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Trump Launches Re-Election Bid In Crucial Battleground; Ocasio- Cortez: U.S. Running Migrant "Concentration Camps"; Sen. McConnell: Reparations For Slavery Not A Good Idea. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 18, 2019 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: All right, friends. Thank you very much for watching with - this with us and helping us understand it.

The news continues. So, we'll hand it over to Chris now. CUOMO PRIME TIME starts now. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, John. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

The President is re-launching his re-election bid as we speak. We took some of the rally in the last hour. His plan is obvious, more of "Us versus Them." And "Them" is basically everybody not in that Florida arena, including the media, and certainly, undocumented immigrants.

POTUS had a new promise of mass arrests, millions in the next week all across America. That won't happen, and that probably doesn't matter. The question is what is the counter for the Democrats? How can they pack the House and the polls?

We're going to bring in a Senator hoping to face off with the President next year, Democrat Amy Klobuchar is here.

One of her colleagues in the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, just set off an outcry accusing the Administration of running Concentration Camps at the Border. People are outraged. Is it warranted? Our Great Debate.

Plus, was electing an African-American President payback for slavery? The Senate Majority leader seems to think so. Why Mitch McConnell is now ripping on reparations?

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




CUOMO: Let's call it more MAGA or MAGA 2.0, whatever you want, the Amway Center in Orlando tonight is filled with a throng of cheering Trump supporters as this President tries to generate enthusiasm for his re-election bid.

Quinnipiac today shows him trailing multiple top Democratic candidates in crucial battleground states. But remember, he was trailing in the polls in key states last time, and won.

Amy Klobuchar is trailing too. The Senator just unveiled the actions that she would take in her first 100 days in Office. She joins us now. Always good to see you, Senator.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: So, one simple question. Why don't the Democrats pack stadiums the way this President does?

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, but we do. We just have a lot of stadiums we're packing at the same time with so many people running.

I think you've seen our candidates throughout the years generate that energy. And you certainly saw it in 2018 when we had took back the House, made it the People's House again, number of Governors races in key states that we won.

And we had a lot of excitement, high voter turnout, young people turning out like they've never turned out before in a midterm. I am not one bit worried about the excitement on our side. We just have to unite behind a candidate, and that's what these debates are all about.

CUOMO: Plans are big with the Democrats right now. You are one-upping one of your competitors, Senator Warren. She says she's got a plan for that. You've got a plan for the first 100 days. What's the thinking before putting - behind putting out this initiative?

KLOBUCHAR: This is about urgency, Chris. It is about getting things done immediately. And there are a number of things you can do without even worrying about Congress.

You can, for instance, stop the assault on the Affordable Care Act in terms of pre-existing conditions. I was listening to the President's rally, some of the things he was saying, you can put that to a stop.

You can, in fact, make sure that the DREAMers are protected, and stop these court cases that they're bringing.

You can sign us into the International Climate Change Agreement on day one, and bring back those clean power rules. I list on my website,, about a 100 things you can do, over a 100, in just the first 100 days.

Why am I doing this? Because I think years of Donald Trump has worn people down. They want to see action now. And I think it's important for people in this country to understand there are things we can do immediately to bring back the heart and strength of this country.

CUOMO: All right, let's test some of that. Look, I think the areas are certainly ripe for discussion. And there's certainly need of those issue areas of analysis that you cover, the people should read the plan for themselves.

However, how you plan to do it, you have rightly criticized this President for overreaching Executive action. Many Senators, many Congress Members have said you got to take power back.

You're saying you're going to be Trumpier than Trump when it comes to Executive action.


CUOMO: How so?

KLOBUCHAR: I have all the respect for Congress. And I think with the current foreign crisis we're in right now, I think he shouldn't even be talking about anything with Iran without going to Congress, without getting an authorization for the use of military force, if he's serious about going into any kind of confront--

CUOMO: Fair point. Congress though--

KLOBUCHAR: --than not just by tweet.

CUOMO: Congress has been giving that power away to Presidents.

KLOBUCHAR: So, I understand the role of Congress.

CUOMO: It would be good for you guys to take it back.


CUOMO: You argue that on the show all the time.


CUOMO: But you want to sign on to the Climate Treaty.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, you can do that.

CUOMO: We all know that you're supposed to have advice and consent. Obama was grilled for doing that.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. But you can do that without advice and consent. It's very clear. And I don't think we can wait on our climate. I really don't. When you look at what's been going on, the flooding in the Midwest, rising sea levels, melting ice sheets, we can't wait.

CUOMO: But it--

[21:05:00] KLOBUCHAR: Forest fires in Colorado. Other things you can do, close that boyfriend loophole in the gun laws, while at the same time you're introducing legislation.

