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Cuomo Prime Time

Interview With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NY 14th Congressional District Democratic Candidate; Mendocino Complex Fire; Representative Collins Indicted on Insider Trading Charges; Trump Blames CA Wildfires on Bad Environmental Laws. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 08, 2018 - 21:00   ET


[20:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Thank you, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Several key races are still being counted. President Trump says it is a red wave, all caps. A lot of the voting, though, suggests he may be colorblind to Democrats.

Now, when I say Democrats, we need to be more specific. The far left progressive Bernie Sanders and star acolyte Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party did not do as well, as men and especially women who ran as more traditional Democrats. Ocasio-Cortez is here to make her case to you.

And another Trump buddy in trouble. Congressman Chris Collins indicted for insider trading. The prosecutor suggests a slam dunk. But wait until you hear Collins' rebuttal. We will debate the case.

And Trump's legal team has laid out the terms for a Mueller sit-down. What they want and what happens next.

It's hump day. What do you say? Let's get after it.


CUOMO: Fair to say yes, Republicans could be in trouble in November. Why? Because that Ohio race, no matter who wins, was way too close for a ruby red district.

And fact check: No, Hillary Clinton did not win that district. She won a big county that is partly in the district. But Trump won the district handily. And no, Obama didn't win the district either in 2012. Romney did. Those are the facts.

So, this close of a race in that district that the GOP has held for almost the last four decades straight is significant. Now, that said, the Democrats who won last night and who did well were largely women and traditional Democrats. Not the lefties that Bernie Sanders and acolyte Ocasio-Cortez backed.

What does that mean? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York congressional Democratic candidate, joins us now.


CANDIDATE: Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: All right. So, let's talk about last night and then let's discuss the way forward from there. Mixed results. You went two for five with the people you backed for congressional seats.

How do you see that mixed result?

CORTEZ: I -- you know, I feel very good about it because I think what we need to realize is that -- I mean, I come from things as an organizer and for my organizer head on. So, there are some races that we go in because they're winnable. There are some races we go in because it's really important to build power and to really kind of sway the issues.

So, I feel very confident. I think that even with the gubernatorial race, we are building our bench. We had a 33-year-old candidate that could have very well been the first Muslim governor in America.

CUOMO: El-Sayed.

CORTEZ: But, you know, he cut his teeth on an amazing race. Yes, exactly, Abdul El-Sayed. He cut his teeth on an amazing race.

We got Rashida Tlaib, first Muslim woman ever in Congress. So I'm feeling really good and I think we've moved the needle forward in the fight for social and economic dignity in the United States.

CUOMO: So, you have organizational issues and then you're going to have substantive issues in terms of policy.

Let's start with the organizational. Let me ask you something. Whom do you believe to be the head of the Democratic Party?

CORTEZ: Well, I don't think that there is any one head. You know, we are a collected. This is a movement and I don't think parties are ever about one person, but there are about how the contributions that each one person gives to the party.

So, I think that there are really exciting folks in the party, certainly folks that I look forward to working with. And, you know, I don't think that it's about their being one -- a party being about one person.

CUOMO: I believe you, although it is vague and I've also believed intentionally so. If you are to be successful in the general, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but if you win, and you go to Congress, there will be a leader of your caucus. Her name is Nancy Pelosi.

Do you recognize her as the leader for the House Democrats?

CORTEZ: Of course. Well, I think absolutely right now, you know, she --

CUOMO: Go ahead please.

CORTEZ: She is - she is the leader of -- I mean, Speaker, rather Leader Pelosi hopefully, you know, we'll see -- she's the current leader of the party and I think that the party absolutely does have its leadership in the House. We have our leadership in the Senate as well.

CUOMO: Would you back Pelosi for speaker if you win and are in the House?

CORTEZ: Well, I think, again, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves as you mentioned. I got to win my race first. But we've got to take a look at what's going on. We've got to take a look at winning the House back in November and then once the House is won, we have to make that decision from there.

You know, I think it's not about a referendum on any one person but it needs to be a referendum of where we are at as a team, as a collective, as people who are interested in advancing the economic and social issues in America.

