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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Biden Courts Middle-Class, Targets Trump At Kickoff Rally; Trump Tries To Rewrite His Charlottesville Comments; Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein Gives Resignation Letter To Trump. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 29, 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: --was surrounded by friends and loved ones when he was taken off life support at a Los Angeles hospital.

In 1992, at the age of just 24, Singleton became the youngest person and first African-American ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. That was Boyz n the Hood. He went on to direct Poetic Justice, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and a reboot of Shaft.

John Singleton was just 51 years old.

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

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

Joe Biden makes his first big rallying cry promising to restore the soul of the country, calling out a President who he says is all about stoking hate.

Now, the former VP showed his strategy. Let's test it versus what his main competitor in the polls, Senator Bernie Sanders has to offer. Sanders' Campaign Co-Chair is here tonight.

Then, why now? Why is this President trying to change what the world heard him say about both sides being to be blamed for Charlottesville? Why is he playing down the threat of Right-wing extremism? Is this a winning strategy? It will certainly be a great debate.

And Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigns. But he adds to his enigma with his last letter. What's the message? Who is it meant for?

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Joe Biden says he is here to fight. And today, he laid out for whom and for what?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The country wasn't built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs and hedge - and hedge fund managers. It was built by you. It was built by the great American middle-class.

(CROWD CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: First rally as Presidential candidate, the former Veep took his message right to blue-collar workers in his home state battleground of Pennsylvania.

Now, he's not talking in general. Everything was about him versus this President. That is different from the Democratic field, positioning himself as the one to beat Trump.

Team Bernie might have a thing or two to say about that. We have the Co-Chair of Sanders 2020 campaign, Congressman Ro Khanna. Good to see you, Congressman.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Chris, good to be on.

CUOMO: So, what did you pick up from Joe Biden today?

KHANNA: Well I'm glad that Vice President Biden spoke about unions. I think it's terrific that he stood up for the middle-class. But ultimately, I think this country is going to want someone who is going to bring change.

And Bernie Sanders is the candidate who can speak against endless wars, who can speak against the argument we made in giving China Most Favored Nation status. And I think, ultimately, his message will be more compelling.

CUOMO: Now, you - I heard Senator Sanders who was on Anderson's show, before this one. And he said he likes Joe Biden. But he was against NAFTA. Joe Biden was for it. He was against DOMA. Biden was for it. The war, again, TPP, again.

Question, Bernie Sanders, if he were to get in, what proof do we have that he could make deals instead of just making demands because he's often against things that wind up getting bipartisan support?

KHANNA: I would look at what we did on Yemen. We passed, for the first time in history, a War Powers Resolution through the Senate and through the House. It had bipartisan support.

Seven Republicans in the Senate, including Senator Rand Paul and Senator Lee, many Republicans in the House, and it was an effort to stop our alliance with the Saudis. That was a clear example of Senator Sanders getting stuff done and working with a broad coalition.

CUOMO: All those years in the Senate, what else can you point to?

KHANNA: I can point to the raise of Amazon workers. Jeff Bezos credit Senator Sanders. He is directly responsible with legislation we did for 350,000 Americans getting a raise to $15, and that's him being a minority senator.

And then, of course, there have been numerous amendments that he has gotten through. So, I - I do believe he will be incredibly effective.

And then, you have to give him credit for having every candidate - major candidate now sparking - speaking about Medicare-for-All and even President Obama acknowledging that Medicare-for-All should be part of the discussion.

CUOMO: Now, is it the right discussion to have? Is it the winning discussion, or as Nancy Pelosi's posture, more of where the Democratic Party is going to wind up, which is let's save the ACA?

They want to go the litigation route. They want to fight it. He's - this President is having the A.G. fight it. "Now we can save the ACA, leave Medicare-for-All as an ambition for another day. Win now."

KHANNA: I agree, we should save the ACA.

But, Chris, when you elect a President, people don't want just to save what a past President did. You can't just say, "OK, I'm going to save what Lyndon Johnson did or what Obama did." They want "What are you going to do to take our country forward?"

[21:05:00] And here's why Medicare-for-All matters. It's going to save people costs. They get it. We shouldn't be giving all of these profits to Aetna's CEO making $59 million a year and having the middle-class pay for it. It will lower costs. It will help small business.

CUOMO: It might.

KHANNA: So that they don't have to bear that cost.

CUOMO: It might. The transition costs could be crippling. You know this. And there's no reason to bury people in the details just yet, Ro.

But I'll tell you, I invite the Senator on, on a regular basis. I was on the stage with him the other night at the Town Hall. I tell him on a regular basis, "Come on, make your pitch about healthcare, I'll give you more time than anybody because the devil's in the details."

The transition costs could be crippling. How do you get around them?

KHANNA: Well I would say a few things. First, it makes economic sense in a time of a digital age where people have to change jobs. Right now, the biggest reason you can't be an entrepreneur or change jobs is because your healthcare is tied to your employer.

And if you talk to the companies in Silicon Valley, many of whom, by the way, support Medicare-for-All, they will tell you the reason they're outsourcing jobs is not because of the wage differential, it's because of healthcare costs. We're paying far more than other countries. Taiwan has a single-payer system. And Heritage Foundation ranks that as a free market economy more free than the United States. But they understand that they don't want profits going to insurance and pharmaceuticals.

The average American, I think, will save money. Now, I agree with you. It's a huge transition. The insurance industry is 1.7 trillion. It employs 500,000 people.

