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Trump's Allies Attacking His Enemies Behind; House Intel Committee Digging Through Links; Interview with Rep. Mike Quigley, (D- IL); Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee Ready to Subpoena Trump Tower Meeting Phone Records; House Intelligence Committee to Investigate Trump Finances; Parkland Father Speaks Out About Capitol Hill Confrontation with Congressman. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired February 7, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
We're going to begin this hour with the explosive claim by Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon and owner of "The Washington Post". He's accusing the publisher of the National Enquirer of trying to extort and blackmail him, and he posted what he said are e-mails from top officials at the Enquirer's parent company threatening to release intimate photos own text messages.
And don't forget, the chairman of AMI is David Pecker. David Pecker is a longtime friend of President Trump, who repeatedly slammed the Post's coverage of his administration. Much, much more on this story in just a moment.
Also, tonight, new developments in the case of Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager. Why a meeting between Manafort and with a Russian with ties to the Kremlin is of special significance to Robert Mueller's team.
And President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is headed to prison next month. But we're learning the investigation into his campaign finance crimes is still ongoing. There are lots to talk about.
We're going to begin our coverage with Mr. Shimon Prokupecz who is up on all things Russia and this investigation.
Shimon, thank you for joining us. This post from Jeff Bezos, wow. Unbelievable.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes.
LEMON: What are you learning about these allegations against the National Enquirer?
PROKUPECZ: Pretty substantial here, Don, and really, you know, it was extraordinary in the way Jeff Bezos did this putting this all out there for everyone to see certainly admitting that this was going to be embarrassing for him but he needed to do it because he says what the National Enquirer and its executives were trying to do was blackmail him, extort him, and essentially it was to try to prevent "The Washington Post" from working on a story, an investigation, into the National Enquirer, they've been working on an investigation.
A couple of things these e-mails indicate and what Bezos released from the National Enquirer is I guess "The Washington Post" was going to say that some of these stories that the National Enquirer has been working on were political motivated, that they influenced by political views and decisions.
And it seems that AMI was trying to get "The Washington Post" from not publishing some of this from not saying that any of these stories were politically motivated and they tried to use nude photos that they somehow have obtained of Jeff Bezos and other photos of a relationship he had with a woman.
And they were trying to use these photos to what Jeff Bezos says blackmail him, to try to prevent from any of this story from getting out and try to skew it somehow in their favor.
LEMON: Interesting. I wonder if day want to poke the bear with this one considering just how wealthy Bezos is. He's coming out really strong. Why is he saying that he thinks -- why is Bezos saying that he thinks it has something to do with AMI, Trump and the Saudis? Again, hard ball he's playing, too, right?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, and he's hired top investigators to do this he says. And there are several investigations that are ongoing, Bezos says. What's interesting, obviously, is that Pecker's connection to the president, longtime friend, they may be on the oust a little bit. But you know, he has protected the president for many, many years.
He was involved in some of the catch and kill stories. He was involved in the hush payments into women who accused the president of having an affair with the president, the president then paid.
So, he's been around a very long time. Certainly, in the president's circle. So, there is that, perhaps, maybe somehow these stories are being done to try and hurt Jeff Bezos because of how critical "The Washington Post", obviously, has been, of the administration and some of the stories that they're been running.
But there's this entire other connection, perhaps, that people have been looking into, and Bezos says "The Washington Post" has been looking into it, and that's the Saudis.
At one point, Bezos writes that, in particular, the David Pecker/AMI, that Pecker was apoplectic about their investigation, "The Washington Post"'s investigations, for reasons still to be better understood, but there was a Saudi angle that seemed to have hit a particular sensitive nerve of Bezos writes.
And of course, one of those reasons could be that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, of course, and his relationship to "The Washington Post".
So, there's still a lot here that needs to be developed, but these are things that according to Bezos "The Washington Post" was working on and it appears that David Pecker was concerned.
LEMON: Interesting. Also, some new details tonight about the closed- door court hearing between the special counsel's office and Paul Manafort. What is Mueller focusing on?
[23:05:00] PROKUPECZ Yes, so this was interesting. This was a sealed hearing on Monday. Today, we got ahold of the transcript transcripts. Some of it was redacted as we usually see in these hearings.
