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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Trump "Not Looking For War", But Warns Of "Obliteration"; Advocates: Texas CBP Centers Are Neglecting Migrant Kids; Reiner: Joe Biden Has The "Best Chance To Beat Trump"; Interview With Sen. Doug Jones. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 21, 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] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Did you get your bossy on at NASA?

JOANN H. MORGAN, AEROSPACE ENGINEER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE EXTERNAL RELATIONS AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTORATE AT NASA'S JOHN F. KENNEDY SPACE CENTER: Yes, I did. I had to get my bossy on sometimes.

I always played piano. And for many years, I thought I was going to be a piano teacher. But my track changed after my dad moved us to Florida, and I saw all the rocket launches.

KAYE: You're retired now in Montana. But there was a point where you actually wanted to retire on Mars.

MORGAN: Well I thought they should have a geriatric program. If it happened 15 years ago, I would have been a volunteer.

KAYE: So, when you come outside and you look at the moon at night here, what do you think?

MORGAN: Oh, I got to help put 12 people to walk on that thing. I love telling everybody about it too.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Bigfork, Montana.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN CO-ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Well if you want to have goose bumps, watch that film.

The news continues, this hour, I'll head it over to Chris Cuomo for CUOMO PRIME TIME.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, Jim, thank you very much. Appreciate it. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

We have some very big things to discuss. Two revelations in the aftermath of this just-avoided air strike, this President says he only asked how many might die at the last minute. That didn't occur to him as relevant before then? That's why the Constitution puts Declaration of War to Congress. Will

they stop this from happening again? We're going to ask a Senate Armed Services Democrat.

Nearly all the major Democrats who want to be President are making their case tonight at the same event in all-important South Carolina. Which one will win the night? We'll watch in real-time.

And Director and Actor Rob Reiner is here. He says if you won't read the book on the Mueller report, he will show you the movie. A new film, he says, can change the election.

Plus, new disturbing details emerging on the deteriorating conditions at the Border, babies now taking care of babies. Congress, where are you?

Let's get after it.

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CUOMO: The President says he stopped an Iran airstrike with just minutes to spare. He admits he didn't ask about what damage the strikes would do until minutes before the assault. His questionable call was arguably not his to make. Why didn't the President take it to Congress?

Now, this President is saying this.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not looking for war. And if there is, it will be obliteration like you've never seen before. But I'm not looking to do that. But you can't have a nuclear weapon.

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CUOMO: The President's words and near deeds beg for Congressional involvement. What happens if there's another provocation?

Let's bring in Senator Doug Jones, Alabama, Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

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CUOMO: Good to see you, Senator.

SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): Good to see you, Chris. Thanks for having me. CUOMO: It's good to be here with you.

So, the idea of what happens the next time, I don't see the justification for the President going alone. I don't see which of the criteria for unilateral Presidential action this would meet. What is your take?

JONES: No, I - I don't disagree with that at all. I think we're taking a very hard look at this. You're going to see some - some efforts, I think, next week, as the Senate takes up our National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA, to try to inject itself a little bit.

I think that what happened over the last 24 hours should be a wake-up call for all Members of Congress that we need to really keep a close hand on this, and just not watch and listen to our classified briefings. We need to be - have a little bit more active involvement here.

CUOMO: And how do you do that like let's say the House is some - through some miraculous act of bipartisanship, the House removing the current AUMF, which you guys have been talking about for years, happens.

So now, there's another provocation, God forbid.

JONES: Well--

CUOMO: And the President says, "We're going to bomb." What could you do?

JONES: Well I think we have to - to work toward an - another authorization. I think what has to happen here, Chris is that leaders on both sides of the aisle here have to sit down and talk.

They have to meet at the White House, and they have to insist that Congress be allowed to do its duty. And we have a role in any foreign relations that involves military action. I think Congress has that role. But it's really going to take the other side of the aisle.

I think it's going to take the Republicans to step up and exert themselves. You're going to have Democrats always talking about that. But I think we're going to have to see some Republicans taking the step as well. You - there's going to be a lot of talk about this when we come back next week. You can count on that.

CUOMO: Are you good with the President deciding not to bomb in this situation?

JONES: Oh, absolutely. I mean what's a little frightening is that, as you said earlier, that he waited till the last minute to just ask, "Could there be civilian casualties, what could be the loss here?"

I think any response has to be somewhat proportional. So, I'm thankful that this didn't come off because if there had been those casualties, if we'd gone through with this, it would not only have raised a ruckus in Congress, but it would have disrupted things across the globe. [21:05:00] CUOMO: Yes. I mean, look, there's no question about it. And look, you don't even need the law here. The facts demand Congressional involvement. The President is designing a dramatic scenario where he saved the day.

