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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Denies Talking To President Trump About Mueller Probe; Report: "Pipeline" Of Undocumented Trump Golf Club Workers; Jeff Bezos Hints At Saudi Ties To Blackmail Efforts; President Trump Declared "In Very Good Health" After Annual Physical; Why John Dingell's Final Words Matter So Much In Divided D.C. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 8, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: News continues. Want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for CUOMO PRIME TIME.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Thank you, Anderson. Even sick, you're still our best. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

We have new information on a major story. And we have one of the players in that ugly showdown with the acting A.G. today before Congress. Do they believe what Matthew Whitaker told them? And if not, what's next? We're going to ask a key Democrat who got snapped at while questioning Whitaker today.

Then, new twists, did the President's favorite tabloid try to blackmail the richest man in the world? And did the Saudis have anything to do with it? Our court will deliberate.

And the President tells us they're criminals, rapists, and we have to keep them out. But he has no problem putting the same people on his payroll. The President reportedly hired an entire town abroad to build his Summer White House. More proof of the farce tonight.

Facts first on a Friday, what do you say? Let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: All right, today was the first big showdown where Democrats tried to get answers from the Trump Administration and it got ugly early. The man overseeing the Mueller probe took them on during the questioning.

But they were able to get him to cough this up, and it's important.

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MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have not interfered in anyway with the Special Counsel's investigation.

I have not denied any funds to the Special Counsel's investigation.

I have not attempted to use inter - any intermediaries to get information to the President.

I have not talked to the President of the United States about the Special Counsel's investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Democrat Eric Swalwell was among the Judiciary Committee Members to field Whitaker's fire today. The Congressman joins us now. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Chris. Thanks for having me back.

CUOMO: So, first question, did you believe all of the answers given to you by the acting A.G.?

SWALWELL: Well we're going to have to test those answers, Chris, with other witnesses and other evidence. So, I'm not going to draw that conclusion now. But I don't think these guys are worth being taken at their word.

They've proven in the past, the Trump Campaign, the Trump family, the Trump businesses, and the Trump Administration that they have been deceitful. And so, we're in a position now, being in the majority that we can test their accounts, and we plan on doing that.

CUOMO: Well so, you know, I'll tell you what though, just by having an open question on that basis, Congressman, that's kind of - that's kind of severe. You think that there's a chance that an acting Attorney General might lie to Congress?

SWALWELL: Well I asked him about an account that The New York Times reported, which was that before he became Chief of Staff to Sessions, he was auditioning and interviewing to be the President's lawyer in the White House to respond to the Mueller investigation.

The New York Times said that he had met with Don McGahn. And so, I asked him--

CUOMO: Right.

SWALWELL: --about that. And he actually said, "No, that never happened." So, that's inconsistent with a very reputable publication's reporting. So, we're going to have to go back and see, you know, what was going on there.

CUOMO: You know, another interesting aspect today that could be a key takeaway. You know, was he telling the truth? Great.

He was asked a question that you guys tend to ask people around the Mueller probe about whether or not they defend it, support it, this and that, he would talk about the fact that Mueller has integrity, Mueller doesn't have a conflict. He did not say he would defend the probe. He said it's an ongoing

investigation. What did you make of that?

SWALWELL: Well he also would not say that it's not a witch-hunt, where you heard--

CUOMO: Right.

SWALWELL: --William Barr said that and others, Rod Rosenstein has said that. And I think that he knew that the most important person watching that hearing for his sake was Donald Trump, and he wasn't going to go that far.

But I did get him to say that he believed Bob Mueller to be honest, and he believed that despite the President's multiple tweets, Bob Mueller is not conflicted.

But again, I - I tried to see, "Are you willing to say that to the President right now? Mr. President, he's honest, he's not conflicted." And again, he wouldn't go that far. And so, you can see, I think, the fear that a lot of these people have of getting on the wrong side of Donald Trump.

CUOMO: I - you also asked him about pardons. And he said, I just want to get the language right, he hasn't been involved in any discussions about pardons.

And yet, in the Manafort filing, it's worth pointing out that for the first time, a Special Counsel prosecutor suggested that a person, in this case, Manafort, was not forthcoming because he was angling for a pardon.

So, what did you make of that?

SWALWELL: We believe that a lot of these witnesses, just from the evidence that's out there, I'm sorry, a lot of these defendants or indicted or - or even people like who pled guilty like Manafort that they are seeking pardons. And so, that's why I wanted to get to the bottom of that.

And I'm going to take him again at his word that he's being straight with us. But I'm not going to just let that be the last word. We're going to look at other witnesses at the Department to see if, you know, pardons are being explored.

He also, Chris, what was interesting, he said, well, you know, Congressman that the Department has a process for pardons which, of course, has always been the case until Donald Trump came along and Sheriff Joe was pardoned--

CUOMO: Right.

SWALWELL: --without that process being honored.

[21:05:00] CUOMO: Right. So, you know, I guess it was at the point where he was being asked about whether or not the report would be made public. And he sounded a lot the way William Barr was reportedly sounding to Senator Durbin, "Well, I don't know, you know. We got to see what the rules and regulations allow."

And I - I thought to myself in that moment, "Why are they doing this? Why are the Democrats even holding this hearing?" You know the guy's not going to give you straight answers on this kind of stuff. You know he's a short-timer.

Why waste the time or is that a fair thing to say to suggest--

SWALWELL: Well--

CUOMO: --it was a waste of time?

SWALWELL: No, this was a - a damage assessment to the rule of law.

