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Chicago's Top Cop: "Jussie Smollett Took Advantage Of The Pain And Anger Of Racism To Promote His Career"; Judge Silences Roger Stone After Crosshairs Instagram Post; Judge: Labor Secretary Among Those Who Broke Law In Jeffrey Epstein Case; Michael Cohen Spends Hours Behind Closed Doors On Capitol Hill. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 21, 2019 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: -- Democratic lawmakers as well as journalists from both CNN and MSNBC. A Coast Guard spokesman says the arrest was made once the FBI and the Coast Guard were, quote, confident in the strength of the evidence against him.

All right, that's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Tough developments on two criminal cases that are gripping the nation. We now know in great detail how Chicago prosecutors planned to prove that Jussie Smollett staged an attack against himself. They claim to have a mountain of evidence.

The Empire Star now says he's been victimized again, this time by police. Now, a lot of people are upset, especially those who initially defended Smollett, like fellow actor, D. L. Hughley. He joins us in a moment.

And, then we have Roger Stone, all kinds of apologies for a Federal Judge in Washington today, she was having none of it. We're going to unpack that drama in Cuomo's Court.

And another major ruling today in a battle that drew tears and overturned a Congressional election.

Jam-packed Thursday. What do you say? Let's get after it




CUOMO: Empire Star, Jussie Smollett is free on bond tonight after turning himself in this morning. He's gone from famous to infamous, from victim to suspect. Police and prosecutors methodically laid out a chain of events of the alleged hoax, they say, Smollett was behind every step of the way. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RISA LANIER, ASSISTANT STATE'S ATTORNEY: Smollett then stated that he wanted to stage an attack where Abel would appear to batter him.

He wanted Abel to attack him, but not hurt him too badly, and to give him a chance to appear to fight back. Defendant Smollett also included that he wanted Ola to place a rope around his neck, pour gasoline on him, and yell, "This is MAGA country."


CUOMO: Now, look, a lot of you have opinions about what is and is not true, and what the police have. Read the proffer. It's four pages. Ave Rose (ph), she's going to put it on our site. You'd be able to just download the link, just read it. Read it and know what they say they have then form an opinion.

Chicago's top cop was visibly upset. They were angry over what he calls a shameful attempt to fabricate a hate crime.


EDDIE T. JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I'm left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?

This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve. I only hope that the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention that the hoax did.


CUOMO: Tonight, Smollett is maintaining his innocence, which could make it worse. And he has given fodder for those who say bias crimes are exaggerated, pushback that the police are too interested in exposing Smollett, and solving other crimes of this nature is not as big a priority.

Look, the whole thing is a mess. Let's bring in someone who once knew the accused and stood behind him initially after the first report, actor, radio host, D. L. Hughley.




CUOMO: D. L., thank you for joining us.

D. L. HUGHLEY, ACTOR, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, RADIO HOST, AUTHOR, STAND-UP COMEDIAN: Anything for you man. CUOMO: I appreciate it. I wish we had something better to talk about. Initially, you tweeted that you felt for Jussie Smollett. You didn't like what was happening. But now, you have your own reservations, and you think that this is not what he said it was

HUGHLEY: Well, I - I'll tell you what. I think that in this country we've ceded our ability to call BS when we see it. I thought the story didn't ring true, initially, but you obviously want to give people the benefit of the doubt.

But, you know, it got more cumbersome and more cluttered. And ultimately, we are where we are today. And I think that the larger significance of it is that, you know, they - they kind of lump groups together, and it's never the best of us.

It's the worst of us that they - they - they - they - they kind of align us with, like we're 40 million people, so one guy can't speak for a race that got Barack Obama and Flavor Flav.

But I think that there - there's a tendency to look at this and say, "Well, see, they - they - they, you know, and - and they're Black or they're gay, and they do - they - they falsify things, and they're not telling the truth," and it'll make it, I think, that much harder for somebody, who is a victim of a homophobic or a - a - a racial attack.

In the minds of some, it will make it that much different - it'll - it'll lack a little credibility.

CUOMO: He's saying this is still true that now he's a victim of the police rushing to judgment. What's your advice for him?

[21:05:00] HUGHLEY: Well I think that ultimately we - here's what I will say. If he has done this, he should tell the truth. If he obviously believes that he is innocent then he should fight. But I think that, obviously, we have to wait till he's proven - these allegations are proven.

But if they are, I think you will see a lot of Black people who will call for accountability, a lot of Black people who will say that he needs to be held accountable.

And I want, even though we - because when you use racism and bigotry and hatred and lying for your own selfish ends, then, you know, it's interesting when you - when you use hatred and bigotry and lying for your own selfish end, and you're a young Black kid, young Black - gay Black kid, you get indicted.

If you do it when you're an old White guy, you become President. And I think there are enough monsters out there for real that we don't have to make any up.

And I think that, you know, what - White supremacist has never did at a historical high, just it's interesting that the President would focus more on the - on the kid that - that - that orchestrated a fake attack, but not the man, White supremacist who was orchestrating an actual attack-- CUOMO: Well, the--

HUGHLEY: --you know, Christopher Paul Hassan.

CUOMO: Right.

HUGHLEY: So, I think it's - it's amazing that we're more enamored by something that almost that - that was imaginary as opposed to saying something about something that's real.