What he's leaving out is he was told earlier in the day and that proportional force, and in response, is one of the boxes they have to check, as military experts, before they authorize something, and bring it to the President.

And even at his own reckoning, even if we wanted to believe what he's saying, and I don't, he is openly admitting he didn't think of the most important question, unless they're going to be American forces exposed to danger that you ask in a situation like this.

That's why the Constitution doesn't leave this to one person. It leaves it to an entire body. But, you know, you guys have a history of giving this power to Presidents.

JONES: No, I think, Chris, you're absolutely right, whether it is on the - on the issue of military force, whether it's only issue of tariffs, which is also a big issue we - we're facing right now, I think, over the last number of decades, Congress has ceded a lot of authority.

And as we - as we see with - what is happening with the Administration, on both of those issues, people are beginning to talk about trying to take some of that power back.

We'll see how it goes. But at the same time, Chris, I want to, you know, something stopped and it - there's got to be other people surrounding him that also raise these issues and raise these flags.

I've got a lot of confidence in a lot of our military people. I saw today where Secretary Esper's likely to be nominated as Secretary of Defense. I think he is well thought of on the Hill. There's got to be more voices in the room than just the Secretary of State, and Mr. Bolton.

CUOMO: All right, so let's turn to your campaign. Roy Moore deciding to run again, good thing for you, or bad thing for you?

JONES: Oh Chris, I - I - I don't try to gauge any of that right now.

You know, I - I still - set out to do a job when I was sworn in in January, and that's what we've been doing. We have been focused on the job at hand, the kitchen table issues that we talk about, and I really mean that.

We have not really worried or even thought about that much about who ultimately might be the - the Republican nominee. I knew the minute I was elected that every Republican in Alabama would see stars in their eyes.

And now, they're starting to line up, and it includes Roy again, and so we'll see how it goes. It's going to be a long hot summer for those guys. It's going to be a

long fall for them, leading into next spring. We have an early primary in March. So, we'll know, you know, we'll know fairly early next spring how this all shakes out.

CUOMO: How confident are you that you're going to get it again?

JONES: I feel very good about where we are in this race, Chris. I really do. We - we're travelling the state, far and wide, and we get so - such a good response.

But, more importantly, what we're doing in the record we're building in the Senate is one that Alabama can be proud of. It's not one that everybody is going to agree with all the time. We said that going in.

But the fact of the matter is with that - whatever we're doing on healthcare, especially rural healthcare, job force development, education, those kind of things that really mean something to folks, as they sit down at their kitchen tables, that's what we've been working on.

That's what we've been using as a bully pulpit. The Office of the Senate, we've been working on things in legislation. I've got a lot of legislation pending, and we got a lot of things in the works that people of Alabama should be very proud of.

CUOMO: How big a deal for you is it contending with which way your party seems to be moving on the Presidential level? I know your good friend Joe Biden, the former VP has to deal with this. He is notably a centrist. They say 80 percent of your party--

JONES: Right.

CUOMO: --is center-Left, but not in this primary, He's getting beat up right now because, ostensibly, he's not speaking the language of the new-Left. He doesn't talk about these race issues--

JONES: Well--

CUOMO: --in a way that they want them spoken about today. How big a deal is it for you and for him?

JONES: Well, look, I think that, right now, everybody needs to look at folks' records as well as just what they're saying.

I think that there is a lot of loud voices right now in the Democratic Party that's a little out (ph). But at the end of the day, I think the needle is going to move back to where we're going to see - look at somebody's complete record, where things are.

You know, people like Joe Biden, and - and so many others and - that we've got running for - for President have always been there in - in civil rights, with human rights, with basic respect and dignity and civility. That's what folks are going to be looking for. I'm going to be talking that same language in my race. I did it in 2017, Chris, in a Trump State in 2017, and it elected me to the United States Senate. It was a close race. But it elected me in a Red state like Alabama.

And I think that that is the message that has to go across, across all 50 states, not just those that lean so heavily Blue. You've got to be able to reach voters in all 50 states in one form or another.

CUOMO: Absolutely. And it'll be interesting to follow your race, and see how it goes. You're welcome to come on this show, as will be your opponent, to make the case, to all of America, and to your state, specifically, as a reflection of what's going on with the election season.

JONES: Awesome. Anytime, Chris, you just give me a call, I'd love to be on your show, thank you.