It's been - it's had a wrecking ball taken to it for the last two years, and he has been presiding over the Department for the last few months. This is the first time we've been able to take that damage assessment.

So, we wanted to see is the rule of law still standing, does the Mueller investigation have the freedom of movement that we believe that it needs? And, of course, he is a potential obstruction witness considering that it was fishy in every way that he came into being the acting Attorney General.

It was fishy in the way that he refused to recuse himself despite the counsel that he should. And it was fishy in the way that he said that the investigation was nearly complete when he said that last week.

And when I asked him "If Bob Mueller was sitting here right now, would he agree with you that it's nearly complete?" and he said, "No, he wouldn't agree with me."

CUOMO: And, you know, look, this first big showdown here is a little bit of a window into our future. I want to play it back and forth between you and another Committee Member--

SWALWELL: Yes.

CUOMO: --as a kind of telescoping where we may be headed.

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REP. DOUG COLLINS, R-GEORGIA: Look, I'm - I'm outgunned over here. I have no others (ph). This is not part of the called (ph) hearing. Mr. Swalwell, there's plenty of things to do. And Mr. Cicilline, you can come up (ph).

REP. JERROLD NADLER, D-NEW YORK, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Will the gentleman yield?

SWALWELL: Mr. Collins, if you want to sit down there with his lawyers--

COLLINS: My point of all (ph).

SWALWELL: --you can go sit down there, but you're not his lawyer.

NADLER: Gentlemen - Gentlemen - Gentlemen will suspend.

COLLINS: And neither are you, Mr. Swalwell.

NADLER: Gentleman - Gentleman--

COLLINS: And if you'd ask questions that are actually part of this instead of running for president, I know we could get this done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, that's ugly, right?

So, he's - you know, he's out there. He's the Republican. He's taking care of Whitaker. You call him out for it. Say, "Go, sit with Whitaker, if you want to be like that." He comes at you for wanting to run for 2020. Is this the way it's going to be, going forward?

SWALWELL: Yes. And I have a lot of respect for Mr. Collins. He and I came in together. And this is our - our process right now.

But I - I'll tell you, Chris, as the son of a cop who busted his back for me to be the first in the family to go to college, it's not an insult to say to me, "You're running for President." That, you know, to my dad, he's like, "Yes. We - we did it."

CUOMO: So, what does that mean? Are you thinking about running?

SWALWELL: I'm - I'm considering it.

CUOMO: Oh.

SWALWELL: We're getting close. I - I'm offering right now, you know, I'm going to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

I think I have a vision of going big, being bold, and doing good, being connected to everyday Americans by being the first to go to college, by having student loan debt, and two kids under two, I - I think you need a candidate that understands the American struggle of grit, and want.

And then, also, coming from a place in the country, Silicon Valley, where we believe that, you know, being inventive and resilient can solve problems, and not the way that this Washington Wall just, you know, kills optimism, and opportunity.

So, I - I see opportunity there. I'm still sorting it out with my family. But I'm excited to even be considering it.

CUOMO: That is some polished response you just gave me there, Congressman. I do believe you are seriously considering this. Let me ask you one question. I'm going to give you a minute more of this show here, because this matters. So, let's say you decide to run. You're going to have to fight your way through the field. The Party's got to figure out where its soul is, how far Left do you have to go. Let's say you make it through, all right?

SWALWELL: Yes.

CUOMO: And you're now face to face with Donald Trump.

How do you deal with the President when he starts coming at you with the nickname, and all the things he says, and all the things that back in the day, you know, your father would have put a baton over the top of his head for even saying it, how would you respond in that dynamic? What's going to be your approach?

SWALWELL: The same way I did for seven years in an Oakland courtroom, I would stand up and present the evidence.

And the case I would make would be to the American people that Donald Trump was right when he told Americans that many of them were disconnected, and that their hard work wasn't adding up to anything. But the problem is, is that he just has not delivered for them, and they need someone who will.

CUOMO: Can you go toe-to-toe with Trump?

SWALWELL: Oh, absolutely. And I - I'm looking forward to that. And - and it's not about Donald Trump. It's about the people who are counting on him to deliver for them.

CUOMO: Well, please, let me know where your head winds up on this. You'd be an important entry into the race. Appreciate your perspective on today.

SWALWELL: Of course, thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Eric Swalwell, Congressman, thank you.

How about that? I thought that was a throwaway question. Now, we may have a new entrant in the race. He represents things that we don't have in the race right now, very interesting.

So, from the big hearing to the big hypocrite, the people this President wants you to hate, he hires and even more than we knew, an astounded discovery that leads from this prized property all the way to Central America, next.

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CUOMO: So, this President has made his Bedminster Golf Course a central feature of his Presidency. He spent 68 days there while President so far. He's been there so much the place has earned the nickname "The Summer White House."

He basically ran his transition out of that private club as well. And, you know, it's interesting because all that time, he was hiring and surrounded by people that he wants you to hate.

We were on this story when it broke a few months ago. I just had a lawyer on, you'll remember, this Wednesday, had him on before that, as the Trump Organization is now purging dozens of its undocumented workers.

Now, there's new reporting from the Washington Post describing a pipeline of undocumented workers from places like Costa Rica being used to build the President's Crown Jewel. Listen.

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JOYCE ANTILA PHIPPS, IMMIGRATION LAWYER: I asked him, so where do you work? He said, "Well, I work at the Trump Golf Course in Bedminster." And I said, "How is that possible?" "Oh," he says "oh, they fixed my papers." I said, "What do you mean they fixed your papers?" I - I almost fell over. He says, "Oh, yes," he says, "nobody up there has papers."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Mmm-hmm!

