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President Trump's Last-Minute Decision; Same Day, Same State for Joe Biden and Cory Booker. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 21, 2019 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to a bonus hour of Prime Time.

Quote, "obliteration like you've never seen before." This president says he's not looking for war with Iran but that's what will happen if it does come to war. We may have just come closer than we think.

My big question is, why didn't this president go through Congress for approval on this strike? And why would he only ask his generals about its potential human cost minutes before the decision? We're going to consult with our military advisers tonight.

And did the president really just threaten to jail a Time magazine journalist in the Oval Office over a photograph that they took? Sure sounds like it. Backlash. Back story ahead.

And it's a big night for the 2020 Democrats. Almost all of them are in one place for the first time. Who's coming out on top at the all- important South Carolina fish fry. Let's get after it.

All right. So, look, the president version of what went down with cancelling the strike on Iran does not add up. That's not stopping him from talking about obliterating that country. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: 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.


CUOMO: All right. Brinkmanship aside. What do we think happened here and what do we need to think about going forward? Let's ask some great military minds. Former NATO commander general Wesley Clark. And retired Air Force Colonel Kim Olson who is a Democrat running for Congress in Texas. Great to have you both.

KIM OLSON, RETIRED U.S. AIR FORCE: Thanks for having us, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. General, what's the chance that the president wasn't told until just before they wanted to launch the mission that, by the way, 150 people may die.

WESLEY CLARK, FMR. SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, NATO: I think he was told. I mean, those briefings come up. Now, I guess it's conceivable he would have delegated that to John Bolton or somebody to make the final decision. But according to the reports I'm getting he was briefed on it. But maybe it didn't stick.

None of us exactly know how the president's mind works. That's one of the big things since he's been elected really. And maybe it just sort of, bubbled up at the last minute.

But on the other hand, there's people who say that maybe he got a tip off from some intelligence agency that the Iranians actually didn't intend to do it. It was a mistake. Or maybe that was false information also. So, we don't really know what happened.

However, I will say this, Chris, I think the United States dodged a huge bullet. Because had we done this, we would have really bitten into a cycle of tit for tat escalation. And we would have been to blame for this. It would have had a huge impact on the economy. All over the world.

CUOMO: Well, look, Kim, the problem I have with the what I believe to be a ruse by this president where he comes in and saves the day is that by his own admission he hadn't really thought about how many people may die until right before they were going to launch the mission.

I think that really points to why Congress needs to take back the power the Constitution gives them here. We're going to get to that. But to pick up on the general's point. The idea of we're lucky we didn't do it. It's not what people on the right are saying. They're saying you got to punch them in the nose otherwise they are going to do this more. We look weak. What's your counter?

OLSON: My counter would be from one that it went into Iraq 10 days after the bomb stopped dropping that when you get into a war in which you don't have an end state and you don't have a strategic consequence of what's going to happen especially in a place like the Strait of Hormuz where Iraq is about half the size of Iran. And Iran will take us to task.

There's nothing wrong with using different political instruments of power like economic, diplomatic and yes, there's the military instrument which is always available to the commander in chief. And I'm sure General Clark has briefed on this in other administrations.

[22:04:56] The hardest thing to use is the diplomatic instrument of power. But you know what, I want a commander in chief that does the hard stuff without sending our troops back into harm's way into another cycle of endless war.

And I'll just say this, Chris. We have a generation of kids who will, you know, take an oath to the Constitution today in which all they know is that the United States has been in some kind of conflict in the Middle East for the last 18 years and now we're sitting on the abyss of the another conflict in the Middle East.

In which exactly to your point, the economic consequence of that could be staggering. Because a fifth of the world's oil traverses the Strait of Hormuz. And basically, Japan relies on about 85 percent of the Middle Eastern oil. So, it has huge economic impact across the entire global spectrum.

CUOMO: Right.

OLSON: And I think it's a very, very dangerous place to be. And we need a leader who navigates that better.