CUOMO: I see with candidates in your party that the Republicans are pressing them about where they stand with Pelosi. Now you can say that's a red herring. It's a distraction but they're doing it.

And we saw one of your guys Welder who I had on this show, he didn't wind up winning, but he was pressed about Pelosi. And he did a little bit of a dance on it. You know, I'm here, I'm not there. I won't vote with her all the time.

What's that about?

CORTEZ: You know, I think it is like that red herring, where the more time we spend, kind of, debating any one individual person or figure is less time that we spend talking about Medicare for all, tuition- free public college and Green New Deal.

So, you know, I think that what we really need to do is have discipline on winning back the House. We need to spend a lot more time talking about the issues that Americans care about and the issues that are going to get more money in the average Americans pocketbook. And less money spent on totally expensive healthcare and education.

CUOMO: So, you go from the organizational structure of who are our bosses to the substantive.

Now, Emily's List, which you are very well aware of, they put out an organization that said, we want to promote women being in politics. They've done very well and, in fact, some of their candidates beat some of the candidates that you backed and you went out and celebrated one of them and say "good for you for winning".

Now, if you look at those and look --


CUOMO: -- look beyond gender. We talk about getting ahead of ourselves, we should be focusing on gender very much but they won.

And if you look at why the women won, almost to a person, they were much closer to the center and the traditional Democratic views than what we're seeing with some of the other new crops, you included.

Do you think that that is a reflection about how much change your party can take and how soon? That more of those candidates are winning because they're hewing more closely to traditional Democratic standards.

CORTEZ: Well, I think you have to take a look at two things, where the American people are at and then also what wins campaigns. And it's no secret that while grassroots campaigns absolutely are -- have their place and are very strong in voter turn out when they are able to turn out voters, money does win elections. And so, when you have, you know, PAC groups that are able to pour in half a million to a million dollars per race, that absolutely makes an impact.

However, nothing changes the fact that the majority of Americans believe and approve of Medicare for all, single payer healthcare. Seventy-four percent of Democrats believe in Medicare for all.

So, I think that the electorate and the American people are very clear about what they value and what they want but at the same time, we do live in an environment where money and unlimited money wins a lot of elections. And so, when you have organizations that are able to, you know, write a blank check, that absolutely has an impact on races. But I think what we do know is that the -- we are winning really hearts and minds and we are winning an American consensus on where we are going for our future.

CUOMO: You know, there's that expression in journalism that the truth -- you know, democracy dies in darkness. You need the light of truth.

Dies in dark money also. If you get dark money out and you can't --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, that's absolutely right.

CUOMO: -- because the Supreme Court was really clear on it and I'll have to see if this court sees it any differently. I'm not sure that it would.

Dark money, 100 percent. That is a non-partisan issue.

Then you get into the partisan issue of money which is, man, do you want to spend a lot of my tax money on these proposals that you and Bernie and others have? Medicare for all, college tuition, maybe even housing that the Green New Deal that you have, it is all very expensive especially on the single payer side, and that it gives people sticker shock -- even in Bernie's home state, they got sticker shock.

They couldn't get it done in his state because of how expensive it is. And that was an 11 percent increase in taxes, 9 to 11 percent. Even that was too much for people.

How do you pay? How do you sell it?

CORTEZ: So, first of all, the thing that we need to realize is people talk about the sticker shock of Medicare for all. They do not talk about the sticker shock of our -- of the cost of our existing system.

You know in a Koch Brothers-funded, you know, study, if any study's going to try to be a little bit slanted, it would be one funded by the Koch brothers. It shows that Medicare for all is actually much more -- is actually much cheaper than the current system that we pay right now.

And let's not forget that the reason that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act is because they ruled that each of these monthly payments that everyday American make is a tax. And so, while it may not seem like we pay that tax on April 15th, we pay it every single month or we do pay at tax season if we don't buy, you know, these plans off of the exchange.

So, we're paying for this system. We -- Americans have the sticker shock of healthcare as it is, and what we're also not talking about is, why aren't we incorporating the cost of all the funeral expenses of those who died because they can't afford access to healthcare? That is part of the cost of our system.

Why don't we talk about the cost of reduced productivity because of people who need to go on disability, because of people who are not able to participate in our economy because they have -- because they are having issues like diabetes or they don't have access to the healthcare that they need?

