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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Interview with Presidential Candidate Tim Ryan (D-OH); Nadler Demands Barr Release Any Mueller Summaries; Trump Gives Mexico "One- Year Warning" Before Closing Border; Interview with Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 4, 2019 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: All right, the news continues right now. Let's go back to Chris and CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

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

Big night, no question about it. The battle for the Mueller report is blowing up as Team Barr fires back at Team Mueller. Now, there's a new demand from Democrats in Congress to find out what the heck is going on here.

Almost two weeks in, and now we have more questions than answers. When will we get to see the facts?

And why is the President now backing off his threat to close the Border? Good move! But he said he wasn't playing games. Was it a game?

We have the perfect guest to tell you the reality on the Border, a PRIME TIME first, Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen from our Border. This Administration must be straight about the real emergency and what it will do to substantially address it.

Also here, the newest 2020 player, fresh off his announcement, Democrat number 17.

On you mark, let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: All right, so look, here's the suggestion.

If the Special Counsel prepared summaries of his findings, why did the President's Attorney General choose to craft his own, especially one that may have grossly downplayed what was found?

This lies at the heart of the latest front in the fight for truth. And the Head of the House Judiciary Committee is determined to get that truth. Jerry Nadler now insisting that the A.G. clear up the discrepancies,

demanding the release of Mueller's summaries to the public, and then release the full report to Congress, so it can assess and decide what to redact on its own.

Sound fair, certainly debatable, so let's do just that.

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TEXT: THE GREAT DEBATE.

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CUOMO: Jennifer Granholm, Ken Cuccinelli.

Governor Granholm, make the case. The A.G. said he would do it, just give him a little time. Now, the Democrats want to rush him. Why?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well I think that this story from last night and today is a game-changer on this report.

The fact now that we know that he had actually received summaries from Mueller of what was in the report, those summaries intended to be released that why didn't he do it?

And so, then, all of a sudden, well I was willing to give him, and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, as a former federal prosecutor, now I'm going, what is going on?

Here is a guy who was hired it seems, for this very purpose, which is to re-construe the facts that were given to him. That's what it looks like. So, if he wants to restore his own credibility, the best thing he can do is to release the summaries entirely.

And, you know, if there's Grand Jury material in there--

CUOMO: All right.

GRANHOLM: --I'd be shocked because of - of Mueller's team. But release those and then release the full report to Congress.

CUOMO: We're getting - you're getting a Cuccinelli head-shake. Why?

KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SENATE CONSERVATIVES FUND PRESIDENT: Yes.

Yes, we've had 23 months of jumping to wrong conclusions here. Why not add another couple of weeks? Look, nothing is going to happen between now and the middle of the month when the Attorney General said that he would be releasing the report.

And I expect, as we've previously discussed, Chris, it'll be redacted version, things like Grand Jury testimony and so forth. Nothing major happens or falls or stands because of a week here, you know. Let him do his job. The Special Counsel doesn't get to write multiple, well I guess they can write multiple summaries, but the Attorney General released one, which shouldn't surprise anybody--

CUOMO: But it wasn't theirs. It was his own account (ph).

CUCCINELLI: --prior to releasing as much of the report as they intend to.

CUOMO: Why didn't he release their summaries?

CUCCINELLI: Yes. Well that - but that's the way--

GRANHOLM: Right.

CUCCINELLI: --the process works.

CUOMO: How?

GRANHOLM: Well--

CUCCINELLI: That's the process. The - the report goes to the Attorney General who himself makes his own report. That's what the regulation says.

CUOMO: So, this is just following the rules, Granholm. Do you accept that?

GRANHOLM: No, it's not. I mean he substituted his judgment for that of Robert Mueller.

The reason why Robert Mueller gave him this report and said, "I cannot make a decision on obstruction of justice" is because Mueller assumed that they was going to be sent to Congress.

CUOMO: How do you know?

GRANHOLM: He wasn't asking.

For an Attorney General who already had made it clear in a - in a - in an interview with the Hill that he called it asinine that obstruction of justice would apply back in 2017 in the summer, the same time he issued a 17-page report, which essentially was his job interview for this particular position of Attorney General.

It is - it - it really goes to the Attorney General's credibility. He has come out against obstruction before he even got a whiff of this report. And lo and behold, he gets the report.

Mueller says he cannot - he was not exonerated for obstruction. But Barr goes ahead and exonerates him. Game over! Trump gets what he wants.

CUOMO: Cuccinelli.

CUCCINELLI: Yes. Two points. [21:05:00] First of all, I think that's why it was also important, and

undoubtedly, why his name was included that Rosenstein's name was included in that conclusion because all of the allegations that Jennifer just leveled at the Attorney General don't apply to Rod Rosenstein. That's point one.

Point two, anybody who's watched--

GRANHOLM: Except for Rod Rosenstein wrote the memo - Chris--

CUCCINELLI: Hey, whoa, whoa, whoa. I sat back.

Point two that is that anybody who has observed Attorney General Barr in the Justice Department in either of his tenures has seen him play by the DOJ's rulebook.

And that means no Grand Jury testimony. That means unindicted people don't get outed in the report. Those are not uncommon. That's the way the DOJ ordinarily operates.

