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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Sanders Briefed On Russian Efforts To Help His Campaign; Buttigieg: My Debate Message Was Focused On Challenging Sanders Because He Is The Front-Runner; Democrats' Path To White House Complicated By Three States Trump Won In 2016. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 21, 2020 - 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: Stay tuned on that.

And a reminder, don't miss Full Circle, our digital news show that gives the chance to dig into some important topics and have in-depth conversations. You can check it streaming live, weekdays 5 P.M. Eastern at CNN.com/FullCircle, or watch it there any time, on-demand

News continues, a lot more ahead. 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 and welcome to PRIME TIME.

Big news! Russia is at it again, they're interfering. They're trying to help Trump again. And now we know they're trying to help Bernie Sanders too. Guess which one of them warned Putin to stay out of our election?

Now, the next hurdle in that election, Nevada, and we have Pete Buttigieg tonight. He needs a big finish and he needs more than that. He needs big money.

But first, we have to look at what the President did today. It's supposed to be a job. The first job is what? Keep us safe. But what did he just do with this Intel overhaul. What did he do when he found out that Congress was being told about the interference? You won't believe it!

Let's get after it.

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CUOMO: The White House says that the President has been briefed on Russia's efforts to help Bernie Sanders' candidacy while Trump claims it's all Democratic disinformation that Moscow is meddling once again on his own behalf. If it's Democrat disinformation, why would Sanders be put in the mix? And, in fact, the Senator played it differently, which is to say honestly, and confirmed that he was briefed on the interference a month ago.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Putin is a thug. He is an autocrat. He may be a friend of Donald Trump's. He's not a friend of mine.

Here's the message to Russia. Stay out of American elections.

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CUOMO: You don't hear that from the President. I wonder why!

Now, fair other question, a month ago? Why haven't we heard anything from Bernie about it until then? Was he not allowed to speak about it or is there another reason? Legitimate questions!

Now, but what the President is doing really has to take our attention. Not only is he changing people around, that's his right, not only is he looking for loyalty, that's all he's looking for.

Let's take this to another top player in the 2020 race with a big test in Nevada tomorrow, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: So, big news today. The Russians are at it again. They want to help Trump and they want to help Bernie Sanders. Why would they want Sanders to do well?

BUTTIGIEG: Well I don't think the Russians have a political party in the U.S. They want chaos. And we saw that they got just that by intervening to help Donald Trump. And, of course, there's no question that they're going to be doing that in this election cycle too.

And yet, what we're seeing is this Administration is doing nothing meaningful to demonstrate that they care about this or going to act to stop it.

Look, all the more reason for us to make sure that we are hard targets for misinformation, as voters, and all the more reason for us to ensure that we are putting forward a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump by a big enough margin that it's not even within interfering distance.

CUOMO: It's an interesting analysis though as to what their intentions are like why not you, why not Biden, where, you know, if they want to - if they want to hedge their bets, you think they're thinking Bernie Sanders may win at all, so they want favor on each side, or do you think - they think Bernie is the person who's easiest for Trump to beat? You're the one who was in the Intel business in the military.

BUTTIGIEG: I'm not going to - yes, I'm not going to try to get into Vladimir Putin's head. What I know is that this kind of interference is incredibly dangerous for our democracy.

And we need a President who takes it seriously, and is going to act to make sure that any power, whether it is Russia, or anybody else, who even gets the idea of interfering in our elections, gets the message through our deterrence that it is not worth the attempt.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what. That's a tough message because it sure is worth the attempt.

Look what they did to us the last time with the division. The President's doing it now to beat the Democrats. And even Bernie Sanders gets to use it as cover for what some of his supporters do in- person and online, but enough of that topic.

Speaking of Sanders, why didn't you go after him more in the debate? Why did you focus on Klobuchar? Was that a mistake?

BUTTIGIEG: Well no, I would say my message was very much focused on challenging Bernie Sanders because he is the front-runner. And what we've seen is he's putting forward a politics that says "It's my way or the highway." If you don't agree with him a 100 percent of the time, you don't fit.

He is arousing this kind of behavior in his supporters, in person, not just online that has happened at least in terms of this kind of pattern, has happened to no other campaign. And most of us don't believe that he speaks for the Democratic Party.

Now, I am the only candidate for President right now who has beaten Bernie Sanders at anything. And that was in a very tight delegate contest in Iowa.

The time has come for anybody who does not believe Bernie Sanders ought to be the nominee to get our act together and put forward somebody who can challenge him and who can decisively defeat Donald Trump in the fall.

