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CUOMO PRIME TIME

DHS: 28 Percent Drop In "Enforcement Actions" At Border In June; Rosie O'Donnell On Backing Warren For President; Calls Mount For Labor Secretary To Resign Over Epstein Case. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 9, 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)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: --as ever. Ross Perot showed that in politics, anything is possible. Ross Perot was 89 years old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, he definitely made his mark.

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: And he created an option that we may see come--

COOPER: Yes.

CUOMO: --again, a viable third-party candidate. Anderson, thank you for that. Well done.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

There is new information on how many are being held on our Border and the conditions they are in. Can the President's Acting DHS Secretary give us confidence that this situation is under control or at least getting there?

This is his first interview since his department released brand-new numbers on the flow just hours ago. And the big question, when can we see the conditions for ourselves?

And Rosie's in the ring. The President's Chief Antagonist is here but not to bash, to talk about whether the Democrats have what it takes, and who it takes to beat this President. Rosie has answers that may surprise you on that. And she has a plan to help out the Border mess, a big event that we're going to talk about.

Plus, storm clouds now hovering over another Trump cabinet member. This Jeffrey Epstein case reeks of deal-making. We have the journalist who followed the scent all the way to the latest prosecution.

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

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: A 28 percent drop, that's a sizable decrease in the number of enforcement actions at our Southern border in June.

This was just put out by Homeland Security tonight. More than 144,000 migrants had been encountered or arrested in May. A month later, in June, that number plunged about 40,000 to a 104,000. It's still a massive number.

The Acting Secretary, Kevin McAleenan, initially forecasted 25 percent decrease. He credits Trump administration initiatives for the decline. Of course, he stresses the humanitarian crisis is ongoing and growing.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

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CUOMO: Welcome back to PRIME TIME, sir.

KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Good to be back, Chris.

CUOMO: So, the latest numbers, you see them as improvement. Now, where do they put us in terms of the norm?

MCALEENAN: So, we're very much still in a crisis mode. But what we see in June is that our strategy is working.

The President's engagement with Mexico, the deal to enforce immigration security on their Southern border, to partner with us on tackling Transnational Criminal Organizations, that's clearly having an impact on the flow.

CUOMO: In terms of how you are keeping these people, what will you tell us about what the breakdowns are? How many kids? How many unaccompanied minors?

MCALEENAN: Right.

CUOMO: How are you doing in terms of being able to keep them to the standard of care that this country expects?

MCALEENAN: So, the effort with Mexico has made a real impact in the last four weeks, as has the Supplemental, which you've been covering from the beginning.

Our request on May 1st for the resources we needed to save the situation for children moving to HHS custody, and out of Border stations, I'm happy to report today, Chris, that we have under 200 unaccompanied children in custody, and only a few of them are staying with Border Patrol stations over 72 hours, and usually those are medical cases.

That's because HHS now has the funding, the Supplemental funding from Congress to create additional bed space, and move those kids out to a more appropriate setting.

CUOMO: You also now have June, right? Historically, June, the numbers drop.

And look, at this point, we're all for progress. But in terms of what policies work, it's hard, Mr. Commissioner to say that - Mr. Commissioner - Mr. Secretary now, that this is about the changes in policy.

You know, we still don't know what the long-term plays are here, not because of you, but you are a piece in a larger machine. You shut down funding to the Triangle Countries. You don't have the right types of relationships. This can't get any better whether it's June or not.

So, what do you need going forward to make this system work?

MCALEENAN: So - so, first, I would say that I think we can attribute it to the partnership with Mexico, and our efforts to tackle the criminal organizations doing the smuggling.

The last six years, two years, we went up from May to June. In two years, we were flat. And in two years, we saw about a 15 percent drop. A 28 percent drop is not consistent with historical seasonal efforts. That's due to the Mexican partnership.

But we're - we can't stand pat. We're - we're working further in the region. I've been in Central America twice in the last two weeks, working with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras on the source of the migration, and on the criminal organizations that are exploiting and incentivizing people to enter this cycle. But we also still need Congress to act.

We're very pleased to be hosting the Senate Judiciary Committee with the Vice President on Friday at the Border to talk about those targeted fixes to the immigration laws that we think would have prevented this crisis, and can help us address it fundamentally and permanently now.

CUOMO: So, the narrative has changed from Congress. Now they are aware, and they've gone down there, and they say, "Shame on you, Secretary for how you guys are treating these people."

They're hearing horrible anecdotes. They're seeing and smelling the conditions, and they don't like it, and they say this is on you.

[21:05:00] Now, let's look at this two different ways.

First, what are you doing in terms of investigating whether it's these chat groups with people saying ugly and stupid things as members of people under your watch and the conditions at these places that Congress was complaining about? What are you doing about those? MCALEENAN: So, yes, let - let's talk about the conditions first, Chris. I mean you've been on this all year. You've heard me talk about the crisis at the Border, the humanitarian crisis.