CUOMO: Well there is a debate. I mean we know that hate crimes are on the rise. Lot of people don't want to accept that. They want this to be trumped-up.


CUOMO: No pun intended.


CUOMO: They want this to be that this is--


CUOMO: --political correctness run amuck, the Left run amuck.


CUOMO: And now, they're going to use Smollett as case number one, if the police are right, and I got to tell you, reading their--


CUOMO: --bond proffer statement, just four pages, everybody should read it, they are coming a lot high de - degree of confidence that they don't believe that these two African-American guys beat up Jussie - Jussie Smollett as a--

HUGHLEY: I don't believe it.

CUOMO: --race crime.

HUGHLEY: I don't believe it like - anyway let me - let me tell you something. It - it - it - it - it strained credibility when I first heard it. But it went from, you know, MAGA and - and racial and gay slurs like it - it went from, you know, we assume that they were kind of White guys.

It went from--


HUGHLEY: --White kind of to Wakanda like - like it went like - and I think at every turn, it strained credulity.

But I think now we live in a - we live in a situation where the victims are automatically given the benefit of the doubt and to be believed. And I think we have really ceded our ability to call BS when we see it.

Nobody that heard that story initially can tell me that they heard those story, and all - all those kind of elements, and didn't have some level of reservation.

CUOMO: Right.

HUGHLEY: And I think much like those people, I think the - the political, you know, leaders who - who rightfully called out, and said, "You know, this is - if - if this is true, this is a hate crime, and something should be done about it," have an obligation now to say something that it doesn't look like that.

CUOMO: It's true.

HUGHLEY: They can't just be quiet.


HUGHLEY: Silence won't make it happen.

CUOMO: Yes, I agree with you. I--

HUGHLEY: You can't be a coward now.

CUOMO: --I agree with you on that. If you got it wrong, own it. Because if you don't, then you empower--


CUOMO: --the criticism that "See, this is what it is. You just wanted it to be this."

HUGHLEY: All you did was be a decent - all you did was be a decent human being who believed someone. That's all you did. There's nothing to be - you know what? It's better than having to - to defame (ph) empathy.

It's better than waiting two or three days when someone is run down in Charlottesville or waiting three or four days when something happens, and never saying anything about it. So, I would rather take err on the side of humanity than callousness.

CUOMO: These are also sometimes tricky situations to finesse. I remember with Terry Crews, you came out and, you know, you tweeted or said, you know, he's too strong to be sexually assaulted. You got beat up for that yourself. What was the lesson to that?

HUGHLEY: Well that's not - that's - that's - that - there was no lesson to that. Let - let's be clear. I meant what I said. I think I explained - Terry expressed himself, and I expressed mine. I grew up in a very - I grew up in a rough environment.

And when you let somebody do something to you, they kept doing it, so that was - that was he - he took it from here (ph). And I do not apologize, and I don't feel bad about it. I don't think that there's any much like, you know, that was his attack (ph).

I don't think there's wrong with slapping the hell out of somebody if they physically hurt you. I don't think that, you know, there's anything wrong with it - I can't tell you what he should have done. I can tell you what I believe I would have done.

CUOMO: I get it.

HUGHLEY: And I think--

CUOMO: You weren't questioning what happened. You were questioning what you would have done in the same situation.

HUGHLEY: Right. But - but here's the thing.

Even - even then, we don't all have - I think, even with the Terry Crews thing, all of these people who were tweeting, Ride-on Terry (ph) and all, would they do that if he were assaulted by the police, like if a Black man is groped, you - everybody - #MeToo was loud.

But if he's shot down, no one - everybody's quiet. I think you take a guy that size who looks just like that, and he is in parked in front of your house, are you that sympathetic or do you call the police?

So, we're going to have these conversation when we can actually see Black people as victims, we need to see them not only when they're sexually assaulted, and you like them, but when they're shot, and you don't know them.

CUOMO: What's your biggest fear about the fallout from the Smollett situation if, as the police are suggesting, this is not what he said it was.

HUGHLEY: I don't believe it was what he said it was. But I think one thing that will happen, if it isn't what it - what - if it is what he said it was, he'll - he'll - he'll like, you know, it's Chicago, so maybe the one-armed man did it, I don't know.

[21:10:00] But we have to remember this. It was a Black Superintendent of a city where a lot of Black people live. And those - a lot of Black men and women and - and lot of gay men and women are assaulted and shot and murdered in that city all the time.

And how dare you take the onus off something as real as that for something like this? And it shows we can muster the resources when we want to look good. But I don't know that we'd do the same thing when we want to do good.

I think it's - and Chicago has become a whipping post for everything that's wrong in our communities. And I think, you know, fixing Chicago won't fix most Black people's problem. But fixing most people - Black people's problems will fix Chicago.

CUOMO: Right. If this turns out to be the bad reality for Jussie Smollett, you think he's done in terms of getting roles and being an actor?

HUGHLEY: Well I think infamy is as good as fane and - fame, in this situation.

And listen, I know - this kid used to come, and we used to have a Christmas party every year, and he was the - he was the - a caterer's assistant, and I liked the kid a lot. And - and then the next thing you know how he's a big star on Empire.

I think I can't imagine what would go through his mind to make this happen. But I do imagine this. You have - if - if this is true, you have harmed a lot of people. You have put people in jeopardy.