CUOMO: Was--

[21:05:00]

BUTTIGIEG: That was our focus on the debate stage. It's my focus right now. And we have got to pull together and make this happen.

CUOMO: I ask obviously because contextually the most viral moments for Buttigieg were the back-and-forth with you and Klobuchar. We are still waiting on the final count out of Iowa. But all we've been able to monitor so far does validate that you have that edge.

So, we come out of the debate. Elizabeth Warren has raised a lot of money. If we use that a metric for having done well, do you believe that she outperformed you in the debate? BUTTIGIEG: No, although if that's going to be the metric, then if you're watching now, and you believe in my campaign, I really need you to go to peteforamerica.com and send in a few bucks.

Our campaign is fueled by grassroots contributions, and we know that we're going to need a lot of resources in order to compete. Matter of fact, we've set a goal of raising $13 million by Super Tuesday. I'm not a billionaire. I'm not even a millionaire.

But what we know is that we were able to build a campaign that started a year ago with no name recognition, no national email list, obviously, no personal fortune, none of the advantages that come with being a Senator.

And we have now reached this point where we've got the lead in delegates, and I'm going to work hard to earn every vote, every caucus-goer here in Nevada, every voter in South Carolina, and on into Super Tuesday.

And, in particular, I am speaking to Americans, to Democrats, who don't want to wake up, the day after Super Tuesday, and see Bernie Sanders with an insurmountable lead, because a vision that says that you've either got to be for the revolution or you must be for the status quo is a vision where most of us don't see where we fit.

And if we want to win, and if we want to govern, if we want to unify a country, whose biggest problems include not only the terrible policies of the Trump Administration, but the terrible division that we're experiencing, as a country, we're going to need to do better, and I'm offering the campaign the candidacy that is designed to do just that.

CUOMO: The dark reality of politics is that the money is a major factor. You don't even have money right now to be putting it into Super Tuesday makes the chance of doing well there very small.

Bernie, you know, Biden, lot of people are in the same boat. Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg have the money. Bernie has it in a very different way than Bloomberg does.

You need the money to compete. If you don't raise the money, and after tomorrow, you have a solid finish, but if you don't have a surprising victory in Nevada, are you afraid that you don't have the money to compete?

BUTTIGIEG: Well the reality is we are going to have to raise a lot in the coming days in order to be competitive on Super Tuesday. Now, my - my supporters have got us this far. We've had nearly a million people decide to contribute to this campaign.

And I remember, a year ago, when our focus was "Gosh, can - can we get the 65,000 individual donors we need so that we can have a shot at being one of the 20 people who get to be in the debates?" That's where we began. And our supporters have come through for us again and again and again.

So, yes, this is real. And we're going to need to do a lot in order to be competitive. But we are also the best position to defeat Donald Trump. I think we're the best position to challenge Bernie Sanders.

Again, I'm the only one who's beaten him at anything in the contests to date. And we've got to get together if we don't want to wake up and find that he's the only one standing after Super Tuesday.

CUOMO: But isn't that exactly what's going to happen? I mean you have some good finishes under your belt. And you are a surprise to be where you are. I mean I think that's objectively true.

But after Super Tuesday, if you don't really get the exposure, and you're all bunched up, I mean Biden, and yes, he's in the pack now, you can't say he's broken out in any way, except to fall, Biden, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, I mean you're all knotted up there, you're all going to be in the exact same position.

Do you think it's going to be after Super Tuesday a point where someone's got to drop out?

BUTTIGIEG: Well that's for voters to decide.

And voters and caucus-goers have a chance to send a message tomorrow here in Nevada, soon in South Carolina that - and then, right after that on Super Tuesday, that we are ready for a vision that brings as many Americans as possible into the future that harnesses the majority that already agrees on providing healthcare to everybody just as long as we don't force it on - on anyone, that already agrees we've got to raise wages and hold companies accountable, do something about climate.

Mine is the candidacy that can build that majority not only to win the nomination but to defeat Donald Trump. And this is our only shot to defeat Donald Trump.

CUOMO: Why do you think Bernie's on fire?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, again, it's all relative. He has not been able to command a majority, even in states where he did last time around. Remember, New Hampshire, a majority voted for him last time, not so much this time.

But if those who have a different vision than him don't get it together soon, then we could be in a situation where he has an insurmountable lead.

CUOMO: But what do you think it is?

I mean, he's been popping in the polls lately. Biden has dropped. Bernie Sanders is doing better with the older voters now than he was. He's doing better with minority voters now than he was. What do you think's happening?