On March 27th, I said we were past the breaking point and that the conditions were unacceptable in our facilities.

On June 10th, on your show, I said our facilities are overflowing, and no American should be comfortable with the conditions for families and children in our custody. That's the same day the DHS Inspector General was visiting our facilities.

So, we've been sounding the alarm. We've been doing more than that. We've been taking action. We've provided additional medical care from 20 certified providers to over 200 today.

We've built 2,000 beds of temporary facilities to provide better care for families and children. We've moved those children out to HHS, as I talked about over the last four weeks.

CUOMO: You should have gotten more help and you should have gotten it sooner.

MCALEENAN: We should have.

CUOMO: You'll get no argument from me on any of that. I'm saying, are you making sure with oversight--

MCALEENAN: Right.

CUOMO: --making sure there's no cover-up that any man or woman under your command that is doing this the wrong way, that is giving the wrong message to people or the wrong treatment will be exposed?

MCALEENAN: Absolutely. We - we have very high standards. They're - they're enforced with five layers of oversight.

We have independent oversight within CBP, within the Department of Homeland Security with the Inspector General. We have a Juvenile Coordinator at CBP that does unannounced visits.

And we have the Flores Court and attorneys that come visit facilities as well, and an - and an oversight mechanism there. And this is, of course, the GAO, Congress - these - these facilities are some of the most visited and seen sites that we have, 55 Congressional delegations this fiscal year alone to see our facility.

So, we have a ton of visibility, we have good supervisory oversight, and we hold people accountable. The overcrowding was the challenge.

CUOMO: No cameras though.

MCALEENAN: Yes.

CUOMO: No cameras. MCALEENAN: I'm glad you raised that because I think it's imperative that we get cameras in those facilities, and I appreciate the President directing that this week.

That allowed us to work with DOJ to look at our policy and see that the public interest here in showing what's happening in our facilities is at least equal or outweighs temporarily the privacy interest in those intended (ph).

CUOMO: I know. It's - it's never worked for me as a rationale, as a lawyer, or as a journalist, you know. So, you know, you put these p - and again, I don't hang this on you. I know the situation. I know the facts.

I know where your head and your heart are. I've been around your people a lot. I'll hold you to account. That's the job, and you would expect no less. But the idea that this is your fault doesn't make any sense to me at this point.

But what doesn't make sense is, so we're going to separate the families, we're going to put these kids in these situations that we all hate, we're going to abuse the standards of care because we can't deal with the overwhelmed system, but we have to respect their privacy.

So, the only time that they get the absolute best of the American government's reckoning of their situation is when it just happens to conceal the reality of their situation from the media. It's always bothered me.

MCALEENAN: I understand. First of all, we're not doing any of those things that you just listed, Chris, but we have had overcrowding in our facilities.

And it is not appropriate that we haven't been able to show the inside of our facilities because I think that will demonstrate the effort our agents are taking, that'll show how well-equipped they are, that'll show our efforts to clean them.

And I invite you down to the Border to bring your cameras this week because we have that change in policy, and we'll able to - to show Clint station, we will be able to show with the Vice President the - the situation in Rio Grande Valley, and - and what is still our busiest sector and the most people still in custody.

CUOMO: If you let cameras in, you know CNN is going to be there, and we're always ready here to tell the truth about the situation. My biggest concern is this, Mr. Secretary, at this point.

You got some money, you got some resources. You and I could go back and forth over a beer for two hours about whether or not June is helpful to you, historically or not, but this isn't over.

Asylum is a civil matter but you can't be flooded with asylum cases, and not wind up holding people. You've had to, you know, de facto, catch and release more people than we've ever seen in this country right now, because you can't deal with the overflow, and you have nowhere to put them. So--

MCALEENAN: That's right.

CUOMO: --the policies aren't working. You can't fix that. The President can't fix that.

I also disagree with you about the emergency declaration. I think, you know, that's not about a fence either, historically. Why didn't he use some of that to help you more? Argument for another day.

Would you like to call on Congress here on this show tonight to do more than they've done already in terms of what you need?

MCALEENAN: Absolutely.

We've offered three targeted fixes to our immigration laws that would address this crisis, allow us to keep families together as they arrive at the Border through a - a fair and transparent but expeditious immigration proceeding, allow us to provide a safe way for children to - to seek protections from their host country or a neighboring country, not to make that dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers, but to repatriate them if they don't meet the standard, and - and allow us to modify the asylum standards, so that initial barrier is more consistent with in - an ultimate as finding from a judge at the end of the proceeding.

But in the meantime we're not going to stand pat. We're going to work with Mexico. We're going to work with our Central American partners. We're going to try to address this at the source, and of course, increase our Border security at the same time.

[21:10:00] CUOMO: The more investment we do abroad, the less need there is for people to come here out of desperation. Congress should do its job and talk about the rules. Who knows how it comes out? But the job is to have the debate.

