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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Whistleblower Complaint About Trump Delivered To Congress; Sources: Pelosi Wants Narrow Probe Focused On Ukraine; NY Times: Trump Urged Ukraine's President To Work With Rudy Giuliani On Earlier Phone Call. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired September 25, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: A quick reminder, join me, Jake Tapper, at 11 P.M. Eastern tonight, just two hours from now, for a special CNN report, "The Impeachment Inquiry."

Right now, the news continues, of course. Want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

It is a critical day for America as we start to examine the proof against the President of the United States in a pending impeachment investigation. What do you say? Let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

TEXT: BREAKING NEWS.

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CUOMO: All right, the latest is that Congress has the whistleblower complaint.

It may not all be unredacted. It may not be available to all Members of Congress freely. They have to go into what's called a SCIF, which is an acronym for a safe room basically, to read it.

And that's why you've been hearing different lawmakers say, or reported on saying, "I have to go back and read a little bit more. I have to see more." We'll take you through what is in that complaint and we will cross- reference it with what the law is, and how it pertains to what came up in that phone call, and all so much that happened before it and after it. It's not all about the call. And we all saw the President's words on that call.

Tonight, we have some big players to figure out what it means. We have Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She's here to talk about this and her latest big plan for America.

And so is the President's personal lawyer. No, not that one! The other one, Jay Sekulow.

But speaking of which, this has all been rapidly unraveling since our sit-down with Rudy Giuliani last week. He gave mixed stories but a very clear intention, to put Biden on the hot seat. However, it has turned out to be the opposite of what their intention was.

The efforts of Mr. Giuliani, maybe on behalf of the country, maybe on the behalf of his - the President, now has him and the President in the hot seat. But what does it mean and where does it go? That's a question for Democrats.

Let's bring in one of the major players.

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CUOMO: The Chairman of one of those six Committees operating under Pelosi's impeachment inquiry umbrella, Congressman Eliot Engel. He heads the House Foreign Relations Committee.

Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight, especially at this time.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): It's my - my pleasure to be here, Chris, thank you.

CUOMO: So, let's start broadly. What do you think we're looking at in terms of the level of significance of what you've seen in the phone call, the context of what you know about the actions and coordination of different government agents, before and after, and the complaint?

ENGEL: Well unfortunately, it reminded me of what the country went through under Richard Nixon, all over again, brought back ugly and - and - and bad memories.

We on - on the Foreign Affairs Committee are requesting documents from the State Department, which is in our jurisdiction, and if we don't get them, we are going to subpoena them on Friday. So, we think we'll have much more information then as well. But, you know, you don't--

CUOMO: But what are you looking for, Congressman? Just so people understand, when you say State Department, just for the

audience's edification, it - there seems to be no small suggestion that Rudy Giuliani, who said to me, originally, "I did it all myself. I did it just for my client, and that's it, and I'm allowed to do it" now he's saying the State Department asked him to do it.

And now we know that the Ukraine President seen to view Mr. Giuliani as some kind of authorized entity acting under color of authority of the President that may or may not have concerned the State Department.

So, what do you want to know from them?

ENGEL: Well I - I - I want to know exactly what - what they've seen or heard the President do. Look, when you talk about Rudy Giuliani, he wasn't working for the government. He's the President's private lawyer. And--

CUOMO: But he says the State Department asked him to go.

ENGEL: Right.

CUOMO: Do you believe that?

ENGEL: No, I don't. And I think it's mixing apples with oranges, and trying to make it look good, but it really isn't good.

You know, you - you would think that given all the hoopla about Russian interference in the previous Presidential election that the President would be very careful this time around, and not use, or try to use, foreign leaders, but he apparently learned nothing.

And if you read the transcript, I mean anybody can read the transcript, and you can see what the President was trying to do, and say, and he was obsessed with Biden, and - and wanted to, you know, use the office of the Presidency for his own personal vendetta or to assert the--

CUOMO: So, do you believe the President of the United States abused his power in his dealing with Ukraine?

[21:05:00]

ENGEL: Well I think he abused it just in the basis of what they sent over.

Can you imagine - I mean the White House sent this over thinking it would absolve the President. So, how much more is there to come that we haven't seen yet that we don't know about yet? I mean--

CUOMO: You think on the face of the transcript alone, you see an abuse of power?

ENGEL: Oh, there's no doubt about it.

I mean when you're the President of the United States, and - and you control things, and you - you remind the President of Ukraine how much money we've given Ukraine, and what we've done, I mean implicit as that is play ball with me, and if you don't, we can yank the money back. I mean--

CUOMO: So, where does it become something that is atypical of one power using leverage against another?

ENGEL: Well it's - it's atypical. I think, you know, look, first of all, generally speaking, when someone becomes President, they - they put their estate or - or what - whatever Holdings they have in - in a private trust. This President hasn't done that.

There are foreign governments that think they can curry favor, the whole emoluments question with him, if they stay at his hotels, and do things. I mean there is so much conflict of interest and potential conflict of interest. And here it is, you know, with Ukraine as well.

And remember, he withheld some - some aid to Ukraine that the Congress voted for. So, it's just one thing after another after another. And--

CUOMO: Now he'll say but we eventually gave them the aid, and they did have problems with corruption, and there was an issue with Biden, and I was just asking him to do what he needed to do, to get to the bottom of some matters.

At what point does it become something, in your estimation, that is worthy of impeachment, which means removing somebody from office, maybe, and maybe a nullification of an election?

ENGEL: Well let me first tell you that back in - in - in May, I became alarmed when the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, a career Ambassador, very highly thought of, was summarily removed.

I said it publicly then. I was - really thought it was a disgrace then. And it was obvious to me now why she was removed because they wanted - they knew she wouldn't put up with any of these shenanigans. And the President wanted to install his own people. So--

CUOMO: Has she been interviewed about this?

ENGEL: Not to my knowledge. But--

CUOMO: Should she?

ENGEL: Yes, I hope - I hope she'll come for an interview because I think that there's a lot that's going to follow from there, I think, an awful lot.

CUOMO: So, you don't believe this is just about the phone call. You believe the phone call is a window into a dynamic that needs to be discovered.

ENGEL: Absolutely. And I think that if anybody looks at this with - with - without a jaded eye, they will come to the same conclusion too. I mean--

CUOMO: Do anybody who have an "R" next to their name, when it comes to their office, does any of them agree with them - agree with you?

ENGEL: I don't know. We'll - we'll see. I mean we - we are - are coordinating the six - the six Committees, including my Committee, Foreign Affairs.

We are coordinating things with - with it - with each of the - of the Committees. We want to find out what went on. We want to find out if there are any other - any other documents.