And I'm not talking about Juss - I mean you put police officers in jeopardy, you put Black men and women, gay people in jeopardy. And you've - you stained a movement that was starting to grant - grant - to gain traction. And I think nothing's more selfish than that.

But I think we live in an America right now where racial hatred and bigotry and animus and lying can elevate you to the coffers of power, and he's seen it work. I don't care what anybody says. One will get you elected and one will get you indicted. But we've seen how hate and lying and fear and stoking bigotry will work.

CUOMO: D. L., you're smart, and you come correct, and I appreciate it. Thank you for talking to me tonight.

HUGHLEY: Amen. Feel - feel better man.

CUOMO: Thank you.

HUGHLEY: Happy Anniversary, LaDonna.

CUOMO: Oh, very nice, 33 years, God bless.

HUGHLEY: 33 years. You get less time than that for murder.




CUOMO: Ooh, she's not going to like that. 33 years of marriage, God bless. That deserves some mention on CUOMO PRIME TIME.

All right, so, that's one case. Something unusual happened inside another courtroom today as well. Roger Stone begged a Judge for forgiveness. She hauled him in after he targeted her on social media, and he walked out with a punishment.

Did Stone get what he deserves? We're going to take it up in Cuomo's Court next.








[21:15:00] CUOMO: No more public statements about your case. That's the ruling from Federal Judge, Amy Berman Jackson. She slapped a full gag on Roger Stone after he published that Instagram post with what looked like crosshairs behind her head. Stone apologized, chalked it up to a screw-up.

Let's discuss with Asha Rangappa and Jim Schultz.

Asha, even if it were a screw-up, is this the right determination?

ASHA RANGAPPA, LAWYER, SENIOR LECTURER AT YALE UNIVERSITY'S JACKSON INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS, FORMER ASSOCIATE DEAN AT YALE LAW SCHOOL, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: You asked earlier before the break whether he got what he deserved. And I think that this was what - what is deserved may not also be what is prudent.

And I think the Judge gave - did what was prudent. And, in that - in this case, it was to tighten up the restrictions on Stone, basically tell him that he is walking on thin ice. And if he screws up again, she is going to yank his - his bail, and throw him in jail. And that kind - that protects her from looking too punitive.

However, in terms of what he did, posting someone, you know, with - a Federal Judge with crosshairs, I just want to harken back to the late President George H.W. Bush.

Judge Jackson said, you know, these things have meanings and Stone knows the meaning of crosshairs. You know, President Bush actually revoked his lifetime membership in the NRA after they posted a - they made a poster of Federal Agents in crosshairs.

So, I think that the meaning of that and, you know, the insightfulness of it is well understood. And I think she made that pretty clear.

CUOMO: Jim, you got a defense to offer?

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: No defense whatsoever. That was completely out of line and, quite frankly, dangerous. And - and - and - and it's so unfortunate that he did that.

Now - I got to tell you. He's got to look at Paul Manafort, and Paul Manafort sitting in - sitting in jail at this point in time, and the amount of time, the age the - the - the - the damage that that's done to him, I mean he is a hair away from ending up in the same place that Paul Manafort is, if he continues that kind of conduct.

The Judge isn't going to tolerate, and she shouldn't.

CUOMO: You know what? I think that this is a pretty clean call.

He still has the ability. His First Amendment rights are still intact. We'll see what he does going forward, this self-proclaimed dirty trickster. But maybe, right now, he's got a little different perspective on what he wants to do with his time.

Let me ask you about something else. So, we've been following this Jeffrey Epstein situation, OK? People probably know him. You Google him. He was caught up, very rich guy, handled a lot of money, had a lot of parties with lot of big-time politicians on both sides of the aisles.

He was accused with a good deal of proof of doing some really ugly stuff. There is an argument to be made that he could have been prosecuted under federal sex trafficking laws.

However, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, then an AUSA - U.S. attorney in Miami, helped negotiate a non-prosecution agreement that gave Epstein and his co-conspirators immunity from federal prosecution.

Asha, do you think this guy got a sweetheart deal because of who he knows?

RANGAPPA: He definitely got a sweetheart deal. And, Chris, I just want to point out something here. The President made the cornerstone of his State of the Union address stopping trafficking. And - and that this was a big concern for him, and it was what--

CUOMO: Big push on the Border.

RANGAPPA: --he used to justify - this is the Border wall. This is what he's going to try to stop. And then, he had all that duct tape nonsense. You know, these people are coming in with duct tape.

The issue here is not just that Acosta gave Epstein a sweetheart deal. It's that he did not notify the victims--

CUOMO: Right.

RANGAPPA: --as required by law about the conditions of the settlement.

He basically proverbially put duct tape on the victims. I mean this is exactly, you know, what - what we're trying to prevent, according to the President, as to, you know, protect the victims from these kinds of crimes.

So, I think the test here in terms of whether the President is really serious about this threat that he claims that he is so concerned about, is whether he's going to do anything about this Labor Secretary, who is essentially, you know, enabled or - or let go--

CUOMO: Right.

RANGAPPA: --someone who committed some pretty atrocious--

CUOMO: Right.

RANGAPPA: --offenses.

CUOMO: I mean, Jimmy, the irony, the guy is the Labor Secretary, OK? That's what kids all over this country are getting conscripted into by way of trafficking, you know, they're being made into sex workers.

