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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Nadler: Impeachment Inquiry "In Effect" Is Underway; Trump Calls For Probe Of Obama Book Deal; Interview wth Rep. Val Demings (D- FL); Interview with Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX); Nearly 100,000 People Sign Petition To Move Halloween To Weekend. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 26, 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)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Yes! That voiceover just makes me want to play Trump: The Game.

I love the game. Me and - I mean I remember so many days, me and Whiff and Scoozer, J. Bob (ph) sitting on in the dorm room at Yale, just pounding American wine, gnawing on steak, just winning, not losing, just winning.

See out, let's play friends on Corkette but the best wine win, at least on The Ridiculist.

And that's it for us. Want to hand it over, the news continues, to Chris, for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: I got to tell you, Coop. I think I see the President's point on this one. Look at this American wine bottle that I found online.

COOPER: See? It's freedom, I told you.

CUOMO: He only need to look at it to know that it is better than French wine.

COOPER: I--

CUOMO: Because you're not going to find a French wine--

COOPER: I--

CUOMO: --with this label.

COOPER: I love it. I - yes, yes. I think he was funny, I like that.

CUOMO: I don't even drink wine, but I prefer it. COOPER: I was--

CUOMO: I like the way it looks.

COOPER: And he said it with knowing it was kind of funny that he was saying it. I give him props on that one.

CUOMO: Got to remember, it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win.

COOPER: Win, yes, thank you. The game, Trump: The Game.

CUOMO: Have a good weekend, my friend.

COOPER: OK.

CUOMO: I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME on a Friday night.

An impeachment inquiry already in effect, underway, according to the House Judiciary Chair. Did you know that? Did you know that it's happening? But when did they announce? What actually changed? What is going on here?

If a major step has been taken toward impeachment, why don't they come out and say it? We're going to ask a Member of the Judiciary tonight.

We also have a lawmaker on the all-powerful Tax Committee here as Democrats step up their fight for the President's finances. His panel is now trolling Trump with proof that Nixon was more law-abiding to Congress than he.

And 2020 Democrats are taking their fight to one of the nation's most crucial voting blocs, four days out from the CNN debates. A Great Debate on who's winning, who's losing with African-American voters.

Happy Friday, grab a beverage, let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: All right, what's the latest tally on impeachment? 101 House Democrats say yes, impeachment inquiry. But I don't know why I'm counting anymore because it seems that the Judiciary Chair said "No reason to count. I got a secret for you."

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MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're saying there's no difference between what you're doing now and an impeachment inquiry, correct?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): In effect.

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CUOMO: Manu Raju, spot-on. "In effect," they are already having an impeachment inquiry. Really? That was Jerry Nadler, obviously. His Committee would be the right home for it.

But here's where it gets a little bit more complicated. In court today, here's what they said. "Articles of impeachment are under consideration." They're suing for Mueller's underlying evidence. The Grand Jury testimony usually stays secret. You need a compelling interest for it.

So, how's the President handling all of this? Taking it in stride, he says it's not a big deal, we should get on with bigger issues? Ha ha, listen.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to find out what happened with the last Democrat President. Let's look into Obama the way they've looked at me. From day one, they've looked into everything that we've done. They could look into the book deal that President Obama made. Let's subpoena all of his records.

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CUOMO: Two quick points. One, if you want to argue that what was done to you was wrong and overreaching, why would you argue doing the same to someone else? That's a point of hypocrisy.

Two, you are the man, Mr. President, who started the birther campaign against President Obama. We have never seen a more wrongful or pernicious attack in the name of investigating a Presidential candidate, let alone a sitting President.

So, let's discuss what matters in this moment, Judiciary and Intel Committee Member, Val Demings.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

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CUOMO: Made some big headlines, and deservedly so, with some of the answers that she elicited from Robert Mueller. Good to have you on PRIME TIME, Congresswoman, welcome.

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Chris, it's great to be here. Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: All right, so help me understand. Is there an impeachment inquiry ongoing? And if so, why were you guys entertaining all of this pushing about when you're going to start it?

DEMINGS: Well that's a fair question, Chris. Look, I believe the Chairman used the term impeachment investigation.

We are trying to get the underlying evidence to support filing articles of impeachment, just like you would in any criminal investigation, right?

CUOMO: Yes. And that is the job.

DEMINGS: You could, yes--

CUOMO: That is the job for the House.

DEMINGS: --you could - you could - right, you could - you could know who the, let's say, the suspect is. But if that person committed a murder, you want to also recover that weapon, even if you had the supporting testimony. We need all of the evidence to support filing articles of - of impeachment. And so--

CUOMO: A 100 percent.

DEMINGS: Yes. And so, Chairman Nadler, and you heard also what--

CUOMO: Right.

[21:05:00] DEMINGS: --Speaker Pelosi had to say today. We're going to do this. We're going to do it right.

