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Interview with Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) Trump Claims He Was "Misinterpreted" On Otto Warmbier; Trump Took Kim Jong-un "At His Word" On Student's Death; Democrats Demand White House Info On Clearances & Threaten Subpoenas; Michael Cohen To Testify Again Before House Intelligence Committee Next Week. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 1, 2019 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL BUSH, SON OF GEORGE H.W. BUSH: But she said things that she might have regretted, and she said more things later in life that she probably would have regretted.

Having said that, dad, dad's true nature was just kind and gentle and caring. He -- he did everything in life even to the very end of his life, leaning in with love.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: What a nice longer talk to Neil Bush! You can go to to see the full interview. And watch The Bush Years: Family, Duty, Power at 9:00 P.M. Eastern, Sunday on CNN. Let's go to Chris, see what he's working on. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, Anderson. Have a good weekend. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Legit question, are our national secrets safe with this White House? The combination of all the lying about contact with Russia, and now, word that the President forced clearances for his son-in-law, despite questions about his conflicts, that is a recipe for a subpoena from Congress. And that's what the Democrats are now threatening, if they don't get answers.

We have one key lawmaker leading the charge. His panel is hauling Michael Cohen back to the Hill next week, and he has new questions for Cohen, the White House, and a list of others. Who and what do they want to know, we'll ask.

Plus, the President thinks that we all heard him wrong when he provided cover for the death of Otto Warmbier. Give me a break!

What do you say? It's Friday night. Let's get after it.




CUOMO: Friday night, let me make something easy for you, OK? There's all this talk on cable right now. The President says he was misunderstood on whether he gave cover or not to Kim Jong-un. Here's his tweet, OK?

"I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family, remember, I got Otto out along with others. And this previous Administration did nothing, and I did this," listen, let's go to the sound bite, OK?

You listen. It's completely clear there was nothing that came before that made a difference and there was nothing that came after, what you're about to hear, that changed his context. Here's the sound.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen, just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen.

I don't believe he knew about it.

He tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word.


CUOMO: He's talking about Kim. He's talking about a murderous despot, and he heard what you think he said.

He gave him cover. Why? He has to explain it. That's what needs to be interpreted, where his head and his heart are, not what our ears hear, OK? That's done. There's no read to discuss it. Let's move on.

The clearance controversy surrounding his son-in-law, Jared Kushner is not going away. It's getting worse and with good reason. House investigators are demanding answers and immediate compliance from the White House.

What do they want to know? Well why did some of the President's closest advisers, like Kushner, get access to top-secret information without clearance? And did the President lie about his role in all of this? It could lead to subpoenas in the coming days.

I want to bring in a Democrat involved in the effort, House Intelligence Member, Denny Heck, Washington State. Congressman, thank you for joining me, especially on a Friday night.


CUOMO: All right, so let's test what your plan is here, OK? What do you want to ask? And why is it important for the American people?

HECK: What I -- what we want to ask Mr. Cohen at the next meeting? CUOMO: Well let's start--

HECK: Is that what you're asking?

CUOMO: --let's start with the security clearance issue. We're hearing from Democrats that this is something--

HECK: Oh, right, right, right, right. Look, Chris--

CUOMO: --that has to be looked at.

HECK: Yes.

CUOMO: One crisis at a time.

HECK: It absolutely does. This -- this is the culminating revelation of a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week for the President. Think about this.

Started out with a failed Summit, the House passed the disapproval resolution for his goofy emergency declaration, Michael Cohen was in for three separate appearances, and then, of course, this revelation about Jared Kushner.

Look, there is no nepotism carve out or exception in the background check law of our country and nor should there be. This is serious.

We're not talking about a bunch of high school boys at a slumber party, sitting around playing Risk. This is a matter of our national security, and it needs to be treated with that.

CUOMO: All right.

HECK: But the real question, Chris--

CUOMO: Go ahead, what is it?

HECK: --the real question is why. Why does he keep lying about this stuff? Why wasn't Jared Kushner able to achieve the highest level of security? Those are the questions that I think we need to get after.

CUOMO: All right, so you don't get the President, you don't really get the answer to why he lied.

But if the answer generally becomes, from whatever source, "Because I can, and because I love my son-in-law, and I trust him, and I think this process is a joke. It's just another morass of bureaucracy, so I just did it, because I know there's no problem there with him," now, what?

HECK: Well the remedy is obviously a change in law. But the fact that the President lied has been well documented, to be frankly, tantamount to dog bites man.

It -- it's been proven over and over again that his utterances are to be -- not -- not to be taken at face value, so there's really no reason for us to be surprised or shocked that he did it in this case, even though it is a matter of national security.

[21:05:00] I mean, look, he takes the word of Kim Jong-un over his own Intelligence community. He takes the word of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia regarding the murder of the Journalist, Khashoggi over his own Intelligence community. He takes the word of Vladimir Putin over his own Intelligence community regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.

He's willing to believe any autocrat any time when it comes to national security measures. It should not surprise us that he did in this case, compromise a matter of national security.

CUOMO: Well, and frankly, I don't think the American people, at this point, expect much better. I think the disaffection, I think the toxicity is so high that that's why they just shrug their shoulders more of the same.

So, that's part of your burden as well. You don't want to get caught up in people's frustrations that you guys don't get anything done, and it never ends.

