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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Trump Pardons Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Charles Kushner & 23 Others; Anthony Scaramucci On Trump Pardons; Millions At Risk Of Losing Unemployment Aid Saturday As Trump Jeopardizes COVID-19 Relief Bill. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 23, 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]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Another night of major breaking news, which continues, so, let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you very much, John.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

We do have breaking news. In 24 hours, just the past 24 hours, this President has vetoed pay for the military, stalled relief for millions of you, and issued the most toxic tally of pardons we have ever seen.

26 new Trump pardons tonight, gifts to many convicted criminals that you know well, who did horrible things. Many admitted it. And then he left to go golf in Florida.

After vetoing pay for the military, after leaving relief in limbo, millions of Americans don't have food for Christmas, let alone money for heat, or gifts, and he knows it. And he doesn't sign the relief bill. And he doesn't veto it. So, he knows nothing will happen.

There is a gift in this moment, and I hope you decide to accept it, once and for all. It is the gift of ultimate clarity about this outgoing President. Democrats, Independents, real Republicans, you all now know, just based on the last 24 hours alone, this guy is the worst ever.

He is the worst President we have ever seen. Period! He has not only proven to be incompetent, but he is indeed truly inhumane.

He has denied the hungry. He has denied our warriors. He has denied a pandemic, and he does not give a damn about anything, but lying about it all and faking his own greatness. That is the truth.

It is demonstrated by everything we have seen. It must be his legacy. And those who have ignored and empowered him, those who have solicited this brand, of his own horrible actions, towards others, are complicit.

He must be remembered as the worst, if only for this alone. And if only this is what we had seen, it would already make him the worst, on top of years of perfidy, of deceit, of lies, of viciousness towards those who need protection consistently.

You literally have seen nothing to feel any other way. And, yet, you do, but no more. This has to be a bottom.

He must be seen as the worst, and we must run away from him, and this type of behavior, as fast as we ever have, collectively, as a country before. Anybody who wants to continue his kind of just crooked ways must be condemned, and early, because this cannot be repeated. That would be a shame on us.

The headliners he pardoned tonight, those who kept their mouths shut, family by extension, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Charles Kushner. That is the father of his son-in-law Jared.

"Law and order!" "The pro-law enforcement President!" Give me a break! He just undid hard work of law enforcement, who made the cases against these crooks.

This country pursued justice against those who did wrong. He just undid it. Not because there are new reckonings in the case, but because it's all about him and saving face.

Both Stone and Manafort were indicted by Special Counsel Bob Mueller. They went to trial. They were convicted by juries of multiple crimes, Stone a long-time ally, and Manafort, his former Campaign Chair.

And Kushner, you may not know about him. But I'll give you the thumbnail. That's all you need to know.

He pleaded guilty to tax evasion and retaliating against a federal witness and lying to the FEC. He was prosecuted in the early 2000s, by then U.S. Attorney, Chris Christie, and then Christie of course became Trump Transition Chair.

"What's so bad about that? It's the guy's, you know, it's the father- in-law, you know, it's his brother - son-in-law's father. I mean, isn't that the right thing?"

[21:05:00]

Kushner is no ordinary white-collar criminal. This man set up his own brother-in-law with a prostitute, and then sent the video to his sister. That is the kind of thing that only Trump would see a pardon available.

He commuted Stone's sentence for obstruction of Congress, threatening a witness, earlier this year, before he was set to surrender. We know why he did it. Roger Stone is many things, but one of them is loyal to those that he sees as on his side. Trump returned the favor.

Manafort has been home, serving confinement, after COVID. But this is no mercy pardon. These are rewards. You notice what Manafort never did, right? Never talked about Trump! Not a word!

Republican Senator Ben Sasse put out a statement tonight calling it all "Rotten to the core."

Welcome to the party, brother. Welcome to the party. Time is over for your delicate dance. Sasse, you've got a great future in your Party. You have a potential future in this country. You should have been saying that all along. And, by the way, Sasse has been one of the most rational.

We now should have clarity. Trump is the worst. We have never seen anything like this, this kind of insensitivity to humanity, this disrespect of justice. He is literally no friend to justice, and he's a President. Think about it.

The pardons have implications, and we will discuss them tonight with some of the best minds in the business. But you have to just keep your eye on the urgency that this President has just ignored.

The man has gone to Florida after blowing up the relief bill. He won't sign it. He stalled it. He did veto pay for troops, so at least Congress can work on overriding it.