CUOMO: Right. But they - he gave him a little bit of a stick.

CUCCINELLI: And that should be the reasonable expectation--

CUOMO: He gave him a little bit of a--

CUCCINELLI: --for someone like Bill Barr.

CUOMO: He gave him a little bit of a stick, Ken, by making the determination--

CUCCINELLI: Gave who?

CUOMO: He gave his critics a stick because by taking the decision - look, I don't know. We've talked about this before. I don't know why Mueller wouldn't make the call.

I don't know why a prosecutor who believes it's too close to call doesn't default to just not making a case. That's what they're supposed to do. If you can't make the case, no matter how close it is, you don't make it.

Mueller did something--

CUCCINELLI: That is the default, you're right.

CUOMO: Mueller did something special here. Maybe it's because of what the Governor suggests that he thought that this would be taken up subsequently by Congress. But it's not in the regs for the A.G. to do what he did.

There is a logical flow where he could arrive at the conclusion to do what he did. But it's not in the Special Counsel regs. And it does remind us of his last stint that you just brought up.

Iraqgate, he was cited once before for using the rules to help his President and allies, and not doing what justice may demand. What's your concern that this is a repeat, Cuccinelli?

CUCCINELLI: Well the - he never had any allegation that he didn't abide by DOJ rules. You just - you just threw it out there, Chris, like following ordinary DOJ procedure, and that is the Bill Barr ordinary way of operating--

CUOMO: Nobody accused him of anything illegal, no. But that he used the rules--

CUCCINELLI: --is somehow nefarious. And it - and it isn't.

CUOMO: --to his advantage.

CUCCINELLI: I understand that. That isn't what I said.

CUOMO: OK.

CUCCINELLI: That isn't what I said.

And but - but this - the default position for Bill Barr, setting aside that we're talking about the Mueller report, on any aspect of his job is to do it the way the policies in DOJ call for it to be done.

CUOMO: OK.

CUCCINELLI: And - and that does not include outing the Grand Jury testimony, classified information, unindicted--

CUOMO: But there's discretion.

CUCCINELLI: --third parties and so forth.

CUOMO: There's discretion. And we've seen it differently before, Jennifer.

CUCCINELLI: That - that's the standard position.

CUOMO: When Janet Reno--

CUCCINELLI: Of course.

GRANHOLM: Yes.

CUOMO: When Janet Reno did Branch Davidian, which is the only other precedent we have of an actual Special Counsel, OK, because there only have been two since the Clinton Administration redid the regs with the help of the Republicans because nobody liked the Independent Counsel statute.

And she did two things that we didn't do here.

One, she said to the Special Counsel, "Put it all out. Put it all online. Put it out straight away," OK? And the redactions were kept to a minimal - minimum, and none of these other boxes were checked that Barr's checking now.

What does that mean to you, Granholm?

GRANHOLM: Well it obviously - it clearly means that he - that there is an issue inside of here potentially that he doesn't want the world to see, his boss doesn't want the world to see, the Senate, obviously, doesn't want the world to see.

These people haven't seen the report. The House votes all in favor of it. The Senate the - today for the fifth time said "No." I just - come on! We - this is a - this is a critical issue for the credibility, not just of Bob Barr but of the justice system overall.

My big fear, Chris, is that we - he uses the excuse of this Grand Jury Rule 6(e) under the - under the federal rules to - to say, "Well I'm not going to release anything that has to do with anybody who's unindicted, including the President."

Well what the heck is this - is this Special Counsel statute for?

CUOMO: Well--

GRANHOLM: The Special Counsel statute is to hold the President accountable because he can't be indicted--

CUOMO: In--

GRANHOLM: --under the - under the federal rules. That's what this is for. We've got to see it.

CUOMO: Understood. I'm out of time. But one point that Ken made bears repeating. In terms of time, we're not up against a deadline. A week here, a week there, it's not going to make a difference. It's all about where he comes out on it.

CUCCINELLI: Right.

CUOMO: Then it'll be time to attack the process.

But Jennifer Granholm, well-argued, Ken Cuccinelli, as always, thank you.

All right, so the A.G., this is a seminal question. Is he just defending the law? Is he playing it by the rules? Or is he using the rules to protect the President?

Now, look, you can't come to a conclusion before you see what he actually does. But what do we know about the A.G.? What do we know about how these rules have worked in the past? That's instructive. The team has worked it out for you.

I'll lay it out, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: What's new is that House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler is demanding the DOJ explain the difference between Attorney General Bill Barr's four-page summary about the Mueller report.

And what we're now hearing that Mueller investigators say is that Barr's letter doesn't reflect the real substance of Mueller's report, especially when it comes to possible obstruction of justice.

Nadler wants Barr to "Produce to the Committee all communications between the Special Counsel's Office and the Department regarding the report."

Like what? The summaries that the investigators say they wrote of the conclusions. Why haven't they put them out? Well the DOJ says they're going through their process of vetting and that those summaries contained too much classified information, they need redacting as well.