So, with Michael Cohen, yes, you want to go down different roads, yes, you want to bring in other people. I just heard Maxine Waters, Democrat, California say, "We want to talk to Deutsche Bank, what kind of money did they lend?"

The more you look, the more you will necessarily build in an expectation of finding something. How do you balance that?

HECK: Well, the fact of the matter is we are finding something, so I don't know that we're managing any expectation.

And oh, by the way, Chris, I also happen to serve on the Financial Services Committee with Congresswoman and Chairwoman Maxine Waters. I'm personally looking forward very much to getting the information from Deutsche Bank.

And the real question there, obviously, is at a time when very few, if any, domestic banks would touch the Trump Organization and Deutsche Bank would, why were they doing that?

We know now that there was a misrepresentation of financial statements on the part of some people, but was there something else involved here?

This is the -- the very same bank, by the way, that is been demonstrated to have laundered considerable amount of money for Russian mobsters. Was there somebody guaranteeing those loans?

There are a lot of questions that need to be asked here and that we need to get answers to in it in order to fully understand whether or not there was a compromising financial entanglement on the part of then-candidate, President Trump.

CUOMO: I guess what I'm asking is, and I appreciate your candor about the avenues, if at the end of the day, you have that "Trump Foundation? Dirty. His representations of his wealth? False. His treatment of his taxes? Not really by the book, and a host of other lies and misdeeds," then what?

Impeachment begins and ends in the same place. Did the Republicans want to play ball?

HECK: Well they don't want to play ball, yet. That's clear.

That was clear in case anybody didn't get the memo with the way in which the Republicans responded to Michael Cohen's testimony in the Oversight Committee, which frankly, I thought was a bit embarrassing on their part, and I'm not sure that they understand that they should have been embarrassed by how it is that they interacted with Michael Cohen.

It was as though they weren't angry with him because he had lied earlier was -- they were angry with him because he'd stopped lying on behalf of the President.

But, look, I am squarely in the camp of those who think that in order to legitimize this process, there are more steps that have to be taken, not the least of which is allowing Special Counsel Director Mueller to conclude his work.

There's every expectation that that is in the not-too-distant future. That's either herd instinct among us with no basis for it or, in fact, there's something afoot here that he is getting near closure.

And I think that information will be very, very helpful, as will the various investigations that are being undertaken appropriately under our Article 1 responsibilities under the Constitution, and the various committees in the House.

You mentioned House Financial Services and the Oversight Committee, and the Judiciary Committee, and, of course, the Intelligence Committee on which I have the honor to serve.

CUOMO: It's very likely that when the Mueller report comes out, no matter what's made public, you guys will subpoena. You'll get more information.

It's almost a 100 percent certain it can't be the end of the process because there are going to be a lot of questions that the American people have, let alone, you guys, even if it's opportunistic that aren't going to be answered.

And it does create a political strategy issue. You have to show, if you're heading into the next election, that you got things done. And if it's just all oversight, and there's no end in sight, excuse the -- the pun, are you concerned about that at all?

HECK: I am. I mean the way I try to explain this to people, Chris, is that there are like three buckets.

We have our oversight responsibilities. We have responsibility to demonstrate to the public, even though, we

do not have a majority in the Senate, what it is that House Democrats would like to do, and will do, if we ever have an opportunity to have control of all three levers of the Federal Government, both branches of Congress and the White House.

But we also have a responsibility to actually get some things done to compromise -- principled compromises where possible with the Senate and even the Administration. We have all of these responsibilities, and we have to balance them all out.

[21:10:00] So you're exactly right. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, and we need to do them all.

CUOMO: Michael Cohen, what do you want to know from him? You're bringing him back next week. And give me a one-two-three list of who else you want to talk to.

HECK: So, Michael Cohen, I want to represent because, as you know, we had him for seven hours--


HECK: --on the skiff yesterday, was 100 percent cooperative. And I thought that the information that he provided was very productive, and very helpful.


HECK: There're obviously worse -- yes, there were some things that were new, Chris, that had not yet been in the open sources as it were in the public record. And there is--

CUOMO: New and valuable or new and additional?

HECK: New, valuable and additional. And -- and the fact of the matter is that we really didn't get halfway through the questions that we wanted to ask him yesterday. And so, he graciously agreed to come back. He's accepting full responsibility.

And, just in case you're going to ask, I believe he is legitimately, genuinely, in his heart, remorseful for his past acts and deeds. I genuinely believe that because he's taking responsibility for them.

In fact, what he reminded me of was something that one of my favorite Presidents in American history, used to be one of the biggest advocates of, which was Harry Truman, when he said "The buck stops here." He had that little plaque on his deck -- desk.

Boy, those are some bygone days, a President who takes responsibility for his own action.

CUOMO: Are you going to call in Weisselberg? CFO of the Trump Org--

HECK: Not determined yet. But our witness up is--

CUOMO: Yes, who's the next one--

HECK: I know who he is.

CUOMO: --please?

HECK: Felix Sater at Bayrock.

CUOMO: Right.

HECK: He was obviously involved in the deal with respect to the proposed--


HECK: --Trump Tower in Moscow.

CUOMO: All right. And will that be public or private?

HECK: I think the Chair said it would be public, but I don't know that for sure. His intention is to do those in public that which we can. His intention is as well as all of the Members of the Committee that our transcripts will be released at some point in the future as appropriate.