BUTTIGIEG: Well he's certainly speaking to progressive values that we all share.

[21:10:00] We all want to make sure that there is a better future that we act on climate, that we do something about accountability for corporations, that we raise taxes on those who haven't been paying their fair share.

I guess my point is we all want those things, but if we want to actually get them done, it's not going to happen with "A my way or the highway" politics. "My way or the highway" is the - the fast lane to defeating Donald Trump.

And most Americans don't view ourselves in a world where we have to choose between a revolution and a status quo.

If you believe in that vision, if you believe in those broad goals that Bernie, and everybody else, on our side of the aisle has talked about, let us come together in a campaign that can win, and that is prepared to build the coalition to actually govern effectively, so that these aren't just campaign promises or big ideas, they're things that actually happen before it's too late.

CUOMO: Well and it's also something we've never seen before.

People who are more traditional, reasonable, let's say, Democrats, like that's your sales pitch, "I'm a reasonable Democrat," you guys are getting squeezed on one side by someone who's only a Democrat when he runs for President, and on the other side by somebody who was only a Democrat when he runs for President.

These two people are literally squeezing into polls all of the other Democrats in the middle, making your race really two stages. How do you break out from the other Democrats to take on one of the two people who isn't even really a Democrat, except for right now?

So, Pete Buttigieg, I know you got your hands full. Thank you for giving us a window into your where and your how, right before Nevada. Good luck going forward.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you, looking forward to it, thanks.

CUOMO: Big for him because we know Bernie Sanders is doing comfortably in that state, but what about everybody else?

This is a new phase. Diversity comes into play in Nevada, and the result is going to drive who has the money to compete in the all- important Super Tuesday, which, remember, just right around the corner. So, how does it go tomorrow?

The Wizard of Odds with the real race, which is for second place, next.

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CUOMO: All the big brains say that Nevada is Bernie Sanders' Toulouse, OK? But anything can happen. Certainly tomorrow, what the real race is going to be is a complicated battle for the nomination starting to roll out.

Harry Enten, our Wizard of Odds is here to break it down. And we see this as a window of what's to come because it's all about what happens after Sanders, right?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER & ANALYST: That's exactly right.

I mean, look at this. Bernie Sanders right now has a 14 in 20, or 70 percent chance of winning, according to the polling predictiveness in the past and the betting markets, and that's actually gone up over the last week.

But look at all these candidates right here, Biden, Buttigieg, Warren, all basically, you know, between a 5 and 10 percent chance of winning. And if you're sort of translating that over to second place, right, it gives you an understanding that they are really tight in the polls.

I'm not really quite sure which of these could appear in second, and which one might end up in third or fourth place.

CUOMO: And what that means is that you're going to have this glut versus Bernie all the way to the Convention if the state of play stays how it is. Now, this is the in-Party problem.

ENTEN: Yes.

CUOMO: They have a new and developing problem out of Party.

ENTEN: I would say that they most certainly do have a problem. And that is that the President of the United States seems to be getting more popular.

So, look, this is his overall approval rating, just a few months ago Election Day 2019 among voters, it was 43 percent. Look where it is now. It's 46 percent. And that's obviously not that great. But it's going in the right direction.

And the question is why the heck is that occurring? Well I think it's occurring for two reasons. Number one, his approval rating on the economy, 54 percent, pretty high, I think it's moving towards that.

But I also think the Senate impeachment trial, the impeachment trial probably helped him, because if you look at the approval rating for saying, "Hey the Senate acquitted him," 50 percent of Americans or voters approved of that. So, I think impeachment along with the economy right now is driving these numbers a little bit up for him.

CUOMO: Now, this, they know what they're dealing with.

This, I don't think the Democrats quite understand, yet it's part of the subject of our Closing about why people like what Trump was about and don't like what this was about.

So now, match-ups.

ENTEN: Yes. So, of course, as we learned last time around, it was the Electoral College that drove everything, right? Trump lost the popular vote but won in the Electoral College.

Why? He - part of the big reason was he was able to flip three Blue states that voted for Obama in 2012, and went for him in 2016, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

And what do we see in these Quinnipiac University polls that came out this week between Sanders, who's obviously leading on the Democratic side, and Trump?

Well Michigan and Pennsylvania, they're close, but Sanders holds a lead. But look at Wisconsin, look at this. Bernie Sanders down by seven points the President of the United States in Wisconsin.

CUOMO: Why?

ENTEN: Why? I think there are three few reasons why.

Number one, Wisconsin has a lot of rural voters. We know the President does particularly well among them.