Now, hopefully the past doesn't predict the future when it comes to what Mr. Barr may do. As Attorney General, under George H.W. Bush, Barr was accused of using the levers of power to protect the President and his allies during a scandal called Iraqgate. Go Google it.

The legendary New York Times Journalist William Safire wrote this about it in 1992.

"Why does the Coverup-General resist independent investigation? Because he knows where it may lead. He vainly hopes to be able to head it off, or at least be able to use the threat of firing to negotiate a deal."

Now, Barr was not accused of violating any law. Be clear about that. He was accused of operating shrewdly within the law to protect his political allies. That brings us to today and the Democrats' concerns.

Barr says he will release a redacted version of the report this month. That's when you'll know the reality of what he did and did not do. But this is what he says the redactions will include.

[21:15:00] Grand Jury information, material the intelligence community thinks could compromise sensitive sources and methods, material that could affect ongoing matters, and then the biggie, information that could affect the privacy and reputational interests of peripheral three - third-parties.

That's a lot of potential black boxes in the final report, especially that number four. That could exclude all info about those not indicted, including the President, his family. That means you wouldn't hear about Trump Tower, that meeting and what they thought about it, and the President's actions and the statements to potentially thwart the process. It's a lot of stuff.

Barr's protests are that he's just following the rules, raising the question of why he decided to determine that the President wasn't criminally responsible for obstruction of justice when Mueller said it was too close to call, because that's not in the rules.

It's not in the Special Counsel guidelines. When the Mueller report drops, the obvious is going to be debating and tweeting about what's in it and what's not.

Here's the Catch-22 for the President. You think you're gaming the system by giving the Democrats less, a little bit of a thumb in the eye, but know this. The more that is not disclose - disclosed, the more a cloud will hang over the President's head.

Why? Clarity comes with transparency. The less there is, the more there will be legitimate questions about the wrongdoing and the related lies, and they will hang over the President's head right into 2020.

Now, speaking of 2020, next guest, the latest Democratic candidate to enter the race, Congressman Tim Ryan in the PRIME TIME House. Not a household name like some of the others, but that could change. Why does he think it should?

His case to you, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: All right, so Democrats, they want the President's taxes. And today, the President responded by saying this.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They'll speak to my lawyers. They'll speak to the Attorney General.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you direct the - the IRS to do that?

TRUMP: They'll speak to my lawyers. And they'll speak to the Attorney General. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, look, I got to tell you. The law is pretty clear, and they don't have to talk to any of those people. The law says that they shall hand it over to the people who are allowed to request it.

Will there be a legal fight? Probably. Why? Because this President doesn't want you to see his taxes, all right? So, that's the latest bit of news there.

[21:20:00] But now, here's another headline. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio happens to be the newest member of the 2020 Presidential Club. Good luck to you, and the best going forward.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: As say to all the candidates, as the campaign goes on, and the issues emerge, you are welcome on this show to talk about what matters--

RYAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: --to the voters in your--

RYAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: --party and the whole country. Tim Ryan--

RYAN: I'll come back.

CUOMO: --you're tall, you're handsome, why you in this Democratic field?

RYAN: Why and not TV, right?

CUOMO: That's right. Why don't you come take my job (ph)? So, what do you have that no one has?

RYAN: The country - the country is divided. And it's been divided for a long time. And because we're so divided, we haven't been able to solve any of the big problems.

And the area I come from in Northeast Ohio, these problems have been going on since the late 1970s where my father-in-law lost his job at Youngstown Sheet & Tube when the steel industry collapsed for 13 months.

Go back 20 years, cousin of mine, my cousin Donny, his last act at Delphi, the fact - local factory, was to unbolt the machine, put it in a box, and send it to China.

And then go back just a few weeks where my daughter calls me from school crying that her friend is crying because they have to leave town because the General Motors facility is leaving town, closing down, and they have to move. This is unacceptable. It's been going on for 40 years. And we failed to put an industrial policy together in the United States that stops the bleeding. And I'm going to do that, and I'm going to focus on that.

CUOMO: The President says, "That's what I'm doing. I'm the guy for those jobs. You're a Democrat. You lost those jobs."

RYAN: Yes - well he hasn't done anything. He's made a lot of hollow promises, hasn't fulfilled any of them. General Motors is the latest example. Go to rural America where farmers have not made a profit in five years. This guy has - has let everybody down.

And I think what I'm - what I'm trying to do is how does the manufacturing areas of the country, the rural areas of the country, the inner cities of the country recognize that we're all in the same boat.

And as long as we're divided, we're all getting screwed. And if we come together, build a coalition, we can remake the American economy. But it starts with forging a new politics, forging a new politics that's about unification, coming together, and then building this new economy that we need to do.

CUOMO: How when it's a culture of opposition that is rewarded often by voters?

RYAN: Well I think you put together a plan that actually speaks to their own best interests. What's the future look like? I'd just give you a couple of examples.

Take the electric vehicle market, right? How are we going to manufacture again? How are we going to get the economy going? We're going to go from 2 million electric vehicles this year to 30 million in the next 10 years.

Who's going to make those vehicles? Who's going to make the batteries that go in those vehicles? Who's going to make the charging station that - that go into those vehicles?

