would be in a better position today if we did not have you illegal immigrants using guns to kill people like they did with officer Rocky Paul Jones who was killed by illegal aliens.
CUOMO: We know the stats. But not only--
GAETZ: These are - but those are important.
CUOMO: Look, Matt, I'm not saying that--
GAETZ: Why is that those people that are killed by guns from illegal aliens - I know you're not saying that their stories are any less relevant as the stories of other people so why is it that your network like tries to creatively slice and dice that audio to make it look like I was trying to throw a guy out.
I did not want to throw the guy out. I wanted--
CUOMO: Look, I know you're here o make your case but I'm making a bigger point now.
CUOMO: I'm not here to accuse you of wanting to throw out the parents. I accept your answer about it. You take it up with the parents, see if they're okay with it, that's part of being a Congressman.
What I'm saying is a wall has got no business in the discussion at a hearing about what to do about these mass shootings and crimes that maybe - maybe can be prevented. It looks like grandstanding because it has nothing to do with the solution.
GAETZ: No, no, honestly.
CUOMO: The numbers don't match up and the politics don't match up.
GAETZ: The numbers? Do you realize that one out of every five people that the federal government charges with murder is an illegal alien. Do you know that the illegal aliens--
CUOMO: No, I don't know that.
GAETZ: Well, that's - that comes from the bureau of crime statistics that illegal aliens are three times more likely to be incarcerated than people who come here legally.
CUOMO: That's because they're incarcerated for coming in illegally.
GAETZ: No, not necessarily, no, no.
CUOMO: Matt, you know the spin on these numbers.
GAETZ: No, listen they--
CUOMO: There is data to show that citizens are more likely to be criminal than illegal entrants unless you talk about the illegal entry. I mean, I got the bar graph right here.
GAETZ: I'm not making the argument that illegal aliens are uniquely more inclined to commit gun violence. I'm saying that it's clearly a very preventable form of gun violence because if you end illegal immigration--
CUOMO: But all of this is preventable--
GAETZ: No, hold on, hold on. No, no, no, you made your point, I want to make mine.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
GAETZ: If you end illegal immigration and if you had a wall, some of these people who are dead at the hands of illegal immigrants who shot them might not be.
CUOMO: And if you had universal background checks, if you had more intelligent ways of tracking it but you only see the wall.
GAETZ: Let's go back to your question. No, no, no, Chris, I did not just talk about the wall, that's just how you edited. I specifically in my time talked about the fact that the state of Florida had red flag laws, that we had converted our mental health system.
So people don't come out of jail and back to their arsenals so just because that's what's in your clip, that's not all that I said.
CUOMO: But why would you bring it up at all, it seems like a naked provocation. GAETZ: The reason you bring up the wall is because if you have the
wall, fewer violent illegal aliens will come into this country and more Americans will not be the victims of gun violence. That is a perfectly reasonable argument to make and I'm not trying to shut down Democrats who want to make a robust background check argument.
Let's have that discussion. In my state of Florida we have background checks and I believe that under the tenth amendment those are the types of things that we would leave to the states to be able to have those solutions but the inference that somehow if you're talking about guns and violence, you in no way can talk about illegal immigration, that you just have to have that is something that's off the table for discussion.
CUOMO: You're sitting there--
GAETZ: That is ludicrous and it's the reality that our American families live on - streets.
CUOMO: No, no, no. But it is the reality because if you're going to talk about stopping the mass shootings, would seem to be the only kind of gun crime that anybody cares about in this country then--
GAETZ: What are you talking about? That is outrageous.
CUOMO: It is though.
GAETZ: The only gun crime people care about are mass shootings.
CUOMO: It is because you guys never talk about it.
GAETZ: A whole lot of people cared about the fact that when Neil Singh who was just arresting someone at a traffic stop got killed. A lot of people cared about him and for you to suggest that all people care about are the mass shootings is absolutely, is so irresponsible.
CUOMO: It's not about caring about the victims, I'm talking about politicians and responsibility to do something about it. You guys have never done a damn thing until it became a tool of opportunity for you for you to talk about immigration.