And I tell you what, looking at the numbers of our Members, although the decision to file articles of impeachment rests solely with the Judiciary Committee, you've seen more Members from the House--

CUOMO: Right.

DEMINGS: --Democratic Members at least have come out in favor. I think we're exactly where we hope to be at this point.

CUOMO: I hear it. Look, and I'm not a Gotcha Guy.

But I'm just saying that your advantage here or what you want as a perceived advantage is being straight with the American people because the argument that you guys are saying you can make is that the President wasn't straight with the American people.

That's why I'm coming at this because you got Pelosi saying, "Hey look, we're going to do this the right way, and we'll go into impeachment mode exactly when we have to, not one day sooner," and then you have Nadler saying, "We're already in it in an impeachment inquiry."

You know, look, as we've seen in the two previous impeachments, I don't need to tell you this, you're a student of the game, with Nixon and Clinton, you had the House vote to start the inquiry, then you went into the Committee in the Judiciary, and you worked up the investigation to see if you could bring charges, articles of impeachment.

DEMINGS: Yes. CUOMO: Are you just trying to avoid--

DEMINGS: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: --that vote here because it would be a tough whip at this point?

DEMINGS: No. In the past, the House vote did move forward. But understand, Chris, that the House vote is not necessary to begin to file--

CUOMO: No, it's not necessary.

DEMINGS: --articles of impeachment.

CUOMO: You're 100 percent right.

DEMINGS: Yes. Yes. And so, let's - let's look at what we do have. We had the man, Special Counsel Robert Mueller come in and confirm really what I already knew, and everyone who had read the report, but we do know the American people are just too busy to sit down, and read a 488 page.

He said Russia interfered with our election in a sweeping and systematic way. The President knew it. The President welcomed it. The President or his campaign leaders coordinated with Russia with polling data and other things that the President engaged in numerous incidences of obstruction of justice, and the Special Counsel could not clear the President of wrongdoing.

CUOMO: Right. But on the Intelligence side, Russian interference is a no-brainer for everybody but the President, and he's only denying it for political purposes. But there was no criminal activity, no criminal coordination, no criminal conspiracy. That's what they mean when they say collusion, although that's not a legal term.

I would argue there was collusion as a behavior. There was sneaky behavior. And they knew it was sneaky. That's why they lied about it, but not a crime.

On the obstruction side, you get a complicated game. And I think that's why, Congresswoman, you have the poll numbers that you do where you don't have 50 percent of this country saying "Impeach," because it seems muddy.

And if it's not going to be a clear and convincing situation, then why not just hash it out in an election?

DEMINGS: Well, and Chris, remember, when articles of impeachment were filed against President Nixon, only 19 percent of the American people--

CUOMO: Fair point.

DEMINGS: --were in favor.

CUOMO: Fair point.

DEMINGS: We have a job to do. And look, I didn't come to Congress. I've been a Police Chief, 27 years law enforcement. I didn't come to Congress to not take care of my responsibility.

We have a direct responsibility to show the American people that nobody, nobody is above the law, up to and including the President of the United States.

CUOMO: A 100 percent understood.

DEMINGS: This is not a popularity game. This is not a popularity game. This is about us doing our job.

CUOMO: I understand.

DEMINGS: Which we intend to do.

CUOMO: I - I totally get that. One fair point of pushback. With Nixon, you didn't have the preceding year and a half plus of coverage in the Mueller probe that people were getting read into and understanding and all the reporting.

You know, that only happened with the public hearings, so they only got that first exposure to it, and that's why you saw such a jump in public opinion because they learned a lot of things, and they also had an actual felony. They had smoking gun tapes in that. It was different in terms of what we're dealing with now. So--

DEMINGS: I - I don't know. I mean I hear what you're saying about the timeline on that. But - and I know you're familiar with the Mueller report. If you read it, the President engaged in multiple instances of obstruction of justice.

And so, just like you've seen Members of the House move in the, what I believe, certainly is the right column being in favor, I do believe that as the American people continue to digest the testimony yesterday, find out more and more about the report, hear from Attorney McGahn because we're going to subpoena and require him to come--

CUOMO: If he comes.

DEMINGS: --and testify before us.

CUOMO: And if he's forthcoming.

DEMINGS: Well and - and see the underlying evidence, I believe more of the American people will be with us as well.

CUOMO: Look, maybe so. I'm just saying I still think the currency is being straightforward. And even something like this seems a little bit of a dance, and the American people are so sensitive to subterfuge right now, the straighter you are, I think the better it is no matter what you guys do.

But Congresswoman Val Demings, you're a straight-shooter by coming on this show. I appreciate it, and welcome you back.

DEMINGS: Thank you. Have me back.

CUOMO: Be well.

[21:10:00] All right, so impeach, don't impeach. If they don't impeach, there's another way to get the President out of Office, you know. It's called an election. The 2020 candidates are honing in now on really a key voting bloc for Democrats, specifically, African- Americans.