But what we did learn was that the special counsel's office was very interested, they called it at this hearing, the heart of their investigation, is a meeting between Paul Manafort around August 2nd of 2016 and a Russian operative, a name by the name of Konstantin Kilimnik. This is the man that Paul Manafort shared internal Trump polling data with.
There was a lot of concern and lot of talk that they've been trying to figure out exactly what was going on between this relationship between Paul Manafort and this Russian operative and they say that is part of the what the heart -- what is the heart of the Mueller investigation.
LEMON: We're also learning that prosecutors are still investigating Michael Cohen's campaign finance violations. What does that mean for President Trump?
PROKUPECZ: Well, it could be problematic, certainly for his organization, the Trump Organization. We know that people have been into the Southern District of New York, prosecutors in New York, regarding this investigation.
That investigation, we learned, in a court filing today, is also still ongoing. There are aspects of the Michael Cohen investigation that are over, but this particular aspect of the investigation, it appears based on those court documents, that that is still ongoing.
We had thought maybe prosecutors had come to some kind of an ending there after implicating the president in the hush money payment, but that investigation, according to this court filing, is still very much ongoing. That means that people in the Trump Organization can still be prosecuted if they find that they committed crimes.
LEMON: Shimon, thank you. I appreciate your time.
LEMON: I want to bring in now National Enquirer's former L.A. bureau chief, Jerry George.
Mr. George, I'm so happy that you're here. Thank you so much for joining us.
JERRY GEORGE, FORMER L.A. BUREAU CHIEF, NATIONAL ENQUIRER: Thanks for having me, Don.
LEMON: Absolutely. Let's talk about the Bezos thing, accusing the Enquirer and David Pecker of extortion and blackmail. Is this how the Enquirer does business?
GEORGE: Well, you know, if you'll excuse the vernacular, for years, David -- Donald Trump has had a hard-on for Bezos, you know, professional jealousy, the acquisition of Amazon, "The New York Times". He's taken shots at every chance he got.
So, it's no surprise that he turned to his good buddy, David Pecker, at the Enquirer to, you know, to do a hatchet job on him. The surprising thing, I think, is, though, that the Enquirer would do such a story and play it up so big for, you know, for a name that while everyone in the world knows, you know, Bezos, Enquirer readers aren't that familiar with him. It's not like he's George Clooney.
So, it just doesn't smell right, and for AMI to have almost squeaked by this investigation unscathed and then to go back in to face more potential charges, is baffling.
LEMON: Yes. So, listen, this was a bold move by Bezos. Do you think David Pecker and his attorneys, do you think they're surprised? Dou think they're worried?
GEORGE: I think that they're -- I think -- I think that they thought they were smarter than they are, and I think now the reality is hitting them and they're freaking out.
LEMON: Really? Go on. Do you think -- could Bezos end up owning the whole thing? Suing them?
GEORGE: It -- I think it's possible. I mean, the techniques they used are nothing short of extortion. It is -- it is -- it is the RICO Act. I mean, they've -- this looks like a crime.
LEMON: Why would -- there are other aspects I want to get -- why would someone who constantly calls out the alleged misdeeds of others, even often wrongly calls them out when many people think it's just projection, and I'm speaking of Donald Trump, why would he be associated with someone like David Pecker who, in your estimation, says uses -- uses, you know, actions that are akin to extortion and the RICO Act.
GEORGE: Because I think he finds it irresistible. I think he feels he's above the law and he'll use every tool that he has to achieve his goals.
[23:09:57] LEMON: Let's talk about this Saudi connection here. Bezos says that Pecker was bothered by his investigation into AMI's ties with the Saudis.
Earlier in the evening, you mentioned how AMI put out this glossy tourism special then the Enquirer made a big acquisition. Do you think Saudis are funding AMI?
GEORGE: I certainly think it's within the realm. If you stand back and look at it, for them to put out a glossy magazine that was distributed at Walmart and it was -- it was just a Valentine to Saudi Arabia completely out of left field, and then three months later, they came into a good sum of money to buy up their competitors. It just doesn't make sense.