And again, if - if the - if the White House is releasing this phone conversation, claiming exoneration, my goodness! I mean it points all over the place. It's anything but exoneration.

So, what more phone calls are there? What more threats were made to - to foreign leaders? It - it really boggles the mind that the White House thinks that somehow or other this exonerates the President.

You're the President of the United States and you try to enlist a foreign leader to go after a political vendetta of somebody that is your political enemy, well that's using his - his power of - of his office for his own personal gain. Anybody knows that that's not the right thing to do. And--

CUOMO: Right.

ENGEL: -- it shouldn't be done.

CUOMO: But the question then becomes how wrong is it, how egregious, what kind of case can you make on it, what kind of consensus can you get, how it will be reflected by the feelings of the country, there's a lot of wood to chop here.

But certainly, we see what your focus is on it, Chairman, and we appreciate here at the beginning of this assessment you coming on to set the table for us, thank you very much.

ENGEL: Well thank you. It's my pleasure. I always watch you at home, so nice to talk to you here.

CUOMO: Well, hopefully, you'll be on the show more, given what we're dealing with now, and watching from home, less. You're going to be pivotal in this process. So, Congressman Eliot Engel, thank you so much.

ENGEL: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, now when we come back, we're going to hear from another big-name on the Hill.

So, look, there's a senior statesman. Eliot Engel has been at it a long time. He's got a lot of respect within his party. He's the Old Guard.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the New Guard. She's been raising a stink about impeachment for quite some time. She's been waiting for Speaker Pelosi to come around. [21:10:00]

How does she feel about what seems to be the Democrat plan of being all-in on this Ukraine matter? And what is the big plan that she has for you? Next.

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CUOMO: Sources tell CNN, Speaker Pelosi told Democrats, in a private meeting today, she wants them to focus their impeachment inquiry on Ukraine, as opposed to all the allegations brought up in the Mueller probe.

So, how does one of the more progressive Members in her Caucus feel about the decision? Let's ask Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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CUOMO: Good to have you back.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Great to be here, thank you.

[21:15:00]

CUOMO: So, look, these are big decisions, big moves, big burden of proof on you, and your party. How do you feel about the directive that let's focus on Ukraine and this set of circumstances?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think it's an understandable directive. The - the Judiciary Committee has long been investigating many of the violations of the President.

But these - this Ukraine allegation is head-and-shoulders one of the most serious and urgent allegations that we have seen come out of this Administration to date. And so, I think it's completely understandable that we've seen this.

I think it's an allegation that, frankly, has united more members of the party on impeachment than any other. And so, for that, I think it's an understandable decision that we make. That being said, I do think it's important that we continue to tell the story of the other violations that whether it's emoluments, whether it's having diplomats staying at Trump properties, I think all of these things need to be looked into. But this Ukraine allegation is incredibly serious and very urgent.

CUOMO: So, explain to the audience why it rises above the other ones? We all get the irony that all the Mueller stuff was trying to figure out if anyone helped the Russians interfere in the election. And now, you have the President, you know, creating this own situation.

He manufactured all of this. He brought it up with the Ukraine President, it was working both ways, but he was reaching out to a foreign power in a way that seem to be about his political fortunes going forward, so we get that.

But why should it rise above all the other things that your party's been telling the country matter so much?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well I think one of the things that we've been seeing out of the President is that he has been engaging in continuously escalating disturbing behavior.

He's been breaking larger norms and bigger rules, as time goes on. But what makes this Ukrainian allegation much more serious, first of all, is that this is a very serious matter of national security.

We are talking about the President, using the full power of the United States government, in order to pursue and manufacture in a - a politically-motivated investigation against a political opponent.

But what also makes this urgent is that this is about something that is going to happen, the 2020 election. We have the opportunity to - to act now, to prevent a profoundly destabilizing action, and intervention in our democracy, before it happens.

And I think that is a profoundly urgent action that we need to take right now. And everything else is just as serious. You know, all of these transgressions against our democracy are extremely serious. But we are investigating things that have, unfortunately, already happened.

When it comes to Ukraine, we are talking at - about a potential - potential - rather a potential meddling in the 2020 election that has still yet to happen.

CUOMO: So, you have the idea of pre-emptive action versus what so much of this country believes is a presumptive disposition, which is this is what you guys do.

You use your power. You use it to help yourself. You'll take information on any opponent that you can get. And this is what they all do. And that's what he's doing. And it's not really a crime. And maybe you like it, maybe you don't, maybe you see substance, maybe it's just style.

But to nullify an election, why is it that important?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: This is completely different. What we are talking about here is the President essentially participating in what looks like a series of events that looks like extortion, withholding aid to an ally, and then "Asking for a favor," to - essentially benefit yourself politically, not in the interest of the United States of America, but in the interest of your own re-election.

CUOMO: So, you don't believe that he held up the money because they're dirty, or he wanted the Europeans to help, and that he's just trying to get to the bottom of who interfered in our election in 2016, and there's reason to believe it started in Ukraine?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, you know, I think, Chris, when you look at this, the first red flag is that his personal lawyer is there. That is not normal. That is not normal in a democracy.

CUOMO: Yes, you could have stopped right there, Congresswoman.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: This is not normal.

CUOMO: None of it's normal.

And Rudy told me on the show, he didn't go there about Biden, he did go there about Biden. He went there on his own, only told the President about all of this, after the fact.

Now, we get a very different reckoning. He said he did it on his own. Now he says the State Department asked him to go. I asked him if he went under color of authority of the President, he said "No."

Now it seems that he did. That's all screwy. How does it get us to impeachment?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well one of the things that I think we see is that, first of all, he shouldn't have been there to begin with.

CUOMO: Fair point.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: And - and whether he was there, whatever the guys is that he's saying, he should not have been there. Moreover, it doesn't even matter about his presence.

[21:20:00]

The President of the United States, in this transcript and, has admitted himself, to have brought Rudy Giuliani into the conversation with the President of Ukraine.

And that, in and of itself, it doesn't matter where he was physically, is a violation of our sworn duties and our oath to the Constitution of the United States.

CUOMO: Any worry about - you know look, you have so many ideas for the country, and I want to talk to you about what A Just Society is, not just as a hashtag, but how you see it is this kind of comprehensive bass, there's kind of new dealy (ph) where you're going with this.

But - so you're going to go out there with your country. I mean, obviously, you know, you've run your race. But, as a collective party, are you worried that - right now, we haven't measured since the Ukraine stuff. Really, we haven't measured since Rudy came on this show, and really kind of escalated this whole process.

But it was like 57-37 against impeachment. Are you worried that there are people in this country, who are looking for new leadership, and new ways, and more decency, and less disaffection, and that you're taking them down one of the darkest places you can go in politics?