But if you're going to do something about the relief bill, you got to do it. Walk the walk. Why didn't you veto the bill? Why didn't you then, if you are not going to veto it, tell McCarthy to meet Pelosi on the floor, and vote it out?

Why didn't you make a deal? Why did you leave? Why did you leave? If you believe in a god, I don't care what your religion is, who does this? By all accounts, you are not working on a deal.

Every day you golf, every day you delay is another day of paralyzing pain in a country that you owe, and you know this. And you won't veto so that there can be some kind of action. You won't tell your minions to meet Pelosi. Why then what is this about? Who did you really do this for? How can the answer not be you?

How can the truth not be that you wanted to look the part of the hero, just when you are trying to undo democracy, even though you know you torpedoed a compromise that has been months in the making that you ignored while your people helped negotiate.

It is the worst thing you could do in this situation. And you made this situation. You ignored this pandemic. You made a bad play.

You thought if you ignored it, it would go away, and the economy would be OK, and you would win, and you were wrong. And you doubled down on dumb. And this time, it bit all of us in the ass. And then you leave, almost assuring no action on the relief.

At least you vetoed the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, so you can set up a possible override. Yes, it's going to pit members of your Party against each other. But you know what? They need to do that anyway. The Republicans have to figure out what the hell they're about anymore.

Are you really just Re-Trump-licans? You seem confused. Well, you should have clarity, too. This man is the worst. He has been terrible for your Party because nobody knows what the hell you are about anymore, and neither do you.

Why did Trump really veto this bill? A lot of people, in his own Party, say "Well it's to show Mitch that Mitch should have helped him more in overturning the election." Can you imagine what it means about where the hell we are in this country that Republicans can say that with sober mind? People are starving!

And what he just did with the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act is even weirder. Why? "Well, he doesn't like this Section 230," this fringe.

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Look, of course we have to figure out what to do when it comes to what's right and wrong on the internet.

And is it really like newspapers or not and the right of a publisher? Are they publishers? We have to work through it, but not this way, not right before Christmas, not when you are going to leave town, not with people starving.

He is the worst we have ever seen. And the only reason you would defend that is because you don't want to give in to the status quo. But what are you saying when you decide to reject the status quo, by making it worse, by injecting the political equivalent of a virus into our political corpus? And that's what Trump is.

He is not a cure. He has never been a cure. He was never going to be a cure. He was injected as a virus to make the system sick, and he has. And now, we are on our knees, in this country.

And the only chance for us to get to a better place is to recognize what we have had all along, the ability to come together, to be about a common cause, and to demand better from the men and women that we invest with power to do our business. If you expect nothing, you get this.

We must change. Let it be a gift to us before this Christmas. He is the worst. We must get better from here.

Now, let's discuss the business at hand. Let's deal with it in a way this President refused. We have Norm Eisen and Andrew McCabe. And we're going to start on the implications of these pardons.

And Norm, I want to start with you because you were part of the impeachment process. And you warned about this all along, that of course Manafort is not going to talk. Of course none of these guys are going to give. They know Trump will take care of them, and he has.

NORM EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION, COUNSEL FOR DEMOCRATS DURING TRUMP IMPEACHMENT, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC: Well Chris, thanks for having me back on the program on this historic night.

You are right to be angry because the Republicans, in the House of Representatives, and in the United States Senate, were presented with overwhelming evidence that this day would come.

This is just another piece in the Trump puzzle of corruption, Chris, of using government to reward himself and his cronies. We talked in the impeachment about abuse of power and about obstruction. And that's what you have now.

With both Stone and Manafort, Special Counsel Robert Mueller laid out the evidence of a quid pro quo, of holding back, of refusing to fully testify, in order to have this day of a pardon from Trump.

So, we are right to be angry. Unfortunately, I wish I could tell you it's the culmination, but I fear that there will be more of this illegality and more of this chaos ahead.

And the last thing I'll tell you is the points you made in your opening are connected. I believe this is part of Trump lashing out.

He knows this is going to hurt Mitch McConnell. It's going to hurt the Republicans. Georgia is a law and order state. This is going to hurt the election in Georgia, the runoff.

He's sending a message, because they've accepted Joe Biden as the President-elect, he's going to punish his Party. It is a new low, and that's saying a lot in the Trump administration.

CUOMO: I mean, look, it's hard to argue otherwise. I'm like pulling my hair out here.

It's hard to argue otherwise because he didn't achieve anything by doing it. You want to give people $2,000, who is going to argue with more, except his own Party, and his own staff that helped negotiate the bill?

