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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Bernie Sanders Takes on Trump At 2020 Town Hall; Michael Cohen to Testify Before Three Committees; President Trump Accuses Spike Lee of "Racist Hit". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 25, 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] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So you would support -- you would support reparations?

SANDERS: Well, but read what she said. What does that mean? She means, I think -- I don't want to put words into her mouth -- is what I said. OK?

(APPLAUSE)

In other words, as a result of a legacy of slavery, you have massive levels of inequality. It has to be addressed, and it has to be addressed now.

BLITZER: In 2016, you said it would be divisive, reparations.

SANDERS: Well, again, it depends on what the word means. And I know you don't want to be divisive tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, let's go to Samantha Hakeem, a student at Catholic University. She's from Massachusetts.

QUESTION: Thank you. As a strong advocate for raising the federal minimum wage to $15, I've had many discussions with my peers in regard to this matter. Many expressed concerns that small-business owners would have to lay off employees because they do not have the money and income to support that many workers at that rate. How do you reassure them that this would not be the case and it is, in fact, possible?

SANDERS: Well, you're right. In 2016, when I ran for president, and we talked about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, everybody said, well, it's pretty radical, pretty extreme. Well, a lot has changed in three years. And right now, you've got five states in this country that have passed $15 an hour minimum wage.

And, by the way, it means phasing it in over a period of years, not tomorrow. But here's what I believe. I believe that in the richest country in the history of the world, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty. And I believe that if we raise that minimum wage to $15 an hour, workers will have more money to spend in their community and create jobs doing that. So I think raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do. And I

think it is good economics. And I'm very delighted to see the kind of progress we're making in states and cities all over this country.

By the way, I believe that the House of Representatives will, in fact, pass -- can't guarantee it, I think they will -- pass a $15 an hour minimum wage. And we're going to fight as hard as we can to see that passed in the United States Senate. We should not have to have in this country working people working two or three jobs just to pay the bills. So...

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: We have Beau Finley. He's a lawyer here in Washington.

SANDERS: A lawyer, all right.

QUESTION: My apologies. Thank you, Wolf. Senator Sanders, every Texas resident has two senators and a member in the House. Every Florida resident has two senators and a member in the House. Every Ohio resident has two senators and a member in the House. I live in Washington, D.C., and have no such representation. What will you do to help me and my fellow 700,000 Washingtonians do to receive full representation?

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: All right. And you pay taxes and your young people serve in the military, right?

BLITZER: Yes.

SANDERS: Well, I think it would be -- I come from one of the smallest states in America. We have about 620,000 people in the beautiful state of Vermont. It would be -- it would be a little bit hypocritical of me to suggest that Washington, D.C., should not become a state. And I strongly support statehood for D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: So what can you do to make that happen?

SANDERS: Well, everything that we possibly can. Look, I think -- you know, this is a political issue. It's political. It's hard to argue the facts that the gentleman raised. People pay taxes. They live here. The size of this community is larger than some states. Why don't they have senators and a member in the House?

The answer, not shockingly, is the Republicans kind of guess that this will be two Democratic senators, given the fact that the city consistently votes overwhelmingly Democratic. That's the opposition right there. And I hope -- I hope that my Republican colleagues, you know, do the right thing. People here are entitled to representation in Washington.

BLITZER: We have a question from Elianna Landau. She's a sophomore at the George Washington University. She's from Pennsylvania and an active member of the College Democrats.

QUESTION: Hi, Senator. We're arguably living in one of the most polarized political environments in American history. The Democratic Party is shifting more to the left and the Republican Party more to the right. But most Americans tend to fall in the middle of the political spectrum. How do you plan to unite such a polarized country if your policies are moving further away from where most Americans stand?

SANDERS: OK, I look at it a little bit differently, that the country is polarized, I agree. And that has a lot to do with Trump's fostering a division and hatred, to be honest with you. And it concerns me very much that the level of -- number of hate crimes are going in this country.

[21:05:00] But here's the other side of that story, is that if you ask people in red states, conservative states, you go to Oklahoma and you go to Missouri, wherever you go, and you say, do you think it makes sense to give huge tax breaks to billionaires and then cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which is what the Republican leadership wants, do you know what they say in red states? You're crazy, of course we don't believe in that.

Do you believe that health care is a right? Yeah, we do. Think we should raise the minimum wage? Yeah. Think we should have pay equity for women? Yeah, that makes sense. Think we should rebuild our crumbling infrastructure? Well, of course we could, because my car nearly, you know, disappeared in a pothole the other day, OK?

Do you think we should deal with climate change? Yeah, we should. Should we address racism and sexism and homophobia? Many people believe in conservative states that we should.

So I start off from the premise that we're not quite as divided as some would think. The reality is that what goes on here in Washington is that many of the folks who come here really are not reflective, in my view, of the people they represent. They're much more reflective of the billionaires who fund their campaigns and the lobbyists who get them to do their things.

(APPLAUSE)

So I think -- I honestly believe that we can bring the American people together around an agenda that works for working families, rather than just the 1 percent. OK? And that's my -- that's what I believe as to how we can deal with some of the divisions that exist.

BLITZER: If you're elected president of the United States, Senator, how would you reach out to Trump supporters to try to unite the country?

SANDERS: Well, I just indicated that. For example, if you talk -- you know, one of the crises that we face is -- and I'll give you an example of this. And it's taking place as we speak.

In Erie, Pennsylvania, there is a company that makes locomotives, something that we need if we want to rebuild our rail system. A new company came in and took it over from General Electric called Wabtec. And as soon as they came in, do you know what they did, Wolf? They said to their workers, we're going to have mandatory overtime, we're going to change the scheduling, and we're going to substantially lower the pay for new workers. And meanwhile, as a result of the merger, they gave tens and tens of millions of dollars in bonuses to CEOs and high-ranking officials in the company.