Second, has a lot of non-college White voters. We know the President does very well among them.

And third, not a very large African-American population, unlike Michigan and Pennsylvania, especially Michigan on the African-American population.

So, those three factors are really driving the President to become more popular in Wisconsin than he is nationwide.

CUOMO: Now, this is also setting up just how narrow this race is, how tight it is. What do you see when you look at the map?

ENTEN: So, I think, look at this, so if you take the 2016 election, but Michigan and Pennsylvania go Dem, but Wisconsin stays Red, look at how close this is. We end up at a 270 to 268 margin in the Electoral College.

You can't get any - really closer than that. And so, this just gives you an understanding of how tight the electoral map may be, come November, and how - how much of a tight race we might be down with that. CUOMO: If it's 269-269, quickly, what do we do?

ENTEN: Well if it's 269-269, it goes to the House. And the Party that has majority of the state delegations ends up picking the winner. Right now, Republicans have 26 of 50, which means that Donald Trump would be reelected.

CUOMO: If the Democrats in this election, because you have a state election cycle also--

ENTEN: Right.

CUOMO: --don't win over some of the state legislatures.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. And Florida, Montana, Alaska, they're all one seat away from flipping to the other side.

CUOMO: What chaos that would be!

ENTEN: It would be.

CUOMO: Wiz, thank you very much, as always.

ENTEN: Shalom, be well.

CUOMO: Best for the weekend.

All right, look, we lay it out for you as a scenario, but this is going to be a very tight race, and that means it's worth seeing what the possibilities are.

So, now we have what we know for sure. The President is reorganizing the Intelligence Community at the top.

[21:20:00]

Now, the question is, is he really doing it to control what information gets to Congress about election interference, and who knows what else? Is that OK? Is he putting himself before our collective safety?

We have an influential GOP Congressmen on that issue, next.

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(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Russia is at it again, fact. But we're hearing two very different responses from the President and the Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders, both of whom, supposedly, Russia is trying to boost.

Now, let's get some thoughts on this from Kentucky Republican Congressman, James Comer.

Always great to have you on the show, Sir, thank you, especially on a Friday night.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): It's great to be back on your show, Chris.

CUOMO: Starting-point, Russian interference, them messing with our election, no matter who they're helping, no matter who they're trying to hurt, is this a priority for you in terms of finding ways to fix?

[21:25:00]

COMER: Absolutely!

I've said from the very beginning that Russia's a bad actor, Putin's a bad actor, and we have no business having any confidence that Russia is going to try to stay out of the election.

That's why I and just about everyone in Congress voted to put more sanctions against Russia. We're serious about Russia staying out of our elections and hope that they never do that again.

CUOMO: All right, so then it comes to how do you combat it here at home. Now, we have talked previously about the President wanting to reorganize and have new people in different places. That's his prerogative. That he is looking for loyalty--

COMER: Right.

CUOMO: --as a primary commodity, you could call that politics as normal. Then you get into the pedigree of those people, and you start having battles about what's a good pedigree, what's a bad pedigree.

Now there's a bigger concern. If the reporting is correct, and David (ph) Nunes came to the President, and said, "Hey boss, they're trying to let these Democrats have more ammo about this Russian interference that's going again," and that is driving our President to try to manipulate the Intel Community to silence that kind of reporting to Congress, you cannot be in favoring that, Sir, can you?

COMER: Well I don't know that Devin Nunes did that. We haven't been able to confirm that that meeting ever happened. I'm going to assume as of now that it did not happen. But I'll tell you what. It does concern me.

CUOMO: And why not assume that it did? That is the reporting from several different sources and outlets.

COMER: Well - well one thing that I know for certain is Adam Schiff, Nunes' counterpart on the Intelligence Committee, and actually Chairman, he has consistently been leaking Intelligence to the press.

That is in a violation of Congress. That's a violation of the oath he takes as a Member of the Intelligence Committee. I think Adams Schiff's done more damage to the institution of Congress than any Member since Joseph McCarthy.

CUOMO: But the reporting is not that this came from Schiff. And whether it came from Schiff or Nunes, let's say this, it was neither of them, but it came out.

The idea of the President of the United States saying "I don't want Congress getting this information about election interference, it's bad for me, shut up," do you like that?

COMER: I - I don't think that that's what upset the President.

It's my understanding that the President was upset that he heard about it in the news that the Intelligence people went to Schiff and - and possibly Nunes, and briefed him, before they briefed the President, and they're having to defend something that they don't have any idea what they're about to defend. So--

CUOMO: But why do you believe that?