You can do the same thing when it comes to healthcare. You can introduce big bills like immigration reform while at the same time doing what's in your power to reverse a number of these things that he has done. CUOMO: All right.

KLOBUCHAR: And the big - the big takeaway for me from this rally, as you pointed out, he is just more and more divisiveness, going after the media, not seeing that the freedom of the press is important as a amendment, as in a - one of our Constitutional rights in this country that we have the freedom to assemble, that we have the freedom of the press, that we have the freedom to be able to treat each other as citizens, and he doesn't even do that in terms of how he goes after people of color, how he goes after immigrants, he does it every single day.

CUOMO: Senator, doesn't a return to decency, which is what I think you're talking about, also include though a return to compromise? I know that some on the Left don't like that idea right now that there's an opposition to what's being done and being carried forth by Republicans as well.

But if you're going to show that you're better than this President, doesn't that have to include the ability to work with Congress, and not just unilateral within the Executive?

KLOBUCHAR: Of course, it does. And I'm someone, as you know, one of the things I did with this plan was show a 100 bills that I've passed where I am the lead Democrat, and it's everything from drug shortages, and getting that passed to take to work on that, to doing something about getting the $300 million for election security.

CUOMO: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: Those are things just--

CUOMO: And there's still nothing on that, right Senator? There - I--

KLOBUCHAR: Well we got that money.

CUOMO: --I called a couple of different offices.

KLOBUCHAR: We got that money before the last election.

CUOMO: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: And now we're trying to pass the Secure Elections Act, which would require backup paper ballots in the 14 states--

CUOMO: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: --that don't have them. There's--

CUOMO: Any word from McConnell?

KLOBUCHAR: No word yet after he stopped that bill in its tracks.

But the point is, is that I have passed bills. I have worked with Congress. I do work across the aisle. But that's not an end in itself, Chris. You have to really have results that work for the American people--

CUOMO: True.

KLOBUCHAR: --where you have their back, bringing down pharmaceutical prices--

CUOMO: True.

KLOBUCHAR: --doing something about health costs (ph). And these are - people come up to me all the time.

They hear the President gloat about the economy. And they say, "Well what's happening to me? You know, I can't find a bed for my kid that has mental health problems. I can't get my child and their insurance to cover their addiction, you know. I can't - I'm worried I'm going to be thrown off my insurance for a pre-existing condition when my child has Down syndrome."

Those are the people of America that are speaking out that don't believe that everything is as rosy as the President is saying at that rally. Those are the massive people that are going to turn out and vote.

CUOMO: Well, also, I think there's something to encouraging people because you're fighting the good fight like, you know, you put some - forth something that's bipartisan to fix the elections. That is a big deal.

I wouldn't let it go just because Mitch McConnell says "I'm not putting it on the floor." I'd make a stink about it. I think what--

KLOBUCHAR: That's what we're doing this week.

CUOMO: --I think what Ocasio-Cortez is talking about at the Border she wants to call them Concentration Camps? Fine. People want to get upset about it? Fine. The reality should be even more upsetting.

And Democrats are not jumping up and down about getting funding for those kids. They say they want to help, but then it doesn't happen. I think fighting the good fight matters, sometimes results or not.

KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. Well I will say that on the election security, we're going to make a big fight about this. We started today to get it on the Defense Authorization bill.

CUOMO: Good.

KLOBUCHAR: That money we got last time was 3 percent of the cost of one air carrier. And, as you know, people are working on getting a humanitarian aid. I'm going to look at the agreement that Senator Leahy made with Senator Shelby.

CUOMO: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: But there is effort, strong efforts made to help.

CUOMO: I got to - look, the only reason I push on it is because it is an exigency, and that's the only thing I don't get.

I understand that the appropriation season is upon us. But this is not something that can go through the normal process. There's just too much risk for too many down there, who are too young.

But Senator Amy Klobuchar, you are always welcome on this show to argue--

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

CUOMO: --your points of merit to the American people. Good luck going forward. I'll see you soon.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right. Now look, there's no reason to hide from the facts. It's about understanding what they mean. There is a big crowd for the President.

I would actually differ with the Senator. I don't think Democrats are packing any place the way he is. And size does matter. But we have to look at what matters about the size.

There is a lesson to be learned, next








CUOMO: So, based on the capacity of the arena in Orlando, and what we see from the seating, there's probably 20,000 people at this rally for the President tonight, and that is bigger than Democrats are getting so far, to be sure.

Is the size of the rally suggestive of the 60 million-plus votes needed to win the next Presidential election? No, maybe not. But it has to mean something that as Democrats are playing these little clubs in Iowa and New Hampshire, Donald Trump is playing arenas.