The Post details how immigrants traveled north to work as groundskeepers, housekeepers, dishwashers. The workers provided pay stubs as proof, and a local immigration lawyer described the use of undocumented labor as an "Open secret," and said, all they needed was a crudely printed phony Green Card and a fake Social Security number to land a job.

Now, keep in mind, when you hear this President talk about what I call his largely fictional Brown Menace that's supposedly pouring into the country, or when he uses the trappings of the Presidency to sell you stuff like this.

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[21:15:00] DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will follow two simple rules, "Buy American and Hire American."

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CUOMO: Yes, except, he doesn't follow them. That's what you have to remember. And he has the gall to make himself an agent of those standing in opposition to the political class who dismissed the problem.

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TRUMP: No issue better illustrates the divide between America's working-class and America's political class than illegal immigration.

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CUOMO: Yes. And he said the political class lives behind their walls, so do you, except the undocumented workers are on the inside of your walls, because you hired them, for the same reason, by the way, that many of your rich corporate buddies do it.

Because they need these people to fill some of the 6.9 million unfilled jobs in this country, the biggest chunks of which are in construction, food services, and hospitality, in other words, the types of jobs at golf courses.

This is not - you know, look, it's not like this is a new contradiction for the President. During the campaign, he was asked again and again about his country's - yes, his company's use of undocumented workers.

He insisted that his companies did all they could to get this right. Here's his answer.

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TRUMP: I went with the E-Verify system.

I have the E-Verify system.

We're going to have all sorts of E-Verify and everything you can think of.

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CUOMO: Now, fair point, last year, the President did call for making the E-Verify program mandatory. He just didn't follow through. He's also called for, quote, huge financial penalties for companies that hire undocumented workers, he just didn't follow through. It was all just talk. There is no effort to go after employers the way

he relishes chasing after the workers. And, as for E-Verify, out of Trump's 12 U.S. Golf Courses, guess how many use E-Verify? You heard him say, "We use the E-Verify." Three. Three are currently enrolled, all right?

Facts first, he's lied about the problems that migrants pose. He's lied about the farcical wall as a solution to this ersatz crisis. And he has lied to you about his role in the problem that he can't seem to get enough of. And that is the truth.

So, what do you think? Height of hypocrisy or he didn't know or some other explanation to make it all seem OK? Let's put it up for a great debate on a Friday night, next.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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[21:20:00] CUOMO: Hire American! That's what the President always tell you, right? Look, and it's a great instruction. He just doesn't follow it, OK? And he also says, "And if you don't, if you break the rules, there should be punishment."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS HOST, MSNBC: What should be the punishment for hiring some--

TRUMP: You know, it is--

MATTHEWS: --what should be the punishment for be - really--

TRUMP: Well, you can be very strong, sure, sure.

MATTHEWS: --you're collaborating with an illegal immigrant.

TRUMP: You can be very, very strong. It can be a huge financial penalty. It could be beyond a financial penalty.

MATTHEWS: Why don't these guys in your party--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Unless it's about him, apparently. So, when will the President answer for the latest proof of his perfidy? Or, is this somehow OK? A great starting point for the Great Debate.

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TEXT: THE GREAT DEBATE.

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CUOMO: Bunch of heavyweights, Angela Rye and Steve Cortes, thank you both on a Friday night for being with me.

ANGELA RYE, ATTORNEY, IMPACT STRATEGIES PRINCIPAL & CEO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, NPR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Thank you.

CUOMO: I appreciate it. Now, to set the table-- STEVE CORTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL HEAD, MARKET EXPERT, AUTHOR: Thank you.

CUOMO: --I just want to make it very clear the Trump position on what they know about their clubs. Here is Trump' son, Eric on exactly this issue.

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ERIC FREDERICK TRUMP, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SON, BUSINESSMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, FORMER REALITY TELEVISION PERSONALITY: People think of - of Trump as being just a face, just a - a brand. There is not one element of these club houses which we don't know about. You name it, we're involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Does that include the hiring of the undocumented immigrants, brother Cortes?

CORTES: I don't think so. Look, I - I'm very glad and heartened that the President, as President now, wants to be a driver of a solution to this problem. But I won't mince words.

His Organization was part of the problem. And there's no way around that.

CUOMO: Is--

CORTES: And - and in that regard--

CUOMO: --is part of the problem.

CORTES: No, well, no, they're cleaning it up right now. So, I don't think we can say it in--

CUOMO: So, is--

CORTES: --present tense.

CUOMO: --part of the problem. As long as they have--

CORTES: No, don't do (ph)--

CUOMO: --undocumented workers, he can't be out there touting--

CORTES: They--

CUOMO: --the fears of the--

CORTES: Look--

CUOMO: --Brown Menace.

CORTES: --Chris, I am - I am conceding to you that they were part of the problem, clearly. And - and in this regard, unfortunately, to them, to their discredit, as an organization, they were - they were little different from business in America.

Business in America has loved illegal immigration. Is it - it has always at least tacitly approved of illegal immigration. Why? Because they want endless - an endless flow of cheap labor into this country. It works great for big business, but it's terrible for American workers.

The President has recognized that and has been the voice of the forgotten workers, who want wages to rise because they shouldn't have to compete in the market against a - an endless flow of millions upon millions of illegal workers.

CUOMO: Why would you vote for him on that basis, Angela Rye when you know he is doing the exact thing he says shouldn't - I didn't say you voted for him. I'm saying why would someone vote for President Trump about this to be your protector from a problem that he is preferring over American workers?