I'm not saying it's the wrong move. But are you worried about it hitting the wrong way with the people?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well I personally do not believe in fulfilling my obligations to my job based on polling data. I think we need to do our job. And we've been elected and sent here by the people of the United States of America to fulfill all of our obligations under the Constitution of the United States.

When it does come to polling, all of this polling, much of these polling numbers came out before this--

CUOMO: A 100 percent true.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: --really shattering allegation.

CUOMO: True.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: And so, that polling data is not reflective of - of a - a shift that has united almost the entire Democratic Caucus, plus - plus an Independent Member that has - that was forced to leave the Republican Caucus because of the - the blatant ignoring of this law- breaking and rule-breaking behavior out of this Administration.

So, I think the ground has shifted. I don't believe in making decisions based on polling.

I believe in our ability to organize the public, to educate the public, to talk to the public, about why not just we, as Members of Congress, must impeach the President, but why all people in the United States of America must recognize and understand that we need to put our country first before our - our considerations of re-election.

And that goes from Members of Congress all the way up to the President of the United States.

CUOMO: All right, so I hear you on that issue. And as we get more meat on the bones of what's going on there, you know we'll invite you back, to weigh in with the audience about what are the right moves, and wrong moves, and why.

But this idea of A Just Society, OK, people should go look at your website, you got all the plans lined out. You guys are so locked up right now. You're passing lots of stuff in

the House because you have the numbers. You get nothing done in Congress in - in the Senate until, frankly, two votes to get disclosure on this matter around Ukraine that - that came through.

This is so ambitious. It's like the New Deal. People have to look at it themselves. You're attacking poverty. You want to create opportunity for people in different ways, in Housing, in economic guarantees of security, how to define it.

Tell me about the ambition. But then, answer for the obvious question, which is how do you get any of this done?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely. Well I think, you know, when we talk about impeachment, and when we talk about, you know, small wins, this is what we need to do in the short-term.

But we need a plan for our country for the long-term. And, right now, I think that it's our responsibility to set that out, to set out a long-term vision, our benchmarks, and to say this is where we want to go, as a nation.

And we have to establish an advanced society here in the United States of America. What that means is that we have to push the bounds. We have to start treating housing as a right. We need to start protecting renters. We need to start updating the federal poverty line.

Our last - our - our calculation for the federal poverty line is based on 1955 spending habits that assumes one income earner, a stay-at-home mom, and that's why we don't talk about child care. That's why we don't talk about geographic differences in cost of living.

So, we need to update our poverty line. We need to address the housing crisis in this country. We need to stop treating people who duly paid their debt to society, the formerly incarcerated, as - as - as outcasts for the rest of their lives.

We need to become a modern society. We need to honor workers' rights, the right to unionize, the right to establish worker cooperatives, and we also need to join the international community, by signing and ratifying the U.N. - the U.N. Covenant on - on - on economic, social, and cultural rights.

I mean we need to catch up to the rest of the world, and then we need to lead the rest of the world, not just on climate change, but on social issues, and on economic issues, so that we can actually act like a humanity that it - that is existing in the 21st Century.

CUOMO: Give me a quick take on the obvious pushback, which won't just be process. You guys can't get anything done right now. I accept it. You're saying it's theoretical. It's a plan for the future.

The other one is, "Boy! Ocasio-Cortez, you can't reach in my pockets fast enough. You want to give something to everybody. To get out of prison, you want to make it easy. They're here as an undocumented immigrant, give them everything. Boy oh Boy! Everybody wins, except the hard-working man and woman in

America just struggling to get by. You just want to help everybody else."

[21:25:00]

What's the pushback?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean what this all is, is us reaching into our pockets, and deciding how we're already spending the money that we are already contributing to society.

The problem is that America is at its wealthiest point that we've ever been. And yet, we've - we are at one of our most unequal points that we've ever been. You would not know that our country is posting record profits because 40 million Americans are living in poverty right now.

And if the poverty line was real, if it was at around what some people think it should be, about $38,000 a year, we will be shocked at how much the richest society on the planet is - is allowing so much of its people to live in destitute.

So, we're not talking about paying for somebody else. We're talking about getting our own rent under control. We're talking about not getting fleeced by our own landlords.

CUOMO: OK.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We're talking about making sure that food is on - on our kids' tables. So, this is not about other people.

This is about saying if you contribute to our society, you deserve to benefit from our society, not just corporations getting tax cuts, and fossil fuel companies getting rewarded for their extraction, and dooming future generations.

CUOMO: It is a very stark picture of the politics of contrast with what's being offered up by the President right now. Timing's not great because you guys are dealing with impeachment. But I wanted to get the idea out there.

You're always welcome on this show to talk about what you think matters. And look, you know, the phone's going to be ringing. You know we don't like to be pest. But this period is going to matter a lot.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes.

CUOMO: What you guys decide to do, and most importantly, why, is going to be something we have to hear directly from as many players as possible, so hopefully we'll see you soon.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, be well.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Thank you. Be well. CUOMO: All right.

President Trump, we have breaking news, there's a new reckoning of an earlier phone call. "The New York Times" has it.

What happened on that call is what we just learned the first time Giuliani came up between our President and the Ukrainian President? And if not, in what context, and what does it really lead us to believe?

New details, next.

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CUOMO: All right, once again, we're going through breaking news together, you and I. Here's what we now understand.

The transcript of the call we saw today wasn't the first time President Trump encouraged Ukraine's President to work with Giuliani. It happened back in April as well. So, let's go through that.

Let's bring in another one of his lawyers, not Rudy Giuliani. Jay Sekulow is here to make the case.

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JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: Hey, Chris.

CUOMO: Counselor, always a pleasure.

SEKULOW: Good. Thanks for having me, Chris, appreciate it.

CUOMO: Good. Just to check a box of transparency here, did you have anything to do with any of Rudy's efforts with Ukraine?

SEKULOW: No. I - that was not in my jurisdiction or my zone, so that was not something that I was familiar with, or really involved with at all. But-- CUOMO: So, you weren't brought in for legal advice--

SEKULOW: --and I also, just to be clear on--

CUOMO: --or counsel?

SEKULOW: I'll never - I will never discuss what legal advice I give the President of the United States--

CUOMO: OK.

SEKULOW: --who's my client. So, I'm not going to answer that question.

But I'm going to - I will tell you that this was not something I was involved in. I didn't know the players of - of who was doing what here. So, this was something that the Mayor was involved with that he - he understood the - the ins and outs of this. This was not something that I deal with.

CUOMO: All right, good.

SEKULOW: I've been busy on other matters, as you know.

CUOMO: I am well aware. But I--

SEKULOW: So, for the last couple of weeks, especially, yes.