TRUMP: The greatest witch-hunt in political history.

Crooked Hillary Clinton.

No collusion. No obstruction.


CUOMO: By the way, those words, "No collusion" are nowhere in the Mueller report. Facts matter.

Yes, this is a sitting President, and the Democratic field is largely lesser-knowns. But people were lined up for more than a day in the Florida heat for this rally tonight.

We need to see the disconnect between a rally, like tonight, and reality. This is the only modern President to never see his popularity hit 50 percent. And yet, he has the biggest crowds at his events.

He's held almost 60 of these rallies since he took Office, and might seem like the only thing he's done more than these rallies is tweet or play golf. Now, there are lessons in these legions, deep but not wide. That is the main takeaway.

This President has gone for a deep connection and enthusiasm that comes with the kind of thing he is selling. When you divide, you necessarily are cutting off part of your potential support, and intensifying the other part.

[21:15:00] So, this President has gone for such intense "Us versus Them" that he has boiled down his base to the most ardent and open to the fear and aggression in his message.

First, it was about the wall, to keep out the Brown Menace. Then it was "Lock her up." Now it is massive ICE roundups in the millions, all are about a hostility toward a common enemy, "Us versus Them," animated animus that sometimes put POTUS as an apparent ally with some dark figures.

His dependence on stoking and re-tweeting Right-wing hate-pushers is a product of this pandering. While his rivals have to spend their time chasing each other all over the primary map, he's setting up shop in Florida for a reason.

He knows the places he has to win, and he can focus on it, while the rest of the field is being winnowed. He has a challenge. He's not the "Other" this time. He is the status quo. He is no longer change, but what many, many more than fit in that arena may want to see changed, hence the fact that he's trailing several top Democrats.

But he has more money. He has a more established ground game. But he has been stubbornly ignorant to the reality of the business axiom that every entrepreneur knows, grow or die.

He lost the popular vote and has done little to grow since then, witnessed the midterms. He lost worse in that election all across the country, Red, Blue, and Purple bigly. Yet, while conventional wisdom says this President is making a bad bet

by packing that rally, by pandering the things that won't build a full base to win, pandering to voters' fears is always a powerful proposition.

So, that's tonight. We also have news on the Democratic front, Part of the new guard of Democrats in the House, but coming from a Republican district. She's been reluctant to jump on the impeachment train.

But Professor Katie Porter says she can no longer stay silent. She's here to make the case and be tested, next.








CUOMO: You know, when we're talking about Democrats and impeachment, you got to keep your eye on the playing field here. Most of the Democrats pushing for impeachment are in relatively safe Blue districts. That's why you still have a relative minority, about a quarter of the caucus, is in that position.

And polls, so far, do not have a majority of you out in the country in favor of the move, but you do have about two-thirds of Democrats in polls saying they are in favor of the move.

My next guest is making a move of her own. California's Katie Porter is the first Democrat ever elected in her district.




CUOMO: Congresswoman, good to have you back on PRIME TIME.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Thank you.

CUOMO: So, why this shift? Why is impeachment the right move?

PORTER: So, this is for me really about taking the time to wait for Special Counsel Mueller to do his investigation, to issue his report, and then to have the opportunity to read the report, and study the Constitution, to talk with colleagues. And having done all of that, I've come to the conclusion that based on the facts in the Mueller report, which are that President Trump engaged in at least four acts of obstruction of justice, and there's substantial evidence that he engaged in those four acts, I felt like it's appropriate to begin an impeachment inquiry.

CUOMO: But you can't remove him from Office. So, you will leave the people who want this unsatisfied, and there is political risk, especially for you, in at best a Purple district. Why do it? Play it safe.

PORTER: I didn't come to Washington D.C. to make the easy decisions. I came to make the right ones. And there may or may not be political consequences to supporting this impeachment inquiry. But that's not my job.

My job is to do what's right. It's to weigh the evidence. It's to read the facts. It's to understand the law. And then, it's to do what those things require. So, we don't know what the future is going to hold in terms of the political consequences of this. But I know I did my job in terms of analyzing the situation.

CUOMO: OK. So, do your job, but do it the way you're doing it now. You have a legitimate oversight. You got about a dozen different investigations and committees looking at it. Let it work this way. Go through the courts when you have to, and you get to the same result, you did your job. Why not that way?

PORTER: Look, I think that's important that when we have substantial evidence from the Special Counsel that the President of the Unites States broke the law four times, four counts of obstruction of justice, and then that President at each and every turn has continued to obstruct Congress' oversight, that for me was a very important factor.

So, because he's not appear - he's directed people not to appear, we have subpoenas that have been ignored, we've had to hold people in contempt, and so, this continued pattern of obstructing justice is very troubling.