That is what's going on all over this country. Large corporations cut health care and benefits for their workers, and the CEOs make 300 times what their workers make. You go to Trump country and ask people there whether they think that makes sense. All right?

I am very worried about artificial intelligence and robotics and what it will mean to working people in this country. We need to have a long discussion to make certain that millions of workers are not thrown out on the street because of robotics. Technology is a good thing, but it has to be a good thing for workers and not just the people who own that technology. All right? And the Trump people believe that, as well.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I'm not going to say -- I'm not going to say that within Trump's camp there aren't some people who are racists and sexists. There are. We have seen that. But I don't believe that is the case for most of those folks.

I think many of these people are people who have worked hard their entire lives and their standard of living is going down, in many cases, they're making less today than they did 30 or 40 years ago. They're looking at their kids and they're seeing that their kids will have a lower standard of living than they do.

In fact, in many rural communities in America, if you can believe it, life expectancy is going down. Opioid epidemic, what they call -- the doctors call the diseases of despair, heroin, opioids, suicide, alcoholism, serious problem all over those communities. We have got to reach out to those people, and we have got to stand with them for decent jobs, decent health care, decent education. And I think we can win many of them over.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Very quickly, Senator, Democrats want a candidate who can beat Donald Trump. Why do you think you're the most qualified to beat Donald Trump?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let me say that there are a lot of really good candidates in this race, and many of them are personal friends of mine. I've known Elizabeth Warren for like 25 years, you know? So -- and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that we discuss policy and not personality and not make it ugly.

But as I look at what happened in the last election, I look at states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida, I think we could win those states. I think the message of our campaign is that we've got to bring our people together -- black and white and Latino -- bring our people together around an agenda that creates a government that works for all of us, that we deal with the horrific trade policies that we have, that we raise the minimum wage, so we make education available to working families, childcare available, that we guarantee healthcare to all people.

I think that that is a message that will resonate in many of the countries -- in many of the states that Trump won.

BLITZER: Thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders, and thanks to our audience members for their questions. Our coverage continues right now with Chris Cuomo.

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE: Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!

[21:13:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Hello, everyone, I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

And there it is, Bernie Sanders making his case directly to American voters at our CNN Town Hall tonight. Is he the best the Democrats have to offer? Or, is socialism a boogeyman that will haunt him in a general election? Our table is full with better minds on this matter.

And, with Michael Cohen heading to testify tomorrow, what can he say that would matter most? Former Acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe is here with his take, and his take on the Acting A.G. suggesting today that the Mueller report should not reveal anything damaging about unindicted people.

But let's start breaking down Bernie's big night with three big Jesus, Dana Bash, Errol Louis, and Ryan Lizza. So, shall we give a grade to begin the night? I mean what do you think?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We will be grading?

CUOMO: These are all - Bernie Sanders. We'll save my grade for later. It'll come in. I get graded twice in ratings every day. So, what did you think, Dana?

BASH: Listen, I think that he, for - for the people who are - can - who continue to be hungry for a progressive agenda, he argues why are you going to go for the newbies?

Why are you going to go for the copies when you have progressive, the - the classic progressive guy, which is what he is.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, ESQUIRE CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BASH: I mean he did lay these issues on the table first--

LIZZA: Yes.

BASH: --in a national way.

He'd been doing it, you know, toiling - toiling around in the Senate, obviously for a long time. Not a lot of people paid attention to it, and they did in a big - big way in 2016, and he answered questions.

He answered tough questions, things like sexual harassment in his campaign. These are obviously issues beyond what he would do for the country, things that are really, you know, potentially hurting his campaign, and he answered them head-on.

CUOMO: So, you got message and messenger, Errol. They matter, especially in the Democratic Party. That Party has to love their messenger. Where do you think things stand versus 2016? Do you think Bernie's the best iteration of the message they have to offer?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS: It's the best iteration of Bernie's message.

I mean the - the - the programs that he laid out, some of the legislation he alluded to, some of the foreign policy stances that he said he would take, it was Bernie's greatest hits, right, nothing new that I hadn't heard before.

Couple of questions about, you know, the question on reparations, I don't think he really fielded before, but it's kind of a new question for the Democrats right now.

But, no, I think this was really sort of a wake-up call to - to the Bernie-faithful. I didn't see him making outreach to people who hadn't heard him before. I think people who are attracted to this message have perhaps heard it before.

They might have heard some of it from Elizabeth Warren. They might have heard some of it from Kamala Harris. They might have heard it from - from pundits. They might have heard it from - from other candidates at - at--

CUOMO: Voters do like the new.

LOUIS: --other levels.

LIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: Voters like the new.

BASH: Yes.

CUOMO: Even though Bernie believes what he believes, right, he is one of the vestiges of a principled politician when it comes to what his platform is. But they like the new. So, how does he deal with that challenge?

LIZZA: Right.

CUOMO: And how did he deal with it tonight? LIZZA: Well, look the - the sign of his success is - is you can see in not watching his presentation, but as watching any of the other Town Halls--

BASH: Exactly.

LIZZA: --because they all sound like Bernie Sanders, right?

BASH: Exactly.

LOUIS: Right.

LIZZA: The Democratic Party has moved towards him.

I've been covering him for years. He hasn't changed in decades with the stuff he's talking about. But when it comes to the big issues like healthcare, education, and a minimum wage, the entire Democratic Party sounds way more like Bernie Sanders.

CUOMO: So, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

LIZZA: So - so, he - you know, I think he doesn't sound any different to any of us, as he did in - in 2016.

