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New Court Action For Four Central Figures Of Russia Probe; Rich And Famous Charged In Major College Cheating Scam; FAA Resists Calls To Ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 Jet. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 12, 2019 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just go ahead and park them until we know something else.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: All right, interesting. Tom Foreman, appreciate it. Thanks.

News continues. Want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Is Mueller making his last stand tomorrow with Manafort? Or are more indictments coming? Or are we really now on Report Watch? The President's backers are preparing for war. That's why they're pushing Democrats to make statements about impeachment now.

One of the President's main warriors is here tonight, Judiciary Committee Member, Matt Gaetz, the Congressman from Florida. What he thinks happens next, legally and politically.

Plus, celebrities, among those, indicted in a massive College Admission sting. This is not about Tinseltown. It's about what may be going on in towns all across this country.

And I still don't get why the U.S. isn't more aggressive with this Boeing plane. They know there are issues with the flight controls. It's not about panic. It's about practicality. Why be so determined to leave them in the air? Is it about money?

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




CUOMO: All right, look, so here's what we have coming up this week.

You got Manafort's sentencing tomorrow for that D.C. case, about the witness tampering, and what went on during his plea agreement, where he lied to the Feds. You got Michael Flynn, you got Roger Stone, you got Rick Gates, all entangled in the wide web of the Russia probe, all face court action over the next 72 hours.

Now, it could tie up a lot of threads for us on Mueller's endgame. It also could not do that. The sentencing tomorrow will be a big appeal, but it - it's not the biggest part of what Mueller still has to explain.

Is there another round of action? That's a legitimate question.

Here's what we do know. Both sides of the coming political storm are preparing for all-out war when this thing comes out. I told you from the beginning this was going to be a political fight ultimately. We're about to have it.

Now, you know which side Congressman Matt Gaetz is on. He's all in for Team Trump. The Judiciary Committee Member joins us now. Welcome back to PRIME TIME.

MATT GAETZ, (R) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR FLORIDA'S 1ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, BUDGET COMMITTEE, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, though we're not preparing for a war, Chris. My constituents actually go to war and fight wars. This is a political battle.

CUOMO: Look, I agree. I wish it were just a semantical thing, but it will be so ugly, it will be so intense, and it will be so unfounded, as it - as it goes along, so I use it as metaphor.

But you're right. We all honor our fighting men and women. They make the real sacrifices. I hope you guys remember that when the Mueller report comes out in terms of how you conduct yourselves. To that point, let's get something out of the way, all right?

When Cohen was coming before Congress, you didn't like it, you didn't believe in his credibility. You thought it was the wrong move for the Committee. But you said things that were ugly and obvious.

I want to put up the tweet to remind people, and I also want to remind people that you decided to own it. Very rare these days that somebody admits they make - made a mistake. What was your mistake?

GAETZ: Well, Chris, your viewers and my constituents know I fight hard, sometimes too hard. This was one of those cases. I should not have mentioned Michael Cohen's family in that tweet. I apologized, took it down, I'll try to do better.

CUOMO: And just to be clear, there's nothing coming that you have or anybody else that you know about has about any of these suggestions that you made in that tweet.

GAETZ: I'm not going to discuss that because to do so would be to invoke someone's family, and it's just not - not a line I'm going to cross. My challenges with Mr. Cohen deal with his credibility, not his family, and that's why I'm not going to go into that stuff.

CUOMO: Well, good for you. Keep it clean. If you can't win the argument on the facts, you're not going to win it at all, at least not on this show.

GAETZ: I will thank you though, Chris.


GAETZ: What - the other CNN personalities were like calling for me to be arrested and imprisoned. You made the point that I wasn't threatening Michael Cohen. I was trying to cast him in a bad light as a bad dude.

I did so inartfully and in a way that I - I shouldn't have. But those are two very different things. And I appreciate you for drawing out that distinction as Don Lemon was breathing in and out of a paper bag or whatever he was doing.

CUOMO: Well, listen, D. Lemon can defend himself. He has his own feelings. This is my show. I do it my way.

So, let's get after it right now on what matters. Do you believe that this is about the end? Or do you think there's a chance we see more indictments?

GAETZ: I don't know. I do think that Judge Ellis and Judge Jackson have a very different view on the genesis of this entire Russia investigation. Judge Ellis clearly viewed the prosecution of Manafort not as a sincere one to punish someone for their wrongdoing, but as a mechanism to try to get to President Trump.

Judge Jackson appears to have taken exception--

CUOMO: Well - well hold on a second. Hold on a second. I understand why you - what you're pointing to in the rhetoric of the Judge but--


CUOMO: --the Judge did allow the case to go forward.

GAETZ: Well, I mean, yes but not just the rhetoric.

CUOMO: And did endorse the prosecution. And the--

GAETZ: Yes, but he - he - he gave--

CUOMO: --and the verdict.

GAETZ: --he gave Manafort functionally an 80 percent pardon by - by not following the federal sentencing guidelines and knocking him down so much. So, I think that's indicative--

CUOMO: But if the Judge thought that it was a political move, he would have thrown it out.


CUOMO: That's what a Judge does.

GAETZ: Well he said it was a political--

CUOMO: That's not what happened.

GAETZ: --he said it was a political move. The point is Judge Ellis is done. Now, we're on to Judge Jackson.

CUOMO: Right.

GAETZ: And the point I would make there is that Judge Jackson seems to have a very different view. She was very harsh with Manafort when she - when she made factual findings that she believed as she - he violated his plea deal.

CUOMO: Right.

[21:05:00] GAETZ: But here's the important context for the country.

This stuff that Manafort's accused of doing wrong has nothing to do with his service in the Trump campaign. Manafort did some ugly stuff before he was ever working for Trump. He did some ugly stuff after he was working for Trump.

But during the time that he was working for the President, the - his work for the campaign never has resulted in a criminal charge. And I think it's important to remember why Paul Manafort was even working for Donald Trump.

You and others have said, "Well, why does Donald Trump have these seedy characters around him like Cohen, like Manafort?" And with Manafort, it was very simple.

