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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Source: President Trump Not Sold On Last-Minute Border Deal; "El Chapo" Trial Suggests Border Wall Won't Stop Drugs; President Trump Calls Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's Apology "Lame," Suggests She Resign; Former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz To Appear In CNN Town Hall As 2020 Decision Nears. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 12, 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] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: --squarely in my head. Look at me now, will I ever learn?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Oh.

CUOMO: I don't know how but I suddenly lose control.

COOPER: My God, wow.

CUOMO: There's a fire burning in my soul.

COOPER: Wow.

CUOMO: I wonder if the President has those lyrics banging around in his head at those rallies. It's good to have you back, my brother.

COOPER: All right, good to be back.

CUOMO: Great show as always.

COOPER: Thanks.

CUOMO: I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Sign the deal. That is a growing call from people around the President. The President says he's extremely unhappy with the new shutdown stopper. But is there a better option? He has to decide what matters more, making a deal that's good for the country or dealing with the rabid Right-wing of his party.

We have the latest on the vote count as we tick down the days to another potential shutdown. We've got two players here tonight for you, one who helped craft this deal, another in the opposition, and we're going to see if they can hash it out. Let's see if Left and Right can get to reasonable.

One thing the President is decisive about, calling for a Democrat to resign for bigoted comments about Jews. We dug up some sound from him on the same subject that may surprise you. And here's the question. Why speak out now yet be mum about Steve King? That's our great debate. And a lot of people are testing the waters for a 2020 run. But none has set off the Left like the man you're going to see here live on CNN in just minutes, a Presidential Town Hall you will not want to miss.

So, what do you say? Let's get after it.

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CUOMO: All right, we're about 72 hours before the government runs out of money. Where are we? You got a deal coming, you got a shutdown coming, something else. We've got two players, one from each side. This, to set the stage, was the President this afternoon on the potential for a deal.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to study it. I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick but I'm adding things to it.

It's very simple: We're building a wall.

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CUOMO: See Kellyanne back there?

All right, but as of tonight, a source tells CNN, the President isn't completely sold on the compromise after a call with top Republican negotiator, Senator Richard Shelby. Weren't they supposed to figure out what he would accept before this point?

Now, why doesn't he like it? Well the deal falls short of the big price tag that will help him substantiate his promise. Remember, big, bigly, that matters to this President, optics matter.

He wanted $5.7 billion for the wall. This number even falls short of money Democrats already offered him before the first shutdown. Remember? They were going to give him $1.6 billion, which is about what the White House asked for in their budget for the year for physical barriers and Border security.

Now, it's not there. It includes some other sweeteners. But is this enough to seal the deal for the hardliners on the Republican side? We have one. Freedom Caucus Member, Chip Roy, Republican from Texas, great to have you on the show, thank you for taking the opportunity.

CHIP ROY, (R) HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS MEMBER, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR TEXAS'S 21ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Good evening, Chris. Thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: So, what's your counsel to the President? ROY: Well, look, I think the President needs to stick with a plan that the American people want, which is a secure Border. As you know, I was down in Rio Grande Valley last week.

CUOMO: Yes, sir.

ROY: And I - I wish that all the American people can see what I saw, which was almost a 150 to 200 people personally coming across the Border, talking to the Border Patrol about the 400,000 people that will come to the Rio Grande Valley this year alone, of whom 200,000 won't even be apprehended.

And of the ones who will be, 90 percent will be caught and released because we have judicially-created mandatory catch and release.

We found 54 people in a stash house in Houston, Texas who are being held ransom by the cartels that have operational control of our Border, and that are dictating to the United States the terms of what our security in our Border looks like.

Tamaulipas, the state right across the river is a Level 4 State by the State Department, which means it's a no-travel zone.

CUOMO: Right.

ROY: It's more dangerous than Honduras, than Guat - than Guatemala and then many of the countries from which these people are coming. We need to secure the Border. And the - and the President ought to stick to that.

CUOMO: The question has always been priority. You know, a number of the things that you just mentioned, and Congressman, I quibble with none of them. I've done the reporting. I've been all along the Border. I've got great sourcing in DHS and CBP.

ROY: Right.

CUOMO: They need physical barriers.

ROY: Yes.

CUOMO: But there is only one person who says it is the top priority, and that's the President of the United States.

Many of those things you're talking about don't deal with physical barriers. They deal with rules, flow, understandings in the home countries, and interdiction efforts. And all of those should be funded and the requirements are great.

This President says it's all about the wall. That's where the trouble is.

ROY: Well what the President offered, if you remember, was 234 miles of fencing, $600 million of humanitarian relief, 75 judges, 50,000 beds. And oh, by the way, Democrats now, for some reason, they want to make

an argument that we don't need beds, when the beds are the very issue that we need to deal with - with the asylum crisis and the Flores decision, which is the judges that have put on our backs--

CUOMO: Right.

ROY: --a judicially-created mandatory release--

CUOMO: We'll have a Democrat come on about that.

ROY: --which is causing the problem.

CUOMO: But you know, just I'll let the Democrat make his own case. But--

ROY: Sure.

CUOMO: --it's a little apples and oranges.

How many beds should ICE have to do their enforcement versus how many beds should DHS-CBP have to accommodate people who come over as families, they're going to--

ROY: And as you know--

CUOMO: --parse that. But I get the issue.

[21:05:00] ROY: And as you know, we need beds both for Interior Enforcement, for ICE. We need bed - we need beds at the Border. And if we do that, we can actually help the very migrants who seek to come here rather than the girls getting sold into the sex trafficking trade--

CUOMO: Right.

ROY: --and they're being leveraged by the cartels which, as you know, it's a very dangerous environment.