And I think it's important that the President understand that these are serious charges that the evidence against him is substantial and that we are serious about doing our duty to the Constitution and the American people.

CUOMO: So, impeachment inquiry, or are you already for articles of impeachment?

PORTER: Right now, I'm at the point of saying it's time to begin an impeachment inquiry. And I think that when the time comes to make a decision about whether to impeach, I'll be ready to do that.

CUOMO: All right, so as a matter of conscience, you must do your duty this way. Good. Let's see if you apply the same rationale to another issue. I still don't understand the reticence of Democrats to jump on the

opportunity to show they have heart and not just harshness when it comes to the Border, and help the kids.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that the President is keeping kids in Concentration Camps. Is that the wrong term to use?

PORTER: I think that the terminology can cause people to react very strongly. Obviously, it's a - it's an important and sad part of this world's history that we had the Holocaust and Concentration Camps.

But the reality is throughout the world's history, we have had this kind of unlawful, extrajudicial detention, and that is what's happening at our Border. What I would ask the American people to do is to focus on what is happening, not on the term that's applied to it.

[21:25:00] And I think the stories that we're hearing about families being ripped apart, about children that are continuing to be missing, about the lack of basic medical care and health conditions at the Border, are extremely troubling for this nation.

And I think it's time for us to begin to push very, very hard to change the conditions at the Border.

CUOMO: Why is it taking so long to get help that DHS has been begging you for, for months?

PORTER: Well the Congress has allocated resources to DHS, and also additional resources for Border security. But this is also about how the Executive branch gets its job done, and what it's doing.

I mean some of the President's actions, frankly, things like withdrawing aid from Central America, making statements that our Borders are closed to everyone that the country is full, has had the effect of actually ratcheting up the number of folks at the Border.

And so, he's actually been making the situation more difficult for DHS, his own administration to respond to.

CUOMO: Fair point. But he doesn't control the purse strings, although you could argue he does somewhat with his emergency declaration, and he doesn't want to use that declaration to this point to help with the actual accommodation issues down there. But you can.

And I still don't understand why the Democrats don't see opportunity in this. He is the harsh guy when it comes to the Border. You heard him tonight. "Build the fence. Keep them out. Pull the money. Throw them out, you know, get ICE, harshness as strength," that's his sell.

What about heart? I don't understand why the Democrats haven't taken the opportunity, and said, "Here, here's more money. If you're going to use it just for the kids and taking care of them, we don't want them sick or dying on our watch. Here."

PORTER: Well I think it's very difficult to trust that this President and his administration will do what the money is appropriated for, and we've seen this before with this President, time and time again. We've made appropriations, and then he's gone and not used the money.

So, my first days in Congress were a government shutdown, in which the President was shutting down the government, and hurting workers, and hurting Americans, saying he wanted money for a Border wall, when he hadn't even spent the allocated money that he had been given.

So, I think this President has to do his part in, and we have to rebuild trust between Congress and the President.

And when the President saying things publicly like he's not going to cooperate with Congress on issues like infrastructure and prescription drug pricing because of the Mueller report, it's very difficult to have that kind of trusted relationship.

CUOMO: What would you set as a timeline in your understanding right now about when something will happen to help those kids?

PORTER: So, we are continuing to work on appropriations, as you know. I think that the number of members who are traveling to the Border, to visit things themselves, as we're learning more, I know we're working very hard to come up with something.

But each day, frankly, and each kid, who's hurt or damaged or separated from their family, who's sick, lives are being lost. And it's really important that we honor our best tradition in this country of treating those who arrive at this country, seeking shelter in accordance with the law, and in accordance with our international obligations.

CUOMO: Katie Porter, since I have gotten to know you here in your new role as Member of Congress, I have admired your sense of purpose, and the integrity that brought you to the task.

We will be watching to see what you do on these important matters. And I appreciate you coming on to discuss this latest move with us tonight. Good luck to you.

PORTER: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: All right, so you just heard us talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She's not backing down. Even though that was an inflammatory term, she says she's sticking by it. She actually defines it a little differently than others may. But she's taken heat.

All right, a new response from her, and we'll use it as the start of a Great Debate, next.







CUOMO: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once again drawing the ire of the Right with these remarks. Take a listen.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The United States is running Concentration Camps on our Southern Border. And that is exactly what they are. They are Concentration Camps.

I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not that "Never again" mean something.


CUOMO: All right, so here's the issue. Is she right in defining Concentration Camps? Yes. But do they have a feeling of usage stained with what happened with the Nazis and the genocide of the Jews? Yes.

And that's why it is a Great Debate, Angela Rye and Steve Cortes.