CUOMO: --I just wanted to make clear--

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: --to the audience.

SEKULOW: No, appreciate it.

CUOMO: And for myself, what your role is--

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: --in this. So, I'm asking you this as a point of legal analysis then. Not as--

SEKULOW: Yes, yes, yes.

CUOMO: --someone who was involved in the activities as far as we know. All right, so--

SEKULOW: Right, yes.

CUOMO: --on the face of the transcript, I am framing it as just a window into a situation. I do not see this one phone call or even the one that we now know about in April as dispositive of anything. They're just suggestions of a dynamic that raise certain questions.

Do you believe it is a fair question to look into why the President of the United States was trying to get the President of Ukraine's cooperation in looking at an American citizen?

SEKULOW: Well I don't think there's anything to look into in the sense that the President has voluntarily provided the transcript of the conversation. You're telling me that - which I've been - I'm not aware of the contents of the April conversation.

But I know the President, earlier today, said he was going to release that. And evidently, you've got breaking news that he may have done that that the White House may have released that tonight.

CUOMO: We know that there was another call that--

SEKULOW: But it's - it's transparent as can be.

CUOMO: --Rudy Giuliani was involved in that call too several times. But The New York Times has it. We don't have it. Go ahead.

SEKULOW: OK. So and I don't - I've not seen it.

CUOMO: I hear you.

SEKULOW: So, I have - I - it'd be not fair for me to comment.

CUOMO: Fair.

SEKULOW: On the issue of - of what we have on the transcript, I think it's important to understand what we don't have. And what you don't have is a quid pro quo. In, other words, "I'll do this. You do this." That's absent.

CUOMO: Why do you need one?

SEKULOW: Your net - well that's because the - the Democrats that have been on your network, and others, have been saying that's what this is. But I - I think there's an important point here, Chris. And, as a lawyer, you understand this.

Nancy Pelosi went to the podium yesterday for this formal inquiry that she called a formal impeachment inquiry. Now, substantively, it was no different than anything was two days before. But she said this before the transcript was even issued.

So, let's be realistic, and be real honest here. What is this? This is politics. This isn't a - this is not a Bob Mueller type of situation, where you're looking at various statute, rules and regulations to see how they fit into a scenario. That's not what this is.

CUOMO: That's true. But everybody knows that about impeachment, Jay.

SEKULOW: This is Politics 101. This is Politics 101.

CUOMO: But that's what impeachment is. It's a vote.

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: As President Ford said-- SEKULOW: No. It's it--

CUOMO: --an impeachable offense is whatever Congress says it is.

SEKULOW: Yes. And that includes, of course, not just the House of Representatives, but the United States Senate. They get the House.

CUOMO: For removal. For removal.

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: Impeachment is all House.

[21:35:00]

SEKULOW: Yes. Well no, for a conviction. I mean it's - it's not just removal.

CUOMO: Right.

SEKULOW: It's - and there's - if there's a trial, there's - I don't - I do not believe that it's going to ever get to that point.

CUOMO: I agree with you.

SEKULOW: But I think there's something significant here.

CUOMO: I don't think Mitch McConnell will ever have a trial.

SEKULOW: OK.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

SEKULOW: OK. So, here's the point though. We cannot - you said this, and you're right. We should not be looking this in a vacuum.

So, if we don't look at this in a vacuum, you - and this was broke by - your network broke this. CNN broke this. And this was the letter of May 4th, 2018. And, in that letter, three Members of the United States Senate--

CUOMO: Mm-hmm.

SEKULOW: --that includes Bob Menendez, Dick Durbin, and Patrick Leahy, wrote a letter to who? The Ukrainian prosecutor--

CUOMO: Prosecutor. Leshchenko.

SEKULOW: --to urge him, hold it, to urge him to do what? Continue and open investigations, and continue investigations, and then he asks - the three Senators ask three questions.

"Has your office taken any steps to restrict cooperation with investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

Did any individual from the Trump Administration or anyone acting on its behalf encourage Ukraine government or law enforcement officials not to cooperate with the Special Counsel?

Was the Mueller probe raised in any way during discussions between your government and U.S. officials, including around the meetings with President Trump in New York in 2017?"

And in the body of the letter, which your network actually got early, what does it say? You know, you've made all this progress, but you're putting all this progress in jeopardy by what? By government officials saying, "If you do this, we may do that."

And that's not what happened with the President to do that.

CUOMO: All right.

SEKULOW: But that's in the letter--

CUOMO: One - one point--

SEKULOW: --from three United States Senators.

CUOMO: --of stipulation.

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: And then we'll continue the analysis. First, will you stipulate--

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: --that because you are citing CNN reporting, CNN cannot be fake news, because you're using it for your benefit right now as legitimate news?

SEKULOW: I - look, I - I'm telling you--

CUOMO: A "Yes" is fine.

SEKULOW: I'm not going to get into what - what is--

CUOMO: A "Yes" is fine.

SEKULOW: No. You know what I'm going to say?

CUOMO: Yes?

SEKULOW: I'm here on your network because you and I have an honest and straightforward relationship.

CUOMO: True.

SEKULOW: I've had that with your audience. And I'm going to continue to do that.

CUOMO: True. I'm just trying to--

SEKULOW: That's what I'll say. I will also say though let's not-- CUOMO: I'm trying to create unity where I can.

SEKULOW: I appreciate that. That's great. But let me tell you what I am concerned about.

And it's, look, this is just - this is the way it is. We - you know this. You come from a political family, a well-established, well-known political family, you know what this is. I know what this is. This is politics. A lot of it's political theater.

CUOMO: Yes, but I don't - I don't see that as--

SEKULOW: And it--

CUOMO: --I don't see that as disqualifying here. Impeachment is a political process. You bring this up.

SEKULOW: Of course.

CUOMO: I have no problem with the letter. I have no problem with our elected officials going to another country, and saying, "Hey, we're good to you. I hope you're doing the right thing by an investigation that matters to us."

SEKULOW: Well--

CUOMO: None of these politicians--

SEKULOW: The President - wait, wait, whoa, whoa, whoa!

CUOMO: --were seeking personal advantage--

SEKULOW: Of an investigation--

CUOMO: --the way the President was.

SEKULOW: Hold it. Of course they were.

CUOMO: How?

SEKULOW: Who were they trying to investigate? The President.

CUOMO: They're doing their duties.

SEKULOW: That's who they wanted the Ukrainians to--

CUOMO: Robert Mueller was--

SEKULOW: Oh so what and -- and so the --

CUOMO: -- appointed Special Counsel.

SEKULOW: Hold it, Chris. Doing their duty! And then you're telling me that in this transcript of the President, which you read, and I have read, line by line, you're telling me that that was in a violation of the law or violation of a statute or violation of a -- CUOMO: I'm saying it doesn't - I'm saying it doesn't have to be.