Donald Trump kept winning states in the primary. But local state parties kept installing Ted Cruz delegates, faithless delegates to the convention. And when you look around, there's not a whole hell of a lot of people who are like zeroed in on the intricacies of managing a convention--

CUOMO: Right.

GAETZ: --battle. Manafort was brought in for that discrete purpose.

CUOMO: Right.

GAETZ: He was then out. And I have - I have yet to see any evidence that his work associated with the campaign had anything to do with any of these charges.

CUOMO: Well, allow me to enlighten you, Congressman.

First of all, it is a legitimate question of what the President knew about what Manafort was doing because the suggestion that Manafort was a new commodity for the President is poppycock.

He's known him for many, many decades. He's known him for many iterations of his life.

GAETZ: It's not a crime.

CUOMO: And who - I'm not - first of all, as you well know, I don't believe that the standard for acceptable behavior in our government, let alone our Presidency, is "If it's not a felony, you're fine."

I don't see criminality as some kind of litmus test as you being OK in public office. So, let's put the standard to the side.

GAETZ: Yes. But - but we're talking about a sentencing. We're talking about a criminal sentencing.

CUOMO: No, no, no, yes, no, no, but you're making a larger point. And I'm - I'm responding to it with some different context.

One, we need to know what the President knew about Manafort because everybody who knows Paul Manafort, as somebody who grew up in New York politics, knows what he was about overseas, and knew that he made money in ways that you may not want to know, so, the surprise factor, very low for this President in my estimation.

Secondly, Paul Manafort colluded with people connected to Russian interference. Did he commit a--

GAETZ: This is your polling argument?

CUOMO: It's not a polling - oh, it's not a polling argument.

GAETZ: The sharing of the polling, you made that argument on the show back then.

CUOMO: You - you took internal data. You gave it to somebody that the government believes is connected to Russian intelligence. And then, the Russian trolls started targeting the same places and faces that the campaign did. That is--

GAETZ: You're - you're - you're really making the argument--

CUOMO: --collusive behavior.

GAETZ: --you're really making the argument that the polling information that Paul Manafort may or may not have shared with the Russians was like the - the thing that makes the--

CUOMO: Not may or may not. He - he did.

GAETZ: --evidentiary collusion argument--

CUOMO: No, here's the problem.

GAETZ: No, no, the polling was right. Every poll in America on the 2016 Presidential election was--

CUOMO: It's not about - it's not about its accuracy.

GAETZ: --was basically wrong.

CUOMO: It's not about its accuracy. It's about its--

GAETZ: So, your argument about collusion is that--

CUOMO: --it's about its in--

GAETZ: --he was sharing like some shoddy polling information?

CUOMO: This is what collusion is.


CUOMO: Collusion is a behavior. You're saying if it's not a crime, it doesn't count, and he wasn't charged with a crime that has to do with this behavior. You are correct. You are correct.


CUOMO: But I don't see a felony as the standard. Collusion is a behavior.


CUOMO: Conspiracy or a felony in furtherance of that action would be a crime. I'm not saying Manafort committed a crime. But I'm saying he gave---

GAETZ: But what's your evidentiary burden, Chris? I - I get - I get all that, right. You're saying there're bad things people can do that fall short of crimes that are bad things.

CUOMO: That he did do.

GAETZ: I'll grant that. I'll grant that premise.

CUOMO: That he did do that Roger Stone did do--

GAETZ: Right. But--

CUOMO: --that Trump Jr., Jared and Manafort did do.

GAETZ: But - but--

CUOMO: They all did things that were wrong.

GAETZ: But, Chris, what's your - what is the way, as a country, that we - that we vet out the truth or falsity of those claims? Typically, the form that we use for truth or falsity is a court of law.

Now, if Robert Mueller, if - hold on - hold on--

CUOMO: We know the truth of the matter is disserting.

GAETZ: --let - hold on, let me - let me--

CUOMO: Please.

GAETZ: --let me finish the argument.

CUOMO: Please.

GAETZ: If Robert Mueller had evidence that there was conspiracy with Russia--


GAETZ: --on the part of Paul Manafort, he would have charged him for doing that.

CUOMO: You're right.

GAETZ: But - but - but he never brought those charges.

CUOMO: That's true.

GAETZ: So, for you and others to just like castigate the President over these issues is very unfair because--

CUOMO: No, it is not.

GAETZ: --the - the evidentiary standard hasn't been met.

CUOMO: That's not true.

GAETZ: No one has ever really proved any of (ph) these things.

CUOMO: The standard is not "Unless it's a felony it's fine."

GAETZ: It's not about the conduct.

CUOMO: You want it to be that.

GAETZ: It's about proving the - it's not the severity of the conduct.

CUOMO: You - well it has been proven.

GAETZ: That's not the point I'm making.

CUOMO: He gave--

GAETZ: It's about prove--

CUOMO: --the polling data to a bad guy--

GAETZ: Where--

CUOMO: --connected to Russian intelligence. The trolls wound up targeting the--

GAETZ: In - in--

CUOMO: --same places and faces.

GAETZ: But if that proven in court and if that was a crime-- CUOMO: It's not a crime.

GAETZ: --he would have been charged as such.

CUOMO: It's not a crime.

GAETZ: Conspiracy with a foreign government?

CUOMO: It's not a conspiracy.

GAETZ: Well, look, this is one of the reasons why David Cicilline and I are introducing bipartisan legislation to tighten down on the foreign agent activity that occurs in the United States. Paul Manafort, as you well know--

CUOMO: Well, hold on a second. Hold on, hold on.

GAETZ: --he's not one of the only dudes that engages in - in--

CUOMO: Hold on, Matt.

GAETZ: --in representing foreign governments. We should all crack down the game (ph).

CUOMO: Congressman, pick your poison. Either if it's not a crime, you don't want to talk about it, and leave the President alone, or you want to change the rules to tighten the screws down more--


CUOMO: --on exactly what your guys did.

GAETZ: Look, what--

CUOMO: Which is it?

GAETZ: --regardless - regardless of how you feel about the President or Paul Manafort or any of the characters in this particular saga, it is a problem in Washington that people represent foreign governments, and they don't register, and then the - the enforcement mechanisms to find those people and hold them accountable are toothless.