CUOMO: Steve Cortes, with the new definition from her, I say Concentration Camps because that's how they are defined internationally. That's what these are. I am not equating with stigma of the Nazis and the Jews. Leave that part aside. Satisfied?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL HEAD: No. Chris, that - that's a ridiculous excuse for a couple of reasons.

First of all, we all know what the connotation of Concentration Camps is. If we went out on the street and asked a 100 random people, 99 of them would tell us - would give us an explanation or a definition that relates to Nazism.

But secondly, and even more importantly, she used the phrase "Never again," which we know is specifically linked to the Holocaust, to the Shoah.

And by doing that, she very much demeaned the victims of the Shoah, the victims of that horrific tragedy. She also demeaned, by the way, the American soldiers that smashed the evil perpetrators of that human tragedy.

And I would also add this. She also demeans the current American citizens, many of whom are Hispanic, who do the very hard and dangerous work of guarding our Borders. She equated them by association to Nazi SS guards. And that is disgraceful.

AOC should apologize, at the least, and probably resign.

CUOMO: One point of pushback before I get to you, Angela. You did not have similar problems with the phrase "America First," which is equally stained, or the word "Nationalist"--


CUOMO: --which is equally stained. No. Yes, as a matter of fact.

CORTES: No, it isn't.

CUOMO: But why doesn't it bother you the same way?

CORTES: You and I have had this discussion many times about nationalism. I totally disagree that it's a stained word. As a matter of fact, I think it's a proud word.

CUOMO: You may. But you are wrong.

CORTES: American - well no, I'm not wrong. You - you don't get to define what nationalism means for me.

CUOMO: Yes, I do.

CORTES: And American nationalism--

CUOMO: Because nationalism has been used--


CORTES: No, you don't.

CUOMO: --almost--

RYE: It's a definition.

CORTES: No, you don't.

CUOMO: I'm - I'm - I'm making a bet. Steve--

CORTES: American--

CUOMO: --let me know what movement defined itself as nationalism that was positive and not oppressive to another?

[21:35:00] CORTES: What - American nationalism. And it was American nationalism--

CUOMO: There's no American nationalism.

CORTES: --that landed on the shores - yes, yes, there is American - look, American nationalism, unlike Ethno-Fascism, you're trying to conflate these terms. Ethno-Fascism is what the Nazis portrayed, and it was about race, and blood, and purity. American nationalism has nothing to do with race.

CUOMO: There's no such thing.

CORTES: Nothing to do with blood. It's not blood and soil.

CUOMO: All right, look--

CORTES: It's about our shared ideals.

CUOMO: I was giving you a change about equivalency.

CORTES: Our Constitution, our flag, our beliefs.

CUOMO: I know what you want it to be. It's called patriotism.

But Angela, to you, on this now, it is a loaded term.

RYE: Sure.

CUOMO: And was it the right one to use?

RYE: So, what I think is most important, Chris, is we do so often in these great debates is I think it's critical that we define it. I am a kid who as a - as a point of privilege, I had a set of encyclopedias. They were orange, encyclopedias that I loved to read.

And so, I pulled the encyclopedia definition for Concentration Camps, and I would like to share them with your viewer. "Internment Center for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order."

And to that - to that end, they are Concentration Camps at the Border. To that end, whether we call them Concentration Camps or we call them detention, they are problematic.

To that end, when you talk about a frog being put in a boiling pot of hot water, the frog will immediately jump out. But if the frog is put in a - in a - in a pot of cold water, and you slowly turn up the heat, I'm going somewhere, it will - it will die. It will die.

And what I'm saying to you is, today, we sat through this President calling Mexicans drug dealers and rapists, at the beginning of this campaign. Today, we sat through him talking about "Build that wall," and heard all those chants, and we went from rage - outrage to disgust, to dismay, to it's a shame.

And I am telling you that we are irresponsible at this point that whether we call them Concentration Camps or not, her point remains. And the Right is threatened by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because she tells the truth, whether they can digest it or not.

And our bottom line here is there is an inhumane crisis happening at the Southern Border. And it is because of how these people look. It is because of differences because there is a fear that White people are losing their power in this country. That is the bottom line. It is White fear. That is what is driving this. It is racism at its core.


RYE: It is what this found - the foundation--

CUOMO: All right, let Steve respond.

RYE: --of this country is built upon. Period!

CORTES: That's completely - that's - that - that's completely untrue. First - a couple things. First of all--

RYE: It's not untrue.

CORTES: --even given your definition of a Concentration Camp--

RYE: That might not be your perspective.

CORTES: --even given your definition--

RYE: But do not call what I said untrue.