COMER: --there's a definite break-out.

CUOMO: Because we don't have any reason to believe that they went to Congress before they went to the President.

And, by the way, there are many instances where they're supposed to go to Congress. This isn't about like, you know, "We're about to get attacked, who do you go to first?" This is about Members--

COMER: Well--

CUOMO: --of the Intelligence Community doing what--

COMER: Right.

CUOMO: --they're supposed to do, is tell people on committees, like yours, "Here's what's going on. Act."

COMER: That's right. And, you know, there's this definite lack of confidence in the Intelligence Community by many Republicans and, especially, by the President. That's why he's obviously trying to do the - the shake-up, and I think that's warranted.

If you go back to George W. Bush when the Intelligence Community reported that we had - that Iraq had definite Weapons of Mass Destruction, there - there have been some bad decisions and bad advice given by the Intelligence Community.

And the President simply wanting to put new people in the office, and Grenell is on a temporary basis. I think he stated today that he plans to return to his post as Ambassador to Germany. So, I think the President's doing what needs to be done. And the President is also very frustrated in Congress, and I'm sure, in both - with both Parties leaking classified information.

CUOMO: Listen, I don't - the last part, it's just hard for me to believe because I've never seen anything leak the way this White House does. But let's put that to the side because we have something else.

The WMD discussion, the Yellowcake discussion that came out of the Bush White House, absolutely would be reason for concern. But this President isn't concerned with--

COMER: Right.

CUOMO: --getting it right. And you just said, you agree with the analysis that Russia is interfering once again. There's almost unanimity on it unless somebody's playing politics.

So, it's not about the information being wrong. It's about the information being right, and the President not wanting Congress to know about it. How can he put his own political interests before national security?

COMER: What the President's frustrated with is that there's this assumption that Russia is trying to help the President, and the President colluded with Russia. I think that's been proven through the Mueller report there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

And there's no guarantee. Many Republicans think that Putin and Russia would prefer to have Bernie Sanders as President.

I mean, after all, Bernie Sanders is a socialist. He identified with the former Soviet Union, early on in his career. So, you know, there's no guarantee that Russia wouldn't prefer Bernie Sanders over--

CUOMO: But either way, you're making--

COMER: --Donald Trump.

CUOMO: --you're making my point.

COMER: And that's one thing that frustrates Republicans.

CUOMO: Mr. - Congressman, you're making the exact point I'm making to you. We know they're trying to help Bernie. We know try - they're trying to sow chaos. They know what - they're trying to help Trump.

COMER: Right.

CUOMO: Trump only hears the part about him, he goes right to collusion, where you went. I didn't even bring up the word.

[21:30:00]

I'm not saying that the President has anything to do with aiding Russian interference. I'm saying that you need to know about Russian interference in Congress because you have to keep me and the rest of the voters safe.

And if the President has the Intel Community not give you that kind of information because he's frustrated, or he's mad at the Right, or he's mad at the Left, or he doesn't trust it, it's bad for him, those are all bad reasons, aren't they? Don't you have to get the information?

COMER: I agree that Congress needs the information. I want the information. But the problem is the information's been bad. The information's been skewed. You take James Comey. I don't think, in hindsight, he has a lot of credibility and that the Members of Congress--

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CUOMO: But he's gone. I'm talking about today.

COMER: --briefing. He's gone and they tried.

CUOMO: But he's gone.

COMER: I know. And--

CUOMO: So--

COMER: But there are a lot of holdovers in the Intelligence Community. We--

CUOMO: But he did this today and it's his guys who are in charge of this, right?

COMER: He - he--

CUOMO: This was his guy in charge--

COMER: The - the President--

CUOMO: --as the Acting DNI.

COMER: Right. And the President is doing everything in his ability, I think, to restore credibility to the Intelligence Community.

CUOMO: How does it restore credibility--

COMER: Because we have to have a strong Intelligence Community.

CUOMO: --if you tell the Intelligence Community you can't give Congress bona fide information because it's bad for me.

COMER: We don't know that the President said that.

CUOMO: How does that restore credibility?

COMER: That - that's being reported there, you know, from anonymous sources. I don't believe that the President would say that. The President's

frustrated that information being given to Congress is constantly leaked to the press. And the President's frustrated that--

CUOMO: No. Congress was his problem.

COMER: --Adam Schiff would still have--

CUOMO: He doesn't want the Democrats to have it. And we - he did not reject the story.