CUOMO: We don't even have a secretary of defense right now. We had an acting one in Shanahan who --


CUOMO: -- decided to back away from the process. Now we have one coming in who is supposedly respected. But you know, general, this goes to planning. And walking away from the deal, the Iran deal, without a plan as imperfect as it may have been. And not having a diplomatic back up and alienating the allies, where does that leave us in terms of options to move forward without using military?

CLARK: Yes, it really is a bankrupt policy. And this is what Congress should be focusing on. There is no real obtainable objective here. Pompeo gave a list of 12 demands back in January. But they essentially mean that Iran wouldn't be Iran. Iran has to cut off relations with tall of its surrogates around the world. Forget about Syria, forget about Lebanon. Iran is not going to do that.

So, it's unrealistic. But what is the strategy? What are we actually seeking to get and what's reasonable? This is where Congress should be focused right now. Because it's tis lack of strategy that's behind this economic pressure that Iran is responding to. They can't respond economically. They're trying to respond with military. Just below the threshold as we United States would strike back.

And they're goading us into a military response so that we all take the heat. All this, as you say, comes from the lack of strategy. So, I hope Congress would hold a hearing and really get into this. And let's see these Republican hawks who are so determined to strike back. Let's see them talk about something more than tactics. Let's hear them talk about what is a real strategy for how we want to reshape the Middle East.

CUOMO: Well, listen, Kim, it's easy to say you got to be tough, you got to be tough. It's harder to own it.

OLSON: Right.

CUOMO: To own the action. I mean, look, one of the big reasons Congress and if you win your race this is something you'll deal with. The reason that, you know, the colleagues you'd be joining they run away from it. Is that owning it for the Iraq war stunk for them. Because it wound up being if you want to look at it is bad intel or look at it as bad outcome. They had to own it. And it's haunted people who want to run for president ever since.

But that's the job. They can't control the diplomacy. We don't even have a U.N. ambassador right now.

OLSON: Right.

CUOMO: But they can control this process of the president making the case to them before there's military action. Do you think that there is the will in Congress right now to take back its authority?

OLSON: Well, I think it should. And I think it speaks exactly what you're saying, Chris. Is that we probably need more veterans to run for office and get into Congress so that you can speak from experience what it's like to try rebuild a country in which there was no exit strategy. To try to go to war like we've been at it for nearly 13, 14 years. And to speak to what the costs are going to be.

Look, we buried 7,500 men and women. We have injured tens of thousands in these wars in the Middle East. You know, great nations and great leaders ought to be peacemakers not always being using the instrument of political power like I said.

This is what the America should be. We should be the country that has a strategic vision as the general alluded to and look at the Middle East and try to bring the ones to bring the brokers and bring them to the table and solve those very complicated problems. But we're not.

To his point, we're goading them into it. And Iran again answered that. And we can do tit for tat but it will escalate and they can mine that entire strait and put the global economy in check for a while. That's the danger we face as a nation. But I just think that we need leadership at this juncture both in the Congress and the Senate that can speak truth to power and talk about what it's like to try to build the countries or take troops into warfare.

CUOMO: This is a very different scenario. The president's credibility seems to be having an impact. Not just on how he describes the situation to the American people. But it's unusual for meet to see allies question U.S. intelligence like what's going on right now about where this drone was and why this happened.

General, thank you so much as always. I appreciate it. Kim Olson, good luck to you going forward. And thank you very much, colonel, for being on the show. I appreciate you both.

[22:10:02] OLSON: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

CUOMO: All right. What was the president thinking --


CLARK: Thank you.

CUOMO: -- when it came to be this close to striking Iran. Does he really expect us to believe that he didn't know anything about casualties until the last second? A man who spent a lot of time trying to get inside the president's head is here, next.

I have to laugh because how do you do that?


CUOMO: So, we understand that President Trump's national security advisers were on board when it came to striking Iran. Probably more that -- more than even he was. But he didn't listen at the last moment and reversed course. Why? What does it tell us about how he handled this and going forward?

Let's bring in Trump biographer David Cay Johnston who has studied the president's mindset very closely. Welcome back to Prime Time, big brother. I will set aside my argument that this should have been Congress's decision from the beginning. Let's talk about this process.