RYE: I think it's clear that the Trump voter voted their dreams and not necessarily their interests. I think what is abundantly telling is what Steve just talked about is, you know, the rhetoric that it's supposed to be for the American workers.

But there's a piece in this article, Chris, that talks about the fact that there were, you know, laborers working for $10 an hour, where a licensed professional will be charging $50 to $55 an hour.

CUOMO: Right.

RYE: So, it's clear that he wasn't doing this in the best interests of either worker, right, because some of these workers couldn't afford to make ends meet, and trying to get home, and trying to help to support folks at home.

I think the other thing that's really interesting, and I can't wait for the Trump tweet on this. He said that we would hire American. Well now we know that he's expanded his definition that Hire American includes Central and South America.

That's what he meant.

CUOMO: Well look, he hasn't responded yet, Steve.

RYE: Ridiculous.

CUOMO: And that tells us something. Ordinarily, you take a shot across the bow of the President you're going to get the bow--

CORTES: Sure.

CUOMO: --turning about and here comes the cannon fire, not a word--

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: --about this.

[21:25:00] CORTES: No, and I think, Chris, that's - because, again, this is a problem.

I'm not trying to sugarcoat it. I'm not trying to shine this sneaker. This is really problematic. However, where do we go from here? I mean, that's the question. Where does the country go?

CUOMO: Well let's deal - why don't we deal with him as the test case though, Steve?

CORTES: --and the American worker has been--

CUOMO: I was thinking about this today.

Why doesn't he take on his own reality as the test case and say, "Here's what I'm going to do. Here's the penalty I'm going to pay because here's what I did, and I'm going to set the standard. I'm not going to duck it. I'm not going to pretend--

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: --this didn't happen and then call fake news and do some other BS," whatever, however he decides to respond to it. "I did it. It was wrong. I lied about it. And here's what I'm going to--

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: --pay as a penalty." Why didn't he do that?

CORTES: Well, hold on, he didn't lie. Now - now that's where it - that's where I'm going to disagree with you. He didn't lie about it, all right? He didn't - do you think that Donald Trump himself, the - the--

RYE: It was an alternative fact, Chris.

CORTES: --Head of the Trump organization, do - do you think that he was hiring greenskeepers and maids? Now, wait, listen--

CUOMO: In the law we call it--

CORTES: --it's still in his watch --it's still--

RYE: Ground - groundskeepers.

CUOMO: --in the law we call it respond--

CORTES: --it's - hold on, it's--

(PHONE RINGING)

CUOMO: Oops, excuse me, that's my kids.

CORTES: OK. But--

CUOMO: --Respondeat superior. We - it's the President, hold on, let me take it.

CORTES: Look, it's--

CUOMO: You admit it? Thank you.

CORTES: --it's - it's still his--

CUOMO: Listen, Steve, this is what I'm saying.

CORTES: --organization.

CUOMO: In the law, it is Respondeat superior.

CORTES: I understand.

CUOMO: It's your business. You've got to own--

CORTES: Yes, listen--

CUOMO: --what it does. And he has told the American people time and time again--

CORTES: --agree. But you say he lied.

CUOMO: --that it shouldn't be done. And that is a lie omission.

RYE: He didn't (ph) lie.

CUOMO: It is a lie by omission because he was doing the exact thing he said should not be done, and he did not disclose.

CORTES: Look--

CUOMO: That is a lying by omission.

CORTES: --I'm - I'm--

RYE: It's deception. It's deception. It's deception.

CORTES: No, it's not a lie by omission. I am very confident--

RYE: It's deception.

CORTES: I'm very confident that he didn't know this was going on.

CUOMO: Hold on. Says it is a lie by omission. He's very sorry. He's not going to do it again.

CORTES: But regardless, he's responsible.

CUOMO: All right, I got to go. I got to finish the show. That's how you deal with a phone call during the show.

RYE: What just happened?

CUOMO: So, Angela, look--

RYE: Oh, my-- CUOMO: --here's the problem for the President on this. Here's what it is. Let's just tee it up. And then you got to tell me how the Democrats deal with this because, you know, everybody's in a hole on this issue right now.

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: He has painted a picture of a threat that doesn't really exist. And even if it did exist--

RYE: That's right.

CUOMO: --a wall would not be the best solution for it. It could be part of the solution, but not the best. So, what is the counter for Democrats in light of this story and of the context?

RYE: Well there are two anecdotal, you know, pieces or facts from this particular story. One was the man - the man who scaled the 10-foot wall--

CUOMO: Right.

RYE: --to get into this country. So, that demonstrates this the physical barrier is not sufficient, right? The other piece is there was a - a gentleman who worked on a cruise line--

CUOMO: Right.

RYE: --and got off the cruise ship, and got papers to go to work at Trump's Golf Course. That's another example of a port of entry that he's not even discussing, that he's not even talking about. And I think that's something we have to pay attention to.

We talked about E-Verify. Only three of his 12 Golf Courses are using the E-Verify system. You cannot preach to the choir to do something that you're not even willing to do in your own businesses.

And you talked about him paying penalties. Chris, he won't even pay his taxes. He's not paying you penalties.

CUOMO: Well, I'm saying he could. He could use himself as an example, Steve.

RYE: He could.

CUOMO: It could be a teachable moment, you know, not to borrow from--

CORTES: Chris, Sure.

CUOMO: --from the Obama.

CORTES: Sure. Listen, it's disingenuous though when you say that the wall is not at least part of the solution. All of us don't know--

CUOMO: No, I said it could be part.