And please, Mr. Secretary, stay on the accountability. If there are things that you have to report on, things that need to come out, keep it clean, keep it for the American people to see.

And if you can get me in there to watch, I'm there. I promise that. Thank you for coming on the show as always.

MCALEENAN: Thank you, Chris. Appreciate the time.

CUOMO: All right, look, you got to stay on it because it matters. I know it feels like "They fixed it," and that "Now they know, and they're upset," I'm putting it in quotes because I think it's BS, and I always have.

That system is far from fixed. The situation is urgent. It maintains that way and it will be that way again if nothing more is done. OK.

Rosie O'Donnell has a lot to say about what's happening at the Border, and what she thinks it means, and she thinks it should be the biggest issue in 2020. But first, she has some news about who she thinks should take on this President.

And we have our Wizard of Odds breaking down all the numbers of who stands the best chance and why, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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[21:15:00] CUOMO: All right, at this point, former VP Joe Biden's best case for the nomination is he has the best chance to beat Trump. It's the same case all of the Democrats need to make.

Now, lucky for us, we have the Wizard of Odds, Harry Enten, to sort it out. Good to see you, Wiz.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER & ANALYST: Glad to see you.

CUOMO: So, everybody can claim it. But what is the best case and why?

ENTEN: OK. So, basically there was an ABC News/Washington Post poll that came out over this weekend, and what it essentially did was it matched up Trump against the different leading Democrats.

And what do you see? You see Biden running the strongest against Trump leading by 10 versus all the other Democrats are basically in a dead heat with Trump, Harris only winning by two, Sanders only leading by one, and Elizabeth Warren actually tied with Donald Trump.

CUOMO: All right, spin.

ENTEN: Yes.

CUOMO: Spin.

ENTEN: Yes.

CUOMO: Spin. These numbers are basically the same place they are in the state of play.

He's plus five over her, and about dead even with the other two, and that's all this is. It doesn't mean he's better suited. It's just a state of play at this moment in time. It doesn't give him enough to say that he's the only one who can do it.

ENTEN: OK. So, I - here would be my answer to that as we jump a little bit ahead here. I think this is a rather key point. So basically, our CNN/SRS poll asked you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the different candidates, right?

And what I essentially did here was take the net favorability, so favorable minus unfavorable, and what do we see right here? We see that among the Democrats, the net favorability ratings of the different Democrats are actually about the same, so this takes into that account.

But take a look among all of this. This is Republican plus Independents who don't lean towards the Democratic Party. What do we see here?

We see that Biden, even though they're all running well in the negatives, has the highest net favorability rating at minus 42 points, Sanders and Warren are well down there at minus 55 and minus 57, and Harris at minus 46 here.

But again, this is a key point, which is the reason why Biden is leading so much, and say these early matchups is not because of his standing among Democrats, it's because of his standing among all other voters.

And that, I think, is a very key point, as we look at these Democratic primary polls, those general election polls are taking into account these all other voters.

CUOMO: So, you're saying all other voters is a metric of least worst, you know, and how do they see Democrats in terms of the one that they - they would like the, you know, the - the most, considering they don't like any of them.

ENTEN: Exactly.

CUOMO: And here's--

ENTEN: Other Republicans, the Independents who aren't part of the Democratic primary process, remember, what you're essentially trying to get, you're not trying to win a lot of these voters, you're just trying to win some of them.

And what this number to me indicates, at this point, and again, folks, it's very, very early. This number indicates that Biden, at least at this point, is in the best position to win at least a few of these voters.

CUOMO: And that's why we keep inviting all these people on the show, by the way, is that there's a lot of time, and you got to make your case. You got to talk to people. Politics is about persuasion.

We ask, we ask, we ask, we ask, no, no, no. Biden recently came on with you - but it's the first time he came on. You know, you got to come on, you got to make the case. All we can do is invite. Last point?

ENTEN: This would be sort of my last point, and sort of another point that I think is rather important. So, the ABC News/Washington Post poll also asked, OK, if you had to choose between say Donald Trump or a Democrat you considered a socialist, look at this, Trump is leading this match-up by six points.

So this, to me, is a very - is potentially a very--

CUOMO: Distinction between Socialist and Democratic Socialist?

ENTEN: Right. No, this is just simply asking a Democrat you consider to be a Socialist.

CUOMO: But that's the - that's the Sanders case.

ENTEN: Right.

CUOMO: Is that we think there's a difference between the two, people don't choose--

ENTEN: This is essentially saying Democrats you consider socialist, and this is key, Trump is leading by six in this match-up, and that is a key question going forward. Can Democrats go too far-Left? Despite Trump's low approval ratings, if he can say that these Democrats are socialists, that's his best shot to win.

CUOMO: And that's why he's saying it all the time. Wiz, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Shalom, my friend.

CUOMO: Inside the numbers there is peace, but also peace of mind.