CUOMO: Senator, thank you for taking the opportunity.

[21:10:00] All right, so when we're talking about what Iran did, there's no question that it was a bad act of aggression. What is the appropriate response?

Let's get some insight from somebody who knows how things go in that country, a former CIA Operative who spent years in the Middle East, who knows the likely outcomes and the reactions.

We'll get his side, next.

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CUOMO: War with Iran would not look like what we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran has reach, far beyond its borders.

Now, one man who knows and has seen them in action is former CIA Operative, Bob Baer, and it's good to welcome him back on PRIME TIME. It's good to see you.

Let's start with why they would do this. We know that the screws have been put on them with the sanctions. It's inarguably hurting them. What is their disposition in terms of how to react to duress?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: They respond. We pushed them into a corner when we withdrew from the nuclear treaty. They truly have - are suffering economically, and they're not going to sit still for it.

I do believe that they were behind the tanker attacks. I do believe they're behind the attacks from Yemen against Saudi Arabia. And I do believe that they shot down that drone. They knew exactly what they were doing.

[21:15:00] And they intend to push this President into a corner. And he has no clue what he's up against. This is probably one of the most disciplined, well-trained, battle-ready forces in the world. It's going to be nothing like when we hit Saddam in - in 2003, nothing at all.

CUOMO: Well you don't think that they are an even match for the U.S. Military. So, what is it that he would have to worry about? I'm sure he's being told. But what would he have to actually internalize?

BAER: Well he doesn't understand asymmetric warfare that no, we could beat them in a field of battle anywhere, we could invade part of Iran, but they can hit back against the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE.

All of their rockets are very accurate. They're deep in caves. There's no way that our Air Force could take them out in a couple strikes. You haul these things out, take out 20 percent of the world's oil consumption in minutes.

And then we also have Hezbollah in Lebanon, hundreds of thousands of rockets. They would respond against Israel, against Haifa, Tel Aviv.

CUOMO: And they have a lot of bad friends too, right?

BAER: There's nothing the Israelis can do about--

CUOMO: I mean one of the things that they do that we didn't have--

BAER: Lot of proxies.

CUOMO: --as much exposure to with Iraq, and certainly with Afghanistan is that while those places may have allowed bad guys there, especially with Afghanistan, these guys have money, goodwill, and manpower with a lot of, you know, whether it's Shia militias, or Hezbollah, I mean they have a lot of reach that way too, right?

BAER: They know exactly what they're doing. And, you know, you go to Syria, I was there a couple years ago, and they're everywhere. They won that war for Bashar al-Assad. It was the Iranians and Hezbollah.

I mean they're in South America, the Tri-Border region. The FBI's most important threat inside this country are Hezbollah-connected cells. It's a true threat to us in terms of terrorism.

Now, they're not using - they're not planning anything right now. But in the event of an all-out war, you can count on it. We would see something in American cities, a reaction. CUOMO: So, what works well for the United States in a situation like this?

BAER: Well what worked well was the nuclear treaty, and is slowly normalizing relations, but now it's too late for that. You know, Chris, we don't have the troops to fight a full-fledged war in the Middle East.

We're talking about hundreds of thousands, more than we had in Iraq. They're not there. Our Navy is in danger. They have this ability to swarm the fleet with small boats and do major damage.

They wouldn't go up in the air. We could control the air. But they are totally prepared - they've been prepared for decades of taking on the United States, and it's going to be much more dangerous than the 80s, when they weren't prepared during the Iran-Iraq war.

CUOMO: What's the best course forward?

BAER: You know, the best course forward is - is get this National Security Adviser out of the White House. Taking on Iran, now, this country is not ready for it. We do not want to start a regional war that will look a lot more like World War III. We have to back down.

But, right now, they've got - they've got Trump in a corner. I mean hitting these tankers, they keep doing that, and they're going to end up controlling the Gulf, you know, they like to call it the Persian Gulf, and it will look like the Persian Gulf, if this continues as is.

CUOMO: Well what happens?

I mean, you know, look, I think it's hard to believe the President's recitation of events that it wasn't until the last minute that he asked the best question that no one have thought of, which is how are people - how many might die, and that's why he didn't do this.

If you were to respond and take out the weapon that did whatever the damage is, take out a drone, you take out the battery that did it. Some ship? You find where they are in port. You blow up their assets there. If you could do it without human costs, is that a smart move?

BAER: No, because, look, Iran is controlled by true believers. They believe in the apocalypse, in the 12th Imam. The - the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps drops Post-Its in a well that they think they're commuting - communicating with the 12th Imam.