CORTES: Nobody--

CUOMO: I said could be part.

CORTES: OK. But nobody has argued - nobody's argued that it's a panacea. Nobody argue that that alone--

CUOMO: The President has. He says a wall will solve the problems.

CORTES: --solves our illegal - no, he has not.

CUOMO: He - that's what he says all the time.

CORTES: No.

RYE: Beautiful wall.

CORTES: He said it will solve the problem at the Southern border. He has never said that it would solve--

CUOMO: Yes, and I disagree with that.

CORTES: --the entirety of the illegal immigration. But well--

RYE: But I just told you about somebody who scaled a wall at the Southern border.

CUOMO: Yes.

CORTES: --whether you agree or not, Customs and--

CUOMO: Well, no--

RYE: Aired on (ph).

CUOMO: The facts.

CORTES: Well because it wasn't good enough--

CUOMO: Customs and Border Patrol, DHS, have never said--

CORTES: --or big enough and well-monitored (ph).

CUOMO: --the wall is their top priority, never. Never has anybody in charge there said we need the wall first and most.

CORTES: Whether or not it's top priority doesn't mean it's not a crucial priority.

CUOMO: But--

CORTES: They have - they have many reforms that they need to do their job better--

RYE: Crucial would mean top.

CUOMO: Yes, crucial would mean top to me too. CORTES: --in this country. And--

CUOMO: But look, the President made it top, and we know why, Steve. You didn't tell him to say it during the campaign. I'm not blaming you for the sloganeering. But this was his line, and it really worked. And Mexico was supposed to pay for it.

And now, he's making it too personal. He's making this about his promise and protecting him with the base, and he's got you guys in a tough spot because you know you can't argue on the merits that anybody wants the wall more than anything else. Nobody says that.

The people who are polled say it. The politicians who are on the border don't say it. DHS and CBP don't say we're a wall away.

RYE: That's true.

CUOMO: Only he does. That's your fix.

CORTES: No, no, he has not said we're a wall away from the fix. That's just not true. It is a really important tool. It's a vital tool in getting control of the illegal immigration system in this country, among many other tools, and E-Verify perhaps, the most important of all.

I agree. That should be nationwide. It certainly should be--

RYE: Can I just ask a question?

CORTES: --Trump Organization-wide.

CUOMO: All right.

CORTES: That's important.

RYE: Steve--

CUOMO: All right, last word to you, Angela.

RYE: I just have one question.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

RYE: How tall - no, I don't even have a - a last statement, it's a last question. How tall must the wall be to prevent anyone scaling it?

CORTES: As tall and as--

RYE: This is (ph) the question.

[21:30:00] CORTES: --well-built as Customs and Border Protection tell us. And, by the way, we're not talking about habergeons (ph)--

RYE: Is 10-feet - is 10-feet high enough?

CORTES: --wall. We're not talking about something old-fashioned. We're talking about something with anti-tunneling technology underneath, something that's very tall, extremely hard to climb with technology--

RYE: Something like SBInet?

CORTES: --with sensors and cameras and monitors--

RYE: Like SBInet that failed?

CORTES: --something - something like--

CUOMO: It's called bollard fencing.

CORTES: --they have in Israel, which has proven to be 99 percent effective, according to our own--

RYE: How tall is that wall?

CORTES: --Department of Homeland Security in Israel.

CUOMO: That wall is armed, by the way. So, it's a little bit of a different situation.

CORTES: Yes.

CUOMO: Right?

RYE: Right. They - they don't like to say these things, you know (ph)--

CUOMO: You know, they're - they're dealing with an existential crisis.

RYE: --important.

CUOMO: So, it's a little different. I thank you both for this.

Wait, there's the President again. I'm going to have to put him on hold.

RYE: Thank you.

CUOMO: I can't have my phone ringing all show along, you know, you can't have a phone ringing off the hook. Steve, Angela, be well, and thank you. Have a good weekend.

RYE: Thank you.

CORTES: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so let's go from this politics into some dark intrigue. Here's the question.

Why would the National Enquirer want to blackmail Jeff Bezos, as he alleges, and is there some kind of Saudi connection? That's the new wrinkle. We have great investigators on this, next.

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CUOMO: All right, first up, the histrionics at the hearing with the acting A.G, all right? Note that Matthew Whitaker was clear about not having discussed the Mueller probe with President Trump. Listen to this.

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WHITAKER: I have not talked to the President of the United States about the Special Counsel's investigation.

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CUOMO: Now, this was seen as a big deal, although I got to tell you, I don't know why the President hasn't asked. If he's not a target, that's what he keeps saying that they told his lawyers, wouldn't he want some facts to back his feelings?

Anyway, when it came to getting answers about the Southern District of New York probe that was a different story with Whitaker.

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WHITAKER: I am not going to discuss my private conversations with the President of the United States.

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[21:35:00] CUOMO: All right, we've got two great guests to sort this out. We got Mike Isikoff, who was in the room today, and Mike Rogers. Gentlemen, thank you, especially on a Friday night. Let's deal with Whitaker first.

Mike, do you think - Mike Rogers, do you think that this was a worthwhile hearing? And, if so, what popped out to you?

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY MEMBER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Just welcome to the 22 - 2020 Presidential cycle. I - I thought this was demeaning to the Committee all the way around. I mean, to me, it was just very disappointed.

They brought somebody before the Committee and, basically, they didn't have any allegations that there might be some wrongdoing. They just said "We think you did wrongdoing. Now tell me why you didn't?" I just think this is a terrible way to run an investigation on a Committee, number one.