GAETZ: I'm talking about the wall.
CUOMO: These mass shootings keep happening and you do nothing except go on TV and say we are not law away.
GAETZ: That is totally--
CUOMO: And now you're sitting in a room of victims' parents and you talk about the wall. That's the issue.
GAETZ: I advocated, no, I advocated for the red flag laws in Florida. I worked with Republicans and Democrats on the legislation passed in my state.
CUOMO: But then why bring up the wall at the hearing? GAETZ: Because the wall will help have fewer violent illegal
immigrants in this country killing people, Chris. That is obvious and by the way--
CUOMO: And so will access to mental health, so will universal background checks. Those are much reasonable measures than a wall.
GAETZ: So I'm not allowed to talk about illegal immigration at a gun hearing but now all of a sudden, like universal access to healthcare in on the table?
[21:15:00] CUOMO: You are attacking a little slice of the problem. Name me a mass shooting that was committed by someone who entered the country illegally.
GAETZ: It's not just about the mass shootings, Chris.
CUOMO: Mention one.
GAETZ: No, it's your premise that only the mass shootings matter.
CUOMO: The only ones you guys will even discuss.
GAETZ: I discussed three other shootings that were mass shootings and there are networks that are criticizing me about it.
CUOMO: I know because now they're an item - they're an article of convenience for you now, Matt.
GAETZ: Convenience, you think it's convenient for us that people are dead at the hands of illegal aliens?
GAETZ: You think that we are that craven--
GAETZ: --that we would sit there and hope that people - that is so irresponsible. Look, I think--
CUOMO: It's irresponsible of the people who are doing it.
GAETZ: We're not advocating to that.
CUOMO: Because you've put a premium on certain lives and not others.
GAETZ: That's like saying Democrats want there to be more school shooting so they can have gun control; that would be ludicrous.
CUOMO: That's what you guys say you all the time.
GAETZ: Absolutely not, I would not say that.
CUOMO: You guys say that all the time. The Democrats must be so happy there was no mass shooting. GAETZ: You think people on the Right are rooting for another mass
CUOMO: I see it all the time, Matt.
GAETZ: I never heard that, would you put on your show any member of Congress saying that Democrats want there to be mass shootings because I never heard a colleague say that.
CUOMO: No, no, no, no, I'm saying people on the right, not elected leaders, I've never had anybody come on this show--
GAETZ: Well, I'm not responsible--
CUOMO: - and say anything favorable abut mass shooting.
GAETZ: for the position and--
CUOMO: I'm talking about the politics around it that give birth to the kind of cynicism that allows you to go into hearing about guns and mention the wall.
GAETZ: I will do that every single time, I get the chance because a wall will mean fewer people will die at the hands of guns and illegal aliens and 700,000 people--
CUOMO: Where do you think the wall is on the list of reasonable moves to stop gun violence in this country?
GAETZ: It's below red flag laws, it's below mental health conversion and by the way, I mentioned it after all of those things.
CUOMO: So do those first.
GAETZ: I did mention those and by the way, we did in the state of Florida, that's precisely what we did. We went after the root of the problem in mental healthcare and a broken system that just cycles people around like Nicolas Cruise was circled around and we're actually trying to fix the problem rather than demagogue it as a basis to go into private law abiding citizens of their second amendment rights.
CUOMO: Listen, second amendment rights, you have them, they're secured in this country like nobody else in the world. The other problem is--
GAETZ: I'm trying to keep them--
CUOMO: - you have more of this type of violence than anywhere in the world even if you hold consistent for mental health. We don't have more mentally ill than other places in the world, not per capita but we have more of these shootings and yet never any solutions that go to that until the wall.
GAETZ: We also have more of video games.
CUOMO: And now we've got a great way to do it. GAETZ: We also glorify violence in our music more. There are a lot of
externalities in our society that lead to violence and I'm in total concert with you on attacking those things but it is outrageous to suggest that you can't even talk about illegal immigration in the context of--
CUOMO: No, you talk about it in the right place. You talk about in a hearing about illegal immigration and by the way, when you do it, I'm not accusing you of this but you defend the President, he has created a brown menace. A xenophobic principle of the people who come into this country exaggerating their criminality, the incidence of drugs and how they get into this country and the incidence of terror and how it enters this country and older states and how they get into this country.