Bernie Sanders' plan allows still for supplemental private insurance, if you read the details of the plan. And we have to figure out how we make this transition. But I think he will say--

CUOMO: Well then you raise a good point though, and I respect you for bringing it up yourself, which is it has become one of the top two or three, if not "The," depending on which metric you want to look at, main employers in the country.

So, when you say, "Hey, this is going to mean that government will absorb more of this, there'll be less private sector," you could wind up costing people jobs.

KHANNA: Well the transition is very important. And people can work in numerous other ways. They can help administer Medicare. They can help work in other healthcare jobs that are going to be created with telemedicine. I think the transition is very important, and anyone honest has to look at that.

But the basic point is, and you know who agreed with the single-payer system? Donald Trump. In the America, we deserve, in 2000, he wrote that the Canadian system is better because it gives more benefits, and it has less cost.

And the average American, here's what it's going to mean. Instead of paying $5,000 to a private insurance company, on average, now you're going to pay a much smaller fee, and who's going to lose out? The insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies, and you're going to get to keep your doctor and have better care.

I believe many entrepreneurs - Warren Buffett has talked about Medicare-for-All. It's the single biggest cause for wage stagnation. Vice President Biden is absolutely right. Middle-class wages have stagnated.

If you talk to economists, the reason for wage stagnation is the rising healthcare premiums. Employers have been giving their money to healthcare costs as opposed to raising wages. And this is why we have to make the economic argument for Medicare-for-All.

CUOMO: Well it will be interesting. Obviously, you're going to have to find ways to make this all digestible for the American people, deal with the opposition in party, and see if you get the ticket to take it to the President, and we'll watch it all along the way. And Congressman, you are invited here to make the case when you can.

KHANNA: Well, Chris, I really appreciate the opportunity. And I'll tell Senator Sanders he should come on too.

CUOMO: Oh, he knows, and he's always welcome. Be well. So--

KHANNA: Thank you.

CUOMO: --Bernie or Biden or another? Now, this is different, what we saw from the VP today. He came out. "I'm going at Trump. I'm going at Trump. That's what I'm doing." We haven't seen that.

That's not what Bernie Sanders does. He talks to you about ideas. Beto O'Rourke, you just saw, he's talking policy.

So, what do you make of that posture? We have two political experts. One is who Biden must win over. The other is the kind of person he wants to peel off from the Right. How do they feel, the state of play?

And there's no need to debate if the President gave you the perfect answer during the Charlottesville or if his meaning was mistaken. I'm going to show you the truth of the context and the content, and you decide, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: "I am not one of many. I am the one and only." That is what I took from Joe Biden's message today. He was talking about taking on Trump, one-on-one, mano a mano. And the President seems to have taken the bait on Twitter at least.

Today, he gave the former VP, who held his first major campaign rally, a big turbo boost, mentioned him in several tweets, despite his advisers warning him not to.

Aw, what a theme that has become!

Let's have two politicos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: THE GREAT DEBATE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: They represent the group Biden must win and the one he wants to appeal to from the Right. Paul Begala, Ana Navarro, thanks to both of you. So, let's start with posture, and then we'll go with what he staked out as an original position.

So, Paul, the idea of what I just said in the intro, "I'm not talking about anybody else in the field. It's just me." How do you feel about that?

PAUL BEGALA, POLITICAL CONSULTANT, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's very--

CUOMO: Righteous or reckless?

BEGALA: --very smart, Chris. It won't last. You know, he'll have to engage his opponents at some point.

But I think I am typical of many Democrats. I'm a lifelong Democrat. And I have no candidate yet in this field. First time in my life, I've not had a candidate that I've preferred in the primaries.

I'm going to watch and see how they develop. But this is what I'm looking for. I'm a JFK Democrat.

I will pay any price, bear any burden, support any friend, oppose any foe, to ensure the defeat of Donald J. Trump. You could be for Medicare-for-All or not, you could - you could shoot my dog, and if I think you can beat Trump, I'm going to be for you.

CUOMO: Well that's very mainstream of you. So, Ana, look, we all know how you feel about this President. However, you represent a strain of compassionate conservative that Joe Biden is hoping will listen to his message. Does he have a chance of that?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, absolutely.

Look, I think people, like me, disenfranchised Republicans, people who do not want to vote for Trump, in my case, who will not vote for Trump, want to have somebody that they can vote for enthusiastically, and without feeling like they are betraying our ideology, our principles and our convictions.

Joe Biden, for me, is such a person. Look, I'm - I'm biased. I've known him for 20 years. I knew him as a Senator. I knew him as a Vice President, as a candidate, the first time. I knew him, you know, as a - as a regular citizen, and now as a candidate.

And one of the things that I really like about him is that he's never changed. He's been the same guy that I've known for 20 years.

But there are some people and, you know, in the - in the Democratic field who are, I think, rather scary to Right-leaning independents, centrists and disenfranchised Republicans, anti-Trump Republicans, like me.

You start talking about 70 percent tax rates. That scares us. Look, the idea of a Joe Biden, who's got the experience, who is calling to our better angels, who is talking about unity, but, you know, I, like Paul, you know, there's no way I will vote for Trump, even if--

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

NAVARRO: --even if he shoots Paul's dog because he better not shoot mine.

[21:15:00] CUOMO: I get it. Enough with the shooting of the dog. That's the only thing all Americans care about here.

NAVARRO: You know, and I - yes, I--

BEGALA: Let's - let's leave the dogs alone.

NAVARRO: No - no animals - no animals will be harmed in the making of this - of this democracy. But, look--

CUOMO: But I - I hear you. I hear you. But I want to--

NAVARRO: --but - but I - I mean if I - I also, you know, I look at - at the field of candidates that the Democrats have, and to me, it looks like this Benetton ad, right?