COMER: Well but - but Chris, you're - you're--

CUOMO: The White House has not come out and said it's not true.

COMER: Right. And - and you're a smart guy. You're from a political family. Would - would you have confidence in Adam Schiff having any type of information from the Intelligence Community?

CUOMO: Yes.

COMER: Everything Adam Schiff has done over the past three years is to try to impeach Donald Trump.

CUOMO: This is about the interference, Congressman.

COMER: And this - this last impeachment process backfired on the Democrats.

CUOMO: You say you don't want to play politics with it? I agree with you. And I don't know that coming from a political family--

COMER: Right.

CUOMO: --and being intelligent go together, but I'll take it for the purposes of this discussion. I'm saying it's about the interference, not the politics. You know, whatever Schiff does with the information, he should be judged. Whatever Nunes--

COMER: Right.

CUOMO: --whatever the Committee does, and does not do, should be judged.

But you've got to get the information, Congressman. And I just think that you have to be careful about making excuses for the President for not letting information get out. Until we know that the information--

COMER: I think the President - right.

CUOMO: --is allowed to come out, you should be very skeptical. Isn't that a safe assumption?

COMER: I - I want the information. Every Member of Congress in both parties wants the information. But we have to do something about the credibility in the Intelligence

Community. We have to do something about the constant leaking from Members, especially Democrat Members on the Democrat - Democrat Members on the Intelligence Committee, and it's a huge problem.

CUOMO: But stopping the Intelligence Community--

COMER: It's a huge problem. And - and--

CUOMO: --from going to Congressman is not the answer to that.

COMER: I - I--

CUOMO: Can we agree about that?

COMER: --I do not think the - I do agree with that. And I do not think the President wants to do that.

But when we talk about Russian interference, it's one thing that - that we need to note here, what they did in the last election, they bought some Facebook ads, and that's bad. And - and I will--

CUOMO: They did a lot of things.

COMER: --never get over that. They bought Facebook ads.

CUOMO: They bought Facebook ads.

COMER: That was primarily what the - the interference was.

CUOMO: They - they hacked emails. They gave them the WikiLeaks. They did it for distribution. I'm not saying it had an effect on the outcome, but it can't be good.

COMER: Right.

CUOMO: And we need to stop it. And that's why I'm having the conversation. Congressman James Comer, thank you for having the conversation with me.

COMER: Thank you for having me on, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well. Have a good weekend.

All right, listen, this is something where you got to be on the same page. And the idea that the President may be putting his own interests over the national interests here is a problem.

There are two people who know the stakes, who know the flow of what happened here, and why it matters. We'll take it to them, next.

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CUOMO: Be clear about the facts here. The President tweeted the Democrats were making up Russian interference again. He tweeted it. You'll see it.

First, Russia did interfere the last time. It wasn't made up. And it was his own Intel folks that say they are up to it again, helping him, and helping Bernie Sanders. The Democrats didn't make it up.

His people in the Intel agencies went to Congress. It was brought to them. Here's the outrage that the President of the United States wouldn't want Democrats or even Congress for that matter briefed on election interference efforts.

Our investigators, Andrew McCabe, and Mary McCord, are here to discuss.

Look, Jim Comer's in a tough spot, wants to defend the President on something that is hard to defend. But Mary, let's just start on the macro look at this.

The idea of the big shots turning around to their own agencies, and saying, "Listen, you don't just go telling Congress about what anybody is doing interfering in these elections until we get the "It's all clear" from the President that it's OK to do so," impact?

MARY MCCORD, FORMER ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well it's really frightening.

I mean, it's of course routine and - and required that the Intel Communities regularly brief the Intelligence committees on both the House and Senate side. They also regularly brief others within the Administration about threats to our national security, including foreign election interference.

And the thought that there would be any effort to change, or modify, or squash, any information that the Intelligence Community gathers, that's important for the whole of our government to respond to, is a very frightening prospect, and it sounds like a very authoritarian type of government that the Administration is - is seeking here.

CUOMO: The President's defenders, Andrew, say "No, no, no, no, no, no, supposed to tell the President first." How often is that the case?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: So, in some cases, it actually works out that way.

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So, I can tell you that, in my own experience, we used to provide counterintelligence quarterly briefings to the Intelligence committees as a regular and routine matter, meeting our obligation to keep them informed of what was going on.

Before we would provide that briefing to the Committee, we would provide it to the President's Homeland Security Director, and we would provide it to the Director of National Intelligence, simply so they knew what material we were sharing with Congress.

We didn't get any, you know, editorial suggestions "Tell him this" or "Don't tell him that." It was just a matter of keeping everybody coordinated.