China has a plan because they're dominating 40 percent of the electric vehicle market. We're divided, so we have no plan. We can't come together.

And I think if you bring in the private sector, I don't think Democrats should be hostile to free enterprise. We can solve these big problems. But we got to come together first.

CUOMO: What do you see in the field that you can add that nobody else can?

RYAN: Coming from the industrial Midwest, I think first and foremost I believe that - that I could win Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, rebuild that Blue Wall that - that President Trump took down because he is not delivering for these people. We got the highest stock market we've ever had. We've got the lowest

unemployment almost we've ever had. And yet, 40 to 50 percent of the American families can't withstand a $400 or $500 emergency.

This economy is not working. We got to get back to that. And in those key swing states, people understand that message. We can get them to vote for Democrats. And we could send Trump packing.

CUOMO: You're going to put out all your taxes?

RYAN: Yes.

CUOMO: Or you're going to be like the President?

RYAN: It - it'll be very uneventful. But I'm happy to put them out.

CUOMO: You think you guys are making the right move asking for his taxes?

RYAN: I think we have to. I think we have to. I think--

CUOMO: Why?

RYAN: Well bit - out of transparency. I think it's important for that information to be out in the public ground--

CUOMO: What if there's nothing that bad in there? Is it going to look like overreach instead of oversight?

RYAN: It's - it's a necessary part of the process.

The President has to be transparent, especially a - a President who hasn't shut down his businesses, is still doing business all over the world, still making money all over the world, I think it's important for the American people to know.

When you look at what he did with Saudi Arabia, you look at his relationship with Russia, and you look at his relationship with a variety of other countries, I think at the very least we should know.

CUOMO: You think your party is embracing the kinds of policies you're about now or they've moved a couple steps to the left, they want to fight other fights?

RYAN: We - we do get caught up in all these other fights, which are important. I - I don't want to diminish them.

But the thrust of the Democratic Party's agenda has got to be around unifying the country, and dignified jobs, moving the country forward, wages, healthcare, jobs, wages, healthcare, pensions, security, retirement security, and then how do we grow this new economy.

[21:25:00] You look at wind growing 25 percent, 30 percent a year, solar growing 25 percent, 30 percent a year, additive manufacturing, 25 percent, 30 percent a year, we're going to make 30 million electric vehicles in the next 10 years. Let's go. Let's do this. And this helps us reverse climate change. What are we talking about here?

We could put this whole agenda together, drive private sector investment from venture capital, which goes to three states now, New York, Massachusetts, and California, 80 percent of it goes, drive this private investment into distressed communities, so we can rebuild.

So you can go to a coal mine and say, "Look, we're coming in with some renewables, and your wages are going to be the same, and you're going to have as much security because this is the future."

Coal's down 30,000 jobs. This industry is growing at 30 percent a year, where you want to be. And a - and a President with some guts needs to go there and - and promise them, and it's not going to be easy.

No quick fix, Chris. This is going to be grinded out three yards and a cloud of dust, but at the end of the day, we'll get into the end zone.

CUOMO: Well it takes guts to enter the game and the fight that you've just entered.

RYAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: I know you got a young family.

RYAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: The best to your family home.

RYAN: Appreciate it.

CUOMO: The best of luck to you going forward.

RYAN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: As we say to all the candidates, when it matters to the American people, you've got a place here.

RYAN: You got it. Will be back.

CUOMO: All right, take care.

RYAN: Thanks.

CUOMO: All right, so the next woman in charge of enforcing the President's hardline immigration agenda, she is here tonight with a very different message, Homeland Security - Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen.

She's on the Border. She's waiting for the President. He's coming tomorrow. She's going to give you the straight tell on what they need and how bad it is, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: You know, I'm old enough to remember when President Trump said he was on the verge of closing the Southern border. That was last Friday, by the way.

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TRUMP: Mexico is going to have to do something. Otherwise, I'm closing the Border. I'll just close the Border.

There's a very good likelihood that I'll be closing the Border next week, and that'll be just fine with me.

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CUOMO: It'd be fine with you, but it wasn't fine with anybody else. See because that's what happens when this goes much faster than this and this, so what a difference a week makes?

Here's what he's saying now.

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TRUMP: We're going to give them a one-year warning, and if the drugs don't stop or largely stop, we're going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular, cars.

And if that doesn't stop the drugs, we close the Border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I don't know why he's talking about drugs when the problem he has are women and children flooding over this Border and stymieing our system. That's what he's being told.

[21:30:00] Now, look, the politics here are secondary to the people. This is the reality, OK? This is what's happening like every hour of every day. You don't have to be there to know that it's true.

We go because that's the job, OK? But it's going to be there this week and every week until something is done to stop it.

Now, tonight, Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen is at the Border. Here's the interview.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

CUOMO: Secretary, thank you for joining us.

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: My pleasure.

CUOMO: So, when I went down there and all the reporting suggests the same thing that the men and women trying to keep us safe on the Border say they have never seen anything like the flow they are encountering right now, is that your understanding as well?

NIELSEN: Absolutely. I've been down here about just over two dozen times since I've been Secretary.