CUOMO: Right. It's just a wall won't stop that.

ROY: The cartels are controlling the Border.

CUOMO: See, here's my - my question for you, Congressman.

ROY: Well, I disagree with that, I do.

CUOMO: Well, let - let's talk about that quickly, and then we'll go into what the alternative is.

ROY: OK.

CUOMO: How does a wall stop trafficking when, first of all, the main part of our problem with trafficking is American kids being trafficked around this country, and there's no similar sense of urgency from this President, or any of you about dealing with that. I spent months on a documentary for HLN documenting it. It's a real problem. You guys don't talk about it. But the trafficking that comes across the Border, it's not about having - not having a fence. It's about a system.

ROY: Well, like--

CUOMO: It's about poverty. It's about criminality and the need for partnerships and interdiction. You're not a wall away from fixing it.

ROY: Well, Chris, look, I actually very much appreciate you spotlighting that issue. It's very important. And look, I take a little issue with that.

When I was in the Attorney General's office with Ken Paxton, we created a Human Trafficking Division to focus on this very problem. And, you're right. Internally, it's a problem with American citizen kids.

CUOMO: Huge.

ROY: But it's a problem for the children that are - the 10-year old and 11-year old girl that I talked to at the Rio Grande, who were walking from Honduras without their parents, and you and I both know that a third of those girls are mistreated--

CUOMO: Terrible.

ROY: --on the journey.

CUOMO: Terrible.

ROY: Now, to your point about fencing, if you look at the Rio Grande Valley sector alone, on the eastern section by the Gulf of Mexico, you've got about 35 miles of fencing and significant infrastructure. On the western side, by McAllen, you've got very little infrastructure.

CUOMO: Right.

ROY: 94 percent of the traffic comes up the western side. And you know--

CUOMO: They stated they need more. The 55 miles they're asking for in this deal is a minimum. But CBP was asking for something like that before this. I have never argued that physical barriers are immoral or unnecessary.

ROY: And I appreciate that yes.

CUOMO: My reporting dictates otherwise. I'm just saying--

ROY: I appreciate that.

CUOMO: --as a matter of priority, the rules of flow are killing the men, not literally. What's choking the system are the rules of flow. God forbid that we lose any of our men or women protecting the Border. I would never want to see that. Nobody should.

ROY: Well--

CUOMO: But the rules are choking them. You got to work on the rules.

ROY: The priority - the priority--

CUOMO: It's not about a wall.

ROY: --the priority for me would be to make sure that we've got physical infrastructure for our Border Patrol, but also the cameras and technology they need.

CUOMO: Yes.

ROY: But here's the important part. Fix the Flores and Asylum decisions that are the magnets causing people--

CUOMO: Get after it.

ROY: --to come here and undermine the cartels.

CUOMO: Get after it.

ROY: I would - we are.

CUOMO: Argue about the rules. But none of this is about the wall. See, the President has hyper-focused--

ROY: All of it.

CUOMO: --you guys on physical barriers. And I know you wouldn't have done that. I know no savvy politician would have started with, "I'm all in on a wall or forget it. I won't negotiate." That's his politics. So, now you're left with--

ROY: Well keep in mind--

CUOMO: --I don't know how you get a better deal. Would you really rather have him call a national emergency? Would you rather have him go Executive Action and then have to pick from this list of priorities?

I'll put it up for the audience. You already know them, Congressman. But if he does Executive Action or a national emergency, you're going to have to pick winners and losers.

Do you take money from Counter-Narcotics? Do you take it from Military Construction? Do you take it from National Disaster Repair? Do you really want to pick losers for a physical barrier that isn't the main priority?

ROY: Well this is not about picking winners or losers. It's about doing our basic job. We have the resources. We need to be able to secure the Border if we'll focus them in the right direction. We know that fences work. You've acknowledged it, and I've

acknowledged it. We know that physical barriers will help the Border Patrol. It ought to be one piece of the entire solution.

And here's the reason the American people want a physical barrier. It's evidence that there's something happening at the Border rather than more talk.

We've had talk for 15 years, and now, people are dying. American citizens like Jared Vargas in San Antonio, who was murdered last year by an illegal immigrant. And the - the illegal immigrants in the stash house I described, and the people that are being abused on the journey, we can stop this.

We're the most powerful nation on earth. And the idea that we--

CUOMO: A wall will not stop those things. There's a lot of things--

ROY: It will help.

CUOMO: --you need to do.

ROY: It will help immensely.

CUOMO: It would help. But you're going to have to--

ROY: It will help immensely.

CUOMO: --make a decision whether or not to vote on this deal.

It's not going to give you everything. It's going to give you something. And if you don't vote it, I just don't see a better alternative. What's the chance that you come to a place where you can be comfortable saying, "Yes?"

ROY: I need to see significant resources for both the physical assets that are needed that the Border Patrol have asked for, and I need it to be well above the baseline, which is currently this deal.

It's not enough. It's not what we need. And I want to see actual action. I think what we ought to do is do a two-week clean CR and we ought to force these people back into the room to do their job. They can do it and common sense dictates it.

CUOMO: But that's what we did the last time. After a shutdown that--

ROY: Well--

CUOMO: --just was so bad for people, I just feel like--

ROY: That's why a two-week clean CR would keep - would get us another two weeks. We'd fund everything we need to fund. Nobody's going to have any issues. Let's force everybody back into a room, and let's go find the resources we need to do our job.

By the way, let's - let's fix Flores. Let's fix and let's-- CUOMO: I mean you're not going to do that in two weeks.

ROY: --have the beds that we need.

CUOMO: Why don't you do something, put this behind, you get the government open, and then keep it going? You don't need this kind of existential leverage to get something. These - these problems are real.

