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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Buttigieg Unveils Plan To Tackle Mental Health & Addiction; Trump Uses "Enemy" Label For Chinese President & Fed Chair; Former U.S. Officials Deny Ex-CEO's Claim FBI Asked Him To Pursue Maria Butina. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: --Anderson was they - they essentially went to the retailers, and shamed them, Lowe's, Home Depot, saying, "You know, you're selling a product that has killed dozens of people. You've got to stop doing it," and many of the retailers stopped doing it.

Subsequently, the government then has now banned this at the retail level. But you can still buy it commercially. So, it's still out there. There's just this weird sort of nuance where they still want to at least leave it out there.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: So they say it's - it's OK to buy commercially. You just - individuals can't buy it.

GUPTA: That's right. So, that - that product, again, a product that we know is lethal, has killed 60 - 64 people is still available at the commercial level.

COOPER: Sanjay, thank you, incredible report. You can watch CNN's Special Report, A Toxic Tale, Trump's Environmental Impact, airs tonight, 10:00 P.M. Eastern, it's very important, only here on CNN.

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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN CO-ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Folks, these changes have real effects. Look forward to seeing that.

But first, the news continues. I'll hand it over to Chris Cuomo for CUOMO PRIME TIME.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Jimmy, always a pleasure. Have a great weekend. Everybody, I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

The President keeps talking, and the markets keep tanking, more tariffs on China, more pain for us, especially the farmers, more demonizing, more division. This President's toxic tongue is galvanizing the Left. People in his own party are getting worried. Will you really go for four more years of this? We're going to have a Great Debate on that. And we have Mayor Pete Buttigieg here to make the case that he is the better deal for you as President of the United States, and he has a plan to present on one of our most pressing problems, mental health reform.

We also have a lot more info for you on one of the wildest interviews of my young career. The former CEO of Overstock claims, just last night, I'm sure you watched it, that the FBI directed him to pursue a relationship with an accused Russian agent, Maria Butina.

We're hearing tonight from Butina's side. We also have reporting from a lot of the different aspects, the X, Y, and Z's that Patrick Byrne laid out on this show.

Busy Friday night, what do you say? Let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: The President calls himself the Chosen One to take on China. And now, he says, starting October 1st, more tariffs. Beijing's going to be hiked up now from 25 to 30 percent on $250 billion in goods. Separate threat, another $300 billion in imports could also wind up costing Americans more.

So, this Trade War is worsening. Recession fears are going to be on the back-end of that.

Our first guest says this economy is not working for most Americans. He could do better, and he can be better than this President. What would the Mayor, Pete Buttigieg do to be better? Let's test the Democratic-hopeful.

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CUOMO: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us on PRIME TIME.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND, IN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks. Good to be with you.

CUOMO: All right, so big event today, the President taking direct action on China, increasing the tariffs, tanks the stock market, provocative talk saying he doesn't know who the bigger enemy is, the Fed Reserve Board Chief, Powell, or the President of China.

Your take on the actions?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, first of all, attacking your fellow Americans or trying to blame the Fed for the instability that he himself is creating doesn't make any sense.

Also, it's clear that there's not an actual strategy for dealing with China. You can tell that by the erratic behavior, the tweets. And look, no amount of tariffs will change China's fundamental economic model.

There's no question that there's a number of behaviors coming out of China that we think are problematic. We're going to have to invest in our domestic competitiveness, if we actually want to keep up.

And, in the meantime, he keeps asking us whether it's farmers in the Midwest getting killed by tariffs on soybeans, or folks in - in New England and blueberries, or just American consumers, who are going to be paying a higher price for consumer goods, he's asking us all to take one for the team, and it's not clear exactly where he thinks the team is going.

CUOMO: When not calling himself the Chosen One, he's making the point that he is strong, and that short-term pain maybe, but long-term gain, the Left, President Obama afraid to take on China, he is strong, you are weak, and that's why you don't like his tactics.

BUTTIGIEG: There's nothing strong about this. A person who is strong doesn't feel the need to avoid criticism by surrounding himself with sycophants.

Somebody who is strong - look, it's - it's like the loudmouth guy at the end of the bar. That's generally not the strongest person you know, just the loudest, and that's what we have in terms of the style of the President.

The problem is that's starting to have real consequences. When he is tweeting, and lashing out in this erratic fashion, it is destabilizing markets, and it's making America look less and less credible, even as some of the major economies of the world gather to deal with serious issues, from stability, and global economic markets, to the fires in the Amazon that are threatening our climate and - and threatening the future.

CUOMO: Do you think it's just style or do you think that the kinds of things that he's saying speak to a different type of character flaw or instability?

BUTTIGIEG: Well I'll say this. There's something deeply wrong.

I don't know what's more disturbing, the fact that he was serious when he was talking about buying Greenland or the fact that he was joking when he was talking about the Medal of Honor. These are not the characteristics of a steady and strong leader.

And we got to remember that our lives literally depend, at all times, on the wisdom and judgment of the American President. But it's not just we - we can't always allow him to change the subject with this - this wild talk.

