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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Trump: "Probably, Iran Made A Mistake" Attacking Drone; Booker: Biden Should "Apologize To Those Who Were Hurt"; Senators Receive Classified Briefing On UFO Sightings. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 20, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Every time it ended, my mom would say, "Isn't that Marvelous?" She'd be smiling. And it was. With her, with my mom, it was marvelous.

Good night. I want to turn it over to Chris to CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Anderson, thank you so much for sharing what is so hard to be shared. I know it means so much, to so many, and I hope it means a lot to you as well. You are our best, and for good reason.

All right, everybody. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Here's the proposition. If it's clear to the U.S. Military that briefed the President that Iran intentionally shot down a U.S. drone, then why is this President saying he thinks it was a mistake? What is the truth?

The House Intelligence Chairman is with us tonight. He was just at a classified briefing with the President, hours ago, about this incident. We need him for that.

And to make sense of the just-received full Hope Hicks transcript that is now in our hands, the stonewalling is clear a 155 times over. Does yesterday's fiasco change Chairman Schiff's reckoning of what needs to happen next?

And does Joe Biden have a problem in his party or not? We're going to ask a longtime Member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

There's a lot to figure out tonight, so let's get after it.

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(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: All right, so this President says that the United States will not stand for the downing of one of our drones over international waters. But he's also apparently choosing to describe what happened as a mistake.

Well, which is it, and is the difference relevant to the response? House Intel Chair Adam Schiff was among the Senior Members of Congress briefed today in the White House Situation Room. He joins us now.

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CUOMO: Chairman, it's great to have you on PRIME TIME tonight with such pressing news matters before us all. You had an important briefing today. Coming out of it, do you have any question as to whether or not Iran intentionally shot down a U.S. drone?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well Iran certainly shot down the drone. Whether this was an intentional act by the Top Leadership or not is not something that I can really comment on.

But I can say that we need to be working with our allies. There's been attack now on an American aircraft. There's been attack on international shipping. There have been multiple provocative and dangerous acts by Iran.

So, we should be working with our allies to de-escalate the situation, to deter this conduct, yes, but also to make sure that this doesn't end up in an unintentional conflict and escalation.

So, we need to figure out a strategy to de-escalate, to deter this kind of conduct, to protect shipping, to protect our aircraft. And I think, most significant, as this is an attack on many nations, it ought to be an international response. We shouldn't allow Iran to drive us away from our allies.

CUOMO: Do you think that Iran knew what it was shooting at?

The reason I ask is there were a couple of different messages from the Iranian authorities. One of them said, basically, "We did it. They came into our space, so we did it. We're going to go to the U.N. and prove that the U.S. is lying about where it was."

All right, so that's an admission, as far as I'm concerned, and that it wasn't a mistake, it was intentional. And then, you have another Iranian official who's saying, "You know, we communicated with the aircraft. We told it where it was."

It almost suggests as if they thought there might be somebody in this that it wasn't a drone, and that would be a very different proposition.

SCHIFF: Yes. I don't know whether we have great clarity on whether Iran knew what it was shooting at, in terms of whether it was manned or unmanned aircraft. I don't know the answer to that question.

But, you know, certainly this is a - a provocation by Iran, an attack on our aircraft, an attack on shipping belonging to other nations.

And I think there's no question that Iran has chosen these acts of belligerence, partly to divide us from our allies, partly to get out from under economic pressure, and lash out at the United States, in particular, but also to drive up oil prices.

And it does call for us to - to think strategically about this, to take - not to take actions that play into Iranian hands, but at the same time that we - we protect the right of navigation.

CUOMO: So, what do you make of the President's response saying that "Well, maybe it was a mistake," and indicating that he's in no rush to return fire in this situation? Do you think that's the right call? What do you think the way is forward?

SCHIFF: Well, look, I - we don't want war here. I don't think Iran wants war here. And the big risk is that neither nation wanting war nonetheless ends up in a war because of miscalculations.

[21:05:00] So, it's very important that our response, the international response, be a cohesive one, and that we take whatever steps have the least risk of escalating the situation. So, I - I hope that's the approach that the White House takes.

There have been indications that the White House has been at odds with itself, that the President, for example, is reported to have tried to do a diplomatic approach through the Japanese Prime Minister to re- enter negotiations.

But, at precisely that moment, it appears that Bolton was announcing new sanctions on Iran. Now, that's a conflicting message, I think, that would leave anyone confused, what are you really trying here? Are you making diplomatic overture, or you're really just trying to turn--

CUOMO: Right.