I think at the end of the day, we see that this is not a pipedream. Every other developed nation in the world does this, why can't America? And that is the question that we need to ask.

We have done these things before. We write unlimited blank checks for war. We write a $2 trillion -- we just wrote a $2 trillion check for that tax cut, the GOP tax cut, and nobody asked those folks how are they going to pay for it. So, my question is why is it that our pockets are only empty when it comes to education and healthcare for our kids? Why are our pockets only empty when we talk about over 100 percent renewable energy is going to save this planet and allow our children to thrive?

We only have empty pockets when it comes to the morally right things to do. But when it comes to tax cuts for billionaires and when it comes to unlimited war, we seem to be able to be -- to invent that money very easily.

And to me, it belies a lack of moral priorities that people have right now, especially the Republican Party.

CUOMO: And that's why there are elections. They have consequences. You will make your argument. And we'll see if the people like it better than the other side because there is a stark difference.

And I make you another promise. This is a quick interview. We have a lot of time going forward before your race. You're invited back on. We'll go one issue at a time, whenever you want.

CORTEZ: Thank you so much. I'd love that.

CUOMO: Appreciate you taking the opportunity and be well.

CORTEZ: Of course. You as well.

CUOMO: All right. And we offer that opportunity to whoever her opponent winds up being. And really, we're going to do it with races across the country.

Come on, let's have the discussion. We'll disagree with decency where called for and try to find common ground.

Now, the state of play changed a little bit today. Democrats may have a better chance to flip an additional seat in Congress than just 24 hours ago. Republican Congressman Chris Collins was indicted and arrested today. But Collins is firing back tonight.

We're going to weigh both sides of this case, in "Cuomo's Court", next.


CUOMO: All right. Two cases on tonight's docket. Donald Trump's very first supporter in Congress arrested by the FBI today and charged with insider trading by a Trump-appointed prosecutor.

And the second case, the Trump team made a counteroffer to Mueller for an interview that we understand greatly limits the scope and number of questions for the president. Will he accept? What if he doesn't?

Norm Eisen and Ross Garber are here to get it on.

First case, Norm, you play prosecutor. Chris Collins came out and said that these charges are completely without any merit. Meritless, he said. Because he didn't sell his shares, as we see in the indictment.

So what did he do wrong?

NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Chris, thanks for having me back, your honor, In "Cuomo's Court". There's a long tradition in American law that you commit insider trading when you have inside information and Representative Collins had that. He got a call at the White House congressional picnic, an e-mail, that this company's drug had failed, and he called his son and told him, as alleged in the complaint, to unload the stock. That's insider trading.

CUOMO: Hold on, hold on. Look at Ross getting that big smile on his face when you said that.

All right. So, let me bounce it over to you. Norm is right that the indictment does say that Collins got the information at a trial, that he was at a picnic, and then there was a series of missed calls and a received call that went some six-plus minutes with his son. ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right.

CUOMO: But what do we know about that call? Ross?

GARBER: Yes, that's just it. So, so far, what we know is -- you know, I'll concede the timing looks awful for the congressman. But we don't have tapes. We don't have consensual recordings, and we don't have that kind of proof about what exactly happened on that call.

And here's what's important about it. One is, did he disclose this information? But two, and this is something my colleague hasn't yet addressed. It's the state of mind. So what's going to matter is what was in the state of mind of the congressman and the state of mind of his son during that call and afterward.

CUOMO: All right. So, now, bad fact for Ross, bouncing it back to you, Norm, is what happened after that phone call. What is the timing and what are the actions that the son took after that call?

EISEN: The son had an enormous position in innate immunotherapies which he unloaded in a long series of trades just in time to save himself from being financially wiped out. It's not one, it's not two, it's trade after trade after trade that he was making.

And not just that, Chris. He gave that information -- the complaint alleges, the charge is -- he gave that information, the indictment says, to others. And they're involved in this too. And they were able to escape losses.

And the unfairness of it, it asks a lot to say, oh, it's a coincidence that all of these people unloaded their positions, they got out unscathed, whereas other people were wiped out when this trial was revealed, stock dropped 90 percent.