GAETZ: There are more brown--
CUOMO: He has exaggerated all of it and given a solution that none of the people in private at the DHS or CBP would ever confirm is a top priority, that's exaggerating.
GAETZ: That's not true.
CUOMO: That's cynicism. That's bad governance.
GAETZ: Chris, more brown people are working and more prosperous under this President that at anytime previously.
CUOMO: Including those are here, he hires them too and then he tries to say you should hate the same people that he hires.
GAETZ: No, he's not saying that you should hate anybody. He's saying that people should follow the law which by the way, that was the view held by Democrats.
CUOMO: He calls them rapists and killers and gangbangers and some I assume are good people.
GAETZ: In 1992, the Democratic Party had in their platform provisions that said that illegal aliens were coming in this country, committing felonies, sent back and then they were right back across the border to do the same thing.
So this new like view of the Left that we ought to be borderless with no ICE, you know.
CUOMO: There's nobody saying that it doesn't happen, Matt.
GAETZ: So it's like I have to own every argument, everybody makes on the right but the people on the left who say we should abolish ICE, that borders and walls are immoral.
CUOMO: They have to answer for that. When they come on this show, they have to answer for that.
GAETZ: And you know what, those arguments are the ones that I have a right to challenge in the Judiciary Committee.
CUOMO: You do, a 100%.
GAETZ: When we have a hearing on violence, I have an obligation to point out the extent to which some of that violence, not all of it, maybe not even most of it but some of that violence is preventable if we stopped illegal immigration.
CUOMO: All right, Matt Gaetz, the kids coming behind you, let's not mess them up with this conversation, thank you for coming on Congressman and making your case, you're always welcome to do so.
GAETZ: Thank you Chris.
CUOMO: Say hello to the kids, Congressman, they're waving behind you.
GAETZ: I know, hey guys, how's it going? Good to see you.
CUOMO: All right.
GAETZ: Thanks for coming.
CUOMO: All right, Congressman Matt Gaetz in Florida. All right, another. Big story here. Look, you got to have these kinds of debates. I know it can get a little hot but it's better to have these things out in the open and discuss then just festering in their little silos.
Trust me. Crazy story, the owner of "The Washington Post' Jeff Bezos, richest guy in the world says he has evidence that 'The National Enquirer' tried to blackmail him in writing. I have the letter, next, you won't believe it.
[21:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: All right, this one falls under the category of fact being stranger than fiction. Stunning allegations of extortion made against the key figure in the one crime that we know directly implicates President Trump.
The target is Jeff Bezos, you know him, founder of Amazon, owner of 'The Washington Post,' wealthiest person in the world and someone, President Trump hasn't been shy about attacking, right?
Bezos made a gutsy move today. He published the email threats from executives representing David Pecker, you know him too. He is the head of AMI, the parent company of 'The National Enquirer' and in these writings, they tell Bezos to make public statements that AMI had no political motivations behind what they publish. Why would they ask that?
Last month, 'The National Enquirer' obtained and published embarrassing text messages between Bezos and another woman. Bezos launched his own private investigation into how The Enquirer got the text.
AMI is worried about what they could uncover says Bezos. Bezos suggests that AMI is tied to the Saudi government, hints that The Enquirer's work crossed into Pecker's political connections. He says, "Mr. Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they've taken on behalf of the Saudi government.
Bezos then points to Trump's contempt for him and The Washington Post, when he says, it's unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude, I am their enemy.
President Trump of one of those people obvious by his many tweets, that's what Bezos says. Then he also says, several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is apoplectic about our investigation, that's when folks at AMI reportedly, "They said they had more of my text messages and photos and that they would publish if we didn't stop our investigation," in writing.
Apparently, that was followed with an email, laying out the specifics of the pictures in graphic detail, we don't have to go into that here but trust me, it's not the kind of stuff that you would want made public about you.