SCHIFF: --the screws to us? So, I think we need a more coherent policy out of the administration. But, first and foremost, we need one that de-escalates the situation.

CUOMO: Right. And, of course, pulling out of the Iran deal blew up their coalition that you did have, and lost some currency--

SCHIFF: Well, and - and Chris--

CUOMO: --with Iran.

SCHIFF: Chris, that's exactly right.

I mean we can't ignore the fact that the situation we're in now was so eminently predictable that if we backed out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, if we caused other nations to once again impose sanctions on Iran, then we shouldn't be all that surprised that Iran is going to leave the deal, and go back to enriching--

CUOMO: Right.

SCHIFF: --or that we're going to get these increased tensions and likelihood of conflict. That step plus, you know, the designation of the RGC as a terrorist group, I think, was predictable--

CUOMO: Right.

SCHIFF: --that Iran would lash out through the IRGC, in terms of that decision as well.

CUOMO: So, under the guise of ratcheting up conflicts and tension, we get to what happened yesterday, which I've been calling a fiasco, not because it was wrong for you guys to bring in Hope Hicks, but because it seems to be a pretty clear indication of where this is headed, in this particular procedural method, that you got a 155 times the lawyer said she couldn't answer.

You had a smattering of "I don't recalls" that were keenly germane in terms of revealing anything that might have been damaging. Did it change what you heard about in that hearing yesterday your reckoning of what the best way is forward?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, Chris, we had Hope Hicks before the Intel Committee about a year or so ago. She came before the Judiciary Committee. So, I wasn't there for the hearing today--

CUOMO: Right.

SCHIFF: --or the interview, I guess, yesterday. I'm not surprised, I don't think anyone is surprised that the White House is stonewalling in such a comprehensive fashion. They're going to lose in court. They have no leg to stand upon.

And the cases that have gone to so - courts so far, they've been losing. But clearly, they're trying to draw this out as long as possible. I think, frankly, Hope Hicks gives us a really good test case, because there have - their stonewalling has been so dramatic, and - and so unsupported by law.

So, you know, we have to take this first step to see if we can get answers under subpoena. And if we can't, then we go forward and - and we prosecute the case in court. So, I think it's necessary.

And yes, it's, I think, frustrating, and it is also dangerous in terms of the system of checks and balances that the administration would take us down this path. But Congress is really left with no choice, except to litigate to make sure we get answers.

CUOMO: Right. Or to start an impeachment inquiry, maximize your powers, and see where it goes from there.

SCHIFF: Yes. We could start an impeachment inquiry. That doesn't get us to court quicker. It does improve our argument--

CUOMO: Right.

SCHIFF: --I think, respecting Grand Jury material to some degree. I don't know that that's all that much of an issue in terms of Hope Hicks' testimony.

But, again, whether it's an impeachment proceeding, or it's part of our oversight that we're doing now, either way, we end up in court, and either way, they're going to try to run the clock, and we're going to try to press this as fast as we possibly can.

CUOMO: So, Chairman you have a proposed bill that is really straightforward that the campaign committees and different agents within the different campaigns need to sign on that they understand that, and as broad a definitional understanding as possible, you can't let foreign powers interfere in the election, and in your campaign.

It's pretty straightforward. It's something that you would think everybody agrees with.

You change one definition to just include parenthetically that it's anything that could be used for political advantage, in terms of what defines value, what do you think the chance is that you get any buy-in from Republicans on this bill, as simple as it is?

SCHIFF: You know, I think the reality is with many bills like this, we're - we're already looking at our post-Watergate reforms.

We're putting forward bills. I introduced one earlier to try to curb the abuse of the pardon power, and this bill would curb the abuse of getting foreign assistance. There aren't going to be many Republicans that are willing to put their name out there to risk an angry tweet or being criticized by Fox Prime Time.

[21:10:00] But they will support these probably once Donald Trump is out of the Oval Office because I think they understand, as we do, that what the - the President did in the last election, what he threatens to do in the next one is so destructive of our democracy to be inviting foreign intervention this way.

So, I don't know how much we'll support - bipartisan support we'll get today. But I think we will see these kind of bills pass when it no longer is a - a risk to Members to support them that President Trump is going to come down on them.

CUOMO: It is amazing how the fear of consequence is overwhelming good conscience in Congress right now. Chairman, it is so important to have you on the show during these important moments. Thank you for taking the opportunity.