So, these people are - are, you know, they - it's a cult, Chris. And they're not - they're going to, what we would think is, overreact. And - and that's where the danger of this.

We are a minute away from midnight on a - on a major, major conflict in the Middle East, which no one, I don't think, in this country wants. But, then again, these people don't understand Iran, in the White House.

CUOMO: One of the biggest problems here isn't just the President's confidence in a moment of crisis.

It's going to be that he doesn't have the team around him, because this situation screams for turning the "Me" of the United States into a "We," and get some voices that they'll listen to, and some different pressure points from their trade partners, and get them to sit down, and start talking. We're nowhere near that right now.

Bob Baer, thank you for helping us understand the variables better.

BAER: Thank you.

CUOMO: Really dangerous situation. Thank you for that.

The President threatened another dangerous situations, all right? The Border matters. I'm never going to let it go on this show until the crisis is gone, and they fix the rules, so it doesn't happen again.

[21:20:00] Is the answer, mass roundups of migrant families across America? Well if that's going to happen in like 48 hours, what's the justification for that? Is it going to make the situation better or worse?

A Great Debate with new details about how bad it is down there, next.

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CUOMO: New reports today from a legal team monitoring CBP facilities in Texas, they say kids there are living in "Unconscionable conditions."

They literally see kids taking care of younger kids, toddlers, as young as two years old, having to fend for themselves, left wearing filthy onesies, mucus-smeared shirts, no soap. Showers are scarce. Kids are getting sick.

The Administration response? They literally are arguing in court that they don't need to provide toothbrushes or soap to create sanitary conditions. And now, there is a threat to launch ICE raids that would definitely add more people to an overcapacity situation.

[21:25:00] How does the Trump administration justify this? That's the start of tonight's Great Debate with Ana Navarro and Patrick Griffin.

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CUOMO: Bless you both for coming on a Friday night. I appreciate it.

Patrick, I start with you. ICE raids now, I know they look strong, enforce the law. DHS is begging for relief from overcapacity. These raids can only make it worse. Why do it?

PATRICK GRIFFIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think Chris, this goes back to Donald Trump being Donald Trump. Part of his brand is to be a strong man, at least that's the way he projects himself.

Immigration has been a seminal issue to this President in his campaign. Whether you agree or don't agree with him, I think it is the thing he believes from the day he took that elevator ride in Trump Tower to announce his Presidency that got him elected.

He continues to drive this thing. This is not just a crisis on the Border. These are a series of crises that are all related to America, I think, finally having to deal with a problem that's been neglected by Democrats and Republicans and many administrations for a long time.

CUOMO: Right. But--

GRIFFIN: So, does it make it better, Chris? I don't think so.

CUOMO: Well but it--

GRIFFIN: But it certainly is something that had to be done, at least Trump believes that.

CUOMO: I see - that's what I don't get, Ana. If it's not going to improve the situation, then how is it something that has to be done?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, well first of all, I don't even think this is something that Trump believes.

We have seen so much reporting, we have seen so many stories, heard the fate - the names, and seen the faces of all the undocumented immigrants that were employed at Trump properties until very recently, scores and scores of them in all - in many states.

We have seen the family chain migration taking place from Melania Trump's parents and her family. I don't think it's something he believes. I think it's something he is using to pander to a base.

It is something that he used in 2016. He believes that driving this wedge, using immigration as a wedge issue, to get the - the - the base out, worked for him in 2016, and he's going to do it again.

I think, look, he - he, you know, it's - it's not a coincidence that this is all happening the week that he launched his campaign. The day he launched his campaign, he announced raids. He went, you

know, he announced no aid to Central America. He said he wasn't going to apologize or take back anything regarding the Central Park Five. This guy is going to go on this same hymnal that he's used before.

CUOMO: All right.

NAVARRO: Divide and conquer. Pick Americans versus others. It's - it's just a horrible, horrible tactic.

CUOMO: I don't get the calculus this way, though, Patrick. The - the idea of expanding the base, you have to - you have to grow, grow or die, just like in business.

And I remember when this administration started, do you remember the effort called DJT 100, about trying to get him to 100 percent popularity. How do you win if you do something like this and you have a, God forbid - and I hope it doesn't happen.

If they do these raids, I hope that, you know, you don't wind up stuffing people in who are sick, and they make other people sick, and you have a catastrophe, even though you're asking for it. How do you get anything near a center-Right voter to be for you if you make the situation worse?

