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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Trump Campaign Issues Statement On Mueller Hearings; Mueller: Russians Are Interfering "As We Sit Here"; Trump Sues To Prevent The Release Of His Tax Returns. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired July 24, 2019 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: --trying to influence the election. In fact, it seems as if the campaign is ready to do so again.
In April, President Trump was asked if it happened again, if Russia or China offered information on an opponent, should you accept it, and should you call the FBI? His response, there is nothing wrong with listening. Actually Mr. President, there is, there very much is.
The news continues right now. Want to hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Thank you, Anderson, strong point, and yes, the most ignored point, but not here, not now. I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME from Washington.
We should all be on the same page. We now know that Mr. Mueller found real interference and real wrongdoing and lying around the President and by the President. And even Speaker Pelosi said today, marked the, quote, "Crossing of a threshold."
So, what threshold? What do we do about protecting our elections and what will the Democrats do about this President, if anything? One thing for sure, it is past time to answer both questions, and we will push for those answers.
What does this mean for the President, for his reelection? We have a key member of the President's legal team here tonight. He says the case is closed. I say the biggest questions remain.
What do you say? Let's get after it.
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CUOMO: All right, so what are the things that we should agree on at this point? Well let's just start and finish with Russia meddled from the start. They want to do it again. Election protection must matter, and doesn't right now.
All right, what else? Now it gets subjective. Too many on the Right, I would argue, are playing to this President, and ignoring the basic truth of interference, or at least they're advocating inaction.
Many of those closest to this President welcomed Russia's assistance in 2016. There was collusion, people trying to access Russian efforts, and contact bad actors. Not crimes, according to Mr. Mueller. There's a distinction.
The President lied about what he did and said. He continues to do so. Many in Trump World lied repeatedly, maybe not crimes. For some, it was, some are in jail. There were numerous detailed episodes that represent potential obstruction of justice. But Mr. Mueller clearly left it to Congress to process.
The biggest concern is, the Right is expected to defend this President at this time, but ignoring what Mueller and their own Intel folks say about Russia just to help the President, is that upholding their oath?
Listen how to what the Trump Campaign Manager said today, and you heard its echo all day long. This was his statement.
"The entire spectacle has always been about the Democrats trying to undo the legitimate result of the 2016 election. And today, they failed again miserably. It's now even more apparent that Democrats are completely consumed with their hatred of the President and their obsession with overturning the will of the people who elected him."
Now, it's one thing for a campaign guy to spin it that way. But you heard that from a lot of Members of Congress today. So, how do we move forward from here? What is the case against this President and what should happen next to keep us safe?
Two brilliant minds to take this on, Preet Bharara - Bharara and Robert Ray. Gentlemen, thank you for being here. Let's start with something--
ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL, FORMER SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Great.
CUOMO: --I think we're going to agree on here. Russian interference, do we all accept that it happened that they want to do it again, and it's something that we need to have legislation and rules to protect against? Rob?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes, good.
BHARARA: Good for one.
CUOMO: --how do we process this, what I saw today, did you see it the same way Robert that the President conflates Russian interference with the legitimacy of his own win. I've argued many times in this show, I don't see it that way. He won
the election, it's over, let it go. He's now got a new election.
But you heard them today again and again, where's the proof that the troll farms were connected to Russia? Where's the proof about WikiLeaks? You heard the President say, "WikiLeaks, oh that's more fake news." Why resist the interference?
RAY: Well because it seems to be a substitute in the minds of many for, and even you did it in the lead-in with - with, you know, Russia collusion, I - I don't buy that one. I mean I think the President is right to say that the Russia collusion thing, if what you're talking about is proof of a conspiracy--
CUOMO: But I'm not. See--
RAY: Well, yes, yes, yes--
CUOMO: --and I think it's an important distinction.
RAY: But you - we went through this drill at the early stages of this thing.
I mean people said - I kept trying to say early on, the Democrats were all saying, "Well we're going to be able to prove, going to show collusion out there," and I was like, "What's collusion?" Collusion doesn't have any meaning--
CUOMO: I agree.
RAY: --under the current law.
CUOMO: We said - we - we agreed on that in this show early on.
RAY: Right. But - but, you know, the - I think the President is right to say that the Russian collusion narrative was a hoax. That's--
CUOMO: All right, well so here's the distinction.
RAY: --that's not the same thing as saying--
CUOMO: Here's the distinction, Preet.
RAY: --Russian interference was a hoax.
CUOMO: No, I agree.
RAY: We're - we're - we're - we're - I'm not going back. We're - we're in agreement on that.
CUOMO: He's conflating those two things. However, here's what I think the separation is, Preet.
BHARARA: I didn't hear an answer to the question.
CUOMO: Well he's - go ahead, answer the question-- RAY: I mean that is the question.
RAY: I mean that is the question and - and conflating--
CUOMO: Why are they ducking from interference? Because they see that as meaning that--
RAY: Because I --well because I--
CUOMO: --there was collusion?
RAY: Yes because I--
BHARARA: He's not talking about - you're not talking about collusion in your question.
BHARARA: You're saying no - whether it's collusion or conspiracy or not--
RAY: That's a--
RAY: --that's a political narrative.
BHARARA: --interference in the election. And if you're an American, you should care about interference in the - in the next election.
BHARARA: And what should we do about that.
Chris Wray, who is Republican and the current FBI Director, has warned that there's going to be interference in the - in the next election. Why aren't we doing something about that? I don't--
RAY: And I think the ball--
BHARARA: --I never think--
[21:05:00] RAY: --I think the ball's in - in Congress' court with regard to that.
CUOMO: Yes. Except the Republicans won't move on--
RAY: I - I - I--
CUOMO: --anything. McConnell won't put anything on the floor about it.
RAY: Well, OK. But it--
CUOMO: Republicans in the House don't want to deal with it. RAY: But with--
BHARARA: And the President never talks about it ever because of this insecurity you're talking about.
BHARARA: That's the only link.
CUOMO: Now, just this other--
RAY: Yes, but that's - that's how Congress holds a President accountable.
If you want, in the future, to deal with the issue about whether in the midst of a Presidential campaign there are efforts by a foreign government to infiltrate a campaign or interfere with our elections, you can pass legislation that is directed against campaign officials--
RAY: --and candidate that can deal with that question.
CUOMO: Right, in the House.
RAY: --and that - and - well all right.
CUOMO: But they can't get it on the floor in the Senate.
RAY: You're going to start someplace, start someplace, you know, that--
CUOMO: Well but that's not a law. But wait--
RAY: Well all right, you got to start someplace.
CUOMO: --let me just take on this other point, Preet.
BHARARA: Why - why - why--
CUOMO: But - but let me ask you what--
BHARARA: --why don't we start with the statement from the President--
BHARARA: --an acknowledgement from the President and leadership from the President? You're going to start someplace. Why don't we get the guy with the biggest megaphone, knows how to use it to say, "You know what? If anybody interferes the election, they're in big trouble."
He doesn't do it. He shies away from it. He doesn't lead on it. And it's because he has insecurity about the legitimacy of the prior election in people's mind.