SCHIFF: Great to be with you, Chris, thank you.

CUOMO: Look, hopefully everybody's on the same page that the situation with Iran does not get any worse for our country. But even if there is no war, this conflict could wind up being a real problem for this President. In fact, it could do more than the Mueller report ever even threatened.

I'll lay out why, next.

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CUOMO: The President, by all indications, does not seem to want war with Iran. Good!

But this situation which is largely of his own making could pose the biggest threat to a second term for him. What we're living now is exactly why people warned him not to play politics with the Iran deal. But he did it anyway, and he did it to prove a political point.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States would withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal.

This disastrous deal.

A great embarrassment to me as a citizen.

This horrible one-sided deal.

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CUOMO: He got to flex his tough, snub Obama, and play up his fictional deal-making powers. Now, it is all coming back to haunt him in more ways than he may realize or be able to handle. Here's how.

The tanker ship attacks, the drone hit, it's all going down near the Strait of Hormuz, OK? More than a quarter of the world's liquefied natural gas, and almost 20 percent of oil, goes through there. So, now there's instability.

You know what's going to happen, right? Crude oil prices, just jumping five eight - point eight percent, just from that.

Trump likes to take credit for lower gas prices, right? Well Iran could force him now to own a spike, and no economic metric resonates like gas prices. A chance of a spike is even higher because of the China tariff trade gamble.

So, we heard the Fed Chair say he already has concerns because of that. A spike in oil prices could roil markets, and gas prices could boil voters' blood. And the combination could shake the economic stability that POTUS is going to lean on.

And Iran also poses a challenge to the second main measure of stability for this President, existence of a threat abroad. In this case, Iran could easily be argued as a situation that this President created when he didn't have to.

He alienated allies we now need. He had no diplomatic team that could handle it. And it all shines a light on perceived ineptitude.

The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, very smart guy, but not that tied into the players in this region. The National Security Adviser, Bolton, is a known hawk. Trump doesn't cotton to that. The Generals who are around him that gave so many people comfort are all gone.

Iran also makes the fact that it has been almost seven months since we had a Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense or a U.N. Ambassador. That all now looms larger.

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TRUMP: But I sort of like acting, gives me more flexibility, do you understand that? I like acting.

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CUOMO: Now, he likes acting. Now the question's going to be has he been acting as somebody who could handle a situation like this?

It puts the President in a position of undoing his own damage with them, and the rest of us, when it comes to getting us to trust what he says, and what the Intel community says.

Remember, he's been saying for so long they can't be trusted. This is the moment he was warned about.

Everyone says we need an international response. The team that did the Iran deal was basically spat on by this President, and his harshness with allies now presents a problem. Many are said to not trust, and frankly, not like this President.

And it will all go back to the move he made against the advice of allies, and those who knew better, "Don't get out of the Iran deal without a Plan B," a promise the self-proclaimed Master Deal-Maker has utterly failed to even get started.

God forbid the situation moves beyond saber-rattling. I don't know why anybody would want to see that. I don't get why his friends on Fox are screaming for him to muscle up against Iran. It shows a real dysfunction of their political thinking.

But in times of trouble, Americans do look to the Oval Office, if not for wild strength, a steady hand, smarts, stability, strategy, ingredients in short supply in this administration, and that's why Iran presents a bigger threat on more levels than Mueller ever did. So, in that thicket of what-ifs, I planted the seeds of what our next guests can feed for us. We need to get the military and political options and risks at play right now. We have two people who have lived this situation for many years. We'll be right back with them.

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CUOMO: All right, someone taught me once, it's no time for bluster, situations like this, it's time to muster your best political and military thought, and that's what we're doing tonight. Here's who we have for you.

Aaron David Miller, he served Republican and Democratic administrations as a Mideast Analyst and Negotiator at the State Department. He has been tutoring me and the rest of us, if you read his pieces, about the risks of exactly something like this. Now a Distinguished Fellow at the Wilson Center, great to have him for the diplomatic political piece of this.

And to help break down at the wall here, what is at stake, what are the options, Retired Major General "Spider" Marks.

Gentlemen, welcome to PRIME TIME. It's good to have you both here.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST, HEAD OF GEOPOLITICAL STRATEGY, ACADEMY SECURITIES: Good, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, General, let me start with you, all right? The idea of all of this happening, in the last segment I spelled out that this is going to be bad economically, right, because it puts pressure--

MARKS: Sure.