SEKULOW: -- a policy.

CUOMO: And you don't need a quid pro quo. What you need is a President of the United States--

SEKULOW: Well I -- you know what?

CUOMO: --who's putting his own political interests first, and using all of these arms of the government to do it.

SEKULOW: What did -- what did -- what did these three Senators do, Chris?

CUOMO: I do not see it as even close--

SEKULOW: What did they do?

CUOMO: -- to an analogy, not even close.

SEKULOW: Oh!

CUOMO: I don't.

SEKULOW: Well yes, you know, why it's not close to analogy? In one, there's a quid pro quo. In the other, there's not. And, by the way, you said why are we talking about quid pro quo?

CUOMO: I don't know that there's a quid pro quo in either.

SEKULOW: Hold it. Let me tell you this. Who raised the issue of quid pro quo? Who is the people - who did this?

And what about Senator Murphy, and his statement? You don't think that was a quid pro? "If you look at Biden, your aid's in jeopardy." Is that a quid pro quo?

CUOMO: I don't think quid pro quo is--

SEKULOW: United States Senator, sitting Senator.

CUOMO: I don't think quid pro quo is necessary for an abuse of power. I think if the President of the United States--

SEKULOW: Yes. Where - where is that in the - where exactly is that in the law though that that--

CUOMO: But it's not - but this isn't about the law.

SEKULOW: --where is that statute?

CUOMO: This is about finding something--

SEKULOW: Well, of course not.

CUOMO: --worthy of impeachment or not.

SEKULOW: Political--

CUOMO: Something can be wrong.

SEKULOW: Political theater.

CUOMO: But not a felony.

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: Something can be wrong but not a felony.

SEKULOW: What? This is--

CUOMO: An abuse of power can be wrong.

SEKULOW: This isn't a misdemeanor.

CUOMO: But not a felony.

SEKULOW: This is - yes, well look, the House would do whatever they do.

CUOMO: Do you think it's OK for the--

SEKULOW: This--

CUOMO: --President of the United States to ask the President of Ukraine to help him with a political opponent?

SEKULOW: That's not what the President said in the transcript. And you've read it. And you know that's not what the President said.

CUOMO: And I disagree with you, my friend.

SEKULOW: He said he's concerned about corruption. And - OK, that's fine.

And - and Joe Biden bragged, on television, that he gave a prosecutor in Ukraine to be fired in six hours, or $1 billion is going to be withheld. You think that's a quid pro quo?

CUOMO: I don't think - I think it's absolutely a quid pro quo.

SEKULOW: You think that might be a violation?

CUOMO: But it wasn't done for personal advantage.

SEKULOW: Hey, that was a sitting Vice President. You think--

CUOMO: No, and I'll tell you what. The President says in the call--

SEKULOW: Oh, no really? OK.

CUOMO: The President says in the call and the White House said it-- SEKULOW: Chris, Chris, you know that's not the case.

CUOMO: Hold on, Jay. The President says in the call--

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: --and the White House says in its talking points that Joe Biden was bragging about taking out a prosecution, which is a lie, and a suggestion--

SEKULOW: Prosecution? No. The prosecutor--

CUOMO: --that he - it says in the call transcript.

SEKULOW: Well - well - well, Chris, the prosecutor--

CUOMO: And the White House copied it.

SEKULOW: --is doing the prosecution.

CUOMO: I know.

SEKULOW: No, but the prosecutor was doing the--

CUOMO: But there's a big difference.

SEKULOW: --prosecution. Ah, no.

[21:40:00]

CUOMO: The prosecutor--

SEKULOW: You know what that is?

CUOMO: Here - here's why. Here's why. Let me--

SEKULOW: Political theatre.

CUOMO: --let me - oh, please! Not tonight. Here--

SEKULOW: What? You know, why don't they go vote (ph)?

CUOMO: Here's my point.

SEKULOW: You know what? Why don't they vote?

CUOMO: Hold on. We'll get to that in a second.

SEKULOW: Go vote on an--

CUOMO: Well--

SEKULOW: You think this is an article of - Chris, do you think this is worthy of an article of impeachment?

CUOMO: I think that it's a case-- SEKULOW: You think this is a - you think this--

CUOMO: --for the Democrats to make. But I think it is a prima facie case of abuse of power. And now they have to say how important it is--

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: --to them and why and what meat they can put on the bones. But hold on a second, hold on.

SEKULOW: What - what meat do--

CUOMO: This should be difference.

SEKULOW: What meat are they putting on the bones?

CUOMO: I--

SEKULOW: The only meat they're getting is the meat we're giving them, which is everything.

CUOMO: Well, but hey, you guy--

SEKULOW: And there's nothing there.

CUOMO: They gave it to them because they thought it was going to be good for him. I don't know why anybody thought this was going to be good for him. But let me make my point.

SEKULOW: Because if you read the transcript, it - there's not - there--

CUOMO: I don't agree - I don't agree with you.

SEKULOW: Chris, first of all--

CUOMO: But that's OK. You can make your case here.

SEKULOW: Yes, well that's fair.

CUOMO: I'm happy to have it. But you're not letting - you're not letting--

SEKULOW: You can - you can do whatever you want.

CUOMO: You're not letting me--

SEKULOW: I mean that's fine. Yes.

CUOMO: --make my suggestion, which is this. Here's the--

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: --difference between prosecution and prosecutor is that Joe Biden saying--

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: --"Yes, I held up that money until they got rid of that bum prosecutor Shokin." He wanted it--

SEKULOW: Who was doing what? What was he investigating?

CUOMO: Hold on, hold on, I'll - I'll give you that. Hold on one second.

He wanted it. Ukraine Parliament wanted it. The U.N. wanted it. The E.U. wanted it. Other Western democracies wanted it. They all wanted Shokin out.

Now, why would Joe Biden want him out? I'll give you two reasons.

One is because that's what he was told to do by the U.S. government. He was made the point-person on Ukraine. Second, it's what Ukraine wanted, and they wanted U.S. help with it. The implication is he did it to help his son.

Help me with this, Jay.

SEKULOW: Whoa, whoa, whoa, implication, Chris--

CUOMO: Yes.

SEKULOW: --was the prosecutor involved in the prosecution, looking at the son's business, yes.

CUOMO: Did Hunter Biden work for the business when Shokin was looking at it? When he started the investigation, was Hunter Biden working for the company?

SEKULOW: But - but it was an ongo - but it was an ongoing investigation. And when--

CUOMO: He started the investigation--

SEKULOW: --when the Vice President went over there, he--

CUOMO: --the guy wasn't even working for the company.