RAY: Yes. But that - that - that's an - that's an excuse for not - for - for Congress, and particularly the Democrats--
CUOMO: Well, but look, it'd be nice if leadership--
RAY: --in the House.
BHARARA: And what's the excuse - what's the excuse for the President?
CUOMO: Yes. It'd be nice if leadership started at the top.
RAY: Well sure.
CUOMO: What excuse does he have to ignore that Russia the guy--
RAY: Well the President can't pass legislation. So, you know, there you go.
CUOMO: Well no, but he - but he doesn't have to congratulate Mr. Putin for what he did, and play with it in person, and embarrass us on the world stage in Helsinki, right?
RAY: And we're all - and we're - and I think that's the appropriate question to be having.
RAY: But the reason we're not having it is because we've spent five months now since the--
CUOMO: Well no it's because you guys -
RAY: --beginning of March--
CUOMO: It's because the Right runs away from it. But I want to talk about something else.
RAY: All right, OK.
CUOMO: Because here is the distinction with the difference. I agree with Mr. Mueller, you didn't find proof of a criminal conspiracy, fine.
Collusion is behavior that is bad behavior. You reached out to the wrong people. You tried to access stolen goods. They didn't succeed, but they made the efforts, and they lied about them. That's collusion. The--
RAY: Ah, I don't buy that.
CUOMO: Well but - but the report--
RAY: I - I basically say--
CUOMO: That's what in the report.
RAY: --I - I basically - I basic--
CUOMO: And that's what Mr. Mueller said. But--
RAY: --I basically take collusion as essentially a synonym for conspiracy to commit a federal offense.
CUOMO: Fine but that's a crime.
RAY: Which we - which we--
RAY: No. Yes. But which we - which we--
BHARARA: --but why care about that word?
RAY: But what--
BHARARA: The question to my mind is--
BHARARA: --was it honorable behavior?
CUOMO: Yes. This is what I'm talking about.
BHARARA: Was it honorable behavior to - to--
RAY: All right pro--
BHARARA: --willingly accept dirt--
RAY: --prosecutors don't deal with whether it's honorable or not--
CUOMO: No, but I'm talking about Congress now going forward.
BHARARA: This is a talk show.
BHARARA: We're not - I'm not a prosecutor anymore. You're not a prosecutor anymore. We're talking about what's good for the country.
BHARARA: And the question, is it honorable behavior? And everyone always retreats by blaming Congress or by saying it's not collusion under a certain definition, it's not conspiracy.
If the question is, on a bipartisan basis, we want good things to happen in America, and we want to have good guidelines and roadmaps for how people should behave honorably in elections, then I really, really don't understand why it's so difficult for people on one side or the other to simply say "If a foreign government approaches you, and purports to have dirt on the opponent, you go to the FBI."
RAY: Preet, that's a legitimate debate to have. Unfortunately, we're not having it. And the reason--
BHARARA: Well we're having it right now.
RAY: --and the reason we're not having is--
BHARARA: Why can't we have it?
RAY: --is because what's on the menu is the question about whether or not there's going to be an impeachment proceeding, which it seems after what happened today, the - the - the answer--
CUOMO: But one should not defeat the other--
RAY: Well, it--
CUOMO: --Robert. You shouldn't ignore--
CUOMO: --Russian interference because you think it may hurt you in an--
RAY: But if - but if--
CUOMO: --impeachment proceeding.
RAY: --but if you're the President, and you're sitting here watching all this, and you've been subjected to an impeachment discussion, basically since the day you took Office, and efforts to undermine the - the results of the election, and your mandate as President of the United States, I think you might be a little bit skeptical too, to approach this subject when - when - when--
CUOMO: Would you deny Russian interference if you were in his situation?
RAY: --you - you would be reluctant to address this subject because it's an effort to derail your Presidency, which is--
CUOMO: No. But that's how he sees it.
RAY: --which is - which - well and - and I think there's merit to it. That's why I'm - I'm telling you that's the way I see it.
RAY: I - I think there's merit to the fact that no President should have been subjected to this, particularly given how, and we'll - we'll find out the - the end of the story when the Inspector General's report finally makes its way to the - to the public domain, and whatever follows on from that. But, you know, no President should have - should have had to endure what - what--
CUOMO: Well no President should have lied the way he did.
RAY: --what - what - well--
CUOMO: No President should have allowed the people around him to do what they did, so there's a lot of shouldn't-haves. But let me ask you this in terms of should-haves. Should Congress start an impeachment inquiry or should they leave this to the election, the hustings, and the voters?
BHARARA: Look, I'm going to take a page from my - from my colleague's playbook.
That is up to Congress. The way I look at it as from a - as a - as a former prosecutor is you figure out whether or not you believe that there's evidence that suffices to show high crime or misdemeanor.
The way I have looked at the Mueller report and, in particular, volume two that relates to obstruction, and based on the testimony today as well, that a good and conscientious Member of Congress could easily determine that there has been conduct that constitutes an impeachable offense.
[21:10:00] And we had a lot of discussion about the politics of it, and Nancy Pelosi is trying to go slow on this, and I get that. And the reason for the political reticence about it is because people are making a judgment based on politics that it would backfire--
BHARARA: --really help the President get reelected, and I get that, but that's speculative.
And where I come from, and you can have a difference of opinion about whether or not it reaches the threshold or not, but if you believe - if you're a Member of Congress and you believe that there is evidence sufficient to go forward with impeachment, and it seems to me that's the way you should vote, and not deal in the speculative nature of, you know, guessing about how that will, you know, affect the election in the future.
CUOMO: You know, the interesting thing is, I'll tell you, and we'll leave it on this because--
RAY: Well a very - very famous politician once said that in these matters, public sentiment is everything, and he was a politician first. I also think that that view reflects ultimately what's in the best interest of the country. That politician was Abraham Lincoln.
RAY: So, you know, I - I'd be careful about decrying public sentiment as a - as a substitute for, you know, "Doing the right thing." I mean ultimately my view--
CUOMO: But when you take an oath, you take an oath--
CUOMO: --to uphold the Constitution, not if the President - people like what I do, right? That's the burden of leadership.
CUOMO: And Congress and President are in the same position--
RAY: But - but it's a--
CUOMO: --right now, how do they fulfill they role?
RAY: --and that - and that's a--
BHARARA: And public sentiment is fickle.
RAY: But it's a nuance.
BHARARA: And on Monday, they can think one thing, and depending on how you conduct yourselves--
BHARARA: --on Wednesday, they could think something different. It can go in both directions.
Support, public sentiment can go up in favor of - of impeachment, it can go down, and to - to stick a finger in the air, and just take the temperature or - or see where the wind is blowing on--
BHARARA: --at one particular hour--
RAY: That's not this--
BHARARA: --one particular day is not the way you go about it, I don't think.
RAY: That's not - my view is, you know, that's not really what you do. I mean I think the - of course, the best interest of the country is a judgment about whether or not what you're doing ultimately is in the country's best interest.
RAY: I think you make a nuanced judgment about whether or not you really think that there are high crimes and misdemeanors as a result of an obstruction, in which no justice was obstructed by the President.