So AMI lays out demands, spelled out plainly again in emails, telling Bezos to publicly state that AMI's coverage of the Saudis was not, "politically motivated or influenced by political forces."
[21:25:00] That's when Bezos says, he made a decision. In his own words, "Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.
I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out."
Now keep in mind, this is all happening while David Packer, the head of AMI, the friend of Trump is cooperating with the U.S. attorney on an investigation into exactly this type of catch and kill practice. So here becomes a question.
What is this? Is this just political intrigue or is this a crime? Is it extortion? You can google it in the break. We have two of the sharpest legal minds to take through what this might mean. Next.
CUOMO: All right, now this is some wacky stuff. The world's richest person is making claims of extortion. Raises serious legal questions, especially when the person involved is David Pecker, 'The National Enquirer' head, AMI, the parent company, who's obviously close to the President.
And this kind of moves into the President's life as well. It involves foreign governments, the Saudis and them going to the White House with Pecker and then him getting into with Bezos that the President also hates and threatening him in writing, telling Bezos, if you don't report certain things, we're going to release things we have on you.
All of this is complicated by the current campaign finance investigation that's going on the catch and kill thing that involves Pecker in the present. Must to discuss Cuomo's court with Norm Eisen and Ken Cuccinelli.
Let me try to streamline a little bit and fellows, thank you for coming in on short notice, appreciate it. The audience appreciates it and will benefit from it as well, thank you. Let me just I have this one line from what's going on with the feds and AMI in terms of what they're not supposed to do under their cooperation agreement.
All right? Because I think it gives us some context. Do we have in line. This agreement does not provide any protection against prosecution for any crimes except as set forth above," which is obviously talking about a situation, it has nothing to do with this. Norm, you play prosecutor, can you play defense?
[21:30:00] Norm, is this extortion by definition for the audience, you're asking somebody to do something of value and if they don't, you're going to do something bad to them.
NORM EISEN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: Chris, thanks for having me back on. As you know, the definition of extortion is you're getting somebody's consent through, to take some property from them through fear.
Here the fear factor is revealing these--
EISEN: -salacious details of photos and text. But I have to tell you that as a prosecutor, if you want me to play prosecutor.
EISEN: This is not a case that a prosecutor unless there's more, there may be more, we're at the beginning--
CUOMO: Let's say it's just this.
EISEN: - of this story, It's a very, very tough to ask a prosecutor to charge because there are so many complicating factors. There's the potential legal dispute, there's the effort to settle the matter, there's the fact that lawyers are involved, there's advice of counsel issues.
So in these kind and Chris, I've tried to get prosecutors to look at things like this. In these kinds of very murky circumstances, as much as it smells and it reeks to high heaven, very tough to get a prosecutor to charge it.
CUOMO: Oh Ken, Norm did you a big favor there. The fact of the context so that even though they put it in writing, everything's in writing because they're lawyers, this is an ongoing legal dispute that makes it much less than a naked display of just coming up to somebody and saying, I got pictures on you, you're going to do this for me otherwise I do something with the pictures.
So you think that the context makes this less damaging.
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I wouldn't say less damaging, I suppose less legally threatening-
CUCCINELLI: - because of the lawyer involvement. You know you - but you're running a business proposal which is arguably extortion through lawyers to try to give it the veneer of settlement and all the pre- litigation settlement, all these other things that provide protection against the argument that it is extortion.
Meaning in a totally different context, a lot of us used to complain about how the Clintons would flush papers through their lawyers and then claim attorney privilege or work product privilege. And they essentially fabricated it.
That may be what's going on here and - but I would also add that as slimy an outfit as this is, they still practice some form of journalism and a low form of journalism but none the less, that would also give prosecutors pause about proceeding here.
CUOMO: All right so then let's talk about the--
CUCCINELLI: But you do have the quid pro quo with duress.
CUOMO: Yes. So let's then talk about the political stuff.
CUCCINELLI: I mean an argument can be made.
CUOMO: Yes, I hear you, thank you for that. The political overtones. All right, Pecker. Who is Pecker to Trump? He's his buddy. He's implicated and helping out with the payments to at least those two women, catch and kill, doing him favors, that's being investigated.