If we accept the president's reckoning which by the way, I don't. I don't believe that the discussion of casualties only came up at the last second. If we accept it as his reckoning, it means he didn't think to ask about what the human cost would be until the last second. Surprising.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Chris, I think it's actually much worse than that. Our military commanders understand proportionality. They are not going to recommend a plan that would kill 150 Iranians over a drone.

[22:14:59] They would recommend a plan to take out the radar tower that tracked the drone. Or the missile launcher.


CUOMO: So, you don't think they told him 150?

JOHNSTON: If they did it's because Donald Trump or John Bolton said give me the most aggressive plan you can come up with. It is certainly not what our military commanders would have recommended. Because they are schooled in proportionality.

Secondly, Donald's appalling ignorance is on full display here. He doesn't know anything about the history of the world. He has no idea that Iran is the most sophisticated country in the Middle East with a deep culture and 80 million people.

He doesn't know a Sunni from a Shia. But he's made an alliance with the Saudis who go around beheading people because they pray for a better government, who, you know, assassinated an American journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, and is saber rattling with the Iranians.

And why did the Iranian leadership, not the Iranian people. But the Iranian leadership hate us? Well, that takes us all the way back to Eisenhower and our overthrowing a Democratically elected leader Mosaddegh and putting in the Shah who ran a vicious secret police operation that tortured and murdered people. Of course, they hate us because of that.

CUOMO: Well, they are the originators of death to America. I mean, the animus is clear.


CUOMO: How do we deal with it. But this is a really interesting angle which is kind of bothering me right now that I haven't talked to any military people. You don't think he would have been presented with a plan by military officers who were charged with considering proportionality so that it is a legal strike. They have to think about the legalities. Proportionality is part of legally.


CUOMO: And you don't think they would have said 150 seems fair?

JOHNSTON: Absolutely not. And if they did so, it's because they were asked for a plan that would result in something more than they thought was proportional. And I think the president is slandering our military commanders.

We have a very good system for selecting officers to rise up through the ranks. And you know, I met a lot of general officers in my lifetime. Some of them I didn't like as human beings but I've never met a general officer of the U.S. military I didn't respect.

CUOMO: The idea of his reticence which, you know, is kind of a function of how he feels about where the win is and how he's felt about experience over the years kind of works in favor of pacification, though, right now. Does it not? I mean, he doesn't believe there's a win in military in most of these situations.

JOHNSTON: No. No. I don't think he does. But remember, as a candidate he both promised to bomb the hell out of people as he put it.

CUOMO: Right.

JOHNSTON: And as the same time to extract us from war overseas. But what Donald has done here is made himself the hero of the story. It's what he always does. There would have been this terrible disaster with all these dead people. But I prevented that.

He always does this. And you need to remember that Donald Trump is in the classic Greek meaning of the word an idiot. Someone who thinks only about himself.

CUOMO: So, what does this inform us about going forward? We don't have an ambassador to the un. We're trying to get a secretary of defense in there. We had an acting one. He's gone. There's going to be a new one. The generals Kelly and the other one that he had around him McMaster, they're gone. So, what happens when they do something else?

JOHNSTON: Well, there's going to be more trouble here. The Iranians are feeling very squeezed and they are going to be provocative because it's in their interest to be so. Not having a secretary of defense is very troubling. Having John Bolton whose friends say he wakes up in the morning saying where can I start a war somewhere as Trump's national security adviser is very troubling.

And you hit it on the head in your earlier with the two retired military officers. Congress needs to step in here. The sole power to prosecute war is held by Congress. And anything beyond a simple proportional retaliation for taking out that drone, which is just money.

It's not human life, in a disputed zone needs to be dealt with by Congress and Congress needs to have hearings and journalists should be saying to Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell and the chairman of the armed services committees, what are you doing? What is your duty, what is your responsibility here? Because it's Congress that ultimately controls these things unless they give it up to the president.

CUOMO: And I got to tell you it's troubling that our allies are asking questions about the intelligence that we don't usually hear said in public.


CUOMO: And you have to believe that that is a reflection if not just of the perception of working with this administration but also of the credibility of this president. And by extension, the administration.