And I think you - you - you look carefully at what the - the Mueller report said, and it - you know, a 1,000 former prosecutors dancing on the head of the pin - of a pin saying, you know, if he weren't the President, we'd have this view about whether or not this is obstruction, in my view, is not the way you go about making a - a very nuanced judgment about how you deal with Presidential conduct.
CUOMO: I - I hear it, but here's the good news. If this President wanted to make a smart play, you know what he'd say?
"Protect the election. I'm for it. I want to push the Right to work with Congress. Let's get some laws done to make sure that we're safe and get it done. I don't want Russia to do this again too."
BHARARA: That would actually drive sentiment down.
CUOMO: Yes. Yes. That would be a strongest move.
BHARARA: Public sentiment's down for it--
CUOMO: Let's see if he does it. Hey--
RAY: Well and I think - I think the other half of that, that was for the Congress ultimately to decide that this is over and that this is done, and then let's get on with the people's business, I think that--
CUOMO: Let me - let me--
RAY: --I mean the President said I'm willing to have that discussion--
CUOMO: Hold on, listen.
RAY: --once you stop trying to, you know--
CUOMO: All right, Rob--
RAY: --go down the impeachment road.
CUOMO: --I love the filibuster.
RAY: There you go.
CUOMO: I loved it so much I want to tell you something. This is too helpful with what we're dealing with right now. Do me a favor. Stay through the commercial.
RAY: We'll do.
CUOMO: Let's take a break. When we come back, we have to find where the avenue is to progress because here's we are right now.
Two brilliant men, Russian interference bad, we have to stop it, but then all of the sudden, once it becomes in calculus with this President, everything changes about what we should do. Unacceptable! Let's try to find a way through it. Stay--
RAY: Nobody say it was easy. CUOMO: Well it's not. It's hard. So, let's get through it together. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll talk about what was laid out today. It's no longer about the facts. It's about what you want to do about the facts.
We've got two great minds who understand the work of business, of politics, and of law. Where do we go? Let's get after it.
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CUOMO: All right, look, sometimes you got to do what matters in the moment. I have Preet Bharara. I have Robert Ray. Brilliant minds who understand the subtleties of this situation, we got to find a way forward.
So, we've been talking about this sticking point of how Russian interference is a clear thing to act on, create rules to make it less dangerous the next time, until it becomes part of the calculus of what holding this President to account looks like.
So, to continue the conversation, the Democrats now, Nancy Pelosi says today was a threshold cross. What threshold was crossed today? What do you think has to happen next, Preet?
BHARARA: Well if we're talking about Russian interference, as we were talking about in the first segment, the threshold was crossed a - a long time ago.
And - and, by the way, just, you know, people get caught up in whatever the current controversy is, and they think well the thing that we're worried about now, we're always - always fighting the last war is Russia will interfere on the side of Donald Trump, like it did in 2016.
And if you decide, "Well that's not something we want to talk about," because the President has a fragile ego, or for some other reason, think about what's going to happen in 2024. What goes around comes around.
It could be the case in some future election, there's a Democratic candidate for President that some other country thinks would be better for that country's relationships, and then you have an entire party has been on the wrong side because they're supporting a particular President in a particular time in a particular controversy. So, if we're continuing to talk about Russian interference, I think the threshold was crossed a long time ago.
CUOMO: Right. But it's also not Russia - just Russia, Russia, China, North Korea. And look, if you wanted to play it smart, you know it's effective, Robert. Look what it's doing to us.
I would pick one of the people on the Left, and start promoting their campaign in bogus ways that seems very obvious to everybody, seed even more discontent, but here's the problem.
How do we get the President, the Republicans, basically the same, as we saw today, and the Democrats on the same page of what to do on this?
RAY: I mean--
CUOMO: Even simple rules like if you're running a campaign and somebody from a foreign state actor--
RAY: You report it.
RAY: Report it.
CUOMO: --something as simple as that.
RAY: Report it to the FBI. Look, I - even that may be too difficult to imagine being accomplished before the 2020 election. I - I - I mean I'm not - I'm not a political operative.
But I sense that politically what is feasible is that it's going to require an intervening election and a mandate in order to accomplish that, so that, you know, if President Trump is re-elected, I think he's got the ability at that point, you know, once we sort of move past what happened in the first term, where he's basically been under investigation the entire time, or alternatively if a Democrat is elected to the White House, there's a mandate--
BHARARA: Although I - I've got--
RAY: --for that kind of change maybe.
BHARARA: --I've got a slightly different point of view, and - and going - going along what Chris was saying about how it might be helpful to the President.
Suppose there's another election, and Donald Trump has been silent on this issue, because he thinks it doesn't, you know, help him, and it undermines the legitimacy of the last election, and now suppose as will likely be true that there will be some stories and allegations, some proven, some not proven that Russia or some other country will be interfering on behalf of the President.
[21:20:00] Let's say (ph) then the President does win again, right, not something I want, but he does win again, and if the thing he cares about is legitimacy of his next election, having worried about the legitimacy of the first election--
CUOMO: He's setting himself up for disappointment.
BHARARA: --he's setting himself up for - and maybe it doesn't matter because he'll be a lame duck.
But if he had - is - is vocally and - and - and stridently against this kind of attack on American democracy, and then he wins, he'll be able to say, "I didn't want it. I didn't ask for it."
RAY: Yes, it's--
BHARARA: "And I don't think it's true." And--
RAY: --it's a - it's a--
BHARARA: --it's for his benefit.
RAY: It's a fair point. But I - I don't think that's going to happen.
CUOMO: Right. But also, the only thing I quibble with you, Robert, and as you know, you know, with both of you guys, I take your counsel very often.
I listen to you in other places, I invite you on here to make my audience smarter about these things, in terms of perspective, the idea that you feel that you're under siege in politics should not change the rules of how you fight back.
The problem we're in right now is that the President attacks any institution, person, or precept that he thinks is in his way at the time. That's really dangerous because look where we are today in that press conference.
He wants to take a victory lap? Take it. He wants to make Mueller a--
CUOMO: --sum total of a performance like it's a reality show, go ahead. But--
RAY: But, Chris, it's human. I mean, it's human.
CUOMO: --everything is fake unless he likes it.
RAY: Go - go - go back to George W. Bush, you know.
CUOMO: Who has ever been like him?
RAY: You - you - you don't think that George W. Bush suffered under the - the - the reality of the fact that the Democrats were essentially saying that it was a stolen election by the Supreme Court of the United States?
CUOMO: But he didn't call all media liars and fake and all Democrats fake and--
RAY: I mean that - that - that - that - no--
CUOMO: --in cahoots with the worst things.
RAY: But - that--
CUOMO: And that the FBI had been subverted by a Deep State?
RAY: That - that makes it very difficult to govern. And the President, I think, instinctively, this President understands that attacks on him, they get to the question of undermining the legitimacy of his election, where it was an Electoral College victory, but not a popular vote victory. You know, that - that's - that's a political reality. We could all--
CUOMO: Right. But Robert, are you a little afraid--
RAY: --sold, it's sold.