BASH: He - he - he--

LIZZA: It could be a bad thing though. He's not going to stand out the same way he did in a one-on-one against Hillary Clinton.

BASH: And the difference between--

LIZZA: But, of course, he lost that race anyway.

BASH: Well, he lost that race.

And the difference between now and then is that, people, wrong or right, particularly on the Democratic side, thought that Hillary Clinton was - the people who were supporting Hillary Clinton was inevitable, if she were to go up against Donald Trump, or maybe even some of the other Republicans.

LIZZA: Yes.

[21:15:00] BASH: This is a completely different ballgame. Now, it's a Democratic electorate fired up with one thing in mind, and that is "Defeat Donald Trump."

LIZZA: Yes.

BASH: So, many of them are progressive, and many of them are--

CUOMO: I think socialism is a barrier. You think that's just something that--

BASH: Well--

CUOMO: --Trump's playing with for his base, and won't resonate on the Left at all?

BASH: No, I think - I think it could resonate on the Left.

But the thing is, is that you can get some of the policies that Bernie Sanders is offering from other people who might - who voters might consider more electable against Donald Trump.

CUOMO: Right. See, that's--

BASH: It's more strategic potential.

CUOMO: Yes, I agree with this.

LOUIS: Right. Well, I mean his (ph) Electability poll is very, very high among--

BASH: Exactly.

LOUIS: --among what Democrats want right now. And that's one thing I don't think we heard a convincing case for. He didn't make it sound - you know, when he says, "Oh, I'll bring a lie detector to the debate," well that - that's cute.

There are a lot of people who have tried that with Donald Trump. Whatever you're going to do, if you want to go toe-to-toe with him, it's going to take more than just having a list of handy facts to point out that he's wrong.

CUOMO: Yes.

LOUIS: Lots of people tried it, all of them failed.

CUOMO: You know, I read an analysis of how you go toe-to-toe with Trump, how do you figure it out, because--

LOUIS: Yes.

CUOMO: --I would have guessed, when I saw Marco Rubio in that one debate, make that line that I thought was a great line about, "If he weren't here, he'd be selling fake watches on 34th Street," I was like, "Wow! Somebody gave him a great line. That's a real punch to the nose."

LIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: And it wasn't.

LIZZA: It wasn't.

CUOMO: And we learned that night that you can't beat Trump. There's only one.

BASH: Yes.

LIZZA: Yes. CUOMO: Does he offer something because we here - look, let's be honest. All Democrats are saying the same thing right now. "Whoever it is, they've got to beat Trump, whoever it is has got to beat Trump." That's all I hear from people in that party.

LIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: Does he answer those questions for people?

LIZZA: I don't think he's laid it out clearly yet. But he does seem to think about, and talk about in a way that is different than the other candidates. There's one way I think he distinguishes himself.

He talks about the Trump voters as voters who should have a natural home in the Democratic Party. If you noticed his answer on that, he didn't call Trump voters, deplorables, right?

BASH: Right.

LIZZA: He tried to show a bit of sympathy. He didn't want to paint all Trump voters as Trump-like, as racist and xenophobic. And he does believe that he has a kinship with those voters on the issues. There's a little bit of a, you know, they were hoodwinked by Trump view of them.

CUOMO: Well that's why he's going grassroots.

LIZZA: He's - that's an electability argument.

CUOMO: Right. He's going grassroots. Let's put up the fundraising numbers because this is something, to your point, what does he offer the other ones don't, $10 million raised in less than a week.

Now, that is chickenfeed, but it's about the rate and the number of donors, 359,914. 38.76 percent of the donations came from new email addresses that hadn't given to him before.

Relevance?

BASH: Relevance is that every one of those donors, small donors is if they're doing this correctly inside the--

LIZZA: Yes.

BASH: --Bernie Sanders campaign is an email address for voter outreach for whatever caucus state or primary state they're in. That is the ballgame now.

And that is why so many of all of these campaigns, and the Trump campaign as well on the Republican side, to go for small dollars, because small dollars equals grassroots equals voter contact equals actual votes.

CUOMO: If they're talking the same--

LOUIS: And will send them (ph) too. CUOMO: Right. If there's--

BASH: Exactly.

CUOMO: --if they're talking the same talk, right, and some kind of single-payer mechanism for healthcare, on taxes, they want something that's - are redistributive in terms of actually targeting the middle- class, then you have these secondary issues.

And I know people who get upset, say, "Don't talk about the climate as secondary," we believe in science here on this show. What I'm saying is when people go to the ballot box it winds up not being one of the first boxes that they'll check about why they went there.

LIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: It comes down to though, Errol, the person versus the person, maybe in this election more than we've seen in recent cycles.

LOUIS: Well, there - there's the person. And it - it's not just sort of personality in some sort of superficial sense.

There's a question of, "Do you trust this person to actually get the ball over the line? Do you trust this person, for example, to work with other parts of government to make this happen?"

When you hear Bernie Sanders, talking about Venezuela, "Oh, we want an internationally supervised election. That's how we're going to deal with that humanitarian crisis," that doesn't necessarily sound like what other candidates would say.

BASH: Right.

LOUIS: That doesn't sound like what Cory Booker might say. You know, I mean--

CUOMO: Not muscular enough?

LOUIS: --not muscular - not detailed enough.

I think he could be beaten on the details. Even if people like what he's saying, you know, when you talk to particular solutions, even around income inequality, Elizabeth Warren is no slouch in that department.

She's created departments. She's drafted legislation. She's thought this through. She's thought about legal implications about federal and state implications of what it is she wants to do, likewise with some of the other candidates. I think that he's going to - he's not going to just sort of have this field to himself.