SEKULOW: Look, Chris, is this - can I ask you a question? Is this any different than the nonsense we just went through for three years almost with Bob Mueller's--

CUOMO: Yes.

SEKULOW: --performance on July 24th?

CUOMO: You actually have the President obviously contacting a foreign power to obviously help him with a political opponent.

SEKULOW: To find out if there's corruption in a foreign government, I don't see that as an issue, frankly.

CUOMO: To look at CrowdStrike--

SEKULOW: That's my view.

CUOMO: --which had nothing to do with Russian interference, and to look at your Biden, who just happens to be--

SEKULOW: No. But - hold it.

CUOMO: --likely to run against him.

SEKULOW: Hold it. You - you raised the Crowd - CrowdStrike.

CUOMO: I did.

SEKULOW: That was in the context of what? Server issues, issues that were raised, the President was talking about the--

CUOMO: What server issues?

SEKULOW: --2016 election issues there.

CUOMO: What server issues?

SEKULOW: There was that whole thing with Crowd--

CUOMO: It was a conspiracy theory.

SEKULOW: I'm not - Crowd--

CUOMO: There's no server anywhere--

SEKULOW: No, Chris.

CUOMO: --that anybody's looking for. CrowdStrike did the forensics--

SEKULOW: Hold - hold - hold it.

CUOMO: --on the DNC server. There's no missing server.

SEKULOW: Wait. Wasn't there all - but Chris, what about all those allegations of who had the server access? Was it Russians? Was it Ukraine?

Look, this is - you can't - you don't want to look at this in a vacuum, don't. You know what we need to look at in?

CUOMO: I'm not.

SEKULOW: Look at the - look at the four pages. And tell me that you think--

CUOMO: Well that's looking at it in a vacuum.

SEKULOW: --that's worthy of impeachment. And I don't - I don't--

CUOMO: I'm saying - here's what I know. SEKULOW: No. Because--

CUOMO: I want to know--

SEKULOW: Look at the other four pages you have.

CUOMO: I want to know was Rudy--

SEKULOW: I don't know what it is. Right.

CUOMO: I have questions about Rudy Giuliani's involvement. With all due respect, I invited him back on the show. There's no reason for this to be personal. And I think that he's been inconsistent on things.

SEKULOW: What? Can I ask you - can I ask you a question on that?

CUOMO: So, was he there alone? Or was he there for the State Department?

SEKULOW: Listen--

CUOMO: Did the President know? Did he not know? You know, that matters.

SEKULOW: Can I ask you a question, I mean?

CUOMO: Was the State Department involved? Who gave different stories about holding up the funding? Why was the--

SEKULOW: Can I - can--

CUOMO: --A.G. involved?

SEKULOW: Hold it. Hold it. You know, first of all, there - has there have been any evidence of anything involving the A.G.? No.

CUOMO: Well other the President offering him up as like hired help--

SEKULOW: Was Rudy Giuliani over there as a private citizen or the President's lawyer.

CUOMO: --to the Presidents of Ukraine.

SEKULOW: Hold it. Hold it. You had - you had Rudy Giuliani on your net - on your show--

CUOMO: I did.

SEKULOW: --a couple - was it last week?

CUOMO: Yes.

SEKULOW: OK. So, Rudy - this has been an issue that Rudy's been concerned with. He's been very clear about this for a long time.

CUOMO: He's been concerned about it for a long time.

SEKULOW: And so, I don't know the details--

CUOMO: He hasn't been that clear.

SEKULOW: --on that out, yes.

CUOMO: But he's been concerned about it. I agree with you.

SEKULOW: Yes. He has been concerned about the Ukrainian corruption--

CUOMO: But in the letter, the President offers up the A.G.--

SEKULOW: --for a long time.

CUOMO: --as hired help to the President of Ukraine to look at Joe Biden.

SEKULOW: No. He doesn't say hired help.

Would it not be appropriate for an Attorney General of the United States to work with an Attorney General of - of Ukraine to determine corruption issues that exist or may exist? Of course, it would be appropriate. A 100 percent.

CUOMO: I don't know that it's appropriate. I know that--

SEKULOW: But there's no evidence of any of that happening.

CUOMO: I think the question--

SEKULOW: But there's no evidence of any of this happening.

CUOMO: Well the evidence of it happening--

SEKULOW: Yes.

CUOMO: --is in the transcript of the President saying, "I'm going to have the A.G. give you a call, Mr. President, to help you look into the Biden stuff."

SEKULOW: No, he's saying--

CUOMO: Why doesn't - why would our government--

SEKULOW: Hold it. So, first of all--

CUOMO: --not just look into the Biden stuff? Why would you go and have them look into the Biden--

SEKULOW: Well he--

CUOMO: --stuff?

SEKULOW: The Attorney General is our government.

CUOMO: Why didn't the Republicans look into the Biden stuff--

SEKULOW: Hold it, Chris. The Attorney General is--

CUOMO: --when they were in-charge of the House? Why didn't--

SEKULOW: Hold it, Chris.

CUOMO: --Paul Ryan look into it?

SEKULOW: Chris - I don't know why Paul Ryan didn't look at it. But when you say--

CUOMO: If it was so important!

SEKULOW: --why didn't our government do it? Well goodness, first of all, there's no evidence of the Attorney General doing anything. But let me tell you this.

CUOMO: He is mentioned--

SEKULOW: You just said our government--

CUOMO: --in the letter a lot.

SEKULOW: --the Department of Justice is our - he's mentioned three times in the--

CUOMO: It's a lot.

SEKULOW: --in the - in the--

CUOMO: It's more than you and me.

SEKULOW: Look, this is a 33-minute conversation that if you - yes, more than you and me.

CUOMO: Yes.

SEKULOW: Good for us. I mean, OK--

CUOMO: But why is he in there so much?

SEKULOW: --what does that have to do with anything?

CUOMO: And did the President--

SEKULOW: He's in there three times.

CUOMO: --then ask him to do it?

SEKULOW: He's--

CUOMO: Was it OK for the DOJ to review this--

SEKULOW: Look, here's the, Chris--

CUOMO: --complaint?

[21:45:00]

SEKULOW: Chris, was there an issue with Ukraine and corruption, in Ukraine's recent history?

CUOMO: Yes.

SEKULOW: 100 percent.

CUOMO: A 100 percent.

SEKULOW: Is it not appropriate for the United States that's giving a lot of aid to Ukraine to be concerned about the corruption?

CUOMO: Yes.

SEKULOW: A 100 percent. So that's ex - so--

CUOMO: But I don't believe that's what it was based on the sub--

SEKULOW: Again, there's no smoking gun.

CUOMO: --substance of the phone call.

SEKULOW: I - I - we - I respectfully disagree.