CUOMO: --as a guy who holds himself out as an integrity guy, a guy who gets invited on the show because you're an integrity guy, you're not going to really defend lying, and calling everything that the media does fake, and everything the Democrats do fake and subversive just because you feel that you're under siege.
RAY: No. Agreed. Look, you know, I have - I have been credible.
CUOMO: Because that's the problem for people on the Right.
RAY: We're - we're - we're - probably--
CUOMO: You know what I mean, is that everything he says is OK.
RAY: I am not prepared to say that every single thing under the sun is a hoax, OK? I've tried to call them as I have seen them to be fair. I - I have said things with regard to the conduct of the investigation where I didn't think things were fair.
RAY: And that with the - when I thought the President was right, I said so, one of the areas of which was I had no problem with the 448- page report, except for one sentence. I do not think it was wise for the Special Counsel, after he did what he did, and said what he said, to get into this whole exoneration question.
CUOMO: Yes, I agree. Preet's never used that word before.
RAY: And I - and I - and I - and I think--
CUOMO: And he's said it on this show.
RAY: Yes, and I know, I know you have. CUOMO: He said that that's not what a prosecutor does.
RAY: And I think that mean I just--
CUOMO: All right, I got to leave it there.
RAY: We know distinctively that that's not what prosecutors should be doing.
CUOMO: I got to leave it there, but I'll tell you what. I appreciate the context and the subtlety. I think a lot of this stuff is hard.
RAY: It is hard.
CUOMO: And it's not going to be obvious going forward.
BHARARA: But some is easy. There're certain basic parameters and - and - and guidelines about how to deal with the foreign interference--
BHARARA: --as a nation, whether you're a Democrat, Republican, or Independent.
RAY: I would - and I - I - I think you're right about that too. I mean I - that's right, that's right.
CUOMO: What the solution is, is pretty visible. How to get to it, is what is so cloudy right now because of the division. But you know what?
RAY: Yes, yes, yes.
CUOMO: When we have great minds like you guys talking about it--
RAY: Good to - good to see you.
CUOMO: --I appreciate it. Hey, I'll take it. I'll take it every night because we need more of this. Good minds, disagreement with decency, what's the way forward.
All right, so let's talk forward. Speaker Pelosi, that sounds like it's got import to it the words, "We crossed the threshold today." What does it mean? The only way forward is an impeachment inquiry.
If they believe what they keep saying they believe, that's what the Constitution tells them to do. They're going to do it or not, a message to those demanding action, next.
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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME. (END VIDEO CLIP)
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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.
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CUOMO: Look, you got to keep pounding on interference because not enough people are getting the message. The former Special Counsel offered his strongest words today about Russia's election interference.
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(ROBERT MUELLER'S TESTIMONY)
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CUOMO: Now, here's the problem. You know why it was so easy for him? Because it's not harnessed to an agenda for him. Let's bring in our Intel insiders tonight, got a great panel for you, all right?
It's great to have Asha Rangappa, worked at the FBI, understand how these investigations work help us so much, Michael Isikoff, one of the best Investigative Reporters that we have, and Phil Mudd, a cousin who I don't like to claim, no, worked with the FBI, worked with the CIA, understand these things.
Let's deal with what's obvious. You see Robert Ray and Preet Bharara - Bharara, very bright guys, coming from different places completely on the President, but they're joined here until what, Asha?
Well I understand why the President won't deal with Russian interference because it's being used as a proxy for his illegitimacy, so he won't touch it, and we saw that reverberate through the Right today.
How do you get past that to deal with an obvious clear and imminent threat?
ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think we have to get back to first principles.
Two of the main issues that the Framers of the Constitution were worried about were self-dealing and foreign influence. This permeates the text of the Constitution, The Federalist Papers. This is why there is a prohibition against bribery as an impeachable offense, the Emoluments Clause.
And I think the way that we need to approach it is through a veil of ignorance, to use John Rawls, right, like if - if you look at this behavior, and you didn't know what party that person belong to, do you believe that it would be wrong? And I think most people, I would hope, would say yes. It's - it's to get away from that attachment to the partisan affiliation, and to detach it, and look at it going forward.
CUOMO: So, John Rawls for Asha, Lou Rawls for you, Phil, "You'll Never Find Another Love like Mine," when you get loved up by a foreign entity, there should be a simple rule--
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: I thought you meant you.
CUOMO: No, listen, we'll - we'll talk about that off-camera. When you get loved up by a foreign entity--
CUOMO: --there should be a reporting requirement.
[21:30:00] MUDD: There should be. And I got to tell you. I saw the debate on this. I don't get it. This is not that - when I was in government, let me give you the reporting requirement.
If I meet with you Chris Cuomo, and you're a representative of the Russians, if you gave me - and back when I was in, this is - I'm not making this up. This is a fact. When I was in, if you gave me something worth more than $200, not a pen, not a piece of paper, something worth more than $200, I had to report it, pretty simple.
If you told the political campaign if you get anything of value, you can talk to somebody on the margins of - of an election campaign, someone from the British Embassy comes up, and says, "How's it going."
But if you get something of value, including information related, for example, to how they're going to collect information in Pennsylvania, you've got to report it. It's not that hard. We had to do it.
CUOMO: But Mike's thinking about it, and he's not completely sold, why?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO! NEWS CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, "RUSSIAN ROULETTE" CO-AUTHOR: Yes, well, it's not clear that the Trump Campaign was ever offered that specific information.
MUDD: Oh, but they were.
ISIKOFF: They were offered the idea.
RANGAPPA: They were offered--
MUDD: You got to be kidding me.
ISIKOFF: No, no, no. Excuse me.
CUOMO: It is an analysis though.
ISIKOFF: Excuse me, look, look, look--
CUOMO: Mike's right. It - thing--
ISIKOFF: --they were--
CUOMO: A thing of value is an analysis.
ISIKOFF: Yes. There's the Trump Tower meeting where they were told they could get information straight from Kremlin fellows.
ISIKOFF: Right? And what does Don Jr. say, if it's what you say, I love it, no question. But the evidence in the report is they had the meeting, and that information was not offered. So, you know, if it's--
RANGAPPA: No, I'm sorry Michael. So, if I decide--
ISIKOFF: --that's what happened.
RANGAPPA: --if - if I'm insider trading--
ISIKOFF: I'm not - I'm not defending--
RANGAPPA: --and somebody says, hey I'm going to give you information--
RANGAPPA: --about something that's going to go public in two days--
RANGAPPA: --and I'm like, "Yes, let's get in this," and I mean that's still a conspiracy. If we move towards that even if it doesn't come to fruition--
ISIKOFF: It was--
CUOMO: You have to show the actions.
ISIKOFF: It was unquestionably--
RANGAPPA: Yes, it doesn't come to fruition, it's--
RANGAPPA: --still wrong.
ISIKOFF: It was and questionably improper. But can you make a criminal case that something of value changed hands?