But by not vetoing it, you know, there is an exercise that you guys understand in politics called a pocket veto, which is where a president just holds the threat of veto out over you until you change. He's not doing that. He left.

But let's deal with the implications on the pardon side first. Andrew, the problem we see here is who is left to reward? Bannon? Bannon is the only guy who is not on this ugly list of people who do bad things and get away with it. And how can he not pardon Bannon?

Not only is Bannon his boy, who gave him this idea of poison populism, but he is doing, exactly what Trump likes to be doing, right now, apparently, with his own fundraising, which is put money into a vehicle, where you have great discretion, as to what you can do with it.

Bannon found a way, apparently, according to the indictment, to even go beyond what's pretty loose to begin with.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. That's absolutely right, Chris.

Where does he go from here? It's a good question. I think with tonight's pardons, Manafort and Stone, he's basically completed the obstruction of justice that was detailed in the Mueller report.

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So everything - all the Republicans out there, who said "Oh, the Mueller report didn't prove anything," this is the final keystone in that case that they were building for obstruction of justice. The pardons that were dangled have now been delivered.

Where does he go next? Bannon is an obvious possible recipient. Rudy Giuliani, we're told, there has been reporting that Giuliani is interested in a pardon. He certainly probably could use one, as investigations in New York continue to heat up. And there's really no limit.

We've talked about friends and family members, who he thinks he might want to just secure with prospective pardons. There is certainly no limit in terms of the disgrace that this President will subject himself to, to reward his friends and try to punish his enemies.

CUOMO: And both of you, Norm, I'll bounce it to you, but Andrew, speak up as well, if you think of something Norm doesn't say.

Am I wrong? Is it - I can't just be too young. I've been in the business 20 years. I'm 50-years-old. But I don't see - I went back to Clinton. I looked at Obama. I looked at Bush. I looked at Bush Sr. He had a couple of questionable pardons. Obviously, Marc Rich with Clinton.

But in totality, Norm, have you ever seen anybody do this kind of self-serving forgiveness like Trump has? I mean, it has to be the worst. But what am I missing? Who am I leaving out?

EISEN: There is no comparison anywhere in the almost 250-year history of our country to this, Chris. Ford pardoned Nixon. But Ford did it with the best of motives, to help the country. Bush pardoned the - a series - Caspar Weinberger--

CUOMO: Caspar Weinberger.

EISEN: --a series of - a series of others in his administration, but nothing like this.

And to add to what Andy said, what's ahead? Today, we have the pardon of Charlie Kushner. What's ahead I believe will be the pardon of Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, and other members of the Trump family.

Today we have the pardon of Trump cronies. What may very well lie ahead is the pardon of Trump himself, a constitutionally abhorrent self-pardon.

There may very well be serious legal issues. Trump is, even with these pardons, raising the specter of a quid pro quo of new crimes, so the chaos and the illegality is just accelerating.

CUOMO: Norm, thank you. Andrew, give me a quick button. MCCABE: Yes. Come on, Chris. This is - there has never been anything like this.

This guy is actively using the pardon to undermine justice. He's rewarding people who refused to cooperate, refused to provide information, who actively lied to prosecutors and to courts and judges. We have never seen a low like this. Buckle in. We may go lower.

CUOMO: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Norm Eisen, Andrew McCabe, blessings to the families.

Now look, I mean what I say. You got to see the gift in this. This is the worst we've ever seen, just the last 24 hours, the rejection of law and order, the rejection of the poor and the needy in this country. You can't make sense of it.

I know you're all out there, you, Re-Trump-licans and Trumpers saying, "Oh, he wants $2,000. What's wrong with that?" Nothing, if you do something about it. He had a chance, and he didn't. And now he has a chance and he left. How do you see any virtue in this?

What is his end game, or is it really just this fancy for vengeance and punishing everybody? Anthony Scaramucci, with the insider's head on this, next.

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CUOMO: Trump has no bottom. But this must be the bottom for us.

Recognize these last 24 hours are basically what you get when you don't believe in better from the system anymore, when you think integrity is gone, when you think character doesn't matter, that everybody is on the take, and everybody is working for something that doesn't serve your interests. This is where we arrive.

I'm not blaming you. You don't blame the victim. But we have to see it as the bottom, and we have to build back from here, and we have to make sure this never happens again.

And you never allow anybody who even sounds like this guy to do anything in any position of leadership. Why? Because of the hurt, millions hungry in this country, in a way that I've never seen in my lifetime, and he just leaves to play golf?