We've got to talk about an America after Trump. We've got to talk about where we're actually going to take this country, how to set up an economy that actually works for most of us because while we are rightly concerned about an upcoming recession, it's going to take specific actions to make sure that whether there's an expansion or a recession. We finally get wages growing, and we finally get American families to feel that their incomes are keeping up--

CUOMO: True.

BUTTIGIEG: --or ahead of the cost of education, housing and healthcare.

CUOMO: Now in on the solution side, he's been talking about mental health as a proxy for a solution on gun violence.

I do not believe that mental health is the root problem with gun violence in this country. Suicide by gun? Sure, we got to look at managing it. We don't treat mental health the right way.

But in terms of mass shootings, in schools, we see people who have signs and histories of mismanaged mental healthcare. But overall, the mentally-ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

You have a plan. What is it and why?

BUTTIGIEG: Our plan is to deliver mental health knowing that this has reached crisis levels in America.

You're right. This should not be used as an excuse to do nothing about gun violence. Matter of fact, that line from the President is a disservice, both to gun safety, and to real efforts to do something about mental health.

What we do know is that mental health and addiction are threatening the well-being of so many people in America. You know, something like one in five people will experience a serious mental health challenge in their lifetimes, and you wouldn't know it because we still talk about it like it's an issue just affecting a handful of people.

My action plan has the potential to save 1 million lives--

CUOMO: How?

BUTTIGIEG: --over the next decade. That's how many people we would save if we cut in half the people who died from what are called deaths from despair that is suicide, drugs, and alcohol.

How do we do it? We support communities that are putting together community plans with $10 billion a year in grants for cities like mine, and smaller communities too, that have done remarkable work, tailored to their own reality, on everything from empowering people to support those who are recovering from addiction, when they fall in that gap between when you are resuscitated from an overdose, and when somebody can actually see you for a mental health appointment, to making sure that our doctors and - sorry, our teachers and our law enforcement officers, who are often being required to act as though they were doctors, but don't have the mental health first aid training, making sure they get the resources that they need.

We need a three digit national suicide hotline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline does tremendous work. But there's evidence that if we simplified it to a number everybody could remember they could save even more lives.

And we've got to recognize that this is not only an issue of mental healthcare in the clinical sense, the reasons why we need to do things like enforce mental health parity for insurance plans, so that they treat mental health just as seriously as they do physical health.

But recognize, it's not just about the health side and - and healing side, it's also about belonging. I believe there's a deeper crisis of belonging in this country right now that helps to explain what a lot of people are medicating, when they turn to drugs and alcohol.

And I believe the rise in deaths from despair today speaks to a crisis of belonging just as much as a failure at the policy level to deliver mental healthcare parities--

CUOMO: See that's why the talk matters, you know, look, we've gone a long way from where we used to look up to our elected leaders, as who we wanted but - to be one day. It'd be nice if we got back to that.

That's how I grew up. In my own family, I saw my father's service and my brother's service as tremendous symbols of privilege and honor for the family.

People are disaffected now. That's why the talk matters. Many people believe that the way this President talks--

BUTTIGIEG: Sure.

CUOMO: --that's just politics these days.

And on the policy side, he said today, "American businesses, find alternatives to China. That's what I say must happen." One, in America, you don't - that's what China does. They tell state-owned industry what to do. You don't do that in America.

BUTTIGIEG: That's right.

CUOMO: What do you think of the suggestion that American businesses should look other places than China? You saw how the Street responded today, 600-plus points down.

BUTTIGIEG: This idea of ordering American companies, telling them what to do, shows that the President does not understand the Presidency, and this does go to the way that words matter.

Look, one thing I learned very quickly as Mayor is that when you're an executive in government, whether it's Mayor or a President, you don't have one job, you have three.

One of them is to implement good policies, another one is to competently manage your administration, and then the third is to set the tone, to find the words, to call people to their highest values, and to unify people. This President is obviously not uni - unifying people. He's one of the most divisive and polarizing we've ever had. But also, it smacks of desperation for him to believe he can sit there with his smartphone and order multinational companies to change the way that they organize their business.

We should absolutely have policies that encourage our companies to buy American and to support American businesses up and down their supply chains. He could lead by example on the private side, just making sure his hats and ties are actually made in America.

CUOMO: Yes. Good - good point. But, you know, as we see time and again, this President does what's good for him, whether it's with his speak or how he deals with his own business interests.

Let me ask you something in-house within the Democratic Party. Seth Moulton dropped out today. Veteran, solid guy, he says, "Look, I believe in the country and in the mission. But this is a three-way race."

You say you don't think so. Your specific issue, you've been raising money, you're at 5 percent. It puts you in that solid second tier. But you're having trouble resonating with African-American voters. I know you get asked this a lot. But the numbers aren't changing.

Yes, I know you're trying. I know you must be frustrated by it. Why aren't those numbers changing with you with African-Americans? In the Democratic Party, you need them.

BUTTIGIEG: Well that's right. And that's not just in order to win, but that's in order to govern. It's in order to deserve to win.

What we're finding is that the Douglass Plan I have put forward to deal with systemic racism gets a phenomenal reception with all audiences, but especially when we're speaking to Black audiences. It's also the case that I've still got a lot of work to do to get out there, to get known, to sell it.