All right, Rosie O'Donnell, now, whom does she want in her party? I know, of course, she'd take any of them over the current President, but that's not what it's about. What is the best her party has to offer? Whom is the best her party has to offer? We ask Rosie O'Donnell, next.

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CUOMO: All right, look, we should all know what Democrats want. It is natural for them to see this President as a one-term President. And if you believe the latest polling, as you just saw with The Wizard of Odds, Joe Biden right now is their best person to do it.

Does Rosie O'Donnell agree? She's an avid supporter of the Left. She says, "Nope." That's not where her party is headed in 2020. Here's her take. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

CUOMO: Great to have you on the show.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, ACTRESS & ACTIVIST: Well thanks, nice to be here.

CUOMO: No. It's an important time. Your voice matters, so thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

CUOMO: Let's talk politics, small P, party politics, and then let's talk about people, OK?

O'DONNELL: OK.

CUOMO: Your party, the Democratic Party, where is its head versus its heart, because you can't want Joe Biden and all of these ideas that are being pushed out by the persons in second, third, and fourth position currently in the polls at the same time?

O'DONNELL: I--

CUOMO: Where are you guys?

O'DONNELL: I agree. I think that Joe Biden should say "I'm going to sit this one out. I'm going to be an elder statesman, and I'm going to advice."

And then, whoever is the nominee, I think, should think about how to best use somebody with the experience that Joe Biden adds in all these years of politics, but he's not the future of the Democratic Party.

And I think we have now until we get a nominee to figure out who that person is. And, in my opinion, it's either Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris.

CUOMO: Well you backed Warren--

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: --right? Is that fixed or you open to either one being that the - Warren or Harris, Rosie's in?

O'DONNELL: Yes. That - either one of them I would be very thrilled to - to stand behind. I'm really for Elizabeth Warren. I think her plans that she has for just about everything, and all that she did with the big banks and corporate, it's pretty - shake down--

CUOMO: Sure.

O'DONNELL: --she - she was a leader in so many ways, and still is. And I think she's formidable against Trump, and all of the money that she's raised from non-lobbyists, you know, the - it's pretty astounding to me what she's been able to do. CUOMO: Politics is not plans. It's persuasion. You know this.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: The metric is who beats this President. Every poll that comes out says Joe Biden beats the President. In the latest round, really it's head-to-head with everybody else, except Joe Biden.

O'DONNELL: Right.

[21:25:00] CUOMO: So, how does that not make him your future?

O'DONNELL: Well because he's antiquated in a lot of his thinking, a lot of his beliefs. A lot of his history is - is a long time ago, and I feel like it is time to pass the torch, like Eric Swalwell said, it is time to pass the torch.

And I don't think 80 years old is an age to be starting a Presidential job. I think you have to be 35 and there should be an ending point.

CUOMO: No, he's 76, but I take your point. But help me with this, because you're very practical also.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: He's the only one who beats the current President.

O'DONNELL: Well that's what they say. But I don't believe that that's true. Your time has passed in terms of being the President of the United States. That's my personal opinion.

CUOMO: Now what I care about more, frankly--

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: --people--

O'DONNELL: Right.

CUOMO: --on the Border.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: You want to help, you want to be involved, you're going to have an event soon, I think, this Friday?

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: What is it?

O'DONNELL: I am not the one who've put this together.

I am just a mother who was horrified when I learned about the conditions in all of the detention centers, over 200 in the United States, all of the statistics of how many children are there alone, the kind of trauma that that puts on a child's psyche, on their heart, it's like a trauma tattoo that will never go away.

And you see these small reunification videos of the parent and the child just wailing and - and sounds that you never even hear.

CUOMO: I've seen them.

O'DONNELL: Humans wail.

CUOMO: And it's the worst thing you can see with a kid, and you know this because you're a parent. Worst thing you can see with a kid is a quiet child.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: Blank stare. They don't know who's around. They don't know what's going on. You don't know whether to cry or to scream, and it happens too often. Here's my problem.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: You're finding out about it.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: But your party, Congress on both sides, this President, they've all known for months, Rosie.

This guy who's the Acting Head of DHS, who was leading the show tonight, he was telling them, "I don't have the money. I don't have the resources. I cannot keep our standard of care. You have to help me," and they didn't do it. The Left, too.

We wanted assurances that they would take care of in the right way. Help me with this Rosie.

You got a kid in crisis. You're going to delay seven months to get it to where you feel comfortable with what the paperwork is or are you going to get it done as soon as you can? I don't understand why both sides didn't act on this one. I don't.

O'DONNELL: Well it seems as though the Trump administration, cruelty is the point.

CUOMO: There is a mesh - a message of deterrence with the separation of kids, but this isn't just him. Now, he could do what he did with the emergency declaration because they say "Well that's not for this." Well it's not for a fence either.

O'DONNELL: Right.