People will start out saying, "Yes, morally, I'm with him around redistribution, if that's what it takes, around taxes, if that's what it takes, even around some of the ultimate foreign policy goals. However, I have a different path to get here, and he's going to have to compete for that." LIZZA: The - the blind spot that he had in 2016, that I think he spent a lot of work trying to adjust, is understanding how diverse the Democratic Party is right now.

[21:20:00] As a White guy from Vermont with a not-very-diverse constituency, he didn't really understand all of the issues that were important to every racial, ethnic group in the Democratic Party, right?

He gotten - he gotten a lot of blowback over that. I think he's done a lot of work, and we saw it tonight to--

BASH: Yes.

LIZZA: --try and address issues of race and identity. But, very interestingly, he did not endorse reparations, which has suddenly burst into the Democratic primary as an important issue.

And you have two of the top candidates, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren that have, according to The New York Times, said they're for reparations. I thought that answer was very interesting. He did not want to go there to endorse that. He was holding back.

CUOMO: No, but he was making a good point, you know. We often get caught up with buzz words with buzzword answers, you know, reparations for or against.

LIZZA: Right.

CUOMO: But what does it mean?

BASH: Yes.

CUOMO: How would it work? How would you do it? I mean, how long we've been researching this question--

BASH: And you're - and you're--

CUOMO: --like 55 years--

LIZZA: Yes, yes.

BASH: Yes.

CUOMO: --in terms of whether it could be legal and political, a 120 years in terms of what should have happened in the beginning?

LIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: So, I - I was OK with that, Dana. I was OK with him saying, "Well, they said it, but what do they mean, you know, how do they mean it?"

LIZZA: Right.

CUOMO: That's the kind of issue where that can work as an approach-- BASH: Yes.

CUOMO: --which don't just say you're for it, you know, just to check some box for people where you'll never be able to deliver, because you don't know how to get that done.

LIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: Hey, I'm OK with that. I feel like he has that same problem on other issues where persuasion does matter.

BASH: Yes. Yes. I think you're right about that.

The other thing is as much as, I just said, and we all just said, that there's so much of the focus among Democratic voters is being practical electability, and so forth, it's just a fact. You know this.

Democratic voters, probably more than Republicans, they like to fall in love. They like to have passion for their candidate.

LIZZA: Yes.

BASH: And people fell in love with Bernie Sanders in 2016. They just did. And those people--

LIZZA: They felt the burn.

BASH: --they felt the burn. And - and lot of them still do.

And the question is whether that - that flame will stay alive or whether it will be different this year, whether - because of these other candidates who he considers Bernie light, but might be potentially a person who can look at both of those issues, fall in love, but also be--

LOUIS: You know, it's - it's interesting. He--

BASH: --practically electable.

LOUIS: People - people fell in love with him over and against the Democratic establishment. He was like--

CUOMO: Yes.

LOUIS: --literally represented--

BASH: Absolutely.

LOUIS: --by the Clinton Organization.

CUOMO: Yes.

LOUIS: That's not going to necessarily - well you never know with that (ph) maybe sort of have a resurgence I suppose. But the - the Clintons are not dominating. Nobody's trying to clear the field for any of Bernie Sanders' rivals so. CUOMO: Right.

LOUIS: Maybe people aren't so much in love with him. Maybe he doesn't represent--

BASH: Maybe.

LOUIS: --an attack on an establishment that seems to have dispersed over the last four years.

CUOMO: Well, they got a--

BASH: They do, yes (ph).

CUOMO: --lot of things to figure out. This is just a first step tonight. But this is one of their big names that we brought you tonight, Bernie Sanders. Can he make you a pitch that will make him a President?

Dana, Errol, Ryan, thank you.

LIZZA: Thanks, Chris.

BASH: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Always good to have you, all right?

LOUIS: Thanks.

CUOMO: I'm usually lonely out here.

Less than 24 hours from another major event in Washington. Michael Cohen, President's former Personal Attorney is going back before lawmakers. He did lie to them before. He says, "This time is different." Should they believe him now?

And, should Andrew McCabe, you know him, should he be believed over the President? What does he think about Michael Cohen? What does he think about what the Acting A.G. Rosenstein told us today about what should and should not be in the Mueller report?

Andrew McCabe, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Don't expect the Mueller report to lay out every hint of misconduct involving Russia.

Why not? Because Rod Rosenstein, the man who until earlier this month was in charge of the probe, made it pretty clear today. What matters is what they can show. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: When our government makes an allegation of wrongdoing, we need to prove it.

Government officials may sincerely believe a defendant is guilty, but their belief is irrelevant. Investigators and prosecutors in America do not get to decree which facts are true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That's the standard for those still in government. My next guest is no longer there, but he remains an integral fig - figure in this whole Russia probe drama. His new book is called "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the FBI, welcome to PRIME TIME, sir.

ANDREW GEORGE MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Thanks, Chris, good to be here.

CUOMO: So, Michael Cohen comes tomorrow. Where do you expect this to register on your Wowometer?

MCCABE: That's a really hard one to tell. My Wowometer has been somewhat recalibrated recently with everything that's been happening. I've been watching this - these developments, I guess, as intently as everybody else had.

I'll certainly be watching it Wednesday. Of course, don't know what Mr. Cohen will say.

But as investigators typically look at witnesses, he is a person who had extraordinary access to multiple people, who are most likely of interest to the investigators of this matter. And so, I think that possibilities are limitless.

CUOMO: If he ties the President to what he did with payments to women, how big a deal is that legally, and in terms of what that might mean for our political process?

MCCABE: Well it's hard for me to say how big of a deal that would be, for instance, to the work that the Special Counsel and his team are doing.