And you add to that the fact that, frankly, a lot of the Black voters I talk to feel disaffected, they feel like they've been taken for granted by political parties and politicians. And I suspect that a lot of them will not fully decide to commit to somebody until very late in the game.

We are working both in terms of building the right diverse team on our own staff, having the right policies and message, and doing engagements, both high-profile visits to conferences, and low-key off- the-record conversations with faith leaders and activists behind - sometimes behind the scenes when we're traveling, to make sure we build up those relationships.

When I think those relationships will matter more and more in the weeks and months to come, even if most of the voters we're talking about won't fully commit until perhaps a few days or weeks before the vote. CUOMO: Right. Look, I don't have to tell you that being nowhere in the polls with that demographic is a challenge for you, but it doesn't mean you're not going to get opportunities on this show.

We've got a lot of diversity within our audience, and we're going to always invite people who are in the conversation on the Democratic side onto the show to make their case to our audience.

Thank you for taking that opportunity today, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

BUTTIGIEG: Appreciate the chance to be with you, good night.

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CUOMO: And we'll keep having people who want to be your President on to discuss their ideas. But one of the main ideas has to be rebutting this President's case to you, the American people, about who we are, and who we're not.

His toxic tongue matters. It's not just style anymore. There's too much animus in society because of what he says, too much violence, too many dangerous actions taken in furtherance of his talk. It's just not OK anymore. And if someone wants to be our President they have to address it.

I hereby order a Great Debate on exactly this subject with these two fine minds and beautiful Americans, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: You know we're trying to do this show now just day-by-day. Every day, I'm going to show you what happened, and let's look at it through the lens of the decision that we all have to make, in the next election, if we're talking politics.

So, economics has political realities, especially today. The U.S. economy is slowing. That doesn't mean it's weak. It's just not the strongest ever. And the proof of it is that this President keeps hammering his new chosen scapegoat, the Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Remember, you don't need rate moves like the ones he's bashing this guy to make, if the economy is as strong as he says. Today, this is what he did. He labeled Powell, the Fed Chief an "Enemy," and in on Twitter. I don't know why I'm laughing. This stuff is so not funny. He said

"Who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell," the Fed Chief, "Or Chairman Xi?" of China.

That's the start of tonight's Great Debate, Christine Quinn, Niger Innis.

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TEXT: THE GREAT DEBATE.

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CUOMO: I literally often have regrets Niger, that I got to put you in this position, but you have free will, you are here. Christine, indulge me just one second.

CHRISTINE QUINN, (D) FORMER NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE VICE CHAIR, WIN (WOMEN IN NEED) PRESIDENT: OK.

CUOMO: I have to believe that there are no two sides to the idea that this talk is toxic, Niger. It can't be seen by you as helpful to the cause of our democracy, our markets, or any trade deal with China, what he said today. Are you with me?

NIGER INNIS, CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, TEAPARTYFWD.COM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: It isn't - no, I'm not with you.

CUOMO: Uh!

INNIS: It is not the first time that a Commander-in-Chief that the President of the United States has tried to influence a Federal Reserve Chairman. Alan Greenspan was on earlier this week on - on another network, and when asked, "Were you privately pressured by Presidents of the United States?"--

CUOMO: Niger.

INNIS: --as we know--

CUOMO: You are right.

INNIS: --Alan Greenspan served from Regan to--

CUOMO: You are correct.

INNIS: --Clinton, he said "Yes--

CUOMO: You are correct.

INNIS: --I was pressured."

CUOMO: You are correct. You also know that that is a BS answer to my question. This is not about private pressure. INNIS: No. I'm--

CUOMO: This is about public attacks, and likening him to--

INNIS: Well that's the thing about--

CUOMO: --an autocrat who is a danger--

INNIS: That's - look--

CUOMO: --to free society.

INNIS: --I will agree - you, Christine, and I will agree that to compare him, Powell, our Fed Chairman, to Xi is going a little bit too far.

CUOMO: A little bit too far?

INNIS: But - but - but - but - but to put--

CUOMO: A little bit too far?

INNIS: --but - but there's no question that Powell raised rates too quickly and too high--

CUOMO: I know but so what?

INNIS: --after essentially a decade--

CUOMO: That's an economic argument. I argue that all that time.

INNIS: --of having zero interest rates.

CUOMO: That doesn't make him an enemy of a state. Look, Christine, here's the thing.

QUINN: Yes.

CUOMO: Here's why you - you guys shouldn't be smiling because this is what you're up against, not Niger. I love Niger.

QUINN: Right.

CUOMO: I love having him on the show. I don't understand how you ignore the ferocity of what he's doing and the danger of it, Niger. It's not just politics. It's not just talk because he keeps acting on it because then he does these tariffs on the back-end that are going to kick our farmers' asses--

QUINN: Right.

CUOMO: --that are hurting our markets, and you know it, just in the name of some putative muscularity.

But Christine, where are you guys on this? Where is your positive opposite? Where is your message, that recognize with passion the outrage that you should be feeling about what he's saying, as the President of the United States, not some crazy radio host, and showing that you've got somebody who's better, stronger, and ready to lead these people to a better place?