Epstein, by all apparent indications, was part of that trade. Now, the guy's the Labor Secretary, you have to cut in him a deal like this?

SCHULTZ: I don't believe it's sweetheart deal at all. And as a matter of fact, if you look back the State Court case, there was a grand jury convened on this. It came back.

And there was no chance he was going to see any jail time, and there's no chance he was going to have to register as a sex offender. And those victims weren't going to be designated victims for purposes of recovery.

All three of those things happened. He got 18 months in prison. He had to register as a sex offender. And the victims were designated as victims, so they could be compensated civilly.

And that's not something that would have happened had Acosta and his office not stepped in. And don't forget, these decisions aren't made in a vacuum.

[21:20:00] These are made - there are memos from career to - a career attorney in that office, you know, making these same recommendations, it went up to the civil - the - the - the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, the Deputy's Office at the Department of Justice.

This isn't something that was made in a vacuum sweetheart deal by the U.S. - sitting U.S. Attorney at the time. That's not how that happens, Asha. You know that's not how that happens. And, in this case, these - this person got--

RANGAPPA: Well, I think it needs to be looked into because--

SCHULTZ: --this person got - let me finish.

RANGAPPA: --at this point, Jim--

SCHULTZ: This person got pro - got prosecuted at the State Court level because the non-pros agreement forced him to go back - back down to the state level, and take jail time, and that's what happened to him.

Hey, look, he's a bad guy. Did he deserve more? Most likely so. He's a bad person. He did bad things. But hindsight's 20/20 in these cases. And - and prosecutors can only use what's in front of them at the time. And if you remember, let's also talk about the Crime Victims' Protection Act. At - at the time - at that time, there was nothing specific in that Act relative to non-pros agreements. That only came into effect by Congress amending that law later on after the Epstein case,

And there was an OLC memo that supported the decision, Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. An OLC memo that does - supported the decision of Acosta. And remember, he relied upon the career prosecutors that we talk about all the time that are so valued in this country.

CUOMO: So, is this the best he could do, Asha, that's the - that's the question.

RANGAPPA: Well, I - I think what basically Jim is saying is that there is a paper trail here.

And I think that, you know, we've - we've certainly seen, you know, the Congressional committees over go and look at potential misconduct in the FISA process. Why not look at what happened here?

I mean the issue here, Jim, is that we can go back and trace what happened. And if - and then a Federal Judge has found that that Acosta violated the law, and also misled the victims that he told them that further prosecution was a possibility when it was not--

SCHULTZ: At the time, no, Asha, you know it. The CRV--

RANGAPPA: --the case. And so, he's--

CUOMO: Both--

SCHULTZ: --the - the - the - the - the Act didn't require him to do it at the time.

CUOMO: But why did the Judge rule that way, then?

SCHULTZ: So - so the Judge - Judge's - the Judges - Judge disagreed. The Judge disagreed with the--

RANGAPPA: Why did the Judge? I mean we have to go with what the Judge found, Jim.

SCHULTZ: --with the Office of the Legal counsel.

RANGAPPA: Are you suggesting that we disbelieve the Judge?

SCHULTZ: No, Asha--

CUOMO: Wait, hold on, I can't hear. I can't hear. Hold on.

SCHULTZ: --hold on a second.

CUOMO: Jim, Jim, go ahead. SCHULTZ: The Office of Legal Counsel at the time gave guidance on this issue. The fact that the Judge now disagrees with that guidance, that's what happens from time to time on appeals and on cases like this.

And you know it, and - and trying to go back now, saying hindsight, you know, with hindsight being 20/20, sure.

Should he have gotten more? Sure, he could have because a lot of facts came out after the fact about Epstein. He's a really bad guy. He deserved to be prosecuted. And in this case, Acosta got a deal that actually put the guy in prison when he was getting nothing from the state before Acosta - Acosta involved.

CUOMO: All right, we got to leave it there. I don't think this is the end of the story. But Jim, thank you, and well argued. Asha, appreciate it, as always.

Now, listen, I told you last night a storm is coming. The Mueller report is near, so is public testimony next week from another member of Trump's inner circle, Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney.

He was on the Hill today. He wasn't meeting with anybody. It was a little bit misunderstood, to be honest. But he is going to testify, and let's talk about what he could add to the stew.

Our truly redoubtable prognosticator is here tonight, Mike Rogers, next.








CUOMO: The President's former lawyer spent hours today on Capitol Hill in a secure space ahead of what will be a ton of attention from lawmakers. Michael Cohen's going to appear before three separate Congressional committees next week.

[21:25:00] They says it appears the Mueller report may be dropping as soon as next week. Mike Rogers, welcome back to PRIME TIME, perfect mix of intelligence and legislative experience. Michael Cohen, what's the plus/minus? What's the good that can come out? What's the problems for him?


CUOMO: He'll be there.

ROGERS: You think so?


ROGERS: Yes, probably so. I think he has too much at stake now.

Listen, I think what's going to happen is they're going to try to get into all the other problems that he poses for the President. So, I do think he has a narrow lane that knows about the - the Trump Tower meeting, and the Russians, and some of those issues.

But the goldmine for Cohen for the Congressional investigation committees is all of the other dirty deeds he was doing for - for the President of the United States, including the payoffs, you know, to the - to the two women that - that Trump - that Trump allegedly had an affair with, and all of the other problems that he had in the other business dealings, which really the - the Mueller investigation would not have gotten into, but I know that the New York Office of the Prosecutor's Office is getting into.