Republicans and Democrats agree on this. And actually, there's legislation--

CUOMO: Good.

GAETZ: --moving in the Congress now to deal with it. So--

CUOMO: Good.

[21:10:00] GAETZ: --that's a positive. But when you try to then say, "Well Manafort shared this polling information--


GAETZ: --so, clearly, that's evidence of collusive behavior," no one--

CUOMO: It is.

GAETZ: --has proven that in a court of law. You're just--

CUOMO: That's exactly what Mueller says.

GAETZ: --you're just saying that on CNN.


GAETZ: Yes. Mueller says but he hasn't proved--

CUOMO: That's what Mueller says.

GAETZ: Oh, so, because Mueller's - so, Mueller, who along with a team of people who've donated to the Clinton Campaign--

CUOMO: Oh, here we go.

GAETZ: --donated to Obama's Campaign--

CUOMO: Bob Mueller is more Republican than you've--

GAETZ: Well, it's important context. It's important context.

CUOMO: --been on your best day.

GAETZ: Listen, it's not just Mueller. It's the members of his team that reflect--

CUOMO: He is in charge.

GAETZ: --bias against the President. But he doesn't get to be the Judge, Jury and Executioner.

CUOMO: Of course not.

GAETZ: He's in charge of the - he's in charge of the Office of Special Counsel. But merely the fact that he has made an allegation in court does not mean it is true. The reason we have judges and juries--

CUOMO: Paul Manafort's lawyers never denied it.

GAETZ: --is to go and test those things.

CUOMO: Paul Manafort never denied it. It's not about a felony or you're fine. You can do bad things that are not a crime. And for you to be disinterested in that is silly. You care about things all the time--

GAETZ: It's not disinterest. It's about the evidentiary standard.

CUOMO: --that aren't crimes.

GAETZ: It's - it's - I'm not saying we don't care about things that aren't crimes. I'm saying we're not going to impeach anyone for something--

CUOMO: He didn't even deny it.

GAETZ: --that isn't a crime.

CUOMO: He didn't even deny giving it to him.

GAETZ: That's because he was - that's because he was making a plea deal. But as you've seen through Jerome Corsi--

CUOMO: Which he then lied about. If he was going to lie about other things--

GAETZ: Right.

CUOMO: --why not lie about this?

GAETZ: But you have evidence on the record that the Mueller team was trying to get people into those plea agreements, and then force them to lie about Trump.

CUOMO: Oh, now - now, plea--

GAETZ: That's why Jerome Corsi--

CUOMO: First of all, you--

GAETZ: Hold on, Chris. Hold on, hold on, let me - let--

CUOMO: What proof do you have that Mueller tried to get people to lie about the President?

GAETZ: Corsi's testimony. Corsi saying publicly that the reason that his plea deal got - got - got shattered was because he was unwilling to lie. So I mean that--

CUOMO: That's what he says. You don't have any proof that that's what happened, Mr. What's-Your-Evidentiary-Standard.

GAETZ: Well, but, but, but, look--

CUOMO: Jerome Corsi, not somebody that I think you would hang your hat on as a credibility contest, now you want to take his word on?

GAETZ: No, look, I'm not saying that - that - that Corsi--

CUOMO: I can't take Mueller's word. But you want to take Corsi's--

GAETZ: --is like the pinnacle of credibility.

CUOMO: --word.

GAETZ: No, I think all these things should be tested. I think all of them should be tested.

CUOMO: That's what we're doing right now. GAETZ: I think that a judicial forum is the right way to test them. And I certainly don't--

CUOMO: It's not the only forum, Matt.

GAETZ: Look, if this is what - Chris, if this is what they got, if what the Democrats got is that Manafort shared some polling information with some people that were loosely affiliated with - with Russians, I do know - I think that, look, clearly that is not going to result in impeachment.

CUOMO: What would satisfy with you? If you--

GAETZ: And the bigger - and the--

CUOMO: --what would satisfy you? Unless you had a picture of like Donald Jr. with--

GAETZ: --oh, think - if the President lied under oath--

CUOMO: --Putin on his lap--

GAETZ: No, if the--

CUOMO: He wouldn't go under oath. And that's why he wouldn't--

GAETZ: He answered interrogatories under oath.

CUOMO: --go under oath.

GAETZ: That's not true.

CUOMO: Yes that were doctored up--

GAETZ: He answered interrogatories under oath.

CUOMO: --by his lawyers to make sure he wasn't--

GAETZ: Doctored? Oh, that is a--

CUOMO: --exposed to anything.

GAETZ: --that would be a - that would be a bar violation that you're alleging, so--

CUOMO: Come, Matt, you know how they prepare--

GAETZ: --if you - if you have knowledge that someone was doctoring evidence--

CUOMO: --those interrogatories.

GAETZ: Well, they're sworn responses under oath, Chris.

CUOMO: I know. Carefully lawyered.

GAETZ: My point is, your question was what would--

CUOMO: Carefully lawyered.

GAETZ: --what would range as the level of impeach--

CUOMO: Carefully lawyered.

GAETZ: So what? That - that--

CUOMO: So, what?

GAETZ: --that doesn't mean anything.

CUOMO: A President has the highest duty in this nation to be honest. He has--


CUOMO: --the highest duty in this nation to be straight.

GAETZ: Right. But you haven't proven that he hasn't been.

CUOMO: He wouldn't go under oath.

GAETZ: And - and this is you guys keep moving the goalpost.

CUOMO: He promised us he would, Matt. And then he mocked his promise.

GAETZ: Adam Schiff went on television and said, "We have the goods on Trump," that we have demonstrable evidence of collusion, and they have come up with zero.

And, right now, the big problem that the Democrats have is that you got one group of people who run the institution of power, and Pelosi and Schiff and Eliot Engel and that crowd, and then you got a whole another group of people who actually run the energy of the party, AOC, Pressley, Tlaib, that - that crowd.

And so, I think that, you know, this schism is going to be interesting to watch play out because you even saw Ocasio-Cortez say today, she does not agree with Pelosi that you take impeachment off the table.

And so, I - I think that is the real--

CUOMO: Well, so did Nadler.