CUOMO: Including Chris Collins, which he's depending on very hard.

Ross, last point on this one. In doing my research for this, usually an insider trading case is tough to make if you don't have a pattern. They wait. They start to get suspicious of somebody. The SEC is involved, and they start to track you and they watch. If you do it once, you do it again.

GARBER: That's right.

CUOMO: Here, they're doing it basically from the indictment on this one transaction. But the principle of indirect benefit is going to loom large, that even if Collins didn't sell, he helped his son and his son helped others and that's all on Congressman Chris Collins.

Your point?

GARBER: Yes, I think one of the defenses you might hear, and I watched the congressman's press conference tonight, is that he cared so deeply, so deeply about this drug that he was so disappointed with the result that he wound up calling his family member and talked to his family member, talked to his son about how disappointed he was in this result.

CUOMO: Did he have a duty?

GARBER: And he didn't intend for his son --

CUOMO: Did he have a duty?

GARBER: No, the duty -- he probably has a duty to not tell his son. Whether he knew about it, that's a different matter. But I think what it's going to come down to perhaps is, did he intend for his son to trade and did his son know that this was insider information?

So, a lot's going to depend on what's in these guys' heads when they're talking about it.

CUOMO: Right.

GARBER: And that we don't know yet.

CUOMO: The son sold, Norm, before the findings about the failed trial came out. That's a bad fact. Of course, this is going to be the state of mind game that Ross is talking about here. You only have two people in the equation, maybe. We have to find out about all these other people that were in the mix and what they knew.

All right. Let's leave that case there until we get more facts.

Norm, the Trump team, they put a deal back to Mueller. Hey, you want an interview, let's do it. The Trump team believes if you limit the questions, if you limit the scope and you limit the manner with how you talk to this president, in the interview, you can have -- you can have an interview.

If not, you get nothing. Time is on our side. Because you're going to be fighting in court for six months to a year over your subpoena and you only really have great ground, high ground, when it comes to collusion, not obstruction, because he was already president and then he's going to have limited immunity and you're going to have to make a special showing, and it's going to be tough for you. So give us what we want.

What do you say if you're on the Mueller team?

EISEN: Well, I know Bob. I've worked with him. I've worked against him.

He's already said what he's going to do, Chris. He was not playing when he told the president's lawyers that he will seek a subpoena. There's precedent for that in the Clinton case, for example, when Clinton balked not as badly as this.

Giuliani tipped his hand today, Chris, when he said, yes, we'll answer questions. This is his offer. We'll answer questions. Only if they don't create a risk of perjury, he called it, a perjury trap. But he's saying basically, we'll only answer questions if there's no exposure for the president if he lies. There's no such question that Bob Mueller is going to agree to. Of

course, he's going to proceed.

And I'll tell you right now, that I've done an analysis. I've written a lot about the law. I think that in the end of the day, given the overwhelming evidence here, the U.S. v. Nixon precedent, similar but not identical, that the president's going to be forced to appear tore a testimony under a Mueller subpoena eventually.

The time hurts the president because this cloud and the drama that's going to hang over him in the midterm elections and beyond. Time is on Mueller's side, not President Trump's.

CUOMO: Ross, weigh in on that.

GARBER: Yes, yes. So, you've got two good guests here tonight. You've got my colleague, who's worked with Mueller, and I've represented a lot of public officials, including in impeachment cases.

And I will tell you this. I think it is incredibly unlikely, vanishingly unlikely that the president is going to sit for an interview or testimony. And I'll also tell you, there's nothing that special counsel Mueller can do to force him, because normally what happens is that if you get a subpoena to testify before a grand jury and you don't show up, the prosecutor can go to court and a court can order that you be held in custody unless and until he actually testified. That's what happens.

I am telling you, no court in this land is going to order that the president be taken into custody until he testifies.

CUOMO: Ross, interesting points. Thank you very much.

Norm Eisen, value added as always.

Appreciate, it gentlemen. I did have the right guests. It's good to my team.

GARBER: Thanks for having us.

CUOMO: All right. So, here's a fact for you. California is burning. OK? That Mendocino Complex Fire is the biggest one they have ever seen.