LEMON: What do you think AMI is going to do now? Because you said you think that they're worried, right? What do you think -- what do you think they'll do now?
GEORGE: I think there will be acts of contrition and I think they will legal up and promise never to make those mistakes again, but they are an unpredictable bunch.
LEMON: Jerry George, I appreciate your candor. Thank you very much for coming on.
GEORGE: My pleasure.
LEMON: Absolutely. So, is the National Enquirer still doing the president's dirty work for him? We're going to dig into that, next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So, here's our breaking news that we're discussing. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accusing the National Enquirer's publisher of blackmail and extortion.
In a very personal blog post, Bezos writes the Enquirer's participant company has been threatening him with embarrassing pictures to get Bezos to drop a "Washington Post" investigation into the Enquirer.
Ryan Lizza, Renato Mariotti both here to discuss. Wow. Wow.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This story has it all.
LEMON: Yes, this story has it all. Good evening. It's like the Saturday Night Live skit, this story has it all, it's got foul language, it's got pictures, it's got -- right? Money.
LIZZA: With the Saudis.
LEMON: It's got Saudis. Renato, Bezos says that this is blackmail and extortion. Is he right? Does he have a case?
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he's right in our common understanding of those terms. I think it's possible that he could certainly -- he could sue the National Enquirer and AMI and get some money out of them. Obviously, he has very deep pockets of his own.
But I don't think a prosecutor would actually be able to bring this as an extortion case. You know, typical extortion case is where you say, look, I'm going to publish these dick pics and other embarrassing photos if you don't pay me money.
Here this is the Enquirer's lawyers trying to settle legal claims between them and Bezos and they're throwing this into the settlement. It's much more complicated. There's a bunch of legal issues. It's really awful, but I don't think it's something that a prosecutor would bring. LEMON: I have said and heard things on television tonight that I
never in a million years thought. OK. So, Ryan, we know how close President Trump is with AMI. We know how he despises Jeff Bezos. Is AMI still doing Trump's dirty work? What is going on here?
LIZZA: I don't know. I mean, the two leading theories seem to be that AMI is either doing the Saudis' dirty work, President Trump's dirty work, or a combination of the two. We know that Trump hates Bezos. We know that he attacks him frequently on Twitter. He hates a lot of the reporting at "The Washington Post".
But we also know that the Saudis are not very happy with "The Washington Post" because, frankly, the Saudis killed one of their opinion columnists and they have been incredibly aggressive in investigating and getting to the bottom of what happened in that case.
And on a parallel track, AMI has reportedly been sucking up to the Saudis, perhaps because they have some kind of financial relationship or want one.
LIZZA: So, you know, there are a lot of unanswered questions about this and what the motivation here was, but just to go back to the question to Renato, I think to a normal layperson, this was extortion. Right? This was you do X or we're going to expose these pictures.
LEMON: And they did it in writing, though, allegedly.
LIZZA: They did it in writing. You know, a lot of smart lawyers have said this is not necessarily criminal, but it is about the sleaziest thing one can imagine, and kudos to Jeff Bezos for -- at a great personal sacrifice to his privacy for coming back and making their claim zero because he said, you know, what I'm not scared of you to do this, I'm going to put out the information --
LEMON: Put it all out there --
LIZZA: -- myself.
LEMON: -- before you. Right. Get ahead of it. So, listen, Renato, David Pecker, the chairman and CEO of AMI started cooperating with the SDNY's investigation into Michael Cohen. That was in August. So, if he did commit a crime here, what does that do to his deal?
MARIOTTI: Well, that deal is worthless at that point. And that's why I will tell you, to me, the real unanswered question here is why did AMI and their attorneys take this big risk?
I will tell you as an attorney, I advise clients all the time and I usually, when a client is in a situation like this where the federal government is already looking at them, here they have a deal with prosecutors. And the downside of losing that deal is so tremendous. [23:20:04] Anything that gives you even a 1 percent chance of blowing
up that deal is somewhere you don't go, you don't take that risk. So, they must have really been motivated to take a big risk here. I wonder why that is.