So, I think that's what you're going to find, at least the interest of the Democrats. And that's, to me, is a big minus for the President.

CUOMO: What about the Republicans? They're going to come after him. But what can they do to Cohen that hasn't been done already?

ROGERS: You know, I think they just made - basically make the case like you would in a court case, by the way, is listen, you've - you've lied before. You came here and you lied. Now you're going to jail, and you're lying again, because you don't want to - you don't want to do three years in jail.

Who does, right?

And so, I think that's what you're going to see the - the tenor of - of the whole thing. It's got to be great political theater. It's probably not great for the country, and it's certainly, probably, not really good for the President.

If - if he is honest about those other business dealings, and this feels like, to me, like a witness that wants to get this off his chest, he is angry and contemptuous now of what how he feels that he was treated by the President.

All of that is going to come out on the table, and it's up to the not only the members, but the public to decide, you know, how much of this is vengeance, and how much of this is truth.

CUOMO: Mueller said credible and helpful, so let's see if that is the path he continues on (ph).

ROGERS: But - but don't forget, Chris, that New York said he was not helpful. And so, you got both-- CUOMO: Well, not fully helpful.

ROGERS: --you got both sides of that story, I think going on--

CUOMO: Not fully helpful.

ROGERS: --that's what's going to be interesting.

CUOMO: He helped him on stuff, some stuff, other stuff, they didn't. They wanted more help and didn't get it, fair point.


CUOMO: Now, you know, to me, it's a window into our future because this Mueller report, you know, the more I think about it, the more I can dig around with people like you to get some sense of what's coming, I think we're going to get less rather than more.


CUOMO: And I think that what's going to happen here is Mueller was very narrow, counterintelligence and crimes that related to a few different groups wasn't a fact-finding mission. So, this report may be a springboard into a lot of Congressional oversight about things that's just are not satisfied by what comes out.

ROGERS: I think that's right. You know, there was some debate early on amongst the, you know, people in - in the law enforcement profession. Does - does he come out with this narrative? I don't think he's going to come out with any indictment recommendation for the President, for sure.

[21:30:00] And I think it would be really hard to - to prove conclusion - I mean collusion. I mean the - the President's having a hard time colluding with his Intelligence Services and his Defense Department as President. I don't know how he's going to do this with the Russians.

And so, I think that that's a pretty stretch, that's a long stretch. So, for those folks who are waiting and thinking this is it, you know, the President's going to, I just don't think that's going to happen.

What I think he does is probably give a sample narrative of the problems of which he has encountered. I mean, when I - I say problems I mean the crimes that were committed by Manafort. I do think he owes the public an explanation of how all of that tied into his investigation.

And so, I think that you'll see that narrative, but you're not going to see it, to your point, the riches of - this guy was, you know, the - the - the President did X, Y, and Z, and, you know, we should be mad at the President for that. I don't think that's what's you're going to get.

A little bit of narrative, I think you'll get some of the financial stuff that I think so - a lot of people are interested in seeing, I think that's going to come out in this report. And then, you're going to get an explanation of all the people - remember, a lot of people went to jail. They lost their freedom over this--


ROGERS: --whole thing. And I do - do believe that that he has an obligation to explain to the public why that happened in the course of his investigation. I think you're going to get that.

CUOMO: The X-Factor for me is does he suggest that things move on for further prosecutorial efforts, and for further investigative efforts. That'll be a big deal in terms of what happens next.

Mike Rogers, can't do better than you. Period and Amen!

ROGERS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well.

ROGERS: Pretty soon (ph).

CUOMO: Talk to you soon.

ROGERS: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, huge development to tell you about on a race at the center of an election fraud scandal, a stunning reversal by the Republican leading the nation's only unsettled Congressional contest.

Talk about voter fraud. We have seen it, my friends. And now, we can point it out, and see what it means. That's the great debate, next.








[21:35:00] CUOMO: Voter fraud, the President loves to push that fictional narrative when it comes to his election. If it weren't for all those millions of illegals casting votes, he likes to say, he would have won the popular vote.

And yet, in the face of real evidence of election fraud, you hear that? Silence from the President. Take what's going on in North Carolina's Ninth District, the last undecided Congressional race?

The Election Board voted unanimously today to hold a new election after investigators detailed an extensive scheme by a GOP operative to tamper with absentee ballots, to tip the election in favor of Mark Harris. That's why it was done. Got nearly a 1,000 more votes than the Democrat.

Harris himself also called for a new election today, a big reversal after his long fight to be the certified winner. What gives? Well, listen to this part.

Harris' attorney says his stance was impacted by his son's emotional testimony that he did in fact tell his father about the GOP operative at the center of this scandal. Bizarre, right? Listen to this.


JOHN HARRIS, NORTH CAROLINA HOUSE CANDIDATE MARK HARRIS' SON: I raised concerns about what I had then learned at that point that McCrae Dowless had been hired to be part of the 2018 campaign.

I love my dad and I love my mom, OK? I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle, OK?


CUOMO: The guy's own son testified to the truth of the situation, which means effectively against his own father. Now, Harris was visibly emotional, as was his son. Where does this leave him now?

That is a great debate, Jennifer Granholm and Rick Santorum.