QUINN: Look, you see robust Democratic primary going on with people.

CUOMO: Ah! You're fighting about crazy Medicare problem--

QUINN: No, and you just--

CUOMO: --plans that you can't--

QUINN: Hang on, Chris. You just--

CUOMO: --even describe.

QUINN: --had Mayor Pete on, talking some very sound economic policy. But there is also the emergency of now that the Democratic primary and the election can't fix. This is a right-now problem what this President is doing.

And you're right, Chris. It's hitting farmers and truck drivers and the very Americans he made promises to. Look what he said about ethanol, they are now losing money. And again, the President wants to distract us by his bullying, and his name-calling, and - and his bad behavior.

The reality is the Fed Chair can take care of himself. But you know who's really getting hurt is those working men and women, particularly in the middle of the country, and the consumers who will pay for this.

CUOMO: And the - and the fabric, Niger--

QUINN: So, the President needs to be head--

CUOMO: --the--

QUINN: --held accountable. And you're right, each Democrat running for President and Leader Pelosi - Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer etcetera all have to come--

CUOMO: They got to show they're better.

QUINN: --out and fight.

CUOMO: I don't want to see them shaking their finger because nobody thinks they're any better than he is. Everybody thinks all politician--

QUINN: Well I don't agree with you on that, Chris.

CUOMO: I'm telling you, we're both around people all the time. Between this, and the radio show, and my life, I'm dealing with dozens of states every day. People expect nothing from politicians. They expect perfidy. They expect perversity, and bad behavior, and bad language.

QUINN: You know what?

CUOMO: And someone's got to show them that they can be better.

QUINN: Chris, I'm sorry you feel that way. But the--

CUOMO: Well I don't feel that way.

QUINN: Literally, hundreds and--

CUOMO: That's what I'm told, Christine.

QUINN: --hundreds and thousands of people who are turning up for the different Democratic candidates and supporting Congressional candidates and others--

CUOMO: Yes.

QUINN: --have a belief that we can and will do better.

CUOMO: Well will - we'll see.

QUINN: But we have to hold the President accountable.

CUOMO: We'll see. But--

QUINN: We will see the better.

CUOMO: --but I'll tell you what. I don't think you guys are the dispositive part of the change, Niger, I think you are.

I think that real conservatives within your party, you don't talk like this guy does. And don't say he's from New York. You know that's insulting to my entire state. You know, just because someone like him--

INNIS: Oh, I'm originally from New York too.

CUOMO: --someone like him and someone like me, we can act like jackasses every once in a while, only one of the two of us will own it, but it's not about the state. It's about your own personal disposition. He's not a street fighter. That doesn't make this OK.

When are you guys going to say, Niger, "You know what? You can't talk like this anymore." Where are you--

INNIS: Well--

CUOMO: --when are you all going to wind up where Anthony Scaramucci is?

INNIS: --what - what - what--

CUOMO: Saying, "Look, I'm a conservative.

INNIS: No, I'm not getting - I--

CUOMO: --I believe in the policies. But the"--

INNIS: --I won't end up there.

CUOMO: Why? But why?

QUINN: Yes, right.

CUOMO: Some perverse sense of loyalty to a guy--

INNIS: But - but what I - but - but - but what I will say--

CUOMO: --who's nothing like what you or your father were like?

INNIS: But - but - but - but what I will say is that the President has a responsibility to talk about the war that we are engaged in right now. And it's more than a Trade War. We are in a de facto Cold War with China.

The fact of the matter is, is that China - we took a gamble, in the late 80s, in early 90s, it was a bipartisan gamble, Democrats and Republicans, that if we bring China in from under the cold, get them into the global international market that somehow they would liberalize their democratic policies--

CUOMO: And they haven't.

QUINN: No.

INNIS: --and they have absolutely not. More than that--

CUOMO: That's right.

INNIS: --they cleaned our clock with trade, they've cleaned our clock with currency manipulation, with intellectual property theft, and this is the--

CUOMO: And he hasn't helped any of that.

INNIS: --first President in 30 years that is actually doing something about that.

CUOMO: But he's not making it better.

QUINN: And he's making it worse.

INNIS: But he has to frame it - he has to frame it--

QUINN: He is doing something, Niger, you're right.

INNIS: --to - with the American people, and he has to tell them that "Yes, in battle, in wars with" - which is what we're in, a de facto Cold War with China, there is going to be--

CUOMO: You've got to have a plan to win--

QUINN: You know what, Niger-- INNIS: --some short-term pain for long-term gain.

CUOMO: --you've got to have a plan--

QUINN: Niger, he--

CUOMO: --to win a war, OK?

You don't just go into and just start a fight with somebody who's holding so much of your corporate paper, who has control over its own economy, and has tools in their box ready to create fixes that we don't have, especially with--

QUINN: And you know what?

CUOMO: --what he's trying to do with Powell--

QUINN: Good.

CUOMO: --and the rate-juicing.

QUINN: Good--

CUOMO: Christine--

QUINN: --good leaders--

CUOMO: --what are you guys having that's better?