CUOMO: --on the certainty of oil and gas flowing through here.

But this disconnect of the United States Military and Intel saying, "They did it. They meant to do it. They know what they were doing, and they shouldn't have done it," and the President saying, "Maybe it was a mistake," that's got to be his own play, right, because clearly that's not what they're telling him.

MARKS: No, no, absolutely. The - the Military and the Intelligence Community quite clearly are stating that the drone was in international airspace when it was struck down. I guess what the President is, and I can't get into the President's mind.

CUOMO: Sure.

MARKS: But I assume what he's trying to say is speak in measured tones, which is, "Look, I'm not going to be provocative. I don't want to go to war." And let's pray that that's the case.

A - a kinetic war, a full war in Iran is absolutely not what we want to try to achieve here. And provoking Iran has obvious consequences. We should not be surprised with Iran's activities in the Gulf of Oman, in the Straits, and activities going through both.

CUOMO: All right, so this is a string of a recent pattern--

[21:25:00] MARKS: Right.

CUOMO: --right?

MARKS: Right.

CUOMO: We got it up for you here. What do you see in these attacks? Do you see coordination? Do you think this is just opportunistic? Or is this a message?

MARKS: No. It's not opportunistic at all. I mean it is a message. This is purely planned out.

And the notion that, as the President has said, that this might have been a mistake, clearly, I mean, having spent my life in the military, large organization, stuff happens, and the boss doesn't necessarily know about it, and you go, "Oh my God, what happened here?"

CUOMO: Yes. But you don't get an official coming right out from Iran afterwards saying "You shouldn't have been there. We're not going to take it. We're going to the U.N. and saying that you lied about where it was." And then another official came out and basically echoed that statement. They're not saying it was a mistake.

MARKS: And the - and the IRGC is embedded. Not - not only is it an arm of the military. I mean it's parallel to their, what I would say, conventional military. But the IRGC exists within all the elements of governance within Iran.

So, I am very skeptical that that was a mistake, albeit what the President said. The Intelligence is saying it was very clear they went after the drone. And so, I see this as a series of events of Iran trying to change the narrative.

Look, diplomacy is starting to work a little bit. Sanctions are starting to strangle Tehran, quite considerably. We should not be surprised that they're lashing out, and they're doing it kinetically in that military element of power. This is very predictable.

CUOMO: But they can't want us to come at them. I mean--

MARKS: No. CUOMO: --obviously they understand the capabilities of the U.S. Military. What's the plus/minus for you, in terms of if you were to do something back to them, what that could be, or what it should be?

MARKS: A clear option that is on the table that is probably being discussed right now is a very narrow, very narrowly-defined specific strike against the battery that took out that drone.

That would be very limited. It would be in Iranian's air - it would be on Iran. It would - going through Iranian airspace. But it would be a legitimate symmetric response. "You took out our drone. We're going to take out that element that took out that drone."

We could up the ante in terms of sanctions. You don't know exactly what that would look like. In other words, come at them a little bit more asymmetrically. We don't have to make this a tit-for-tat type of a dance.

But we could start to apply some additional pressure on Iran, telling them with a very clear message, "Look, we're not going to stand for this. This aircraft, unmanned, was in international space. You can't come after us. We're going to ratchet this up a little bit."

CUOMO: All right, so those are the military basic pieces going on here. Obviously, you weigh in on everything else as you want. But Aaron, let me bring you in. What do you think that Iran wants by doing what it just did?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, VICE PRESIDENT, WILSON CENTER: You know, I think the Supreme Leader wants no peace, no negotiations, on one hand, and no major military confrontation on the other. I think in 20 - 2021, he'd like to see a new President here, and a new President in Iran.

And elections are in 2020. And I think he'd like to see President Rouhani, associated with - with the JCPOA, the Iran Nuclear Agreement, leave, replaced by someone who's much more malleable, someone who's much more flexible, to the Supreme Leader's point of view.

In - in the - in the meantime, I think the Iranians are trying to remind the President that the campaign of maximum pressure can be reciprocal. And, you know, it strikes me, Chris that this campaign is working all too well.

We have really crushed, the administration has crushed the Iranian economy, reducing, cutting in half its oil imports, sanctioning its Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and their all - all of their economic interests.

But I think what the administration's never banked on, never counted on, is that the adversary has a vote. And the fact is in an asymmetrical conflict - we have preponderance of military force.