I mean, one possibility is that, perhaps, crimes were committed to get this information of Jeff Bezos. I mean, what if, for example, they get his pictures and texts and so forth, a crime was committed and now that deal, if that's discovered, those crimes, then the whole deal gets blown up there. I mean, it has to be pretty pay for them to get this kind of risk.
LEMON: I got to get you before I let you go here, Mr. legal expert, I want to get your take on the Supreme Court tonight, blocking a Louisiana abortion access law for going into effect for now. This is five-four with Chief Justice Roberts joining liberals. Does that surprise you?
MARIOTTI: Well, it's interesting, a 2016 decision of the Supreme Court, almost identical law, that essentially the court of appeals here was trying to say, hey, even though the court in 2016 said that this law was unconstitutional, we're going to reverse that and second it up to the Supreme Court.
And even though Chief Justice voted with the minority in the last case he upheld the rule of law here and essentially said we are not going to let --
MARIOTTI: -- our precedents be overturned in that way.
LEMON: What does this mean for the future of Roe v. Wade, Ryan, do you think?
LIZZA: Well, I think one political point on this, is remember Susan Collins and some of the pro-choice Republicans who -- Susan Collins, specifically, decided to vote for Kavanaugh in the end, and she argued strenuously that her private conversations with Kavanaugh, her review of his record, led her to believe that she -- that he would be on the other side of decisions like this.
And I think there are going to be a lot of questions for Susan Collins about whether she was correct or not in that judgment, but it also says that there have been previous abortion cases that didn't come down this way recently, but it does suggest that Roberts is not a sure vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. He's been slightly more nuanced on this than I think some people expected.
But watch people talking about Susan Collins in the coming days and her judgment about Kavanaugh and what this decision says about that decision.
LEMON: Interesting. Renato, I also want to get your take on what you think of the special counsel's investigation. Mueller's team says that the August 2016 meeting between the Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, his Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik goes to the heart of what the special counsel is investigation -- investigating. What does that tell you about where Mueller is heading at this point?
MARIOTTI: Well, Mueller has been trying to put together a case of Russians and Americans working together to commit crimes related to the election. And really, the closest we came to that were some of what we've seen reported and particularly the unredacted portions that were mistakenly revealed by Manafort's attorneys about his dealings with Kilimnik, where, for example, he was giving that internal polling data to Kilimnik.
So, I will tell you this doesn't surprise me. What I'm interested in, whether reading a report or seeing in charges, what more there was in terms of the dealings between Manafort and Kilimnik.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
LIZZA: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: The president is furious that the House Intelligence Committee hired former National Security Council staffers. A member of that committee, Congressman Mike Quigley, responds next.
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The Hill is reporting tonight that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are preparing to issue a subpoena for phone records linked to the June 2016 Trump tower meeting. That was a meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer.
So, let's discuss now. Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley is here. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee. I appreciate you joining us. I know that you're very busy.
So, if the report from the Hill is correct, is it correct that your committee is preparing to subpoena phone records linked to the June 2016 Trump tower meeting? Is that correct?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, (D) ILLINOIS: I cannot comment on specific subpoenas that may or may not happen. I will tell you, it is the kind of communication that we're going to be interested in.
I think what's fair and important for us to move forward is all communications between Trump associates and the Russian contacts. And that goes way beyond the phone records, all the other apps and social media platforms in which they were communicating.
The fact that we couldn't do that in the last two years under Republican control, where they tanked the investigation then shut it down, made the investigation nearly impossible and it made the questioning of people who appeared before us much more difficult.
I guess you can compare it to a civil case or a criminal case where you don't have any of the discovery beforehand. So, you're flying blind. The fact is we now know that there are at least 18 Trump associates
communicating with Russians or their cutouts and at least 100 meetings -- 28 meetings and 100 contacts. I believe it's possible that there are many, many more.
For us to fully appreciate what the Russians did and whether there was a conspiracy to work with them, we need to know who was communicating with whom and what exactly -- when those communications took place.
LEMON: Representative, also tonight, we're learning that special counsel's team says that the August 2016 meeting between the Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik is of significance to Mueller. What does that say to you?
QUIGLEY: It is one or more -- I believe that that communication, the ongoing communication between Mr. Manafort and other key Russians is absolutely critical to understanding what was taking place.