CUOMO: And I am good--

SEKULOW: That's - the con - the conversation--

CUOMO: --and I am good with disagreement.

SEKULOW: --is clear.

CUOMO: I am good with the disagreement.

SEKULOW: Good. Disagreements are fine.

CUOMO: And I appreciate you making the points.

SEKULOW: Thanks.

CUOMO: It's important for my office to hear the perspective of defending these allegations from the President's point of view. You do it very well. And I appreciate you doing it here.

SEKULOW: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Jay Sekulow, be well.

SEKULOW: And thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: I'll speak to you soon.

SEKULOW: Thank you. You too. CUOMO: All right, now, the President's legal team is making their case to you, and that is their right, and you should hear it, listen to it, process it.

What about the prosecutors? Did the President abuse his power? Yes or no? If yes, is it enough to warrant impeachment? Why?

Cuomo's Court is in session, next, brilliant legal minds.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: All right, we just got a rare opportunity in the mix here, not just political voices, but we heard from the President's attorney, and there's a lot to unpack.

Let's take this up with really a pair of brilliant legal minds.

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CUOMO: Preet Bharara and Robert Ray. Thank you both.

Preet, to you, out there in San Francisco, what did you take away from Counselor Sekulow?

[21:50:00]

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Not much of substance. No disrespect to the Counselor.

It seems that if you come on your show, and you're the - the lawyer for the President, you have to yell a lot, and you get - you get extra time, I guess.

He focuses on distraction rather than on the substance. And in a couple of different areas, I couldn't really follow the logic. And I think it's important to take it apart for a moment because you're going to hear it from a lot of people, including from the President himself.

You know, one of them is this idea that there's nothing different between what is outlined in that transcript, that summary, the call between the President of the United States and the President of Ukraine.

There's nothing different between that, and what Senators and Congress people, and Presidents, for that matter, do all the time, which is in the - in the give-and-take of diplomacy, and the give-and-take of legislation, they say, look, if you don't change your conduct or your behavior, in this regard, we're going to do something different in the other regard, and to say those things are quid pro quos in the same way that we mean them as you - if you're a prosecutor or an impeachment authority, is - is ludicrous in the extreme.

The analogy would be if Bob Menendez, or some other Senator, said, "We want you to take such actions," and in some way, it would benefit him or her, personally, or it would knock out a primary challenger, or a general election challenger, and have - and have a direct, you know, negative effect on something that's personal electorally or financially--

CUOMO: Sekulow says the - says the - the quo was helping them get Trump with Mueller.

BHARARA: They're making a general point that any time any - any person in - in elective office asks for something that that's a quid pro quo that's a - that's a problem.

The second thing he did was he suggested, when you asked the question about, is it a bad thing for a sitting President of the United States to make a particular statement to another person who has legal authority to maybe launch an investigation, or continue investigation, into a political adversary, and he said, "Well, let's look at what's not there. There's no quid pro quo there."

And there doesn't have to be a quid pro quo there, as you're saying in the impeachment context, and then they always change the standard to what may be a couple of Democrats in advance of knowing what was in the phone call said they might find, would they find a quid pro quo.

The standard is not what some politicians have said the standard is in advance of knowing what it is. The standard is what the law says or what--

CUOMO: All right.

BHARARA: --impeachment history has been. And - and then - and just the final question is, I hope you would ask guests who are supportive of what the President did, as - as reflected in that summary.

Is it OK for the President of the United States, to pick up the phone, and call Bill Barr, the - the Attorney General, or a sitting United States Attorney, in New York, or somewhere else, and say, "You know what, a lot of people say that Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders is up to no good. I want you to investigate that?"

Would they justify that on the ground that "No. He's just talking about corruption." If he throws in the word "Corruption" a couple of times, when giving that directive, or - or suggesting that to his own Attorney General--

CUOMO: OK.

BHARARA: If it's not OK to - with your own Attorney General, or your own United States Attorney, and I don't think it is, I think it's a horrible, and that would be an impeachable offense on its own, then how can it be appropriate to do that with a leader of another country with all the national security implications, and foreign policy implications, on top of it?

CUOMO: I happen to have a brilliant lawyer who supports the President. What is your response?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL, FORMER SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well on the first point about personal political benefit, be careful about that because, you know, if you think about that, to its logical extension, anything that a President does potentially has impact to benefit personally him in connection with politics.

So, I mean you wouldn't want a standard with regard to quid pro quo to be, "Wait a second. It can be anything that would personally benefit the President." So--

CUOMO: What if it's short of that? And it's not a quid pro quo.

BHARARA: He - he - he singled out - he single - he - he--

CUOMO: But it is an opponent who he might well run against?

BHARARA: Right.

RAY: Well, look, that - that - that draws a tighter connection. I get that. And - but I think there's a lot of people who have at least some sense about this whole thing. You know it's one thing to talk about errors of judgment.

It's another thing to talk about - Ocasio-Cortez, you just had her on, and I think you correctly made the point. Since when are deviation from the norms of democracy an impeachable offense?

And finally, I will say, you know, all this nonsense about "Well it doesn't have to be a quid pro quo," you know, yes, you are - you are - I've watched your show. You are correct to point out that the Constitution itself doesn't offer much guidance in terms of what would constitute an impeachable offense.

But I'm here to tell you, based upon history, which Preet, you know, referenced just briefly, we've been through this now, basically four times.

Andrew Jackson, which ultimately led to a censure. Andrew Johnson, which led to an impeachment and an acquittal in the - in the Senate. Bill Clinton, we know what the results of that were. And obviously, Richard Nixon, I think, probably the most extreme--

CUOMO: Who quit before they could vote on the impeachment.

RAY: Before - before it ever happened. It requires two things, based upon history and experience.

In my view, and I think, in the view of most historians that have looked at this, and legal scholars too, well-founded articles of impeachment require both high crimes and misdemeanors, and an abuse of power.

[21:55:00]

And it's not enough to just say that one or the other is sufficient. It's both. And just to run you through the history lesson, the reason that Nixon ultimately would have been impeached, and removed from office, is because both prongs were satisfied.

CUOMO: All right, so here, you believe that this is arguably an abuse of power, but you don't see a connected to illegal activity in a way that impresses you.

RAY: I - I think to be careful even about the abuse of power thing, but I definitely don't think that--

CUOMO: We don't want our Presidents--

RAY: --that a crime was committed.

CUOMO: --asking the President of another country to help find dirt on a political opponent, right?

RAY: I think that - you can argue about whether or not that's an error in judgment. We also don't impeach Presidents based upon errors in judgment.

And I will say with regard to an abuse of power, it really does have to be an actual abuse, meaning what have - what was the abuse here ultimately? Was - was Joe Biden's campaign hurt? Was the money ultimately released?