But in an asymmetrical con - conflict, you can restrict oil flow, you can raise insurance premiums, you can rattle the cages of American allies, and you can force Mr. Trump into a strike. And I think - I think the Iranians are prepared for some kind of

American retaliation. I think it helps--

CUOMO: Well thank God, you know, by--

MILLER: --and I think it helps.

CUOMO: --by every indication we have of this President to the extent that he can be at all consistent, he does not believe there is a win in most military steps that America has taken in recent history. Hopefully, he sticks by that because none of us really want to see that.

But, Aaron, you warned me about this when he got out of the deal. You said, "He doesn't understand. Nobody's telling him how this works. You just pissed off your allies. These are the same people you're going to have to turn back to. He doesn't understand how Iran works. And they can hurt you lots of different ways."

Do you think that that's where we're headed?

MILLER: I do. And I think we all need to take a deep breath because this is going to get worse before it gets worse.

I mean what the administration has done, and again, I'll - I'll remind you and your - and all of your viewers, I worked for Rs and Ds, and voted for Rs and Ds, not a partisan comment, but this is part of a pattern.

[21:30:00] The President and the administration comes up with solutions to problems, frankly that we don't have, and in the process, makes the problems we do have, much worse. The JCPOA was - was flawed but still highly functional.

CUOMO: The Iran Deal.

MILLER: The Iran Deal. You want to get out? Fine. But have a strategy. Have a strategy of maximum pressure, but also find a way to engage. You don't like the terms of the agreement? Sit down and let's negotiate.

The only way out of this, short of sustained confrontation, Chris, is to start talking to the Iranians rather than about them. And the fact is, I don't think right now, the Iranians want to talk.

CUOMO: And we haven't put the teams together to do that over time.

I mean Pompeo by, you know, all - all different accounts is a very capable man, intelligent, but he's not somebody who's been embedded in that region. He doesn't have those kinds of relationships. He's had his son-in-law running around trying to figure out Middle East peace.

And now, you have a really complex situation on. That's why I needed your minds tonight. As we get more information, stick by your phone, Aaron, General, you know, I've called on you for years, both of you, frankly. As we learn more about this, we're going to have to understand the options. And God willing, it doesn't get any worse. It'd be nice to see Aaron be wrong on this one. General--

MARKS: I hope too.

CUOMO: --thank you. Aaron, thank you, all right.

MILLER: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Joe Biden, totally different kind of problem, nowhere near as existential as anything like what we're talking about now. But, you know, we have to get to the bottom of how deep in the soup is Biden.

We hear he tried to smooth things over with Cory Booker. Well is that about making peace or is it about stopping someone who's playing to advantage? We saw him with Don Lemon last night. He sees opportunity for himself in this, righteous opportunity.

So, let's bring in a longtime Congressional Black Caucus member. What's the bottom line on what's going on with this? And as a Member of the Foreign Committee, what does he think about what's happening in Iran? What does he want to see? What does he not want to see? Perfect guest, next.

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CUOMO: All right, so the former VP, Biden, called his 2020 rival, Cory Booker last night to address his controversial remarks, and, you know, try to make peace about working with two segregationist senators.

Apparently, the two didn't exchange any apologies. Are they necessary? Does this have lasting effect?

Today, Booker's campaign renewed his stance. "Cory believes that Vice President Biden should take responsibility for what he said and apologize to those who were hurt."

For whom, if anyone, should an apology come from? How much does this matter, here to discuss is Democratic Congressman Greg Meeks. It's great to have you here, Sir.

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CUOMO: I want to get into the politics. It matters. It does not matter to me as much as Iran, however.

So, because you're - have an important voice on the Foreign Affairs Committee, what do you want to see here in terms of coordination with the White House, and how should this be looked at, going forward?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): Well I couldn't agree more with what your initial statements were.

Number one, I think before there is any offensive attack, or anything about going to war, the President should come to Congress. Congress is the one that can declare war, and the only one that should be able to authorize it.

So, I hope that this President does not try to do anything as he has been doing with everything else, to go around Congress. He should come to us.

CUOMO: Now, Senator Rubio, by the way, just to give you another take on it, he said, "Hey, the Constitution says, and even the War Powers Act," which he then argued might not be constitutional, "says when the U.S. is attacked, the President can response."

But isn't that about imminent threat to national security--

MEEKS: That--

CUOMO: --or - or interest, and would this qualify?