I mean there's - there's like one of everything, every age, every gender, you know, sexuality, color, shade, language, it's - it's a - it's an amazing kind of celebration of diversity.

And I would say to Democrats, "Let it play out. See who does best. See who can perform best." There's no reason why you have to, you know, this is not an arranged marriage. Enjoy it.

CUOMO: Well, look, there's something to be said by that. The only problem they have is they have to win.

And Democrats have a problem, with all due respect, Paul, of falling in love with the idea of what a Democrat's supposed to be, and that it's got to be everything for everybody and the dream is alive.

And then, you wind up getting your butt whooped because you didn't think about the Xs and the Os and where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, so that takes me to this.

The economy is going to be the President's cudgel against the Left. He's going to say "Look what I did." Now, I could argue the numbers all night, but it's about the feel of it.

Here was Joe Biden on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The stock market is roaring. But you don't feel it. There's $2 trillion tax cut last - last year. Did you feel it? Did you get anything from it?

(CROWD SHOUTS NO)

BIDEN: Of course not, of course not. All of it went to folks at the top.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, ordinarily, Paul, feel versus facts placed this President. He's going with the feelings, even if the numbers don't match up.

You look at the growth rate of this economy over the last two get - decades, it's always around 3 percent. So, we're not breaking any records right now, but it feels like it.

Can feel work for Biden on this issue?

BEGALA: Absolutely, if you're speaking, like he does, right to the middle-class.

You know, the ABC News/Washington Post poll came out today. 62 percent of Americans believe the economy works for the privileged and the powerful, not for the middle-class, 62 percent, that's still almost two-thirds of the country when we're supposedly booming. I give free advice to Joe Biden and all the Democrats, very important

to litigate that tax cut. It's very unpopular. The dip in the President's approval came not only after the Mueller report, but after April 15th, when lots of middle-class families did not get the tax rebate they thought they were going to get.

And - and if I were the Democrats, I guess I am a Democrat, if I were advising any of them--

CUOMO: Yes.

BEGALA: --I would stitch together that $2 trillion tax cut with, get this, I've looked at the Trump budget.

There's a $2 trillion cut in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, $1.5 trillion cut in Medicaid, $845 billion cut in Medicare, $25 billion cut in Social Security, guess what, that matches up pretty well.

Mr. Trump and his party want to cut the middle-class and give it to corporate America, and the very, very wealthy.

And I think that's a message that can stitch together the base that my party needs, the swing voters in the suburbs who were trying to reach, and yes, even the rural voters, who we have sadly lost. I think that kind of thing can be a - a web issue, not a wedge issue.

CUOMO: The President is at about--

NAVARRO: Yes, and I - I--

CUOMO: --90 percent in your party, Ana.

NAVARRO: Right.

CUOMO: Do you think that you can find a Democrat talking economics that wins over the head of a Republican?

NAVARRO: Yes, of that 10 percent. Look, I think that - I think that Trump's base is loyal to Trump. They think he does no wrong. And they are going to stick with him no matter what. We've already seen that through the last three years.

God knows he has done and said enough things where most traditional Republicans should have stayed away from supporting him, but that's not happening.

And, to me, you know, the reason Joe Biden is getting under his skin and is in his head, is because Joe Biden can appeal to the same folks that Trump appealed to, people that have fallen through the cracks of this economy.

But Joe Biden appeals to them from an optimistic angle. One of the things he said today is hope over fear. He said, you know, truth over lies, unity over division, because that is what we are in the United States of America.

Those words stuck with me. So, you can - I think, you know, with Joe - Joe Biden is not delving into the - right now into the - the - the weeds, the policy weeds of taking on his other Democrats.

And one of the things that I - I hope was a lesson learned from 2016 for Democrats and for people who didn't want Trump elected is that there are some things in life that are binary choices.

And so, I hope that this Democratic primary is such that it doesn't leave, you know, bitter feelings where folks don't end up voting for the - the - the eventual nominee like happened in 2016, where you saw Bernie Bros, and you saw when whatever their female equivalent is, you know, say "OK, Hillary didn't fill my love tank. I'm not going to - I'm going to sit home and I'm going to vote for Jill Stein or for the pothead from your New Mexico or for, you know, a ride-in (ph) Mickey Mouse, whatever."

[21:20:00] Folks, some things in life are binary choices. It's going to be Trump and whomever is running against Trump. So, don't make enemies to the point where you can't then kiss and make up.

CUOMO: Thank you for that slew of nicknames. I'm sure that it will make Twitter very happy. Ana Navarro, Paul Begala, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

NAVARRO: I there - forgot his name.

CUOMO: As - nobody will ever remember his name--

NAVARRO: And I don't smoke pot.

CUOMO: --now. Thank you.

All right, so we know what happened this weekend, another synagogue attack, another beautiful life stolen.

Does the President still think that White nationalism is not a threat that it's not a rising problem? Why is he trying to revise his record on Charlottesville all of a sudden?

We have questions that must be answered, next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Now, for the reality of what happened during Charlottesville, forget Left and Right, just for a second, let's just be reasonable, all right? This is how the President describes the controversial answer he gave during the Charlottesville situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if you look at what I said, you will see that that question was answered perfectly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, we can't argue that it was answered perfectly because it was so controversial, so it couldn't have been perfect. What did he say? Here is the exact context of how it came up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President (ph), Heather Heyer died--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They showed - they showed up in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The protestors--

TRUMP: Excuse me. They didn't put themselves down as neo and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, that's how it came up, all right? It was about the violence that happened in Charlottesville. That's the truth. There is no other version of this conversation that is more accurate.