RANGAPPA: You may not be able to make a criminal case. ISIKOFF: Well but that's what --
RANGAPPA: His question was--
ISIKOFF: --but that's what Mueller was doing. Mueller was the special prosecutor to investigate crimes, right? And he, as the prosecutor, he concluded he could not make a criminal case out of that meeting, or any of the other contacts--
CUOMO: Look, I'll tell you, if you want to criticize them, not you--
ISIKOFF: --multiple contacts, they're going to--
CUOMO: --but if one wants to criticize--
CUOMO: --the Mueller probe--
ISIKOFF: No. None of this is defending anything that the Trump Campaign did.
CUOMO: No, I'm with you.
ISIKOFF: They clearly were out of bounds.
CUOMO: Mike, they're attacking you, not me.
ISIKOFF: OK. All right, all right.
CUOMO: What I'm saying is this. If people want to criticize the Mueller probe--
ISIKOFF: All right. I said--
CUOMO: --here's the clear avenue.
CUOMO: That ab initio, from the beginning, it was flawed, because we were all told that he's going to look into potential criminal behavior surrounding Russian interference, and anything to do with anyone in the campaign, except the President, because he went into it and put it on page one of part two of his report, "I'm not allowed to prosecute the President."
But everybody was expecting that. That was the flaw ab initio that should have been explained to the American people that you will not hear any mention from Mr. Mueller that this President's going to be prosecuted about anything. I think it would have changed the balance of power where we are.
So, that takes me going forward. Where is progress quick - quickly from each of you, what do you think the Democrats should do next?
RANGAPPA: I think at this point, it's about duty. I mean I'm not a political analyst. I'm about the rule of law. And I think that--
CUOMO: Well but you're smart. You worked at the FBI. You're a law professor. What do you think they should do?
RANGAPPA: I think they need to begin an impeachment inquiry. I mean this has, you know, if - if you are looking at this from an investigative point of view, there is more than enough reasonable suspicion--
CUOMO: But you can't finish the job.
RANGAPPA: --to begin--
CUOMO: We will not--
RANGAPPA: It doesn't matter.
CUOMO: --impeach this President.
RANGAPPA: You know, the FBI every day gets leads where they don't know if it's going to result in a successful prosecution.
CUOMO: But you know now it won't result in a successful prosecution.
RANGAPPA: You know - you don't know the future. I mean we think that. But there are factors that unfold as things go on. And frankly, it will drive the President nuts, like he might have some Colonel Jessup moment where he confesses everything on national television like--
CUOMO: But that's not necessarily the best--
RANGAPPA: --you know how I mean--
CUOMO: --the best reason to do it, right?
RANGAPPA: But I'm saying that we don't know the outcome.
CUOMO: All right, I got you.
RANGAPPA: We do it for what is the right, right now.
CUOMO: Phil Mudd?
RANGAPPA: Two words. They should shut up. They might see some indication of wrongdoing, A, they - as you're suggesting, they will never reach the end of this in 15 months, and B, it's going to divide America.
So, if you can't reach a conclusion, and if it's bad for the country, regardless of whether you see some evidence of wrongdoing, do you think that you should pursue this? I'd say, A, for - for reasons of America, shut up, and B, I'm not a politician.
But if you think Americans are going to say "I'm going to watch this show, paint drying for another 15 months," if I - you know, I watch this myself, and I'd say, "Leave me alone, find something else like healthcare to worry about."
CUOMO: Mike Isikoff?
ISIKOFF: I - I do not think the needle moved at all today.
I thought Mueller's performance was uninspired. He was clipped. He was confused at times. He did not persuade anybody. And ultimately, this was about persuasion. That's the reason they had him. They had no other witnesses.
They could not bring - the White House, you know, say what you will, they've outmaneuvered the Democrats in the Hill because they blocked them from having any of the key fact witnesses who could actually move the needle.
I don't want to hear from Robert Mueller. I want to hear from Don McGahn who was in the room--
CUOMO: Yes, then you're going to hear from--
ISIKOFF: --who heard what--
CUOMO: All right, now--
ISIKOFF: --who heard what Trump said.
CUOMO: All right, let me leave it there.
ISIKOFF: And he responded.
CUOMO: Let me leave it there.
CUOMO: I hope that there is--
CUOMO: --not another chapter of this is where it will all be made manifest. But Asha, Phil, Mike, thank you for putting your heads together--
[21:35:00] CUOMO: --in this situation. It's important night, happy to share it with you.
All right, some of the lawmakers who grilled Robert Mueller today may have acted like the President's lawyers, but they aren't. But I have one.
Jay Sekulow is here. What does he see as any exposure for this President? What does he have on Russian interference and the President's resistance to it? Can't get closer to the source than that! Next.
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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.
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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.
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CUOMO: Big night, big guest! One of the President's attorneys, Jay Sekulow is here. It's good to have you. Welcome back to PRIME TIME.
JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: Thank you, Chris, always good to be with you.
CUOMO: Shocker for you, we'll do this light and tight tonight.
CUOMO: I accept the premise "Case closed."
CUOMO: I don't see another chapter in this. We'll see what happens politically. Help me with this. The President's continued denial of Russian interference, why is it now the time to say "Case closed. Let's jump on this election protection."
CUOMO: "Russian interference is real. Let's stop it next time."
SEKULOW: I - I don't think the - the President's saying that he's not concerned about foreign interference in our elections.
This has been a problem that goes way beyond this administration. This started before President Obama. This has been a constant - I mean I think we could probably trace a lot of this back to the 60s even with technology.
CUOMO: But it's very real now.
SEKULOW: I think it's--
CUOMO: And this President either ignores it or--
SEKULOW: No. I don't think it's that.
CUOMO: --mocks it on the world stage with the person who perpetrated it.
SEKULOW: Look, you know, when you - when you say mocks it, here's - here's the situation. This President has been under attack for 2.5 years, non-stop, where people on this network and others have said he was an agent for the Russian government.
[21:40:00] Now, of course, Bob Mueller denied that today because obviously it wasn't true. What--
CUOMO: Did he take an oath to protect the Constitution--
SEKULOW: Of course.
CUOMO: --or himself?
SEKULOW: No, the Constitution of the United States.
CUOMO: So, you ignore next to the guy who's electing - who's interfering in your election what he's done?
SEKULOW: No. He'd - I'd think - I think that's just drastic overstatement. This was a President, as I said, that was under attack. I think the reality of what we have to look at is what did the message - what was the message today?
Even on the Russian interference issue, when it came to the issue of the President's involvement or the adminis - people involved, and the campaign's involvement, was there--
CUOMO: A crime? No.
SEKULOW: No. Was there collusion?
SEKULOW: No. Because he said - Bob Mueller had to confess today, page 180 of his report said what? Collusion and conspiracy, we view it as the same thing--
CUOMO: Right. But at the front - the--
SEKULOW: --for the purpose of this report.
CUOMO: --at the front of the report, they said we didn't really look at collusion because it's really behavior. It means nothing in law. And what I'm saying is--
CUOMO: --guys trying to get their hands on stolen emails, guys trying to make contacts that can get them information through Russian bad sources, those are wrong things to do. They're not crimes. You don't call Jay Sekulow.
CUOMO: But they're wrong.
SEKULOW: Well-- CUOMO: And they shouldn't be lied about.
SEKULOW: I think--
CUOMO: And both of those things happened.