But the president tweeted something about the situation that demands a fact check. You're going to want to see this, next.


CUOMO: Facts first. That's the mandate here on CUOMO PRIME TIME.

Let me show you the Mendocino Complex Fire, OK? This is the biggest series of fires they've ever had in California. It's already burned an area nearly the size of Los Angeles.

I mean, look at this. If you were to draw circles around what the fire sizes actually are, they almost wind up being exactly the same. Think about that.

Now, we often get caught up in the numbers. You don't want to do that. It's not about the numbers. It's about the numbing reality on so many families.

You see what I'm showing you on the wall over here? The lives lost. Homes. Schools. Businesses. Parks. Entire communities incinerated.

We're going to leave these pictures up here during the magic wall because you need to keep in mind this is the reality for the people in the path of these fires. It's a disaster. It warrants nothing but sympathy and support.

And yet, the president has tried to make it about something else. How so? Here's how.

He tweets this first: Governor Jerry Brown must allow the free flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the north and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.

Boy, he seems to know a lot about this. I wonder why.

Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of water. Nice. Fast federal government approvals.

Then he doubles down: California wildfires magnified and made so much worse, means the same thing, by the bad environmental laws which are allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It's being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading.

Such newfound scientific analysis from our president, embracing these environmental issues so subtly. I wonder why.

And then Trump's attempt to clarify didn't really help. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a very tough situation taking place in California for a number of years. And we're going to have to have some meetings about it because there are reasons and there are things you can do to mitigate what's happening.


CUOMO: Didn't seem to know as much there, right. Meetings? Like that's the fix?

If he wants to mitigate what's happened, why would he exacerbate the situation by putting out false blame? Proof of it being false?

Here. California fire guys. They know what's going on, right? The firefighters.

They shot it down. We have plenty of water to fight these fires, they say.

How about the co-founder of the Pacific Institute, all right? That's what they study. He called Trump's idea gobbledygook and then a bad word.

And there's no shortage of water to fight fires. That's what they're saying. So, let's show you this. Why he's so strong about it.

Here are the fires. Here are the reservoirs. Several major ones in the heart of the worst zone of the fires. They are not empty.

Therefore, the problem is not water, to the extent they even use water in fighting these. There are other tools that they use, which they say they have been employing. So, then, why is it so bad? The weather. July was the hottest month in California history and the wildfires are getting worse.

But if you want to address that, if you want to be ambitious, you don't do what Trump did. You take on real issues, climate change and our role in it. Emission standards like the ones that the president wants to reduce and the state of California wants to fight him on.

Instead, he comes stumbling in and spreading specious smoke. Why? The answer, politics. Water is political in California, especially for some of -- these are facts, but I told you them -- some of his biggest allies in Congress, McCarthy and Nunes.

They are leading conservative voices on water policies in California and they have an agenda that affects the balance of how much water is used for agriculture versus conservation efforts. Now, Trump's tweets start to make a little bit different sense in context, right? They've clashed with the state government and the environmentalists.

So, Trump picks now to help out his boys by spreading smoke as people's lives are burning? Come on! And if he really wants to meet about mitigating a natural disaster, how's this for an idea? Start with the aftereffects in Puerto Rico. We didn't forget.

FEMA said 64 died. A Harvard study with thousands of interviews says 4,600 died.

Why isn't our president curious about that? Politics. That's why. And we will call it out on this show.

We will also debate it. Ana Navarro, Steve Cortes are going to debate this and the impact of other major news, next.


CUOMO: California is on fire. Nobody's going to dispute that fact if they know what they're talking about. But our president is blaming environmentalists and California's Democratic governor, the same folks who are sideways with some of his big supporters in congress. Coincidence? I say the facts say no.

But let's debate in great fashion -- Ana Navarro and Steve Cortes. Well, you heard my argument in favor of seeing this for what it is.

Steve Cortes, dare you to rebut it?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Chris, not really. I have to say first, enormous empathy for the victims of this awful tragedy and great admiration for the people who are fighting it.

But I'm a city boy. I know very little about forests, even less about forest fires. You'd have to ask the White House, quite frankly.