Then there's the Saudis, Norm, is there anything relevant there to you about that because Jeff Bezos was laying some crumbs out about that, right?
He was saying, he brought this Saudi guy to the White House which was a favor from the President and he was trying to do business with him. Khashoggi, the Saudis hate Khashoggi, is there anything there?
EISEN: Well, you know Chris, like so many of these stories when you're in and I've been privileged to be on your show in the middle of a lot of them when they're breaking, those are hints.
The Bezos blog post is full of hints that there were a larger political connections, but they're - that's all they are - they're just crumbs, the dots have not yet been connected and I think as is always the case, we need to see how the facts unfold, what the - where the evidence leads.
So I admit that it is insinuating but Bezos also doesn't come right out and say it.
CUOMO: May not have any proof.
EISEN: He focuses on the extortion.
CUOMO: And there's also something going on here, maybe I'm too cynical, maybe I've been doing this too long but I got to tell you something Ken, when I read this, it's not a bad move to reduce the chances that they release the photos and the text.
You know, you do it the way Bezos did it, you know, he's already been dealt a big blow by them, right? I mean he's going through the whole divorce and thing you know, they outed him on this thing. He's taking a hit.
CUCCINELLI: Hey look, this was gutsy by Bezos, it was gutsy.
CUOMO: It was but it also might be self-serving, right? Because if I say Ken's going to put out more pictures of me, I've already been hurt, you know people already have that on me, I'm already dealing with it in my personal life.
Maybe if I shame you this way and expose it, there's less chance you put them out because now there is this shady context around it. Could be a brilliant play.
[21:35:00] CUCCINELLI: Well, that's certainly true on a strategic level but I mean, I read through all the material and you know, if you're Jeff Bezos, that's not an attractive thing for the world to have in its hands.
CUCCINELLI: I think it was pretty gutsy on his part to confront them publicly like this because just as Norm described of how shady this looks, the process looks, even though it was washed through lawyers, you know this falls in the old, I think is Gerald Ford quote. It's 90% of lawyers give 10% of us a bad name.
These guys are among the 90% and it is dirty. It is it makes them look very bad, very low and if you're Bezos, later on if they lob allegations or even pictures at you, they've already undermined their credibility and you've used their own words to do it even further and so strategically I think it's very effective.
But because it's so painful personally, I thought it was pretty darn gutsy.
CUOMO: Right, but look, I don't like trafficking people's personal pain obviously but I mean this is really intriguing because of the players--
CUOMO: - involved, especially when they have this agreement hanging over their head, AMI that you better not break any laws. I mean they shouldn't break any laws ever, right? But obviously there are people looking at their behavior with extra scrutiny. Ken, Norm, I couldn't ask for better minds on this. Thank you fellas. I appreciate it.
EISEN: Thanks Chris.
CUCCINELLI: Good to be with you.
CUOMO: What a crazy story. Facts stranger than fiction. All right, now to something that is all about fact and really not about fiction. This probe into Russia has always been real and it gets more and more real. We don't know what the outcome is going to be.
I don't know about it ending the presidency but boy, there's some questions. Why was the President's former campaign chair talking with a Russian operative about a back door in 2016 while he was the chair of the campaign?
Why lie about all these things if there was nothing to worry about? Why does the Special Counsel say it goes to the heart of their investigation. Former Solicitor General says he knows next.
[21:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: All right, breaking news once again on our watch. We just got word from the Supreme Court. It blocked a Louisiana abortion access law from going into effect but for now, this is not the end of the legal dispute but it matters. This will be a temporary victory to opponents of this Louisiana law which has been out there since 2014.
They argue it would decimate safe and legal abortions in Louisiana. The order was 5:4. Now the interesting part of the dynamic is Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberals. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a vigorous dissent.
Now this is one of the concerns about him for liberals with Kavanaugh on the court, will he show that he wanted to do this? He gave the same talk, they always give in a confirmation hearing. Stare decisis, Roe V. Wade, it's the law of the land.
