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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Bill Barr Claims Spying On Trump Campaign "Did Occur"; Pelosi: Barr Is Going "Off The Rails"; Treasury Department Won't Meet Democrats' Deadline For Trump Tax Returns. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 10, 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: --signed by a giant Sharpie. Mount Vernon's name will remain Mount Vernon with nary a condo board in sight to remove its gilded letters from The Ridiculist.

And that's all the time we have. News continues with Cuomo. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: I thought I was going to be the crocodile.

COOPER: Well, you know.

CUOMO: I'll take it. Any way to get in the game, I'm in. Anderson, that was a keeper. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thanks.

CUOMO: I am Chris Cuomo, the one-handed push-up maven. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Headlines are full of heat. But this is about what light the law sheds on what we just learned. The Attorney General provided us with key insights today into what he is about and where we are headed.

He says spying, knowing the term is an insult to the men and women who work for him. Everything he said was calculated. And we will show you where it leads. Cuomo's Court is in session tonight.

And a second case for our legal minds. Why is the Treasury Secretary involved in negotiating Congress' request for the President's taxes? Is that legal?

Also, a scoop on Mr. Barr. If he seemed calm in the chair the last two days, it's because he knows exactly what he's doing. He has been there before, the proof of past maneuvers. The real battle has begun between this President and the rule of law.

Let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Well the President could not have said it better himself. Listen to this.

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WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Spying on a political campaign is a big deal.

I think there was the - spying did occur.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: He thinks, the Attorney General, using the lingo of the Deep State coup today on the Hill sending Democrats into a new tailspin.

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NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The Chief Law Enforcement Officer of our country is going off the rails.

He is the - the Attorney General of the United States of America, not the Attorney General of Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: One pushback. He's not going off the rails. He is exactly on the right track that he wants to be on as the President has directed him.

Now, Barr later attempted to clarify saying he's not suggesting there was improper spying, which, by the way, is an oxymoron. He says the government may have not been in the wrong when spying on the Trump campaign.

But how do you start a probe and then say you've already come to a conclusion? And he's doing it at the same time that his own Inspector General is already looking into the matter.

What happened to being all about by the book? This is the no-holds Barr approach. And it's very clear now. The Democrats are preparing for battle against a very willing opponent.

Let's take it to Mark Mazzetti and Phil Mudd.

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TEXT: CUOMO'S COURT.

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CUOMO: Two men who understand this world of surveillance, how it's supposed to be done and versus what we saw today.

Phil Mudd, the Attorney General saying "Yes, I think there was spying," a word I know you guys don't like in the counterintelligence business, "I know it was going on, can't offer you any evidence, but opened up a probe into it even though the I.G. is looking into the same thing."

Have you ever heard of this in a by-the-book look?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM: I can't figure this out, Chris. He knew what he was doing. Let's - let's give you two different answers.

One, the answer to the question the Attorney General gave, which is there's - "I think there was spying in the campaign, I'm looking at it." Let me try if he had said just a few different words yesterday.

How about more than a year ago, as you suggested in your opening, the Inspector General over at the Department of Justice, FBI said, "We're looking into how invested - the investigation was done during the campaign and we'll file a report."

Everybody would have said, "Thank you. We know that Mr. Attorney General."

Why did he use that word spying? I'm afraid that he used it because he already knew it was - that it was loaded. And he didn't want to say "We already had an investigation underway before I got here."

I don't like the language, Chris. It makes Americans nervous.

CUOMO: Mr. Mazzetti, we both know, we all know the language was purposeful. The A.G. has been in this business a long time. He knows that that is a defamatory way to refer to surveillance.

But wasn't today, and you could argue yesterday, the A.G.'s pulling back of his cape and saying, "I'm back?" We know who he is. We know what he did for President Bush. Isn't this the same?

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well I don't know ultimately what his intent was in - in the - in the past two days of testimony. But the intent, whatever was, was very clear. As you said, it was quite purposeful.

He was given an out to sort of say, "I haven't made any conclusions." He actually didn't take that. He said, "Well, certainly there was spying."

One of the things that really struck me the most that I don't think has gotten enough attention is he actually drew this historical parallel to what happened during the Vietnam War--

CUOMO: Yes.

MAZZETTI: --spying on protesters. I mean this is like kind of the dark days of the FBI, the excesses of Hoover, and to bring that up. Even if he says he hasn't drawn any conclusions, it did send this clear message.

[21:05:00] And recall, this is the narrative that has been pushed for more than two years by House Republicans--

CUOMO: Right.

MAZZETTI: --that it's - the scandal is not--

CUOMO: Word for word.

MAZZETTI: Right. The scandal is--

CUOMO: Concept for concept, including spying. They use it all the time because of what it connotes.

And, in fact though, he did say he drew a conclusion. He said there was spying. And he ascribed animus. He at once said "Not necessarily the FBI, but other Intelligence agencies."

But then he said this about the highest echelons of the FBI.

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BARR: I do not view it as a - a - a problem that's endemic to the FBI. I think there was probably a failure among a - a group of leaders there at the upper echelon.

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CUOMO: So, a second conclusion, Phil. Not only do I know there was spying but I know that the people at the top of the FBI screwed up. Where do you get that except for Breitbart?

MUDD: No. I - Chris, I'm going to disagree with you on this one.

If you look at the Inspector General reports on the leadership to the FBI, including what the Inspector General, I didn't like the Inspectors Generals while I was - when I was at the Bureau or at the Agency. They're tough.