Kind of a thumb in the eye to McConnell, "Yes, don't help me overturn, eh!" like some chump where he and I grew up. Those guys deserve no respect in that neighborhood, and they don't deserve any respect now.

For those of you who say, "Well Trump's doing the right thing. He's trying to get more money," no, he isn't. He talked the talk. He had a chance to walk the walk. He left. The only people he helped are the worst of people, who are his allies with this wave of new pardons.

What is really his play? Anthony Scaramucci joins me now, obviously in touch with people in and around Trump. There had been people trying to talk sense to him. I guess we got our answer, right?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, FOUNDER, SKYBRIDGE CAPITAL: Yes. No. He doesn't care. He's not listening to any of those people.

But that - those pardons, as shocking as they are, are a precursor to more shocking pardons, so Andrew is going to be right. But the thing that you're the most right about, Chris is the elitism.

Just imagine Americans out there struggling, and they're watching this, and they're saying, "OK, wait a minute. There is a totally different set of rules for these people, totally not what I learned about America, totally not what I learned about our meritocracy. And he's digging in and he's doing it with impunity."

And then the ridiculous part about this, Chris, he's raised a quarter billion dollars off another group of people that have bought into this cultish nonsense and behavior.

But you've got more pardons coming. You've got more egregious behavior coming in the next 28 days. But he knows he's out of there. He's had lunch with friends of mine, who have sat down with him, and basically he's admitted to them that he's out of there.

[21:25:00]

He's making a decision to go to the Inaugural or not. I predict he goes, Chris. I don't see how he misses that. He's an attention hog. He'll try to make it about himself. And so, my guess is he'll end up at the Inaugural, and he'll leave a lot of wreckage.

And I've said this before, and I'll say it on your show. We will likely need a constitutional amendment when this is over.

We haven't had a massive amendment since the Voter Rights Act in 1955. We've had 27 amendments. And you get one every eight years to 10 years. We haven't had a real big one in 55 years. We had one in '93, but it was more administrative.

CUOMO: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: And we're going to need something to check his power, or to check a president, like him, god forbid we get another disaster like this.

CUOMO: Right.

If he goes to the Inauguration, Biden should point at him, and speak to Republicans, and say, "You deserved better than this. He has left your Party in shambles. I know the GOP. I know Republicans. I know what they're about at their best, and I will be there for you, in restoring those virtues" that would point at his ass the whole time!

So, in terms of who he just pardoned and what he pardoned--

SCARAMUCCI: Well maybe - maybe he'll do.

CUOMO: No, I don't think Biden will do that because he's better than I am.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes.

CUOMO: And he's going to be a conciliator, and he's going to try to move past it, and the best way to do that is to ignore someone like Trump.

SCARAMUCCI: Or sometimes you need people like you and me though, Chris. Sometimes you need people like you and me to get in there, and tell the truth, and rough people up like this. This guy is a disaster.

CUOMO: This guy--

SCARAMUCCI: And he's really hurt the country. It's not just the Republicans, Chris that he's hurt. He's hurt the entire country, and he stained us, in terms of our perception, the way people perceive us around the world.

CUOMO: He has proven himself in just the last 24 hours to be the worst. And for context on that, Chris Christie prosecuted Charles Kushner, OK? His crimes, the felonies, are garden-variety. The man is not.

This isn't me passing judgment. Listen to Chris Christie talk about what this President just used his ultimate power to pardon.

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CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I just think that it was so obvious he had to be prosecuted that I mean if a guy hires a prostitute, to seduce his brother-in-law, and videotapes it, and then sends the videotape to his sister, to attempt to intimidate her from testifying before a grand jury, do I really need any more justification than that?

I mean, it's one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted when I was U.S. Attorney. And I was U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, Margaret, so we had some loathsome and disgusting crime going on there.

But I just laid out the facts. And any objective person who looks at the facts knows, confronted with those facts, I had a moral and an ethical obligation to bring that prosecution.

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CUOMO: I mean, just on this one case alone - that's an interview there with Margaret Hoover, we all know over here at CNN, "Firing Line" on PBS.

The - how could you - let's say you were back in the box and you have to defend this pardon. How do you defend it?

SCARAMUCCI: No. You would do everything you can, not to get on television. You would try to avoid reporters and you would hide, blame it on the Christmas holiday. I mean, that's all you could do.

He's got a few people I guess that will defend it, and say that these people are unfairly treated, and they go into all that conspiracy and the scam and so on and so forth.