But yes, the men and women have never seen, and as - as you saw when you were down here, Chris, it's the type of flow that we're seeing. So, it's mostly families and children, and that's what's so concerning from a humanitarian perspective.

CUOMO: They say they don't have the resources and that they don't have the rules that they need. What does that mean?

NIELSEN: So, on the resource side, we just - we're out of space, as you saw. So, unfortunately, we have huge backups to process folks into the country.

So they - this is before we ever talk about what happens after just to give them that initial medical triage to do the intake, we have a huge backup, so we're out of space even there.

In terms of the rules, it's some of the authorities that are talking about. We don't have the authority to keep families together through the immigration process.

So what this does unfortunately is it encourages a lot of smugglers to encourage those in Central America coming up to grab a child, in some cases, or to otherwise present as a fraudulent family. It also prevents us from helping actual families who are in fear of persecution or who have a legitimate claim.

CUOMO: And it does allow people who come as families, they obviously have learned that if you come together as a family, there's a better chance that you get in and get released, and that's exactly what's happening.

So, let's deal with the resources first. Question. You know, the President's emergency declaration while nominally about drugs and terror, and that's why we need a fence, there's more discussion in the preamble of it about this humanitarian crisis than there is about drugs or terror.

Why can't he use the emergency declaration to get you some resources right now? NIELSEN: Well I think some of the purpose of the declaration is to do just that. So, if we can build some additional barriers, and the idea of the barriers, by the way, you know, we've - we've all talked about it a lot.

But in this case what it would do is it would have the effect of encouraging those families and children to go to ports of entry, and not take the journey through remote areas. So the barriers are actually important because it helps make sure that we have a safe and orderly flow.

But also in his request was for humanitarian assistance. The last request that we sent to Congress included that as well. And then, I've just sent a letter to Congress last week that made it clear that we do need additional resources for the humanitarian mission.

CUOMO: Right. I know that you've been making the call. But I'm just saying to try and get it faster. You know, whatever the legalities are, whatever the politics are, let's just put them to the side.

There's been an emergency declaration. He could use it to--

NIELSEN: Yes.

CUOMO: --give you money for really anything.

He can tap pockets for resources. He can have the military instead of just citing fencing. And, as you know, I'm not against more fencing, not that my opinion matters, but I've heard the case from your people, and I accept it.

But they could build tent cities on the Mexican side. You could use some of the partnerships that you yourself has work - have worked hard on to get places to keep them. He could do that through this declaration.

They haven't. Why not?

NIELSEN: Yes. I mean I think we're looking at that.

So, you know, one of the things that we've done at DHS is the way that I look at this Chris is, unfortunately, we're now is if we just had a Cat 5 hurricane, so we're in also disaster response. I mean it really is an emergency. You've seen the people at the Border.

So, what I've done is I've basically instituted a very traditional emergency response posture. So, I'm pulling on all of the departments in the federal government, asking them to fill those resource needs that we have because we have declared the emergency.

So, we are doing that now, and then we continue to work with the military, you're spot-on about that, so I work very closely with Acting Secretary Shanahan to ensure that we also can supplement what the men and women here have.

CUOMO: Am I missing something about the emergency declaration and your understanding or does the President and his people just want to keep that for fencing?

NIELSEN: No. I just think that we were hopeful that we would get a additional supplemental from Congress to address what is currently an emerging situation. And I think what's difficult is how quickly it's emerging.

As you know, we had 40,000, 50,000 a month last year, we had 76,000 in February. We do expect to be close to or just over a 100,000 in March. The rate at which this crisis is evolving is tremendous, so we absolutely need additional resources more than we can reprogram or otherwise use under Executive authority without Congress.

CUOMO: So, let's talk about Congress for a second and what your understanding is. Why aren't they helping you?

[21:35:00] NIELSEN: You know, I think there's been a lot of misunderstanding in the past. I hope that we have cleared that up.

I have made it my priority to let the men and women who are career professionals, who've done this for 20 years, 30 years to speak to Congress, to explain to them firsthand what they're seeing, what they need, what the challenges are.

I represent all of that as best that I can. But this is not a political issue. This is not a partisan issue. We have common cause. Nobody should want the traffickers, the smugglers, the drugs, the gangs, and everybody should want to help the vulnerable populations, the children, in particular.

I'm sure you saw when you were here, we mentioned fake families before. The instances at which we have found so-called fake families have quadrupled since last year.

That is a quadrupling of children. I was in Yuma earlier today. They have already identified 500 "Fake families" just this year. Those are 500-plus children who are being used as pawns, so the adults can gain access to this country.

CUOMO: But you also have there's such a legitimate problem on its face. I mean I think part of the politics here is that the President has painted this problem as being about drugs and bad guys and bad people.

And that created resistance because you know that in the main you're dealing with people who are bona fide looking for a better way of life, maybe not legit for asylum, you know, wanting a better life is not a legitimate grounds for asylum.

NIELSEN: Right, right.

CUOMO: But that seems to have poisoned the well, Secretary.

Have you encountered that where so many members, especially on the Left in Congress, say, you know, he sold the American people on this Brown Menace, as I call it, coming up here to maraud us and kill us, and it's not the truth, and you know it's not the truth. The numbers bear it out.