And then, when the A.G. was clearly didn't understand the protocols of the House, when he I thought was rude to the Chairman of the Committee, I - was just shocking to me. I don't know if anybody over there didn't walk him through that you would never do that.

That's their place. It's a separate but equal branch of government. And the Chairman, by the way, could take as much time as he wants, even under the five-minute rule.

CUOMO: Right.

ROGERS: And so, I just - it to me, it was just a poor performance on what the - how democracy works in the United States today. I was - I was - I was frustrated for everybody.

CUOMO: Mike Isikoff, what came across to you?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO! NEWS CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, RUSSIAN ROULETTE CO-AUTHOR: Yes, listen, I - I don't disagree with the Congressman.

This was more political circus and theater than it was, you know, fact-gathering. You know, clearly, the Democrats had a lot of pent-up anger they wanted to vent about the mere fact that Matt Whitaker had been acting Attorney General at all.

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: A guy who did not have any real qualifications for the job, who was not confirmed by the Senate, whose, you know, main, you know, part of his resume was he had been defending President Trump in the Mueller investigation.

But that said they didn't really get much out of him. The - you know, asked the direct question, "Had he spoken to the President--

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: --about the - the Mueller investigation." He said flatly no.

He also indicated he had not - in other lines of questioning, said he had not discussed other investigations, so that would encompass the Southern District as well. So, I - I don't know that anybody gained from this hearing.

CUOMO: Now Mike, are you feeling me on what I was saying in the introduction that I don't know that there's anything wrong with the President asking the acting A.G. about what is - what - why wouldn't the President say, what's the best thing he's got on collusion?

You know, what does he have? What's the best evidence? If he's not a target, if he's not a subject of the investigation--

ROGERS: In - in this environment, Chris--

CUOMO: --why wouldn't he call?

ROGERS: --in this environment--

CUOMO: Well, at least, he'll have a fact basis for his feelings.

ROGERS: --you - you can't even say that. I think your phone is ringing. You can't say that--

CUOMO: Is it him again?

ROGERS: --you can't say that with a straight face.

There's no way. There's no way that the President - and if there were anybody around him, if - if - if I were anywhere near the President, I'd say, "Do not talk about it."

This - this and - this thing is - is risen to a level that you should not have a discussion. You may or may not be a target, eventually. You may or may not be engaged - named in the Mueller report, even though there - there is no indictment, all of that could be possible.

You could be absolutely exonerated in the Mueller report too. That's also a possibility. So just don't talk about it. Go be President. I - I - I would highly recommend that they do it.

And - and if the people at DOJ are smart, sounds like they are, they're basically counseling their Interim and probably their Attorney General, "Don't talk to the President about this one - until the report comes out," and then they'll have their chance to, you know, to take a bite at that Apple.

CUOMO: All right, other topic.

The Saudi connection aspect of the allegation from Jeff Bezos, just quickly, Mike Isikoff, Bezos says, laying crumbs in the statement that he put out, that you had Mr. Pecker go to the White House with a Saudi guy that he was trying to raise money from. The dinner was a reward from the President.

The Khashoggi reporting that the Washington Post did would really bother the Saudis, the Saudis wound up give Pecker the money. Pecker's now going after Bezos who owns the Washington Post, maybe this has something to do with the Saudis, maybe even the President.

Is there anything to the suggestion?

ISIKOFF: Well, you know, you certainly have to place the Saudis as persons of interest in this case.

One of the Washington Post reporters last night was - who had been investigating this said that the Bezos team had suggested that they believed that it was a government entity that had hacked - that had hacked Bezos' phone and got - and gotten these pictures.

Now, you know, look, somebody like Bezos, you know, billionaire chief of one of the biggest companies in America, you would expect to have pretty sophisticated cyber-security on his devices.

So, you - that - that would suggest that some really sophisticated actors gotten into - had gotten into his phone or wherever these pictures were, and hacked them.

[21:40:00] And, you know, you look at foreign governments as likely suspects, and certainly, you know, all the circumstances you just mentioned, you know, would point to the Saudis as - as people you would want to look at right off the bat.

CUOMO: Mike Rogers, any reason to even have the President in the conversation about this other than the fact that he just doesn't like Bezos, which puts Bezos on a very long and Agusta (ph) list?

ROGERS: Yes. I think it's too early for that. But I--

CUOMO: But I mean like ever. Is there any reason is there--

ROGERS: Oh, you mean in - in the - in this--

CUOMO: --why - why would this have anything to do with the President? I mean he may not like Bezos.

ROGERS: Right.

CUOMO: But why does he care about any of this?

ROGERS: Unless that there was some - something to do with the Saudis, you know, on some suggestions about helping out AMI that - and that's not have - has not been discussed. So, I think we should be careful about that. I don't - I have never seen any of that.

What it looked to me on the face of it, when I look at it, by the way, I looked at both the California Statute, the Florida Statute, the New York Statute, I think this is extortion at least by state statute.

CUOMO: Oh, you do?

ROGERS: I do, because you can say that any positive press at a time when you're working a contract would be something of value. I think it's going to be easy to prove the thing of value is--

CUOMO: Oh, no, I get that.

ROGERS: --that they were going to print a story.

CUOMO: I just thought the context--

ROGERS: But and that's - and really, that was the one piece of the extortion that wasn't there that they said, if - if you do this--

CUOMO: Oh. Right.

ROGERS: --I won't do this. And, by the way, that happens all across America, sexting cases, there's plenty--

CUOMO: Sure. Absolutely.