QUINN: But good leaders in war try to minimize collateral damage. The - the tweeting, the poking at China, the - the Trade War with China, all that has done is caused the collateral damage of the markets to plummet, money streaming out of the pockets of farmers, and truck drivers, and consumers.

And all of the four indicators that last September the President stood up and said "Everything is great," are now trending downward. He's not leading us in a war to victory. He's leading us in some war inside his head where he's the - constantly the Chief and the Winner, when the collateral damage is America.

CUOMO: And look, we'll see what happens.

INNIS: No, Christine. He's fighting a battle--

CUOMO: We'll see what happens in this.

INNIS: --that Democrat and Republican Presidents have failed to fight for 30 years.

CUOMO: Yes, but, Niger, you--

INNIS: And it's long overdue.

CUOMO: Niger, the--

QUINN: No.

CUOMO: --here's the problem with your argument. That yes, you're right, he is doing something. But doing something isn't an automatic positive.

He did something in Iran. He got us out of the deal. Now they are running all over the region, doing all kinds of crazy stuff, unfettered, and your allies are pissed off at you, because they worked hard on that deal, and now they're not dying to come back to the table with you. So--

QUINN: And, you know, speaking--

CUOMO: --just because you did something doesn't mean that you made it better.

But I want to ask you guys about something else while I have you. This is an open question. We're only going to do it for a little bit because we don't have enough of the reporting. But it's going to be a test for this President, Niger.

If this stuff, if these questions about Parscale, his Campaign Manager, if they wind up yielding information that shows that he's doing things he should not, do you believe this President will cut ties, or do you think he'll fight for him and say, "This is a bad system," and wind up digging in on that? It could become an issue for him.

INNIS: Well this is - this is - I'm - this is the first time I'm actually hearing about it, so I need to--

CUOMO: Questions.

INNIS: --research it a little bit more. But my gut instinct tells me--

CUOMO: Questions. We don't know enough. There have been charges against him--

INNIS: Right.

CUOMO: --that are probably not fair at this point. But if it is true--

INNIS: Right.

CUOMO: --if the answers aren't satisfying, is this a challenge for the President?

INNIS: It's - of - of course, if - if what you're saying is - is the case, and I have no doubt that it is, then I'd have to say that it is a challenge to the President. But the President has proven, at least initially, to be loyal to people that are - are closest to him.

CUOMO: Right.

INNIS: And that's a good quality.

CUOMO: But you got to be loyal--

INNIS: Not a bad one.

CUOMO: --you got to be loyal to the law--

QUINN: Yes.

CUOMO: --and to the truth, especially as Commander-in-Chief. But again, I want the audience to know. I know you're all reading lots of stuff. These are questions.

QUINN: And--

CUOMO: We do not know enough for any conclusions.

QUINN: And how's--

CUOMO: Chris--

QUINN: --how's draining that swamp going? You know what I mean?

CUOMO: Well--

QUINN: How's draining that swamp going?

CUOMO: Only the best. But let - let's let the answers go.

QUINN: Fair enough.

CUOMO: So far, he hasn't had a great track record. We'll see what happens on this one. This would be a big one.

Christine Quinn, Niger Innis, thank you for making your cases.

INNIS: Thank you.

CUOMO: Especially on a Friday night. God bless, and be well.

QUINN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So, and as you all know--

INNIS: Thank you.

CUOMO: --we had a guest on this show last night, and he leveled some heavy, heavy claims against the U.S. government. He was the CEO of Overstock. That is a legit company, was close to a billion-dollar company after a couple of rough years recently.

Now, he says he was directed by the FBI to hook up with an accused Russian agent. Here's a taste.

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PATRICK BYRNE, FORMER OVERSTOCK CEO: I was specifically told this request is coming from Jim Comey at the request of somebody, who I'm not going to name. Do not assume it's the President. Do not assume it's the Pre - it was the - President Obama, do not assume that.

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CUOMO: Now, we gave him his say, we gave him his say, and then we had to do the reporting on it, and we have new information.

We also have Maria Butina's lawyer here. So, we're going to bring the lawyer in, what did they know, what do they think, and the responses from relevant parties, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Former FBI Director, Jim Comey, and his former Deputy, Andrew McCabe, and the attorney for Peter Strzok are all saying that Patrick Byrne's claims that he helped the FBI carry out political espionage with their knowledge, or their direction, while dating accused Russian Agent, Maria Butina, is simply false.

Now, to remind, here's what the former Overstock CEO told us last night.

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BYRNE: And they said, and the very honorable men and women, the Men in Black, they said "We want to be clear. This never happens in the United States. We are the good guys. Oh, we're not - we don't work like the bad guys. But we need to ask you to rekindle a romantic relationship with Maria Butina."

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CUOMO: Sounds like a movie, and the people involved to this point do say it is largely fiction.

Now, what do we know? We know that there is reason to believe that Mr. Byrne did have a relationship with Butina. There is no reason to conclude that he didn't go to the FBI about it when he says he did, and that he may have had contacts.

I've asked him to give us the contacts. He says he gave them to the DOJ. He doesn't want to give them to us. That's his choice. It is our job to ask.