ROY: Be--

CUOMO: As soon as you get the President and this hyper focus on the wall, out of the mix, you'll find all kinds of partners looking to deal with these things.

ROY: But it's never been - it's never been just the fence or the wall. It's also been about the 50--

CUOMO: It has for him, Congressman.

ROY: --well no. It's been the 50,000 beds that have been rejected by Democrats.

CUOMO: He's all - he's never mentioned it the way he does the wall. We had to pull it out of him.

ROY: Well--

CUOMO: You know, we had to - we had to force the White House to start talking about the other priorities because they're so higher on the list for everyone involved--

ROY: But I can tell you--

CUOMO: --with keeping us safe.

[21:10:00] ROY: But I can tell you that we in Congress are talking about it.

And I know that the President and his team have sent that up in their proposals that we have 50,000 beds, that we not reduce the ICE beds, that we have 75 judges, humanitarian relief, Border Patrol gets the resources they need, and we have a fence that the American people can see.

And fences work. And they stop the cartels from getting--

CUOMO: I get--

ROY: --action across the river and keeping--

CUOMO: Look, we both know--

ROY: --the flow across (ph).

CUOMO: --we both know there're tons of fences down there. They need more. I understand that.

ROY: Yes.

CUOMO: It's a question of priorities and timing. Congressman, let's do this. You got an open avenue to me on this. You let me know where your head is on the plan, how it's working.

ROY: Yes.

CUOMO: I'd love to be able to report it to the audience, and you're welcome back any time to discuss it. Disagreement with decency is the only way forward.

ROY: I agree with you, Chris. Thank you, and thank you for focusing on the humanitarian crisis, and the sex trafficking. It's so important. And thank you for having me on.

CUOMO: 100 percent. Be well, good luck doing your job.

ROY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, I want to bring in a Democrat now, who is one of the people who helped architect this current deal. The Democrats are giving in on this too. Remember that.

Speaker Pelosi called walls immoral. Now, there's over a billion dollars going towards this immorality. Is that too much? Is it not enough? How do we find up on this?

The Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus, here to make the case, in response, next.

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CUOMO: All right, big question. Is the President going to support a bipartisan Border security compromise negotiated by Congressional leaders? I go like this because we don't even know if Congress is going to vote for it.

So, let's get some perspective from a Democrat, who actually took part in negotiations, Congressman Pete Aguilar from California. Welcome to PRIME TIME. It's good to have you.

PETER REY AGUILAR, (D) APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR CALIFORNIA'S 31ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHIEF DEPUTY WHIP: Good to be with you, Chris.

CUOMO: So we'll get into the specifics of the dynamic. But you heard there from Chip Roy who is a great example of the Freedom Caucus, right, something that the President has to be sensitive to saying, "Not enough money. I need more to make more of a manifestation of priority, especially where physical borders are concerned."

Do you think there's any money left to be had?

[21:15:00] AGUILAR: Well, as you mentioned, this is - this is a matter of priorities here. We were tasked with juggling these priorities, and we came to an agreement.

And now, these are the same individuals, the House Freedom Caucus, by the way, who whispered in the President's ear that he should force a shutdown in December, where he said on TV, "I'll own it. It's my shutdown."

And the offer on the table then was $1.6 billion in barrier. He has less now.

CUOMO: Right. And they're saying we want more.

So, look, this is a little tricky thing for you because politics are at play, right? Democrats have always funded physical barriers every time they've come up. Sometimes, it's what we just want to repair and replace, we don't want to add too much more.

Then, because the President made it a binary proposal, wall or no wall, all the sudden, Democrats hardened up, and was not a dollar for the wall. Nancy Pelosi called the wall immoral.

So, how hard a sell is this on the Democrat side that you're funding the wall to the tune of $1.3-plus billion?

AGUILAR: Well let's keep in mind what the President's promise was. It was a sea to shining sea wall--

CUOMO: Yes.

AGUILAR: --that - that Mexico was going to pay for.

CUOMO: Yes.

AGUILAR: So, that is not happening here. So, what we have asked for is give us evidence-based approaches on what is necessary.

But, as you highlighted, this is about competing priorities. We want to make sure adequate money is going into humanitarian aid, technology that will help us at the Border. It isn't just one or the other.

So, we have to look at all of these together. And that's what the Appropriations Committee, and this Conference Committee, was tasked to do. So, we found a compromise.

We will have a bipartisan, bicameral solution. And our job is to encourage our colleagues, and to walk them through what this means against the alternatives, which were not great.

We want to make sure that we keep government open that we protect our Borders and that we honor our values. And this Agreement does that.

CUOMO: You know, from understanding all of the different sides that I have in my ear about this, the one place where there's space for you guys, because you're right, there's that church and there are other areas on the Border where people are going to fight and say, "Our community doesn't want it. I don't want it for my property." There's going to be legalities.

But that Rio Grande corridor is a real concern for CBP. I know you know the politics very well of the area, not to tell you your own business. I know you know it.

But it is a high priority. You haven't funded all of what they want there across that corridor. Is that something you guys - have considered as potential space on the - on the table?

AGUILAR: Well this was one of their long-standing priorities--

CUOMO: Yes.

AGUILAR: --that we - that we are funding. So, we - we listened to them. We had conversations with them.

CUOMO: They wanted more than 55 miles though.

AGUILAR: They wanted more than 55 miles. And this is what's on the table.

So, we - we looked at their priorities, and we made a reasoned decision based on the data that - that this would be something that we could reasonably support. So, this isn't ideal. I want to be very clear.

If Democrats were drawing this entire bill, we would not come up with - with this - this mix. But we were tasked to do a job, a - post shutdown in order to keep the government open, and this is the best that we could possibly do at this point.