CUOMO: I have never seen anything like that. The guy's own son gives the emails. He's an AUSA, Assistant U.S. Attorney, gives his email that he had sent to his father to investigators as proof that he thought this guy was shady. The guy is shady.

So, now, Jennifer, they're going to have a new election. Do you think Harris should be able to run again?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, (D) FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well I - I mean I don't think he should be able to run again. No, I mean the guy was - is flawed for a whole variety of reasons. I think - I bet you he doesn't. He's been - he said that he had a couple of strokes and was ill.


GRANHOLM: And so, I'm thinking that he probably won't. But, in North Carolina, the Legislature passed a law that says you have to have a whole new election.

So that means there has to be a primary on the Republican and the Democratic side again. So, they're not going to see a seated - seated Congress person for a good few months.

CUOMO: What do you think happens here, Rick?


I mean I - I think Jennifer's right. I mean the fact that he's got now health issues and, obviously, he did not look good through this process, I think it's unlikely that he's - he's going to run.

And, obviously, the previous Congressman, Congressman Pittenger has already announced that he isn't going to run. So, it's going to be a wide-open seat. And, you know, you'll - you'll - I don't know what the North Carolina's are (ph).

There'll be some conferee process that will select - the parties will select their nominee, and they'll go forward.

CUOMO: You know what I hate about this other than the guy have - his son having to testify against him in the trial, which was just terrible--


CUOMO: --but the idea of voter fraud. Our elections, we know they could be better, OK? We know that with all the technology we have in our society today, we vote by and large in really antiquated ways that are just add - begging for problems, right?

And yet, we can't get past the politics of it. If you switch the parties of what was going on in this situation, Rick, the President would be all over it. If this was the Democrat, he would be all over it. "See, I told you, I told you, I told you."

Yet today, nothing. And you know he's not going to say anything about it because he only wants to play to advantage. How do we ever hope to get better if that's all it is it's just petty politics?

SANTORUM: Yes, look, I - I agree with you.

I think, you know, this is an instructive moment where everybody can come forward and say, you know, this was - this was a clearly an illegal activity under North Carolina law and well under pretty much any law that I mean (ph)--

CUOMO: Right.

SANTORUM: --if you're marking ballots. Collecting ballots, as you know, is different. Some states allow you to collect--

CUOMO: Sure.

SANTORUM: --absentee ballots. So, that isn't the prop - that - that isn't the national problem. But in the case of filling out ballots, that's a problem anywhere. And frankly, the President, I think, would do himself some credit, if

he actually came out and said, "You know, they made the right decision, North Carolina. And, you know, we're going to go and compete in that seat, and we're going to do it in - in an honest and fair way."

I don't think it helps him not to - not to comment on these things.

CUOMO: Yes, I just--

GRANHOLM: But, Chris--

CUOMO: Go ahead, Jen, please.

GRANHOLM: Yes, I was just going to say, I mean the - the North Carolina Republican Party has been dreaming up ways to commit voter fraud in another way, which is to lie to the citizens saying that there is actual voter fraud, meaning the individual who goes to cast a vote when what has really been happening is they've been stealing elections, by suppressing the vote.

[21:40:00] In fact, the Supreme - the Supreme Court refused to take up a case that was that cut back the fact that the North Carolina Republicans had passed this vote, which suppressed the vote so badly, they said it was surgically done to exclude people of color. That is a true voter fraud. That is truly stealing--


GRANHOLM: --the election.

SANTORUM: Here's the reality, Jennifer, that in - in - in states that have passed voter ID laws, actually, minority turn-ups are - turnout is up, not down. So, the idea that these things are designed to - to - to suppress minority votes, which is what is often said, you know what? It's a bad design.

GRANHOLM: Wrong. Rick, in - in North Carolina--

SANTORUM: They should - they should - they should get rid of this design.

GRANHOLM: You are wrong. The court found that the voter ID requirements were specifically targeting African-American voters, plus shutting down Sunday voting, which specifically targeted Democrats and African-American voters. If you're not afraid to compete, allow people--

SANTORUM: Only Democrats and African-Americans vote on Sunday?

GRANHOLM: That - that is what the court said, Rick, that they - that's why they--

SANTORUM: Oh, then - then they're obviously right.

GRANHOLM: --struck that down. And no, I'm not saying - that is actually what the State admitted. It

was the smoking gun in the case. The State actually admitted in writing that it targeted African-Americans and Democrats, who disproportionately took advantage of that.

So, the bottom line is North Carolina has been doing this, and doing it under the name of voter fraud. And Chris, I don't think we should be calling it voter fraud when the Republican politicians are trying to steal elections systemically.

I think that we should say this is politician stealing the election--

SANTORUM: As you--

GRANHOLM: --for politician fraud.

SANTORUM: As you know, Jennifer, most states don't allow votes on Sundays. And it's not because they're trying to suppress a vote. It's because some people don't think we should be doing political things on a Sunday. Now, you--


SANTORUM: --you can say there were--

GRANHOLM: Then they don't have to.

SANTORUM: --that - that there may be other reasons. But there's certainly a legitimate reason not to vote on Sunday.

GRANHOLM: OK. Well, Rick, this is done not for religious reasons. This is done--

SANTORUM: You - you that's--

GRANHOLM: Rick, Rick, stop that right now.