We have numbers that show worries, certainly for this President, and also some interesting indications in-party, you're going to want to see it, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: So, Senator Elizabeth Warren may have started the slogan of "I have a plan." But Kamala Harris is saying "It's not as good as mine." She just dropped a policy plan for investing in historically Black colleges and minority-owned businesses.

She was one of several 2020 candidates to appear at the Urban League Conference today, huge for Democrats, because ahead of the big CNN debate next week, they're going to want to say that they can be strong with that demographic. Cory Booker, Joe Biden traded blows over their criminal justice records for the same reason.

Now, this is what we're seeing with Democrats pushing hard for African-Americans, the numbers and the opportunity, especially when you consider the incumbent they all want to face. This President loves to talk up one specific accomplishment.

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TRUMP: So, the unemployment rate among African-Americans is the lowest in the history of our country.

African-American have the best numbers in the history of our country.

African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [21:15:00] CUOMO: All right, little bit of a pro-tip. Talking points generally suffer from context. And let's look at these numbers, and you see they don't work as well as the President wants them to. Why?

Unemployment for African-Americans did hit an historic low last year. Period! The numbers started to climb up a little bit earlier this year. There are reasons for that. Here though, the same time, the overall rate has remained pretty low, it raises the question of exactly who does the Trump economy serve?

While Trumpers will point to the First Step Act as a bipartisan benchmark of criminal justice reform, now that people are starting to be released from prison, the blowback - blow - blowback is starting from the Right.

So, what do you see to balance it out? A return to one of the most disproportional forms of punishment as harshness, the death penalty, all right?

That returns to, on the federal level, killing people in the name of justice. African-Americans are disproportionately punished by that penalty. What about the clemency for Alice Marie Johnson and Jack Johnson?

The price of this President's compassion is the glow of celebrity adulation, which we once again see on display, as POTUS ramps up volume on behalf of ASAP Rocky. Is that how you say? It's A-dollar sign-A-P. Now, the rapper is being held in Sweden on assault charges. The President got some celebrity buzz on this, responded, OK?

Now, it's all about how you want to measure these things. "Well unemployment's at the lowest ever." Yes, except the gap between White and Black is as bad as we've seen it. "Well look, I've helped these high - these big-name celebrities with their causes."

The grand total of African-American senior advisers within this administration - administration remains at one, Ben Carson at HUD, an agency he had no business running.

Trump's team knows the politics. Black voters helped put him in the White House. Why? Not by actually voting for him. By staying home.

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TRUMP: They didn't come out to vote for Hillary. They didn't come out.

(CROWD CHEERING)

TRUMP: And that was a big - so thank you to the African-American community.

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CUOMO: He's right. More than a third of Obama voters who sat out 2016, African-American. That's why you see this President picking up on the attacks on Biden's criminal justice record. Of course, look, he is not the right agent for that. As a White Anglo-

Saxon man, he can sell the outrage of other White men all day long. But if you're going to look at Joe Biden, and start playing about Black politics with what you did with the Central Park Five and birtherism.

And as the Wizard of Odds showed you last night, the attacks from this President, and the Democrats hasn't done much to hinder the former VP's popularity with African-Americans. He's very high.

2016, Trump asked Black voters what they had to lose. After an historic midterm, fueled in large part by Black turnout, Democrats know what they have to lose. The question is, are they motivating those voters with their proposals or alienating them with their policies and their attacks?

OK, so the question is what will it take to generate enthusiasm among African-Americans this go-around? We need to have a debate on this. We have both sides completely covered with these two good-looking gents, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: So, if 2020 Democrats don't want a repeat of 2016, they're going to need to bring out more African-American voters.

While candidates roll out ambitious proposals far toward the left than to the center, President Trump insists his administration has delivered huge wins for the African-American community. Starting point for tonight's Great Debate.

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TEXT: THE GREAT DEBATE.

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CUOMO: Bakari Sellers who, by the way, endorsed Kamala Harris, and Niger Innis, who I'm guessing, has not, all right, good to have you both. Thank you very much.

NIGER INNIS, CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, TEAPARTYFWD.COM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Good guess.

CUOMO: First thing to--

INNIS: Good guess.

CUOMO: First thing to you, Bakari is, are you OK with the Democrats' state of play? You endorsed Harris, so I'm assuming you're OK with what she did in the debate with Biden.

But now you have Booker calling the VP, I want to get it straight, "An architect of mass incarceration," do you feel that that is a fair appraisal of the former VP?

BAKARI SELLERS, HARRIS CAMPAIGN SUPPORTER, CNN COMMENTATOR, FORMER ATTORNEY: I think it's a fair appraisal. I think when you look at the '84, '86, '88 and '94 crime bills, the damage that it's caused, that's a fair appraisal.

I mean I think the challenge for all of these candidates and you're starting to see it is what are you going to do now? I think putting forth these robust policy proposals is the answer to many of those questions, but--

CUOMO: Wait one step back, one step back.

SELLERS: --had to be extremely clear.