David Cay Johnston, thank you so much for the perspective as always.

All right. A big night for most of the 2020 Democratic field. They're all in South Carolina and all at the same event. This big political tradition.

[22:20:04] But they're also dealing with some surprises. We'll go there, next.


CUOMO: A lot of things heating up in South Carolina. And that's not just the fish at the all-important Clyburn fish fry where all but two of the Democratic candidates running for president are at the same time on the same night.

This event is a moment for everyone from Joe Biden to Cory Booker to make their pitch to voters in a critical early primary state. It can also be seen as a microcosm for candidate support among black voters across the country.

Let's get to a familiar face on the ground. Sanders campaign co-chair Nina Turner, and Georgetown sociology professor, Michael Eric Dyson. Good to have you both. How's the food down there?

NINA TURNER, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, SANDERS CAMPAIGN: You know what, Cuomo, I haven't had any yet. Everybody is smiling.


CUOMO: Thank you for holding the appetite to talk to me.

TURNER: Absolutely. Only for you, Chris Cuomo.

[22:24:56] CUOMO: So, this is a big deal. And what do you think it means for your candidate in particular tonight?

TURNER: I mean, it's a diverse crowd here. I think all of South Carolina is at Representative Clyburn's famous fish try. But what it means for Senator Sanders is his opportunity to talk about his vision for America which he did. He just is on the stage. He got rousing applause and a lot of call and response when he talked about Medicare for all being a right in this country.

Talking about dealing with climate change and absolutely saying that it is imperative that we defeat President Donald Trump and bring people together. So, this is the big deal for Senator Sanders.

CUOMO: All right. So, some of the controversy that comes in there, professor, is about Vice President, former Vice President Joe Biden. And how Cory Booker took him to task about what he said about former segregationist and calling him son not boy. And has used a language and how he understands this state of play on these kinds of issues.

He spoke to a CNN reporter about it moments ago. Here's what he said.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why should Cory Booker apologize?

BIDEN: No one should apologize.


CUOMO: Nobody should apologize. And then after he came on stage, professor, Booker was after him or whatever. One spoke after the other one. And there was a little of a half-hug and a handshake. So you think that that issue done?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Unfortunately, no. I think that -- look I love these candidates who are running. They represent the diversity of ideology that constitutes of the broad tent of the Democratic Party.

But the inability to apologize and say I'm sorry is disturbing and disappointing. I love Joe Biden. I think he's a great man. I think he'll be a great presidential candidate. But the inability to acknowledge that when you turn to Senator Eastland and you turn to Senator Talmadge and they are the very exemplars of crossing the aisle.

Why is it that the very exemplification of bipartisanship has to rest with bigots who are unreconstructed and who have no interest in forging connections with African-American people?

Joe Biden the last thing he wants to do is associate himself with that. And this inability to say I'm sorry a goofed up, it was a messed up, let me move on is telling. And I think we have to hold his feet to the fire but also hold him accountable.

CUOMO: All right. But so, but then how do you -- you're shaking your head yes on this. You said it, Dyson and you're shaking your head, Nina. But the idea of John Lewis, nobody has got more dap and credibility on this issue than John Lewis in the Congress right now.

And he said today I don't have any problem with what Joe Biden did. I had to do that. People who jailed me. People who beat me. People who called me ugly things. He never gave up on them. He worked with them. You know, if that's what John Lewis is saying and if that's what senior members of CBC are saying why is this an open issue for Joe Biden, Nina?

TURNER: Well, we can have the diversity of ideas. And I respect where Representative John Lewis is coming from. But what really put the gasoline on the fire on this for the vice president is for him to challenge Senator Cory Booker.

You as a white man in America do not have the right to tell black man in America about his experience. And I am saying this as a black woman, a black momma, a black wife, a black daughter. And I've my grandparents talk about how they were called boy and girl even when they were grown. And my great grandparents the same thing.