SEKULOW: --I think interference in campaigns is wrong, period, by whatever government is doing it, or whatever entities are doing it. That was not what this became about. This was, was the President involved with the Russians?
SEKULOW: And then--
CUOMO: But why deny the interference as a way of defending yourself--
SEKULOW: He's not - he's not - he's--
CUOMO: --against implication.
SEKULOW: It's not that he's denying the interference.
CUOMO: He's done exactly that, Jay--
SEKULOW: But - but you know--
CUOMO: --and you know it.
SEKULOW: --Bob Mueller said today that he couldn't - he could not say that he - vote was switched. And you and I both know, no votes were switched--
CUOMO: Doesn't mean there wasn't Russian interference.
SEKULOW: No. I think Russian interference, I've said this from the outside, I think Russian interference has been around going way back in our history.
CUOMO: Yes. But it's worse here now.
SEKULOW: So, when Obama admin--
CUOMO: And it's getting worse and now they know it works.
SEKULOW: Oh, when President Obama had the opportunity to do something about it--
CUOMO: He did nothing. And it was a mistake.
SEKULOW: --he did nothing. He told the President of Russia, "After the election, I have more flexibility, tell Vladimir."
CUOMO: No. He said to Medvedev--
SEKULOW: And that nobody put - nobody put-- CUOMO: --he would have more flexibility.
CUOMO: It was a context of a different discussion, not about Russian interference.
SEKULOW: About what? What was it about?
CUOMO: He didn't know what to do - he didn't know what to - it's--
SEKULOW: You remember what it was about?
CUOMO: --I do. But it's irrelevant to this conversation.
SEKULOW: No, it's very relevant.
CUOMO: No. He--
SEKULOW: It was our policies.
CUOMO: Yes, but--
SEKULOW: I have more flexibility with our policies once I'm done.
CUOMO: Look, but if you want to go down that road--
CUOMO: --then this President has done the most obnoxious things--
CUOMO: --we've ever seen in that regard.
SEKULOW: No, I'm saying, no--
CUOMO: He's given forgiveness to Putin on the world stage. He took his own staffers into the Oval Office and gave them confidential information. So, let's not make that the battleground.
SEKULOW: I don't - OK.
CUOMO: I'm saying let's deal with making ourselves going better going forward.
SEKULOW: I think - I don't think there's anybody that does - that wants to see foreign interference in our campaign, especially the President.
SEKULOW: No. So, what you do is you put policies and procedures in place because this administration has been tougher on this than the previous, you have to acknowledge that.
CUOMO: Why would Republicans get on board with that when they know the boss says it didn't happen?
SEKULOW: No. What the President is saying did not happen was what he was being accused of. That's what the President said. That's what he said.
CUOMO: And Russian interference.
CUOMO: Vladimir Putin says he didn't do it, and I don't know any reason that he would--
SEKULOW: Oh, look, OK, here--
CUOMO: --have done it.
SEKULOW: --here's the situation. You're on the world's - if you were the President of the United States, and you're on the world stage next to Vladimir Putin, better than what the President said than whispering into the President of Russia, "I've got more flexibility."
CUOMO: First of all, look--
SEKULOW: I'm not going to get off that. That is a serious thing.
CUOMO: Well you're not going to get off because it's a whataboutism. Duck--
SEKULOW: Well I think - I think - I think--
CUOMO: --to what I'm asking you.
SEKULOW: --this is part of the problem. We're dealing with a global political situation. And there - you know what? When you're dealing on global political stage, which you and I don't, there's a lot of factors at play.
CUOMO: Jay, I love you. You know that, right?
SEKULOW: I know that.
CUOMO: I've liked going through this process with you.
SEKULOW: Yes, yes.
CUOMO: You're a fair broker.
CUOMO: A President - you want to get upset about Obama whispering something to Medvedev--
SEKULOW: You know--
CUOMO: --which was not about them messing with our election, but you're not upset that this President stood next to the man who was interfering with us, and said, "I don't think you did it."
SEKULOW: He said, he said he didn't do it.
CUOMO: And I don't know why he would have.
CUOMO: I don't think he's lying, which means--
SEKULOW: Do you think--
CUOMO: --my Intel people are lying.
SEKULOW: No. That is - see, I think this is taking the whole thing out of context.
SEKULOW: The President of the United States was being accused by a Special Counsel--
SEKULOW: --of being an agent basically for the Russian government.
CUOMO: They were investigating it.
SEKULOW: Yes. Well what did that investigation show? Nothing. And--
CUOMO: Well they didn't show nothing. It showed--
SEKULOW: Well nothing on behalf of the President.
CUOMO: --no proof of a criminal conspiracy--
SEKULOW: Well what were they - well let me ask you this.
CUOMO: --to interfere in the election.
SEKULOW: You appoint a Special Counsel, this was the whole thing when he - he did the - the playback of the "But for the OLC opinion, we would have done something."
SEKULOW: "But then, well that's not really what the standard was." You know what you saw today? And it was - it was--
CUOMO: It was the standard, which is why he didn't consider--
SEKULOW: No, I could--
CUOMO: --prosecution of the President.
SEKULOW: Let me tell you the truth about that.
SEKULOW: Break you some news here.
CUOMO: I'd love it.
SEKULOW: OK? Bob Mueller testified today, and I'm not - no one's accusing of lying, testified today that from the outset, this was the - they know what the OLC opinion was.
SEKULOW: They were bound by it. I will tell you that's not the truth. And there's--
CUOMO: How so?
SEKULOW: Because I have letters in my file when we were negotiating this where he - they did not until it was May of last year, maybe it was April of last year, acknowledged that the OLC policy is that. So they--
CUOMO: Well had you been bringing it up and they denied it?
CUOMO: So, you're saying that Bob Mueller changed his position on the OLC--
SEKULOW: I'm saying Bob Mueller when we first met was - was not--
CUOMO: Will you give us the letters?
SEKULOW: Of course, not.
CUOMO: Can I see the letters?
CUOMO: Will you read them to me over the phone?
SEKULOW: But I - would - would I ask you for your letters?
CUOMO: Yes. We've had this conversation too.
SEKULOW: And I don't do that to you because--
CUOMO: Listen, this is what I'm saying.
CUOMO: You're not accusing--
SEKULOW: And again, I'm not - I'm not accusing anybody--
CUOMO: You're not accusing Mueller of being a--
CUOMO: --bad actor.
SEKULOW: No. I'm not--
CUOMO: All right--
SEKULOW: I don't - I don't--
CUOMO: --we're in bad faith.
SEKULOW: No, I think he did - I think it was very clear today, as your network said a 100 times, he did not have a command on the facts. I don't think he was in charge--
[21:45:00] CUOMO: What lead prosecutor knows everything of the case that they're doing on a team this size?
SEKULOW: Does he know anything on the case?
CUOMO: He knew a lot of it. He didn't want to go outside the confines of it. Don't play that game. The--
SEKULOW: Oh, how much--
CUOMO: That's the President's game.
CUOMO: It's a performance.
SEKULOW: Chris, Chris.
CUOMO: He didn't have good material. His performance wasn't good.