But what the Inspector General said, for example, about Comey's handling - handling of the Clinton investigation was not positive. If you go back and review it--

CUOMO: True.

MUDD: --Comey got hammered. And so did--

CUOMO: And a fair assessment.

MUDD: That's right. So - so my point if but - but the - going back to--

CUOMO: But he never mentioned anything about spying.

MUDD: No. That's exactly right.

CUOMO: And saying that it was attributable to the FBI Heads.

MUDD: That is exactly right. If you're Barr, you have an option for how you present this.

You can say "Well you should have suspicions about the leadership of the Bureau, and I think there might have been spying going on," or you can say "Look, there were some mistakes at the Bureau that have already been exposed by the Inspector General. And if I find out that things went wrong, I'll fix those too."

Big deal! It's on page A18 of The Washington Post. He chose to make it page A1. And I think that's the question we all have.

CUOMO: Mr. Mazzetti, what is the good reason for starting an investigation that is simultaneously being investigated by the I.G.?

MAZZETTI: Well it's unclear exactly what his plan is. There's been some discussion in the past two days about putting some team together to examine it. We know the I.G. is coming to a conclusion.

So, is it to basically pick up where the I.G. left off? The scope is still unclear. And are there questions which--

CUOMO: But that's where - hold on a second. Let's just go step-by-step for the uninitiated.

MAZZETTI: Yes.

CUOMO: That's not how it would work.

The I.G. would finish and there may be a recommendation for prosecution from the I.G. because of what they do or do not discover that could be referred for further action by the DOJ. But while it's still being investigated, Barr said he put together a team.

MAZZETTI: Well he--

CUOMO: How do you justify it?

MAZZETTI: Yes. He did say that. And - and, you know, one would think that a lot of these answers will come from the I.G.'s report. And - and there are still outstanding questions, right?

What were some of the efforts by the FBI after it opened the counterintelligence investigation to gather information, including among some of Trump's current and former advisers?

There was a Confidential Informant used to go after some low-level figures, including a campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. There were some meetings in London with this individual. We'd like to know more about that.

So, it's not as if there aren't, you know, potent questions to ask. But you're right to actually have - to say in public in testimony that there was spying, and he had drawn that conclusion was striking to me.

CUOMO: And, also Phil, just to get some context here of what seems to be intention because look let's - let's - let's put it all on the table. Let's be clear. No one's saying there was no surveillance. It's that when you call it spying, and when you say you know that the upper echelons of the FBI screwed up, you are ascribing animus. So, for the - for Barr to say, "Well I don't know that they did anything wrong, that's doublespeak."

Listen to Jim Clapper about his concerns on this.

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JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE, RETIRED UNITED STATES AIR FORCE LIEUTENANT GENERAL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Has all kinds of negative connotations. And I - I - I have to believe he - he chose that term deliberately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: So now, that's about using basically a bad word. But here was - here was the A.G. himself about the idea of using the word spying.

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SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): Do you want to rephrase what you're doing, because I think the word "spying" could cause everybody in the cable news ecosystem to freak out?

BARR: I'm not sure of all the connotations of that word that you are referring to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: What do you think, Phil Mudd? You think he is?

MUDD: Oh, come on! Give me a break. Everybody in America--

CUOMO: Don't freak out.

MUDD: Everybody - I will freak out. Everybody in America--

CUOMO: Right.

MUDD: --when they hear - hear the word "Spy" thinks about 007. They think about nasty things that are illegal. Let me make this real boring on the Cuomo show PRIME TIME for 20 seconds.

[21:10:00] What we're talking about is the Department of Justice and the FBI investigating for them going to a court of judges who are both Republicans and Democrats in Washington, and saying, "We have this information about an individual. We'd like to conduct surveillance of that individual, maybe reading their email."

Yawn! Then you say, purposefully, for somebody who's got decades of service that is Mr. Barr, were spying because the alternative, explaining what the process is, is too boring.

Yes, I think he was - he was purposeful in his language. And I don't think it's appropriate. CUOMO: Fellas, thank you very much. I keep cautioning to be deliberate here. Let's see what he does. But the last two days, this A.G. has said things that predict action that is a cause for speculation at the least, given his past, especially.

Mr. Mazzetti, Mr. Mudd, thank you very much.

MAZZETTI: Thank you.

MUDD: Thank you.

CUOMO: Now, why do I keep bringing up the past? Because it's prologue for the present. This is Bill Barr's second time around as A.G. And I'm telling you where he has been before is predictive of where we are headed.

I'm going to show you stunning similarities. And here's a tease on it. It ended badly the last time. Barr arguably put a President before the interests of the people.

Then, something else we have to take on tonight, another perversion of the law. Congress' request for the President's taxes was denied tonight by the Trump Treasury Department. They say they need more time.

Where does it say that the Treasury Department gets any time? A look at the law, ahead.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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[21:15:00] CUOMO: Here we go again. The Attorney General is going by the book. It just happens to be a playbook that he wrote himself, one designed to protect the President.

Maya Angelou told us "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

Now, be fair. We have to wait and see what this A.G. reveals of the Mueller report before judging. But his comments, last two days, take us back to the early 90s.