I also don't just --

CUOMO: They wouldn't back him up on this. They were asked, Steve.

CORTES: I just don't --

CUOMO: They wouldn't back up the tweets. They say the tweets speak for themselves.

CORTES: Chris, I -- you know, I think you might think and certainly a lot of your viewers think that I always just instinctively back the president on everything.

I don't back him on this nor am I criticizing. I'm just saying I frankly don't know. I'm not a scientist. I'm certainly not a forest management person. So I don't know the answer.

CUOMO: Yes, but you do know the answer, because, Ana, I'll bounce it to you --

CORTES: I don't.

CUOMO: I'll tell you why you know. The firefighters came out and said we've got enough water. The environmentalists and the experts, the scientists who study it, say we've got enough water. And his tweets suggest, and the difference between Trump's tweets and what he said at the podium when somebody wasn't telling him what to say, shows that somebody was pumping ideas into his head that he put in those tweets at the worst possible time when people's lives were being compromised, he was playing politics.

Fair point?

CORTES: I thought you're asking Ana. You're asking me?

CUOMO: No, I'm definitely not asking you.

Ana, go ahead. What have you got?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, of course, this is a political play. You've got a -- you've got a disaster going on. You don't have a word expressing empathy or expressing sorrow for the grief that the people of California are going through.

Instead, he takes political shots at Jerry Brown, who happens to be an opponent, strong opponent of the president. He is a Democrat in California. And he wades into what is a long ongoing battle between salmon fishermen and agriculture in California, having nothing to do with the fires.

Frankly, the people risking their lives on the ground to fight this fire, the firemen, are saying this is not a water issue.

How do you fight fires? You take down other trees so that you make fire lines so that the fire can't cross over. You dip huge buckets and helicopters into reservoirs that you then stick on the fire.

The firemen know what they're doing. They know what they're saying.

You know what I found really interesting, though? You brought up Puerto Rico. I'm in Florida. We have a toxic algae bloom here --

CUOMO: Red tide.

NAVARRO: -- that is killing so many fish.

Well, we've got both. We've got red tide and toxic algae bloom. And I can tell you that there's a lot of people in Florida who think that the government here, the state government, has a lot to do with it.

Now, Trump won't say a word out of it. Why not? Because it's Republicans. It's his friends that are in power in Florida. Maybe if the stench reaches Mar-a-Lago, he'll begin to notice.

CUOMO: Maybe, you know, Steve, he should take your advice and start out by showing the empathy for the people who are involved instead of taking care of his buddies.

Let's switch topics. I'll give you a break on that one because it's so obvious.

The elections last night. The president says red wave, all caps. How?

CORTES: Well, look, I think it was a victory, first of all and we'll take a victory. It wasn't a resounding one by any means. But it's sort of like -- you know, they say -- what do they call the guy who graduates last in medical school? They call him doctor. A victory's still a win no matter if you win by one vote or, you know, by 100,000 in a district.

So, the win's important. But look, I've said for months on this network, I am worried about the midterm elections. I think the Republicans in the House are clearly underdogs when it comes to keeping control. History argues against them. The polls argue against them.

And I think most importantly, President Trump is not on the ballot. And the Hill Republicans have hardly embraced his agenda. So, as popular as he is, particularly among Republicans, if they were closer to him, they'd have a much easier time. But because they've obstructed him in many ways, I think the Republicans face an uphill battle. It's winnable but they really have to effectively get Trump on the

ballot and convince the voters of the truth, that if the Democrats take the House, they will impeach President Trump.

CUOMO: Well, but he took ownership of it today, Ana. He said, if I back you, you will win. And even though I have a lot of other things to do, that's what I'm going to do, I'm going to back the candidates and we're going to have a huge win in November.

Can he deliver?

NAVARRO: Look, yesterday was an ugly win.

CUOMO: Assuming they win. Everything's not counted yet.

NAVARRO: Yes, but what could have been --

CUOMO: Let's assume Ohio 12 goes to Balderson.

NAVARRO: Look, if he had -- if Balderson had lost, it would have been a category 5 hurricane for Republicans. The way he won, by one point in a super Republican district, was a category 4 hurricane, and if they don't want to see the warning signs, if they don't want to heart bells, you know, that's their problem.