SANTORUM: --come on.

GRANHOLM: You know very well and people have been on tape--

SANTORUM: I do know very well. I--

GRANHOLM: --saying that the reason why they are adopting all of these restrictive policies is to cut back on Democrats and people of color and students voting. It's been done--

SANTORUM: You guys--

GRANHOLM: --in Michigan.


GRANHOLM: And, by the way, the Brennan Center has done a survey of 20 studies of non-partisan organizations who determined that you are more likely to get hit by lightning than a vote - a voter going into impersonate somebody improperly.

SANTORUM: Well - well hold on. I - I don't know about that.

But there certainly are cases we just saw, and - and I know Chris is aware of - of - of - of lot of people who are illegals actually registering and voting in the State of Texas. So, it's not--

GRANHOLM: No, that was debunked.

SANTORUM: It was not debunked.

GRANHOLM: Oh, that was--

SANTORUM: It was debunked in part. But not in whole--

GRANHOLM: --totally debunked.

SANTORUM: --no, it wasn't. There - there's still--

GRANHOLM: Yes, it was, Rick. It was. Just go to the Brennan Center. They - they laid it out.

SANTORUM: Oh, they're - they're - yes, there's - non-partisan--

GRANHOLM: They are a non-partisan entity.

SANTORUM: --yes.

GRANHOLM: OK. Well you can shoo (ph) every non-partisan entity because that's what Republicans do is to destroy the facts.

SANTORUM: Of course.

GRANHOLM: But the facts are that--

SANTORUM: It's not the fact.

GRANHOLM: --20 non-partisan, academic, university, non-partisan organizations have done since 2009 studies, to say that it is utterly rare for voters to impersonate somebody else, and go to vote.

What is much more likely is that votes are being stolen by Republicans who are cutting out people's access to the ballot box.

SANTORUM: OK. Two things, number one, I was not talking about people going to the vote who were impersonating someone else. I was talking about people who were illegal who shouldn't have (ph) the right to vote, voting. That's number one.

Number two, you know, it's a tired old saw that the Democrats have to continue - continue to play the race game in every issue, as if every issue--

GRANHOLM: It's the court.

SANTORUM: --that Republicans-- GRANHOLM: Well--

SANTORUM: --every issues that Republicans - they're just a bunch of racists. All they care about is suppressing Black votes. All they care about is suppressing other minority votes--

GRANHOLM: If you're not afraid of - if you're not afraid to compete, then allow--

SANTORUM: --that's just - how about - how about the integrity--

GRANHOLM: --people access.

SANTORUM: --of the ballot box that we have? People identify themselves who they are before they walk in.

GRANHOLM: Why is it in Texas?

SANTORUM: That is not a racist thing to do.

GRANHOLM: Why is it in Texas that a student cannot use a picture student ID to vote, but somebody with a concealed carry permit, which doesn't even have a picture on it, can vote?

Those are strategic decisions being made by politicians to carve-out certain segments of the population that they don't think are going to vote for them.

CUOMO: Well, look, this--

GRANHOLM: We're going to be allowing voters to choose the politicians and not the politicians to choose the voters.

CUOMO: This was a well-handled debate, lot of disagreement, but done with decency. I like that quick comeback to Jennifer saying, "It was debunked," when you said, "Only partially debunked." I like--

SANTORUM: It was only partially. There was - there was--

CUOMO: I like the partial debunked defense.

SANTORUM: --some exaggeration in those numbers, it's true.

CUOMO: I got you. Listen, this is a - this is going to be an ongoing situation because our system is not where it needs to be.


SANTORUM: True that (ph).

CUOMO: But conversations like this, litigation, this is how we get where we need to be. Jennifer, Rick, thank you both.

GRANHOLM: Appreciate it.

SANTORUM: Thank you. CUOMO: All right, this Jussie Smollett case, look, it's the talk of the nation. It's created a seismic jolt in Chicago. D. Lemon has new information. We'll bring him in, next.








CUOMO: Prosecutors today laid out detail by detail all the evidence they have against Jussie Smollett, and the proffer sounds damning.

His ties to the - the two men that he says attacked him, these Nigerian brothers, the calls he placed before and after the incident, the $3,500 check he used to pay them for the alleged staged attack. But despite it all, Smollett is maintaining his innocence.

D. Lemon is here. You smoke to - spoke to Rahm Emanuel, great guest, what's he say?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: He's not happy. He is very upset with how he believes Jussie Smollett has portrayed the City of Chicago wrongly.

They're not taking it lying down, as you saw today with the Police Chief. The Mayor is forthrightly behind him, and he speaks his truth tonight, and you definitely want to see it coming up.

You mentioned - also something that you want to see coming up, OK? You know who John McWhorter is right?


LEMON: The great linguist. He has a piece in the - in The Atlantic - The Atlantic. It's called "What the Jussie Smollett Story Reveals? It shows a peculiar aspect of 21st-Century America: victimhood chic," he calls it.

And just for this, "For a long time, the enlightened Black person was to pretend that O. J. Simpson was framed by the Los Angeles Police Department, out of concern about the way the LAPD actually treated Black people for decades. For similar reasons, even today, the idea that Michael Brown and Ferguson died with his hands up, although soundly refuted by all lines of evidence, remain - retains status as almost an "alternative fact" in some quarters."