But even putting that aside, I think it's enormously significant for a participant in those schemes to step forward, and indicate that one of his cohorts, one of his co-conspirators was the President, the current President of the United States.

That will be a remarkable thing to hear from a witness, if that's in fact what we hear.

CUOMO: But people expect that already. And I wonder, you know, you know about the DOJ guidelines better than I ever will about why they don't believe in indicting a sitting President.

But the Southern District could have been much more effusive than they were in their papers about the President and his role, individual one, as we suspect they were doing.

Is there any - what could - what could the government do with that? What could politicians do with that information?

MCCABE: Well you can't say what politicians would do with it. But I think there are probably folks who believe that the evidence of the President's conduct is relevant in the minds of the men and women of this country.

Whether or not the Justice Department decides to go forward and indict that conduct is a separate issue. And it's one that, as you've noted, constitutional scholars and folks at the Justice Department have for some time resolved by saying that a sitting President cannot be--

CUOMO: Right.

MCCABE: --indicted. That's current policy.

CUOMO: Right.

MCCABE: But even - even considering that fact, assuming that to be true, it - it seems to me, as a citizen of this country, it's relevant to know whether or not the President engaged in conduct that would be considered evidence of a crime were he not the President of the United States.

[21:30:00] CUOMO: What are your concerns about his credibility?

MCCABE: About Mr. Cohen's credibility?

CUOMO: Yes, sir.

MCCABE: He's - he obviously has deep credibility issues. He's now admitted to lying to Congress. Those are all big hurdles for prosecutors and investigators to deal with, as you're trying to put together a case.

But I will say, Chris, that this is not unusual. We frequently conduct investigations, and build cases, and prosecutions, on the basis of co- operators and witnesses who have credibility problems. There are ways to address those problems in court as long as the witness has admitted the - the misdeeds and the lies that he's stated prior to that fact, and has taken some sort of responsibility and culpability for it, they can still provide testimony that is compelling and relevant to a prosecution.

CUOMO: With what you've heard from the Southern District, where they gave him like a qualified check, right? They said he was kind of helpful to us. He didn't want to give us other information that we wanted.

The Mueller probe more effusive in their praise for him saying that, "Hey, he was credible. And the information he gave us was helpful." How does that wash out for him?

MCCABE: Well I think it - it - I think he clearly is getting credit from the Mueller folks for providing information that is directly relevant and of interest to them in their investigation.

Maybe not so much so for the Southern District prosecutors who are looking, maybe more broadly at Mr. Cohen's past activity, and people he may have been involved and that have nothing to do with the ongoing Russia probe.

So that - I think that explains the difference in the two reviews as it were by the prosecutors--

CUOMO: Right.

MCCABE: --in their pre-sentence reports.

CUOMO: What would you want to hear most?

MCCABE: You know, as - as an investigator, that elusive element you are constantly trying to uncover is the element of intent.

I think Mr. Cohen is in - has been in a position to have heard conversations and seen actions taken and maybe be able to provide that sort of insider's view on what the intent of the folks at the center of this investigation truly was. That's been something that we've - I'd not - I think have not seen to date.

CUOMO: Mr. McCabe, while I have you, let me ask some - some questions I haven't heard fleshed out with you yet.

MCCABE: Sure.

CUOMO: Credibility is a problem for Cohen. Arguably, it's a problem for you as well. They found you at the FBI to be lacking candor. I know you don't like the - the basis for that judgment, and a lot of other things in that I.G.'s report that came out.

But, you know, he's an Obama-appointee, and he came to those conclusions. There's a criminal reference to prosecute - to investigate, not to prosecute, to look at your matter.

MCCABE: That's right.

CUOMO: So, what is your case for your own credibility?

MCCABE: Well, Chris, as you know with a - a civil litigation on its way, and also with the current investigative efforts that are underway, I am limited in what I can really go into great detail with you tonight. I will--

CUOMO: Right. But you know that people are going to watch, and if they're on the fence--

MCCABE: Yes.

CUOMO: --lot of our viewers are on the fence.

MCCABE: Right

CUOMO: And then, "Well this guy, the - the FBI says you lied. I mean why would I believe him?" What do you say to those people?

MCCABE: So, what I'd say to those people, Chris, is a 21-year career in the FBI, absolutely unblemished career until the point at which the President decided and communicated to several people that he wanted me to go.

What I would say - what I can say about that I.G. report, which as you noted, I deeply dispute is that I never lied, never deliberately misled anyone, not in the I.G.'s office, not in the FBI, and certainly never, a Director of the FBI, under any circumstances at any time.

And like--

CUOMO: How do you explain that guy who's not a Trump guy, right, he was put in there by Obama, and you were there a long time, people respected you there, him coming to a different conclusion?

MCCABE: I can't explain why the process seems to have been so greatly impacted by politics.

We all know from the President's own statements, his absolute very clear intention, the result that he want demanded from that prospect - from that investigation, and that's of course the one they delivered.

I can't explain to you why, even now, as my team attempts to uncover the I.G.'s own processes and policies, and those rules that should guide a fair and impartial process, we've had to sue them in Federal Court to get access to information that, as I understand, they are obligated to provide to the public.

CUOMO: You think the I.G. did what they did with your findings because of the President?

MCCABE: I think the President had an indelible impact on the I.G.'s process.

I know that the process that I went through was one that was unfair, was one that left out multiple pieces of relevant information, the testimony of witnesses who were never even referenced in the report.

I can't explain to you exactly why that happened. But I have a great suspicion that the President's clear desire had an impact on it.

CUOMO: You know, it sounds to me like you're accusing the President of the same thing he accuses you, right?