But the idea that the President would tell the agencies, agencies who are required to keep Congress informed, required by law to keep Congress informed, of significant Intelligence developments, not to tell them about particular threat streams that the President finds uncomfortable is - it is confounding and it is putting the - putting the President's interests in front of the national security of the country.

CUOMO: Mary, so I was on the phone with a mutual friend of all of ours, today, General Michael Hayden. And he's doing great. And, of course, he was twice as sharp as I am on my best day.

And he said here's the risk to play to what you said is your fear. This is the President installing a political commissar, you know, referring to KGB, communists, Russian instincts, to have someone controlling information, and that him, and the other new guy that they're bringing in from the White House that these guys controlling the information the Intel communities can use will have a chilling effect that will definitely affect national security.

Too heavy-handed?

MCCORD: Well I think he's right about that.

I think, you know, the - the Intelligence Community makes it their - their day-to-day job to be non-partisan, right, and to never be influenced by politics because their job is to assess the Intelligence that's coming in, to analyze it, and to provide that product to policymakers and decision-makers.

And when there is influence on them for political purposes, that throws the entire mission out of whack, and makes it very difficult for them to continue to do their jobs, and certainly without fearing retribution.

Because I think what's so frightening recently in this - in the situation we find ourselves in is that more and more and more we see the President, you know, as part of his narrative of witch-hunt, everything's been a witch-hunt, we now see him taking retribution out, whether it's removing political appointees that are not loyal enough, whether it's attacking, you know, prosecutors, judges, jurors, as in the Stone matter, whether it's removing witnesses who--

CUOMO: Right.

MCCORD: --testified against him in the impeachment proceedings--

CUOMO: I mean, raises the question, is it America first?

MCCORD: --on and on and on.

CUOMO: Or is it Trump first? All right, so then we get to the meat of the matter, Andrew, which is they're trying to help Trump and Bernie Sanders. I don't get it.

MCCABE: So, it goes back to the Russians' most basic principle of these sort of active measures that they execute here in the United States. To Russia, a divided, chaotic, fighting America is infinitely better than a united, focused, committed America, right?

We are their existential enemy. So, they - to the - to the greatest extent that they can sow chaos, and division, and discord here, that is their great - that's their - that's their goal. That's their - that's their biggest objective.

So, in fueling both sides, in further pitting one side against the other, that's the objective they are pursuing.

CUOMO: So--

MCCABE: And can I also just add real quick?

CUOMO: Go ahead, go ahead, Andrew.

MCCABE: So - so the idea that the Russians, through this activity, have actually succeeded in separating the American President from his own Intelligence infrastructure, I mean that is every - that's every Intelligence Officer's greatest dream.

They've actually isolated the President away from those Intelligence professionals who are in a position to give him the best most direct advice on these issues, and he is now compelled to replace those people with political loyalists, that is an incredible coup for the Russians.

CUOMO: Well, you know, you got to look at it from Trump's perspective. If there's election interference, and it's good for him, good. And if there's election interference, and it's bad for him, he doesn't want to hear about it.

MCCABE: That's right.

CUOMO: That's his disposition. And I think when people look at it that way, you'll see why he's doing what he is doing.

Andrew McCabe, Mary McCord, thank you for helping us make sense of it, especially on a Friday night. Be well. All right, so here we are, we're getting into the election, all right? And I don't think that the Democrats understand the reality of what they're up against in November, based on what we've heard so far. And I don't think that Trump's supporters see what's going on in their Great Agent so far as well.

So, I have an argument for both sides, next.

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CUOMO: I'm sitting down for two reasons. One, my hip hurts. And second, I don't want you to think that I'm talking at you. I just want you to hear this out for a second, argument for both sides.

For my Democratic brothers and sisters, you need to see what beat you. Trump told people with legitimate gripes exactly what they wanted to hear.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to Washington and we are going to drain the swamp.

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TRUMP: We got a lot of bad people in that swamp, that swamp, those swamp creatures, they call them, they are all over.

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CUOMO: Yes, they're all over his Administration, and he's proven to be one of the biggest of them. But I'm going to get to that in a second.

Look, Democrats, the frustration is real, in big swipes of this country. The desire to see the players played with dominates everything. Hear every piece of these people's gripes.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're afraid Trump's going to mess up their whole little Club up there. And that's what we need. We need the Club shaken up.

[21:50:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He speaks his mind, and he's not a puppet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This country is so dang political correct. I mean you can say - you can't say any - I mean I'm afraid to say what I really feel.