GAETZ: --fundamental question.

CUOMO: Nadler said that as well. But, look, I - I get the gamesmanship of what's going on politically trying to push Democrats to have a position now on impeachment before they even know what the heck they're talking about.

GAETZ: Look, we didn't push it. Wait, wait, we didn't push them. Nancy Pelosi came out and said to the Washington site - the Washington Post.

CUOMO: She said I don't think he's worth it. But, in truth, she's always been shy on impeachment.

GAETZ: We didn't - we didn't push that.

CUOMO: Even before the midterms, she was saying, you know, if you can't get removal in the Senate, and I mean, you know, that you're not seeing a lot of buy-in from Republicans about this or anything that goes against the President's interests--

GAETZ: That's because there's no basis for it. That--

CUOMO: --then - then what's even a - well, that - that's not the basis for your guys being supplicants. You're supplicants because you think it works for you with this President. You're afraid of what it'll do to you in primaries.

GAETZ: It's not about being supplicants. Afraid of--

CUOMO: Oh, absolutely, it is.

GAETZ: Come on, Chris, look--

CUOMO: Absolutely.

GAETZ: --we believe in this President building an economy that works for the forgotten men and women, renegotiating trade deals, ending wars, and giving the Americans a sense of optimism that--

CUOMO: A sense of optimism?

GAETZ: --is measurable. Absolutely.

CUOMO: A sense of optimism?

GAETZ: When you look at consumer confidence, business confidence, if you look at the way manufacturers are investing in capital investment that shows tangible evidence of an optimism that raises wages. We've got wages growing at the fastest rate in a decade.

CUOMO: You have wages in certain pockets that are doing well.

GAETZ: So, good things are happening in this country. And the fact that Democrats want to talk--

CUOMO: And that matters.

GAETZ: --about the crimes that Paul Manafort committed prior to 2016--

CUOMO: Oh, please.

GAETZ: --or after 2017, it's a freaking joke.

CUOMO: You guys derailed a Presidency - you guys derailed a Presidency--

GAETZ: And, by the way, that's why Trump's going to win. That's--

CUOMO: --you guys derailed a Presidency over sex in the - in the Oval Office.

GAETZ: You guys? I was in High School. So, it wasn't really me.

CUOMO: Yes. You guys - I know but - but let me tell you, Brother Gaetz--

GAETZ: Do you--

CUOMO: --if you had been here at that time, you and I would have - having--

GAETZ: You don't - I mean you don't know that.

CUOMO: --this exact discussion.

GAETZ: I don't want to care about (ph) anybody's sex life.

CUOMO: You would have been part of the morality pleas like Mike Pence was--

GAETZ: But - oh, listen--

CUOMO: --back in the day. Mike Pence used to--

GAETZ: --I've never been--

CUOMO: --write essays about how we must--

GAETZ: Yes, well--

[21:15:00] CUOMO: --we must conform to a moral standard with our--

GAETZ: So, this is what you do.

CUOMO: --elected officials. Where'd that go?

GAETZ: You invite guests on your show to tell them what they would have believed 10 years ago? I mean that - that's--

CUOMO: I'm saying I would have liked to have seen you then.

GAETZ: --that's ludicrous.

CUOMO: No. I invite you on this show to do exactly what you're doing, to make your argument to my audience about what you think matters, and what you think is going to happen, and you're always welcome to do exactly that.

GAETZ: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it man.

CUOMO: Congressman Matt Gaetz, truly, I appreciate it. Be well.

All right, so, look, you think that's something hot? It's nothing about what is going to come because Matt Gaetz is right about this. When you remove it from the court, all you have is opinion.

What is the evidentiary basis? For whom? For me or for you? It's going to be subjective.

And politicians are going to be fighting this out, and they're going to be spreading it in all different kinds of directions, and that's when it's going to be really important for us to do our job. That is just a taste of your future, for good or bad.

All right, now, another good or bad situation. We all know. If you've got kids, what's one of your big dreams? Let them be healthy and happy, and God, let me have the money to send them to a good college, and I hope they get in.

But what would you do? Would you break the rules? Would you break the law? A story that everyone is talking about, and I don't think we've heard the half. These Big Shot celebrities are suspects, it's meaningless to me.

It's not about Tinseltown. I think it's about what could be going on in every town in this country that we're just finding out about. My case for my suspicion, next.








[21:20:00] CUOMO: Money influencing college admissions. No shock there, let's be honest.

But the divide between the haves and have-nots has never been exposed like we just saw, a systematic fraud worthy of a RICO bust that affects every level of omission - admissions, and to elite universities.

What was it powered by? Millions in fake donations by the well-to-do, and not just to the universities, that's not what I'm talking about. This was different. We've never seen anything this sophisticated and entrenched. And my concern is that we've only scratched the surface.

50 people were charged, 33 parents, nine college coaches. Prosecutors call it a $25 million criminal enterprise. Listen.


ANDREW LELLING, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR MASSACHUSETTS: The largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Now, the parents are like big shots in the world of Hollywood, fashion, business, names you know, like actress Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Fashion Designer Mossimo Giannulli. In other words--


LELLING: These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege.

JOSEPH BONAVOLONTA, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI BOSTON: We believe all of them, parents, coaches, and facilitators, lied, cheated, and covered up their crimes at the expense of hard-working students and taxpayers everywhere.


CUOMO: See, that's the problem. It's not about the bold-faced names. It's about the bold lawlessness.

How did the Feds know so much? The man at the center gave up everyone when he was caught, this guy, William Rick Singer. He pleaded guilty to running a bogus College Counseling business and charity.

So, the question of whether or not it was legit or not, his answer - he answered it, OK? As he told one parent, "What we do is we help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school."

Now, he did that in one of two ways. One was by paying a guy to take tests for the kids or go in and fix the answers on their tests. The other was by outright bribing college coaches and administrators to get the kids recruited as athletes, because admission standards for athletes tend to be lower.

Never mind that some of the kids never played the sports they were recruited for. Sometimes, they were photoshopped into stock photos, and were expected to quit the team the moment they got to school.

But he wasn't the only one in on the fraud, Singer says. They all knew. Everyone involved.