Now we see a sense of aggression there. Where will it wind up, we'll see. Now is this good news not news, well it's about your personal feelings and politics, it is not over, the justices could eventually agree to take up the case and uphold the law.
What is the law? What does it mean? How does it fit into existing jurisprudence? We got the perfect guest Neal Katyal is here with me right now. Former acting Solicitor General for the United States, it's good to have you.
You know this area of law. Well, we'll talk about other stuff as well but this is a big deal. 2014, Louisiana says, has to be a doctor who performs the DNC the abortion and they must have rights at a hospital within 30 miles of the procedure.
Opponents say you're limiting access. This was argued in the state of Texas about proximity and access. What happened then? What was the precedent? What does it mean now?
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: So in 2016 the Supreme Court upheld the Texas challenge and said you can't do that, it takes away women's rights to choose and so on.
And so the key thing we've all been on pins and needles, we and the Supreme Court bar today because we wanted to know, is that 2016 decision of the Supreme Court going to be good law or not.
And in order for it not to be a good law, the Chief Justice would have to - the Chief Justice would have to say, I believe this Louisiana law is okay and Kavanaugh would have to do so too, making it five votes to strike it down.
CUOMO: How could the law be okay if the Texas law is not okay?
KATYAL: Because the Supreme Court is generally bound by precedent but they're not absolutely bound by it and indeed when you have changes to the composition of the court and that's why these confirmation fights become so vitriolic, they can't change the ultimate law.
CUOMO: The unspoken incompleteness of what we say is stare decisis. The thing is decided until they decide to decide it differently.
KATYAL: Exactly. One of the things about the Chief Justice is yes, he's a brilliant conservative but he's also an institutionalist. He cares a lot about stare decisis and he'll sometimes vote to uphold precedents even though he doesn't really agree with them.
So he believes in that rule of stare decisis and the question everyone was asking today for the whole day was, does he believe in it enough on something like abortion and the answer and of course this has just come out ten minutes ago but the answer is, yes, he might believe in stare decisis enough.
CUOMO: Although they didn't say, this case is dead.
KATYAL: Absolutely not, it can be heard on the merits down the road.
CUOMO: Could they have?
KATYAL: They could - they couldn't really because the procedural posture, it was ultimately going to be a full--
CUOMO: So that's all they could do is what they did.
CUOMO: So there's nothing to read into the disposition?
KATYAL: Well, there is something to read because the four dissenters led by Justice Kavanaugh and the others are signaling, they're saying look, we think these laws are okay and the Chief Justice pointedly did not join that dissent.
CUOMO: Where was Roberts on the 2016 Texas law? KATYAL: So he voted with the Conservatives there so-so--
CUOMO: It's not a given where he's going to be?
KATYAL: So and he does that sometimes. He'll actually vote one way, lose and then continue to vote the way that against what he did before because he believes in stare decisis.
CUOMO: So here are the two sides on the policy and I want your take on this. The Louisiana side of the policy is, if you were to do this, it would guarantee a higher degree of competency by the clinician involved in the procedure. Is there a good argument to be made that having privileges at a hospital that is proximate to where you're doing this procedure will increase the level of physician competence?
[21:45:00] I just want to get the language right.
KATYAL: It was a really bad argument in Texas, it was a smokescreen for basically restricting access and I suspect the same things going be true in Louisiana, we'll have a debate and find out in the court but in general these things are motivated not by health and safety but by other concerns.
CUOMO: All right, so this is a big deal for me to tell you about tonight because the idea that the Roe V. Wade battle is over is simply untrue. I know you hear it from any judge that comes up before confirmation from the Left or the Right but that's the key, they are on the left and the right, you have to know that.
These judges are not blind, that fight is not over so you got to stay aware. Now let's move on. Manafort, we know he met with Kilimnik, we know he met with Kilimnik who has a Russian connections to GRU, therefore assumed to be an operative GRU, the intelligence apparatus of the Russian government therefore connected to Russian interference.
And he did it while he was still chair of the campaign August 2016 but then he had other meetings and other dealings that he lied about even after he was going through this prosecution. What does it mean to you?