And so, it's just a very sensitive issue. Sow when Senator Booker weighed in and said listen, vice president, you might want to apologize for that. What the vice president could have done which is simply what Professor Dyson said. Hey, I didn't, you know -- I didn't know that this was so offensive. I was just saying about my experience and reaching across the aisle. I made a mistake and I apologize if I offended anybody.

But what did he do? He doubled down on it. And wanted to challenge Senator Cory Booker. And that was wrong. It's a height of arrogance and a lot of folks don't understand especially white folks don't understand the generational trauma that black people have to endured every single time when it comes to how we are dealt with. And that matters to us.

So that was really the part that really got a lot of folks even leaning into this a little more is the fact that he's challenged Senator Cory Booker.


CUOMO: I respect what you're saying. I respect what you're saying, Nina, you know that. But, Michael, back to you. I've to see political opportunism in it though for Booker. Because if Lewis understands the same thing --


CUOMO: -- and lived obviously the same experience and eve more profoundly than this current generation. And he says I get it.

DYSON: Right. CUOMO: But Booker plays to advantage on it. And says, you know, I'm going to play got you politics on this.


CUOMO: That could be a perception on it. I mean, that's why Biden is not going to apologize. We know how that plays.

DYSON: Well, it's true.

CUOMO: This is why President Obama said he's is worried about a circle firing squad in this primary, is it not?

DYSON: But he also kept a muzzle on Joe Biden, sir. He also knew that Joe Biden have a tendency to put his foot in his mouth.

[22:30:00] And listen, you won't find a bigger booster of Joe Biden than me who understands his historic legacy, his ability to leverage his own existential blackness in a way he's authentic connection to black people. I ain't mad at none of that. But here's the point. If I were to tell you, hey, this misogynist didn't call me the b word. He called me man. You don't qualify.

CUOMO: Right.

DYSON: You're not the ideal subject here. So, when Joe Biden says he didn't call me a boy. He doesn't call white people boys. That is not the point.

CUOMO: That's right.

DYSON: They are being called a boy as a white man doesn't constitute in (inaudible).

CUOMO: And Joe screwed up his own story. He use to tell that story Nina as we both know that he didn't call me Senator he called me son. But he changed the story. I don't know why. And he made it a lot worse. And now he is got to own it. But here's my question, to what the president was saying, Nina.

And you know, I asked Senator Sanders about this the other night. He said that the former V.P. needs to apologize. That is his position. He didn't change it on this, but you are going to be running against somebody in the general who doesn't give a damn about who calls who boy and whatever it is. They may have passed the first step act. But any of this thought about sensitive language and playing to issues of generational trauma. And how we deal with it going forward or reparations. You are going to get no love in the general from this president or anyone who is voting for him.

What happens if you wind up injuring potentially your best choices? Like what it Senator Sanders steps in on issue like this and gets taken to task and beaten up. Now you wind up taking some of your best choices to beat the president in the general, you take them out in the primary. Are you worried about that? NINA TURNER, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR OF SANDERS CAMPAIGN: Well, I don't

subscribe to that. I mean, it's OK, its human nature. People make mistakes, just flat out apologize. We are dealing with a president that is a bigot. Just out right. Absolute spawn of the devil President Donald Trump. Who doesn't care about that as you said, but however, we must be united and have the ability to apologize when you make a mistake. We're dealing with a president who said he never apologized for anything.

And then to have Vice President Joe Biden say the same thing. So, I agree, look, I like the vice president. This is not personal towards him as somebody running for president. But when you put yourself in through the black lens and see this through the black lens and to have people on the Democratic side not willing to say, hey we made a mistake. There's something wrong with that. I mean, we got to be honest too.

CUOMO: I hear you. I hear you.

DYSON: Let me -- can I say this?

CUOMO: Go ahead.

DYSON: Chris, what you do is shift the burden back onto the people who are victims, right. So you say, hey do you people want -- here's the choice we have. Either we accept the fact that we will be insulted from time to time and that there will be episodic out breaks of offense, but in the larger picture, we gain an advantage. Here's the point. If along the way the means don't cohere to the ends. If along the wait you don't have a sensitivity towards all people and if you are a Democrat not the Republican, you're not Donald Trump. You are not a bigot. You are not a flaming rhetorician who engages in throwing horrible epithets against the egos of black people.