That's when Mr. Barr was A.G. for a President dogged by questions of backdoor deals, favorable behavior towards a dangerous despot, and the question of how much information the public should see. Sound familiar? Back then, the scandal was Iraqgate. The POTUS? George H.W. Bush. The issue? Whether the President ignored U.S. laws and let Saddam Hussein use U.S. money to buy weapons.

Now, in that case, there were calls from Federal Judges and Congress for an Independent Counsel, which Bush himself called, guess what, a witch-hunt.

He turned to his A.G. to run interference, and that, his A.G. did. Barr refused saying Democrats failed to "identify any particular person alleged to have committed a crime or to describe any particular acts alleged to constitute a crime."

Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like what you're hearing from Team Trump these days, no?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Where's the crime? We haven't even named the crime.

ROGER STONE, FORMER DONALD TRUMP POLITICAL ADVISER, POLITICAL CONSULTANT, AUTHOR, LOBBYIST, STRATEGIST: There is still no evidence whatsoever of Russian collusion.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): There also is no crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Barr gamed the system at that time. He didn't break the law. Not accusing him of that. He just waited for the old Independent Counsel regs to expire. Then, he appointed a Special Examiner, a retired Judge, less time, less money, less freedom to dig deeply.

By keeping it in-house, Mr. Barr was able to draw his own conclusion and made sure as little as possible was made public. And he said then, he was just playing it by the book, just like he did on obstruction with Mueller, not illegally, but certainly a rigged game.

His warning at the time was that we cannot allow the criminal process to be used as a political weapon for our partisan purposes. Irony! By sitting on the results, that's exactly what the A.G. arguably did. By failing to be transparent, he empowered his opposition.

And here's the lesson about our potential future. Suddenly, it wasn't just about the underlying concerns. It was about the cover-up. Iraqgate became a cudgel to hit the Bush Administration.

The L.A. Times published more than a 100 stories digging into the scandal. The New York Times labeled the A.G., Coverup-General Barr. Not catchy, but it was convincing.

It wasn't until the Clinton Administration with A.G. Janet Reno that the public got a full report. In the end, President Bush was cleared of any criminality, just like this President has been. And just like then, Barr now clearly and consistently claims to be

going by the book while clearly advancing a no-holds Barr approach to protecting the President's interests. The outrage at his comments over the last two days suggests this A.G. is ready for round two.

So, the political question becomes this, the intersection of law and politics here is, is this OK for the A.G. to do? Is it a good play for the President?

That's the premise for a Great Debate. Let's have it, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: This is heady stuff we've seen the last two days.

The Attorney General said today he thinks the government spied on the Trump campaign. He said he has no proof. Then went on to blame the top echelon of the FBI for the spying, he says he can't prove.

This makes no sense coming from an Attorney General. But it makes complete sense coming from Team Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, HANNITY: This is a Deep State political hit job now spying on an opposition party campaign, FBI spies during an election.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): They don't want the American people to know that - that the DOJ and FBI used political dirt from one campaign paid for by the Democrats to go and spy on the Trump campaign.

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I said there could be somebody spying on my campaign, a lot of things happened. It was like it went wild out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: So, here's the question. Did our Attorney General just make it clear that he really is the President's Attorney-in-General? And, if so, is this good for the President long-term?

Let's use that as the start of a Great Debate with Van Jones and Scott Jennings. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: THE GREAT DEBATE.

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CUOMO: Scott Jennings, let's start on the plus side. Why is it good for the President to have his A.G. being an overt political friend?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well I didn't see his testimony that way.

I heard Attorney General Barr today say that he has concerns and that he wants to look into the surveillance and the investigation that was going on from the FBI and the Intelligence community into the Trump campaign.

He said he needed to find out if it was predicated properly. So, I don't have any problem with the Attorney General exercising some oversight. And I hope, frankly, that he comes up and says, "You know, I looked into it. And everything was done aboveboard." That--

CUOMO: OK.

JENNINGS: --that is the outcome we should desire. And - but we need an outcome because a heck of a lot of Americans think something funny went on here.

CUOMO: Here's the problem. There is something funny going on.

First of all, Van, he said he thinks there was spying, not that he's looking into it. And he already concluded that despite the fact the Inspector General for the Department of Justice is looking into it right now, not making it necessary for a secondary probe.

VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, DREAM CORPS CO-FOUNDER: Yes.

CUOMO: That's funny business, no?

JONES: Listen, if - if - if Barr had said what Scott just said, there'd be no story, there'd be no controversy because that's exactly the way you're supposed to talk about this stuff.

There - there may be something to look at. I'm not sure we're looking into it. That's not what he said. That's not what the Attorney General said. He said spying and spookery and all kind of other stuff.

And now, people are going nuts because there's something happening with the Department of Justice right now. People were, at first, very happy to have Barr there.

They said "Finally, we're going to have an adult watching the shop." And he started doing stuff that costs the confidence of the Democrats and costs the - the confidence of other people. First coming out with a four-page memo that very quickly some of his underlings said wasn't accurate, wasn't full, wasn't complete, then he goes and he says that - he throws the word spying out there.

[21:25:00] These are not the things that an Attorney General should be doing if he wants to reassure the country that we have the independence that we're supposed to have at the Department of Justice.

He's starting to do stuff that's scaring the heck out of people because it looks like he's playing a political game rather than playing it down the middle of the way you want Attorney General to do.

CUOMO: You worried about what this means for the President, Scott, because if he doesn't release information that satisfies people's curiosity about Mueller, if he starts taking on all of the kind of tit-for-tat tactics that the President has suggested, how does the President get closure on the Mueller questions?