[23:29:59] Obviously, Mr. Stone, Mr. Manafort, Mr. Flynn, Mr. Cohen, those are all people who are sort of in the same bailiwick when they're having communications with Russians at critical times. So it is just one example, a pattern of behavior, if you will which, we're trying to get a hold of and understand more fully.
LEMON: Let me ask you about the president's former attorney, Michael Cohen. He's supposed to testify before your committee tomorrow. But the chairman, Adam Schiff, says that it's been postponed to the end of the month. This is a quote, "in the interest of the investigation." What does that mean, what's happening between now and the 28th?
QUIGLEY: I think that this is a complicated investigation for the special counsel. It's equally complicated investigation for the House and Senate committees that are involved. Our job is to find out what took place, but not to trample or impair what the special counsel may or may not be doing.
I do believe that Mr. Cohen will testify before multiple committees in the House. I do believe that in the final analysis, there will be an open hearing. I believe that's what everyone wants, and I do believe that Mr. Cohen will eventually testify before the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
LEMON: Your committee has hired the former National Security Council aides to help with oversight efforts. What are you hoping to gain by bringing on these former officials?
QUIGLEY: I think there's a wealth of expertise that comes from what variety of these people have done. This is a complicated investigation. I compared it to Watergate, calling it calculus to Watergate's algebra. So, their expertise on specific areas involving other countries will help us not just with the Russian investigation.
But remember, you know, 90 percent of what we do is protecting this country. You know, there are the 17 agencies that keep this country safe, from the CIA, the FBI and others. They have a world of expertise in the countries that we are concerned about. LEMON: Can I ask --
LEMON: Reportedly, the president is furious, really mad about this. Why do you think he's so mad?
QUIGLEY: You know, I think the president is showing flashes of desperation. The fact that you would hire career professionals to do the work of the House Select Committee on Intelligence shouldn't concern the president of the United States. I think some of the people we're talking about are career workers who were involved in the Obama administration.
I think to believe the president and any of his concerns are to believe some sort of deep-state conspiracy, we're not -- he's implying that they're snatching people from his inner circle who are going to reveal critical information about the president of the United States.
QUIGLEY: It's simply not true. It's the committee doing its work, bringing on qualified people.
LEMON: Representative Mike Quigley, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
QUIGLEY: Thank you. Take care.
LEMON: House Democrats are preparing a major investigation of the president's finances, and he is lashing back at them. How worried should he be?
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee taking the first steps today to try to get President Trump's tax returns. Can you believe that? The committee hearing from experts on how an obscure provision in the tax code could potentially give the chairman access to Trump's returns.
Let's discuss now, Michael D'Antonio here, Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump," and Andrea Bernstein, the co-host of the podcast "Trump, Inc." from WNYC and ProPublica. You won for this podcast what?
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, CO-HOST, TRUMP, INC. PODCAST: A duPont.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
LEMON: And welcome. Michael, you covered Trump for years. He has been adamant about not releasing his personal financial details. What is he trying to hide?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, he lies a lot. So, no matter what is in these tax returns, we're going to discover that he has lied about something. He has either lied about how wealthy he is and how much money he makes, and this claim to being a billionaire is not quite proven, or perhaps he has lied about his connections to foreign interests, maybe he's lied about how he acquired his wealth, the inheritances from his father.
There are so many possibilities here for deception. And I think also, he could wind up being exhibit 1-A for what is wrong with the tax system. We may discover that he hasn't paid much in taxes at all for a very long time. And the public is going to see this and think well, wait a minute, how is this person who is ostensibly so rich not paying taxes the way that I'm paying taxes? So, there's nothing good in this for him.
LEMON: And you have said and others that there's absolutely no evidence that he's presented -- actual evidence that has been presented that he's a billionaire.
D'ANTONIO: I'm not sure that he is. You know, he's one of these people who hectored the various lists, insisting that he be put on them as a billionaire. You know, I think during the campaign, it was $10 or $12 billion he was worth. But when he and Tim O'Brien were in court over this, he had trouble proving that he even possessed $1 billion in wealth.