But one thing that Governor Christie would say here, I don't want to necessarily speak for him, but I know him reasonably well, is that the whole thing with Donald Trump has been transactional.

I think even people like Governor Christie that were trying to be good Republicans, and supported him, even did debate prep with him, a few months ago, started to really just recognize that the whole thing is transactional.

He'll turn on Christie. He'll turn on Mike Pence. He'll turn on anybody in his path, Senator McConnell.

CUOMO: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: The whole thing is just transactionally disgusting, Chris.

CUOMO: The only problem with the analogy, I don't disagree with it, but that's an OK explanation for a pit viper. It is not an explanation for a human being. Human beings have sensitivity unless they're sociopaths.

This man just turned his back on the most profound need we've seen in this country in a generation. He is now at a place of leisure, where they don't want him, by the way, in the community. But he's golfing while leaving in limbo relief for the worst hunger we've had in a generation.

Anthony Scaramucci, I know how close it is to Christmas. I know how important Christmas Eve is to you and your family. Thank you for making time for me. Blessings to you and the family.

SCARAMUCCI: Merry Christmas.

CUOMO: Give a hug to D.

SCARAMUCCI: Right. Good to be here, Chris.

CUOMO: And the best to your mother and thank you. God bless. SCARAMUCCI: Thank you.

CUOMO: It's not easy to get people to come on. This is our last show. This is going to be a different Christmas. I'm going to talk to you about it, at the end of the show, why this is such a different Christmas for me.

And I got to be careful because the combination of what I'm seeing happen right now, and not having the power to do anything about it, except praying on your mercy, to demand better than this.

I don't know what else to do. I have never seen anybody do this. I've never seen anybody abandon people in need like this before, ever.

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We are now going to be on the verge of a government shutdown. They only bought themselves a few days. A government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic with millions starving, and the delayed - I mean the excuse for relief in the first place that they delayed months, and now our President does this?

Where are we going to go? What is Congress going to do? We have two of the leaders that helped make the deal that Trump just threw into limbo. We have a Democrat and a Republican. Is there a chance of getting to a good place now? Next.

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CUOMO: You know the reality. America is in the depths of crisis, the like of which we have never seen.

This COVID catastrophe, of course we've been through the Great Depression, of course we've been through war, but I'm talking about in modern history. We've never dealt with anything like this pandemic. And now we have these attendant economic problems that we seem to just pretend don't exist because of the stock market.

The growing disaster, the need for relief has now been made worse by the person who was supposed to put it first as a priority. "America First" said Trump, and now he has left to golf. What will Congress do with this limbo?

[21:35:00] Let's bring in the Co-Chairs of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, Congressmen Josh Gottheimer, and Tom Reed.

Gentlemen, good to see you both.

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Good to see you.

REP. TOM REED (R-NY): Good to be with you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, so let's deal with motivations here, then, understand the state of play, and then what you can do.

So, first question to you, Tom. I do not bring you here as a Re-Trump- lican. I do not see you as that. You work for your Party's priorities, and you always have Western New York. I know you. You have my respect.

REED: Yes.

CUOMO: Do you believe that this is just a symbol by Trump, a thumb in the eye to McConnell that you don't pretend to work me over, and ignore my wants, and get away with it, and that he will leave this bill alone and eventually sign it? What's your thinking?

REED: Well, first of all, I mean, obviously, this caught everybody blindsided in regards to the decision. We thought we had this deal done. But we're not going to give up.

And as to why the President did this, we're still trying to figure that out. He's raised concern with other parts of the bill that have nothing to do with COVID-19 stimulus relief. And I will just tell you, we're going to continue to work at it.

Josh and I have been working since yesterday and the Problem Solvers Caucus had a meeting till midnight last night. We're focused on delivering for the American people. And we're going to continue to move forward, regardless of the motivation as to how we got here.

I've been in D.C. now for 10 years. And all, I got to tell you is, I keep just putting the people's priority first. And whatever happens, I just keep focused, eye on the prize, deliver this for the American people.

CUOMO: Have you guys reached out, Tom, to the President, and said, "Don't do this. Not this way. Your guys were at the table, Mr. President. You may not have been paying attention, but your staff was here. They negotiated all of this. The omnibus spending bill, if you didn't like it, you should have spoke up sooner. Now is not the time."

January 3rd, you guys are all scratch because there's - the new Congress comes in. Does he know this?