However, now that a re-election is coming or maybe that White nationalist attacks are more out in the open, more obvious, the President and his people are saying the answer was twisted. They say he was talking about something else. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[21:25:00] TRUMP: People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He's talking - he was talking about the debate over removing statues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: But here's the problem. The President was not asked about the debate on monuments. Please listen again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President (ph), Heather Heyer died--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They showed - they showed up in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The protestors--

TRUMP: Excuse me. They didn't put themselves down as neo and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, again, if you're talking about the violence that took place in Charlottesville, there was no protest going on that was nice and not nice.

It was 100 percent an outgrowth of a march organized by White supremacists like Richard Spencer, featured speakers like David Duke. It was not part of any peaceful anything.

Fact, this is what was happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD MARCHING AND CHANTING JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Enough, enough with that.

Trump's own DOJ is charging four men in connection with the Unite The Right rally. They call them serial rioters, saying their group organizes, trains, and deploys to various political rallies to engage in acts of violence, not about monuments, not about good people, not about both sides, OK? And Robert E. Lee - it was a Nazi rally. Period! Here's why it matters. As Jews are attacked in San Diego and Pittsburgh, Muslims targeted in New Zealand, Black churches burned in Louisiana, this POTUS says White supremacy is not that big a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Compare that to what his own FBI Director says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: The danger, I think, of White supremacists, it's a persistent pervasive threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: And the only time he really talked about both sides was when he was equating the Nazis with those who were there to fight them, what he called the Alt-Left.

That's when he was saying that. And that's the only time it's applicable because those were the two fights that we were having, right that - that was the fight day.

However, what do we see? This President goes after extreme Islamist terrorists all the time, never qualifies like he just did about the White supremacists. He even says Islam hates us. He never says anything that big that aggressive towards that.

But the fact is the vast majority of lives taken by domestic terrorists last year, White supremacists, far-Right extremists, 2018 was the fourth deadliest year on record for homegrown extremists. Those are the facts. This deserves the volume. But it doesn't get it.

Here are the questions we have to have answered. Why would a President with no fear of exaggeration falsely minimize this problem? Why does he call himself a nationalist? That's a term stained with prejudice.

Why does he target Latino immigrants, exaggerating the same crime and violent stats as certain Neo-Nazi groups? Why was he silent about Congressman Steve King when the rest of his party finally spoke out against his hate?

I don't know that this President has a good answer for you on any of this. But you definitely deserve one. And we will ask those questions, every chance we get.

In fact, we have two big defenders of the President ahead. They say he's been mistaken. They say he is right on this issue. We will test those answers, next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The President says he gave you the perfect answer about Charlottesville. The idea that he was talking about both sides being to blame for the violence, and good people on both sides, it was all misunderstood, taken out of context by people like me.

Now, I think this issue is going to be a big part of the culture battle in this election. And it's important to note, this President didn't make this appeal really back when he said it.

Was he just biding his time? Or is this about Joe Biden hammering him with an ugly reality?

Let's discuss. CNN political commentators, Steve Cortes, and Rob Astorino, two-on-one, I think they may need it on this one, both supporters of the President.

One request. I know you're both well. If we get too loud, too hostile in having this discussion, we will sound like what we are all supposed to hate, so let's keep it in check, make the points, I'll give you both ample opportunity, I - definitely.

So, Steve, I start with you. I read your piece. We've talked about this before. Why do you believe that the President said the right thing during Charlottesville?

STEVE CORTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL HEAD, MARKET EXPERT, AUTHOR: Well I'll tell you. The main reason is because I can read. And I have read the transcript.

So, rather than believing in a fairy tale narrative, if we deal in the actual evidence, and in this case, that is a transcript of what was said, it's impossible to determine anything except for his intention, which was to totally condemn racism.

And - and I have to say, Chris, the way you edited that segment, that you showed just before this, was appallingly misleading because you cut the quote off at a critical juncture.

If you continue the quote you were showing, and I want to quote directly here because I want to be extremely precise. He said "You had people in that group who were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue, and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name."

He then continued to the next answer. "I am not talking about the Neo- Nazis and White nationalists because they should be condemned totally." So, he was unequivocal that he was not talking about racist or Neo-Nazis.

But the way you deceptively edited what you just showed--

CUOMO: There's nothing - there's - there's nothing deceptive about it.

CORTES: --made it look as though he was.

CUOMO: All right, so, Rob, you actually said early on what the President said wasn't helpful. I want you - people to know you're on the record as saying that, unlike Steve.

[21:35:00] Now, anybody can go and look at this. I just laid it out. There is no battle here over context. Were people down there arguing about Confederate statutes in - statues in part, yes?

Were there good people, not good people? I don't know. It depends why they want the statues to stay up, right, because there's a lot of bigotry involved in some of those monuments. It's not just about Robert E. Lee being a General. Put it to the side.

The day of the violence, Counselor, was there any protest of good people talking about the monuments? The answer must be no. It was an organized march by Neo-Nazis. Nobody was marching alongside those people who were good people. It was single purpose. Isn't that the truth?

ROB ASTORINO, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S 2020 RE-ELECTION ADVISORY COUNCIL, FORMER WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE: So, I agree with Steve and disagree with Steve on this one. I do think that in the larger context of everything he said, people would come to different conclusions.

However, he was very inartful to be honest, and to be, you know, forgiving to him. And that wasn't the context where he should have had something as pinpointed as - as what he said about the both sides. That was the wrong time to do that.