CUOMO: What are they telling you about the chance to get the votes? Any trouble on your side? What are you hearing about the other side? Give me something.

AGUILAR: Well we're going to - we're going to have a conversation among the - the - the Democratic Caucus in our family meeting in the morning, and we'll walk through this dynamic.

And so, our job is to make the case, and to tell folks exactly what is in this, and exactly compare it to what a CR would have done, a Continuing Resolution, which my colleague mentioned as an alternative, and how that would have affected our key priorities as well.

This is the better offer on the table, and that's why we're carrying it forward. CUOMO: So, how about a couple of what-ifs? You know, what if, is it going to be a two-week thing where you try to get more because at least you guys are talking now and making progress? Is that something that you're open to?

How about the DACA stuff? You know, we saw what they offered up on the other side for DACA. There's no question it was going to piss you guys off. That was understood. It was kind of a digging into DACA, not extending the protection the way you guys wanted.

But is DACA on the table or a two-week extension on the table?

AGUILAR: No, a two-week extension isn't on the table, and a temporary protection for DACA and TPS is - is not on the table either. If they want to come to the table with a permanent solution, we're all ears. But until then--

CUOMO: So, you've given that up for now?

AGUILAR: Well we - we have this deal on the table. And so, adding those other dynamics at this point makes it too complicated.

And so, what we are trying to do is to focus specifically on the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which is our task, in funding government, without including these other priorities.

Some of them may want - I want those priorities. But this is not the opportunity to do that. We were given a short window and a limited roundelay (ph) in order to develop that framework, and in order to fund all these priorities that we have.

CUOMO: What's your guess that this gets done by Friday?

AGUILAR: We can get this done. This is a bipartisan bicameral deal. And what we need to reinforce to the American public and to - and to our communities and our colleagues is that nobody gets everything that they want in this - in this deal.

But this advances the ball. This holds back the President's ridiculous request for $5 billion, gives him less than a Republican-controlled Senate gave him last year. We--

CUOMO: And they haven't even finished spending all that money yet. You know, it's one of the things--

AGUILAR: Exactly.

CUOMO: --that people forget.

[21:20:00] Just because you guys appropriate money, not to make - not to make the case that you're wasteful, which I could make, but we'll do that another night, they haven't even finished spending it yet, because just because you get the money doesn't mean you can spend the money, which is why there's all that money sitting around that the President may tap into. Are you worried that if you don't get this done, he doesn't shutdown the government, but he winds up reaching into the pocket through Executive or National Emergency Action in a way that you could regret?

AGUILAR: Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution is pretty clear that Congress has to appropriate funds. That is our job. That is our responsibility. I understand that the President doesn't respect that we are a co-equal branch of government here.

Our job is to focus on what we can do, focus on working together, and this is a compromise, where we have Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate moving forward in the same direction.

And I would hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would also push back against Executive Overreach if the President makes that declaration. But we reserve all options on the table if he does.

CUOMO: Well, look, leaving DACA and TPS out of it, that's a big give. That's going to be a tough fell - tell for Democrats. Hopefully, it's a sign of good faith with the other side. Congressman, as I offered the Republican, I offer the Democrat.

I am an open channel for you. We'll be in contact with the office. You can contact us, let us know how it's going, and what people need to understand because we need progress.

AGUILAR: Thanks so much, Chris. Appreciate you having me on.

CUOMO: Be well, and good luck doing your job.

I wish both of them the same on that because that's what this has to come down to. Congress has to do its damn job. I'm worried about these intervals, two weeks, two weeks, two weeks.

The President's argument is a big part of this problem. He made the wall a singular priority, and he tells you that it will stop what you fear like drugs.

Well, you just got an amazing window into the reality of how that poison gets to our communities, the El Chapo trial. I watched the trial. I've studied the issues. I'm going to show you a lesson that he wants to ignore, next.

And we're awaiting another big 2020 event that you're going to see only here on CNN, a run by the former CEO of Starbucks. Would that ensure a two-term Trump? Lots of questions for Howard Schultz tonight in Houston.

We're going to take you there, ahead.

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[21:25:00] CUOMO: A wall will stop the drugs. Tell El Chapo, the world's most notorious drug lord today found guilty on all counts, mandatory life sentence. I've covered his decades-long reign as the Head of the murderous Sinaloa Cartel.

I went to the Border, saw his operation, how he stayed ahead of the law for so long, take a listen.

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CUOMO: Looks like a bathtub, right? Check this out, a signature El Chapo tunnel.

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CUOMO: I went in there, not pleasant. The reality we saw, spelled out in a Brooklyn Courtroom, is why I've been telling you a wall is not the cure the President promised.

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TRUMP: If we build a powerful and fully designed see-through steel barrier on our Southern border, the crime rate and drug problem in our country would be quickly and greatly reduced.

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CUOMO: Almost three months of testimony, Federal Prosecutors got El Chapo's own men to lay out exactly how they smuggle drugs into this country. We heard about fishing boats, trains, cars, tractor trailers, submarines.

What we didn't hear was a single witness say they ever drove around the barriers.

The tunnels were the method of choice. Who says? Top Lieutenant, Jesus Zambada Garcia testified a tunnel is the most secure way to cross drugs to the U.S., the easiest way to cross over weapons. He said in the late 80s, in early 90s, 95 percent of cocaine was brought into the U.S. by tunnel.

Now, 2012, the Border Tunnel Prevention Act passed with bipartisan approval. El Chapo's guys say that's when they started relying on legal points of entry, hiding it in all sorts of cars and trucks, flooding the ports, playing a numbers game, knowing there aren't enough agents or technology to search every vehicle.