Then this is the test right now. To say look, I messed up, I filed up, let's move forward. Most black folk are very practical. We don't want a Kumbaya, we don't mea culpa, we don't want him to be eternally involve in asking for, you know, forgiveness. But dead gum, if you can't even say the little stuff you did is messed up. What's you going to do when the big stuff comes along?

CUOMO: Listen.

DYSON: So, that's all we are saying here, to have proportionality, have sensitivity. And allow people of color who are your main base in the Democratic Party not to be offended by you intentionally or unintentionally.

CUOMO: Right. I hear you both of your messages about it. I think the more sensitivity there is the better as Dyson said to me once, Nina, what you ignore you empower. I stole that line and I have been using it ever since. This is the last time I give him credit. Nina, enjoy yourself tonight. Best of luck to your candidate going forward. Michael Eric Dyson, as always you make us smarter and better and I appreciate you for it. Have a blessed weekend.

DYSON: Bless you my friend. All right. You too.

CUOMO: All right. Listen, you got to think about how you process information based on who you are and what you identify as versus what your audience is and how others may feel. That's a big part of politics and it's a big part of being an adult. The president is suggesting criminal action against American journalists. It's not hype. It happened in an interview. Does context matter? Yes. And I'm going to lay out the context, but he did seem to threaten to throw someone in prison for taking a photo of something that he didn't want a photo taken of. Was it wrong? Should it matter? Let's discuss, next.


CUOMO: The president loves to call the press the enemy of the people. Now he has actually threatened to throw a member in prison. That is according to Time Magazine. He showed four reporters a letter in the Oval Office this week. Written by Kim Jong-un. And then asked them to go off the record. So, here's what happened.

One photographer tried to snap a photo of it. Maybe did snap a photo of it and was then chided by the press secretary. You can't take a picture. When the president was then peppered with questions on the Mueller report later on, he reportedly snapped and brought up the attempted photo. Warning the journalist he could get him locked up for it. Who better to break down this crazy story than CNN reporter, fact checker in chief, Daniel Dale.

All right, so put on a different hat. I'm making you a lawyer for the purpose of this segment. Let's argue this out. I'm going to argue the president's side. How about that. I told you I'd show you the picture. I didn't tell you, you could take a picture of it. You took a picture of it. That's wrong. You made me upset.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE TORONTO STAR: Sure. Chris, from what I can tell reading this transcript of course I wasn't in the room, this was one of this ambiguous situation that reporters and the people talking to reporters often get into when they're oscillating between off the record and on the record.

[22:40:09] CUOMO: Right.

DALE: And usually in these cases, you know, you might have a talk about it. You might have a mild argument about it. But you work it out without a politician in this case, the president threatening to imprison the journalist for what seemed --

CUOMO: What would be the basis for that? Put your fact check hat back on it with the lawyer hat. So you have two hats on. How do you get thrown in jail because of what -- you breech national security? I don't even know what the crime would be.

DALE: You can't, Chris. I don't think there's a crime here. It's always a fools game guessing why the president said something he said. But I think, I might know what happened here. The journalist was talking about people testifying to Mueller. CUOMO: Yes.

DALE: And the report emphasized they testified under oath under penalty of prison time. We know that Trump loves to pull these sort of you're the puppet moments. You know, you're guilty of collusion. You are the real obstructer, and so in this case, I think he heard the word prison and said you're telling me about prison you can go to prison. So, I don't know, you know, it's disturbing when the president is threatening any journalist with prison under any circumstance, but I honestly don't know how serious he was about it.

CUOMO: Yes. I have to believe you -- I know I'm going to get yelled after this Daniel, but better me than you. I think that is exactly right about what this was about. And your point about the oscillating. Going between off the record and on the record could also shed a light on this. Be I think we both agree, if it's off the record and somebody is showing me documents I don't take pictures of them, because obviously their disclosure is conditional. They want me to be able to see it. I'm sure we both have this happen many times in an investigative reporting, were people will show you something, but they won't give it to you. But what was on the record and what wasn't. Let's go to some of the quotes, put up one of the quotes from it and see if it helps us with context here about what it was said.