MEEKS: That's exactly. I do not believe this will qualify. And I think that we're still looking at the facts and try to figure out where exactly the drone was, which territory.

Unfortunately, this administration does have a credibility problem, you know, I'm listening and waiting to hear from our allies. They've been very quiet on this. I'm concerned about this being a United States versus Iran conflict.

It should be where we are working with our allies, as we did, when we came up with the nuclear agreement, in regards to Iran, and to put that kind of pressure, so that when and if Iran was to violate any of the terms of the agreement, or anything of that nature, it would not just be the United States, it would be all of us together.

So, here is a problem that was created by the President that everyone knew, as you perfectly articulated at the opening of the show, that now we have to live by, and it is dangerous. Any kind of mistake could be catastrophic on one side misinterpreting the other side.

It is not a scenario that make - puts me at ease, particularly, again as you said, the Generals are gone, and you know that Mr. Bolton, this has been his thing that he - he's wanted to go and attack Iran for years. So, I am very concerned and very nervous.

It is a critical matter, of - of which we've got to keep a response on. And I think, those of us in Congress, we have to keep our eyes open, and be very vocal, and demand that the administration communicates us - with us directly.

CUOMO: Well you never know.

Maybe the combination of this, presenting huge risks to this President, which I'm sure he's aware of, and he does have a natural reticence for military action, maybe it'll make him reach out to Congress.

And when he does, hopefully you guys can put things aside, and work for the - the best result in this situation.

All right, let me talk to you about what's happening inside the party now. Do you believe that Joe Biden has something to apologize for?

Do you believe that these knocks on his busing stance, the '94 bill, and now his statements about working with segregationists reveal that he is out of step with where your party is today, in terms of dealing with issues of race?

MEEKS: No. I don't. I think that, you know, you take certain things in its time. I think Joe Biden is a good and decent human being, who is intense, and then, you know, when you look at the time, if you take a certain vote, it was at that time to him the correct vote to take.

You could see that he's moving in the right direction in the sense that when you look at, for example, making sure that when you look at the right to choose and marry someone, you don't take into consideration their sex. That's Joe Biden moving forward.

And I think that's where we need to go. We need to talk and put about - talk about the past and its context but then talk about how we're going to move forward in the future.

[21:40:00] And I think what Joe Biden was trying to say was that in order to get things done in the United States Congress, people are complaining a lot about us not getting anything done in Congress, and the only way that you can get it done is sometimes you've got to deal with individuals who you don't like, for example, me and the current President.

The - when they did and worked out with my good friend Cedric Richmond and Hakeem Jeffries on the Crime Bill, prison reform, they then worked the deal.

It's not that we changed our opinion of Donald Trump. But if there's something that we can do to benefit folks, you try to do those deals, but you still want to make sure that you tell the truth about those individuals. And I think he did that.

CUOMO: Now-- MEEKS: I think the - the problem that he ran into, at least from my viewpoint, is you don't want to get into the fact, because it is very offensive for African-Americans, particularly African-American males, when you think about the history of being called a "Boy."

CUOMO: "Boy." Yes, absolutely.

MEEKS: That is a problem.

CUOMO: Absolutely.

MEEKS: And - and--

CUOMO: And then, look, that's something that Joe Biden hasn't been immune to. Very often, the head doesn't directly connect with the heart, when he's trying to express things.

I'm not excusing it. And it's not my place to, because it's not my sensitivity. But I've lived long enough, being mentored by people like you, to know that you have to understand the sensitivities, even if they're not your own.

But bottom line, you know, President Obama talked about a circular firing squad. And I don't think he understood that it would be about race at that time. It couldn't have been that prophetic.

But do you think you need to talk to the candidates about the nature of their attacks because one of the things that you need high ground on in the general election is when it comes to diversity, and respecting diversity, and respecting race.

Other than the First Step Act, this President has nothing to stand on for high ground. But if you destroy the credibility of somebody at the top of your polls right now, then you may not have that as a weapon to use in the general.

MEEKS: Well I couldn't agree with you more. I would hope that there'd be continued dialog between Vice President Biden and Senator Booker. That has to happen. They're both two good men running for the highest office in the land, along with all of the other candidates. And so, we need to have that kind of conversation.

I don't think that we need to get into the actual, you know, personal attacks, or anything of that nature. That might be good for some with reference to good media and good television.