He pulls no punches. You want to hear what John McWhorter says on this show in just moments.

CUOMO: We will be watching.


[21:50:00] CUOMO: This is a big one. You know, people have to make sure that they come correct on this story.


CUOMO: I had D. L. Hughley on. He was out there in front--

LEMON: Fantastic.

CUOMO: --but--

LEMON: Hey, can I say something about D. L. Hughley?

CUOMO: Yes, please, please.

LEMON: D. L. Hughley was right on. In the - listen to me, when someone says they're a victim, there's nothing wrong with having compassion, and saying, "I stand behind this person if they are a victim."

If you find out otherwise, then you can go - do as you say--

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: --come correct. I think he's absolutely right.

The President of the United States did the exact same thing. The President of the United States said, "This is horrible. This should not have happened." And then, today, tweeted something else, after he got more information.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: I thought D. L. was brilliant and right on, on that point, and I don't see anything wrong with having compassion or with, you know, having compassion for a victim, absolutely nothing wrong with that.

CUOMO: Yes. And, you know, I think the trick is, and what the closing's about tonight, why I came in is that the idea of how you handle it now matters every bit as much as the way it was handled initially.

3LEMON: Amen.

CUOMO: There is nothing wrong with empathy.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: It should be the presumption that, as you say, somebody feels it, let's feel with them. But then the facts should be the guide.

And the idea now, "Well, the police, you know, they're really way too interested in debunking what happened with Smollett than they are in solving these other cases," that's not fair.

They were presented with a situation. They have to do their job. And yes, he's a somebody. And yes, it got attention. And yes, therefore, it's going to get more of their attention. It always works that way.

That's why we give attention to cases when we can. But it's got to be handled right now or it is going to be a blow to a just cause.

LEMON: That's your closing statement. And boy, you - you want to watch my opening take. It's similar. We shall see.

CUOMO: It will be a - a battle to the end, a Battle of the Brothers, we'll see who wins.

LEMON: You want to - I'm not going to pull any punches, you'll see.

CUOMO: Well, you never do.

LEMON: I'll see you at the top of the hour.

CUOMO: You never do. I'll see you soon.

LEMON: All right.

CUOMO: All right, so, look, as Don and I are talking, there are hard realities here. Take them on head-on. That's what Let's Get After It is all about. Don't hide from the truth here. You will help no one. Here's my argument next.








[21:55:00] CUOMO: Based on what the Chicago Police laid out today, Jussie Smollett is in trouble. Now, do me a favor. Strip away the agendas and just see this for what it was and now is.

People cared about this initially for good reason. Hate crimes are real. They're on the rise in some respects, and this guy's a somebody which makes it more interesting, the MAGA angle, the fact that these cases are often given short shrift, and the goal is to expose an animus that must be put down, that's all fine.

So, what does it mean if it's fake? It means this one is a fake. Smollett is a fake. That's all it means. But, at the same time, denying that reality or soft-pedaling it would be a mistake. We do victims of any such violence no favors by coddling Smollett

because he's going through something or because the police seem so intent on disproving him. Those are not good counters to the current understanding.

If he's not telling the truth, and some twist themselves up trying to make it OK, shame on them. Owning what this was, not what it was said to be, validates the truth, and that's what should matter most.

We do no favor to victims by mitigating the significance of a faker. I'm sure there may be complicating factors about his life and experience etcetera, and that's part of the conversation. But coddling is not kindness. It's capitulation to making a narrative more powerful than the truth.

And yes, it's also true that Black people get attacked, and they go missing, and they get trafficked in city streets all across this country, and ignored. Their rights are abused, sometimes systematically. And all of it is too often known and ignored.

None of that has helped by hiding from the reality here. Own what this is and you can own whatever else happens. Fight the reality here, and you give those who would question the realities a prima facie case of fake outrage that will become a cudgel in future instances that do demand attention.

It's about truth. The truth of injustice is not helped by covering in any way for Smollett if he committed an injustice. Nothing about this is comfortable or OK. This stinks. But the commodity for us is always accuracy and information and, in impact, don't lose sight of that.

Everything about this Smollett situation makes things worse. The facts, the outrage, the passion to make everything about what is wrong for those who advocate for minority rights at first, and now, this rush to make it proof that so much of the concern over such cases is overblown, the truth matters. Period.

But why are some on the Right so determined to make this situation speak to what they see as a broader bias? Are they similar, you know, they have similar motivation to unearth, bogus accounts that suit them? Of course, not.

So, the lesson here is simple. Don't look for high ground. Look for the truth, and that will lead us where we need to be.

That's all I have for tonight. Thank you for watching CNN Tonight. We got D. Lemon right now.

LEMON: How are you feeling?

CUOMO: Better than I deserve.

LEMON: You feel better today?

CUOMO: I'm getting there.


CUOMO: I had to come in for this. This mattered.

LEMON: Yes. It did - it did matter. And, you know, you were talking about this bond proffer. I mean, Chris.

CUOMO: I don't know how his lawyers read that and were OK putting out the statement that he had to put out.

I don't know where they get off saying that the police are doing some disservice to Smollett. Unless this is the biggest fabrication, not just in Chicago, but in the nation's history of policing, this guy's got big problems.

LEMON: Chicago Police, the department has a long history of doing some things right but a lot of things wrong.


LEMON: This case is so high-profile--