However, at this point, there is no corroboration of anything beyond what he has proven to me with photos and his information that has not been rebutted by any of the other sources we've mentioned, to this point, about his knowledge of, and relationship with, Butina, and that he went to the FBI and he went to the DOJ, all right?

But in terms of the espionage, how he was used, whose direction it was at, all of that we don't have any corroboration, and none has per - been provided by Mr. Byrne. I told him about the status of the reporting. And he says Comey and Strzok are lying, and that the truth will come out, and soon.

So, to try and get our hands around this situation, we have the help of Robert Driscoll, attorney to Maria Butina, joins me now.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

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CUOMO: Thank you for joining us, Counselor.

ROBERT DRISCOLL, MARIA BUTINA'S LAWYER, MANAGING PARTNER, MCGLINCHEY STAFFORD: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: The claims that he has made that he was working with them that the relationship was largely at their direction, and that he was working on other things, your client ever aware of any of this? Has any of it ever come to your attention?

DRISCOLL: His contact with the government know. I was unaware, until fairly recently, that he had that contact.

I was aware from the beginning of my representation of Maria that she did have a relationship over a period of years with Mr. Byrne, and his timeline that he laid out publicly corroborates with hers, and so that - that aspect of it came as no surprise to me. The rest of his timeline, you know, I can't verify his contacts with the government.

But some of what he says makes some sense, fitting to the timeline I know, in that, you know, for example, he says the government was not very interested in her in the 2015 timeframe.

That makes sense to me because she got a student visa to come to the U.S. from Russia in 2016. So clearly, at that point, I think the government didn't have at least enough concern to prevent her from getting student visa.

CUOMO: Now, I would agree with that.

DRISCOLL: As far as on his precise--

CUOMO: Just to go point-by-point, Rob--

DRISCOLL: Yes.

CUOMO: --the - Bob, the - I would agree with you. But I don't think that's what he thinks. Now, the federal government says August-about of 2016, if you look at the indictment and the surrounding--

DRISCOLL: Right.

CUOMO: --reporting, that's when they took a material interest in your client.

DRISCOLL: Right.

CUOMO: Patrick Byrne says "No. It was actually much earlier than that. It was early in 2015." He told me that just today.

DRISCOLL: Right.

CUOMO: So, I would agree with you. But I think that he sees it a little differently than you do.

DRISCOLL: No, no, I - I - I agree with that. I think the government had eyes on her from 2015 forward. But I think that they weren't - the - they did not conclude that she was a danger or doing anything nefarious.

CUOMO: Jim Comey says he never heard of Byrne, never heard of Butina until after he was fired. That seemed odd because he was in there for at least a year-plus when they were looking. But it was done by a Washington Field Office.

DRISCOLL: Right.

CUOMO: And it's not unusual that the Central Office won't know what the Field Offices are doing--

DRISCOLL: Yes. It--

CUOMO: --at that stage.

DRISCOLL: --it doesn't shock me that a Director-level person wouldn't - wouldn't know this. I mean, again, I don't know what he knew or didn't know, but it wouldn't shock me at all that the Director wouldn't know--

CUOMO: Right.

DRISCOLL: --about an individual case.

CUOMO: Has your client given you any inclination that, you know, Patrick Byrne, God love him, may be laboring under some delusions or that there - he may be affected by some kind of illness, anything ever come across to you?

DRISCOLL: No, nothing like that. I mean, in fact, to the contrary, I think she - she's still notwithstanding what's happened, has a lot of respect for him. And, you know, the parts of his story that intersect with her are largely accurate.

I mean I - I could quibble with small things. But I think his basic timeline, his basic description of the relationship is - is - is largely accurate. And she, you know, would back that up. I've spoken to her about it. I visited her actually at - at the prison this past weekend.

So, you know, if she does not - she does think that he has a, shall we say, a meandering style, which - which showed on your show last night in the way he communicates, that he's a nonlinear kind of thinker and speaker, at times.

And it makes it hard for lawyers like me to, you know, break it down with them, even though I have a conversation, I think that's fair. But I don't think she has any indication or had any indication that he's not well or that he makes things up.

CUOMO: Do you think she told him that she was being groomed to be President of Russia?

DRISCOLL: I don't - that's not consistent with anything, you know, I'm aware of, and I - I am pretty aware of--

CUOMO: Well you'd know, right?

DRISCOLL: --most of the conversations she's - I mean I'm - I'm - I've gone through a lot of debriefs with her in the last, you know, 18 months, and that's not really consistent. She was certainly politically active.

I think it's fair to say she was a climber, and wanted to, you know, wanted the best for Russia and the United States. And she was never working it - you know, as a government - as an espionage agent or anything like that.

So, I - I don't - I can't imagine her saying that she was being groomed to be the President of Russia. But I think that she was someone who was held in high esteem by - by many Russians before she came over.

CUOMO: Is she--

DRISCOLL: She'd accomplished a lot before she came to the U.S.

CUOMO: Is she cooperating with the U.S. authorities? And did she feel any regret for what she did here, even to people like Byrne?