CUOMO: More public it is, the more sanitizing that light of approval from the people. Denny Heck, this was a great conversation. Congressman, thank you very much for the candor. Appreciate it on a Friday night.

HECK: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, so look, you see the enthusiasm. You've heard it from other Democrats. They believe in the force of their oversight powers and they want to bring it to bear with this President.

However, a little bit there. You know, I'm pushing them a little bit. I understand that it's classified. They have to be careful about what they say. But I'm trying to pick out a strategy for you because I don't think the President understands what's coming his way. And I get his confusion.

But I'm going to clarify it for me and for you, next.







(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: You saw it right here on CUOMO PRIME TIME. The gloves are off. Listen.


STEPHEN FRANCIS LYNCH, (D) OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR MASSACHUSETTS'S 8TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: --for people who were also -- can corroborate Mr. Cohen's testimony or -- or -- or dispute it. But--

CUOMO: But that is like real dynamite. You bring in the President's kids--


CUOMO: --you're asking for a war, are you not?

LYNCH: I think we have one.


CUOMO: Ooh! Well if this is a war, the Trump team may be defending the wrong hill. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.

This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

The Russia story is a total fabrication.

I call it the Russian hoax.

It's a Democrat hoax.


CUOMO: All right, now, those are all lies. But as I've been telling you, I don't see the Mueller report being a monumental moment to end this Presidency.

I know others do, ones on TV right now, and brilliant at it. And maybe, they want to make that case that the end is near. I don't see it. I see the lying. I see collusion. Collusion is a behavior, not a crime, unless you're talking about securities.

And more than one of POTUS' posse did what they could to get close to and get benefit from bad guys. That qualifies. Is it a crime? Probably not. So, I don't see a major case.

And you can't get momentum to impeach based on what we know about Russia, Russia being the key word, because the problem for POTUS is all the other threads being pulled at other than Mueller, other than Russia. The Southern District busy looking into the Inaugural, the Super PAC, the Trump Org's financing, we're going to have to see what comes out of that, if anything. Problem is the SDNY is still the Justice Department. What does that mean?

Well the President is protected by the current guidelines. They could be tested. They could be challenged. They haven't. But, as it stands, indictment, off-limits.

Then there are state and local investigations into things like tax schemes, the charity, the Trump Hotel in D.C. that all hits Trump in the wallet. But we still don't know enough to really gauge the threat.

So, for all the attention on this week's Michael Cohen testimony, you may want to get used to this type of environment. You're going to be seeing a lot of Congressional probes into this President.

This is a list of all the Democratic-led investigations underway in the House. I'm going to keep this playing for a bit.


CUOMO: Look, how many there are? Now, why am I laughing?

Because it like never ends, this political game that we're playing here, the tit for tat. But before you start screaming harassment, remember, Republicans used at least 10 different agencies just to investigate Benghazi.

But, look, the tit for tat, as I call it, it's why so many of you are so fed up with all of it, and I get it. I get it. I get it. I'm just trying to help you understand the plays that are made by each side, and test them, and there're going to be more players entering the field.

Looks like the next casualties in this fight are going to be those closest to the Trump inner circle. I'm talking about those who've spent decades on the inside of his business and those within his own family, although that gets a little tricky legally.

Donald Jr., he's got some trouble. But Jared and Ivanka, trouble in terms of exposure being brought in, they worked for the White House. And you know what? There is some exemption there. There is some legal ground to keep them away from Congressional testimony. We'll get into that as it becomes more relevant.

But these men who aren't in government and work for Trump, you can expect for Congress to reach out, and you will probably hear from them, maybe soon. What matters enough to threaten the Presidency? How much digging is too much by the Democrats? Those answers are going to come from you.

[21:20:00] You can be sure that Democrats are going to try to keep this going until you vote next year. Will that help or hurt? We're going to have to see. So, we know as a matter of fact with absolutely no misunderstanding that the President elevated another despot. He said Kim Jong-un is not responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier. That is insulting and inaccurate. Result from the party? Crickets.

Why the silence? Is it OK to keep quiet? Great debate, Friday night, and some men, next.








CUOMO: All right, we now know, based on The New York Times reporting, that POTUS did have a hand in Jared Kushner's security clearance. So far, crickets from most in the GOP leadership.

The President also said this week he'd take Kim Jong-un, a murderous dictator at his word in denying his role in the death of a young American. That draw some -- drew some outrage, only from the Left, tepid responses from the Right.

[21:25:00] This, as his former attorney claimed under oath that the President was involved in a felony while in Office. And yet, the GOP continues to point at Michael Cohen as the liar, rather than question the President's voracity.

Should they stand up as a matter of principle or is this just about raw practicality? Paul Begala, Niger Innis, here for The Great Debate.




CUOMO: But I'm going to start this a little bit differently than usual. Begala, the defense is this.


CUOMO: "Oh you and your high dudgeon. You people did the same thing with Clinton. This is how the game is played. When it's your man, defend, defend, defend, no matter what. When it's the other guy, hit, hit, hit, hit, hit." BEGALA: That's actually not true. As a -- as a factual matter, it was Democrats who controlled the House when they began hearings about Whitewater, which, by the way, even Ken Starr cleared Bill Clinton of.

I do think there's an enormous difference as to whether you're in bed with a woman, not your wife, or whether you're in bed with Vladimir Putin. And I think that's kind of the problem the Republicans have right now is I think they're wrong both on principle and on politics.