Proof? "Plenty," say prosecutors, including taped conversations, and electronic communications like where Felicity Huffman is caught worrying if her daughter's SAT score went up too much. Meanwhile, Loughlin's daughter wasn't even sure she wanted to go to college.


OLIVIA JADE GIANNULLI, LORI LOUGHLIN'S DAUGHTER: I'm - I don't know how much of school I'm going to attend, but I'm going to go in and talk to my Deans, and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of like game days, partying. I don't really care about school.


CUOMO: It's not helpful to the cause. Participants not only paid Singer off. They got it to write it off of their taxes as well as part of his fake charity scam.

Now, that kind of double-dipping and fraud is going to spark a prosecutor's interest, especially with RICO laws. That's what they're designed for, and that's what prosecutors are using here.

Now, you know about RICO with the mob, right, set up in 1970 to take them down, when you couldn't prove the big crimes, but you could show how they move the money in furtherance of criminality.

So, the bigger story is this dual reality. One set of rules for those with money, who are willing to break the law, and for those without. And it runs counter to the meritocracy that education is supposed to foster, something our laws are supposed to safeguard.

Now, prosecutors got this guy, and these family. But here's the dark suspicion. If this guy, and I'm going to tell you more about him later and in the coming days as we learn more, this guy's no genius.

If he was able to create something like this, who else? How many Singers are there, shady administrators? How many top schools are infected with this kind of avarice in the world of academics? My concern is we don't even know the half.

So, how much time would fit the crimes? Let's take this up in Cuomo's Court next.








[21:25:00] CUOMO: I'm telling you, I've seen a lot of these situations with money and academia and, I don't think we know exactly how deep this college bribery scandal goes. I'm not talking about just with this guy Singer, but it just doesn't make sense that he's the only one.

We've heard about pockets before. But if this guy could worm his way into so many different levels of the process, who else is doing it right now? The impact of money in our education system, colliding with the role of wealth in our legal system, let's take it up with Laura Coates and Christopher Hunt in Cuomo's Court.




CUOMO: Now, Hunt is going to be a good addition because he knows the rule - the world of trying to get into college, and what is acceptable, and what is not, and he has his own suspicions, so we're going to fold that into our analysis. Thank you very much for being with us, Mr. Hunt.

Laura Coates, criminality, we understand the ethical violation. We understand that it's wrong. We understand that it would piss off the universities, assuming they didn't know. When does it become a crime?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well it becomes a crime, frankly, when you try to use money laundering tactics and charitable organizations as a front to have criminal activity, this is a case, you're right to talk about the mob in the sense of using the mail services.

The reason the mail service is a part of this is because when you're actually submitting your application, you essentially are doing throwing a penny into the wishing well.

It's supposed to be a penny that's well earned based on your academic success, your academic rigor. If there are other complementary notions about how you could be an asset to the diverse marketplace of ideas, so be it. But you throw it into the well.

What they've done here is deprive people of the honest access to these honest mail services, by saying you were foreclosed from an opportunity to actually have your merits evaluated fairly.

That - that ties into very much why the Supreme Court has talked about affirmative action, Chris. At one point, they've said that it shouldn't be necessary in the future because of a level playing field.

And they focus mainly on race, talking about affirmative action, or gender. But, in reality, it's all about intergenerational wealth and the ability to have access to power, and how the notion that some people are expected to have a merit-based application while others can simply pay for the privilege of access to power.

Until we have a level playing field, we certainly can't do away with affirmative action type tactics, and we also have to have and rely on federal prosecutors to use this case as a deterrent to, as you spoke of, the hundreds of thousands, perhaps, of other people.

Singer's book (ph) alone and says that he has been doing it for 25 years, and has helped a quarter of a million students. We're talking about probably a vast enterprise that goes far beyond the headline celebrities here.

CUOMO: All right, so, Mr. Hunt, my suspicion that we don't know they have, not so much about Singer, but that if he was able to get this kind of access, and to corrupt these types of levels of the administration of the process that others may be doing the same thing.

What is your experience in terms of what you know and what you don't in watching this process as closely as you have?

CHRISTOPHER HUNT, AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, COLLEGE ESSAY CONSULTANT, COLLEGE ESSAY MENTOR OWNER: I have no way to know for sure whether someone else is trying this. Like you, I would find it difficult to imagine that there are not other outliers.

But I do think it's important that you should view this as an outlier case where the more common practice is for parents to seek other ways to influence the process with money and influence, but they do it indirectly.

CUOMO: And now what we're seeing too, you know, one of the offshoots of Laura's point about diversity that is creating pressure two ways. One, it creates this odd notion of "Well, what is merit-based for them and what evens the playing field?"

[21:30:00] But on the part of these types of people, assuming that these people were largely White, the people who were involved in this case were, but that they feel pressure from that as well, and it is fueling a desperation that a guy like this can take advantage of.

Is that also true?

HUNT: It's true that there are, say, three groups who are given an advantage in the admission process to elite colleges. Those would be legacies, children of alumni, athletes, and first in your family to go to college.

That last group, there is increasing emphasis on the part of college, basically to have socio-economic change by admitting more of them. But as they take up more places, I think you're right, that there are fewer places which might create anxiety amongst the rich and famous, who may be largely White.

CUOMO: I mean I think that that's going to wind up being part of the story, Laura, you know. Why did they feel they needed to do this?

You know, was it because their kid just couldn't cut it? Or is it because, they had the money, and the lack of scruples, the lack of ethics that told them, "Hey, any way to get an advantage, this process is getting harder all the time, I'm going to take it?"

Now, if that ladder is what it was, there are a lot of people who are susceptible to that.

COATES: Well, there is. Maybe it's a combination of both. Well, frankly, first of all, if your child lacks the merit to attend a college or university, then they should not be there.

And the notion that these practices somehow is feeding off of the insecurity that's - that too many spots are being taken by those who are also, and perhaps, unlike the people who have failed to get in are qualified to be there, really, just belies the actual history of America.