DRISCOLL: Well she didn't do anything to Byrne. I mean it - arguably, Byrne did something to her. I mean they had a relationship, and he was cooperating with the FBI the whole time, She--

CUOMO: Well if she was - if she was working him as leverage, as she was other relationships--

DRISCOLL: She - she didn't--

CUOMO: --in our political system, that's the allegation against her, she put him--

DRISCOLL: No, that's not-- CUOMO: --in a bad spot.

DRISCOLL: --that's not the - that's not the allegation against her, that she pled guilty to was acting as an Agent to a foreign official, Aleksandr Torshin--

CUOMO: Right.

DRISCOLL: --without registering. And everything she did--

CUOMO: Yes, right.

DRISCOLL: --everything she did was legal and appropriate had she registered. There's no - there is no classified information--

CUOMO: Right. But because she didn't, she was doing it--

DRISCOLL: --in this case to--

CUOMO: --clandestinely is the allegation. That's why she's sitting in a prison right now.

DRISCOLL: Chris, think how ridiculous that is. What was clandestine about Maria Butina? She - she put everything she did on Instagram. She was written about Consulate (ph) and the pictures in the paper--

CUOMO: But why she was doing it, and who she was doing it for, and what she was after was not open and obvious.

DRISCOLL: But - but - but, again, the - you - you could go through the files, you could - you could look at the case or you look at what she pled to, she pled to doing simple, open and obvious tasks that are illegal under the Justice Department's interpretation of - of the statute.

But not - nothing she did, involved secret information. She didn't influence the election. There's not a mention of her in the Mueller report, 400 pages, not one word about her. So, she had nothing to do with any of that.

What she have was a registration violation that was largely technical. We pled her out to avoid the potential of a 15-year prison term. And - and she ended up, you know, getting a pretty severe 18-month prison term, but she'll be home in 60 days.

CUOMO: All right.

DRISCOLL: And so, she - she - I don't think she - I think she regrets violating the laws of the United States. She wishes she was better- informed. But I don't think she regrets substantively anything she did because she didn't do anything wrong.

CUOMO: All right, I'll - I'll take your argument. Bob, thank you very much for helping us understand. This is one of the more wild situations we've encountered on this show, involved with any type of--

DRISCOLL: It--

CUOMO: --Russian intrigue. So, thank you for helping us.

DRISCOLL: It's certainly a once-in-a-lifetime client, I'll tell you that, Chris.

CUOMO: Yes, I hope so, for your blood pressure. Be well.

DRISCOLL: Yes.

CUOMO: All right, after hurling new insults at our allies, the President is about to go meet with some of them at the G7. See, it's another reason that the talk matters. It's not some guy in a bar. Now he's going to be at the G7, maybe the G8, if he invites his despot friend, Putin back into the mix.

So, what's going to happen when he gets there? Chris Cillizza, numbers, predictions, what's the big number of this week? Only he knows as soon as he fixes his collar and his tie.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: In about the next hour, President Trump leaves for the G7 Summit in France, and there is nothing this President loves more than high-minded multilateral meetings with other world leaders.

I'm kidding! He hates these things, which is weird, seeing how it's such a big part of the job of being our face to the world. But he is caught up right now in a cycle of self-interest, and he hasn't exactly endeared himself to the rest of the G7 crew.

Just this week, he threatened to dump ISIS fighters in two of the G7 countries. So, let's get some perspective on what this means in the frame of the election efforts.

Chris Cillizza, the other CC, here with the number of the week. Chris Cillizza, what is your number of the week, and why?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: All right, it is one, as in America First, Chris.

And the reason for that is because Donald Trump hates the G7. He hates going to it. He's - we - we've got reporting today that says he doesn't really want to go, doesn't understand the point of it. He doesn't get along with the people there.

Remember - and I want to - I think we have this photo - remember the photo? This was from Quebec, last year. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, so - you know, perturbed at Trump, everyone standing around kind of waiting on Trump, Trump looking obstinate.

Well Trump said, and afterwards, "Oh, it was totally fine. Everything was great." But remember what happened in Quebec, Chris. He left before the climate change conversation, and refused to sign the communique, sort of the broad agreement--

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: --that usually comes at - these things. First time, since 1975, they all didn't sign a communique. And this year, Emmanuel Macron, who's hosting it, says there's not going to be a communique, and there's one reason for that, Donald Trump.

CUOMO: Now, one of his problems is that he doesn't like who's not there.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: He wants the G7 to be the G8 again.

CILLIZZA: Yes. It's a remarkable thing. This is in this very wide- ranging to be kind of him, press conference he gave yesterday before going early in this week, before flying to Kentucky, he talked about Russia. Russia was in the G8 until they annexed Crimea, and they were thrown out down to the G7.

Here's what he said about it.

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DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Putin totally outsmarted President Obama on Crimea and other things, including the red line in the sand, all right? He outsmarted - he made a living on outsmarting President Obama.

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CUOMO: You know, whether--

CILLIZZA: So, the reason that Russia--

CUOMO: --whether it's this, whether it's the Powell and Xi--

CILLIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: --whether it's anything he says, it's all going to be looked at through the same lens, and people are going to have to judge it once they see it this way, which is he says it because he thinks it's good for him. It is the only norm that he follows.