SEKULOW: He didn't know who Fusion GPS was?
CUOMO: It's not - it's not a reality show.
SEKULOW: "Yes, I don't know who they are."
CUOMO: He said he didn't want to talk about it.
SEKULOW: "I didn't know Jeannie Rhee worked for the Clinton Foundation." I mean.
CUOMO: Well you're not supposed to ask those questions.
SEKULOW: But his people, everybody knew, except the guy that's in charge. Here's what I'm saying. I'm not - I don't think it's right to - and I heard people on your network say.
CUOMO: You want to do whataboutism. So that - that--
SEKULOW: No, no, no, what you're describing--
CUOMO: --that ignorance hurts you.
CUOMO: The President stands in front of a group of kids and says, "Article Two says I can do whatever I want," that doesn't bother you.
SEKULOW: No, Article--
CUOMO: If Obama said that, you'd be going crazy.
SEKULOW: No. Article Two says "As the President, I have certain authority."
CUOMO: Yes. It said--
SEKULOW: You know what, by the way--
CUOMO: --he can do anything is what he said.
SEKULOW: He - it was in the context.
SEKULOW: Look, listen to this. Hold, hold--
CUOMO: In a context of what?
SEKULOW: --now, Chris, what did Bob Mueller say today? Could the President - did he have the authority to fire Jim Comey for whatever reason he want, what was his answer? Yes.
SEKULOW: No, he said yes.
CUOMO: He - and then he said, no, it depends on--
SEKULOW: Play the tape again. No, that was him.
CUOMO: --the thing.
SEKULOW: That was asked to him. It's could you fire James Comey for any reason? Yes.
CUOMO: He does not. He goes on and he elaborates that it depends--
SEKULOW: But do you know - but let me ask you this.
CUOMO: --what it's about.
SEKULOW: Let me ask you a question. Do you think the President of the United States has the authority to fire the FBI Director for whatever reason he wants?
CUOMO: For whatever reason he wants, no--
CUOMO: --because corrupt intent has to be taken into consideration.
SEKULOW: But well they - they tried that here, didn't work out very well.
CUOMO: Well but doesn't mean it's not the right question to ask.
SEKULOW: But the President could say - you don't think that John Kennedy could have fired Janet (ph)--
CUOMO: All right, enough, enough--
SEKULOW: Oh, I know, all right, all right.
CUOMO: --we're - we're back - we're back 50 years.
CUOMO: All I'm saying is this. Do you think we can get to a place now, and by the way--
CUOMO: --and I'll say it to all of you now, you got to remember this, Jay Sekulow and this legal team did this President right.
I know that's going to upset a lot of you. But they knew if they put him in the chair, there was going to be trouble. They kept him out of the chair even though the - the Special Counsel says some of the written answers weren't that helpful.
SEKULOW: By the way, he never sent a letter--
SEKULOW: --to us saying that they were untruthful.
CUOMO: But you kept - you--
SEKULOW: Which is another thing I'll tell you.
CUOMO: --you kept him out of the chair.
CUOMO: You did your job. But now I'm asking you--
CUOMO: --to put on a different hat.
SEKULOW: Yes, yes.
CUOMO: This is just John Q. Public hat.
CUOMO: Is it time for him to say "Russian interference was real. Let's do something to stop it going forward now that the case against me should be over?"
SEKULOW: Look, I think I'm - I'm not - I can't speak for the President in the context of this because that's not--
CUOMO: As a citizen.
SEKULOW: As a citizen, I want - I would say that any interference, including Russian interference, or any other governments because I don't think it's just the Russians, by the way.
CUOMO: No, it's not.
SEKULOW: That - that any interference in our elections has to be dealt with. And - and whether it's cyber-security or - or whatever--
SEKULOW: --other security, that's not my area.
CUOMO: All right.
SEKULOW: My area was to do what I did.
CUOMO: Fine, fine.
SEKULOW: I did my job as a lawyer.
CUOMO: But look, I - I like a little bit of light--
CUOMO: --towards let's deal with the reality and do something about--
SEKULOW: I don't want--
CUOMO: --because you got Left, Right, and reality. Now, one other thing.
CUOMO: Help me understand this.
SEKULOW: Yes, go ahead.
CUOMO: As clever as you are.
SEKULOW: Yes, go ahead, here we go.
CUOMO: If you have nothing to hide--
CUOMO: --you would have never hidden the taxes, OK? You would have disclosed the taxes.
SEKULOW: The tax? What taxes?
CUOMO: The President's taxes.
SEKULOW: Absolutely not.
CUOMO: Well hold on, I know why you don't want him to, as his counsel. But I'm saying, as President, if you have nothing to hide, you would put out your taxes. That's why candidates do put out their taxes, not because they have to.
SEKULOW: Well he's got - he's got two, you've got a couple of taxes--
CUOMO: Not because there's a rule. But there's no reason not to.
SEKULOW: I'm a tax lawyer--
CUOMO: Now you're suing to say--
SEKULOW: You're not kidding.
CUOMO: --you can't get the taxes it--
SEKULOW: Well look--
CUOMO: --because it violates my First Amendment rights?
SEKULOW: Well you - well you don't think it's political retaliation?
SEKULOW: I mean look, well look at the policy, look at the law that was passed. They used 6103, which is - again, I don't want to get in the weeds, which is actually a privacy statute that you're not supposed to get people's returns. When they used the word shall, as you'll point out--
CUOMO: Yes, that's the law from like--
SEKULOW: --which is "shall give," that means you have to be--
SEKULOW: --yes, you have to have a legitimate legislative purpose. We believe there isn't one. I think what New York did--
CUOMO: But how's it a violation of the First Amendment?
SEKULOW: Well because it's if you have cohesive action or coordinated action that is because of political position. It's retaliation. That violates the First - I'm a First Amendment lawyer, it violates the First Amendment.
There's also, obviously, there's the separation of powers issues. But let me tell you something about the tax returns--
SEKULOW: --and the mystery here. The President - and then people say well - he's not under audit. I will tell you right here today, I know it. The President is under audit.
CUOMO: So, show proof.
SEKULOW: What - what do you want me to show? The audit letters?
SEKULOW: Well I don't have to do that. But the truth of the matter is--
CUOMO: Well how can - how can people believe you?
SEKULOW: But - but - but I mean - well--
CUOMO: I'm not saying you have to, but why doesn't the IRS Commissioner say, "Yes, he is under audit. Here are the--
SEKULOW: I don't know why - why.
CUOMO: --here are the letters."
SEKULOW: That - that's up to the IRS Commissioner. And normally, they don't discuss that. That's why.
CUOMO: And why won't he just put them out? If he has nothing to hide, put them out.
CUOMO: I'll give you my taxes.
SEKULOW: Would you--
CUOMO: I don't even - I don't - never want a vote from anybody.
SEKULOW: You want - you want - you want--
CUOMO: Do I want them out? No. But I'm not asking for their vote.
SEKULOW: Look, OK. Is there--
CUOMO: I'm not asking for them to make me their leader.
SEKULOW: --is there a requirement in the United States Constitution that to run for President of the United States that you put out these tax return--
CUOMO: No, but there's an ethical one.