I think we could have had a debate about that on a broader scale. I'm here in Atlanta right now, and I walked through the Capitol - State Capitol today. And they have the history of the state. And they have exhibits.

And in those exhibits, they have photos of past governors and - and everyone, and the Confederate flag still in the pictures, because it is very much part of Georgia's history and the South's history. So, yes, there are emotional bonds for different people, and it creates emotions on all different spectrums.

But the thing that bothers me the most of - of how this is being played out, Chris, is that the Left, and - and, quite frankly, a lot of the media is trying to conflate these absolutely abhorrent people, these White nationalists who are a fringe group, they're completely on their own island.

And - and the media is trying to conflate them with the Right, with conservatives, with Republicans. I, Steve, and everybody refute them. They have nothing to do with our party and they should be outcasts.

CUOMO: You haven't heard me say any of that, right?

ASTORINO: No. But I've heard many other people say that.

CUOMO: Well but that - look, who - whose show is this?

ASTORINO: It's yours.

CUOMO: All right, so let's just deal with that right now.

CORTES: Chris, to your point, though--

CUOMO: Steve, here's - here's the thing. Let me - let me bounce back at you on this. He said two things, OK? And I do want people to remember, he wasn't on this correction campaign back then. He had plenty of opportunities to do it. He didn't.

He said two things. One, there's blame on both sides for the violence. Now, Steve, you can talk Alt-Left all day long, and that's fine with me. I have no problem with it. People who are rogue actors and criminals deserve the harsh treatment of the law.

But whether you want to talk about Antifa or Black Lives Matter or any of the groups that assembled that day to fight against Neo-Nazis, you make a moral equivalent between those two actions, you're making a mistake in America.

The President did it that day. And you know it was a mistake.

CORTES: Chris--

CUOMO: I don't know why you don't own that.

CORTES: No. Chris, you and I have talked about this before.

CUOMO: Yes.

CORTES: I do not make any differentiation between Neo-Nazis and Antifa. Just because they claim in their name that they are anti- fascist, their tactics are in fact totally fascist. People who put on masks--

CUOMO: One of the groups was created to kill people--

CORTES: No--

CUOMO: --they don't like. The other group--

CORTES: Right. And so was Antifa. Antifa--

CUOMO: --and Black Lives Matter has hangers-on and aberrant actors within their ranks. But the groups--

CORTES: And - no.

CUOMO: --were not created to destroy parts of--

CORTES: It's not aberrant--

CUOMO: --humanity. Come on, Steve!

CORTES: It's not aberrant within Antifa. They - they put on masks and helmets and they show up with clubs to damage property and to hurt people.

CUOMO: There are bad elements within the group.

CORTES: They are - they are thugs. They are America's Brownshirts. And there is no difference between Antifa and those Neo-Nazis. Both sides are thugs. Both sides are reprehensible.

Look, here's the point about both sides is a lot of really nasty people showed up there, intending to do harm, and that's terrible. There were also very good people on both sides.

And, by the way, you say there was no one good protesting on - to maintain statues, who would disagree with you--

CUOMO: It was a Neo-Nazi rally.

CORTES: --who would disagree with you is The New York Times.

The New York Times who quoted in August, they - they interviewed Michelle Percy (ph), who showed up with a group of people who, according to The New York Times, had no interest in racism, but they did have interest in free speech--

CUOMO: Right.

CORTES: --and in preserving Confederate reminders. So, those people were there--

CUOMO: Did she march alongside the Neo-Nazis?

CORTES: --those people - they were in the same--

CUOMO: Did she march alongside the Neo-Nazi?

CORTES: --they were in Charlottesville together.

CUOMO: Not that day for that march, Steve.

CORTES: I - look, Chris--

CUOMO: And that is the confusion of it.

CORTES: Yes, yes, she was there. And--

CUOMO: No. She did not march--

CORTES: No. And - and look, here's the thing.

CUOMO: --next to Neo-Nazis, Steve. And you know it.

CORTES: Here's what's not confusing is that the President said I am not talking, quote, "I am not talking about White nationalists and Neo-Nazis because they should be condemned totally."

I mean, which part of that can we not grasp and understand? So, at worse, let - let's just say--

[21:40:00] CUOMO: Well, one, con - contextually, he wasn't being asked about the protests when he said the good people on both sides part. So, even if you want to chalk it up to "All right, he was talking about a different aspect of it at that time, but he didn't mean what you think he meant," fine.

He gave a moral equivalence to people on both sides--

CORTES: No. We - we know he's--

CUOMO: --of the violence, and I've never heard that from a President before.

CORTES: Well once again, you, Chris, you--

CUOMO: That the people fighting against the Nazis--

CORTES: --you've--

CUOMO: --are as bad as the Nazis. Steve, you tell me.

CORTES: No, no, you can see that we've had this debate many times.

CUOMO: When is anybody else--

CORTES: You're trying to tell me that Antifa, OK, that Antifa, simply because they're Leftist - violent Leftists that they're somehow morally superior to violent far-Righters.

CUOMO: Is the purpose of - Rob Astorino, hold on a second. I hear how you feel about this.

CORTES: And I'm saying both of those fringe elements are equally reprehensible.

CUOMO: Rob Astorino--

ASTORINO: Well I mean, you know--

CUOMO: --you cannot say that Antifa was designed to kill the people that they don't like.