CUOMO: Because I had Jim Clyburn on here.

SELLERS: Sure.

CUOMO: And he was for those bills too. And he said--

SELLERS: OK.

CUOMO: --that it's not as simple as looking at one aspect of it. It was about the time, and what we could get done, and what else we had in there. I don't think that you - does that mean that the candidates are not being fair to Biden in that appraisal?

SELLERS: No. No. In fact, Jim Clyburn was wrong as well.

I mean Bobby Rush, who served with Jim Clyburn, and made that same '94 vote, Dick Durbin who served with Jim Clyburn, and made that '94 vote, they've all said that that was the worst vote they've taken in their life, they regret that vote.

Because Jim Clyburn and Joe Biden cannot let that go, it's very hard to believe that you can remedy those problems. But this is a robust debate that we're having within our party. We are trying to build on the criminal justice reform that Barack Obama set forth.

But let me also say this, Chris, and Niger as well, you know, let - let's not get bogged down on this one issue because Black folk like more than just criminal justice reform. We'd like to make money too.

[21:25:00] And so, one of the things that you're seeing from Pete Buttigieg to Kamala Harris to Beto O'Rourke to Elizabeth Warren is you're seeing these substitutes of policy plans (ph) directed at the African-American community to remedy and cut in half that racial wealth gap.

CUOMO: Right.

SELLERS: One thing Republicans always want to do is say, "I want Black voters. Let's do criminal justice reform." Tim Scott does get it right, let me say that. But more voters have to start - more - more politicians have to start--

CUOMO: Well we'll go back to the policies and whether that helps or hurts.

SELLERS: --talking about--

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Bring out the Black vote. But, to you Niger, look, the challenges is easy. You got your First Step Act, and you have that the economy is good, and that means it's good for everybody.

You do have the yawning gap between Black and White that's as bad as it's ever been, but the bigger problem is who the agent is here. He may be the perfect messenger as an older White Anglo-Saxon male to go - Protestant - to go after the outrage and the disaffection of the White community.

But for Donald Trump to sell himself as Pro-Black after the Central Park Five and birtherism, does he even have a shot?

INNIS: Well, first of all, he wasn't the only one back in New York in the late 80s, early 90s that were troubled about crime and particularly--

CUOMO: Troubled?

INNIS: --outraged about the - the initial--

CUOMO: He accused them of having done something they were exonerated by.

INNIS: --the - well he--

CUOMO: He took out a full page ad in The New York Times.

INNIS: --well he had, but, Chris, I'm going to--

CUOMO: And he still says they did it.

INNIS: --I'm going to shock you. There were Black leaders, including my father, that were just as outraged at the initial reports. Now--

CUOMO: At the - not just the initial reports.

INNIS: --obviously, it will - history shows--

CUOMO: He says now that they did it.

INNIS: You know, we - we - we - we can - we can argue him saying now, you know, what - what distortion is (ph).

CUOMO: What's the argument, Niger?

INNIS: Well it was back what was going on--

CUOMO: He won't let go of it.

INNIS: --back then.

CUOMO: Because he doesn't want to upset--

INNIS: Well--

CUOMO: --the people who like to hear that the Brown guys did it.

INNIS: Well let me - let me get to - to some of the larger points here and not just focus on Central Park 19--

CUOMO: If I were you, I would leave that one alone also, Niger.

INNIS: --circa 19 - 19 - 1989.

CUOMO: Well played! Well played! Continue.

INNIS: Well - well it's only because, you know, Trump was not the only one. There were a number of folks--

CUOMO: He's now President of the United States.

INNIS: --including my father as Chairman of a Civil Rights Organization--

CUOMO: So the fact that there was a bunch of people--

INNIS: --that were equally outraged.

CUOMO: --who didn't know what the hell they were talking about is not the cover for a sitting President to say he still won't accept the justice in that case. Move on!

INNIS: Let me - let me say this. Let - let me say this, all right? As a Republican, a lot of your viewers may not believe me.

I would say look at an individual named Tavis Smiley, who is a Democrat, uber-liberal Democrat, when making an analysis of the state of Black - Black America after eight years of Barack Obama.

And let - let's be - let's be clear here. You know, Kamala Harris, I mean, I love--

SELLERS: Kamala!

INNIS: --Bakari, my - my brother and got - got-- SELLERS: Kamala!

INNIS: --oh, Senator Harris, let me make it easy on myself, Senator Harris and - and Buttigieg and - and - and - and O'Rourke and many of the others are frankly doing a warmed-over Obamanomics.

And what Tavis Smiley said was that after eight years of Obamanomics, Barack Obama's policies, Black America, not by one economic indicator, not by two, not by three, these are his words, but by every single economic indicator are worse off.

Another Democrat, another Black Democrat named Bob Johnson, the Founder of BET, a Democrat, a Hillary Clinton donor giving - asked the question about an analysis of Donald Trump's performance on the economy, he said, "Not only is it A-plus, but it's A-plus in particular for groups of Americans that have been left behind in Black and Brown communities."