CUOMO: But he used it for that.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: You could argue it's unconstitutional, but he has it. If he wants to keep going extra power, he might as well just keep doing it, but he won't do it, because you're right, there's a consistency issue with this President. Kids don't sell fear.

But what about everybody else in Congress? Why didn't they jump on this, six months ago?

O'DONNELL: Well I think that they were shocked. Everybody was kind of appalled that it took whistleblowers to come out and say what the conditions were. It took people seeing children being pulled from the arms of their parents.

And, as a parent in the country, I didn't know what to do. I called down to El Paso. I talked to some of the people there on the ground. I said how can I help? And they told about this candlelight vigil.

It's this Friday, the 12th, and it's in 660 different places in the United States, including six sanctioned areas where they're going to have people speaking outside of the Homestead, Florida detention camp, which is a for-profit--

CUOMO: And the message is what?

O'DONNELL: The message is "We care. You must stop. We will not endorse - endorse this on our watch."

CUOMO: Here's my one suggestion.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: As you go forward with this because you carry passion and you carry a big stick with your voice, and your energy, and your contacts. It's not as simple as close the camps. You need places to keep these kids. I would argue you don't have enough, not that I want more terrible facilities.

I just want more capabilities, more resources, more people, and Congress to do its job and look at the rules of what they want in terms of how you can apply to get in, what is asylum, what isn't, who comes, who can't, how long, they have to do their job, Rosie. Otherwise, this isn't going to end.

O'DONNELL: But this is--

CUOMO: You and I will have this exact same conversation in five months.

O'DONNELL: Asylum is a - is not a criminal matter.

CUOMO: No. It is not.

O'DONNELL: It's a civil matter.

CUOMO: It is.

O'DONNELL: And 98 percent of the people who leave there come back for their court cases.

CUOMO: Yes. Well-- O'DONNELL: 98--

CUOMO: --you'll get different numbers, Rosie, but I accept your point.

O'DONNELL: And the 90--

CUOMO: I accept your point. I've seen situations where it's bad policing. I've seen situations where it's abuse, where they had the wrong men and women on the job. I haven't seen proof of that here.

O'DONNELL: You haven't?

CUOMO: Not in large scale.

O'DONNELL: Have you seen the - the videos of--

CUOMO: The conditions--

O'DONNELL: --children, the conditions--

CUOMO: --suck. The conditions suck. They are deplorable.

O'DONNELL: They're beyond suck. There's no water.

CUOMO: No. They--

O'DONNELL: There's no fresh water. The--

CUOMO: Well I - I don't know what is true and what isn't in terms of these. Congress Members coming out of there, pretending like they just learned all this stuff is true, bothers me.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: Because it's disingenuous. They knew it was true, Rosie.

O'DONNELL: Until you see it. Until you see it.

CUOMO: For you - for you, yes. For people who don't live it all the time, I agree with you. Not these people. They had people coming up, showing them things, showing them. There was some politics at play that I think are malignant and part of our overall problem.

[21:30:00] But I applaud what you're doing because what you're doing, getting more regular people just to care and pay attention will make a difference.

O'DONNELL: This has to be the - the "The issue" of the election.

CUOMO: I wish it were.

O'DONNELL: Well--

CUOMO: But I don't know.

O'DONNELL: --I think it's going to be because mothers and fathers across the country are going to say "Enough. I can't and will not tolerate this on my watch."

CUOMO: I would love that. But I think you have just as many people saying, "I don't want them here." And we need to have people come together and come up with ideas that make us humane and also someone who respect justice. And we could do both.

But I'm telling you, Rosie, the thing that you're doing this Friday, and getting people out, and getting people to care, so that they start pushing Congress to do their jobs--

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: --and they make sure there's oversight that is a key ingredient in making it better.

O'DONNELL: And then we hope--

CUOMO: So thank you.

O'DONNELL: --we can make Nancy Pelosi do hers.

CUOMO: Well, look, I think they all got to step up.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: You know, I just do.

O'DONNELL: Because this is not the way to deal with Trump as someone who had to deal with him for a decade before he became the President of the United States, relentless, unending abuse from him.

This is not how you deal with him. You don't let him go and give him a - a long lead. You got to reel him back in and confront him at his own level.

And, you know, to - to turn around and say, "We're not going to have an impeachment inquiry," I think is, you know, in - a gross injustice, and I think Nancy Pelosi is making a huge mistake.

CUOMO: We'll see what happens. They're going to have to decide soon.

O'DONNELL: Yes.

CUOMO: Rosie O'Donnell, thank you very much.

O'DONNELL: Thank you so much. Great to see you.

CUOMO: Always. Always a pleasure.

O'DONNELL: Great to see you.

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CUOMO: All right, another big story. The President's Labor Secretary is in a lot of hot water for his role in getting convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein a cushy plea deal, and that's what it was. This never would have come to where we are now if not for our next

guest and her publication. The investigator, what she sees coming next, how we got here, all coming up on PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: And so now we're hearing calls for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign. But he is not going that way.