CORTES: --if we were placing American citizens into these camps--

RYE: It's that Encyclopedia Britannica, Sir.

CORTES: --if - if we were placing American citizens into these camps, as we have shamefully done in the past, with Japanese American - American citizens of Japanese descent, then I would agree with you. These are not American citizens. What the Nazis did is they took German citizens--

RYE: So, you can - you can--

CORTES: --dragged them - dragged them out of their homes, stripped them of citizenship, stripped them of human dignity--

RYE: You're going to justify this by what citizenship these people have?

CORTES: --and sent them to torture and death. What we have now I'm - what we have now are foreign citizens--

RYE: That's sick, Steve. It's sick.

CORTES: --who are trespassing--

RYE: It's a new low.

CORTES: --into the United States, overwhelmingly for economic reasons, and we know that to be true, historically and presently, because the - the Director of ICE just told us, 90 percent are not showing up for their asylum hearings. They are not legitimate refugees. They're economic migrants who have

decided on their own how that - when and how they can become American citizens, and that's not the right way.

RYE: Let me - let me--

CORTES: And it is not about race.

RYE: Yes. So - so - so--

CORTES: My father came here the legal way. And when he became an American, he didn't suddenly become White. He was still Hispanic. But he was an American citizen. And it is not racist. It is not xenophobic for this country to determine the processes to become a legal American citizen.

RYE: I'm sorry.

CORTES: It's just sensible.

RYE: Let me tell you - let me tell you something.

Now, I don't know when we decided that a humanitarian crisis could be defined whether or not someone is carrying a Green Card or whether or not someone has their papers, but I'm going to tell you this.

Before we are American, we are human beings. And it is not OK. It is a damn shame what is happening at this Border. And the fact that you're going to justify it - justify it by economics, let me just tell you, there are a whole lot of people making a whole lot of money by having these people in detention centers.

We want to shift the attention, as - as we should, off of mass incarceration of Black and Brown people in this country, but now those monies are being transferred into detaining migrants at the Border.

It is a crisis, Steve. It is not OK just because they don't have their papers. I hope--

CORTES: Listen, I - I - absolutely.

RYE: --that at some point, you wrestle with your conscience, and get to the right side of this because--

CORTES: I - I absolutely concur--

RYE: --Sir, you're in the wrong side of history.

CORTES: --I concur that it's a crisis.

RYE: In 1933, there were Concentration Camps. In 1941, they were death camps, and that is where we are going, if our - our consciences are not quickly pierced.

CORTES: Let me--

RYE: It is a problem.

CORTES: Let me tell you who agrees with me.

RYE: Do not laugh it off.

CORTES: Let me tell you who--

RYE: Do not laugh it off.

CORTES: Let me tell you who agrees with me about asylum. Barack Obama. This is what he said in 2014, and I'm quoting.

RYE: Oh, my God.

CORTES: Quote, "Refugee status is not granted"--

RYE: You guys are like the kings of red herrings.

CORTES: --"Refugee status is not granted just on economic need or because a family lives in a bad neighborhood or poverty."

[21:40:00] CUOMO: Look, there - there - there's no question about that.

CORTES: And that is true.

RYE: What is your point?

CORTES: Asylum status--

CUOMO: There is no question about that. The Obama administration--

CORTES: Asylum status is for people who are fleeing for their lives because they are persecuted.

CUOMO: --wrestled with the same problem, we've been--

RYE: What is your point?

CUOMO: Hold on a second. We've been wrestling with this problem for 30 years. It's like a new parlor game. Anybody you want to go to, in any era, we've been fighting about these same issues.

But you've always wound up coming to a same crisis point, which is OK, we got to reform the rules. Congress never gets to that. There's a million reasons why. Most of them are bad. But the urgency becomes--

RYE: All of them are bad.

CUOMO: --on how you treat the humanity. In 2014, we went nuts about what was going on with the unaccompanied minors--

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: --during the Obama administration because it was wrong. They didn't have the resources set up. They didn't have the right

procedures. And these kids weren't being treated the right way. And we said "Never again." And now we're right back here.

And the one thing that I think should unite you guys is you all say this is wrong, what's happening at the Border, and not a damn thing has been done by either side to fix it.

The Left says, "We don't trust him to spend the money the right way, and they won't give us the right protections to take care of the kids the right way."

RYE: It's true. They built more detention centers.

CUOMO: And the Right says, "The Democrats don't want to do anything."

And the President says, "Even though I have an emergency declaration, and I can now loosen some purse strings, I only want to use it for the fence. And don't forget, my whole sell is of being harsh on these people. I'm not going to open my heart to them all the sudden."

And doesn't that just really sicken you, Steve that something that you admit as wrong, and that you identify with on one level as an ethnic, is being ignored by your own party as part of this problem?