GRIFFIN: Well I think that, look, it - this is a general election, Chris. And the base politics thing on both sides only takes you so far. Someone's got to win voters in the middle.

CUOMO: Right.

GRIFFIN: There aren't (ph) many left.

But at the end of the day, Trump, I think, believes that what put him over the edge, rightly or wrongly, was that he appealed, and this is troubling, quietly to a group of Americans who will not go to Upper East Side cocktail parties or in the neighborhoods of Georgetown, and talk about their feelings on some of this stuff.

But, I think, he believes some of this sells in parts of the country, where audiences at those rallies cheer, because they feel as though the immigration system has been broken for a long time that there are people in this country that country's infrastructure can't absorb, and there are enough of them angry and frightened about it, and Trump had stroked those fears, and stoked them on the way here that it's an easy cheap--

CUOMO: I get it. I get what the sell is.

GRIFFIN: --applause line for him to keep getting it.

CUOMO: I get what the sell is. But, Patrick, nominally, you're one of those conservatives that should be troubled by this.

GRIFFIN: Mm-hmm. CUOMO: The administration arguing in open court that toothbrushes and soap are not necessary to be provided for sanitary conditions, do you believe that or no?

GRIFFIN: First of all, Chris, I agree with you. I think it's a terrible optic. It's a terrible humanitarian position for us to see ourselves in, right, as a country. But I think what's happened is this policy has overwhelmed the system. Homeland Security, Border and Customs folks, they are not equipped to deal with this stuff.

[21:30:00] I believe in a lot of things the government does being very good. But I also know that sometimes the government has a hard time delivering mail. It's also not ready or prepared to deal with this humanitarian crisis on the Border--

CUOMO: But you're - right, but that's the thing. You know what that's called?

GRIFFIN: --that's largely been created by this.

CUOMO: You know what that's called? That's called the condition precedent in the law. And Ana--

GRIFFIN: Right, right.

CUOMO: --you know - you know, look, Pat is right. And we know that they're overwhelmed, Ana.

They're saying we can't take care of these people. These conditions - I was down there, OK? Their assessments are accurate. You're not going to hear DHS argue back about the assessments of the conditions.

Think about when the last time that happened, where the people who were being accused - accused of keeping people the wrong way will acknowledge that they're not keeping people the right way.

And if it is made worse, what about, you know, the Ana Navarros, the center-Right people, how does he grow with them?

NAVARRO: Well he sure as hell ain't growing with me. And I think you know that.

CUOMO: True.

NAVARRO: I would rather vote for a stump than--

CUOMO: I know. I've seen the hashtag.

NAVARRO: --for Donald Trump.

CUOMO: What I'm saying is Center-Right people--

NAVARRO: However - however, you know, to my - to my dismay--

CUOMO: --are all across this country. NAVARRO: --to my great dismay and disappointment, I saw this week, people like Lindsey Graham, and people like Marco Rubio, who worked on immigration, who had a heart, who know what the conditions are like in Central America, and in Latin America, and why these people are fleeing, who did so much for immigration reform, I saw them cheering on, and laughing, and clapping at a campaign launch, when they know that this administration is doing cruel, inhumane things to children.

And it's - it's - I'm - I'm apoplectic about it. I cannot believe that evangelicals - that evangelical leaders are calling Donald Trump the most biblical and best precedent ever, when evangelicals used to be for immigration reform.

I can't believe when Congressional leaders stand there, clapping like seals at this guy. And it's because it is cultish. It is because they're afraid of him. It's because they'll - he'll come after him. It's because he throws them bones.

But you know what? What we are seeing right now, it's inhumane, it's un-American. We - we - we are a country that has a moral high ground. We tell people all over the world to respect human rights, to treat people with dignity.

We worry about the conditions in Syrian refugee camps. We worry about the conditions of dogs and animals after a natural disaster hits somewhere.

We are those kinds of people that - those are American values. And that is why we must defeat Donald Trump because he is an existential threat to those American values.

And the face we are showing the world right now is this, children that are sick, that are lying in the floor, that have no adequate food, no adequate water, no adequate sanitation, that are piled up like bags of potatoes on a floor, we will not allow that for animals.

And we are sitting here, defending it, when it comes to children, fleeing distress and political violence and murder.

CUOMO: Right.

NAVARRO: We need to solve the issue.

CUOMO: True.

NAVARRO: We need to solve the root cause.

CUOMO: True.

NAVARRO: It's true. There is a Border. But what's happening right now is absolutely inhumane and unacceptable.