But it's not good for the party or good for the country, especially when I know the essence of both Senator Booker and, of course, Vice President - former Vice President Biden.

They're good men who are striving to make a difference to make us a more better, a - a - a - a more perfect union, who wants to make us a better country. And I think that's what's important. And to hear their vision for the future is what I'm interested in talking about.

Let's talk about how we're going to make this country better in the future because we're not a perfect nation. I don't know anyone that is perfect. We are the best on the planet. But we could be a lot better.

And I want to hear something inspirational from both on how we're going to move forward for our young folks, for our seniors, for those that are fighting to get to - to - to make a living, how we're going to improve our lives, and I think that's what the American people are looking to listen for also.

CUOMO: As it was once said, much better than I ever could, you know, everybody's got cracks. You have to identify the cracks because that's what lets the light in and gives you a chance to be better.

Congressman Greg Meeks, thank you very much for talking to us about Iran, and what's going on within your party for this all-important primary, appreciate it.

MEEKS: Thank you, always good being with you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, a vexing question, and I'll be honest, it's one I struggle with asking in earnest, but are we really alone? Senators have been seeking answers about possible close encounters of the Third Kind, like this with some of our Navy pilots.

You know, an Unidentified Flying Object can be really anything that comes from one of our adversaries or even our allies, doesn't have to mean that it's extraterrestrial. But how does D. Lemon see it? Does he believe that this is proof of something? Next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: UFOs. That was the topic of a classified briefing given to U.S. Senators today in light of a recent uptick in the number of Unidentified Flying Object sightings.

Now, that does not necessarily mean aliens. But Navy officials certainly want answers when it comes to something like this thing, objects that defy the physics of regular aircraft. That's how they put it. Listen.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My Gosh. They are all going against the wind. The wind is a 120 knots to the west. Look at that thing. It's rotating.

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DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Looks like an eagle, but go on.

CUOMO: So?

LEMON: Falcon, maybe.

CUOMO: What do you think it is?

LEMON: Do-do-do-do. I was just - I was trying to get - that was a Jeopardy! I was trying to do the--

CUOMO: Yes, you're - you're off.

LEMON: Yes, I'm off. I'm off.

CUOMO: That's a regular (ph).

LEMON: Listen, here's the thing. I - it could be spy craft from one of our adversaries. But they said it defied the laws of gravity.

CUOMO: You think it's an alien? Do you think there's any chance--

LEMON: I don't know that was an alien--

CUOMO: --that that is just--

LEMON: --alien. Yes, I believe in aliens. I - but - I don't believe that we are the only life out there.

And I think that there's probably life that maybe more evolved and more sophisticated than we are, and they are able to see us, and maybe we aren't able to see them. I don't know. I'm not leaving that out.

If - if I can - if I can make for the possibility that there is a higher being and a higher power, and put it in the traditional way, some big boss on top of us watching us, making sure we don't, you know, commit this sin and that--

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: --then why would I - why would that be out of the realm with possible - of possibility?

CUOMO: Well here - here would be my pushback. I too believe in a higher power. I choose to believe in it.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: I can't prove it. I don't have demonstrable proof of science, and I'm not going to win an argument maybe.

LEMON: We're saying the same thing.

CUOMO: But I don't need to. LEMON: Yes.

[21:50:00] CUOMO: But when it comes to UFOs, I don't have the arrogance to believe that we're the only ones that figured out how to make it happen on a planet. That's the only one that science condoned.

But I do not see this as a step in that direction.

LEMON: I can't really see what it is. Did you see the video last week or of - on the surveillance video of the - the little - it looked like a little girl in the parking lot, and some people were saying, it was an alien, you remember?

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: So, I'm - it could be. I don't know - I don't know what this is to me. It looks like a, you know, it looks like it could be an eagle or a falcon or something. I have no idea the size of it. I can't tell. But why not?

CUOMO: Even - even Mel.

LEMON: Why - why - why it wouldn't be?

CUOMO: Mel is in my ear saying, "I don't see any wings." This stuff is contagious. And on one level, that's good. It's good for people to have imagination and creativity.

But I'm just kind of - I'm a little confused as to why the government put it out the way that they put it out, you know, and why Senators are talking about. I don't know why they weren't a little bit more specific about what they think it could be. That's all.

LEMON: UFO on - that only means an Unidentified Flying Object.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: That could be a kite if you can't identify it at the time.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: It could be anything, right?

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: And, as you said, it may not - it may not be an alien. But I got to tell you, you know.