ASTORINO: It doesn't matter what they were designed for. It's what they're becoming. And they are becoming not just radical, they are becoming violent, and they are going to kill people, and that has to be condemned just as harshly as any other hate group out there--

CUOMO: So, what you think their group is becoming and maybe--

ASTORINO: --that tries to prevent people--

CUOMO: --some day--

ASTORINO: No, no, what they are now--

CUOMO: --you believe is equal to Nazis.

CORTES: No, what they are, Chris.

ASTORINO: No, no, no--

CORTES: What they are.

ASTORINO: --they have taken over Portland. You know, when they had that incident, the police won't even respond because they've become so violent.

CUOMO: Look, here's an - here's an easy test. Nobody's disagreeing with the criminal activity.

ASTORINO: These are areas of concern that everyone have to be concerned about.

CUOMO: As soon as a protest becomes a riot, you're criminals, and you should be treated that way. That's the law. That's simple. All I'm going to say is this.

ASTORINO: Yes. And these thugs - these thugs have pipes. They have bricks. And they hurt people.

CUOMO: You will look at Black Lives Matter. I've been with those people in the streets. You can talk about Antifa. I've watched them in the streets protesting in different situations, OK?

There are certainly aspects of them that are true to a cause. That is a good cause. They want social justice. They want whatever they want in that context. You tell me when that has ever happened--

ASTORINO: Not Antifa. Antifa is arrogance (ph).

CUOMO: You tell me when that has ever happened with Neo-Nazis, where they have ever been doing the right thing?

CORTES: Chris, Antifa is not a good cause. Antifa does not have--

ASTORINO: They--

CORTES: --good aims. Antifa wants power, wants political power taken through force. That's what Antifa is all about.

CUOMO: Steve, just be - just be clear about what I'm saying.

CORTES: I mean they're the inheritors of Nazis and Brownshirts.

CUOMO: I am not here to espouse Antifa or any group on the political spectrum.

CORTES: Well it just sounds like it.

CUOMO: No. Because you want it to be like that because you want it to be simple.

CORTES: No.

CUOMO: And you want to be able to run away after something like this, and say, "Cuomo loves the Alt-Left. He loves them." And you know it's not true. You know it's BS.

What I'm saying is this. You don't draw a moral equivalence between Neo-Nazis and the people there to fight against them. You don't do it in that context because it's not what we are about in this country.

CORTES: OK. What - what the President said about Neo-Nazis--

CUOMO: And, Rob, when you pair it with a President who refuses to call out Steve King, a President who says that the problems with domestic terrorism, with Right-wing extremists is not a big deal, but he talks about Islam hating all of us, when they are nowhere near responsible for what we're dealing with here in terms of death and attacks, as the Right-wing extremists, when you put it all together, it makes you wonder, Rob, why is he so soft on one, and so loud on the other?

Help me understand.

CORTES: Soft? He said "Condemn totally."

CUOMO: He does not talk about the people who attack these synagogues--

CORTES: He said "Condemn totally."

CUOMO: --and who attack Muslims, the way he does talk about Muslims who do the attacking and you know it.

CORTES: Really? You know who would dis--

CUOMO: And if you want, I'll send you volumes of his statements.

CORTES: You know who would disagree with you?

CUOMO: Yes, who?

CORTES: OK. You know who would disagree with you about that--

CUOMO: Who?

CORTES: --is Rabbi Goldstein today. That heroic man--

CUOMO: Yes, I heard him. I heard him.

CORTES: --who - who spoke - who spoke about the President and - and--

CUOMO: And I respect his pain. And I respect his message.

CORTES: --and the consolation that the President brought him with his words of compassion. And that is not - that is not the story, by the way, of a man who hates Jews, and who praises Nazis. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite.

CUOMO: I didn't say he praises Nazis. And I didn't say he hates Jews.

CORTES: It's a President who loves all Americans.

CUOMO: If you can only resort to the absurd, Steve, you're not worth the position. Don't resort to the absurd.

CORTES: Well--

CUOMO: I'm saying he's quiet when it comes to how he condemns the Right extremists, and he's loud on the Muslims.

CORTES: And he's not quiet. I just read you the quote, Chris.

CUOMO: He said it and he--

CORTES: Condemn - no, "Condemn totally."

CUOMO: But he also said that there were both side to blame.

CORTES: Condemned totally.

CUOMO: He said there were good people on both sides. He never talks like that about Muslims, Rob, and you know it.

He says all of Islam hates us. Have you ever heard him go after any of these people who've done these attacks in the synagogues, these Right- wing extremists the way he does go after Muslims?

ASTORINO: Look--

CUOMO: You know the answer's no. The question is why not?

ASTORINO: Look, Chris, you know, here - here's the argument that I'm hearing right now. And I - and I see it all the time in - in the media, and the Democrats love to push this that Neo-Nazis and White supremacists equals Republicans.

CUOMO: No. I'm not saying any of that. I'm asking you why he's so quiet on it--

ASTORINO: I'm not - look, I'm telling you--

CUOMO: --and so loud on the other?

ASTORINO: Listen, I'm telling you - I'm telling you what the narrative is, and you want this being pushed.

CUOMO: But I am asking you a question. Don't blame me for narrative I'm not pointing--

ASTORINO: I'm not - I'm not saying you. I'm saying this is the narrative that we--

CUOMO: I know. But just answer my question.

ASTORINO: --we Republicans face all the time.

CUOMO: Why is he soft and quiet about this--

ASTORINO: I don't think he is.

CUOMO: --and loud and proud about the other?

ASTORINO: I don't think he is soft about this, not at all. No, I don't.

CUOMO: He just said White-wing - "Right-wing extremism, I don't think it's a big deal."

CORTES: No.