And whether you support Donald Trump or despise him, as I do, whether you support more immigration, or want it to stop completely, everybody should be shocked. Everybody should--

CUOMO: Well let's do this.

NAVARRO: --hearts should be breaking, what we know is happening at the Border with these children.

CUOMO: Let's do this because I'm out of time on this. But it's OK because we don't know enough yet.

Let's hope that this is one of the devices the President likes to use, which is called the false deadline. The "It's going to happen," he usually says, "You'll see." Here they're saying 48 hours.

I hope, Patrick, somebody goes to him, and says, "Look, I get that you've got to be harsh, and all that. You're asking for a nightmare if this goes the way you want. Not only is it not going to deliver as much as you want, because you'll never get a million people. You're lucky if you get 1 percent of that, at best," right, probably one- tenth of 1 percent, "but you're going to make it worse, it's not going to help you."

Let's hope somebody says that to him. Let's reconvene when we know what happens 48 hours from now. Ana, Patrick, thank you, and bless you for being on in a Friday night. Have a great weekend.

All right, you're in for a treat? It's Friday. I got to do something nice for you.

The one and only Rob Reiner is here. He believes there's one person who can save the Democratic Party in 2020. He's going to tell us who it is, and why he believes that. And if you won't read the book on the Mueller report, Reiner made you the movie.

Who and what is in it, next.

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CUOMO: Jim Clyburn's World Famous Fish Fry. Well you may never have heard of it. But is huge in politics. It's perhaps the most crucial event for any Democratic Presidential-hopeful to attend if they want to win South Carolina.

Now, of the 21 candidates there tonight, Joe Biden probably has the edge. He has years of inroads, and working, and travel, to see voters there over the years, and when he ran alongside President Obama, of course. Here's the question. Did this week's remarks touting his work with segregationist senators, and the boy, sons, did that put a dent in his chances?

One man who is rooting for the former VP is Director Rob Reiner. He also made a very interesting film about the Mueller report to educate voters.

Welcome to PRIME TIME, Sir.

ROB REINER, ACTOR & FILMMAKER: Thanks for having me, Chris.

CUOMO: So, here's the knock. You had John Lewis today, you've had Clyburn, you've had - Greg Meeks was on the show last night, Senior Members of the CBC say, "I'm all right with Biden. He's got to think about what he says. But we also have to look at what he does." Those are the old-timers though.

The young guns are saying, "You don't know how to talk, Biden. You talk about stuff we don't want to talk about that way anymore. You're not with it."

How big a deal to you?

REINER: I don't think it's a big deal at all. We're so far off from a - from the - from the Election Day or even the nomination of a - of a Democrat.

But I mean, right now, he's way at the top of the polls, and this is par for the course. This is what they do, try to, you know, take down the - the leader. And they'll be doing that until it gets a little even, and then they go after each other.

[21:40:00] It's unfortunate because we've got a - a real cancer over there in the White House, and - and we've got to stick together to not knock each other down over this stuff. And I know this is part of what you do in the lead-up to a nomination. But it's unfortunate. I don't think this is going to - this is going to play at all.

CUOMO: Why Biden is the best choice for you?

REINER: Well, for me, I mean we have been destabilized. We have the single worst President that has ever been in the White House.

He's - he's a criminal. He's got no morals. He's a misogynist. He's a racist, all these things we know. He's a pathological liar. I mean all these things we know about him. He's completely incompetent.

And I think, at this point, we need somebody to right the ship. Our allies are fleeing. They're - they're frightened to death of what we've got there in the White House.

So, we need somebody who on day one can right the ship, but put us back on the world stage, and say to the world, "America is stabilized." And that's why I'm for Joe. Plus, I've known him a long time. And he's fought for a lot. Listen, he's not perfect. He's had his problems. And I think he's going to have a lot tougher problem working his way through the Democratic primary than he will if - if he winds up with the nomination, and having to go after Trump. I think he has the best chance to beat Trump.

CUOMO: That's a big indicator for you. Personal experience aside, you believe he's the best chance to unseat this President.

REINER: Yes, I do. But that's not to say that others aren't - don't have a good chance too. I like Elizabeth Warren. I like Kamala Harris, even Pete Buttigieg. I like a lot of the candidates.

I just think he is positioned because of his ability to reach out to disaffected working-class White voters in the Rust Belt states. I think he has a way of connecting with them. And, right now, if you look at the polls, I mean he's way ahead in the African-American community.

CUOMO: He is. But a lot of that could be name recognition, Rob.

REINER: Yes. Yes.

CUOMO: You know, it - it could be people know him best.