SEKULOW: No, it's--
CUOMO: And it's not supposed to be what you're forced to do.
SEKULOW: No, it's--
CUOMO: It's going to be what you think is right and doing the right thing by the American people.
SEKULOW: OK, but Chris, you and I are friends. Let's go through this.
There's no requirement in the Constitution that a tax return has to be issued, number one. Number two, it's like the Emoluments litigation, which hasn't worked out so well for the people trying to--
CUOMO: This is not about the Emoluments litigation.
SEKULOW: But it's the same kind of issue. Why are they doing this? What is the purpose of it?
CUOMO: Why is he doing this?
SEKULOW: No, it's for - doing what?
CUOMO: Not releasing his taxes.
SEKULOW: He's not obligate - he's in the middle of an audit. It's not in a requirement of the Constitution. He doesn't have to.
CUOMO: Nixon was under an audit, he put his taxes out.
SEKULOW: So what?
CUOMO: Well you're--
CUOMO: --Mr. Whataboutism about - you're always finding another example.
SEKULOW: Yes, but - yes but--
[21:50:00] CUOMO: Now you don't like the example.
SEKULOW: No - no I - what I - what I don't like is, is if there's some Constitutional requirement that you give your tax returns out, and that's just not it.
CUOMO: But why wouldn't he do it?
SEKULOW: Because he's in the middle of an audit.
CUOMO: What point is he making? SEKULOW: And you're - you're in a middle of an - let me ask you a question.
SEKULOW: If I was representing you--
SEKULOW: --and - and you were in the middle of an audit, and your contract was up for renewal with CNN, which I know they'll renew you, but do you think I would say "Let's release his tax return?"
CUOMO: If I wanted to be President of the United States--
SEKULOW: How would you feel if CNN says they want - how about if CNN says you--
CUOMO: --I'd say, "Jay, I love you."
CUOMO: "You worked the money."
CUOMO: "I may not pay you when you want to get paid."
CUOMO: "But let me release my taxes."
SEKULOW: Can I ask you a question?
CUOMO: "These people need to trust me."
SEKULOW: If CNN asked you for your tax returns, would you find it offensive?
SEKULOW: You would say OK?
CUOMO: I'd say, "Yes, you've been paying me the money."
CUOMO: "You want to see what I'm doing with it?"
SEKULOW: Yes. You feel that - do you think that's OK? You really don't.
CUOMO: Yes, let alone as--
SEKULOW: No, you don't.
CUOMO: --President of the United States.
SEKULOW: There's no requirement.
CUOMO: Jay, I'll leave it there.
SEKULOW: Me too.
CUOMO: I'll leave it there.
SEKULOW: All right, friend.
CUOMO: To be continued.
CUOMO: Well hold on, it's TV. You can't walk off right now.
SEKULOW: I'm not.
CUOMO: It's not like it's a game show.
SEKULOW: I'm not going to walk.
CUOMO: Thank you very much. I appreciate the candor.
CUOMO: And I appreciate you working with us all along the way--
SEKULOW: Yes, yes, my pleasure.
CUOMO: --to help us understand the situation.
SEKULOW: My pleasure.
CUOMO: It's a benefit to the audience.
CUOMO: All right, Closing Argument, we know where we are-ish. What happens now? That's what it's all about. The Argument, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: CLOSING ARGUMENT.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Believe it because it's true. Russia did us dirty, and they will do it again, and this President, and his people did things that were wrong, and lied about what they did, OK? So now what?
Two paths. What is the plan for the next election, election protection? What is the message sent to the next President?
[21:55:00] Let's deal with the first one, of election protection, I think it's more important. The best argument in the Mueller report, and the most torture-testing by the Right today was about interference. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(ROBERT MUELLER'S TESTIMONY)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, that was asked by a Congressman from Texas named Will Hurd, he's a Republican, and he was one of the only ones on the Right to take this issue seriously. Too many seemed more concerned about faux threats from our own institutions than from institutional attacks by Russia, and they were wrong to do so.
Stop playing politics with protecting our process. We all know that this President calls interference a hoax because he thinks it is bad for him. Leave that to him, do your job, which is protecting the American people.
The threat is real, and it's being ignored for all the worst reasons. You took an oath to protect this country, not this President. Do your job. Let him deal with protecting himself. That's what he does best.
Second, what to do about all the wrongdoing by this President and those around him?
Now, this is more complicated because there are multiple outcomes. But be clear, people around this President tried to get more access to stolen information and to gain more advantage from Russian interference.
Is that a crime? Apparently not. But felony or fine is not our standard for appropriate conduct, or at least it shouldn't be. Now, $40 million was recovered in this probe, dozens of charges, people went to jail, there was a lot there, all right?
This President arguably abused his power to protect his own interests and lied about it. Is that a crime? Mueller wasn't even allowed to consider that.
If you think what almost all of them say, this President arguably abused power and tried to obstruct, that's what we keep hearing from the Democrats, if that's what they're going to say, if that's the talk then they must walk the walk. Their duty is clear. Launch an impeachment inquiry. You don't investigate to see if you should investigate. You just do
the inquiry. You see if there's basis for Articles of Impeachment. If show - so, you give it to the Senate. That's your job. The job is not to do what they are doing now.
"We've crossed the threshold." We crossed it a long time ago, Speaker Pelosi, and she knows that, but what to do, all right?
Mr. Mueller did not give them a tailwind today. He already said what he could say in the report. He said he couldn't charge POTUS.
He then said this. "Congress has authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice," all right? He said what he needed to say in there.
If Democrats don't want to go down that road, then get off the road, and make this election about what we know, and what voters want from their government, and the Congress, and their Presidency.
The President gave you all the ammunition you need today in his victory lap of all ironies. Exhibit A, flat-out lies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mueller said you could be charged once you leave Office.
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, he didn't say that.
(ROBERT MUELLER'S TESTIMONY)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Exhibit B, the self-serving contradictions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was a complete and total exoneration.
He didn't have the right to exonerate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Be clear, prosecutors decide "Prosecute or not prosecute." They're not in the business of finding someone innocent. They're not in the business of exoneration. So, why did he use that word?
It was a nod to the bind that Mueller was in. He couldn't prosecute because of the DOJ rules, so he was trying to explain his dilemma. I can't conclude that this President committed a crime, but I can't say he didn't.
It was confusing, no question about it. However, the most powerful charge is that this President has made this entire situation all about staying in power. And to do that, he has laid waste to any institution, priority, or person who stands in the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Democrats lost so big today. Their party is in shambles right now.
They are a mess.
Because you're fake news.
You're fake news, and you're right at the top of the list also.
That's why people don't deal with you because you're not an honest reporter.
A very dumb and very unfair question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, that's who he is. That's who he is to the American people. Is that who they want? Well they certainly wouldn't want it if there's something better. Make that case to the American people that he is wrong for this country.
Make it to the voters and then be judged by them. That is the only closure that can satisfy. And that case can't begin soon enough because we all know that this country deserves better than what it has gotten thus far.
Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon, sitting next to me.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Don't. Listen, last night, remember what we said?