REED: I have delivered, through our relationships, and people we've been working at, behind the scenes, for the last nine months, on this deal, to express that frustration, and that we need to focus on the American people, who are suffering, and that we did this deal. We negotiated in good faith. But that's one of the problems, so Chris that we're also trying to change in the Problem Solvers Caucus. Jamming all this legislation--

CUOMO: Yes.

REED: --to the end of the year, shame on Congress that we're always doing this. And that's what--

CUOMO: Yes.

REED: --we're trying to change in the Problem Solvers Caucus--

CUOMO: Yes.

REED: --together.

CUOMO: Now, tonight is not the night. But I invite you both back on to talk about two things.

One, you can't have a Four Corners strategy anymore. It can't just be the Republicans, you know, the leadership on one side and the minority on the other side.

They do everything, and you guys chirp, and they pretend to listen to you, and then they dump a 6,000-page bill on your lap, and you don't have any time to deal with it. You got to get rid of that.

REED: Yes.

CUOMO: You got to get rid of non-transparent earmarks. I want to know and I want days to review your fish-feeding thing, or your bridge, or whatever it is that's going to be in an omnibus bill. You have earmarks, but they're not transparent.

But not tonight for that. But I'm on it. I'm thinking about it. Our team will be on it.

Josh, $2,000 for families, "Yay!" say the Democrats. Where was that idea sooner from Trump? Pelosi was pushing very hard to know where the President was on it. They wouldn't say where he was on it. Wasn't all this done in full view of his own staff?

GOTTHEIMER: They were at the table. I mean what's so frustrating about this, as Tom was just talking about, we worked for months on this, Democrats and Republicans, and not just in the House but in the Senate, too. We had a deal. Secretary Mnuchin was at the table.

And what's unbelievable, as you just pointed out, and you got 322,000 people, who have died. You've got people who are in food lines for the very first time. 30 percent of small businesses in New Jersey have gone out.

And now you're going to put a big lump of coal, in people's stockings for Christmas, go to Mar-a-Lago, and we have to actually get this done. People can't afford for us to wait weeks. And it was done. It's just sitting there for him to sign. And what we

need right now is just to take a breath, deliver the bill, sign the bill, and deliver relief for the American people.

CUOMO: Well or he has to veto it, and then you guys can quickly move, and overcome it, or you want to cut something. Has any word come to you, Josh that any Republican leadership has been told to meet Pelosi for a unanimous consent?

GOTTHEIMER: Well, as you know, we're going to be introducing a motion for unanimous consent on the $2,000. If that's what the President would like, we'll surely put up more resources.

That's part of our package, as it is, as you know, direct resources, in addition to unemployment increase, and support for small businesses, and food and aid to our schools, and getting out the vaccines. It's all part of this bipartisan package.

So, if it's about more resources, directly to people, of course we're there. And I hope the other side will be there. Tom and I actually got behind putting direct resources to Americans, and got on legislation early. That's something that's important to us. So, if that's what this takes, then let's get it done.

But the idea that we will do nothing right now, you've got 14 million people, who will go off unemployment, on the day after Christmas. People are going to be evicted from their homes. So, we've got to act this.

CUOMO: Yes.

GOTTHEIMER: And if he - if it's more resources, let's just do it.

CUOMO: And the government is going to shut down.

But Tom, have you heard any word about Trump pushing you guys to meet Pelosi on the floor?

[21:40:00]

REED: Well I think, you know, we had a discussion, I think, there is going to be an exchange tomorrow, on the unanimous consent, to try to raise the cash, the $2,000.

And Josh is right. We talked about that, and I agree with him in direct payments. However, what we would see then is the counter response to that, as we put this deal together.

When you talk about direct payments, then you're going to have to have a conversation about unemployment benefits going up $300 per person, because if they're getting $2,000 direct payments, on top of the $300, then people rightfully on our side would be arguing "Well then the unemployment benefit doesn't have to be as high as $300 increased a week."

And that's why this deal needs to stay together because this is months of negotiation, and we have found the sweet-spot. We found where common ground can be reached. And that is why we should move forward with it.

And if we want to have a conversation about increased checks, that really should be a separate issue. And let's just deliver what we can agree upon today. Get it to the American people. Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good, and move forward, and get it done, because it's ready to go.

CUOMO: What do you say to members of your Party, Tom, give me a quick answer on this, who say, "Trump is a hero for doing this?"

REED: I say look at the big picture. Look at what we have done on the COVID stimulus relief.

Don't mix the two together. They're mixing a lot of the omni spending bill and a lot of those issues on foreign aid. That isn't part of the relief bill that COVID is. That has nothing to do with the COVID relief.