He says, "McCabe had it out for me. He didn't like me. He opened up this investigation with no real basis. He had to hand it off. I got lucky there that he handed it off to Mueller because he was out to get me like of other - lot of other people there." You're making a similar case, Mr. McCabe, which is, Trump was out to

get you, so he persuaded an I.G., somehow, who's an Obama appointee to say bad things about you.

MCCABE: Well I don't think that's the case, Chris. I'm going to disagree with you there.

CUOMO: Please.

[21:35:00] MCCABE: I - I think on the side of the decisions that I made, and the decisions that - that we made in those fateful days in May, right after the firing of the Director, we relied on our training, our authority, our processes.

We had facts in our hands that indicated quite clearly that we had an articulable basis to believe that a crime may have been committed or that a threat to national security might exist. In--

CUOMO: So, wait. Explain that to my audience to--

MCCABE: Sure.

CUOMO: --because that's - that's a mouthful. And I get it, you know. I - I--

MCCABE: Yes.

CUOMO: --went - went to law school, was never good enough to work for a place like the FBI. But the idea of, "Well, why did they start the investigation," politically, the argument is they had nothing. They, you know, they just didn't like him.

You don't want to talk about specifics, I get it. But you just said a phrase there that I want you to explain to my audience in layman's terms. What did you feel that you knew that justified your decision?

MCCABE: Right. So, Chris, first thing you need to know is the FBI does not make decisions based on politics. We make our decisions based on facts.

And by the time the Director was fired, and then with the President's own comments of the fact that he was thinking about Russia when he fired the Director, and the statements he made to the Russian Foreign Minister in the Oval Office about having relieved the pressure of the Russia investigation by firing the Director, this all on the heels of his multiple comments to the Director, the one particularly in which he asked us to stop investigating Mike Flynn, which we, of course, refused to do.

When those - when those circumstances culminated with the firing of the Director, and the statements of the President, at that point, we had the facts in our hands, clearly observable by anybody who's watching this that - to - to be concerned that a federal crime that of obstruction of justice may be taking place, and that a threat to national security may have happened.

That's the FBI standard for opening a case. When we are in that place, where we have those facts in our hands, we are obligated to conduct an investigation. Doesn't mean that anybody did anything wrong. It doesn't mean we're convicting anybody of a crime or throwing them in jail.

It's simply, "We are the investigators. It's time for us to do our job, whether that's the President of the United States or anybody else."

CUOMO: Do you still believe that the President might be compromised by Russia or be some kind of asset?

MCCABE: I think that that is possible. That's why we opened the case. I think we turned those investigations over into the most capable hands they could--

CUOMO: Right.

MCCABE: --possibly be in. And I await the results of that investigation as does every other American.

CUOMO: Walk down this road with me just one more step, because I get the idea of, "Well, it looks like he's really messing with this," and then you guys would have an argument internally with your lawyers about whether or not a President can obstruct justice.

I'm sure that was something that was a familiar conversation for you in making the decision that you guys ultimately made. But then, you - all right, so maybe he's somehow compromised.

Based on what did you - do you think that you can tell this audience, gave you a suspicion that the President might be compromised by Russia?

MCCABE: Well, first, let me address the - the thing you just said there, Chris.

We don't sit around in the FBI and discuss or make decisions about whether or not a President can commit a crime, whether or not a President can be indicted. Those are issues for the Department of Justice. In the FBI, our responsibility is investigations.

CUOMO: So, nobody ever discussed whether or not this is something that could go somewhere? MCCABE: We had long discussions about the facts that were in front of us, about the things that that were concerning us about those facts, and about talking about what we thought we were obligated to do under the circumstance.

It was the recommendation of the investigative team that we open the investigation on the President. That's the recommendation that I approved.

CUOMO: OK.

MCCABE: And I should say, Chris, that the Deputy Attorney General was absolutely shoulder-to-shoulder with me during those days. We talked this through several times.

He knew what we were thinking, how we were thinking about it, and the decisions that we were making. He agreed with those decisions. We - he and I both briefed these steps to the Gang of Eight, the leadership on the Hill--

CUOMO: And you say nobody pushed back?

MCCABE: No push back.

CUOMO: Including Republicans?

MCCABE: That's correct.

CUOMO: Including Nunes?

MCCABE: That's correct.

CUOMO: Now, as to why you think he might be a spy, and you still are suspicious of that, why?

MCCABE: Well, Chris, the initial suspicion comes form - from the actual potential crime itself.

If you think that the President of the United States may be trying to obstruct justice by cutting off or stopping the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling in the campaign, why would a President do that?

There is no clear reason why any President would want to impede the FBI's ability to understand what our most formidable foreign adversary is up to, especially activity that threatens the very health of our electoral process and our democracy.

CUOMO: Certainly a question we'd love the answer to. One other quick thing while I have you.

MCCABE: Sure.

CUOMO: I understand the FBI's practice over the years, the Department of Justice of, "If we don't indict you, we're not going to trash-talk you. We're not going to give derogatory information out about what's - what fueled our initial allegations." [21:40:00] They - there is a suggestion from Rosenstein and others, Bill Barr also, that that won't be done with Mueller either, and his findings. Do you believe that rule should be interpreted more loosely to allow for more transparency?

MCCABE: I think we are in a remarkably unique situation here, Chris. I don't know that anyone would dispute that. That is a - that you have, I think, accurately summarized what DOJ kind of practice has been, and policy - general policy is.

DOJ has a - has a habit of diverting from policy under extraordinary circumstances. This may, in fact, be one of them. That's something for the Attorney General to decide.

My personal preference, my personal belief is that the Director Mueller's work should be shared in its most robust form with Congress. And then after that is - that takes place, I - I - I deeply hope that the Mueller team's results are shared with the public in the most expansive way possible.