REINER: There's no--

CUOMO: He's got the biggest pedigree.

REINER: Yes.

CUOMO: You know, Senators aren't usually the best, you know, chance - choices for President, if you look at - at the pattern. But this old- new thing--

REINER: Yes.

CUOMO: --you're dismissing out of hand--

REINER: Except for - except for Kennedy.

CUOMO: Well, Kennedy--

REINER: Except for Kennedy and Barack Obama.

CUOMO: --yes, true.

REINER: They're both - they're both--

CUOMO: And he had Barack Obama too.

REINER: --Senators. Yes.

CUOMO: Well, you know, you had Clinton.

REINER: Yes. CUOMO: You had both Bushes. You had Carter.

REINER: Yes.

CUOMO: You know, usually Governors had a shot there--

REINER: Yes.

CUOMO: --because you see executive experience.

REINER: Yes.

CUOMO: The idea of old-new, you're brushing it aside, why?

REINER: Because, to me, it's - it's - it's who is the most qualified to - to run the country, who has the most experience. I mean he's also, you know, you talk about a Senator. But he's also a Vice President for--

CUOMO: Sure he was.

REINER: --eight years. He does - he does understand how the White House works, how foreign policy works. He understands how to get legislation done. These are things - we need a steadying hand right now. And I think that's why I - I go for him. But - but, again, whoever gets the nomination, I push all my chips in on them.

CUOMO: Understood. So now, one of the big issues coming out of the Mueller probe, certainly something that I was arguing for months to my own detriment, is people aren't going to read this.

There are too many expectations that this is going to end the Presidency, there's going to be nuance, it's going to be loss. Sure enough the report came out, everybody stole headlines for themselves, and we didn't see that people are digesting the information. You decided to do something about it.

REINER: Yes.

CUOMO: And make a film to tell people the high points for their own edification. Here's a taste.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR, PRODUCER, & DIRECTOR: This was one of many meetings where they shared the campaign's internal polling data, and their electoral strategy, specifically, the targeting of Mid-Western states.

ROSIE PEREZ, ACTRESS, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST, TALK SHOW HOST, AUTHOR: Let me say that again. Trump's Campaign Manager shared Trump's election strategy with Russia.

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: That's the textbook definition of collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Now, this is a reference to Paul Manafort, Campaign Chair, giving internal polling data with or without the knowledge of the campaign to somebody with bad connections to the GRU, and then the trolls wound up targeting some of the same places and faces that were reflected in that polling data.

Here's the challenge, Rob.

REINER: Right. Yes.

CUOMO: How much is you - are you concerned that the people who will watch this and - and - and it will resonate with them are already in your camp, and the ones who aren't, you won't get?

REINER: Well, at this point, what we're trying to do is get, and we've seen it today, I think that we're up to like 78 Members of the House are now in favor of impeachment. We just need to move the ball forward in such a way that we can get people on camera.

You're right when you said at the beginning. People haven't read the report. They don't know what's in it. What we know, if you have read the report, there's - there's more evidence, a damning criminal evidence against this President than against any President in the American history.

So, if we are able to present that to the public by getting witnesses on camera, under oath, in front of the American public, it - it'll be very clear what needs to be done. So, everything I'm trying to do is to educate people as much as possible.

Even people who, you know, agree with me, you know, in terms of my politics, they haven't read the report. They don't know how bad it is. They don't know that this report is loaded with collusion.

[21:45:00] You know, you hear the President say "No collusion." But that's not true. So we have this--

CUOMO: Nowhere in the report does it say the words "No collusion." Right at the beginning, he said--

REINER: That's true - that--

CUOMO: --"I didn't look at collusion." It's not a crime. It's a behavior.

REINER: That's right.

CUOMO: And there was a lot of stuff that qualifies as collusion, whether or not it was a crime, they assessed "No"--

REINER: Right.

CUOMO: --on that level. But criminality isn't the only level for responsible behavior. Well I wish you well with this, Rob, and I give you an invitation to continue the dialog. As we go through--

REINER: Well we have another - we have another one coming up in about - in the next week, another one on obstruction. So--

CUOMO: Good. Give me an advance on it.

REINER: --you can take a look at that.

CUOMO: And we'll talk about it again.

REINER: OK, thanks.

CUOMO: I'd love to have you on. And I appreciate your efforts to inform the country, as long as it's fair and accurate.

REINER: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Rob Reiner, appreciate you being on the show.

So, look, my headline on what just happened with Iran is that a potential crisis was averted. I don't think bombing Iran was a win for us in this situation. And I don't think it was planned out to be a win.