And as for the drivers, it's interesting that the President chose to make El Paso his case study for a wall. The Cartel made it a point to hire families, who live in El Paso to drive drugs across the Border several times a day.

The irony is the President used to love to use El Chapo as an example of why we need to get tough on the Border. But when the truth of the Cartel's operation came out, it proved that a wall isn't the fix we need.

And as unmistakable a win as it is to see someone like El Chapo heading to prison for the rest of his damn life, the fact is physical barriers are more farce than fix when it comes to stopping drugs.

So, why would POTUS make them a top priority when they are just part of a solution? That's the question.

Now, I also want to get back to our other big story. The President's call for the resignation of Congresswoman Omar, the Democrat from Minnesota, should she be held to a different standard than Steve King? The President certainly think - thinks so.

What do you say? Great debate, next.

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CUOMO: So, a day after Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar apologized for tweets that many deemed anti-Semitic, POTUS gave his take.

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TRUMP: Her lame apology, and that's what it was, it was lame, and she didn't mean a word of it, was just not appropriate. I think she should resign from Congress, frankly. But at a minimum, she shouldn't be on committees.

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CUOMO: Hmm, the President weighing in on the political future of a freshman Democrat. When it was his own, his buddy, his mentor, Congressman Steve King, here was the President's level of concern.

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TRUMP: I haven't been following it. I really haven't been following it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Haven't been following it? You've known him for years, you're his acolyte. Come on.

Bakari Sellers and Steve Cortes, let's get after it.

Bakari Sellers, do you believe the President should have been as vocal about King as he is about Omar? The question - the answer is yes, why?

BAKARI SELLERS, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER, DEMOCRAT, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well he should have been as vocal about King and he should have been as vocal about other members of his party whether or not you're talking about McCarthy, who actually used some anti-Semitic tropes himself in tweets back in 2016, when he was running for reelection, and trying to get people out to vote.

But the President himself has his own racist pit - history. He traffics in racism. Steve King is a racist. And so, it - it's ironic. And I don't think people take seriously what he says when he criticizes Congresswoman Omar.

Let me say this though. Her - her comments were anti-Semitic. Her comments were ignorant and do not deserve to be heard in our discourse at that level. And what I mean by that is AIPAC is an organization that does not spin within the top 50 in lobbying funds at the United States Congress.

CUOMO: Fair point.

SELLERS: When you look at the fact that is - that it's bipartisan, and it make - her comments make the nuanced conversation that we have to have about Israel in the peace process more difficult.

CUOMO: Should she be removed--

SELLERS: You can chastise--

CUOMO: --from committees?

SELLERS: Man, hell no. You can chastise - you can chastise Bibi Netanyahu. You can talk about the way Law Enforcement treats Ethiopians and other Africans in Israel. That's fair.

You can even talk about settlements, that's fair, and be critical. But you cannot delve into anti-Semitic tropes. It makes the conversation that much more difficult.

CUOMO: No, I - I agree. It wasn't even a trope. It was direct. There was no suggestion. There was no--

SELLERS: Correct--

CUOMO: --implicit. It wasn't a trope.

SELLERS: There's - there's--

CUOMO: It was direct. But what I'm asking is-- SELLERS: But - but--

CUOMO: --Democrats said Steve King should be off the committees. They agreed with the Republicans. Why not here?

SELLERS: Well Steve King has a history. This is not anything new. This young lady's been in Congress not the - two or three months.

[21:35:00] And I - and I do have a sincere problem with her. I do have a sincere problem with her comments. I will say this though. I believe that many Republicans need to sit this one out. Donald Trump has no moral high ground here.

And Nancy Pelosi did what she should do. This young lady apologized. She seems sincere in her apology. She wants to learn. And let's move forward.

STEVE CORTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL HEAD, MARKET EXPERT, AUTHOR: But Bakari, that's not true that she doesn't have a history.

CUOMO: Steve King's not staying out of it. He doesn't want to let that new look go to waste. Don't think I didn't see it. Don't think I--

CORTES: Hey it's--

CUOMO: --didn't see it smooth.

CORTES: --it's - it's wintertime. I hope you like it because my wife--

CUOMO: I see what you got cooking.

CORTES: --my wife does not like it. So, it might not last. We'll see.

CUOMO: We'll see (ph).

SELLERS: Well it - it will last long.

CORTES: Listen, it is just not true that she doesn't have a history. She absolutely has a documented social media history. She had to apologize, in fact, for a previous tweet where she called--

CUOMO: Not the first time.

CORTES: --Israel, where she called it evil.

I mean that - listen, that's not talking policy. And she said that Israel had, quote, hypnotized the world. That's when we're delving into actual anti-Semitism rather than actual criticism of Israel, which of course is fine, from a policy perspective.

So, and - and the idea, by the way, that she shouldn't be removed from her committees, just as Steve King was, both of them were trafficking in hate. Both of them equally wrong. And I think both of them should face the same consequence. But here's the other difference is, Bakari, you said that she seems sincere in her apology. Here's why I don't believe that because unlike Steve King, who - who - his crimes were bad enough, OK, but he didn't double and triple-down, as she is.

She is set to appear on February 23rd in Florida for the Islamic Relief USA event. She's going to be on with Yousef Abdullah. This is a man who on social media called, quote, beautiful the killing of Jews in Israel, and the rocket bombing of Tel Aviv.

She will share a podium and share a stage--

SELLERS: Well, I--

CORTES: --with that kind of a merchant of hate.

SELLERS: Let - let's - let's--

CORTES: That tells me she is--

SELLERS: But let's - but let's--

CORTES: --not remotely sorry for what she did.

SELLERS: Look, I - I'm not - I - I - I don't know what she plans on doing in her future other than the words that she said. But my pushback will be this, twofold to you.