KATYAL: A lot so first of all we're talking about Paul Manafort who is the head of Trump's campaign and we knew last year from the indictment and his guilty plea, he was a bad guy, he had done all sorts of bad things and money laundering, bank fraud conspiracy and the like but we learned in November that he'd also done something even worse.
He had lied to prosecutors about the plea agreement and what we learned in this transcript that was revealed today is the extent of those lies, they're massive, there's many of them and they're really serious.
CUOMO: And that's what the - this was like a sealed meeting or secret meeting, not so secret. I'm not suggesting that the Special Counsel leaked it but it got out and the interesting aspect is they say look, these are not penny-ante lies, this guy meeting with Kilimnik goes to the heart of our investigation. Now I would not have surmised that before this because the idea was well, Manafort's got these relationships, he's been with these guys forever. He's known Kilimnik for decades has nothing to do with his role in the - well, then why did they say it's at the heart of the investigation?
KATYAL: Yes so the transcripts over 100 pages, a lots redacted because it is an official version, it's not a leak or something like that but there is stuff in there that is incredibly damning and I think the most important thing is at page 84 because at page 84, the prosecutors, this is Mueller's prosecutor says, that the reason why Manafort lied maybe to get a pardon from President Trump.
Now that I think is the first time at least in my memory that anyone on Mueller's team has ever mentioned anything about pardons. Now we in the media and other people and analysts have been talking about this for a while because Trump dangles out pardons sometimes. His lawyer John Dowd famously dangled it out to Mike Flynn and indeed the Paul Manafort a year and a half ago according to news reports.
But this is the first time we've actually had Manafort's own - excuse me, Mueller's own team say this is what might be going on.
CUOMO: Now two points of clarification. First of all, I didn't mean to be clumsy about that, this was released, it's redacted but released, it's not about a leak so I just want to make people know, it's not about a leak this was released, redacted but enough there to figure out.
Second point of clarification, what work does the Special Counsel still have to do on this? It's at the heart but got a lot of dots to connect here. You know why do I care about this other than the lying and the suspicion of why he lied about something that supposedly he didn't have to hide, what could it mean? What do they have to show?
KATYAL: So it means two things. One with respect to Manafort, he's lied so much.
CUOMO: He's a liar.
KATYAL: Yes, it's a lie and the question that we've asked in for you and I, many times on your show is why is Manafort lying, all these lies even after he's pled guilty, he's still lying, what's going on?
KATYAL: That's what Mueller is really trying to figure out and does it lead to President Trump? What did he know? When did he know?
CUOMO: It has to lead somewhere for it to be at the heart because if it's at the heart so let's just take it as a metaphor, right? Well, if it's at the heart of your investigation, your investigation as to who did what with Russian interferers.
So it's got to lead to something else if not someone else or no, is that rank speculation? KATYAL: Well, I think it's going to lead to someone else, the question
is, is that someone else Trump?
CUOMO: Who else it's going to be. Let say it's not Trump, why does it have to be someone else? Why could it just be Manafort on his own, playing with his contacts, trying to keep him happy, giving him polling data, talking to him about what he's going to get paid for down the road with his lobbying efforts and that's it.
KATYAL: Yes, I mean, look, if you go to Vegas and bet on the 1 in 10,000 chance, I guess you're right but it doesn't make sense here. The idea that man afford after he's already busted, already pleads guilty continues to lie and lie about Russia and you know you had your Congressman on before, Gaetz, who said, well, you know everyone you know knows that Russia, that Russians trying to infiltrate campaigns.
[21:50:00] Ah, not like this, I mean remember that the FBI went to Trump in 2016 in August, end of the Trump campaign.
CUOMO: He said watch out for these guys.
KATYAL: Watch out, they're going to infiltrate your campaign and tell us, let us know when that happens.
CUOMO: And they never did.
KATYAL: Never did, never, why, why, why?
CUOMO: They always do that. Ken Cuccinelli, brilliant legal mind was just on in the last segment, he's talking about Jeff Bezos. David Pecker brings up the Clintons and says you know they used to wash things through lawyers all the time like this.