LEMON: Interesting. So, Andrea, when he hosted "The Apprentice," he was able to present himself, right, as a businessman, consummate businessman, who has it all together. Do you think that, you know, was that accurate as to what was happening behind the scenes at the Trump Organization?
BERNSTEIN: Well, from what we know now just from the reporting that we've done, that others have done, there were a lot of problems.
[23:39:58] There was -- I mean, for example, look at the Michael Cohen guilty plea. Well, that involved the Trump Organization participating in making elicit payments, or there's an investigation of the Trump Foundation, whether there was appropriate walls between the campaign, the foundation, and the Trump Organization.
So, from what we have learned already, there are -- there has been a tremendous amount of problematic behavior. So, we don't know why the president is so upset. We don't know what there is left to find. It's unknowable until we actually find it. But we do know when we examine deals, when we examine financial transaction, when we examine business partners, we find a lot of problematic people and some of the people he was working with are now, we know, outright crooks.
D'ANTONIO: Well --
D'ANTONIO: You know, what do you think we would think if it were shown that Donald Trump's business tax returns indicated payments to AMI? So, how is it that he's gotten such great publicity from the National Enquirer for so many years? Was he buying the publicity? His assumptions about everybody being corrupt, the way that he attacks Bezos, for example, are based on his own experience.
LEMON: And projection.
D'ANTONIO: Right. So we know that these returns and if they dig deep enough, get into his business activities, could reveal all kinds of cross currents that no one has imagined.
BERNSTEIN: In fact, "The New York Times" did get some of his father's tax returns.
BERNSTEIN: They concluded that there was outright fraud, that was their language, in the way that the Trump family business had not declared taxes, not made clear the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, $413 dollars, they say, Trump's father gave him that he has not declared. He said, oh, no, it was a million. So, I think obviously what all this is building to is the sort of question is what was he doing in Moscow?
LEMON: It was amazing to many people that that story in "The New York Times" that you referenced was kind of a big shrug, and that's a huge story.
BERNSTEIN: Right. I mean, it's hard to know because these things have a way of coming back around with Trump, but it does show that when you start looking even at something that people thought was old and long ago, a lot of questions are raised about possible criminal behavior.
LEMON: When it comes to doing business in Russia, he has always maintained that he has nothing to hide. Listen to this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): By the way, I would say, I don't -- I don't -- I mean, it's possible there's a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?
I don't make money from Russia. I don't have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don't. They said I made money from Russia. I don't. It's not my thing. I don't, I don't do that. Over the years, I've looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one.
LEMON: You think that that debt could also be something that he's trying to hide?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I mean, what we know from Michael Cohen's guilty plea before the special counsel was that the Trump Organization was trying to get a Trump Tower building built up until the time practically that president -- now President Trump accepted the nomination of his party, even though he denied it.
So, again, this question is, if it's all fine and if it's something as he now says, oh, this was just something any businessperson would do, I was running a business, I might not have won, I was entitled to make money, the question is, why did he say all this time that he wasn't when he was if it wasn't problematic?
There is a question here about how things add up and fit together. I think what we're having now with the House various oversight committees looking into that is the possibility of actually getting some answers to these questions.
LEMON: I got to run. That's got to be the last word. Thank you, both. I appreciate -- boy, oh, boy, appreciate your time. A Republican congressman tried to have the fathers of two Parkland victims kicked out of a gun violence hearing when they interrupted him. Congressman Gaetz told Chris Cuomo his side of the story tonight. And one of the fathers tells me his side, next.
[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The father of a Parkland shooting victim is speaking out tonight about a raw and emotional encounter on Capitol Hill. Congressman Matt Gaetz interrupted by two Parkland fathers when he tried to use a hearing on gun violence yesterday to discuss illegal immigration and the need for a border wall. Well, the congressman then tried to kick the fathers out of the hearing. Here's that incredible confrontation.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: HR-8 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Mr. Chairman --
GAETZ: I hope that we'll deal with all of the drivers of violence. The greatest driver of violence in the circumstances that I indicated was not the firearm. It was the fact that we have an immigration system that allows people to come here violently. We engage --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): There will be no comments or demonstrations, please.
GAETZ: Mr. Chairman, 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 or is there --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I will -- excuse me. If the gentleman repeats that or any other comment, I will direct he be removed.