One is that Steve King has a history of racism. He even has Confederate flags on his desk. That's first. And second, I think that Chris started out by saying that the President of the United States, should he be interjecting himself into this?

And I - while I appreciate whether or not we can find sincerity in the apology of Representative Omar, my question to you is, where is the apology from Donald Trump to the Central Park Five? Where's the apology from Donald Trump to the individuals he discriminated against in Housing? Where's the apology from Donald Trump--

CORTES: OK.

SELLERS: --when you talk about the casino dealers in Atlantic City? Where's the apology to those individuals who come into this country to find a better life but Donald Trump characterizes them as rapists?

So, my point to you is simply this. Donald Trump and the Republican Party do not have the high ground. I will give you this though, Steve.

We have a problem in this country with the rise of anti-Semitism. We have a problem in this country with the rise of racism and hate. It does not belong in the discourse of this country.

And as a Democrat, I can say Congresswoman Omar was wrong. I challenge you to say Donald Trump was wrong because as we say down South, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." CUOMO: Well let's reframe it a little bit, Steve. The President said nothing about Steve King, OK? There was a lot of attention, a lot of momentum around it, the Left, the media--

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: --and then the Right, OK? McCarthy, to his credit, came out, took action against the guy, all of Congress took action against him. The President--

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: --never said a word, literally, the cliche.

CORTES: Yes, right.

CUOMO: The silence was deafening.

CORTES: To his discredit--

CUOMO: Why? Why was that allowed--

CORTES: Chris--

CUOMO: --by your Party?

CORTES: To his discredit, he should have said it. But I will also say this.

CUOMO: Why didn't he?

CORTES: One reason per - one reason perhaps he didn't is because the - the Republican Party on the Hill disciplined its own. So, to some extent he didn't have to. I mean (ph) he didn't need--

CUOMO: He comments on everything. Why not that?

CORTES: --he didn't need to intervene.

CUOMO: Yes, he did.

CORTES: The House stripped him and neutered him. He - he's totally ineffectual now.

CUOMO: The President never gauges his responses that way--

CORTES: He has nothing and - and the Democrats--

CUOMO: --Steve.

CORTES: --hold on. And the Democrats have not done that, by the way. They - they have not done that with Representative Omar, and they need to. This is a blot on them.

SELLERS: What, I mean what - what - the Democrats--

CORTES: This is an anti-Sematic blot on them. And the fact that they won't discipline--

SELLERS: --the Democrats weren't--

CORTES: --discipline her the same way that that King was disciplined by the Republicans is reprehensible. And again--

CUOMO: But why should the President talk about Omar--

CORTES: --she's--

CUOMO: --and not King?

CORTES: Because she - my point, Chris, is that she has not been disciplined by her own party. There have been no consequence to her in reality. And, in fact--

SELLERS: Listen, and it's--

CORTES: --she's planning on sharing the stage with a sympathizer with - with terrorism--

SELLERS: But I can't - I can't--

CORTES: --on a mosque (ph) with Muslim brotherhood.

CUOMO: All right, I hear your point. Go ahead, Bakari.

SELLERS: I cannot speak--

CORTES: I mean this won't be a sorry (ph).

SELLERS: --I cannot - I cannot speak to that. I have no information on that. I don't know that to be true or false, so I - I can't sit here and lie to the American public, and speak to that.

But what I can simply say though is that Nancy Pelosi owned down (ph) in leadership. And even me, as a progressive Democrat in the south, we will all stand up and say, "That was anti-Semitic." We will all stand up and say, "You have lessons to learn about Israel. You have lessons to learn"--

CORTES: Right.

SELLERS: --as I said earlier today on another show about what's going on is - in a - in a - in a kibbutz introit (ph) all the way up to what's going on in Tel Aviv and everywhere in between.

And we can ask you to apologize. But we can also say that this is a learning moment, not just for you, Congressman Omar, but for everyone. And we're going to make sure we hold you to that.

CORTES: Sure.

SELLERS: I don't see what's wrong with that--

CORTES: Right. SELLERS: --when we're trying to move this country forward and have a discourse about these hateful--

CORTES: Well, no, I - I agree with all of that. But--

SELLERS: --hateful rhetoric.

[21:40:00] CORTES: --it can't be just apology. It has to be apology and consequences, as it was for Steve King, as it should have been for Steve King. Why can't it be the same for her?

Why is she not stripped of her Committee assignments? Why is she not being not just forced to apologize but actually forced to suffer consequences in her career, legislative, professional--

CUOMO: I just wonder if you guys don't lose the high ground. Steve--

CORTES: --consequences for her reprehensible statements?

CUOMO: --I'm with you on the logic, right? It's just in the - what they call in - in the law, pari passu, right, you're walking in the same steps, the same path for both, equal.

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: But your problem is that you lose it on the President. And Bakari--

CORTES: OK. Well--

CUOMO: --articulately laid out his own personal past.

I'll give you a pass on that for the sake of argument, and I'm saying when you guys didn't say, "Mr. President, we're coming after Steve King, and for good reason, lift your voice. Tweet. Do what you do best. Weigh in on something--

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: --that is a potential outrage," and he didn't. He never has.

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: Silence, deafening--

CORTES: No--

CUOMO: --unexplained.

SELLERS: I mean but - but - but - but this is - this is--

CORTES: Chris, as--

SELLERS: --I'm sorry. Go ahead, Steve.

CUOMO: Go ahead. CORTES: Chris, as I already said, I - I concede, yes. I wish he had. I wish he had. But I'm also grateful. And perhaps the reason he didn't is the fact that the Republican Party took care of discipline on its own--

CUOMO: Or does he agree with Steve King?