How does he get cleared that the rule of law is what he's about instead of using it and bending it to his own needs?

JENNINGS: Well the great thing about this process is he has a real good chance to prove himself. He's going to release the Mueller report to Congress here very soon. He said, "Hopefully, next week."

And then, hopefully, in a short order after that, he would come back before Congress and say, "I looked into this other issue I mentioned, and here's what I found."

So, he's got two opportunities in the next few weeks to show people that the Department of Justice is being properly run. And I have every confidence that that's exactly what he's going to do.

What I don't have confidence in is that the Democrats are going to accept outcomes. He's clearly going to make redactions in the Mueller report, and they're not going to accept it when in fact he should be redacting some materials.

CUOMO: But--

JENNINGS: So, I'm - I'm worried that he's going to do his job. But it's never going to satisfy--

CUOMO: But isn't that exactly what's--

JENNINGS: --the President's political enemies.

CUOMO: --happening now in reverse is that, Van, Mueller came out with conclusions.

He couldn't make a decision on something which gave a very strong suggestion that there was enough potential proof of obstruction that he couldn't make a call, so Mueller made it. Not in the rule book.

JONES: Right. CUOMO: Now, he has his I.G. looking at a question. He must not like that it's not coming out fast enough the way he wants to, so he's going to look at it. That's not in the rule book. How is that--

JONES: Yes.

CUOMO: --showing that people can have faith in outcomes and there won't be political reprisals when this looks exactly like that?

JONES: I mean one of the things that we try to pride ourselves on the United States is that there are some institutions, not that any of them are perfect, but there are some institutions that try to maintain the appearance of being above partisanship. And the Department of Justice is one of those.

Not to say that you haven't had scandals, but at least you had the appearance. What happened?

You had Comey come out and put on a - a circus and a show around Hillary Clinton's investigation, and that seems to have just thrown this entire process to a different level where we - we've never seen it before.

Comey comes out. He does his circus. He does his show. Then he does something else. Now we've got Barr who rather than saying we are not ever going to do this again, we are going to restore--

CUOMO: Campaign.

JONES: --the - the - the - the FBI and the Department of Justice to the normal way of doing business, he shows up today and throws more fuel on the fire of disrespect and lack of confidence in our institutions.

And that is one of the big things we have to worry about going forward.

Long after the Trump Administration has - has moved on to other things, you're going to have a country that does not know whether our courts, which are being packed right now with Right-wing judges or our Department of Justice, our political institutions--

CUOMO: Right. But, listen--

JONES: --or independent institutions.

CUOMO: I'm OK with the packing of the judges. Elections have consequences. And you make the appointments that you want to make. I don't even think it's right for Congress now on the Democratic side to find ways to hold them up. Elections have consequences.

JONES: Yes. Well--

CUOMO: And appointees have to make it through. Otherwise, you're going to have it revisited on you.

JONES: Well then - then - then Obama should have had - had his pick when--

CUOMO: He should have.

JONES: --himself.

CUOMO: And that kind of tit-for-tat and what happened with Garland was wrong and it feeds disaffection and it winds up lowering people's expectations, and we got--

JONES: That's what I'm saying.

CUOMO: --lesser or lesser quality of people that get elected to office.

Two things that happened today that worry me, Scott, from a factual perspective, OK, that I can't believe the A.G. didn't know the correct answer to.

The first one was this when he misled people about what the campaign was told about what to look out for with Russian interference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: They had two former U.S. attorneys in Chris Christie and - and Rudy Giuliani involved in the campaign, and I don't understand why the campaign was not advised.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: But they were advised right after the RNC. I mean we all know this. This is a matter of simple facts.

So either this A.G. doesn't know, that's scary, that the campaign was told "Be careful! The Russians are trying to make lots of trouble for us. Be careful!" Or he does know, and he's trying to deceive. That leads to me to my second concern, Scott, with the ACA.

"Why are you litigating it?" "Well because we're in litigation, so we take a position." "Right, but you're only in litigation because the President told you to." He leaves that out. And then he says, "Well, listen, don't be upset. The President has a plan to replace the ACA."

That's not true, Scott. Everybody knows there is no plan until after the 2020 election. These are material misrepresentations of fact by the A.G. Why?

JENNINGS: Well I think we need an accounting of what the Trump campaign was told. I know we - we think they were told something. I'm not sure we know exactly what they were told.

There are other people involved in the campaign that say they weren't given a full accounting of exactly how they were being surveilled.

[21:30:00] So, I think if - if what he accomplishes here is getting a full accounting of what they were told and when and was what they were told appropriate, that is a good outcome because there are a lot of people in the Republican Party who think maybe the Trump campaign was not given the full picture of exactly what was going on.

So, I think there are different opinions about how much they knew. But if what Barr accomplishes is "Get it all out," I - I don't know why anyone in the general public would have a problem with that.

CUOMO: Well, "Get it all out," I'm with you. I'm a journalist, brother, more better, more better.

But, Van, do you think your party is up to this challenge? This A.G. has fought this fight before and, I would argue, won.

I would argue he won Iraqgate. He kept President Bush away from scrutiny. He made sure there was no outside counsel. And you didn't learn about how much high jinks there were until an administration later.

JONES: Well I mean he may have won but America lost. And - and I - and I was very proud to see Speaker Pelosi and others calling it like it is. This is off the rails.