CUOMO: All right, so let's bounce that argument to Bakari.

INNIS: Donald Trump doesn't need to - I don't care who the messenger is. We're sick of Panderfest and we're sick of nice words.

CUOMO: Well the messenger matters.

INNIS: We want action and delivery.

CUOMO: I don't need to--

INNIS: And that's what's Trump has done.

CUOMO: --I don't need to tell either of you the messenger matters. This demographic maybe more than any other, has the keenest ear for false praise and fake friends.

Bakari, are you worried about the economics?

SELLERS: I'm worried about the economics.

I mean I'm not going to sit here and - and bash Tavis Smiley, and Bob Johnson, although I have very hearty disagreements with them both. And Tavis Smiley's petty disagreements with the President go back - goes back to not getting Inauguration tickets, so I'm not going to go into that.

But what I am going to say is the economics is very important. I mean we - there are many of us, and Niger, I'm sure is one of them - one of them, who have been chanting for a long period of time for both parties to talk about issues of increasing African-American wealth, access to wealth because many times that's the only way that you can - that you can achieve and attain some level of success.

And I mentioned - I failed to mention one person earlier, Bernie Sanders, who's also talking about these issues. And so, it's more than just criminal justice reform. I think, Chris though, you hit the nail on the head that there are a

lot of us who - who won't - who wouldn't take anything from Lester Maddox, there are a lot of us who wouldn't take anything from George Wallace, there are a lot of us who won't take anything from Donald Trump. It's the same vain.

I mean Donald Trump is a racist. Period! And I say that based on fact, I say that based on action, I say that based on deed. And so, I'm not going to make that argument.

To Niger, and everyone else in this country, and people who are watching, I will say that even before we are Republican or Democrat, we're Black first, we're American, we're Black first.

And - and going into that, it's very hard to have someone who every single day makes you feel or attempts to make you feel lesser of an individual by his words and deeds because of the color of your skin.

[21:30:00] The Central Park Five is just one of those ways in which he does it. And you can't atone by that by simply trying to get, it's pronounced ASAP, Chris, trying to get A$AP Rocky out of jail, it takes a little bit more than that.

CUOMO: So, let me ask you one other thing though, Bakari. The idea of African-American vote, "Well if they can get another African-American, they'll always vote for them," that is not true. And as a--

SELLERS: No.

CUOMO: --policy categorization and, you know, in that demo, especially if you're looking at African-American women, pretty center of the road, pretty middle-of-the-road. They do not go in for very hyper- ambitious progressive policies.

Are you worried that while you may be talking the same talk on some fronts, you're pushing it too much on the policy front, and that could have a chilling effect?

SELLERS: None at all. Because I tell people this all the time, especially in the primary, African-American women, my mom and her friends are the people who choose the nominee.

I mean Black women came out in droves for Hillary Clinton, Black women voted at the tune of 94 to 96 percent for Hillary Clinton, White women voted at 53 percent for Donald Trump. I don't have the audacity to believe I know why that is.

But I'm quite comfortable with this simple fact. We're getting something right in the Democratic Party right now, even with all the bickering, because in 2016, there was a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and a lot of Black voters chose the couch.

Right now, I think, by giving people something to vote for, giving them policy, giving them initiative to vote for, you'll see more people engaged in the process. This is not going to be a race about those - those - those White voters that we lost. This is going to be a race, and I know that rubs a lot of Democrats

the wrong way, this is going to be a race about energizing your base, and getting those people to come back out and vote.

CUOMO: Well I'll tell you, the President's helping you out. I got to go right now. But I'll tell you, the President has made this election about American identity, who are we, what do we accept, and what do we reject. Policy's going to fill in the blanks.

INNIS: And the Democrats are the Squad.

CUOMO: Well and then - that's how you're trying to define them, and you're using the word socialist, this is going to be about identity politics. It's going to get ugly. And the fast--

SELLERS: Don't be scared of powerful Black women, Niger. Don't be scared of powerful Black women. They're just fine.

INNIS: Oh, no, I - I love me some. I have - I have a mama--

CUOMO: Easy.

INNIS: --that was a powerful Black woman. I love powerful Black women.

CUOMO: All right, all right, guys, thank you very much for doing this--

INNIS: Just not socialists.

CUOMO: --especially on a Friday night. Bakari, Niger--

SELLERS: Thank you.

CUOMO: --thank you, be well.

INNIS: Thank you.

CUOMO: Democrats have just blown up one of the President's key arguments for keeping his taxes secret, OK? They've turned back time with help from Richard Nixon. How so? The answer comes from a key Congressional investigator with the deets, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Some Republicans are calling Democrats' request for President Trump's tax returns "Unprecedented."

But now, Democrats are pointing to newly-released documents showing there is a precedent. The Joint Committee on Taxation got some of then-President Nixon's records from the IRS, after Nixon failed to turn them over.