NIELSEN: Yes. And I think you what - I think what you've seen lately is a lot of comments out of the White House. The President himself has made it clear that this is a humanitarian crisis.

And, of course, I think we just have to continue to describe it because that is what it is. There are security concerns. We know that the criminals are taking advantage of this very vulnerable flow.

They will push families across one part of the Border. The Border Patrol will always go to help those in need. And while they do that, the criminals will come across in another part. But this is absolutely a humanitarian crisis in addition to the security aspect.

CUOMO: Yes. It's certainly what they talk about.

I mean, look, the numbers tell you one story. You see that. You're about flat-lined. And, in fact, you've been doing a good job in getting more criminal aspects, doing better on drugs even before the fencing was authorized.

That number is flat to going down. The kids and the families are crippling you guys. The numbers are exploding. You have to deal with it. Rules and resources seem obvious. Closing the Border wasn't so obvious.

NIELSEN: Yes.

CUOMO: It's good to see that push back to next year. Are you the wise voice that got to the President and said this is not the right fix?

NIELSEN: Well I think we have to take everything into consideration, you know.

At the Department of Homeland Security, part of CBP's mission is legal trade, to facilitate legal trade and travel. So, the men and women of CBP have to manage all of those missions. Obviously, it is part of their mission to do that.

So, I think it's important to make the case of how serious the President is. He was put - making it clear that he was willing to entertain all options. But I think working with Mexico, we can and - continue to encourage them and work with them.

The enforcement numbers have gone up, as you know, on the Mexican side in recent weeks. I have - in constant contact with my counterpart. But they also recognize that this is a - this is a humanitarian crisis, and they need to stop the smugglers and traffickers just as we do.

It's a regional problem. I've been to Central America over a dozen times, so we've got to, together as a region, fight the traffickers and the criminals who are preying on these vulnerable populations.

CUOMO: Certainly you can't do it alone. That's why it was somewhat dismaying to see you went down to the Triangle to work those relationships, and the President said he was going to cut funding right after, it doesn't help you build those alliances.

Now, tomorrow, the President is coming. He's going to see the fence. There's a plaque--

NIELSEN: Yes.

CUOMO: --that's going to be presented to show them.

Let me ask you. In this environment right now where you want focus on the kids and the families, why is the President going down to view fencing and not going to see the kids?

NIELSEN: Well I think part of that's just a - it's an optic.

It's a, you know, you've been to the Border facilities. From the outside, they look like buildings. To have the President stand in front of the wall indicates immediately to any viewer that he's at the Border.

But I think his message will be about the dual crisis and how we need Congress to act to give us the authorities to address it.

CUOMO: You're in the policy game. Politics 101, as we both know, is go to the victims. He can go in the building and show the faces--

NIELSEN: Yes.

CUOMO: --of people and show that he cares about them instead of just the fencing, which isn't even new. It was budgeted before the shutdown. It was done in 2017 as a rebuild.

And not that - that's bad. But I don't get the commemorative nature of that event when there are kids that I know you care about, that I know you go to see, why doesn't he?

[21:40:00] NIELSEN: Well, I - you know, we are having a roundtable tomorrow.

I think what he has asked is for the White House to put together a trip where he can hear from the men and women, from local officials, from CBP, from ICE, there'll be some Congressmen there.

And I think he wants to hear what are the challenges, what are the needs, how can we work with Congress to get this fixed. So, think he's trying to take it up a level. He recognizes the humanitarian crisis. And he's trying to take it to the people who can fix it.

CUOMO: I'm just - do you have any worries about the message that he seems to be fixated on the fencing and not the people when not only are the people your real problem, the flow, but that this is about, as you said, optics, but it's about heart.

It's about compassion. It's about showing that kind of leadership as well. I know your men and women say--

NIELSEN: Yes. CUOMO: --you have been trying to demonstrate that to them as well, reflecting on the humanitarian nature of their mission that they care about these people. They went out of their way to tell me that and show me that.

You would think the leader would do the same? Do you have worries if he doesn't go that it won't send the right message?

NIELSEN: Well we will continue to make sure that he understands what is happening down at the Border. I'm very clear with him with respect to what I see and what the men and women see - excuse me, Chris. And we will continue to - to do that.

I mean you've been down here. It is heart-wrenching. I don't know how many more children need to be exploited or how many more families need to be put in harm's way by a trafficker before Congress will act.

But as you saw, we have tried everything we can at DHS. We are absolutely out of the ability to manage this flow, and they need help. So, we've got to work with Congress. This cannot be partisan. We really do have common cause on this. So, I beseech folks to work with me.

I'm willing to talk to anyone in Congress who will work with me on this. We can narrow it. We can address just this crisis. We don't have to solve other parts of immigration that also need to be solved.

But, right now, we have an emergency on our hands. We need to treat it as such.

CUOMO: And there's something in it for everybody. If the people worry about how migrants are treated and the compassion, they need to help them right now. And if people care about law and order that should start with caring about the--

NIELSEN: Absolutely.

CUOMO: --men and women who keep us safe. And I worry about them. They are overwhelmed. They lead with their heart. They're good people you have--

NIELSEN: I--

CUOMO: --under you.