ASTORINO: It is a big deal. Clearly, it's a big deal.

CORTES: Chris, let's deal - let's deal in quotes. Let's deal it--

CUOMO: You've - but - but he just said it wasn't, Rob.

ASTORINO: He just said that.

CUOMO: You're agreeing with me.

CORTES: Let's deal in quotes instead of just narratives.

CUOMO: Why does he say that?

CORTES: All right, why don't we deal with the evidence--

CUOMO: He just said it's not a really big deal. I think it's a small group with big problems.

CORTES: --instead of your impression of what the President does.

ASTORINO: I think it is a small group comparatively.

CORTES: No. The President--

CUOMO: They've killed 70 people this year.

ASTORINO: Chris, I do--

CUOMO: 70 people!

CORTES: The President two days--

CUOMO: The group that did 9/11 was a small group too. [21:45:00] ASTORINO: Chris, the impression that the Left--

CORTES: Two - two days after--

ASTORINO: Yes, Steve.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

CORTES: Two days after that - that Charlottesville--

CUOMO: Each of you make a final point then I got to go.

CORTES: --two days after that Charlottesville presser, the President also gave a White House speech, so he could be even more clear about this issue, and he said, "Racism is evil. Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, and White Supremacists and other groups that are repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans."

CUOMO: Right. You know why he said that?

CORTES: So, don't tell me that he doesn't--

CUOMO: Because he screwed it up in Charlottesville. That's why somebody said--

CORTES: No. It was to - it was to amplify--

CUOMO: --you need to say this.

CORTES: --it was to amplify what he had already said. I'm - I'm providing that quote to push back against your impression--

CUOMO: I'll say - I'll say it again.

CORTES: --your slander really--

CUOMO: If a Muslim - if a Muslim had bombed--

CORTES: --that he doesn't talk about--

CUOMO: --one of these synagogues or tried to kill these people, God forbid, you'd see a different President, Rob, and I don't understand why. That's my question. I'm not blaming your party. I'm not going after even the man. I just want to know why he's different. That's all.

ASTORINO: No. This - let me end with what I started talking be - before. I'm not saying it's you specifically, Chris. But here's the narrative that's being driven by the Left and - and a lot of people in the media.

CUOMO: I don't want to - you can't - don't use that answer again, Rob. I just want you to answer this question. You've never answered it.

ASTORINO: No, I am because it's very important. We are a country-- CUOMO: Why didn't he call out Steve King? Why?

ASTORINO: I did. And I think many people did.

CUOMO: Not you. Why didn't he?

ASTORINO: And our party did. Our party--

CUOMO: But he didn't. Why?

ASTORINO: But let me get back to what I was saying.

CUOMO: Ah!

ASTORINO: Let me get back to what I was saying. No, no, no.

CUOMO: All right, and then I got to go. Go ahead.

ASTORINO: OK. So, you have - The New York Times, there were 20 - 20--

CUOMO: Again - again with the general - I'm asking you specific question.

ASTORINO: Because we're a country of 320 million people. And these lunatics, these crazy, hateful people--

CUOMO: Yes.

ASTORINO: --are infinitesimally small amount of us. And they have nothing to do with me--

CUOMO: Lot of their groups endorse the President, by the way, and parrot his rhetoric about immigrants.

ASTORINO: Oh, all right, Chris, see - see that--

CUOMO: All right, I'm saying, those are the facts.

ASTORINO: No, that's completely wrong.

CUOMO: And that's why he should be so loud and grind them into the group.

ASTORINO: What about Representative Omar?

CORTES: Was that - Chris, Chris, did the Steve - did the Steve Scalise shooter--

ASTORINO: What about Representative Omar? Does she represent all the Democrats?

CUOMO: She says things that are hateful and wrong. And her party should go after her hard.

ASTORINO: And - and Representative Omar?

CUOMO: And that should be part of what America is about.

CORTES: OK.

ASTORINO: Oh, Representative Omar--

CUOMO: There you go. I got to leave.

CORTES: Chris, was the Steve Scalise shooter--

ASTORINO: --she wasn't even condemned by her party?

CUOMO: She should be.

CORTES: --motivated by the President?

CUOMO: They should--

ASTORINO: She wasn't.

CUOMO: --they should go after people who say things that tear at America's fabric. It should be the role of both parties. But I don't want to hear about narratives. Let's just deal with what I say. That's why I brought you guys on. And I appreciate you being here.

ASTORINO: Thanks.

CUOMO: Rob Astorino, Steve Cortes.

ASTORINO: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Hey, look, I gave it more time than we were going to because it matters. This is going to be a big part of the campaign. And I still don't get the answer.

Why is he so loud about it when it's a Muslim? Why is it so much of a quiet or concern when it's a Right-wing extremist? I don't get it. It's not an indictment. It's a question.

Rod Rosenstein's tumultuous run at the Justice Department is ending. That's an answer. We saw it coming. But I don't get the letter. I'm going to bring in D. Lemon because I don't understand what was in this letter. What was it for? Who was it for?

I'll read it to you, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein officially submitted his resignation today, effective May 11, so he's out. The move was long anticipated, but not the letter that he hand-delivered to the President. I want to read you a little bit of it.

"We enforce the law without fear or favor because credible evidence is not partisan, and truth is not determined by opinion polls. We ignore fleeting distractions and focus our attention on the things that matter, because a republic that endures is not governed by the news cycle."

So, he gave it to the President, but who's the message directed at, and what is its intention? You know, Rosenstein had been an enigma before, and this is another layer of the mystery that surrounds him.