And the notion that we're talking about the percentage of people who have been accepted into colleges and the impact of legacy and intergenerational wealth, and of course, the fallacy that if you were to take, if you were to provide spots to people, who are meritoriously required to be there, or should be there, based on their own comeuppance and their own bootstraps and being able to do so that somehow it is a - a problem to those who were not qualified to be - be there, it's one of the arguments people make really in favor of doing away with practices, like affirmative action.

But, in reality, that's just a fallacy. If you're qualified to be there, you should be there. But a lot of these schools, we're talking about here, have an admission rate of less than 10 percent.

CUOMO: Right.

COATES: There are a whole host to people who are qualified to be there, and don't make the cut--

CUOMO: That's right.

COATES: --for a variety of reason. So, if your child is one of them, well so be it. But this is one of those most abhorrent practices, why everyone has a visceral reaction to this, Chris, is because it smacks of a brazen attempt to exploit privilege.

They thought that they should be there based on the fact that they were rich and had access. That's not a meritocracy. That's money.

CUOMO: And I think we're going to hear a lot more about it. Christopher Hunt, as we learn more facts of this situation, I want to figure out how it fits into your experience.

And Laura, as always, when we figure out how deep the prosecutors want to go, I'll need you back. So, thanks to you both. This is just the beginning of this story.

COATES: Thank you.

CUOMO: It has to be because this dynamic is so repeatable in so many places all over the country. How could this guy be the only one just doesn't stand to reason?

Now, much of the world, talk about what's reasonable and what isn't, much of the world is grounding the Boeing jet that just went down in Ethiopia, not America.

Is it because we know better? Or is it because we are not doing something we should? Two aviation bigwigs are here to debate whether or not this is being handled the right way. Let's hear them out.

Also, did you hear the President's response to the Boeing crash? He thinks he knows how to make our planes great again. True story, next.








CUOMO: Right, this is an odd disconnect. This country is usually really quick on the side of safety. But, right now, we're in a bizarre situation.

The world, literally, much of the world, has banned this Boeing jetliner that's involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, and there was another one five months ago. The United States remains one of the few operators allowing it to fly.

The FAA says there's "No basis" to order the grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX 8. But just last night, Boeing announced it would install a new software upgrade to those very same airlines and its flight control systems after the crash of another MAX 8 in October.

So, if there's truly no issue, why the software patch, software that goes to navigation, operational control, of the aircraft? Why isn't that enough? Let's discuss with people who know better than certainly I do.

Jeff Guzzetti, former FAA Director of Accident Investigation, I told you I'd need you back, and, Ray LaHood, former Transportation Secretary under President Obama. I've leaned on you for a perspective before. Thank you to you both.

Now, Mr. Guzzetti, this is a - a recidivist audience. They watch the show. They know who's on it. They heard you last night saying, you're not there with that point of concern yet to put the plane on the ground.

Ray LaHood, you feel differently, why?

RAY LAHOOD, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Chris, I feel differently because we went through the same situation while I was Secretary of Transportation with the Boeing Dreamliner when batteries were exploding and catching fire in the - in those planes.

And we - we ordered the planes brought down. We ordered them inspected by FAA safety inspectors, and - and, Boeing, in collaboration together. And that - that worked very well.

And it's well within the - the right of the Secretary of Transportation to bring those planes down, to have them inspected, and to - to - to really give the idea that safety is the number-one priority to the flying public.

No doubt about it, these planes are a 100 percent safe because they've been inspected by FAA safety inspectors and also by Boeing safety inspectors. Until that's done, there's going to be a doubt in people's minds about should I get on this plane? Will it be safe?

CUOMO: Right.

LAHOOD: And that's - the - the number-one responsibility of DOT is to make sure transportation is safe, in all modes of transportation, cars, buses, trains, and airplanes.

CUOMO: Right.

LAHOOD: And I just - this is - this is, to me, is very simple.

CUOMO: Right.

LAHOOD: And the - the DOT and FAA should do what needs to be done here.

CUOMO: The--

LAHOOD: And inspect these claims.

CUOMO: The airlines could do it too, by the way.

LAHOOD: The airlines could do it. But look at--

CUOMO: Where, you know--

LAHOOD: --look at, Chris, the federal government has a major responsibility to provide the safest transportation in all modes of transportation in America.

CUOMO: No, I get it. I get it.

LAHOOD: They're the one agency that has that responsibility.

CUOMO: I get it. The question is why they're not doing it. So, let's get to that part of this because it's going to wind up being debatable.

[21:40:00] Jeff, my analysis, is it off the idea of the patchwork on the software that came out of the October crash, the last one, goes to how pilots have to correct for the system in controlling of the plane.

If they knew that they needed that patch, and if it turns out whatever they get from the black box, that that had something to do with what happened here, if that's true, and I guess that's an open issue at this point as far as we know, is that enough?


Again, it's - in my mind, it's just way too early to make that call. You know, when you slip the surly bonds of earth, you take a risk. And the FAA is all about managing risk. And I served with Secretary LaHood. I think he was a fabulous

Secretary who's all about safety. And I'm honored to be on the same television screen with him. The - and he - he cited the - the battery fire.

Well, there, you had some very clear evidence of what happened. You had scorched batteries. And you had many reports coming in--

CUOMO: You knew what it was. You knew what it was. And here--


CUOMO: --you don't have a clear answer. But here's what I don't get.

You guys err on the side of safety all the time. I can't tell you how many times I've investigated things. And here's what, you know, you talk about putting the doubt in people's minds about safety.

Here's another doubt that's going to be in people's mind, money, Jeff. They're going to think, if you're not taking these planes out of the air, it's because of money, because you've had two go-down in five months.

You have all these other countries and carriers that are taking it down. Why not you?

GUZZETTI: Well, I think the incentive of how much it would cost if FAA or Boeing knew that they had a hazard but didn't say anything or do anything about it--

CUOMO: True.

GUZZETTI: --and had a third accident, that would be catastrophic, both financially and reputation wise. My point is there simply isn't enough evidence.

And, yes, you're correct about the software change to the flight control computer. That was discovered as a result, so far, of the Lion Air investigation. But that, in and of itself, there's no proof to indicate that that had a big role to play in the accident. That investigation isn't finished yet.