CORTES: No. Listen, I - I don't think we're ignoring it at all. I love legal immigration.

CUOMO: What has been done?

CORTES: And I want to -

CUOMO: What has been done to help the kids?

CORTES: And I wanted to help preserve--

CUOMO: McAleenan keeps asking for money. And you guys have not put anything forward. McConnell won't even put it on the floor.

CORTES: Look, I'm not answering for McConnell. I don't know why they haven't done the legislation there.

CUOMO: The hell you're not.

CORTES: I agree with you.

CUOMO: He's in your party. And you're here to defend the administration.

CORTES: I agree. I'm not - I'm not--

CUOMO: He's part of it.

CORTES: That means I answer for him? I don't answer for him.

And the - and the Senate should absolutely pass something because they can, because they have the votes, and I agree. And, by the way, Paul Ryan, when he was Speaker, should have done something.

And I - I will say to the GOP's great discredit, when they controlled both Houses, they did not address immigration, and they should have. And I believe it's one of the reasons we lost in 2018.

CUOMO: And when you guys had both Houses--

CORTES: It's not because of the Democrats.

CUOMO: --you didn't do a damn thing about either, except put all your money behind a fence that doesn't--

CORTES: That's - I just said much to--

CUOMO: --help with the current problem.

CORTES: --I just said much - much to their discredit. But here's the thing. What AOC - let's get back to AOC where we started. The fact that she's trying to equate us with Nazis--

RYE: Oh, now you want to get back to the topic!

CORTES: --because we believe in Border control, if her logic holds, then Barack Obama, who deported more people than all other U.S. presidents combined--

CUOMO: Remember that.

CORTES: --by her logic, then Barack Obama is a Nazi.

CUOMO: Remember that.

CORTES: However, we don't seem to hear that.

CUOMO: Next time the President says that he's gotten rid of more people than anybody--

RYE: Are you kidding me? I can't believe that's--

CUOMO: --remember that the opposite is true.

RYE: --where you end up.

CUOMO: Remember when it comes to enforcing the law, Steve that this President's nowhere clear to being close to the last administration. What he's done is encouraged a flow that we see right now.

I got to leave it there, Angela Rye, Steve Cortes. Just both of you go home with this. Neither side has fixed a problem that everybody acknowledges is happening. We got to do better than this.

All right, quite a week for Mitch McConnell. And look, I know that they say that "Next week, next week, it's going to get done. Next week, we're going to take care of the kids." Why the hell did it take so long? Now, he's taking on advocates for 9/11 victims. Now, he's taking on the issue of reparations with slavery. Imagine if I brought that up with those two debaters.

We have a controversy. We're going to take up with D. Lemon, next.








CUOMO: The debate over reparations for slavery has been gaining some new attention from Democrats ahead of 2020. It's not so much about how much money, but in terms of the need for record - recognition that inequities remain.

"Not so," says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Here's how he explained why he's against it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We've, you know, tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a Civil War, by passing landmark Civil Rights legislation. We've elected an African-American President. I think we're always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that.


CUOMO: D. Lemon, does the reasoning hold up to you?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: I just I feel like I don't want to even discuss how simple - simple-minded his assessment is of that.

I mean if you - to say that no one who's alive is dealing with that, OK, that's an argument, or that's an excuse that a lot of people use. But no one minds taking advantage of the benefits that they got from slavery, and from Jim Crow.

So, if you don't - if - maybe you should give back some of your wealth, maybe you should give back your grandfather's college degree, maybe you should give back your great-great grandfather's land that you were given and, you know, on and on and on.

Yes. People weren't there. But people reaped the benefits from it. And that is the whole point of the matter. And social programs are not reparations. He is conflating the two, and again, misleading the American people, as has so often been done, especially within the last couple of years.

His argument is simple-minded. It's stupid. I would say it's - it comes from a position of privilege, and probably one of bigotry as well.

CUOMO: There is a suggestion from some that he seem to be saying "We gave you Obama, shut up."

LEMON: Maybe he should have worked with Obama. He should have said - he shouldn't have said on the first day, he was going to make him a one-term President.

If he was so happy about having the first African-American President or the first Black President of the United States, and he thought that that was in some way a - a reparation, maybe he should have been more willing to work with the first Black President of the United States, if he really - if his words really mean anything.

CUOMO: Although in fairness, you remember how upset Mitch McConnell was at even suggestion of the birther movement, and how he just came out in full-throated ways, and saying, "This is wrong. It shouldn't be going on," now, I'm making that up, not a word.

So, to your point, if that is - even if you want to adopt that that we saw this as progress, we saw this as somehow penance for the original sin, to extend his own metaphor, they tried to sabotage Obama. He did it personally. And people on his side of the aisle did it collectively.