Let's discuss with House Ways and Means Member, Lloyd Doggett.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

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CUOMO: Congressman, welcome back, it's been too long.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): Chris, good to be with you, Sir.

CUOMO: So, the argument is "You have no legit legislative purpose. This is political payback. That's why you can't get the taxes no matter how many "Shalls" are in this statute," what's your counter?

DOGGETT: Well we dug through the archives and actually came up with the original documents, copies of them that showed that President Nixon first released some of his tax returns voluntarily.

But when the Committee needed to see other returns, the Internal Revenue Service not only responded affirmatively, they did it the same day they were asked. And as well, the Committee looked at the returns of one of President Nixon's children.

There was not a problem. There was not a debate just as there really wasn't any debate at the Internal Revenue Service when they got their first internal opinion, the opinion that Secretary Mnuchin rejected when he turned to political sources to justify the total obstruction on this issue.

CUOMO: Now, is the linking thought here that the reason that Congress had a better chance of getting them under Nixon is because there was an impeachment inquiry going on, and that can qualify as a judicial proceeding, and a judge, although they don't have extra powers in Congress under that situation, it gives you extra leverage with the court.

DOGGETT: There's reference in some of the documents to the fact that an impeachment proceeding was underway, but there's no indication that that was the reason that the IRS so quickly responded.

There was not any debate. There was a willingness to make available IRS employees, if necessary. There was - there was the kind of cooperation that comes when you have a clear unqualified statute that says "Shall," as you mentioned, that "Shall" meant "Shall" then, and it means "Shall" now.

It's just that this particular request that's been made has come so late that I don't expect we will see these documents during this calendar year. And I hope we get them before the end of this Congress.

CUOMO: Now, what happens if when you get the taxes and, you know, it shows he didn't have as much income as maybe he led people to believe, but it's still plenty, he wasn't that charitable, you know, maybe he played with funny money the way a lot of wealthy people do, what if there's just not that much in there, how big a blow is that?

DOGGETT: Well if - if that's the case, those aren't the only issues that we're looking at. The principal issue was to see whether he is - the audit process is working appropriately for presidents.

There are other issues as well concerning whether he's ever paid any taxes at all, whether he's been under audit, we couldn't even get an answer to that question from the IRS.

CUOMO: So, the IRS won't tell you whether or not the President's under audit?

DOGGETT: No.

CUOMO: Now, his lawyer, Jay Sekulow --

DOGGETT: And if that audit's--

CUOMO: --told me that he has proof that he's under audit that he has the letters. I asked him--

DOGGETT: Would--

CUOMO: --to show them to me, and he was like, "Meh." But maybe that's something you could ask for.

DOGGETT: Well in fact the - the original request from the Chairman of our Committee did ask about the audit process.

And Mr. Mnuchin has blocked access to that too. He's done the kind of obstruction you would expect of the former Finance Chair for the Trump Election Campaign, which is what Mr. Mnuchin was doing before he became the Treasury Secretary.

CUOMO: So Congressman, help me understand where things stand with the Democrats right now.

[21:40:00] We've been - all this pressure, when are you guys going to make a decision about whether or not to launch an impeachment inquiry, you're not supposed to investigate to figure out if you have enough to investigate.

And then today, in court papers, it says that you are under consideration, in the Judiciary Committee, of articles of impeachment. When did this happen?

DOGGETT: Well there have been no formal articles drafted for consideration in the Judiciary Committee, I think, at the moment. But the Committee, I think, is effectively beginning such an inquiry. You know, tomorrow will be-- CUOMO: But what does that mean, effectively beginning such an inquiry? It seems like a hedge like playing cutesy. That's why I'm asking.

DOGGETT: Well no, I - I think it's not cutesy, though there may have been a little confusion at the press conference about it. In order to get access to the Grand Jury testimony that they've requested, they have a much stronger case if this is part of Congress' impeachment responsibilities.

Beyond that, this Committee can, on its own, initiate an impeachment inquiry. An inquiry is an appropriate thing to do before any articles are drafted--

CUOMO: Absolutely.

DOGGETT: --to determine if there're grounds for impeachment.

CUOMO: Absolutely. I have been arguing--

DOGGETT: And - and tomorrow, as you--

CUOMO: --all along and, by the way, full disclosure. Lloyd Doggett is not somebody who has been dodging this question, just to be fair.

But it's that if you want, if you guys believe what you keep saying, by suggestion you think is true about this President that an impeachment inquiry is a no-brainer, but the first word of that phrase seems to have a chilling effect. And now, we see this move.

DOGGETT: Well I think the problem that I've had, you know, it took me a little while to get to the impeachment stage. I wanted to be sure that there were no other alternatives.

But I saw the - the administration running out the clock, and Democrats not responding in a forceful way. I mean here we are, a 100 days tomorrow after the Mueller report was released.

CUOMO: Right.