NIELSEN: I do too.

Well, Chris, I really appreciate you saying that. I hope the American people can see that because they do their job every day with dedication, professionalism and, as you said, compassion.

They really do. They go. They're very innovative. They do everything they can to care for these populations that come into their custody. And, as you know, this - this is not a medical, for example, is not traditional part of the--

CUOMO: Right.

NIELSEN: --Border Patrol mission. They take volunteer training. They go out and buy meals themselves. They go out and buy different commodities themselves to provide for the migrants.

And I met with a lot of the NGO community today, when I was in Yuma earlier today. And I want to be very thankful for them too, for them as well. I mean they have stepped up with great courage with limited resources to also help the vulnerable populations once they get into the country.

CUOMO: The greatest nation in the world shouldn't have to depend on NGOs to take care of its business. We have the means. People have to step-up.

NIELSEN: I couldn't agree more.

CUOMO: Secretary, thank you for making the case.

NIELSEN: Yes.

CUOMO: Thank you for being down there where people need to see our leaders in action.

NIELSEN: No. Thank you, Chris. Very much appreciate the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, you heard the Secretary there. The crisis is the kids and the flow. The closing argument is going to be about what needs to happen when the President goes there tomorrow.

Now, this Border situation has not distracted POTUS from what he likes best, attacking opponents. But going after the former VP Biden for invading women's personal space? Have you no shame, Sir?

And how about how Biden responded? Is this the way to take on this President? Next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Can't make it up my friends. Not many people expected this when the President was asked about Joe Biden's scandal initially.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I do wish him luck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should he apologize for his conduct?

TRUMP: No. He is going to make his own decisions. He's very capable of making a decision, I assume.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The high road! But as we know, this President is always looking for a detour down into the dirt.

And today, he was taunting the Vice President on Twitter with a message, "Welcome Back Joe," and a doctored video pinned to his feed that has special effects to make the former VP look like a predator.

(TWITTER VIDEO PLAYING)

CUOMO: That's Joe on Joe there, right?

But that's this POTUS. Literally, no shame in his game.

But what about how Biden responded? Late today, a tweet of his own. "I see that you are on the job and Presidential, as always."

Now, we must bring in D. Lemon. We knew we were going to get that from this President. But what do you think of the response?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: OK. Wow that's a big question.

CUOMO: Only kind I ask.

LEMON: Well I would assume that you think - you think it should be (ph)--

CUOMO: Don't assume. Don't assume. Just deal with what you think.

LEMON: I - I think that Joe Biden is here, and the President is here, and Joe Biden should remain there. And I think that response does that.

But I wouldn't, you know, he's talked about me. He's talked about you. I'm sure he's tweeted, and I do this. And - and what my mom says, "Don't punch down."

I don't think Joe Biden should punch down. And I think that was appropriate.

CUOMO: I don't think it was inappropriate. That's for sure. But I think this is the riddle, my friend. This is the riddle.

If you make it through that party and I think that's going to be a way more complicated proposition that many watching the Democratic field believe, at this point, you are going to take on a man who's going to punch you in the face on a daily basis.

LEMON: That's true.

CUOMO: And I don't know that you can win the fight without swinging your hands. I get the whole go-high thing, and I get that people want better. But, you know, they kind of lose it when it comes to campaign.

LEMON: OK.

CUOMO: You know the Thunderdome thing takes over.

LEMON: Can I - can I use your own words on you?

CUOMO: Please.

LEMON: You know how you tell Democrats, you always say, they should not become what they fight against.

CUOMO: Yes.

[21:50:00] LEMON: So, I feel that way about Joe Biden. Now, listen, there were a lot of people who - you know what a very clever response would have been?

To just tweet out the transcript of - he could have said, You know, I'm out in the - use - "I better use some Tic Tacs in case I start kissing her. You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait."

CUOMO: All right, all right, I got it, I got it, I got it.

LEMON: Yes. You can - you know, "When you're a star, they let you do - you can do anything."

CUOMO: Yes, I hear.

LEMON: "Grab them by the" you-know-what.

CUOMO: I got it. I got it.

LEMON: Yes. Just--

CUOMO: Got it.

LEMON: So that - that's the response. So that would probably have gotten his goat. But, again, I just - I just think Joe Biden's a - a classier guy. And--

CUOMO: I think you have to figure it out. You know, it's interesting. When the Democratic candidates come on, there's usually this request. "Hey, if we can, can we not talk about, you know, the President? I want to lay out my policies."

LEMON: My mic's off, sorry.

CUOMO: That's all right. I'm talking anyway.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: So, I feel like that's ridiculous. You've got to figure out how to take on this President. You got to figure out how to be better, if you want to beat him. But don't think that you're not going to have to go toe to toe.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Whether it's Joe Biden or anybody else, I think the people will demand no less.

LEMON: So, and so he (ph) was on the show. Can I just relay a story? I don't know how much time we have.

CUOMO: Please.

LEMON: So, about--

CUOMO: All they'll do is yell.