So, Trump says excuse me, under section two. Where you can go to prison instead, because if you use the photograph you took of the letter I gave you, section two of what? The constitution? What is he talking about there?

DALE: Yes. So, I think he was talking about article 2 of the constitution. That is the article he cites when he is claiming that he could have done whatever he wanted because of his presidential powers regards to Mueller.

CUOMO: He was saying section like it was a statute, but he meant article like the constitution. And that part went to his authority to do whatever he wanted with Mueller.

DALE: Right. Yes.

CUOMO: And then he was segueing to how about I throw your ass in jail.

DALE: Exactly. So, right before that the reporter was questioning him about Mueller. You know, why did you do what you did and he said, he was starting to say, under article II, section two, I can do whatever I want. And then he abruptly said by the way, you can go to prison. And so, it's a confusing exchange, but I think that is what happened.

CUOMO: you know what, I think you have it right. And I think I'll leave it at that. Because we have enough real things to deal with. You know, what he is just musing about. Let's leave it as a muse. Daniel Dale, thanks for be with me on a Friday night. Welcome again to the CNN family. Have a great weekend.

DALE: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Food and politics is a big deal. They had the comfort food list the other night the Democrats. Some interesting choices. Gillibrand said whisky. No tequila though, odd. Barack Obama, he like nachos, so did Warren by the way, I think she went with nachos and guac, also enjoyed chicken pot pie. What is the 2020 field munching on tonight and how about this, this food thing can often be a little bit of a window into how electable you are. I'm going to have Laura Coates come on and we are going to dig in.


CUOMO: My (inaudible) just said something very funny which I will say to you in a second. But we have been showing you important stuff tonight. This fish fry that the Whip Clyburn has the Democratic majority whip in the House is really a big deal in South Carolina politics? OK? However, part of it that plays into politics as well in terms of persuasion and making an impression is the food. Really in politics, it is not just what you cook and what you say you like. But it's how you even eat.

All right. For example. There are more than 4,000 pounds of fish at the fish fry today, right, 6,500 slices of bread and candidates and guests. It's a big deal. It's been a picnic. It's also important not to mess things up. So, Congressman and host Jim Clyburn put out some fun facts with video of Barack Obama showing how to get it done.

Step one, can you see the video? Take a look. Get your fish. Step two, wrap fish in white bread. Which is something I had to learn, by the way like 25 years ago when I start traveling around the south. What they offered you use it white bread as plates, especially the barbeque. Three, apply hot sauce. Four, enjoy.

Food can also be a candidate's photo. You remember when John Kerry, why would you, this is what we obsessed on. When he ordered Swiss cheese on his Philly cheese steak? They don't do it like that down there. Mitt Romney told Mississippi voters. Do we have the sound? Listen to what he said he enjoyed.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I got to sort it right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits, I tell you.


CUOMO: Now. My fav maybe crack up, I said hey, is that the vernacular, you know, Italians eat polenta not grits, you know in chicos, no it's cheese grits, it would be like calling it a cheesy burger. That's funny. Anyway, so, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin used forks to eat pizza when she visited New York City. Now that is -- I'm telling you that is bad thing to do. You're better off kicking a puppy.

[22:50:00] And New York's Mayor Bill De Blasio stunned folks by later doing the same. I mean, come on, my brother, he knows better than that. He's been there in his whole life. So, let's bring in Laura Coates in for D. Lemon. I'm up in the intelligence tonight. Laura Coates, subbing in for D. Lemon tonight on CNN Tonight. I'm right about food being persuasive on the hustings, am I not?

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: I'm a woman who loves to eat, Chris. First of all, you're the only person in the world who could actually put the sentence of kicking puppies and eating pizza the wrong way in the same sentence, number one. Number two, you've got to get it right. You've got to go outside Carolina, you got to have the Forrest Gump experience. You've got to lay and like, you know, low country oyster. You got to talk about grouper and flounder. You've got to have all the vernacular down, and cheesy grits to whatever else, will not cut it. And so won't polenta by the way. That's not part of it.