CUOMO: Leshchenko re-opened the case into the--

RAY: And was - and was anything--

CUOMO: --Hunter Biden situation?

RAY: Did anything untoward occur as the result of that? Has any damage been sustained?

CUOMO: All right, so let's take that as a standard.

RAY: Great.

CUOMO: Preet, let me bounce it over to you.

BHARARA: That's - that - that - that's not--

RAY: So, the argument that there's been a demise of democracy here is--

BHARARA: --that's not the standard. If - if someone--

RAY: --way, way, way overstated.

CUOMO: All right, Preet?

BHARARA: It has - it has - it has never been the standard ever. And - and I love it when lawyers come on, and they say this, because it's the best argument they can make, and maybe they think that they can pull the wool over people's heads.

The fact that you try to do something and other good people don't do the bad thing you told them to do, doesn't exonerate you from trying to do the bad thing. In fact, the Mueller report is replete with examples of this.

In part, in some ways, the President of the United States was saved by the people around him, including Corey Lewandowski--

(CROSSTALK)

BHARARA: --liar on television.

RAY: --by the way.

BHARARA: Yes. But the point is the fact - if the President of the United States called up every sitting United States Attorney in the country, right, and said, they still haven't answered this question.

It's a basic question. I never hear anybody answer the question when they're supportive of the President.

Is it all right, is it an abuse of power, or potentially a crime, for the sitting President to call up United States Attorney, and say, "Hey, you know what? I hear there's a lot of corruption in Vermont. There's a lot of corruption going on. And Bernie Sanders, people say Bernie Sanders and his kids are full of corruption. You should look at that."

Now - now change the example, and - and say, he's done that to every U.S. Attorney in the country, and all of them have enough integrity not to do anything about it.

Would you really sit here and say, "What was the effect of that error in judgment?" No, you would call it an abuse of power, and I think it would be impeachable on those facts alone.

RAY: I know. The President has the absolute right to suggest an investigation. He's the Executive Branch. That's - that - that's an erroneous--

BHARARA: With respect to a particular--

RAY: --that - that - that's an--

BHARARA: --with respect to a particular person--

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: --have the right, right, because he's not given rights.

BHARARA: --with respect to a - his--

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: He's given responsibilities under the Constitution.

RAY: He's given - he's given the power to faithfully execute the law. If he wants--

BHARARA: I want to see if I understand what Mr. Ray is saying.

CUOMO: Right. That's not a right.

RAY: --if - if he wants to direct the United States--

BHARARA: I want to see if I understand what Mr. Ray is saying.

RAY: --if - if he wants to direct the United States Attorney--

BHARARA: If he wants to direct the - if he wants to direct the United States Attorney--

CUOMO: Preet, Preet, Preet, let Ray say it.

RAY: Preet, I'm very sorry to tell you. If he wants--

BHARARA: OK.

CUOMO: You won't answer his question.

RAY: --if he wants - sure, I will.

BHARARA: All right.

RAY: If he wants to direct a United States Attorney to do something, he can do that. Now, you may not like it. You may think a lot of things. But the--

CUOMO: Could it be impeachable with the--

RAY: --but that - well, you know, the - the end result is directing a prosecutor, for example, to file an indictment, I think, might well be an abuse of power. We have people - we have a system in place--

CUOMO: So, you'd be OK with a President saying to a U.S. Attorney--

RAY: "I'd like you to look into this," absolutely. And - and--

CUOMO: Even if you were running against the person.

RAY: I think he'd have to be very careful about that. BHARARA: That's an extraordinary thing. Can I--

RAY: And I - and I - I think you'd have to be very careful about that.

(CROSSTALK)

BHARARA: Might I respond?

RAY: And I think with regard to the error in judgment, I think you're unwise to travel down that road because it's filled and fraught with all kind of peril, which is one of the reasons we have institutional norms that, generally speaking, prevent the President from dealing directly with the United States Attorney's Office, with regard to an investigation.

They must go - the President must go through the White - the - the norm is to go through the White House Counsel.

CUOMO: Right. Well here you have a leading DIG (ph)--

RAY: And the White House Counsel deals with the Deputy Attorney General.

CUOMO: And--

RAY: And the Deputy Attorney General then--

CUOMO: Right. But that didn't happen here.

RAY: --deals with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

CUOMO: That didn't happen here. The question is what happens if the President didn't - I believe the A.G. said today, "Nobody told me to do anything."

RAY: Right. So, why are we talking about? So, the - the Attorney General--

CUOMO: But we - do we know that that's true?

RAY: Well you're going to--

CUOMO: I'm not. I'm just saying do you know? We don't know. We just heard.

RAY: I suppose we don't absolutely know it's true unless you could have Bill Barr back to the - to the Congress to testify under oath. Do you really think that's necessary?

CUOMO: I don't think that guarantees any, you know, that you're going to get an answer, right? He's turned out to be very clever, and he can reckon things, and he could say, "Well, I wasn't told. But someone did suggest it to me. Someone told me that--

RAY: Right.

CUOMO: --he asked about it." I mean, he's offering him up.

RAY: The Department of Justice apparently has come out today through a spokesperson to say--

CUOMO: Yes.

RAY: --that the President--

CUOMO: Right.

RAY: --what - did not - did not ask the Attorney General and that the - and that the Attorney General did not--

CUOMO: That is with DOJ.

RAY: --did not take any action with regard to--

CUOMO: The remaining question for you, Preet, I want to end of this--

RAY: --to--

CUOMO: --idea going forward.

BHARARA: Yes.

CUOMO: I don't believe it's just about the call or two calls. I believe that it is about a series of choices and directives made by the President and his lawyer over about a year.

What questions do you want to know going forward that will inform how significant a potential abuse of power this is?

BHARARA: Yes. I want to know the - the answers to all the facts with respect to what conversations were had. But, you know, I didn't get a chance to respond. You--

CUOMO: Please, go ahead.

BHARARA: --you let Mr. Ray go on for quite a bit.

I think it's an extraordinary thing to hear a lawyer come on a program, and - and even while he's speaking, trying to backtrack from what it seemed like he was saying that there is a justification for a sitting President of the United States to be able to call up individual U.S. attorneys, and not say, you know, "Hey, could you spend more time going after drug traffickers," but saying specifically, "Investigate a particular person who might be a particular harm to me," that's extraordinary.

If that's the argument that lawyers who support the President are going to be making, I think we're in a lot of trouble.

CUOMO: Well let's do this. Let's see where the facts lead us. Let's see what the right questions are. Look at that! Preet really had to go. And then we will see what choices the Democrats make.

Preet, wherever you are, thank you for doing it. Robert Ray, I appreciate it.