On principle, it's never going to work to put your soul in a blind trust in the care of Donald J. Trump.

Ask Michael Cohen, ask Paul Manafort, ask Rick Gates, ask Roger Stone, all of whom who've been indicted or convicted or both. That's a terrible line to go down in terms of your ethics and your morals, but even politically.

Think of this, Chris. We just had a midterm election a couple of months ago. The Democrats won their biggest landslide since Watergate despite a strong economy.

That should have been a Republican year, despite redistricting that favors the Republicans, should have been a Republican year, the Democrats won their biggest landslide since Watergate.

In fact, if it had been a Presidential election, the Democrats would have won back Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Iowa for 286 electoral votes and Donald Trump would be back, you know, trying to reopen his casinos in Atlantic City. It's a bad political strategy too.

CUOMO: Niger, strategy aside, just as a straight principled play. Are you concerned at all about GOP leadership, your electeds being quiet in the face of things that this President says and does?


I mean what we have seen with our -- with the Republican Party, and everybody knows I'm a Republican, full disclosure, big surprise, is that the Republican Party of today is kind of like the Democratic Party of FDR.

I think it was Will -- Will Rogers has said, "I'm not a member of an organized party. I'm a Democrat," way back when well, you know, in a strange way, and in some ways, the Republican Party has become that because you have a lot of different factions.

I've never seen so many Republicans of prominence, including, in some cases, leaders of -- of -- of -- of -- of a -- of a body actually oppose the President or -- or not go along with the President on some key critical issues, you know, so--

CUOMO: Such as? INNIS: --there is a lot of -- there's -- there -- there's a lot of diversity within the Republican Party, and you can be sure that on a -- on a question like this, if -- if -- if Republicans were concerned, well, Republican lawmakers were concerned, they don't march in lockstep like the Democrats do. They just don't.

CUOMO: Wait, what if they--

INNIS: I'm sorry. You said such as.

CUOMO: Yes, what if they bucked him on? We'll see what happens with the emergency declaration. You know, the expectation is that the Senate, you know, they say they may have enough votes. It's certainly not veto-proof. What if they ever bucked him on?

INNIS: We -- it did not -- repealing and replacing Obamacare, unfortunately, did not get done. It didn't pass when we had both Houses of -- of -- of Congress at the House and the Senate.

You know, but, look, I-- I -- I -- I actually believe that the President is meeting regularly with Senator -- Leader McConnell, and -- and -- and other Republicans, and is making a determination on what is politically practical there.

CUOMO: Does that satisfy you, Paul?

BEGALA: No, the President is leading his party off a cliff. And it was once a great party. You know, the Conservative Political Action Committee is just finishing up their meeting here in Washington.

Ronald Reagan spoke at the first CPAC, and I actually looked up the -- the speech that he gave. And he talked about freedom. He talked about ethics. He talked about our founding and the Constitution. And let me tell you, I didn't support Ronald Reagan.

I was -- I was with your -- your old man and -- and the Democrats, even then. But, you know what? He -- he spoke about a moral call to America, and people responded. And this President has abandoned that, and his party has abandoned that.

And it is -- it's really disgraceful to see people who hold themselves out as -- as people of principle in the United States Congress, who have a Constitutional obligation to check and balance this very unchecked and unbalanced President to just allow him to -- to walk all over our Constitution.

And it's -- it's going to come a cropper. It's going to come back to hurt them.

[21:30:00] Then, as we've talked about this national emergency that the President has made-up, you're going to see, when my party gets the White House back, there's going to be enormous pressure to declare in a national emergency on climate control, climate change, on gun control.

CUOMO: Don't do it. BEGALA: I don't -- I'm not for it then either.

CUOMO: Don't do it.

BEGALA: That's correct. I'm not for it then either, Chris, so, save this tape.

CUOMO: Somebody's got to be better than what they condemn--

BEGALA: That's right.

CUOMO: --in this game.

BEGALA: Save this tape. That's right.

CUOMO: Because it has just a straight-Thunderdome existence. I got to tell you, Niger--

BEGALA: Right.

CUOMO: --I hear you about diversity of thought within a party. I don't know that it applies. But I'll give it to you. I'll give you the argument. The Otto Warmbier thing though should be universally obnoxious, no matter what your shades--

INNIS: It is obnoxious.

CUOMO: --of Red for the President to say what he said, it being untrue is the least of it, Niger, and nobody said a damn thing about him. How do you explain that other than just straight practicality and fear?

INNIS: I believe that Otto Warmbier is -- is a horrible tragedy. It is awful. It is horrific that--

CUOMO: Who did it?

INNIS: --Kim did it.

CUOMO: It's not what the President said.

INNIS: The -- well--

CUOMO: Well, come on, Niger. You see what I'm saying? You see what I'm saying?

INNIS: No, I -- I -- I--

CUOMO: You don't?

INNIS: --I see that you that -- that -- that -- I -- I -- I -- I see that you are concerned about that. I believe that the President came out and tweeted clearly that he--

CUOMO: Never said Kim did it.

INNIS: --he condemns. CUOMO: Never said Kim did it. Never said it.

INNIS: He -- he -- he -- he, I believe, he -- he said it in many ways, and we don't know--

CUOMO: Many ways.

INNIS: --we are certainly -- I -- we do not know exactly the conversation between Kim and President Trump.