I can tell you that the district I'm sitting in, district 27 in Florida, is held by a Republican right now. But it is a plus Democrat 6. District next door is plus Democrat 5. Both are held by Republicans today.

And if I were those Republicans on the ballot in these districts in November, I'd be sweating BBs. Now, where I do think that Trump is right is that people he backs in the primary do win.


NAVARRO: He absolutely makes a difference --

CUOMO: I think he's like 14 in a row.

NAVARRO: -- in getting out the vote for Republicans.

Now, what might be a win, a short-term win in a primary, might end up being a short -- a long-term pain and anchor around their neck when it comes to the general. And, you know, I think that is still to be seen. But we have seen that, for example, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they didn't bring out the vote.

Their endorsement -- you know, we're in this era where endorsements really don't matter as much as they once did, but for Donald Trump's in a Republican primary. There is no doubt that he moves the Republican base and he gets them out to vote.

CUOMO: Final word, Mr. Cortes.

CORTES: Listen, again, I think it's an uphill battle for Republicans. I think President Trump has to convince the country and Republicans have to convince the country that it's a referendum on his presidency because the Democrats, while they're being coy and they're whispering about impeachment, the cold reality is they will impeach the president if they get the House. That would be terrible for the country.

CUOMO: You still need the Senate.

CORTES: Obviously, it would be terrible for President Trump.

CUOMO: You still need the Senate. That's why people put them into House.

CORTES: Sure. He'll survive the Senate.


CUOMO: Isn't that what they're supposed to do?

CORTES: But -- but that doesn't mean that it won't do enormous damage to the Trump agenda and to the growth and successes that we're seeing so far. If he can convince the voters that it is a referendum on him, then I really believe we have a fighting chance. But it's clearly an uphill battle for the Republicans.

CUOMO: Ana, Steve, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

CORTES: Thank you.

CUOMO: So, Trump's first supporter in Congress was Congressman Chris Collins of Western New York. He has been indicted and arrested. Now, he says the charges against him are meritless and he is invited onto CUOMO PRIME TIME to make his case.

Be that as it may, add him to the list of those around Trump who have courted convictions, criticism, and controversy. This is the best of the best?

We have a list and a reckoning you will want to hear, next.


CUOMO: So whatever happened to draining the swamp? Was the plan to drain the old swamp to make room for a bigger beautiful one, maybe to go around the wall like a Trump moat of miscreants?

What's the proof? Congressman Chris Collins indicted. Scott Pruitt left in disgrace. Tom Price, same thing.

Paul Manafort, Rick Gates on trial or turned state's evidence. Michael Flynn, guilty plea. George Papadopoulos, guilty plea. And, of course, there's the former lawyer of the president and others in various states of suspicion.

All are the sort of swamp creatures the president promised to purge from Washington if allegations are true.

Let's take it up with Don Lemon.

Now, you've got to be fair to those who are being investigated.


CUOMO: But even using that as a bar, he said he would bring us the best of the best, and we have never seen these types of numbers in distress around a president like now.

LEMON: No. And it doesn't matter to a whole bunch of people.

You mentioned the swamp. I'm from Louisiana. You've got to be careful, Chris, when you drain the swamp because a whole lot of other creatures come out. They try to attach themselves to you so that you don't drown -- they don't drown.

So, you get the water moccasins, the alligators, and the snakes and all kinds of varmints and creatures. And that looks like what's happening in Washington right now.

Yes, he was supposed to drain the swamp. Just look at what's happening in today's news, right? You've got Manafort. You've got Gates. You've got all of that going on.

Then you have the story from "ProPublica" about basically there's a shadow group that is overseeing the V.A., men with no military, no government experience. So, you have all of that.

My question to you is, let's just say you're an HR director or you're the boss of the company and you look at someone to hire, like you bring somebody in and you say, here's a resume and you look at all these things and you say, oh, well, this person that you hired was indicted, this person pled guilty to this, this person did that, this person -- would you hire them to run your company?

CUOMO: Now, you know what the counterargument is, that the people that voted for Donald Trump made him. He didn't make a movement. The movement made him. And they put in someone --

LEMON: I like that you say that.