CORTES: --on the Hill and we haven't seen--

CUOMO: Or does he agree with Steve King?

SELLERS: I mean that's (ph)--

CORTES: Gosh, no. Of course no (ph). In your introduction, Chris, you called him his mentor, and you called Trump--

CUOMO: Yes.

CORTES: --his acolyte.

CUOMO: Yes.

CORTES: That's really unfair.

CUOMO: I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why in seven seconds - in seven seconds.

CORTES: That's a ludicrous exaggeration.

SELLERS: That's not - that's not unfair.

CORTES: He is not an acolyte of Steve King.

CUOMO: Tom Tancredo was the mentor for Steve King. Steve King took up that border xenophobic deal. Trump went early on out to see him, wound up picking up that issue, shortly thereafter, and adopting similar rhetoric.

They both use the term nationalist to explain themselves to America despite its stain (ph)--

CORTES: I use the term - I use the term nationalist and it doesn't mean--

SELLERS: But even more importantly - even more directly (ph)--

CORTES: --I'm a racist (ph). I'm an American--

CUOMO: --well we're trying to legitimize despite it's (ph) stained with blood of prejudice.

CORTES: --I'm an American nationalist, and America has nothing to do with--

SELLERS: But listen--

CORTES: --race. We're an idea and a--

SELLERS: Hey, listen--

CORTES: --country, not a race.

CUOMO: Nationalism is a--

SELLERS: Listen, now, you--

CUOMO: --dangerous thing that we have seen abused--

SELLERS: Yes, you can be a nationalist all you want but I - I - you can--

CORTES: I disagree completely. I disagree (ph)--

CUOMO: --and is a perverse dispensary of humanity in the past.

SELLERS: You can have that.

CORTES: American nationalism is about shared values and our Constitution. And it has nothing to do with race.

SELLERS: Listen, you can--

CUOMO: That's called patriotism.

CORTES: We are a multi-racial--

CUOMO: That's patriotism.

SELLERS: --you're con - you con (ph)--

CORTES: --Republic.

SELLERS: You're confusing--

CORTES: And nationalism (ph).

CUOMO: You need to learn what that word means--

SELLERS: --patriotism with prejudice.

CUOMO: --and how it's been used in the past. And you know it.

SELLERS: You're confusing--

CUOMO: Don't protect everything this President does. Go ahead, Bakari.

SELLERS: --you're - you're confusing - Steve is confusing patriotism with prejudice. And you can envelop nationalism in anything you want. You can even dress White supremacy up in anything you want. And at the end of the day, it's still White supremacy.

To get back to Donald Trump and Steve King, Donald Trump campaigned for Steve King and said, "He represents our values." Steve King is a racist today, he was a racist yesterday, and he will be a racist tomorrow. He is a scourge on what we try to do in our democracy.

But, even more importantly, Donald Trump is the same person who went to Charlottesville and said, they're good people on both sides. He is the same person--

CORTES: OK.

SELLERS: --who went - had to stand up and literally say who is David Duke.

CUOMO: All right, we got to wrap it up.

SELLERS: So, my only point is that Donald Trump traffics in racism, and Steve King is a racist, and they belong together.

CORTES: He completely - look, there's too many things we need to address but we're out of time.

CUOMO: Final word, Steve, please.

CORTES: But he completely rebuked David Duke. That's not true. The fact that David Duke endorsed him does not mean that Trump endorses David Duke, quite the opposite.

SELLERS: He said, "I don't know who that is."

CORTES: Well, and - well how is that--

CUOMO: Took him a long time to get to it. We don't have the time to get into it now.

CORTES: --how he - he totally rebuked David (ph)--

CUOMO: We don't need to go back. We got a situation in the present--

CORTES: All right.

CUOMO: --right now but the past is prologue, right? He's had this thing dogging him.

SELLERS: Amen.

CUOMO: And we have to look at why. Bakari, Steve, well argued, and thank you, appreciate it.

CORTES: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, big night tonight, got our show here. But also you have CNN's big event with one of the most controversial contenders for 2020, right back from where it's all going down, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Oh, look at the clock. We're just a few minutes out from former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz taking the stage in Houston, Texas. He's going to take voters' questions in CNN's Presidential Town Hall.

Now, Schultz hasn't decided on a bid yet, but he has already drawn the fury of Democrats, who say his potential third-party run could split the anti-Trump vote in 2020.

Let's bring in Dave Chalian, CNN's Political Director, right now. David, good to have you. You're in the place to be tonight. So, am I overstating the proposition that he does, while he's not in the race yet, he seems to be one that's drawing the most attention that's negative from the Democrats?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This audience is made--

DAVID MARC CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I - I think that's totally right. I think that's a fair proposition.

In fact, Chris, I think that's all anybody really knows about Howard Schultz since he made it clear that he's seriously considering an Independent bid for the presidency. But that is - that's all people know is that Democrats are really concerned that he's going to throw the election to Donald Trump.

What - what tonight offers is an opportunity for him to provide Americans more information about his background, and about the major issues on the minds of these voters here in Texas.

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CHALIAN: We don't know too much about his policy proposals. This is an opportunity for him to tackle that not just be the guy who Democrats are, quite frankly, freaking out about.

CUOMO: True. And it'll be interesting to see - I did some homework on him today, and I interviewed him back in the day during the Great Recession during - about his Indivisible. Remember? He was selling bracelets at Starbucks where the money was going to go to a fund to help distressed homeowners.

And it'll be interesting to see how he navigates non-economic issues because that's going to be a big part of the battleground against President Trump with whomever gets the nomination for the Democrats.