INNIS: We -- we -- we are not -- weird -- and we -- there -- the discussions should not just go before all of the American people. Look, I -- I -- I am concerned, if you will, about the -- the -- the -- the--

CUOMO: You're struggling, Niger. Niger, you're struggling with this.

INNIS: I -- I -- I--

CUOMO: And I understand why.

INNIS: I -- I -- I --

CUOMO: It's like there's this angel on your shoulder--


CUOMO: --jumping up and down on you right now saying, "No, no, no, Niger. Don't say that it's OK that he gave a despot a break for the third time. That's not what we're about in this party. That's not what Conservative ideology's about. We don't give comfort--

INNIS: Look, can I say this? Can I interrupt you just for a second, though--

CUOMO: --to the bad." Go ahead.

INNIS: --Chris? Can I just--

CUOMO: Please.

INNIS: --can I -- can -- thank you. Thank you.

I've had been very hard on President Obama, very hard. But I've -- I've got to give him a -- a thumbs-up because when President Trump came into the -- President-elect Trump and him had conversations privately, and those two men do not like each other.

But they realized that there was a higher purpose that, frankly, and I tweeted this out, I think, that they're now brothers in a -- in a strange way. And President Obama, I believe, or so it's come out, said one of the most critical national security concerns that he has was Korea.

CUOMO: I hear you.

INNIS: And President Trump is -- and President Trump is doing -- look, as President -- is President -- did President Trump go outside of the box? He went outside of the box in the campaign. He's going outside of the box as -- as President of the United States. He's taking some chances.

But let me just say this, and please, allow me to just throw my passion here. Let me just say this.

All -- all I say in terms of the -- the Kim situation and North Korea situation, and with -- with us -- me taking a leap of faith, which is what I'm doing, it's part of my -- my faith to take a leap of faith. But I'm taking a peek -- a leap of faith here that we got to win, all of us have to win.

If this President wins, just like I was, believe it or not, rooting for him to, if this President wins with North Korea, then it's a win not for Donald Trump or for Jared or for the Trump family, it's a win for the American people and Western civilization.

CUOMO: I'm with you. I'm with you.

INNIS: Period. So, let's start --

CUOMO: Every--

INNIS: --let's all -- let's -- let's start rooting for -- for that, not for President Trump--

CUOMO: Listen--

INNIS: --but for the United States of America.

CUOMO: I'm with you, Niger. We're out of time. I'm going to let you end it on that. Nobody's rooting against America. We're rooting for what America is about, and we don't give comfort to despots who kill our people. We'll leave it there, respect your passion.

Paul Begala, thank you for making this an appointment on a Friday night. I appreciate it.

BEGALA: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Republicans, CPAC, you heard them talking about it. It's the Conservatives. They're taking aim at their new favorite boogeyman, socialism. Don't roll your eyes. I got to tell you, this could be an effective cudgel to use against the Democrats, given where that party seems to be moving.

[21:35:00] So, we're going to talk about that, and whether or not you really are going to lose your pick-up trucks and your hamburgers. Hope not, just bought both. Is that a winning strategy?

We have CPAC Chairman, Matt Schlapp joining us, next.








CUOMO: All right, I think we know where the Right is headed in the run-up to the next set of elections. Conservatives gathered at CPAC to take aim at what seems to be their new favorite boogeyman, socialism. Take a listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment that America ceases to be America.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, FORMER DEAN AT NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIVERSITY: They want to take your pick-up truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about.


CUOMO: Sebastian Gorka making the case there, the Conservative bedrock of strength, on the world stage, defense of truth, separation of powers, those are harder to find at CPAC, or at least, they weren't the main theme.

Now, a man who may help us discover what the play is, is the man himself, CPAC Chairman, Matt Schlapp. Good to have you on the show, Matt, been a while.

MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION CHAIRMAN: Great -- great to be back with you, Chris.

CUOMO: Who's that yelling behind you? Oh, the CPAC is going on. Oh, great, great. We're getting some ambient sound as well. All right, so do me a favor. Let's do a little plus/minus, Matt. Make the pitch to the audience--


CUOMO: --about the socialism bent. Is this just hyperbole or are you going to make a real case that that's where we're headed?

SCHLAPP: Well, quite honestly, I think it's a little shocking for some of us. I mean the theme of our CPAC this year is "What makes America great?" The -- the intent is to go back to some foundational principles of why America is exceptional.

[21:40:00] And out of nowhere, as a result of the 2018 election, there is a brand-new stridency. Bernie is not standing alone. Elizabeth Warren is not standing alone.

You actually have Democrats, elected Democrats who -- who are embracing socialism. It's a totally legitimate push back, after socialism that has failed so extravagantly all over the globe and, most specifically, right now, in Venezuela.

So, I think the American people actually think the idea of embracing socialism is pretty controversial. And I think the Democrats are on a risky gambit.

I'm worried about it because Democrats win a lot of elections. I don't like the fact that they're going to run for the Presidency not from the center, how they usually win it, they're going to run it from the extreme left.

CUOMO: That's what you think. So, what is the weakness of doing that?

If you go all-in in calling it socialism, aren't you vulnerable to somebody saying, "Well, if we just want to get more healthcare to more people, or we want to get tax cuts to more people, or jobs to more people, in a lower income bracket, that's what they're calling socialism because you don't want to deal with the policies."