CILLIZZA: And Chris, I'll just tell you, look, politically speaking, at least if you believe in Donald Trump keeping his base together, it is good for him. CNN poll, earlier this month, 40 percent overall approve of Donald Trump's handling of foreign policy, 89 percent of Trump supporters. It's just two different worlds.

I will say - you and I've talked about this many times, on air and off, his base is not enough. It is not big enough to get him re- elected.

CUOMO: When are even they going to say "I have to get better than what's coming out of this man's mouth?"

Chris Cillizza, I like this number of the week thing.

CILLIZZA: Hey, good.

CUOMO: I say we do it again. We already have the graphic main tables (ph).

CILLIZZA: We already built that graphic.

CUOMO: Chris--

CILLIZZA: Thank you, my friend.

CUOMO: Chris Cillizza, thank you for making us better and smarter. Have a great weekend. I love you.

Trump supporters, listen, I get that you say "I'll take the talk because I don't expect much from politicians, because I like the results." Really? I think you have to take a look at what is going on just today, and make a call about what you deserve as an American citizen.

Closing Argument, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: CLOSING ARGUMENT.

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CUOMO: Little real talking, all right? We all get politics is often about provocative talk, trash-talk even, and I'll stipulate for the fact of this argument that this President likes to be provocative, and it messes with the media, and gets him a lot of attention.

But there's also a point at which what he is saying is inherently abnormal and a dereliction of his duty. His oath is to faithful - faithfully execute the Office of the President. His oath is to preserve and protect the Constitution. I argue that he's not doing either.

He clearly thinks this economy is shaky. That's OK. But that's the only reason that he's attacking the Fed Chief, Powell. You can argue Powell raised the rates too fast and too much.

But if the economy is so strong, it shouldn't matter, and certainly can't warrant this. The President of the United States calling the Fed Chief - the Fed Chair an "Enemy" and likening him to someone else he says is an "Enemy," a guy he's trying to cut a deal with right now, the Chinese President, Xi?

This statement is a metaphor for the mess this President is making. Puppets, like Senator Graham, say "Well, that's him being a street fighter." That's a pathetic excuse for bad behavior, and he knows it.

Too many, like Graham, even some in the media, refuse to call it out because this President could be such a scold, he can be such a dangerous enemy. Fine, then live with your cowardice.

The truth is the President's mouth is a threat to this country. Comparing the Fed Chief to the Ruler of China, a man who has eliminated term limits for his Presidency?

His country systematically oppresses millions of Muslims. He carries out detention and torture. TV and the Internet are censored. Critics are arrested. And this President is going to so easily equate him with a guy who just won't raise rates enough, a public servant in the United States?

The sick part is why he's doing this. It's just because both these men represent what he doesn't want. They won't do what he wants. He literally doesn't care that one is an oppressive autocrat, because he consistently is not bothered by despots, and can't stop talking like one, himself.

Now, I get why just his running his mouth this way might be excused by some of you because you got low, low expectations of politics. And you'll say, "I just look at what he does. That's all I care. I don't like his style but."

Here's my argument. His foul mouth is just the stench of a real wound. So, he announces more tariffs on top of China's tariffs. See, that's more pain for the American consumer, and it is not better leverage for him to get this deal done.

I know they're telling you that. Ask him for proof. It's definitely more pain for your 401(k) because the Dow is going to tank, because the Street doesn't like it, down more than 600 points today.

Why, if it's such a strong move, why don't they like it? Why don't the farmers like it? Why don't the manufacturers like it?

He doesn't just run his mouth about a fake Brown Menace. He pushes to put kids in cages, to round up migrants, working illegally, but not their employers, like him, even though the employers break the law, just as much as people who enter illegally, just as he broke the law at his clubs, and still does.

He wants to remove a Constitutional protection of birthright citizenship. How's that preserving the Constitution? He wants to end the promise of taking the tired and poor. His people literally say to your face, that poem, the new Colossus on the Statue of Liberty, it's just words, it's not policy.

Thank God the generations that built this country, those that came freely, didn't know that. They weren't told that. Or else, a lot of us wouldn't be here.

He doesn't just talk about Islam being evil. He acts on it. He doesn't want them to come in. He tries to ban them. He doesn't just soft-pedal an objection to White supremacy. He refuses to call their murdering ways "Terrorism."

Critics say "The Emperor wears no clothes," especially because this week, right, because Hans Christian Andersen is Danish, and the President was pissing all over Denmark, the ally, over not being sold Greenland.

But I disagree with the take. He's not naked. He has on a tie that's made in China, ironically, because he wouldn't do what he's asking other companies to do now, and divest from China.

Everything about him is not invisible. It's obvious. His words are not just talk. They are the poisonous precursor of divisive and dangerous actions. We are way too focused on who is us, and who is them, and that's because of him.

This is a country that owes its very existence and survival to unity and the destiny of diversity. He may be right about being the Chosen One, however, because I argue he is the one Chosen at this time to make you decide what you want your country to be about.

This President is a living, breathing, tweeting example of a very different America than the one that made us great, and you will choose, and look at everything that happens through that lens.

Thank you very much for watching us. The premiere of the CNN Special Report, A Toxic Tale, Trump's Environmental Impact, is next.

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