CUOMO: -- the closest thing to an anti-politician they could find. Not an antidote, not a cure, a virus to be put into a system that they hate, to disrupt it and make it -- you know, to disrupt it and make people upset because they have been felt -- they feel upset because of the system. And that's what they got.

Now, is that what they want the next time? It depends on the results. And we'll see the first reflection of that in the midterms. But I wanted to tee this up for you because I know it's topic coming up on "CNN TONIGHT".

LEMON: That's what we're going to talk about. But then -- but if you do what you said, if that's indeed what they want, does that person have to not tell the truth all the time? Lie about things? Hang out with shady characters? You don't have to do that in order to shake up the system, you can be a person that has morals and be truthful and shake up the system.

CUOMO: True, true, Don Lemon.

LEMON: That's my response.

CUOMO: True. And I'll see you in a little bit.

LEMON: See you.

CUOMO: All right. So, the president says you are welcome to come to America, as long as you come through the front door. Do it legal. Are those words empty?

Does the president really have a plan to undermine all immigration? What this country is founded on? I will present you with the facts and closing argument, next.


CUOMO: Closing argument, the president had a group of CEOs for a dinner at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. First, is it OK that we pay Trump to have a dinner at his golf club? We should get some numbers on that, don't you think? Put it to the side.

Then there's what happened there. The CEOs asked Trump to make it easier to get high skilled immigrants and workers for their companies. Why? Because they need immigrants. There are not enough Americans to fill the need, in part because our government and corporate citizens and education system isn't equipping enough of us fast enough to fill them.

So, Trump says to the CEOs, he'll consider helping them by executive order. The next morning, the White House says nothing is going to happen any time soon on that front. Why not?

My argument: this administration doesn't want immigrants coming in any more than absolutely necessary.

What's my proof?

First, the move to enforce the law on the border. Trump said it was just about law and order, but it wasn't. It was about sending a harsh message of deterrence, traumatizing kids and parents. And we know that they knew that that would happen if they did it from the officials who warned them of the same.

More proof. He wants to limit legal immigration. He wants to penalize legal immigrants who use public benefits, including health care subsidies under the ACA, even the earned income tax credit.

Why? To get him to go out. He wants to nix visas. If anyone related to an applicant has used such benefits, he wants to change the lottery visa access system. He wants to change H-1B visas. Those are the kind that let in the

exact same workers that he told the CEOs he would help with.

And what's the justification? It's that all of this should be merit- based.

Now, this is the part that I think should bother you the most. It flies in the face of his efforts to reduce high skilled workers, as I mentioned, right? If you want high skilled workers and you want it to be merit-based, you should be on the same page there, but he isn't.

Why is he reducing them? Because what he really wants to do is create an ugly rejection of who made this country great in the first place. And you are staring at the big nose of the truth on your screen right now at this point.

My ancestors on both sides of the family were almost completely uneducated, illiterate and in no way high skilled. I love them, we miss them. But that's the truth.

They came. They embraced the grind and the chance and they served in the military. They dug ditches, did construction, worked their way into businesses, homes of their own, they put their kids into public education.

And a generation later, just one, they had a governor, the one after that, they had another governor, and an anchor at CNN. And guess what? We three are the disappointments. My sister's a cancer doctors, lawyers, people who house the homeless.

The point is, my story is common. So my argument is this. How many of you would be here if America was like what Trump wants it to be now? I wouldn't. Would you?

If you're here from Eastern Europe, if your people came here during the war or before, came from Ireland, you came from England, you came from all those places that the president likes to characterize as ugly, you've got these beautiful stories in your family of how they came here and they made it and what they did for you, and how you remember that, and it channels everything you do for yours and your own, and you try to pass it on, god willing, to your kids? I don't think you'd make the cut.

So, the question is this: Mr. President, are you going to forget where you come from? Where most of your kids' mothers come from? Where America comes from?

The men and women who shoulders we stand on were not the people that you're saying should be here now. Some are from Norway, but not that many.

So, please don't forget who we are and who made America great.

That's all for us. Thank you for getting after it on this Wednesday night.

"CNN TONIGHT" picks up the ball right from here with the one and only, D. Lemon.