SCHLAPP: Yes, so I mean it is -- it is -- there's something enticing about telling people you're going to do things for free for them, but you have to do -- you have to figure out the costs. You have to figure out the cost of this Green New Deal, which seems extreme to me with some of the policy provisions, most of the policy provisions within it.

Then I think, look, this is the question, Chris, you asked the right question. Where are the American people on this?

I would argue, after eight years of Obama, many Americans liked President Obama, they're -- like many things about him. But they thought that his economic policies actually were -- created a soft economy, and took away their economic prosperity, and their ability to have rising wages and new economic opportunities.

It's one of the reasons Donald Trump won. He was able to swipe away the votes of a lot of blue-collar voters, lot of middle-class voters who wanted that opportunity.

And, by the way, since that election, the Right track numbers in this country are much higher than they've been at any time in the Obama Administration. And so, you see real improvements.

CUOMO: Which--

SCHLAPP: Now, I could be wrong. I could be wrong on all these things, and it could be that America wants to embrace socialism. But I'll take that bet, if you want to make it.

CUOMO: No, I -- look, I get it. I -- I think that the clever part of this is that you're just calling policies that are more populist, arguably, or play more to the middle-class as socialist.

I get it. That's politics. And they're going to have to counter your argument. But, you know, if you're talking about Conservative bedrock policies, a return to those, as you said earlier, two, let's take a look at it.


CUOMO: One was fiscal Conservativism (ph). You didn't pay for this tax cut--


CUOMO: --that Trump got through. It's going to hit the deficit. It already is. You see that the tax checks that people are getting back are is not what we expected. It's still early in the season.

But that was a Conservative bedrock principle that was flouted by the President, you guys went along with it.

SCHLAPP: I'd love to respond to that. I actually think both parties deserve to be horsewhipped over their constant refrains that we're going to balance the budget and we're going to cut spending--

CUOMO: Presidents in your party.

SCHLAPP: --when you--

CUOMO: You guys controlled Congress. You passed it.

SCHLAPP: Fair -- fair -- Chris, let me tell you.

I'm not going to push back too aggressively on this. I think we have to do a lot better job of restraining, spending $22 trillion in debt, and those chickens are going to come home to roost.

I think it's a mistake to say after eight years of Obama stagnation that it wasn't the right thing to do to have steep tax cuts--

CUOMO: But it wasn't -- but it wasn't stagnation. You know that he--

SCHLAPP: --especially on the core -- especially--

CUOMO: --you know that we pulled out of one of the deepest holes--

SCHLAPP: Yes, yes, it was.

CUOMO: --in our history in 2008 when he came up, you know, so when he got in there, he was in a deep hole.

SCHLAPP: The eight-year -- I--

CUOMO: He got us out of that hole, and the economy grew and grew--


CUOMO: --and now, it's continuing to grow.

SCHLAPP: I worked for President Bush. And it is fair to say, at the end of his Presidency, we had a banking collapse, a -- a housing collapse--


SCHLAPP: --and there's no question Obama inherited a rough economy. I will tell you that.


SCHLAPP: The problem is new regulations and Obamacare and all this profligate federal overreach did not allow us to grow at a rate that made a difference for the middle-class and for the poor.

Look at the poverty statistics after this try with Obamanomics. People were made worse-off.

Why did people turn to Donald Trump? Some people say it was because he had all of this rhetoric. They actually turned to him because, in America, on Presidential elections, the pocketbook matters, and people felt a real pinch in their pocketbook.

CUOMO: Well that's true. But that tax cut wound up being a little bit of a farce. So, I just hope that you hold him to account for that. And then there's another bedrock principle.

SCHLAPP: It's not farce. No, the--

CUOMO: The -- the tax cut was a farce because it didn't target--

SCHLAPP: But it's resulting in--

CUOMO: --the middle-class and it wasn't paid for.


CUOMO: That's a farcical notion of--

SCHLAPP: I don't -- I--

CUOMO: --Conservative fiscal economics.

SCHLAPP: But -- but -- but let -- let's look at something that is clear, which is America had, on the corporate side--

CUOMO: Right.

SCHLAPP: --one of the highest income tax rates in the world, so America--

CUOMO: But not -- not -- not an effective rate.

SCHLAPP: --was out of synchronization--

CUOMO: Not an effective rate. The--

SCHLAPP: No, that's not true. No, that's not true.

CUOMO: Oh, yes, oh, yes, because of the loopholes--

SCHLAPP: No, that's not true.

CUOMO: --and what they have--

SCHLAPP: The wide--

CUOMO: --actually paid, they -- they were about in the middle of the pack.

SCHLAPP: I'm not--

CUOMO: But there's no question that you could make improvements on it.

SCHLAPP: I'm not--

CUOMO: I'm with you on that. I'm with you on that.

SCHLAPP: But, let's--

CUOMO: But--

[21:45:00] SCHLAPP: OK. OK.

And I'll -- let me just make this one point, which is there's a reason why people feel better about their economic situation in this -- this country and there's a reason why we're growing at a more rapid rate, and there's a reason why we've added more manufacturing--

CUOMO: Because you juiced the economy with a tax cut--

SCHLAPP: --jobs, and there's a reason why--

CUOMO: --that you're going to have to pay for long-term.

SCHLAPP: --and there's a reason why wages are -- but all -- but all of those things are very positive, and they're actually helping Americans, and I'm glad that that's happening.