Today, he defended his handling of the Epstein case on Twitter writing, "Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the New York prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him," Epstein, "to justice."

Facts first, yes, investigators have more on Epstein. They must, or they wouldn't have gotten the new warrants. You can't get a warrant now based on something that happened back in the early 2000s, given the disposition of the case at that time.

They do have new information. And now, they say they've seized thousands of nude photos of young-looking women or girls from Epstein's home.

But let's be clear. There was a lot of evidence back then to pursue charges. And that's why Julie K. Brown, the reporter who relentlessly dug into this case decided to look at it, because it didn't make sense.

Welcome to PRIME TIME.

JULIE K. BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE MIAMI HERALD, FIRST REPORTED ON JEFFREY EPSTEIN'S SECRET PLEA DEAL: Thank you.

CUOMO: It is no small feat to have journalism lead to a prosecution. It usually happens in reverse. So, good on you. Let's see where it leads.

The Secretary's statement, "Oh, I'm glad there's new information," good, interesting play by him. Your assessment of the case, while they must have something new--

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: --was most of this back there at that time? BROWN: Yes. A lot of this information was not only there. The Palm Beach Police did an excellent job with this. They did it by the book.

They had enormous amount of not only witness statements of the victims themselves, but they had corroborating evidence, such as phone records that showed that there were communications between these girls and - and his - his schedulers or, even in some cases, him, himself had called some of these girls.

CUOMO: So, what was the understanding at the time that made the leniency that happened the right move?

BROWN: Well I think it was in their mind I mean his lawyers, you know, he had Kenneth Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Jay Lefkowitz, he had an all- star team. And I think their tactic was really to wear down the prosecutors.

And they were pretty successful at that because they had one agreement that they were going to go with. And then all of a sudden it would get torn up, and they'd say, "We don't like that agreement. Let's start all over."

And the whole process just kept going over and over and over again. And - and to some degree, I think that they wore the pros - prosecutors down.

CUOMO: But as we both know, they don't drive the process.

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: The other side does.

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: And you have the former Police Chief say, "I've never had political pressure like this." You have Acosta who kept saying, we've never seen pressure like this that they were investigating us. I've never heard that kind of narrative.

You know, usually prosecutors, it's like, they can bring all the money and power and influence they want, this is going to get done. And in fact that's what you're hearing from Berman in the Southern District right now in bringing this case. What do you make of the intrigue?

BROWN: Well, you know, political pressure is a strange thing. Back then, you know, this was well before the #MeToo movement. There was no political incentive for them to really prosecute this case.

If anything, there probably was none, because there were so many high- powered people involved. And now we're at a time when they're - the, you know, the prosecutor who went after Bill Cosby, for example, he was elected on a platform that he was going to go and prosecute Cosby.

So, we're in a different time period now where this is now politically good for prosecutors. CUOMO: This was all about, as you used the term, human trafficking that you were looking into, and this kept coming up with people who were involved with human trafficking--

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: --led you into this brilliant journey of discovery that you went on, but we're talking about kids.

BROWN: Yes.

CUOMO: And not just, you know, women who say it wasn't consensual, and probably wasn't, based on this. These were kids. And he got the lightest sentence I've ever heard of, because it wasn't just 18, served 13. It was work release from jump for six days a week--

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: --12 hours a day.

BROWN: Yes.

CUOMO: I've never heard of anything like that before.

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: So now you get to well why now? What do you think has changed? Whom do they have that they didn't?

BROWN: Well I think a lot of people who maybe weren't willing to talk before are now willing to realize that what happened was wrong. Hope - hopefully, some people found a conscience in all this.

[21:40:00] You know, with the passage of time, some people maybe they've had their own children, and they look at it, and say, "You know, you know, I have my own daughter. I don't want her, you know, to have - to face something like this." So, I think--

CUOMO: People who knew about it, and--

BROWN: Yes.

CUOMO: --didn't come forward.

BROWN: Yes.

CUOMO: But not necessarily the victims.

BROWN: Correct, correct. And also, I think that, you know, the case has been nagging at a lot of people for a long time. There were people who knew about this.

And so, when my story came out in November, the end of November, beginning of December, people just looked at it, and said, "Yes. Finally someone really looked at this because I always wondered how did this happen." So, I think it was a combination of things. The - the girls I - I should really mention the girls who - who - who are now women, who came forward and had the courage to talk to me on camera. That was very, very difficult for them to do after all this time, they felt betrayed by--

CUOMO: They were betrayed.

BROWN: They were betrayed by a lot of people.

CUOMO: They weren't told about the deal--

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: --within the time that statutory notification said they should. They sued. Congress is now involved on that.

Oh, and that's one thing I want to ask you before I let you go. I want you to give me what you think the big questions are going forward. But also the aspect of this being prosecuted by the Public Corruption--

BROWN: Right.