We all recognize that there is going to be information in there that cannot be shared, classified information, sensitive information, things like that. But I think the American public has a right to know what the Special Counsel team has - has uncovered for good or for bad.

CUOMO: There's a lot of lying going on, it would be great for the American people to get some clarity.

MCCABE: It sure would.

CUOMO: Andrew McCabe, I appreciate you taking on these questions. You are welcome back. Be well.

MCCABE: Thank you. Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. It's going to be Michael Cohen's word over the President's starting tomorrow on Capitol Hill. Once again, who's lying? Why are they lying?

A big determining factor is what they call corroboration. Will Cohen have evidence to back him up? Where could it lead if he does? Cuomo's Court, next.

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(END VIDEO CLIP) [21:45:00] CUOMO: This is going to be one hell of a week. You're going to see some very different things on Capitol Hill.

You got Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the man who knows the ins and outs of the Trump Organization. If people tell you, "It's not true. He had a limited role," that's not true. He was there for over a decade and involved in all kinds of things that lawyers usually aren't, all right?

He's going to be grilled by lawmakers, not once, not twice, but three times, which he's volunteering for, OK? And, one of those days, Wednesday's going to be in public view, OK?

His lies, the implications about what he said about the President, they're all going to come down to what he can show. That's going to be the big differentiator.

So credibility, what's Congress - where their heads' going to be on that, OK? Let's talk to two very good people on this topic.

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CUOMO: Mike Rogers, Jeffrey Toobin here in Cuomo's Court.

Jeffrey, he lied to Congress. He's coming back now. That's got to hurt him. But he's coming back armed with different things than he had the last time, OK? He has opened up about things.

He's had the Special Counsel give him a pat on the back, and say, "You know, he was truthful with us." And the big X-factor is, what does he have to corroborate what comes out of his mouth?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right.

You know, when in criminal trials, it is often the case that some very bad guy flips, and spills the beans on the people who he had been working with in the past. And the cross-examine - cross-examination is much like you just described.

It isn't a fact that you're a liar, that you're a thief, that you're a killer, and jurors often believe those people because they were on the inside. But the thing that they really need, these witnesses, is corroboration.

Is there - are there emails? Are there text messages? Are there tape recordings that were sent or received contemporaneously from the issues that are being testified about? That's what is usually--

CUOMO: Right.

TOOBIN: --that - that's the - the - the thing that really gets juries to believe him, and then that would be valuable in front of Congress as well.

CUOMO: You can always know what he can show.

Now, Mike, look, that's the hurdle. You've made no secret to the fact that you think he's damaged goods because of the past.

But if he comes with documents, and if there's one thing I know about Michael Cohen, having gone through the events of the last couple of years, he likes to keep records of things. He likes to record things. He likes to have documents and emails and proof of things that, you know, he thinks might be interesting.

This could be that day, when he comes in front of this Congressional panel, if we see whether that's true or not. What's your take?

MIKE ROGERS, (R) FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Yes, listen, I - his cooperation happened after the raid on his office, and they took out boxes and boxes of material.

And, as you said, Chris, you have - we've already seen that he had a propensity to take notes, to make recordings, all of that is probably in that FBI cache of material that would corroborate a little or much of it. You know--

CUOMO: Look, and in truth, he had the tape that we got here at CNN that established the most direct link, other than common sense, between the President and what was done in his name.

You know, he had his voice on tape showing that he knew that they were working with Pecker to figure it out. I mean that's already been Cohen's biggest contribution to this point.

So, Mike, though, to your ear, what are you waiting to hear most out of this testimony?

ROGERS: Well, this is going to be an interesting test for Congress, first of all, Chris, for the - this reason. Everybody gets five minutes.

When we would - when I was Chairman, I would try to get people to cooperate, and say, "Let's give one or two people 15 minutes, so you can kind of get some depth of questions, and then the follow-up questions."

If everybody takes five minutes, this is going to be a lot of - a lot of pandering, a lot of this is my YouTube moment.

CUOMO: Yes.

ROGERS: And I don't think we're going to find out much. If they're smart about this, and start asking questions, then, to me, what's interesting is the finance side. That's where he really brings a lot of intimacy with the Trump Organization over a decade of time, including the things that might lead to that Trump project in Moscow.

So, if I were an investigator, I'd want to know, "Well, tell me, how did all the other financial dealings work? And when they called you in, tell me why, what was going on wrong--

CUOMO: Right.

ROGERS: --by the time you got involved in it? And oh, by the way, now let's start talking about what this Trump Tower was, and why were they op - trying to obfuscate their relationship in this Tower," which still to me is a little bit of a mystery.

CUOMO: Right.

ROGERS: I - I still don't think there was anything wrong with it, as long as you were transparent about it, but they weren't. And so, what--

CUOMO: Yes.

ROGERS: --so something must - there must be more to that story. I'd really like to know what that is.

CUOMO: Yes, I mean, Jeffrey, you know, I - I'm sure that our heads are on the same page there is that, you know, there's been so much lying by the President of the United States. And if there's one guy that Michael Cohen's going to definitely have a shot at against in Incredibility Contest it's going to be his old boss.

And is that the same way that you're feeling about this, as Mike is, that if Michael Cohen can explain why the President lied about some of the big ticket items surrounding this probe, that'd be something?

TOOBIN: It would - it would be a very big deal. But, you know, remember, the attack on him is going to be, "You're a liar. You're a thief--

CUOMO: Sure.

[21:50:00] TOOBIN: --you're a bum." But the question that that always comes back is, "Well, if I'm such a terrible person, why did Donald Trump trust me for 10 years?"