And I think that if that continues to happen, actually, and if we restrain our profligate spending, I actually think we can do something--

CUOMO: All right.

SCHLAPP: --about that debt and that deficit. And in all honesty, President Clinton was the last President to actually oversee a balanced budget. CUOMO: Well we'll see -- we'll see what happens. One other principle, truth, character--


CUOMO: --that was the cudgel against Clinton.

SCHLAPP: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Mike Pence, who spoke at CPAC, wrote a very--


CUOMO: --impressive essay about how you got to judge him as your neighbor. This President has made a mockery--


CUOMO: --of political discourse, decency, and truth-telling, and you know it. But you guys don't jump up and down about it.

SCHLAPP: I don't -- I don't know that.

CUOMO: You do know it.

SCHLAPP: I don't know that. And I -- I completely--

CUOMO: He just lied about three -- his third despot -- his third despot--

SCHLAPP: --that chapter was -- that -- that chapter--

CUOMO: --he just gave comfort to. He just said Kim Jong-un--

SCHLAPP: Yes, that chapter--

CUOMO: --was not responsible for Otto Warmbier, Matt.

SCHLAPP: That chapter that Mike Pence wrote was in a book that I edited, and it's a book about the 13 speeches that Ronald Reagan gave at CPAC, the group that I Chair.

And I think it's a big mistake to say that Donald Trump is somehow a dishonest political leader. He went around this country, and said the seven, eight, nine things that he intended to do.

CUOMO: He lies all the time.

SCHLAPP: And he is why rare politician -- not true.

CUOMO: What?

SCHLAPP: Not true.

CUOMO: Matt Schlapp--

SCHLAPP: I -- I reject that. I--

CUOMO: --please.

SCHLAPP: Chris--

CUOMO: How can you reject it?

SCHLAPP: Let's -- I--

CUOMO: It's just plain as the nose on my face.

SCHLAPP: Be -- because -- because what you are going to argue is that there are times when facts are wrong that come out of the President's mouth or come out of the White House. But--

CUOMO: No, he lies. He said he didn't have anything to do with Jared's clearance.

SCHLAPP: --I -- this is--

CUOMO: And he did. He said he had nothing to do with the hush-money payments, and he did. He said 2 million people voted illegally, and they didn't. He lies all the time.

SCHLAPP: That -- OK. So, we just came out of a -- a -- a Congressional election, Chris.

CUOMO: Come on, Matt. Come on, come on, Matt.

SCHLAPP: Are you still going to make the argument that there is not a huge voter fraud problem in this country? I heard you make that--

CUOMO: Matt, please. He said 2 million people voted illegally in California.

SCHLAPP: --a case for years and years after California -- after California.

CUOMO: He said he had nothing to do with the clearance.

SCHLAPP: How many -- how many voted illegally?

CUOMO: Matt, you know, look, this is what I don't get.

SCHLAPP: How -- how many -- how many have -- how many have--

CUOMO: Matt--

SCHLAPP: --how many voted illegally in California?

CUOMO: Matt--

SCHLAPP: Don't call him a liar--

CUOMO: He's a liar.

SCHLAPP: --without specifically (ph) telling me--

CUOMO: He's a liar.

SCHLAPP: It's a big number in California.

CUOMO: Matt, it's not anywhere near it.

SCHLAPP: But if you're going to say that, Chris--

CUOMO: And you know it. There weren't people dancing on the buildings after 9/11.

SCHLAPP: You don't.

CUOMO: He lies all the time, and you know it, and this stuff with Otto Warmbier--

SCHLAPP: I don't know it.

CUOMO: When -- when President Obama went to Cairo, and said, "America's got to do better than it's done in the past."

SCHLAPP: Chris, let me talk. Let -- let me try to answer it.

CUOMO: Well but -- but you're -- but you're shirking the question.

SCHLAPP: Let me try to answer it. Let me try to--

CUOMO: You're shirking the question and the reality, Matt.

SCHLAPP: No, I'm not.

CUOMO: Listen--

SCHLAPP: I'm not because what you're using to--

CUOMO: --you guys were so tough on Obama for giving shelter to Muslims.

SCHLAPP: You're not going to let me talk.

CUOMO: This--

SCHLAPP: You're not going to let me talk.

CUOMO: Well, I want to set the table.

SCHLAPP: You're not going to let me talk.

CUOMO: I want to set the table. This is his third despot in a row.

He said that he believes Putin about not being involved with interference. He believes MBS in Saudi Arabia about not having anything to do with Khashoggi. And he believes Kim about not having anything to do with Otto Warmbier.

If President Obama had said that, Matt, your head would pop off your shoulders. Now, silence.

SCHLAPP: Here -- here -- here's what I know, OK? I know that there are certain outlets that want to focus on things that they say some truth- teller says is incorrect. The fact is, is this.

The President was very clear with the American voter about what he intended to do. He wasn't lying about what he intended to do, Chris.

And what he has done is simply a -- is to put into place what he said he would do. What you all are obsessed with is the inaccuracies that some people say exist along the way.

CUOMO: Not some people say.

SCHLAPP: I'd love to talk to you about each and every one of those.

But what he said he would do with North Korea is engage the Dictator, which is what he's doing. He said he would build a wall. He said he would cut corporate taxes. He said he would bring back the American economy.

Talk about the forest. You're missing the forest--


SCHLAPP: --for some little saplings, and that's a mistake.