CUOMO: --they don't usually handle these kinds of cases. What does that mean and what are the big questions?

BROWN: Well keep in mind that many of the prosecutors that were handling this case, including Acosta is no longer with the Justice Department. Justice Department has an investigation underway by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

My understanding from talking to people who, by the way, worked in justice at the OPR was that they - they're not going to have any jurisdiction over Acosta or any of these attorneys that no longer work for the Justice Department.

So what's possible could have happened is since their hands were tied, they could have referred it to the Southern District of New York to look at the handling of this by the prosecutors.

And, you know, that's just a theory, but it is a pretty, from what I understand, unusual thing to have the Public Corruption Unit attached to a sex abuse or sex trafficking case because they have a unit that handles those kinds of crimes.

CUOMO: It'd be really - it'd be the first time we ever saw a secondary prosecution, not of the underlying crimes, but the, who knew and perverted justice, no pun intended. Julie, please--

BROWN: Thank you. It's my pleasure (ph).

CUOMO: --I will come back to you for more help on this.

BROWN: OK.

CUOMO: Because nobody understands the situation better than you. But it is good to have it examined now. And congratulations--

BROWN: Thank you.

CUOMO: --on all the kudos.

BROWN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so before this President, there was another populist businessman, who completely shook up Presidential politics, and he gave a roadmap, from where I think we're going to go still. His name, H. Ross Perot. He died today.

We're going to look back at how he changed America's political landscape, bring in D. Lemon for that, next.

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CUOMO: H. Ross Perot, two-time Presidential candidate, billionaire businessman, American success story, his life ended today at 89. He had a five-month battle with leukemia.

We all remember his first Presidential campaign in 1992. It remains one of the most successful third-party bids in modern Presidential history. He was eccentric. He was folksy. He was memorable.

A Naval Academy Grad who spoke with a Texas twang, endless pleas to be heard, his famous "Let me finish," line was fodder for SNL's Dana Carvey.

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AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Talk about NAFTA.

ROSS PEROT, FOUNDER & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF ELECTRONIC DATA SYSTEMS AND PEROT SYSTEM: Excuse me, Larry. I - I don't interrupt. May I finish?

LARRY KING, TELEVISION & RADIO HOST: No. But - but he did. He - he brought up a specific point - question.

PEROT: Could I finish?

Please let me finish.

DANA THOMAS CARVEY, COMEDIAN, ACTOR, SCREENWRITER & PRODUCER: Are you still there, Larry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Sir.

CARVEY: Is any of this penetrating that head of yours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think so.

CARVEY: Larry, please, let me finish.

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CUOMO: Let's bring in D. Lemon. You know, he'll be remembered for so many reasons.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: But I tell you, I believe the most impressive part of his legacy is what is still yet to come, a third-party person, America's ripe for it.

LEMON: But I also think that a big reason that - that President Trump is where he is is in large part because of H. Ross Perot. He was - they were very similar, very - a successful businessman. He run--

CUOMO: But he actually was a successful businessman.

LEMON: He was - I know. I was - that was going through my - my head as I said it. But--

CUOMO: I mean, he was, you know.

LEMON: --he was a successful businessman who said, "Why are you sending another politician to Washington? Why are you sending a politician to do what a businessman should be able to do? Dig us out of debt."

And we were, you know, a couple of hundred million dollars in debt then. Think about now with trillions of dollars of debt. That was - that seemed quaint back then.

But I mean I - we're showing our age. If I can remember, I remember the debates with - with - with Ross Perot in them.

I remember him and George H.W. Bush walking out on to the - to the - to the podiums, and Bill Clinton, and it was amazing to see him there with Bill Clinton, and with - and with George Bush because--

CUOMO: And George H.W. Bush believed he cost him the election.

LEMON: He - he did cost him the election because after he dropped out he actually said - had good things to say about Bill Clinton and - and his - and his running mate, so.

CUOMO: Well Perot was tough on him.

LEMON: Al Gore. CUOMO: And I'll tell you the big difference though, to me, and maybe it was a little bit about the time, or at least the way people spoke in public. The decency that he brought to his disagreement, he was tough on them.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: He thought they didn't know what the hell they were talking about when it came to fiscal responsibility. And that's why he used all this charts.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: But that's what's changed. We're going through a cultural tone period here as much as we are about insiders and outsiders and substance.

LEMON: Yes, we are. I mean this - this - the person we have now, and the - the election in 2016, it was - you know, I don't know if I'm romanticizing times past, but it seems like it were - people were a lot brasher, a lot more brash in this election in 2016 than it - than back in 1992.

And, you know, listen, Ross Perot was not perfect, as he would have told you. He was also interesting because he dabbled in conspiracy theories. Remember the whole thing about Prisoners of War, and he blamed the Bush people, President George W - H.W. Bush for hiding information about - about Prisoners of War.