CUOMO: Right. But that - so, that's what we need to know. I hear you on that. That - that gives me a little bit of pause in being overzealous on this.

But, Ray, you know, the Head of the TWU, TWU, the - the - the - the Workers Union, he says that American Airlines says that they're doing a whole new set of checks on this plane because of what happened.

He says they're not happening that that's not true. Now, we have to assess whether or not he's telling the truth, or whether or not his information is accurate.

But where is your level of confidence that what's being done needs to be done in light of the fact that the United States is standing almost alone in terms of the big players in how to treat this situation?

LAHOOD: Well, Chris, I go back to what I said before.

The number-one responsibility of DOT is to make sure that all modes of transportation are safe. That - that's the obligation of the Department, whether it's trains, planes, automobiles, buses, trucks, whatever it is.

And there have been two major accidents, and there have been lives lost. And why risk that again--

CUOMO: Right.

LAHOOD: --when you can simply have the FAA and the Boeing safety inspectors working together--

CUOMO: Right.

LAHOOD: --to inspect these planes and to give an assurance to the flying public these planes are safe.

CUOMO: Now--

LAHOOD: And if they're not, do the fix.

CUOMO: If the issue is what if it's not just the plane?

What if this software thing goes to the human component as well, and that foreign pilots don't get the same kind of training on this software and what is, I've been told by people who are in the flight game, that you have to know some specific things about this particular aircraft--

LAHOOD: Look, Chris--

CUOMO: --that this 737 that they extended it, and that it has--

LAHOOD: There's--

CUOMO: --a different type of dynamic that pilots need to know. So, if the pilots aren't trained, that could be part of it also. So, maybe you got to look at the pilot issue.

LAHOOD: Chris, there's an international organization that can provide the kind of training that's needed if that really is the flaw. We're not going to know if that's the flaw unless we go in and really find out that there are no other technological or mechanical issues that--

CUOMO: Right.

LAHOOD: --need to be dealt with.

Once those are off the board and once they're convinced that it's not that problem, then the international community can come together and provide the proper training to pilots.

CUOMO: I hear you. And, look, Jeff Guzzetti, you've said the same thing, so this is to be continued.

Once we learn more, let's re-establish the dialog and figure out at what point we're no longer being - we're no longer erring on the side of caution enough. I mean that's the concern.


CUOMO: Nobody wants false panic.

GUZZETTI: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Final word.

GUZZETTI: Absolutely. We do need--

CUOMO: Right.

GUZZETTI: --to learn more. I just think that it - it would besmirch the reputation of the FAA and the NTSB if - if a capricious decision is made to ground a jet--

CUOMO: Right.

GUZZETTI: --with no real reason why other than two accidents involving a similar aircraft.

CUOMO: Well, right, but, you know, again, you got the human cost.

[21:45:00] LAHOOD: Chris, Chris, look at - the NTSB will not render a decision on their investigation for at least a year, a minimum of a year. We can't--

GUZZETTI: But they can issue - they can issue--

LAHOOD: Chris, we can't wait that long. We--

GUZZETTI: --an urgent safety recommendation at any time.

CUOMO: No, I hear you.

LAHOOD: --we need to take action now and give the flying public the assurance that these planes are safe.

CUOMO: Well that's something. We - we can't wait a year.

You have to know things as soon as possible. Is that what's being done? We're going to dig into that and then we'll come back, and get you guys here to give us the benefit of your experience.

Jeff Guzzetti, Ray LaHood, appreciate it, Gentlemen, thank you.

LAHOOD: Thank you, Chris.

GUZZETTI: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so the man who flies around in one of the most high- tech jets on the planet thinks less tech will keep us safer in the sky. And, in fact, he thinks technology is a problem for a lot of different devices in our lives.

I'll let President Trump explain his own logic on that one, next.








CUOMO: The President, for some reason, is weighing in on Boeing's newest jet, tweeting this.

"Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time, in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further when often old and simpler is far better.

Split-second decisions are needed and the complexity creates danger. All of this for very great cost, very little gain. I don't know about you, but I don't want Albert Einstein to be my - to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane."

Now, for a President who loves to tap into the bygone days of America, should we really be surprised? D. Lemon, how do you see this?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Hold your horses, Fred Flintstone. Hit the car. I mean, come on.

CUOMO: Listen.

LEMON: Honestly, it's silly. The idea--

CUOMO: There's a term for guys like this.

LEMON: What?

CUOMO: Luddite, people who fear technology.

LEMON: There's another term.

CUOMO: And - and fear what it's doing.

LEMON: There are a couple of more terms. But I can't say it on television. Listen, the idea that the advancement of technology is a bad thing is just ludicrous and ridiculous. Do we want to stay in the Stone Ages? Do we want to stay in the olden times, where, again, I go back to Fred Flintstone that I know that that was a cartoon, but do we really want to do that, where people are - when people used to crank their cars up from the front, remember that, when he first got it?

Or we can go back to horse and buggies. What do you want to do? I mean unless you want to get on that - we all have to get in the sardine can, so we may as well be as technically advanced as possible to keep us safe.

And, by the way, you pointed it out. With all of these advances, we've had the safest years ever in air travel.

CUOMO: Yes. Yes.

LEMON: In travel.

[21:50:00] CUOMO: It's - it's never been safer. Technology, certainly, helps. But I'm telling you, he knows what he's doing once again. He is tapping into this fear of the new, because people feel they're being left behind.

Coal is great! Let's bring coal back. Never going to happen! Never going to happen!

LEMON: Not unless you start making these, which are advanced, right? You don't get much more technical--

CUOMO: That's right.

LEMON: --technically advanced than this, technologically advanced than this.

CUOMO: But he--

LEMON: And unless you start making cell phones out of coal--

CUOMO: Got the color right.

LEMON: --it's not coming back.

CUOMO: But other than that, forget it. Look, that's the point, is that he's tapping into something that's very real. I think this one's a little bit of a stretch, to be honest.

I think I'd have to put this in the same category of the, "Your body only has a certain amount of energy in it. Don't exercise too much, because you're basically killing yourself."

LEMON: Well I just wonder--

CUOMO: I put it in the same category of that. The President said that.