LEMON: Joining me now, one of those fathers, Manuel Oliver.
Mr. Oliver, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.
[23:50:00] MANUEL OLIVER, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM: Thank you for having me here.
LEMON: We were just watching Fred Guttenberg interrupting Representative Matt Gaetz. But both of you lost your children in the Parkland shooting. Your son, Joaquin Oliver, was 17 years old. Jamie Guttenberg was 14. Why did you interrupt the congressman? What did you want to say to him?
OLIVER: Well, I was just trying to stop him from what he was starting to say and the point that he was trying to make, which was totally out of content in that room. The reason why we are there is because we lost our loved ones. There were like 100 kids behind us. They're there because they have concerns about gun violence. And let's keep in mind of what really matters here, and that's keeping people alive.
He was trying to make a point that was totally unrelated to what the purpose of that meeting was. And I prevent him, in a way, to just go back to the main point here. Don't sell an idea that is just not -- it won't belong to this discussion. That was the whole point. I reacted as a father. That's my position.
LEMON: Yeah. I want you to listen now. This is Congressman Gaetz. He was on with my colleague, Chris, just a short time ago. This is what he had to say about the hearing. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAETZ: I wanted to highlight the fact there are victims of gun violence who would be in a better position today if we did not have illegal immigrants using guns to kill people. Why is it that your network creatively slice and dice that audio to make it look like I was trying to throw a guy out?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What is your reaction to that?
OLIVER: Well, he did try to throw us out. He wasn't able to. I think he didn't -- I don't know if he knew who we were. I think he did. But sometimes, when you have something in your head, that is the only solution, which is what I think in this case, this person has, he won't listen to anything else.
He was in that room to make his point, to sell his project. And I was in that room along with another hundred people asking for answers that will defeat gun violence. He had five minutes to make his point, according to the rules in the room. For me, those were five minutes that we wasted.
And this is an emergency. We need to make sure that every minute counts. We need to work faster than he's planning to work. He's part of that committee. And I'm very disappointed about that because I don't see him qualified for that.
LEMON: You said he was trying to sell his point. You have called him, Representative Gaetz, a salesperson from the Republican Party, a salesperson, with no qualifications to discuss gun violence as you said. What do you mean by that when you say he is not qualified to be on that committee?
OLIVER: Well, I think that once you have your mind set up in a position that will defend the NRA and the gun lobby, it is pretty hard to get from you another point of view. And I get that, but it makes no sense. You can be concerned about some people dying and not concerned about the other amount of people that dies in this nation, 40,000 people.
Let me tell you something. I came to this country looking for a safety place to raise my kids. That makes me an immigrant that decided to move here because I wanted it to be here. I wanted to live here because I love this nation. Now, I'm staying here and I lost my son because he was shot inside his school by an American citizen, by a white male American citizen.
So, it's hard for me to be in a serious conversation when we're trying to move forward and defeat gun violence and receive as an argument from the other side that we need to build a wall so no more illegal aliens are committing crimes in our nation. I think that's another discussion, again.
Actually, to be honest, I want to go back to where I was before this. I didn't know who this guy was. And the name that really matters to me is my son's name and the other 40,000 people that, every single year are not with us anymore. We should all be concerned about that. That's the other thing.
If we have something in common here is that we are parents. We don't want to lose our kids. I don't want anybody to lose -- you don't have to be where I am to understand this point. So, any congressman from any party, any color, should understand this.
OLIVER: Why is it -- why is it so hard for everyone to get the number of a hundred people dying per day because of gun violence and not doing anything is an option?
[23:55:07] How come we are concerned about everybody but apparently a group of people, a certain group of people, it will keep defending the crazy idea that by arming more and more and more the nation, we can solve the problem?
LEMON: Yeah. Well, you are honouring your son by what you're doing. Again, your son is Joaquin. We thank you so much for that. That's a picture of him. Listen, we are sorry for your loss. We appreciate the way that you are standing up and fighting and trying to do good things for this country. Thank you so much, Mr. Oliver. OLIVER: Thank you for having me here. Thank you very much.
LEMON: And thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.