LEMON: --about the kind of person that Joe Biden is. And I didn't really know - I don't know Joe Biden from Adam. I don't remember meeting him. I don't know if I've relayed this story.

But I'm sitting on the couch not long after my sister died, wallowing in grief and whatever. And so, I get a - a call that's from a 202 number, and it's, you know, and I'm like, "Ah, I don't answer calls if I don't know who it is."

And I said I don't - I don't know why I answered. And they said "Don Lemon?" I said, "Sure, yes." And they said, "I have the Vice President Joe Biden on the phone. Hold, please." And I'm like, "Who is this?" I was like "Maybe, it was Chris."

CUOMO: Ha.

LEMON: All of a sudden, he gets on the phone, he goes, "Don, it's Joe. How you're doing, pal?" Talked to me for an hour about grief, about losing a loved one, how to recover, gave me his phone number. "If you ever need me, call me if you want to talk about it, if you."

Who does that? A former Vice President of the United States, someone - who - who does that?

CUOMO: Somebody who knows the pain of grief.

LEMON: That's all I have to say about Joe Biden. So I wish, listen, whatever he did wrong or whatever he admitted, that's his thing. But he is a man of character and--

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: --I don't - I think it would be awful to see his character and his legacy destroyed-- CUOMO: Oh--

LEMON: --because some people have a political agenda or because--

CUOMO: Yes. But we're nowhere--

LEMON: --of some misguided intention.

CUOMO: We're nowhere near that. I was saying on the radio today. Look, you know, Biden should have this conversation. He should answer for it the way he has. If I were he, I would have apologized to the women--

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: --because if he didn't intend it, he should apologize. But this is a different universe--

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: --of conversation than anything that would be disqualifying him. And let's - let's be real. He may have other problems that are way bigger than this one with his party as he goes forward, in terms of what his party (ph)--

LEMON: Right on. He's got to deal with policy issues and - and decisions that he made in the past.

CUOMO: He's got--

LEMON: He's going to have to answer to that.

CUOMO: --he's got way bigger problems than this.

LEMON: Because it's - he's - because he has a long record. Anyone has a long record, don't you think?

CUOMO: Right, a 100 percent.

LEMON: They have to do with all those things.

CUOMO: And he's got a party that's changed--

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: --in just a few years as well.

D. Lemon, I'll be back to you in second.

LEMON: I'll see. Hey, listen--

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: --the gay candidate, leading with Christianity, that's going to be interesting for evangelicals in the whole race. We'll talk about that at 10:00. See you in a bit.

CUOMO: Quite the tease.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: All right, so you heard us a moment ago with this Secretary of DHS, Nielsen. She's at the Border.

What needs to happen tomorrow? It's a big day. It is a huge opportunity. I will argue to you it's the biggest opportunity this President has had to make a difference on the Border.

Yes, the closing, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CLOSING ARGUMENT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: My argument. Tomorrow can be huge. Mr. President, go see the kids and families. Your DHS Secretary is correct.

Where you go on the trip tomorrow is an optic. Seeing the fence and not the faces is a bad optic. You won't get the credit you want in the fence anyway. We all know it's not new fence, just a new plaque. That fencing was budgeted by Congress two years ago.

It is time to do what you do so well, shift. You can't pretend they are all monsters anymore, not when there are more mothers. You can't keep pounding fears of being killed by guys like MS-13 when the real face of the problem is kids.

Look at the numbers. Bad guys are being caught at about the same rate. You're doing a good job. The numbers are going down of bad guys. Here's your explosion. It's not that fences aren't relevant. They're just not the priority you have made them, time to shift. Two great reasons, all right?

One, you already got it right in your emergency declaration. You may not know it. But the language in there is a lot more about the family flow than the fugazi argument about a new wave of bad guys.

Use the declaration. Give them what they need beyond a fence. It enables you. The fact that you aren't doing it already shows you don't really seem to care. Bad optic!

Second reason, you can shame Congress. If you use the emergency declaration, then you turn to Congress and say, "Do your job." Congress may take your lead, if you show the way. Why? Well they have to. Demands real policy work with urgency, rules on asylum, keeping and returning folks, they have to be rethought. Congress must heed the need. Just because they don't like how the President perverted reality doesn't mean they can ignore the actual reality. Congress could do emergency rules. Why not?

Where are the Young Lions, the women warriors of the Left? What cause is more no - noble than these kids? Tell me.

The facts demand action and so should the feelings that the images of this reality evoke. The rock band, Rush, said in this song, Closer To The Heart, "The men and women who hold high places, they must be the ones to start, mold a new reality closer to the heart."

If warm blood flows through you, you know you need to act to help these people. I know the President poisoned the dialog by perverting the reality to make it overwhelmingly about drugs and bad guys when it isn't. I know.

But Congress, think of the people who are vulnerable, not the President, act. And Mr. President, don't just go to see the fence when everyone in the system is worried about these kids.

Listen to your heart and use your head. Lead us the way we need to go. There can be a solution. It begins with you and it begins tomorrow. You're having the operative effect with the emergency declaration.

Look at the kids. Go to the place. Show the faces. Show you care. Be bigger than the man you have been.

Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON starts right now.

Is that a golf clap you just gave me?