[21:50:00] And he also dropped out of the election and then he said Republican operatives tried to infiltrate his daughter's--

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: --wedding. It was just odd. And then he came - and then he dropped out, and then came back in, so it was interesting, lots of conspiracy. So, we've gone through this before at a different level.

But tonight, you want to tune into the show. You know why?

Because I got Chris Ruddy, friend of the President, I've got John Kasich, who ran for President in 2016, and can offer more on this than either of us, and I got Cory Booker who's running this time.

CUOMO: What!

LEMON: Action-packed program.

CUOMO: That is stacked, my friend. Stacked!

LEMON: Life is like a cob well - web, not an organization chart. Inventories can be managed. But - but people must be led. If you see a snake, just kill it. Don't appoint a committee on Snake.

CUOMO: That's my favorite one.

LEMON: Eagles don't flock. You have to find them one at a time.

CUOMO: If--

LEMON: H. Ross Perot.

CUOMO: --if you see a snake, kill it. Don't form a committee on Snakes. That's good. D. Lemon, I'll see you in a second.

LEMON: See you.

CUOMO: All right, so talking about conspiracy theories, one of the wildest ones that came out of the 2016 election was peddled by the President's pals over there on State TV, and within the walls of his own White House.

And now, the really ugly truth of its origin is known. You remember the name Seth Rich? Of course you do, but for all the wrong reasons. And we know more about it now, and where it started, and what it was about, and how they have never owned what they did.

But that's OK. We're going to expose it in our closing, next.

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CUOMO: So, four months before the 2016 election, a 27-year old DNC staffer is murdered on his way home from a bar. Police investigate and conclude it was a botched robbery. The young man's name, Seth Rich.

You know the name. But why you know it goes to the ugliest kind of BS conspiracy spin there is. Fox was all over this, along with fringe- Righty sites, hollow notions that deserve no repeating here. Why did they do it? To distract from Russian interference, to tar Hillary Clinton.

But now, Michael Isikoff with Yahoo! News, friend of the show, reports that at the root of all of their efforts was Russia. He spoke to a former federal prosecutor who worked on the case.

She says, three days after Seth Rich was killed, Russian Intelligence agents planted a phony report saying that he was gunned down by assassins working for Clinton, BS amplified by the same troll farms that pumped out propaganda disguised as real Americans in the lead-up to the election. Why did they do it? The prosecutor says Russia's plan was simple. If

Seth is the leaker to WikiLeaks, it doesn't have anything to do with the Russians.

Then, in May 2017, the same week Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel, Donald Trump's pals over on State TV ran with the story bigly.

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SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, HANNITY: Explosive developments in the mysterious murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich that could completely shatter the narrative that in fact WikiLeaks was working with the Russians.

STEVE DOOCY, NETWORK-TELEVISION PERSONALITY ON FOX NEWS, AUTHOR: This is a possibility, this is a guy who provided to WikiLeaks all those DNC email.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST, THE INGRAHAM ANGLE: Then he was shot in the back.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: It turns out it wasn't the Russians. It was this young guy who I suspect was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee.

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CUOMO: They can qualify it with all the language they want. They knew what they were doing. They had a bogus hook, a source who said they could link Rich to WikiLeaks through information on his laptop.

Fox News eventually had to issue a retraction. The claim has been debunked over and over, including by the Mueller report. Did they apologize? No.

They said it was not up to their standards editorially, but that it was all protected by the First Amendment. Maybe so. But this isn't about the legal right. It's about doing what is right.

And you have some really self-satisfied sorts over there who just love to judge others and see attacking others as currency. Shows they're strong and smart, right?

Well where is that sense of indignation that they were duped by Russians and helped that toxic cause of disrupting our election and our national dialog with Russian propaganda?

Roger Stone tweeted a picture of Rich, another dead body "In the Clinton's wake. Coincidence? I think not," or he thought not at all.

People who support this President attack anyone with anything they can. They're quick to cry foul when exposed, quick to see themselves as victims of those who returned their vitriol, quick to blame their political opponents for being the bad guys. But what will they say about this? The family begged them to stop. They never had any law enforcement buy-in or support for their stories and their punditry. They had to back off.

And now, unless it's yet another grand conspiracy, they have been exposed as hungry helpers of the Russian cause. Maybe now they'll own the reality of Russian interference, and the obvious efforts that continue, the same that they were only too anxious to empower. Oh, the irony!

Or they can do what they do best. Attack me and others for calling it out, blame it on another conspiracy against them, and wait for the next nonsense to pounce on. But know this. As Yahoo! makes plain for all to see, what was done was ugly and obvious, and everyone knows it. Allow me to say what they have not.

I am sorry for the Rich family and to the Rich family. I wish them the best going forward. Thank you for watching tonight.

CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon starts right now.

LEMON: Good for you, glad you said that. And for some over there, all they got was "I'm not going to talk about this story anymore."