However, my concern is this. Was the President being straight with us with how it went down? And why didn't he go straight to Congress before making a move, as law arguably requires? And then my biggest concern is why isn't Congress saying what I'm saying to you right now?

We have an argument for all of them, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TEXT: CLOSING ARGUMENT.

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CUOMO: All right, the good news is that there was no strike, OK? We did not need to do that in Iran, not without a plan for a win, and it seems that the planning just wasn't there. This President's reticence works to our collective benefit in this instance.

Nevertheless, this exercise has revealed two major concerns. We have new reporting that the President was told earlier in the day about potential casualties with a retaliatory strike on Iran.

So, if that's true, why did he say this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They came and they said, "Sir, we're ready to go. We'd like a decision." I said, "I want to know something before you go. How many people will be killed?"

Came back, said, "Sir, approximately 150." And I thought about it for a second, and I said, "You know what, they shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are sitting with a 150 dead people," that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said, "Go ahead."

CHUCK TODD, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS" MODERATOR, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes.

TRUMP: And I didn't like it. I didn't think it was - I didn't think it was proportionate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Not arguing with his conclusion. I'm questioning the credibility of the process. Look, it seems pretty clear, like the President wants us to think, "He saved the day." But it was his call, and he had reportedly already been told about the estimates.

So, this is likely untrue the way he's depicting it. And even if we accept that this is how it happened, and remember, he tweeted, "We're just 10 minutes to go in the air (ph)," so if that's what it was, he then admits to us that he didn't think about asking how many people would be hurt until the last second?

Look, making up crowd size, and economic projections, it's not right, but that's one thing. Credibility in a crisis matters. And this President's credibility is a known problem.

The other issue revealed in all this, to me, is a more urgent matter. This decision to bomb was arguably in defiance of Congress' legal authority. So, where are they? The Left said he needed to come to them. The Republicans were talking about taking back power from the Executive all during the 2016 election. Where are they now?

Not only does this President certainly need the help in these matters, that must be clear to all of us after this, but it is Congress' job to declare war, not his.

What would be the basis for his authority? The War Powers Act says clearly, a President may launch an attack when there is one, a declaration of war, there isn't, two, specific statutory authority - authorization, I'll get back to statutory, and three, a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its Armed Forces.

They attacked a possession. But there is no national emergency. There is no imminent threat to us, no attack. By shooting down a drone, what does that trigger in terms of law?

All right, that goes to statutory authorization, the authorization to use military force or the AUMF. It's to fight terror from 2001. That's what we're operating under.

Yes, it empowers POTUS to determine when the use of force against countries that harbor organizations that somehow helped the 9/11 attackers. But does anyone think that that's what this is about right now, 18 years later?

So, here's my argument. Congress can't let this happen again. They must demand this President explain why he was minutes away from a strike without authorization.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, said he never mentioned an attack in any of his plans in their last meeting. That's not how the Constitution empowers this process.

The House makes the argument even more obvious for me. They had a vote this past Wednesday to repeal the old AUMF. And in it, they included specific language that "Nothing in this Act may be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran."

Now, they say there's no way it's going to get through the GOP Senate. The GOP seems anxious to give yet another President power, he should not have. Senator Rubio says the "President doesn't need Congressional authorization to defend our nation against attacks."

How is our national security here presented with an imminent threat by shooting down a drone there that may have been in Iranian airspace? And how is that, even if it's all true, something that warrants killing a 150 Iranians by our own estimates?

If that's how he feels, let's see him, and his Republican Congressional colleagues, own a decision like that.

Debate and vote and own the bombing and killing of people in retaliation for shooting down a drone. That's what the Constitution requires. The Left is too quiet and the Right is complicit.

It's not as simple as how any of you, or I, or certainly even how Members of Congress feel about how we should react to Iran's bad act. It's about how we decide something this grave.

And what we just saw is a perversion of the law. It almost resulted in something this country would have had to own as a whole, and almost surely alone. Think about that.

He admits to us, this President, he was minutes away from the decision to bomb, before he asked "Is anybody going to die here?"

The Constitution did not leave a decision like this to one person on purpose. And certainly, we just saw why it's better to have all of Congress involved with this President.

So, for love of country, for the love of safety of this country, "Congress, do your damn job, and don't let this President make a call like this one on his own again."

So, how good was the President's intelligence on Iran? Let's go into what the backing for the decision was to shine a light into the process of how we got here. Two people who bring us military perspective from the war room to the cockpit, a very important brief for all of us, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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