There is no given money to Sudan. There is no money going to foreign countries in exchange for what's going to Americans, under the relief bill. These are completely separate issues. And keep them separate. Don't mix it up. Don't confuse people.

Read the bill, study the bill, when it comes to the relief bill, that's been out there, and have been negotiated for months. We put this bill together with bipartisan group in the Senate. That legislative text has been out there.

CUOMO: Josh, Tom, you know I'm always a phone call away, Josh Gottheimer, and Tom Reed. If you can let me know what's going, so I can get people to know where the virtues are, in all this, let me know and we'll go, all right?

GOTTHEIMER: Thanks, Chris.

REED: Yes.

CUOMO: Good luck with your work going forward. I hope business changes for you guys because we just can't get to a better place this way. Be well.

GOTTHEIMER: Glad to hear this.

REED: Time to put - time to put the American people first all the time, Chris. No doubt about it.

CUOMO: All right. And look, Trump says the same thing. "I'll always be fighting for you."

How are you fighting if you are in Mar-a-Lago? What message do you think that sends? How are you a hero in this? What if they do give them more money? Why didn't you fight for this, months ago?

It's still a delay we didn't need, even if they raised the money now. It still wasn't done the right way. And that's not nitpicking. And if you think it is, ask some of the people on those food lines, whether or not they had days to play with.

And my next guest argues that this President has actually done the Republicans a favor by dividing his Party. Why? Tom Friedman. If Friedman can put wisdom in context to this in a way that doesn't make my hair fall out, it is a Christmas gift to me for sure. Next.

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CUOMO: All right, let's bring in Tom Friedman, "New York Times" genius, sage of the country, helping us understand ourselves, especially in a time of crisis, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," one of his many offerings to our collective intellect.

Tom, I hope the Festival of Lights was good for the family. I wish you the best for the New Year.

TOM FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES, AUTHOR, "HOT, FLAT, AND CROWDED": It was.

CUOMO: And my suggestion is the last 24 hours alone have been a clear illustration and a condemnation of this President as the worst I have ever seen in the office. Your thoughts?

FRIEDMAN: Chris, right now, we actually don't have a President because a real leader, what would he be doing right now?

Well, first of all, he'd be galvanizing the national security establishment to respond to the greatest - what may be the greater cyber-attack on our country ever, number one.

And number two, he'd be galvanizing the Congress to get the best most efficient stimulus possible.

And, three, he would be basically leading the country to wear a mask, do absolutely the wisest, smartest, hardest things, as we head into a January, which could give us more Coronavirus than any time since this began.

That's what a real leader would do. What we have is a guy who's really just indulging his appetites, his immorality, and his obsessions. CUOMO: He is the worst. Period!

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

CUOMO: I have always gone on the analytical nature of what the facts are before us. The facts are now clear. And I'm hoping that the gift, in this, for people, at this time of year, is clarity on this, for Republicans, most of all. You are better than this guy, and what he's doing.

I mean, just to be clear, let's say they go back to the table before January 3rd, and they give more money to families, great, great.

Still, I don't see how that's a win for Trump when he could have made moves, for months, and didn't, on purpose, because he was focusing on making moves for himself, most recently, in attacking our democracy. This is not the way he needed to get to where we need to be.

FRIEDMAN: When you're talking about spending a trillion dollars, or much more than that, I mean, you really want to do this in a thought- out, you know, well-planned way, trying to understand all the tradeoffs. That's what the Problem Solvers Caucus was doing.

Now, if we can get to a bigger number, and it works for everybody, but the idea of trying to scramble to do that, over Christmas, you know, good luck, I hope it works. I hope people are hurting as much as they can get.

CUOMO: How do we get better? I was talking with those guys, maybe a little bit too in the weeds.

[21:50:00]

But transparent earmarks, meaning you know what Members of Congress want to put in the bill, so there's not just 5,000 pages, you know, with five hours to read it, everything is always hidden in it, that would be a good thing, and obviously not having just the leadership negotiate things, you know, have it be more in front of the American people.

But culturally, my hope is that this guy has taken us so low that we see the danger in it. But I guess there is just as good a chance as there'll be copycats. How do you see it?

FRIEDMAN: Well Chris, that's what I wrote about in my column today. Trump is stressing out the Republican Party.

He has drawn a clear fracture in it, after this election, between what I call principled Republicans, people who stood with the Constitution, respected and defended Joe Biden's victory, and the unprincipled Republicans, who basically indulged the President's, fraudulent claims of fraud. So, there is a fracture there.