We - we cannot just adapt to absurdity. You cannot have the - the - the Department of Justice, the Head of Department of Justice, the Attorney General and the top cop saying, "People in my organization, my agency are spying. But I don't know how and I don't know why and I have no facts, but they're spying."

Hold on a second, guys! That - that - you can't, even in a normal context, at your job have the boss come out and start accusing people of committing crimes and then have no facts.

So, part of what's going on here is I do think the Democrats have a hard - are going to have a hard time holding the line against the kind of stuff that we're seeing. But I do see Nancy Pelosi is up to the fight. And I see other Democrats who - who are ready to fight.

Look, I wish we could focus just on basic issues and people say, you know, the voters have moved on, they want to talk about other stuff. History has not moved on though. And history is going to hold everybody accountable for what happened here in getting to the facts.

CUOMO: Van, Scott, thank you very much. Certainly to be continued.

All right, let's keep with the theme of coordinated attempts to protect this President by people who are supposed to be protecting you and your interests.

News tonight from the Treasury Department on whether or not Congress will get to see the President's taxes. I'm telling you, that's already a problem. Forget about the deadline. This man should have never been setting a deadline. Secretary Mnuchin says I'm not handing them over. Why is he involved?

Let's take a look at the law and what it directs and figure out how the hell we got where we are right now, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TRUMP: I am the Law and Order candidate.

(CROWD CHEERING)

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CUOMO: Reconcile that with our present predicament.

First, the Attorney General, maybe, at the direction of this President, we don't know the details, but certainly taking the ball from Bob Mueller and Congress to make the call on whether the President obstructed justice. That is not in the Special Counsel guidelines. It's not in the law.

Then, we have Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary giving the President cover to hide his taxes. Here is the statute. Please, read it for yourself. It's from 1924. It's never been questioned. It's also never really been used.

It says "The Secretary shall furnish the committee with any return specified." Where does it say he gets to ask for time? Where does it get to say that he is negotiating any of this?

There is no wiggle room. Shall means what you think it means, must. Let's bring in a bonus Cuomo's Court, Elliot Williams, Jim Schultz.

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TEXT: CUOMO'S COURT.

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CUOMO: Jim Schultz, I toss the ball to you first. What am I getting wrong here? The statute is as plain speak as you can get written back in 1924. This is how it works. This is what you do. How did we get here?

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Look, the President's lawyers are all - already out there making the argument that there has to be a legitimate legislative purchase - purpose, not purchase, purpose to the request. And that in this case harassing the President or anyone else

politically for political purposes, their argument is going to be that it's not a legitimate purpose, and it wasn't the intent of the statute.

But you're right. The plain language on its face says shall furnish. And they can - they can likely take some time. And the court would give them some time to evaluate whether they're going to--

CUOMO: But they haven't. But, all right, Jimmy, I hear the argument.

SCHULTZ: --produce that or not.

CUOMO: But here's the problem. Let me bounce it to Williams.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, THE RABEN GROUP'S GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS PRACTICE GROUP PRINCIPAL: Yes.

CUOMO: They haven't gone to court to challenge an order. They haven't gone to court to challenge this. They've used the Treasury Secretary--

SCHULTZ: Well the--

CUOMO: --as a proxy for their own legal case. How is that OK, Mr. Williams?

WILLIAMS: Oh, it's not. And, Chris, let's have a little quick history lesson here. Go back to 1924 and why this law was written in the first place.

It was written to protect against misconduct and unfair dealing by the President of the United States and - and other elected officials. This was written after the Teapot Dome scandal of the - of the 1920s that - that brought in President Warren G. Harding.

So, this is exactly the - the purpose that this statute was written for, right? And so, we want to ensure, as a country, that the President of United States and other elected officials are not engaging in misconduct, and - financially.

And, to be clear, like you said in your tease, Chris, the - the statute says "Shall." There's not, you know, we're all lawyers on this panel, you know, sometimes there's language that's unclear. There's wiggle room or whatever.

This is quite clear on its face that this is an individual, you know, it's an individual set of tax returns. And - and so, the President doesn't really have an excuse here. And this idea of well I was under audit and so my taxes and so I can't disclose--

CUOMO: That's never been an excuse.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

CUOMO: That's something he says a lot and that is supposed to be a proxy for proof. It isn't.

WILLIAMS: Oh, it's - it's not--

CUOMO: Being under audit is not a reason to not produce taxes. He can say any lawyer will tell you that. That's not what the IRS will tell you. But, Jimmy--

WILLIAMS: No, and--

CUOMO: --just be clear about this. They're getting back here (ph). Just to be--

SCHULTZ: The audit - the audit, Chris, isn't going to come - isn't going to come up in a context of this case.

CUOMO: Well but the President keeps bringing it up. That's what I'm trying to say he's distracting us.

SCHULTZ: But I want to go back to the challenge (ph)--

CUOMO: I'm not saying he doesn't have a case to make. I'm saying he's not supposed to use the Treasury Secretary as his lawyer in this situation--

SCHULTZ: Well he's not - and he's not--

CUOMO: --to fight his fight.

SCHULTZ: --using the Treasury Secretary as his lawyer. So, the Treasury Secretary can make a determination or the IRS Commissioner by - and Treasury Department can make a determination on this.

CUOMO: No.

SCHULTZ: And, at that point, then it's on Congress, Chris.