CUOMO: All right, I don't see him as saplings. But I'll tell you what, Matt Schlapp, I -- I wish you well at CPAC. You are always welcome on this show--

SCHLAPP: Thank you.

CUOMO: --to talk about issues. I just get a little touchy when we ignore the obvious. But you're always welcome on here. Be well, and I'll see you soon. All right?

SCHLAPP: Thank you, Chris. Thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: All right. All right, listen, I -- I think that that is an example of a problem for the Republican Party. They've got to stand by this President. He is keeping promises, OK? He is doing things that he would say.

But part of his pitch to the American people was also that he doesn't play by the right rules, and I think we're learning that those rules matter, and that his party is now in a position of moral compromise.

Those guys used to go crazy at CPAC about telling the truth, and Bill Clinton, and his immorality. Now, zip (ph), new message, socialism.

I have an argument for you about what's really going on here, and we all know it, next.








CUOMO: OK. You're right to be sick of it. But what are you going to do about it?

America heard evidence that the President committed a felony while in Office this week. He likely knew about the hush-money payments, a fraudulent reimbursement scheme, and he lied to you about it all.

For all that, maybe one Member on the Committee there showed even a teeny bit of curiosity about it. His party members, supporters, they hear the President is part of a felony in Office, shoulder shrug, lied about bone spurs to avoid the war, lied about deals with Russia, lied about knowing Felix Sater, he may have run a scam with his Foundation, may have cheated on his taxes, broken other laws, shoulder shrug (ph).

Why don't they care? Where's the outrage? Don't they get who he is? They get it. You don't get where they're coming from.

The people who support this President, voted for him because they expect nothing better from a politician. That's the problem, not POTUS. People throw around the idea of disaffection and the ratings, media, Congress being unpopular, like they're afterthoughts, but that's the place to stop and think.

That's the answer to why there is no outrage this week. Outrage requires surprise, failed expectations. Trump folk and many others, who don't even identify with the party for the most part in this country anymore, they have zero respect for the political culture, and the people in it.

So, when the opposition and even the media come to them and say, "Look what we learned. He lied. Don't support this," they shake their heads. They say, "You are no better. Who are you to criticize him?"

So, for those who keep trying to show that Trump is a liar and a threat, hear this. Don't merely hate the player. Hate the game. Trump is everything people do expect in a politician these days, lies, deceit, allergic to responsibility, constant disrespect of others.

That's what regular people think is normal in politics after years of what, scandals, perfidy, Congressional inaction, broken promises, money, money, money, that's where they are.

[21:55:00] This President is more metaphor than man in some ways, all the flaws in one package. So, when politicians, insiders, media, elites, whatever label you want to designate to people who are part of the system, when any comes and says that Trump is bad, they say "Compared to who?" There's no alternative.

Why would they go bad on the President when at least he says he's fighting for people like them? And he does seem to be doing that by what he says, and -- and by taking on the rest of you, by being disruptive. They see his flaws, his crassness, his indecency, they see them as effective weapons in a land of bad people.

So, what's the answer? Reinforce the truth, of course. Call out the lies. We do it here. It's why the show was created.

But that's not enough. You have to show that there is something better. Reinforcing what is wrong with Trump does not do that. Change the game. Don't let the game change you. Don't be like him. You will not beat him.

The job for the Left should not be merely to denigrate the President or to track down all the proof that he's exactly who he's always been. Yes, we need to know the facts. Yes, we need to know if that means that there was some type of real contamination, real problem with him and who he may owe money to, get the facts.

But even if you prove all these things about his taxes and his personal life that he knew that his pals are trying to take advantage of Russian interference, even if you show all that and that he lied about it all, you won't surprise people who support him, and you won't turn his party members.

You saw that in the hearing. GOPers are not going bad on this President because they are worried about their primaries, and rightly so. If the best they can do is bring down someone the base likes a lot, they'll all lose.

So, their problem is that by standing by this POTUS, they become the same things that he is, and that creates an opportunity. That opportunity is to show something better.

Make no mistake. People thinking this kind of politics stinks, doesn't mean they want it that way. Your challenge is to show you are better, Right and Left.

Those who want to lead, do it. Don't be quiet, be loud. Don't be shy, be bold. No slogans, actual service. Fight for the right things, and let people know it, and do it the right way. Don't duck the questions. Don't do what you saw a lot of on this show tonight and every night.

Tell the truth. At least tell people why you can't tell them what they want to know. Don't spin everything that's uncomfortable. Whataboutism, moving to a different thing, distracting with a different -- don't do it. People see it for what it is. And don't seek safe harbors and pats on the back from the media.

We ask tough questions here on CUOMO PRIME TIME. I show respect to the Left and the Right, and I know my audience respects them the same way for taking the opportunity, and for playing it straight, and being tested when they do. You will not beat this President by beating down his reputation. Hear

this because it is the truth. He is not in Office because people put him on a pedestal. He is there because they think his flaws make him a perfect fit.

Don't hate the player. Hate the game. Recognize that this President is a metaphor for what our system has become. If you show you can be something better, people will be there for you. They are desperate for it.

Forget Michael Cohen. Forget Felix Sater. There is a lawmaker that we're going to introduce you to at the top of the next hour who wants to haul in another Trump confidant in front of Congress. They want to haul in Sean Hannity. Didn't they hear what I just said?

We're going to talk to the Congressman. He's going to make his case, next.