And if you look at some of these states that fracture is becoming very wide. Frankly, I hope it blows up the Party. I hope that basically the decent, the disciplined, the professional Republicans, people who basically respect the rule of law, will break off and create a principled conservative party.

We need a principled conservative party, a principled center-Right party that can collaborate with a principled center-Left party. I think Biden is that. That's what he represents.

And what you saw in the Problem Solvers Caucus, in the House, and in their sort of parallel group in the Senate, was actually that group.

A small group of Republicans, a bigger group of Democrats, who came together, around the center, and they did it from the bottom-up. It was not from the top-down. They did it from the bottom-up. And that's how we get big, hard things done.

Now, what's going to happen when Trump is out of power is he's going to keep hammering on this Party. He is going to keep stressing that Republican Party. "Follow me. Don't collaborate. Do this. Do that."

And I think people in that Party have to ask "Do you want to spend the next four years, hiding from him, afraid to answer to reporters?"

Or are you - are you going to break-off, basically, you know, because Chris, if just a few of them, if you just got like three senators, and 20 congressmen, who split off, and created a kind of center-balance between the center-Left and center-Right, they'd be kingmakers for the country.

So, that's my hope. That's what I want from Santa for Christmas because that is the only way we can get big, hard things done.

I think we have the potential here because I think Trump's gift to the country is he is going to blow up what has become a Trump cult, and actually get some principled conservatives to start a principled conservative party. What a blessing that would be for the New Year.

CUOMO: And what extraordinary power in the hands of a few it would be because they would be able to balance the scales. You'd have Left and Right, and then those determined on being reasonable.

Tom Friedman?

FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

CUOMO: I hope you appreciate who you are to this country right now because this is a time that's going to be remembered, and you are somebody who will stand out, as someone who spoke reason in the darkness. Thank you very much for being on this show.

FRIEDMAN: Means a lot Chris. Thanks very much for having me all year.

CUOMO: All right, I have a special message, for you, about a Christmas that is absolutely going to have to be different, next.

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CUOMO: Christmas has to mean more this year. We're all so hungry, too many, literally millions.

But those who are blessed with enough to sustain, we're yearning as well, yearning for better, for good news, for good views, outside our homes, and pods, for a chance to dream of non-nightmare scenarios, and yes, for a society that is something better and sweeter than what it is today, something that's not just against itself, but for something that matters.

We are in hard times. These will be the days that generations to come will read about, and we will be defined by them, and our actions and inactions in this moment.

I've never had a year like this personally. COVID shook me up physically, emotionally, made me re-think a lot of things that basement became not just a hospital room, but a crucible for my body and my mind.

I came out different. I think differently. I prioritize differently, I love differently. I live differently. Being taken down, the way I was, changed how I was when I got back up.

In fact, I'm doing something I've never wanted to do before, which is I'm going to write a book about the denial that I dealt with, in myself, and what was going on with me and my life that I saw echoed in these other echelons of society that the denial we were in as a people.

How susceptible we were to this pandemic? Why it hurt us so badly? Why it continues to? And what it means about us and our government? And we have to see a way better than this. We have to, because we can't live like this.

My hope is that we see that this house is divided and, as such, can no longer stand. Let Trump be our bottom. He is the worst. Don't let it be an echo effect. Don't let it be about copycats that try to grab the same Zeitgeist.

He, like COVID, was a virus inserted into a body to make it sick, and he has made us sick. Now the question is how will we get back up? We will survive him. We will survive all of this. But how?

We got to build back trust, by listening to those who are in pain. White, Brown, Black, Green, Yellow, whatever color, whatever creed, you have to listen. You have to respect pain where you find it.

Everybody is entitled to their own feelings. And you got to hold those in power to do our bidding. You have to expect more, and expect better. Even though it hurts to be disappointed, we have to.

My toughest year, which was this year, because I've been so lucky, in my life, it was made from toughest to best, in my business, because of you. You did for me what I'm asking you to do for each other.

You saw that I was down. And even if you hadn't liked me before, you decided to like me then, because you felt I needed it. You encouraged me.

And then when I was getting back up, you'd counsel me. If you liked what I said, if you didn't like it, if I was focusing on the right things, if I wasn't, you were trying to push me, to get not just better physically, but better at what I do, and I will never forget the gift in that.

And nobody will ever outwork me to do right by what opportunity you've given me. I just hope we do the same for each other. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Let's get after it.

Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with the upgrade, Laura Coates, in for D. Lemon--