CUOMO: No, it says "Shall."

SCHULTZ: Procedurally, then it's on Congress to - to hold them in contempt if they feel--

CUOMO: Did you just - did you just say that line through gritted teeth, Jimmy?

SCHULTZ: --they have paces to do so.

CUOMO: Jimmy, did you just say something--

SCHULTZ: And then - and then another--

CUOMO: --through gritted teeth?

SCHULTZ: No. I was just finishing. So - so, it's all--

CUOMO: I thought you said something through gritted teeth. Go ahead. SCHULTZ: --up to Congress to then hold them in contempt then and go - go to the D.C. courts after the fact to actually hold them in contempt and ask for relief seeking to produce those documents.

CUOMO: But wait a minute.

SCHULTZ: And then a court gets involved. So--

CUOMO: Wait a minute. Elliot?

SCHULTZ: --no, the President doesn't need to go at this point in time to protect those documents. It's the decision that the Treasury Department--

CUOMO: Of course, it--

SCHULTZ: --can make.

CUOMO: All right, Jimmy--

SCHULTZ: And you know what? They - they have a legitimate - they have - they have arguments to be made.

[21:40:00] CUOMO: Jimmy, I hear you. Don't filibuster whole time. I don't have that much time.

SCHULTZ: Well I think - what about this? What about this?

CUOMO: Hold on a second. One point at a time, Jimmy.

SCHULTZ: Let me give you one thing (ph). What if--

CUOMO: One point at a time.

SCHULTZ: --what if the Senate Finance Committee--

CUOMO: Jimmy, one point at a time.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

CUOMO: Elliot?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

SCHULTZ: All right.

CUOMO: That is not how litigation works when you don't like--

WILLIAMS: Yes.

CUOMO: --the operation of a statute.

WILLIAMS: Right.

CUOMO: You don't mangle and the IRS gets to figure out whether or not they want to comply. Why would they think about whether or not they want to comply unless they were advancing the interest of the President of the United States?

WILLIAMS: And - and - and, again, Chris, just big picture here. Look at what's at issue. Every single President of the United States since Richard Nixon has made their tax returns public.

Every single Presidential candidate of both parties since I believe the United States (ph)--

CUOMO: And Nixon was under audit when he did it.

WILLIAMS: It was under audit too. And - and, again, as we said, the audit issue has no bearing here on Congress' ability to do it.

CUOMO: Jimmy agrees with that.

WILLIAMS: Yes. So--

SCHULTZ: Yes, I agree.

WILLIAMS: But - but, you know, but - but I think, you know, we're getting into the minutia of this 1924 statute when really the big picture question here is there is a basic norm of government that's been violated by this President, A.

B, we have a statute that is designed to stamp out financial misconduct. And the President's just not complying with it, and the President's doing everything to get off it (ph).

SCHULTZ: No, no, first off, there wasn't a basic norm of government.

WILLIAMS: Look--

SCHULTZ: It was a basic norm of Presidential campaigns. There's a big difference there.

WILLIAMS: OK. No, it's - but--

SCHULTZ: But let's go back to - one second. What about this, Chris?

WILLIAMS: --President of the United States did it (ph).

SCHULTZ: The Senate Finance Committee, Chris--

WILLIAMS: Yes.

SCHULTZ: The Senate Finance Committee is Republican right now. So, the Senate Financial Committee now wants to ask for the tax returns of - of Nancy Pelosi--

CUOMO: OK.

SCHULTZ: --of a number of Democrats in Congress--

CUOMO: OK.

SCHULTZ: --for the sole purpose, just like the Democrats want to do, to--

CUOMO: That's an assumption.

SCHULTZ: --politically harass those. Well--

CUOMO: That's - that's an assumption.

SCHULTZ: So, so if the - if the--

WILLIAMS: No--

SCHULTZ: --purpose behind this is political harassment--

CUOMO: Don't make that argument in court. Don't have the Treasury Secretary make it.

SCHULTZ: --and - and not legitimate oversight or legitimate - legislative purpose, I'm--

CUOMO: Go argue it in court.

SCHULTZ: --I'm - I'm saying this in the hypothetical. I'm saying this in the hypothetical.

CUOMO: The Treasury Secretary doesn't get to make the case for the President.

WILLIAMS: But--

SCHULTZ: So, they will argue in court, Chris in the appropriate--

WILLIAMS: And moreover, Chris, the President--

SCHULTZ: --at the appropriate time, you know, when - when Congress seeks to compel them to produce this information before the courts.

WILLIAMS: We are forgetting it could have been--

SCHULTZ: That's how it works.

WILLIAMS: If I can get - can I get - can I get a point?

CUOMO: Go ahead, Elliot. You got to fight your way in here. This is a dog fight on this show. Get in.

WILLIAMS: All right, no doubt, no doubt, no doubt. I think we're also forgetting Congress' role as a co-equal branch of government whose job it is to oversee the Executive.

Look, I've - I've had - I've had the pleasure of working in both branches of government, the legislative and the executive. My former boss, Sally Yates used to say, "I welcome Congressional oversight because it helps me and us do our jobs better."

And we should be welcoming Congress investigating the United States.

SCHULTZ: That's right.

WILLIAMS: Put the Nancy Pelosi question out of this because that's irrelevant to Congress, Chairs of Congressional Committees overseeing whether the Executive branch is being run effectively, whether the Head of the Executive branch either as--

SCHULTZ: Hold on, but--

WILLIAMS: Hold on, let me finish. I let you finish.