Let's bring in D. Lemon. What's your take?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: To give a big wet kiss to the President, if you read the whole letter - letter, putting in superfluous things that he didn't have to say, you're making the country - they're fine, that's all fine and - and dandy.

But we know that he has been partisan, especially when it comes to the Mueller letter, and concerned about his own firing during the entire process. He has been on the good side of the President, reportedly, and on the bad side of the President.

But frankly, I mean it comes as no surprise. We all knew he was going to step down after this.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: He just wanted to see the Mueller investigation to fruition.

CUOMO: But it's so weird. He's the guy who picked Mueller.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: He created this whole situation.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And it seems like, to me, you know, just my opinion, seems like he's talking to us, you know--

LEMON: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: --like he's more about the media, and really nothing about the President, even though he's the guy who thought we needed a Special Counsel.

LEMON: I want to - I've been wanting to ask you this because there have been reports about him, right? Do you think he's a sort of a double agent type? CUOMO: No. I really don't know what to make of him. I mean I say enigma, I mean it. I really don't get it. They brought him in there to be an Axe Man on Comey.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Then he picks Mueller, which is the vindication of Comey that you needed an outside source to process this because the President's actions were so shady. And then, he winds up--

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: --taking the decision from Mueller and winds up in this letter kind of talking about "The news isn't what matters. It's, you know, our job."

LEMON: I think you're right because we often use that. We report the news without fear or favor.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: And now he's saying that about the law without fear for - maybe he's talking to the media. But, you know, what are you going to do?

CUOMO: Polls, news cycle. I can't wait to see him interviewed.

LEMON: I saw him this weekend at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, one of the events for the White House Correspondents' Dinner. He's a lot taller than I thought. And a lot of people were - wanted to talk to him. I just--

CUOMO: That's because he's been crunched down hiding all this time, waiting for this turn.

LEMON: I just I - I just observed from a distance him, and Kellyanne Conway, and I saw Rudy Giuliani. He told me to tell you hello, by the way.

CUOMO: Nice.

LEMON: And he says, you know, he says you always cut him off. You don't let him say his piece. I'm like, "Really? Chris? No, it's not." I don't believe that's true.

But, listen, hey, listen, you know, I'm so glad you did the - the fact-check on the "Very fine people on both sides." Jemele Hill, you know her--

CUOMO: Sure.

LEMON: --former at the ESPN, very outspoken now, a cultural critic, we're going to have her on to talk about what people are talking about these so-called water cooler and at the kitchen table, also George Selim from the ADL to give us some stats, and then Michael Higginbotham, the history - the history professor who can tell us all about what this all means and put it into context for us. CUOMO: Beautiful, all sides represented. Good to have you.

LEMON: Yes, see you.

CUOMO: All right, fear and loathing, that seems like the President's strategy this past set of elections, didn't it? It didn't work. But it does seem to be the way forward for his election as well. He's got the economy. But there's a culture war. And it seems that he has a three pronged attack.

And tonight, I make the argument of what it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[21:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CLOSING ARGUMENT.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides. You look at--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, Mr. President (ph)--

TRUMP: --you look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: And this isn't about the people who like Confederate statues. Are people standing up to White supremacists ever there equal in morale blame?

Groups on the Left can be lawless and dangerous. But against Nazis, right after one of them killed one of the people there to oppose them, is that the right message?

The context that matters is this. We've had more of these Right-wing attacks since this POTUS came in. There's been a spike for the last five years. But there have been more of a spike in the last year.

And yet, this President, he says it's not a big concern, small group.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see today White nationalism as a rising threat around the world?

TRUMP: I don't, really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The numbers say it's up.

And, by the way, the group that pulled off 9/11 was small too, didn't stop this President from indicting all of Islam as hating us. But he doesn't go after these attacks, not the actual threat to U.S., from domestic terrorism the way he goes after Muslims. Why?

Why so quiet about Congressman Steve King? Sure, the party condemned him. Not him. Never a word about his hateful comments.

Can't talk enough about illegal entrants who commit crimes. But he's not doing the same thing about entrenched criminal activity in communities all over the country. Why?

Exaggerating the threat and the number and the problem, saying the biggest domestic threat is not a big deal. You really want to compare threat profiles of illegal entrants versus Right-wing extremists?

So, why so loud on one, and quiet on the other? Since when does this President undersell?

The third leg of what I see as a Trump Trifecta is the most disgusting. This President knows damn well that what he's about to say to you is a damnable lie, maybe his worst of all 10,000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don't think so.

(CROWD BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Just when you think you can't be shocked! That's called homicide. It would be a murder. No law anywhere allows a newborn baby to be swaddled and killed. Shame on him, for even suggesting that.

Now, think about what's going on here with these three issues. Why would you torture a defense on what you said about Charlottesville now? They could have made the clarification back then. But you heard those two guys. They couldn't explain that.

Did we mistake his meeting then? Didn't it bother him then? Abortion hasn't changed either. The law is Roe v. Wade. The states are trying to codify it because they're afraid the Supreme Court might change it. Period! Go check.

So, what has changed about abortion for this President since he said he was very pro-choice? I'll tell you what - what has changed. He decided to run for President. And this is all a sell, the Trump Trifecta, culture wars that push hate and division, abortion, immigration, Right-wing extremism.

I'm not calling him a bigot, don't cheapen the argument. This is about more than that. It's about the truth and seeing which way we are headed. This is not a coincidence that the President is saying these kinds of things on these kinds of issues. They are not separate. They are the same.

Thank you for watching us tonight. Now, time for CNN Tonight with D. Lemon. Looking good.