You know, the - the line you always use in summation as a prosecutor is like "This witness is not my friend, not the government's friend. He's the defendant's friend. You know, he's the one who chose to confide in him. He's the one who chose, you know, to negotiate with his supposed girlfriends, and pay them off."

I mean that's - that's the, you know, the - the thing that - that Cohen has going for him that, you know, if he was such a terrible person, why did Donald Trump give him all these responsibilities?

It's a tough that - that - that's a tough thing to answer.

ROGERS: You know, and can I say as somebody who worked with these folks, I tendered (ph) to work Organized Crime folks and, you know, pretty bad people, involved in murders and kidnap, you know, the whole nine yards. And one thing is, if they get on the stand, and basically say, "Yes, I - I was a bad person. I did bad things. And I - I feel sorry for it. I'm remorseful for it. Here's why," I think that's always a better approach to these things--

CUOMO: Yes.

ROGERS: --than trying to say, "Well, you know, I was kind of a good guy. He misled me. You know, I - I really wanted to do." "No. You were a bad guy. You did bad things. You lied."

CUOMO: Yes.

ROGERS: Now, let's get that on the table, throw that up, and then, let's talk about the things in the relationships you had, and why you did certain - why'd you make those certain decisions to do bad things.

TOOBIN: I--

ROGERS: I think that is a lot more credible for a--

CUOMO: All right, fellas.

ROGERS: --for a witness like that.

CUOMO: I appreciate it. Thank you very much both. We're going to know the answers very soon, and I'll beg you to come back.

ROGERS: Yes, thanks.

CUOMO: All right, did you see the Oscars last night? Spike Lee calling on voters to choose love over hate in 2020. The President did. And you know what he took it as? A racist hit.

Confounding, no, considering all the real racism this President ignores? My call, for the President to do the right thing, yes, it's a Spike Lee reference, next.

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[21:55:00] CUOMO: Did you catch the Oscars last night?

Some real advances in recognizing the Black experience and talent being rewarded, BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, If Beale Street Could Talk, Green Book was the best picture, the need to confront painful periods and hateful dynamics and move forward to a place, where we are all more embracing of differences as strengths, Bravo Oscar!

Spike Lee won for Best Adapted Screenplay and said this, after jumping into Samuel L. Jackson's arms.

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SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR, BLACKKKLANSMAN: The 2020 Presidential Election is around the corner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(CROWD APPLAUDING AND CHEERING)

LEE: Let's all mobilize. Let's all be in the right side of history.

(CROWD SHOUTING YES)

LEE: Make the right - like - make the moral choice between love versus hate.

(CROWD APPLAUDING AND CHEERING)

LEE: Let's do the right thing.

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CUOMO: Political? Sure. Spike Lee has zero love for this President, calls him "Agent Orange." But last night, Lee kept it positive, choosing love over hate, urging people to vote, not even invoking the President's name.

So, what did the President do? This. Tweet. "Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President."

First, Lee coming at the President isn't racism. Second, the President invokes racism now, and then he mocks someone for how they read a script, has he seen himself on TV?

Listen, I doubt the President has seen BlacKkKlansman. But it ends with ugly scenes from the ugliness in Charlottesville, tiki torches, Nazi chants, you know, the truth that was clear for everyone except two groups, White haters and this President.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

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CUOMO: Did he know what that meant to everyone, except the racists? I'd like to believe that the President of the United States just had an off-moment or he said it wrong. He doesn't mean it.

But the facts slapped that fiction in the face. He sees bigotry in a pretty ecumenical sentiment from Lee. But when asked about his mentor, on immigration, and accused bigot, Congressman Steve King, you get this.

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TRUMP: You know, I don't know anything about the situation. When did he announce that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today he's announced (ph)--

TRUMP: I have not seen it. He hasn't told me anything, so, we'll - we'll have to take a look.

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CUOMO: So this really isn't about the benefit of the doubt. The truth is I doubt there is any benefit to pretending this President doesn't love to stir the waters of division, including bigotry, and he knows that.

And yet, says this.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You racist?

TRUMP: I am the least racist person

I am the least racist person that you've ever met.

I am the least racist person, the least racist person that you've ever seen.

(CROWD CHEERING)

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CUOMO: Now, many don't count these sound bites as proof of the argument of where the President is wrong on race. But I actually find them the most instructive. Here's the argument.

He knows this isn't true. He knows what he does, and he knows why he does it. So, if he isn't racist, what is he?

He ignores bigotry where it is, unless literally forced to disown it, like with David Duke. You remember that? He rushes out to basically defend White Supremacists by saying there were good people on both sides.

And what burned many about Charlottesville, he didn't seize on the death of Heather Heyer. He seized on both sides and Antifa, reducing the reality of the role of racism. Why? If that bigot who killed Heather were Mexican, you think this President would have been similarly silent? Be honest. No, right? He would have used it. He would have used her death as proof of a wickedness, a problem, but not here.

Is entering illegally really worse than what Heather Heyer's death was about? The President played to the petty, bringing racism where it wasn't with Spike Lee. And he's poisoning us by ignoring bigotry, where it is.

But while it would be great to have leadership come from the top, last night, in the Oscars, we got to see how the rest of you can make things better on your own, recognizing diversity and talent, rewarding those who speak truth about our reality.

That truth, and embracing diversity, those are the best hope for America becoming greater still. And I hope that this President, if he's going to keep taking these shots, at some point, he at least owns why he does it.

Just like as we always say on this show, why lie, if you have nothing to hide, why lie? That applies to Russia. It applies to some ancillary matters around that, and it applies to this too.

If you're going to ignore somebody like Steve King, and ignore racism where it's staring us in the face, you should tell the American people why you do it, because it's obvious to everyone.

Thanks for watching. CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON starts right now.