Either, you know, as - either as the Head of the Executive branch or as a Congressional - as a candidate for President, either as engaged in financial misconduct, and particularly given that, I think, a 11 jurisdictions around the country are investigating him, including for financial crimes and financial misconduct.

It's - it doesn't stretch logic to think that we should, as a country, be entitled to - to review these tax returns through the Chairs of the Committees.

CUOMO: He's--

WILLIAMS: And, remember, one more thing. This Congressional provision actually is less expansive than former folks have done because this would only be a closed session of Congress by the Chairs of the Committee.

It wouldn't even be released to the--

CUOMO: Fair point, doesn't get to everybody. And look, also--

WILLIAMS: --wouldn't even be released to the public. It's not a public disclosure.

CUOMO: --we wouldn't even have been here. Listen, I'm out of time.

SCHULTZ: But what you're doing is you're--

CUOMO: I'm out of time, fellas.

SCHULTZ: --conflating oversight and the statute.

CUOMO: Look--

SCHULTZ: And that's what you're doing here. I think that's something will allow (ph)--

WILLIAMS: Well there are two different - the base - under both--

SCHULTZ: --the Senate Finance Committee to do just that.

CUOMO: No.

WILLIAMS: Under both circumstances--

CUOMO: Right. WILLIAMS: --both the statute and Congress' oversight power--

CUOMO: Right.

WILLIAMS: --there's - there's projection for getting this out (ph).

CUOMO: But let's just be very clear. Elliot--

WILLIAMS: Yes.

CUOMO: --and Jimmy, we got to agree this. The only reason we're here is because the President wouldn't put out his taxes. And I think the irony is--

WILLIAMS: For years ago, yes.

CUOMO: --I don't even know that anything's going to come out in them that's going to be so damning to begin with.

WILLIAMS: Right.

CUOMO: This is a situation where the cover is going to be worse than the reveal.

But Jimmy, Elliot, appreciate it. Thank you very much fellas--

WILLIAMS: Thanks.

CUOMO: --for making the case.

All right, just minutes away now, you saw that little box on the bottom, CNN's new 2020 Town Hall, the next Democratic Presidential candidate at bat is Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

And we're taking this up. Twitter's credibility, such as it is, took a big blow today. Hey, you Democrats, you think you're represented the right way on there? Some facts you're not going to like.

And D. Lemon, you may like him, next.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Democrats are united when it comes to opposing this President and his machinations with his different members of his cabinet. But within the party, the Democratic Party itself, there's an identity

crisis, moderates versus progressives. If you're part of the conversation on social media, you probably think the party is lurching to the left, progressives all but taking over.

But a New York Times analysis of new voter data revealed something else. The Democratic electorate online is not the actual Democratic electorate.

In fact, all those outspoken Dem-leaning voters are outnumbered by just about two to one by more moderate, more diverse, and less educated groups of Democrats who do not typically post political content online. It is they who will decide the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Let's bring in D. Lemon. Now, I will certainly get beaten up on Twitter for what I just said.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: But I - I'll take my bow here because I always say--

CUOMO: Oh, please.

LEMON: --the loudest voices aren't necessarily the majority, and they aren't always right. And you know, I always get on you because I say, Chris, why do you respond to people who have two followers or A, they won't identify themselves.

CUOMO: Because I'm engaged. I'm hoi polloi, not hoity-toity, it's true.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh. It's not even it. What I'm telling you is that they don't even represent the electorate. It - Twitter is an outrage machine. Everybody goes there to be outraged.

CUOMO: True.

LEMON: The headline would be nobody on Twitter was outraged today or very few people.

CUOMO: Fair point.

LEMON: Yes. So, I just - and I - and I do think that in this, there is a lesson for Democrats, and I also think there's a lesson for the media, as well, and I think there's a lesson for Conservatives.

Number one, we'll start with the Conservatives. It - it says that this party is not the group of socialists that you're making it out to be.

For the media, it means you should pay less attention to those loud voices in the criticism from online.

And for Democrats is that is you should be more concerned about your traditional Democratic center-left candidates because they are probably the ones who will get you to the Presidency--

CUOMO: You know what though?

LEMON: --more so than the - the progressive-left.

CUOMO: Because the media vibes so much off Twitter, and let's be honest why they do it. They do it because it's easy.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: Why dig for real sources when you can just get some guy on Twitter whose face may or may not be his own as a source for your reporting? But it brings fame to the new women warriors in the party. AOC comes to mind. She's already a set of initials in the political parlance.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: But you know who gets it? Pelosi.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: She has been saying all along "Impeachment? I don't know. New Green Deal? I don't know." Let's stick to traditional bread-and-butter issues. That's what got them through the midterms. She believes that's their ticket going forward.

But I must say as a point against interest. Don Lemon, you do refer to yourself as the Twitter King on your page, do you not?

LEMON: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: All right, so then you know--

LEMON: Because I - because I know how to use it.

CUOMO: Oh, that's what makes--

LEMON: I don't waste my time--

CUOMO: --someone the Twitter King?

LEMON: --I don't waste my time on things that there shouldn't be. I - I use it when I have to. But, you know, I've sort of backed away. It's become - it's become really, really a terrible, toxic environment.

But listen, this - this - this shows to go you or goes to show you that we - we had all this consternation about Joe Biden, right, and making people uncomfortable.