ROGERS: --plenty of precedent on this. And here's the thing on the Saudis.

CUOMO: But they're not usually done as part of a legal negotiation that has lawyers on both sides trying to deal with each other in a settlement. It just seems like a pretty naked attempt to do something like this with all of these people--

ROGERS: Yes.

CUOMO: --being a part of it. That's why I--

ROGERS: Well and - and here's the thing--

CUOMO: --thought it would be harder to prosecute.

ROGERS: --on the Saudis, real quick.

CUOMO: Yes.

ROGERS: I - it looked like to me that AMI was in the money hunt.

CUOMO: Right.

ROGERS: And who better to hunt money from the Saudis? That's why they did the glossy piece, didn't fit their criteria. So that's why I'm saying I - I wouldn't drag the President into it.

I think that visit to the White House was them picking up the phone going, "Hey, I'm going to the White House."

CUOMO: Sure.

ROGERS: "Why don't you come with me? I'm really important. Wouldn't it be great if you invested in this company?"

I think I see more of that happening than I do any grander conspiracy about the President getting the Saudis to invest in AMI, to go after the Washington Post. I - that part is just a bridge too far from it.

CUOMO: Right. Mike Isikoff?

ISIKOFF: Yes, Chris, can I put something out? Look--

CUOMO: Please.

ISIKOFF: --everybody's applauding Bezos - Bezos for going public with this.

And, you know, he probably did do a public service. But there was a way he could have nailed AMI even better, and that is, he could have gone to the FBI, and the FBI would have instantly investigated this case.

They could have wired Bezos or one of his agents that who meeting with either was Dylan Howard, the Content Officer who was making these threatening emails, and they could have arrested them on the spot.

Go back, remember the David Letterman case in 2009--

CUOMO: Yes.

ISIKOFF: --when he was being extorted, you know, by somebody threatening--

CUOMO: But that was only one. There weren't teams of people on either side.

ISIKOFF: Right. But there was--

CUOMO: Doesn't that make it more difficult to prosecute?

ISIKOFF: --there were specific people who were making--

CUOMO: Right.

ISIKOFF: --sending these emails and, you know, they, on their face, presented a prima facie case of extortion, and had the Amazon - had Bezos taken a step further, gone to the FBI, had himself or somebody else been wired for a one-on meeting - one-on-one meeting, you know, they could have made a much stronger case in real time.

CUOMO: Look at you, SpyHunter. Mike Isikoff, thank you very much, Mike Rogers, it's why you guys are the best. Thank you for helping my audience on a Friday night. Appreciate it.

ROGERS: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, it's that time of year again, checkup time. President Trump was once basically called the healthiest man in the world by his doctor, remember all that? So, how is the Burger King's cholesterol now? We're going to find out next.

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CUOMO: All right, so it's been about a year since the President was told he should get on a diet, and nearly a dozen White House sources and others close to the President are telling us this. "They don't believe he's set foot in the Fitness Room in the White House residence, maintaining his view that exercise would be a waste of energy." That is not a joke. That is what he actually thinks and really should be a story in itself. But the good news is the President's own physician reported today he's in very good health, and anticipates he will remain so, for the duration of his Presidency and beyond.

Let's bring in D. Lemon. Despite some not great habits, he is healthy, wealthy and likes fries.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Yes. What happened to wise?

CUOMO: What?

LEMON: What happened to healthy, wealthy and wise?

CUOMO: Oh, is that part - I didn't know that was part of this saying.

LEMON: Yes, well he's healthy. He has a common form of heart disease, right, as well as high cholesterol.

So, you know, a lot of Americans have that. But the thing that you talked about where he - he hasn't set foot in the Fitness Room, you know why he hasn't done that, right?

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: He thinks that--

CUOMO: And people think we're kidding.

LEMON: No. He thinks, and it's been documented, that through interviews and through people who've written about him--

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: --that energy is - it's like - we're like batteries.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: Like we have a finite amount of energy.

CUOMO: It's true. He really believes that.

LEMON: I guess that's why you left the wise out (ph).

CUOMO: And he tells stories where he says, "How many guys have you known who're in their 40s or 50s and they run all the time, they work, and then they just drop dead of a heart attack? They ran out of energy." He really--

LEMON: Yes, that--

CUOMO: --believes that. And I got to tell you, you know, may - there's nothing to that idea. But maybe people--

LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: --put too much emphasis on physical greatness. And, you know, lifting huge weights, and being jacked, and being super healthy, you know, maybe it doesn't--

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LEMON: Are you talking about yourself? I was just going to say--

CUOMO: --no, no, no, I'm saying maybe we shouldn't have these kind of--

LEMON: Oh, he's kidding again (ph). Oh my God.

CUOMO: --impractical standards where people lift small cars, you know, the equivalent over their head like it was nothing. Maybe, you know, we shouldn't ask that of people, maybe it's an unreasonable standard.

LEMON: Have you no shame, Mr. Cuomo? And, guess what, those - people will know that those are empty, right? Those are like plastic things that are empty?

CUOMO: Literally, the average man would crumble and lose all his energy if he tried to lift that weight. But, don't worry, I took care of you. I got you working out too. Put up the picture of Don.

LEMON: Can I tell you--

CUOMO: There you are - there you are. Look at you, there is you getting after it. See?

LEMON: I - I'm living my best life. That was in Santa Barbara, California, and my dog was serving me tennis balls, and I was playing tennis. That - that is my child. Now, I got to tell you--

CUOMO: You got some - you've got some cankles on you. Look at the size of those cankles you got there.