CUOMO: I'm just saying that is my experience. Now, since I started being in this job, I became a connoisseur of barbecue. You know, I traveled around this country so much, you learn what food means to people where you are. For instance, with Italians up here in the northeast, there's a huge dividing line between people who call red sauce or gravy. A lot of Italians look down on gravy. See that as cafony term, I mean Italians likes a low class term, but you got to know this kind of stuff.

COATES: Is cafony what the president was trying to say when he says covfefe? Was that what you are talking about?

CUOMO: Wow, I don't know, it would have worked.

COATES: But you're right. I mean, people really worry about their food. They want to know what it is. And this South Carolina fish fry is going to be no exception. What they're actually doing down there, it's those kitchen table issues and what you eat is important as what's going in your mind.

CUOMO: Comfort foods. Did you see the list? Food is so powerful as a draw for us in this culture. That I remember what almost every one of these people said, and I only looked at the list once. What is your comfort food before we go to theirs?

COATES: Was not cheesy grits, it's cheese grits, it's all things carbohydrates, as well, which would probably explain why my dress was a little snug. But I'm fined with it. I'm OK, I ate well. Thanks.

CUOMO: So, let's look at their list. Here's what some of them said, for better and worst. I think Kamala Harris had the best one, because not only did she say French fries, which has got to be an easy for everybody, she makes her own, her husband says. What a recipe. This goes to the recall of food, I could never give you the same thing on any of the policy plans. Peanut oil and then duck fat, and she uses rosemary from their own garden when she finishes it. That sounds nice, I got to be honest. I could hear my heart slowing down just describing it.

COATES: That is a hell of a combination, Chris.

CUOMO: But Cory Booker, veggies. COATES: Well, that is going to be a problem in the campaign. That

combination, veggies? Veggies is a category of food, Chris. It's not like a comfort food. Like what kind? I mean there are southern veggies, which is basically not a vegetable any longer. And that is the kind I like. My mom from North Carolina loves the same thing. So, I don't know if veggies is a category. I don't see it, Cory Booker.

CUOMO: Gillibrand says whiskey. I don't know if it's true, but that was a strong pull. Tequila is my deal. I call it medicine, not comfort food. It's my medicine. Laura, I'm going to be with you in a little bit. It's great to have you here tonight.

COATES: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. I want to bring your attention to something twisted, troubling, something that makes absolutely no sense in the world of law and order, but it actually happened, and it shines a light on how we're dealing with an issue only in America, next.


CUOMO: All right. A final fact for you tonight. And really food for thought. So there's an alleged domestic violence victim, all right? It's an ugly divorce. They've got a domestic violence charge. They've got a temporary restraining order, but the victim ends up in jail herself. Why? She went into the home of the ex-husband and took guns away from the estranged husband with his permission. The guy accused of abusing her. She says it was for protection. This all started a week ago.

Courtney Erbey is the woman on your left. She was in court with her husband filing for a divorce proceeding. They're in the middle of an ugly divorce. Huff post got the arrest affidavit. It says that Joseph followed his wife as she was leaving in court and rammed his car repeatedly into the back of her car, forcing her off the road. She calls 911, uncontrollably crying and advised that she was in fear for her life, tells the police she had several restraining orders against her husband in the past. Joseph gets arrested. She is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, the car. Courtney applies for another restraining order and then she calls in for her husband's hearing. She hears the judge tell Joseph you're going to be granted bail, but with one condition. You can't own or carry guns.

So Courtney goes to her husband's apartment to collect his assault rifle and his handgun. She turns them in to the Lakeland Police Department. To me that is the key fact in all this. She takes the weapons. She doesn't go home. She goes to the police, even tells the officer on duty the back story, saying she didn't think her husband would turn in the weapons on his own. That is where her legal problems begin. The officer says, if she took the guns without his permission and she says, yes. She confessed to a crime. She was arrested, charged with armed burglary, because she had the weapons, and grand theft of a firearm grand goes to a number in value. She spent five nights in jail before she was granted bond. [23:00:00]