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CUOMO: Hear them? More importantly, ignore them at your own peril again. They're not asking for a granular plan of how many years and how many dollars over how much time for healthcare. They just want to know that you get that the system does them dirty.

So, when you attack Trump, you have to make sure you're not attacking their anger. That's why that "Deplorables" line hurt Hillary.

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HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You can put half of Trump's supporters into, what I call, the Basket of Deplorables.

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CUOMO: Look, half, whatever, any amount. Trump supporters now literally wear the term as a badge of honor. And look, let's make no mistake. There are hateful folks who see Trump as a champion of their bigoted ideas. But there are so many more who want you to address this.

Government wastes the money, passes laws that players can get around, corrupt with their money and connections to power in this two-tier justice system, policies that they have to pay for, but don't benefit from. Politicians lie, connive, they pick winners and losers, and with the media, they push political correctness to the point of paralysis.

Trump convinced many who feel like that, and there are a lot, that he hates the same things, that he is the system's perfect nemesis, nemesis as defined in the cult classic "Snatch."

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BRICK TOP, "SNATCH" MOVIE CHARACTER: Do you know what "nemesis" means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent.

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CUOMO: It did not end well for them. But, in essence, Trump is payback, and that's what they want.

And no insider therefore can say that what he does is wrong because you do it too, in their opinion. So, everything he does wrong, you do. He's just better at it and open about it. He's playing a game that's all about ugliness, and you're part of that game.

Now, yes, Sanders, Warren, they say they want to attack the system too. But they're politicians, they're insiders, and they're pitching a huge price tag. It will not be easy to convince people that they're not going to somehow have to pay more. It's a challenge.

So Democrats, don't think about attacking Trump's toxicity as enough because, to his people, it's only toxic to you insiders. This is the key.

He or she who can connect with the real upset that's out there, show people that yes, you can mess with what's wrong, like the Donald does, but you can actually deliver that they can win, and win with you, and you'll get a mandate.

Now, my brothers and sisters backing Trump, I don't say Republicans because I know that Trump is bigger than your Party, and that you see Republicans as players on the inside, and part of the problem. I get it.

But you're saying "Did you just suggest that he's not delivering?" Yes, I did. Why? I think you're missing devilry for delivery. You have to look at the real difference between putting America first and putting himself first.

Yes, your man has messed with everything. He's defied the courts and Congress. He has done all the bad things that you think the others do. He's done it bigger and badder, has them crazy, tells them off to their faces like so many of you wish you could.

Badass! But is it better?

Look at just today. His Intelligence choices, the Intel people going to Congress to warn that they need to find ways to stop real Russian interference of our elections, they're trying to Trump - to boost Trump, they're trying to boost Sanders, why? Create chaos.

President hears about it from his boy Nunes, and he starts cleaning house. Whether it's directly connected or tangentially connected, who cares! The idea that he doesn't want Congress to get any more Intelligence like that is frightening.

Be honest! You know they need to know so they can do something about it. It's not just how it plays politically for him. You know it can't be that way. That's not America first.

He thinks Russian interference doesn't play well for him. So, he wants to ignore it, even though it's our election security at stake. Is that better for you? Is Congress getting more done, by the way?

The Great Deal-Maker, has he made any deals with Congress? He's made himself look like a big deal, right? He could beat the system. But he's made no deals that fix the system.

A tax cut for the rich and a deficit you're going to have to pay for with cuts to entitlements he said he wouldn't touch, healthcare, immigration, nothing solved. What happens with four more years?

[21:55:00]

Is being bad making it better? That's the question for the Right. And can a Democrat relate to what is really wrong and show there is a better way to do it right? That's what this election is about. That's my argument.

Next, the BOLO. If you work in the Trump Administration, look out, someone's having their eyes on you.

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CUOMO: BOLO time! That means Be On the Look-Out.

The President's former body-man is now Personnel Chief. John McEntee is there to look for anyone less than loyal to Trump, not to the law or their oath, to Trump. Is that America first?

He's warning cabinet officials, expect staffing changes all over the government, as he finds those who are not on the Trump Train. McEntee will focus first on those working at State and Defense.

Now, it's true, of course, those employees serve at the pleasure of the President. But remember, by law, public servants take an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

So, will that promise be useless with this declaration of war on any perceived dissent? Will those who swore an oath be chilled into silence no matter what they see or hear? My brothers and sisters, Be On the Look-Out.

Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Be On the Look-Out, you ain't seen nothing yet. It's only going to get worse.