How do you think - what are you looking for there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just here in the United States but around the world--

CHALIAN: Yes, I mean I agree. Economic issue is sort of his wheelhouse. That's why I think voters are going to be really eager to hear from him on healthcare, on climate, on foreign policy issues, right?

It's - it - we are in the midst right now of a Presidency from somebody who was outside of politics, was in the world of business.

And I think that the questions are sort of like, "How do you take those business skills out of the C-Suite, make them applicable to impacting these people's lives, and how do you do that in a way that contrasts with the President," because, obviously, if he's considering running, he wants to contrast with the current occupant in the Oval Office.

Why would his application of his business experience be different than what the country's seeing from Donald Trump right now?

CUOMO: Well that's going to be a real softball for him. I mean their personal stories couldn't be more different and their business acumen couldn't be more different in terms of management and success.

What I'm interested in, David, what do you think is the chance, percentage-wise, that he would say, "Look, I'm going to run, and I'm going to run as a Democrat?"

CHALIAN: I - I think that's a - a great question. He's made clear that neither party speaks to him right now. He - he believes there is a real viable path to 270 electoral votes for an Independent candidate.

Now, we know other folks like Michael Bloomberg, right, in past cycles, looked at that and said, "There is no viable path." So that's why Bloomberg now is considering perhaps running for the Democratic nomination.

[21:50:00] Howard Schultz is clearly coming to a different conclusion. I think he's already made it clear where he is out of step with where the Democratic Party grassroots is right now, Chris, so I think it would be hard for him to sort of run as a Democrat at this point, and win the nomination.

CUOMO: Poppy Harlow is in the chair next to him tonight. None of us knows more about business than she does on the accurate level.

That's - it - it's going to be great to see her tonight with him because she's going to be really able to channel and finesse the questions from the audience because she understands the issues so well in the same wheelhouse that Schultz (ph) has. So, we'll see what happens.

David Chalian, thank you.

CHALIAN: Yes.

CUOMO: Excited to watch. CHALIAN: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, I want to give you one more thought on a subject that we've been talking about this hour, all right.

This situation with Omar versus King, I don't like the comparison, and I don't like how the intolerance and discrimination at some of the top levels of our government has been handled.

There's a lesson here, and we ain't learning it. The argument, next.

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[21:55:00] CUOMO: Is bigotry wrong or not? Is intolerance wrong or not? If the answer is yes, then call it all out when it comes from elected leaders. Call them to account. Period! Always Amen! But we can't do this. And when I say we, no one stands out more than our President.

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TRUMP: Congressman Omar is terrible what she said. And I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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CUOMO: He wants Congressman Omar to resign for playing up ugly stereotypes about Jews, saying they use money to buy political sway, making the point more than once, by the way.

The Left and many in the media called it a trope. It wasn't. It was a direct attack. It was bigoted, and she was right to apologize. Should the Dems do more? Legit question. They certainly wanted more done when it was Steve King.

And now, there's this which is worse, King or Omar, feudal feud. Omar is new. King has been spouting this for years. But she targeted the Jews. He targeted everyone who's not White.

Forget the comparisons. That's more about political advantage than setting a realistic standard. Be honest. Call it all out.

Ask for the same consequences for similar actions. Don't go light on your own and hard on others. That's one of the reasons why so many think so little of politicians, especially in D.C.

Now to the President, he's calling for Omar to get out, and that is interesting because he seemed to say something very similar to what Omar said when addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015.

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TRUMP: You're not going to support me because I don't want your money.

You want to control your own politician, that's fine.

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CUOMO: Now, why is it different? Is it because Omar is Muslim and wears a hijab? I hear a lot of that, and it's not right, especially when you remember that this President has been down the road of intolerance more than most.

Remember this?

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TRUMP: It's called a nationalist. And I say, "Really? We're not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I'm a nationalist, OK?"

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CUOMO: You remember that? He acknowledged that the word is stained, and he used it anyway. All right, for the sake of argument, let's assume that the President now thinks bigotry is not to be tolerated, that's why I moved on Omar.

So, where was he on Steve King? Not a damn word about years of ugly exclusionary divisive talk. His whole party moved on King, all of Congress, and this President said nothing.

Why not? Only two choices. One, he agrees with King, and there is a case for that. Trump did visit with King early on. He did adopt his pet issue of Border security. He does discuss it the same way. And King describes himself the same way the President does.

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STEVEN ARNOLD KING, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM IOWA, REPUBLICAN PARTY MEMBER: Under any fair political definition, I am simply an American nationalist.

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CUOMO: Nationalism is not patriotism. They should not be conflated, and he knows it, so does the President or he should.

The second choice, the President saw no upside. The media, the Left, they'd come after him no matter what he said, so he just stayed quiet. That's what several of his people have told me since that time. I would buy it if he didn't have the history he does, and if he had

ever showed the ability to stay silent when it matters. He championed birtherism. It was racist and untrue. President Obama was from somewhere else. We know what that was about, so did the President.

He called Senator Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, makes reference to the Native American genocide on the Trail of Tears. So, when it comes to Omar, the President's selective outrage is transparent.

Maybe he popped off on this to distract from the Border deal that he'll most likely have to sign, and he doesn't like it. You know what? If that's what this is, I take the bait because it needs to be called out, because ignoring bigotry, unless it suits you politically, is wrong.

Mr. President, we thought you learned this lesson. There are not good people on both sides when it comes to bigotry, and there is no such thing as bigotry that's OK. What you ignore, you empower. And in your case, what you ignore, you may have to own.

You call out bigotry because it is always wrong. It is hard to see how you could ever get a majority of this country to agree to anything less, especially when Election Day comes.

Thank you for watching. CNN's Town Hall with Independent Howard Schultz starts right now, a big night going towards 2020, stay with CNN.