LEMON: Well, think about this. Him flying around, and I'm honest, and I don't want anything to happen to him or his family or anyone with him. But just think--

CUOMO: God forbid.

LEMON: --just think if the - OK, so, go back to a plane from the 1960s or 50s or whenever he was born, and try flying on that now and see how that suits you.

CUOMO: Look, I think that it's not about the facts. It's about the feeling that he's trying to evoke. Things used to be better before and then fill in the blank. Technology, again, I think he's on weak footing on that.


CUOMO: But, you know, before these newfangled industries, before this multi-culturalism, before this everything is OK and everyone is equal, before, let's make ourselves great again, I say to people all the time--

LEMON: My gosh.

CUOMO: --when were we ever greater than we are today?

LEMON: Boy, the way--

CUOMO: more free, more inclusive--

LEMON: --Glenn Miller Played--

CUOMO: Songs that made the Hit Parade.

LEMON: Songs that made the Hit Parade.

CUOMO: Guys like us we had it made.

LEMON: Guys like us we had it made.

CUOMO: Those were the days.

LEMON: Those were the days.

This is my favorite part.

CUOMO: I would have to be Archie.

LEMON: And you knew who you were then.

CUOMO: You be Edith.

Guys were guys, men were men.

LEMON: Girls were girl and men were men.

Oh, my gosh, this is going to be all over.

CUOMO: Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again. LEMON: Herbert Hoover again.

CUOMO: That's what he's tapping into.

LEMON: Didn't need no Welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight (ph).

CUOMO: Gee our old Lasalle Ran great.

LEMON: Lasalle Ran great.

That's exactly what this is!

Those were the days!

CUOMO: Days!

That's where we're going back to?

LEMON: Boy, I love Norman Lear, brilliant.

CUOMO: Brilliant show. But what was it supposed to do? It was a parody. It was a parody of the perversity of ignorance in the form of Archie Bunker.

LEMON: You know what I'm hearing right now? Wrap!

CUOMO: I know. That's what I'm hearing too.

LEMON: Hey, listen, I got Frank - did you read Frank Bruni's column today about--

CUOMO: I did.

LEMON: He's right on. He said, listen, I know that all these people are caught up in the - in this college scam, but what's new? Happened to a lot of people, maybe someone even in someone's family that we talk about a lot.

CUOMO: Rah-rah (ph).

LEMON: Not the - not the illegal part, but spending money to get people into college who don't necessarily deserve it.

CUOMO: Yes. We're seeing--


CUOMO: --an aspect of privilege that I think we're only see the first part of. I think more's to come.

LEMON: Any time (ph).

CUOMO: I'll check with you in a second.

LEMON: See you.

CUOMO: All right, bud.

All right, that was the theme song to "All in the Family," by the way. Some of you are probably too young. You may YouTube it.

All right, Hollywood and the Justice Department, what D. Lemon was just talking about right there, they collided in this admissions bust. But I think you have to see it as way more than just a matter of law. It should be.

But it is a window into something else that is even more dangerous than the criminality. The argument, next.








CUOMO: Listen, we know colleges can play favorites, donations, favors. People with great wealth often get great access. But what we learned about today is worse than we knew. And the Feds agree.


LELLING: We're not talking about donating a building so that a school is more likely to take your son or daughter. We're talking about deception and fraud.


CUOMO: The man at the center, William Singer, wrote a book about getting into college in which he says, the key is to develop a personal brand that allows a student to stand out. That's true, talent, passion, sense of purpose, you know, the things parents kill themselves emotionally and financially to nurture.

Those things can and should set you apart. But as the pressures rise and the acceptance rates drop, for some, brand is not enough. They want an edge and that's the chapter in the book that he left out.

The desperation to be among the privileged few, especially among the privileged, those with expectations of achieving a certain social standing, now that can be money-making motivation for those without ethics.

And this guy, Singer, smelled that desperation. And he knew the weaknesses in the system, because he'd been in it and those coaches were a weakness in the system, a lack of ethics, the surplus of those willing to cheat the system on all levels to give an edge to families who often already have every edge.

He put it this way.

"There's a front door, which means you get in on your own. The back door is through institutional advancement." It's like a nice way of talking about what, diversity? "Which is 10 times as much money. And I've created this side door in."

Institutional advancement, he's talking about like buying buildings, still (ph), very rich people. So, it takes me to the truly frightening aspect to this, the shock of the scale and scope of the sting by the Feds, 50 people, including parents, coaches, exam administrators.

Imagine what we don't know, because what makes this guy special? Singer's no genius. He worked in sales and marketing. He ran a call center before finding his way into this world of educational advantage.

If this guy was able to game the system, what else is going on? We don't police this. We depend on the universities. And we know what they're going to do. They're going to protect the institution.

How did these families, these well-to-do types know to go to this guy? How did he manage to keep it quiet for so long? How many others are running scams on tests and other facets of admissions at individual schools or on the outside like him?

This isn't something that gets a lot of attention from law enforcement. And, like I said, man, schools are willing, sometimes too willing, to keep transgressions quiet. A couple of schools involved put out statements about implicated staff, who are no longer there. Why aren't they already there? Did they know before now?

College isn't everything, OK? Many people who go into the trades do very well, live very happy lives without the piece of parchment. And in the new tech economy, some are self-starters and America has always been a place where an idea and ambition can get you places.

But, let's be honest. There's a preference for those who go to college. Studies say men with bachelor's degrees earn $900,000 more in a lifetime than high school grads. For Women, it's $630,000 more. That's another problem that inadequacy (ph). We'll deal with that another time.

We need to make sure that access to advancement is as pure as it can be. It's not just being nice or even being fair. It's a safeguard of the American Dream.

Think about it this way. Right now, all across this country, parents are working their asses off saving for college, and to give their kids a chance to get there. Kids all over the country are working their asses off as well, one better be doing that at my house right now.

We can't let any of those people think that they're boxed out before the game begins. It's definitional to our promise as a people and a nation. This guy can't be the only one. We must shine a light and make an example this time and every time.

Trust me, stay tuned.

Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight with D. Lemon starts right now.