[21:50:00] LEMON: Well, and he's still the biggest apologist and water-carrier for the leader of the birther movement, which is this current President right now.

Listen, and speaking of reparation, speaking of, you know, the debt that is owed to people of color in this country, Robert E. Lee's - a descendant of Robert E. Lee is going to be on to explain to us how he feels about reparations. And the answer may surprise you. Be on in just a little bit.

Also, we're going to talk about the Central Park Five. We have - we have assembled a group to talk about the Central Park Five, and how this President is saying, "Oh, well it's a both sides issue," and you remember where he stood on that. We talked about that Sunday when you were at my house.

CUOMO: Yes, reminiscent - good people on both sides, another ugly situation that he's trying to make a moral equivalence on.


CUOMO: Don, that's some good booking. I'll see it tonight.

LEMON: See you. CUOMO: All right, so Donald Trump, not President then, called for the execution of the Central Park Five.

So, they were wrongly convicted. So, he is now ready to admit he was wrong. No, not even close. I want you to hear his explanation. It is indicative, not of his past, but of our present.

The closing, next.








CUOMO: Central Park Five, don't roll your eyes, it's relevant for two reasons. You have this new Netflix series on the case, and it's highlighted the injustice, and the indiscretion of our President.

The case captured a city's fear of rampant crime in Gotham (ph). As a young New Yorker, I was alive then. I was very aware of the widespread violence in the 80s, and we were collectively afraid.

I had a sister who was mugged twice, she believes, by the same man, burned with a cigarette. Terrible! I remember my brother flying in the direction of where it happened, praying he would come back, and I was hearing stories like this all the time. So, the city was afraid.

The President, then, concerned citizen, saw opportunity in the animus, and he went all in, trying to make a name for himself over the incident in 1989. He took out a full-page ad in The Times, and this was not a man who was looking to spend money that way on the regular. "Bring back the death penalty! Bring back our police!"

Who did he want the death penalty for? These five Black and Latino teenage boys. He tapped into a lot of fear and anger that was very real. Sound familiar?

It was a horrible rape that actually happened in the park at night. It was part of this criminal phenomenon at the time called Wilding, groups of thugs preying on innocence. A young woman almost died in this horrible sex crime.

The facts were damning. The boys were accused of attacking other male joggers that same night. They confessed to doing that. They confessed to raping this young woman. They were tried. They were convicted. The problem was it was wrong. Prosecutors knew at the time that none of their DNA matched the victim. DNA was early in its use in these trials. Today, maybe it would be different, maybe not.

The Central Park Five claimed their confessions were coerced, products of duress over many hours with teenagers. But they were all in jail for years, one for more than a decade.

But then what happened? The man who actually raped the woman confessed. How do we know it was him? A DNA match from the victim. He never implicated the boys. He said he acted alone. A judge vacated the convictions, and years of civil suits followed.

But still, despite all that new information, the President today said this.


TRUMP: You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein, and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So, we'll leave it at that.


CUOMO: No. We will not, because that is leaving it at prejudice. There are people on both sides here. But one side was wrong, maybe intentionally so, maybe not, but here's what we know.

The boys didn't do it. The DNA does not lie. And I know that absence of evidence of DNA does not necessarily mean that you weren't there. I get it. I know all about it.

But the judge vacated the decisions. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, the judge says they didn't do it. People lie. DNA does not. The DNA that was there belonged to none of them. It did belong to a man named Reyes, who admitted to the crime alone.

I iterate the facts because those are the facts. And I say today there certainly would have been a different process because of the strength of DNA value. But we can't be sure because there's still a problem with prosecutions that produce wrong outcomes, especially when we're talking about Black and Brown young men.

The President says he's all about law and order. That's why I make this argument. So, he's all about law and order, but he's going to cling to a proven injustice.

And while the case against the prosecutors for prejudice was hard to make, was never made, they settled the case, the one against the man who is now President was made by his own words.

In this op-ed, back in 2014, the man who would eventually be President actually wrote that even if they didn't do this, they didn't have the past of angels. That is, as a matter of fact, prejudice. And so, on this day, the President re-launches his pursuit of Office. He doubles down on this erroneous sense of justice. He won't admit he was wrong about the Central Park Five, despite the facts.

As we prepare to pick a new set of leaders, it's not just what the candidates say and do now, that matters. Character is formed over time.

As clear as it is that this President was wrong about the Central Park Five and that his clinging to his belief reflects a prejudice against them, it's clear that he has never learned from his mistakes.

Strong and wrong is a dangerous combination, and one we see from this President, back then, and today.

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