Matt Gaetz, ardent defender of the President will say, hey, you know there's a lot of questions about Russia and Clinton too. That's part of the tactic of is there too much examination of this only because it's Trump? I just don't think you can say that and win the argument any more.
KATYAL: I don't think you can make it a straight face argument anymore. I mean at this point there have been so many lies about Russia and no convincing explanation for any of them.
CUOMO: Honestly there been more lies about Russia than really anything else. If you take the President out of it because he has a problem with mendacity, you know he abuses the truth when the truth would suffice, that's him.
But in people around his campaign, even with this inaugural commission that they're looking at now with the Democrats, what are they looking for? Foreign investors with straw donors, straw donor meaning, they do it in my name but it was actually a foreigner who gave me the money to donate.
You're not allowed to do that. Even that goes to this same principle of what they were hiding. KATYAL: Yes I know exactly it's like every time Russia is mentioned like Pinocchio jumps out of the bush, every single time and that is you know, and the question is fundamentally why, that's what Mueller is trying to figure out, that's why I don't think this investigation wraps up all of a sudden because there's a lot of questions still left to linger.
CUOMO: I love to bet as you know about these things and I almost always lose but I really did feel that this was starting to wrap up. When Whitaker said that I was like why would he be wrong, the guy was just breezy.
KATYAL: He's always, right?
CUOMO: He's the acting AG but we'll see tomorrow when he does that hearing if he actually shows up but and I also believe I don't see how Mueller threatens the presidency. I think this is about lying, why they lied, who knew what and when and wrongdoing, not necessarily criminality but we'll see.
Neal, thank you so much, you're a benefit to the audience every time. All right, the President is not happy tonight. Well, what else is new? But this is a little different, he is talking about harassment of the President by Democrats, get used to that phrase.
You're going to start hearing it a lot. He claims President Obama wasn't investigated by Republicans. Really? t is time for a closing argument that is going to put facts first.
[21:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: All right, the argument, forget unity, this President wants impunity. Investigating him flat-out wrong and wrong for the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: It's called presidential harassment. It's probably presidential harassment. It's called presidential harassment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right, now the phrase means nothing but get used to it and to constant hypocrisy on this point because this President at the same time argues that he should be left alone and yet we must all unite in the pursuit of justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Today and every day, let us pray for the future of our country. Let us pray for the courage to pursue justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Unless it involves the President or even if it involves hiring former administration staff, the example, today the President was reportedly furious when he heard that the house Intel chair hired former employees of the National Security Council.
These are the type of people regularly hired by the Intel committee, just like they were when Republican Devin Nunez was running the show but now POTUS says, the committee is stealing people. Doesn't he remember that he said to put aside these type of attacks and petty political tactics, two days ago.
He should remember that and something else that blows his concerns about Presidential harassment out of the murky waters of the swamp, he apparently inhabits and now the strongest part of this argument which is to examine the weakest part of the President's, "The Republicans never did this to President Obama."
And nobody accuses this President of being a student of history but surely he knows that during his first two years, Republicans spent a lot of time looking at Obama's administration. The Uranium One deal, the FBI's handling of Clinton's email case, the struck in page emails, the Steele dossier produced prosecutions despite being in control of the DOJ.
But they looked at it and then let's look at when Obama was President, the GOP investigated almost anything it could. Fast and furious, the IRS reportedly targeting conservative groups, the Obamacare website mess, Solyndra, Benghazi, ten different agencies looked into Benghazi.
It took years but then there is the most damning fact of all which exposes not just that the President is wrong but that he is actually part of the wrong, he is pointing to. What qualifies as Presidential harassment more than this BS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He was perhaps born in Kenya, very simple. Lot of people are questioning the birth certificate, they're questioning its authenticity.
TRUMP: His grandmother in Kenya said that he was born in Kenya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: The President doesn't have clean hands when it comes to harassment and he doesn't have a case that he's being harassed. What he has is trouble. Business dealings and a list of past and present associates that is long and stained with lies and legitimate questions that will be investigated by politicians and prosecutors and you know why?
Because justice demands nothing less. Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon starts right now. I feel like I got to change the--