LEMON: Don't be - look, those are naturally big--

CUOMO: Some big knees.

LEMON: --I was about to say fine, you know, what (ph) legs.

CUOMO: You got some big knees.

LEMON: Those are nice, yes.

CUOMO: You're built like a doll (ph). You got like no cuts on you at all. You're all smooth.

LEMON: I'm beautiful. What's wrong with perfection?

CUOMO: Nothing. That's what I'm saying.

LEMON: Why mess with perfection?

CUOMO: You don't have to lift all these heavy weights and sweat and work-out and be jacked. You could just look like that. You're fine.

LEMON: No, I do - listen, I do work-out with a trainer. But listen, I'm not - I'm not - I don't have anything to prove.

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CUOMO: There he is.

LEMON: OK.

CUOMO: 88, 89--

LEMON: I - I love who I am.

CUOMO: --90.

LEMON: 100. No, you're - you're like Anchorman.

[21:50:00] No, listen, here's the thing, here's the thing. I am a man of a certain age. I have nothing to prove. I don't have to do marathons. I work-out for myself, for my health, and for my well- being, for my mental health.

I love life. I will never have a six-pack. You know why? Because I also love food. And I also love to sleep. And there is no shame in--

CUOMO: Your game.

LEMON: --my game. I got to tell you one more thing. I got one more thing.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: So, I was on an entertainment show today, and they asked me about our relationship, and they asked me about you. And you know what I said, what I always say to you, I--

CUOMO: Best-looking man you ever met in your life except for yourself?

LEMON: No, I told them, first of all, your hair you - your hair was not real. By the way, you got a smaller toupe today.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: That's nice. It looks good.

CUOMO: You know how much it costs to get this thing trimmed? LEMON: I know. And secondly--

CUOMO: They got to rethread it in.

LEMON: --I said no one loves Chris more than Chris.

CUOMO: That's not true.

LEMON: And if you don't believe me--

CUOMO: I have and I'm highly self-loathing (ph).

LEMON: --just ask Chris.

CUOMO: That's why I'm so pushed for achievement. I'm not as comfortable with myself as you are, someone suggests too comfortable.

LEMON: So, we were talking about - one of your former colleagues, remember Sam Donaldson was on the show last--

CUOMO: Oh, yes, love him.

LEMON: --early in the week, amazing.

CUOMO: Great mentor.

LEMON: Another one of your former colleagues is going to join me tonight, and talk about, did AMI screw-up their immunity deal? What it means to them legally? Mr. Dan Abrams--

CUOMO: Oh, genius.

LEMON: --will be here.

CUOMO: That guy is great TV, and he knows the law.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Beautiful guy. Great booking. I'll see you in a second.

LEMON: He's in great shape too, if - he's ripped.

CUOMO: He is. He is.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: He's - he's not playing tennis with a dog.

LEMON: Ha-ha.

CUOMO: I'll see you in a second. Come on, you know that was good, the picture of him with a big.

All right, so, I just read, this is very serious and poignant and so perfectly timed, the best leadership message that I've read from a Democrat in a long time, a clarion call to action, and acceptance of a responsibility that seems all but forgotten.

It came from the longest-serving Congressman in U.S. history. There he is, John Dingell, Democrat, Michigan. He passed away yesterday. And he left us a message written in some of his last hours, and it is a gift.

I'm going to give it to you next.

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[21:55:00] CUOMO: American flags are flying at half-staff tonight, an order from the President in recognition of the late Congressman, John Dingell who represented Michigan for an incredible 59 years, a respectful gesture from the President considering especially how often the Congressman was critical of him.

But the President should also pay attention to Dingell's message. We all should. So, he retired in 2014, not out of fatigue, but out of frustration, saying he no longer recognized the institution he loved.

He passed yesterday, and was lucid until the end. In fact, he saw our present politics more clearly than most. He left us a letter to remind us where we need to be in this country.

It is not Left, nor Right, but reasonable, and focused on progress and the process of compromise, disagreement with decency, a call to something bigger than what our electeds are about today.

In the letter, which he dictated to his wife, current Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, on the day he died, he says in part, "In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition.

My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that, fortunately, we see much less of today."

And by being that way, he listed all the fights, as he said, bitter, savage fights that Congress took on, and found solutions for, Medicare, civil rights, the Clean Air and Water Acts, and more, big, big tasks.

He reinforces this reality of Congress being so much more than the mucked-up works, the mockery it is now, by saying this.

"All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as we hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we've made progress. And in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans."

And that point that we should be about country before Party and people before Party is reinforced by another reality, which he articulates so well.

"In my life and career, I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power as in, "the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee." It's an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power, in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better)."

Too many of you in office are playing a game you were never asked to play. Too many of you are there too long, and for the wrong reasons.

The culture of opposition in place of progress has engendered such disaffection that an outsider of questionable credentials and even more suspect character became President, largely on the promise to disrupt the rest of you in your insider intrigue.

Now, while it's hard to argue that this President is bringing purely positive change, the need for change is real. And Dingell, the Dean of the House, knew this to be true until the day he left us, a message from a dying man that could breathe life into an ailing political process.

Thank you, Dean. Our respects to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and their family. May he rest in peace, and may his message live on.

Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON starts right now.

LEMON: I've heard so many people talk about him and nothing - nothing but good things about him.

Sheila Jackson Lee was on speaking about him. I've heard other people on this - this network and others say - talk about his commitment to the public, and public work, and for doing good things.