DOGGETT: We're to the August recess. And this Democratic Caucus has yet to, until today, to take any offensive action to file anything other than this belated request for the tax returns.

All of the work the Democrats have been doing has been playing defense to Donald Trump's litigation challenges. And we will not prevail on this by just taking the defense.

I believe in Chairman Nadler and what he's doing. And I think he's begun an investigation that could lead to impeachment.

CUOMO: Right.

DOGGETT: It may not lead to impeachment. But it is an appropriate inquiry.

CUOMO: I just think one of the reasons we've cultivated your presence on this show is because you keep talking straight to the American people about it. When you had your reservations, you said what they were. When you had convictions, you said what they were.

I believe that's the currency that people are going to expect here. To the extent that there's a hesitation, I think what you see in the polls is they don't want more sneaky stuff going on, so straightforward--

DOGGETT: Well I could--

CUOMO: --straight talk is the currency.

DOGGETT: I couldn't agree with you more. And - and Chris, I think we also have a responsibility to lead with that straight talk. To just hold our finger up to the wind to see what the polls show doesn't take care of it.

We have a responsibility under the Constitution to go out and lead, to explain to the American people. They will help make this decision certainly, but they need to be fully informed by their Members of Congress and others of what's been going on here.

And, you know, we - we didn't have a sensational moment, not the best perhaps screen review of Mr. Mueller's testimony, but the substance of what he said is so very important and of his report.

CUOMO: Yes.

DOGGETT: But it's up to Members of Congress to go out and talk with people about that in a very straight way.

CUOMO: Yes. Mueller didn't want to be there, and he's not looking for anybody's vote. I think performance talk is distracting. I know why the President's doing. He sees politics as performance. But I think that there's also a higher order.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett, thank you, especially on a Friday night.

DOGGETT: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Appreciate it. See you again soon.

DOGGETT: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: Be well.

All right, how about this one? Something spooky! Some people are trying to mess with Halloween. No trick. But is it a treat?

Laura Coates in for D. Lemon, a.k.a. The Upgrade, what does she think about the move? We'll argue, next.

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CUOMO: All right, here's the situation. There's a new petition to move the date of Halloween to the last Saturday of the month. Does it have more than a ghost of a chance?

A Halloween industry trade group launched its plea last year arguing what? Well moving All Hallows' Eve will lead to a safer, longer and stress-free celebration. The petition now has some 85,000 signatures. They're trying to get to 150,000. I don't know the relevance of that number.

Laura Coates, bring in the Counselor, a.k.a. The Upgrade, which side of this do you want?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I like the Upgrade comment. Thank you. I would sign the petition twice, Chris, because--

CUOMO: What? I'm against it.

COATES: No. You know what a big pain it is as a mom to try to leave work early on Halloween on some random day?

CUOMO: No, but as a dad, I do.

COATES: Well sorry, I mean I'm - I'm the mom in this scenario here.

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COATES: But you had to leave work early, you got to go get your kids, you got to figure out the costume, get the makeup on, put your own costume on, it's already night-time by then. Forget it. Saturday night's much better.

CUOMO: Suck it up! That's what parents do. This is about tradition, having the kids understanding where it is, it means more when it's hard.

COATES: OK. Well I suppose you walked up the hill 10 miles in the snow time to school.

CUOMO: Both ways.

COATES: Both ways? I did not. And I can tell you, it's easier for everyone and safe. I mean on Saturday night, you can start earlier in the day.

Remember, it's already like night-time. The sun's down by the time Halloween starts, that's the point I raise. If you have little kids though, you got to have people who can go a little bit earlier, Chris. I want my Snickers bar early in the night.

CUOMO: Ooh! Is that your go-to?

COATES: Kit Kat - Kit Kat--

CUOMO: Fun Size?

COATES: Oh well, oh Fun Size? You do know, I do the full bar. The - the shared size is what I actually do get here.

CUOMO: I like Kit Kat. I'm a Reese's Pieces person, you know. The other day, we did some research on this on my radio show. You know, Laura and I both have shows in SiriusXM. So, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are number one across the bowl, the peanut stuff wins, so much for the allergies.

COATES: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: I'll go with the Peanut Butter Cup.

COATES: Yes.

CUOMO: But one other thing, you know, the kids may not like this because they get a nice break on that day, although some of the schools, like my kids', the Catholic school, you know, they're a little rough on the costumes. But, you know, that's a nice break for the kids. You'll be taking that from them.

[21:50:00] COATES: What are you going to wear--

CUOMO: Stealing it.

COATES: --for Halloween, Chris? Here I got to do mine (ph).

CUOMO: I wear this.

COATES: That - that's your costume? OK.

CUOMO: This is it.

COATES: I'll - I'll go as Chris Cuomo then. That's--

CUOMO: Man in Black.

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CUOMO: Blues Brothers, Chauffeur, Waiter.

COATES: That's why you didn't sign the petition because you don't have fun with Halloween, OK?