CUOMO: Not us.

LEMON: I'm - I meant the country.

CUOMO: Oh.

[21:50:00] LEMON: Right? And Democrats had all of this - 71 percent of California voters said it wasn't a big deal. Most Democratic voters say that is not a big deal. They were making too much out of it.

Joe Biden is still - now, they would give Joe Biden the benefit of the doubt and he is still the leader even though he's undeclared, a lesson there. A traditional Democrat, maybe you should start thinking about that.

Twitter fame isn't necessarily the person who's going to get you across the finish line.

CUOMO: A 100 percent. And, as I said, I believe, to you, maybe in a segment exactly like this one, Joe Biden's biggest challenge intra- party--

LEMON: Is Joe Biden?

CUOMO: --are yet to come. They got to figure out who they want to be.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And whether or not he fits that perception of the party. We'll see.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: He still has to worry about being eaten by his own. That is fair.

LEMON: I'm going to have an amazing conversation with the former Director of National Intelligence about "Were they briefed?" Was - President said he wasn't briefed on Russia and all of this stuff. And you're going to want to hear.

CUOMO: Well we do know that it happened, July, after the RNC, the campaign was told be careful about the Russians. That'll be a great conversation.

LEMON: See you at 11.

CUOMO: D. Lemon, see you.

Bill Barr's spying comments that's what Don's conversation is going to riff off of. It obviously struck a big chord today. But I don't think you should be surprised by what you heard. I think you should be prepared.

I made a case yesterday about who Mr. Barr really is. He made the case for me today. The proof, ahead.

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[21:55:00] CUOMO: All right, we argued last night that Mr. Barr is not neutral. Now that argument is all but confirmed as fact after yesterday and today, during which we have never seen an official more openly flout the same rules he purports to adhere to.

One pushback, however, on the Dems' outrage, saying that Mr. Barr is off the rails is wrong. He is right on track. He is no-holds Barr when it comes to serving the interests of the man who picked him.

The evidence? Comments back in 2017 that the probe was unnecessary promoting the President's notion that the entire probe is "taking on the look of an entirely political operation to overthrow the President," that it is all but impossible for POTUS to obstruct justice.

A few months later, he emailed a New York Times reporter to swipe at Hillary Clinton while attacking the Mueller investigation again.

"I have long believed that the predicate for investigating the uranium deal, as well as the foundation, is far stronger than any basis for investigating so-called collusion."

June 2018, completely unsolicited, Barr sends a memo to the DOJ saying the same thing, arguing the President is above the law essentially. Look at his own language. "There is no legal prohibition as opposed to a political constraint against the President's acting on a matter in which he has a personal stake."

Remember that. He said that then. But when Mueller said "I can't make a decision," ostensibly leaving it to Congress, he took it from Mueller. Why, if he saw it as a political consideration?

What playbook is the A.G. following? This one.

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TRUMP: It was an illegal investigation. It was started illegally. Everything about it was crooked.

And this was a - an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a President.

Hopefully, the Attorney General, he mentioned it yesterday, he's doing a great job, getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started.

And what they did was treason.

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CUOMO: From Trump's lips to the AJ - A.G.'s ears. 30 minutes later, Barr said this.

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BARR: Spying on a political campaign is a big deal.

I think there was the - spying did occur.

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CUOMO: He thinks. Do you have proof? No. Listen.

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SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Have you any evidence that there was anything improper in those investigations?

BARR: I've no specific evidence that I would cite right now. I do have questions about it.

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CUOMO: Questions! But he already came to a conclusion. The Attorney General? That's not playing it by the book. That will become a mantra, the common frustration that Feds never talk about ongoing investigations, and that's playing it by the book.

Now this A.G. gives a conclusion before an investigation has even started.

By the book, you don't open an investigation into something that is already being investigated by your own Inspector General, and to look at the roots of the Russia probe, including any surveillance of the campaign, is ongoing.

Yet, this A.G. has started his own team. That's not going by the book. Saying there was spying, that's a dirty word for surveillance, usually used by opponents of our law enforcement community, not by its Head. That's not by the book.

Saying today the campaign wasn't informed of Russia interference when it was in July 2016 right after the RNC, that's not playing it by the book.

Finding ways to limit disclosure of the Mueller report, taking the decision on obstruction from Mueller, misleading Congress about the President litigating the ACA, Obamacare, saying he has a plan to replace it, misstating that the Administration had changed the rules to prohibit family separation, none of that is by the book.

So, the President has clearly made this Attorney General his plenipotentiary, fully empowered proxy on all matters legal. He is the President's lawyer.

Proof. "Want my taxes?" says the President, "Ask the A.G." Neither POTUS - POTUS, nor the A.G., have any say over the statute that was passed by Congress, and clearly lays out a process for obtaining taxes has nothing to do with either of them. "Want the Mueller report? I leave it to the A.G." "Get rid of the ACA? Go at it A.G."

Don't be deceived by Barr's sense of calm. That's not - his - his ease is a function not of clear conscience but of comfort in the position, protecting a President from political scrutiny. This is who Barr was in Iraqgate, who he was allowing then President Bush to avoid scrutiny, blocking transparency.

Remember Maya Angelou, our Poet Laureate who taught us something powerful and prosaic. "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

That's it for us tonight. It is now time for CNN's big-time Presidential Town Hall, Governor Jay Inslee starts right now.