CUOMO: May not be an alien.

LEMON: May not be an alien. I think it could be an alien, I don't know. But speaking of aliens, and I'm joking with him, because he's my friend as well, is John Kasich is going to join us.

And John Kasich is going to talk to me about everything, including the escalation, possibly war with Iran, whatever we're going to do with that, are we headed that way?

And he's also going to talk to us about Joe Biden and about the comments. Are Democrats cannibalizing each other? But I call him "Alien" because meaning he's different than most. He is not one of the people who is chosen to be on the divisive side of things.

He's a person who wants to bring us together. He's a Republican, and he wants to work with Democrats, and - and everyone else. So, that's why that may be alien to what we are right now as Americans.

CUOMO: Yes. I - I'd go with different, and make sure that you explain it to him real well.

LEMON: No, he's going to - when - when he - when he joins me at the top of the show or, you know, early on in the show, he's going to say, "What did you call me?"

CUOMO: I know.

LEMON: And then we'll have a laugh about it.

CUOMO: All right, I'll see you in a bit, bud.

LEMON: See you in a bit.

CUOMO: All right, so I know John Kasich. He better explain it well.

All right, there has been a major twist. There's no closing argument tonight. I have something actually I think is better for tonight.

Did you hear what happened in this trial of this Navy SEAL who's accused of war crimes? It's became politically relevant with a pardon offer. But what happened with this witness today? I'll tell you all about it.

It literally is something out of a movie, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: THE FINAL FACT.

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CUOMO: I know it's cliche to start a story with "It's like something out of a movie," but this really is, or at least an episode of Law and Order.

Did you hear what happened in the trial of Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher? He's accused of murdering a prisoner who was a teenage ISIS fighter. Today, a different Navy SEAL, a key witness for the prosecution, a key fact, told the court he's the one who killed the prisoner, not Gallagher.

Now, that's a stunner. That SEAL is Special Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, a medic. He's the man with the shaved head, looking forward here. He told the Military Court that he did watch Gallagher stab the prisoner in the neck, but he said the wound was not life-threatening.

He says Gallagher walked away, and that's when he pressed down on the prisoner's breathing tube, they call it a trach tube, and the prisoner suffocated. He claims he did it because he "Wanted to save the prisoner from the kind of torture he had seen Iraqi Forces inflict on other captives."

But there is a second twist. So now, Scott, the guy who confessed in court is on the hook for murder, right? Another twist. He had something called a testimonial immunity agreement. That means his testimony, including his confession, cannot be used against him, and neither can any information directly or indirectly derived from that testimony.

The defense was, of course, thrilled.

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TIM PARLATORE, EDWARD GALLAGHER DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Today, for the first time, somebody went to these - one of these witnesses, and actually asked the real question. What is the cause of death?

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CUOMO: Now, prosecutors are furious. They said Navy investigators had six different interviews with Scott, and he never mentioned anything about this. They say he changed his story after he got an immunity deal. So, what's his exposure?

Well, he could be at risk of a perjury charge. That could come with years in jail. But I don't know about a homicide charge, because I don't even know if they kept the body to kind of use it in, you know, to bring a case, and if they can't use his confession, what other proof do they have of this?

So that leads to the bigger question now, which is why, it's like something out of a movie. Is he telling the truth now or was he telling the truth before when he said the other SEAL, Gallagher, actually did the killing?

A prosecutor accused Scott of lying to do exactly that, protect Chief Gallagher from time behind bars, and Scott did respond by saying, "Well, you know, Gallagher's got a wife and kids. He shouldn't spend the rest of his life in prison."

But the confession contradicts testimony by two other SEALs, who do still say Gallagher is the one who killed the prisoner, and then posed for a picture with the corpse. Gallagher is also accused of shooting at unarmed Iraqi civilians. So,

what happens now?

The Navy says tonight, the government is not going to drop premeditated murder charges against Gallagher, despite Petty Officer Scott's testimony. Their own witness says it wasn't him. They're still going forward and saying the credibility of a witness is for the jury to decide. But will a jury convict now?

We'll stay on it, and let you know.

All right, thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon starts right now.

I don't know if you got a chance to see, Don, but we had Greg Meeks on, the - you know, the Congressman, longtime Congressman. And, you know, him, the woman who is at the Head of the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus, Clyburn, who is, of course, the Democratic leader in the House, they all say Biden doesn't have a problem, that they know him, they know his record.