CUOMO: I don't sign anything.

COATES: Well clearly! Well you know what? If you were to sign something, start with this because I'm telling you, it is a good thing. Talk about an upgrade, this would upgrade Halloween for everybody.

CUOMO: You know, Coates, you are smarter than me, so it wasn't fair, but you're also right. Your side of this wins. I think they should move it. Let's see if it happens. Thank you very much, my friend. Good luck tonight.

COATES: It's good to see you.

CUOMO: Be with you in a second.

All right, four words, "Brush up your Shakespeare." Yes. Behold the argument about what begets this Democrat begetting, next.

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[21:55:00] CUOMO: All right, I've burned a lot of calories on this one, a little Shakespeare for your Friday night. What is in a name? Take a listen.

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RAJU: You're saying there's no difference between what you're doing now and an impeachment inquiry, correct?

NADLER: In effect.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This is an impeachment investigation.

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): We're crossing a threshold, absolutely.

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CUOMO: OK. So, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have officially opened an impeachment inquiry?

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NADLER: What's going on is that I think too much has been made of the phrase, an impeachment inquiry.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): You can define it as you please. Undoubtedly, we are collecting overwhelming evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors committed by the President of the United States.

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CUOMO: Hence the Romeo and Juliet allusions here. However, there is nothing poetic about the play being made here. However, just like in Romeo and Juliet, no matter how much you wish otherwise, what you call something matters.

So, what's going on here? Well the message seemed pretty clear in court documents today.

"The Committee is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment and requires access to Grand Jury materials in furtherance of that investigation.

Although the House has not considered a formal resolution structuring any particular proceedings by this Committee, such a resolution is not a necessary predicate to consideration of articles of impeachment."

Soft! What light through yonder court pleading breaks?

They may not need the resolution but then why not just call it what it is outside of court? Here's a good reason. Speaker Pelosi does not seem to agree that Democrats are already in impeach inquiry mode.

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NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I'm not trying to run out the clock. Let's get sophisticated about this, OK? OK? Would that be--

RAJU: But how long do you think these court fights will take?

PELOSI: We want to (ph) proceed when we have what we need to proceed, not one day sooner.

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CUOMO: Sophisticated? I'm quoting Shakespeare here. Most House Democrats are with the Speaker on this.

Now, the numbers supporting an impeachment inquiry is growing. You see them all there, about triple digits, but here's why it's taken time to get there, despite so much talk damming from Democrats what this President has done, you're not there.

59 percent of you are not in favor of impeachment hearings. That number is up from 46 percent, a year ago, meaning it is more against since the report came out. However, we do not have numbers since the Mueller hearing, we'll see, but let's be clear about this.

This is not playing Gotcha with the Democrats, and "Oh you didn't say it, you're saying different things," it's not petty, OK? It is sophisticated because it's about being straight with people. And, as in the play, the name carries a meaningful distinction. In fact, many legal experts argue launching an overt impeachment inquiry, while not necessarily giving Congress additional powers, may give Congress additional leverage, thus speeding up a couple of cases.

For example, this White House is denying access to Grand Jury material, arguing that Congress doesn't have a legitimate legislative purpose for requesting it.

That's why they said what they said in court today because an impeachment inquiry gives them more of a look of a judicial proceeding. So, a court can allow them to be disclosed if it's in connection with the judicial proceeding.

You get what I'm saying? An impeachment inquiry looks more like that than just regular oversight, OK? So, they're trying to make it look not like a run-of-the-mill Congressional situation.

Saying the words impeachment inquiry could also open the door to other information that Democrats desperately want. Like what? Don McGahn's testimony, the President's tax returns, for the same reason.

So, this seems to be about avoiding a vote on the floor to start an inquiry on one level. Why?

The Republicans would likely all be against it. Whipping Democrats to get to a yes may not be a slam-dunk. And it's also a hedge against the real risk that the majority of the country might take an impeachment move as proof that Democrats are no better than the bully they see in the White House.

To stick with Willie here, the voters may say a plague on both your Houses. Bottom line, if the Democrats want to play to advantage, be transparent, be sophisticated. And that means be straightforward. There's already too much confusion about what is real and what is fake.

Democrats want to show they are fulfilling their oath. That oath is to hold power to account, in part, right? They also want to avoid up - winding up like the star-crossed lovers in Romeo and Juliet, right, where they both die as a result of their actions.

So, they're right to see the risk of public rejection of their efforts. However, in this situation, it doesn't have to be a tragedy, like the one I keep comparing it to.

Remember this. This is my favorite line from Romeo and Juliet. One pain is lessened by another's anguish.

Thus, if the Democrats believe they can make a compelling case to the American people that this President is responsible for the kinds of wrongs they keep suggesting, any fallout for them should be nothing compared to what this President will have to answer for.

That's all for us tonight. Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with Laura Coates in for D. Lemon, a.k.a., The Upgrade, starts right now.

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