Return to Transcripts main page
Cuomo Prime Time
Miles Taylor Reveals He Wrote 2018 "Anonymous" Op-Ed; Trump Slams "Anonymous" Author Miles Taylor As "A Sleazebag"; Joe Biden On Trump Administration's Handling Of The COVID-19 Pandemic. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired October 28, 2020 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you very much everybody. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.
Tonight, we have "Anonymous." His name is Miles Taylor. And you've seen him on this program before. But you're going to see him in a whole new light tonight.
This is Miles' first TV interview since revealing he was the person behind the pen, more than two years ago, when he turned the White House upside down with that now-infamous Trump resistance Op-Ed and subsequent book warning about the President's unfitness for office.
The former Chief of Staff, at Homeland Security, under Secretary Nielsen, was a very big and inside position.
What did "Anonymous" and others actually stop from happening? How worried was he and were others in-house? How many are still there? Insight into why Biden is hitting the notes that he is, in this campaign, especially in the final week.
And also, why did Miles Taylor conduct himself the way he has? Let's start there.
Miles Taylor, thank you for taking the opportunity.
MILES TAYLOR, FORMER DHS CHIEF OF STAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, "ANONYMOUS" AUTHOR: Hey, Chris. As always, thank you for having me.
CUOMO: All right. First, what matters most, certainly to me, you lied to us, Miles. You were asked in August, if you were "Anonymous," here on CNN, with Anderson Cooper and you said "No."
Now, why should CNN keep you on the payroll after lying like that?
TAYLOR: Chris, it's a great question, and I'll just give you the blunt truth.
When I published "A Warning," I said in the book that if asked, I would strenuously deny I was the Author. And here's the reason. Because the things I said in that book were ideas that I wanted Donald Trump to challenge on their merits.
We have seen over the course of four years that Donald Trump's preference is to find personal attracts and distractions to pull people away from criticisms of his record. I wrote that work anonymously to deprive him of that opportunity and to force him to answer the questions on their merits.
And I'll tell you what happened, Chris. The end result is the President couldn't. He failed to deny what was in that book. And, in fact, to this day, the White House has failed to challenge the narratives that were in that book or the narratives that I have explained in my own name, over the past four months, speaking out against the President.
So, when asked by Anderson, whether I was "Anonymous," during that time period, I said what I was going to do. I temporarily denied it. But I've always said I would ultimately come out under my own name.
But that said, I owe Anderson Cooper a beer, I owe him a mea culpa, and the same thing for other reporters who, at that time period, asked me "Are you Anonymous," and I said "No," because I wanted that work to stand on its own two legs and deprive the President of an opportunity to do one more personal attack to distract from his record.
But look, I'm here tonight to say that was me, and I hope people challenge me on those accounts, and I hope the White House looks back at those accounts, and looks at them, and tries to actually say, whether they're true or not, because there is an army of people who've now come out, Chris--
TAYLOR: --who will validate them.
CUOMO: We will go through what the White House said in response. We will go through your time there, and what mattered, in terms of what you were trying to hold off for America's collective national security.
But you know what the problem is with having lied is that now you are a liar, and people will be slow to believe you, when you lied about something as important as whether or not you wanted to own this.
TAYLOR: Chris, that's the truth. And this was a very torturous decision. It was not immediate for me to want to publish this work anonymously at the get-go. It really wasn't.
But at the time, and I'll be frank with you, behind the scenes, I was trying to get people, who I'm not going to dime out, but other household names in the Administration, to come out and tell the truth that, Chris, we all knew, inside this Administration.
This isn't about just Miles Taylor. It's about a majority of the President's cabinet at that time that shared these views. I couldn't. And the next best opportunity was to convey it in a way that the President would avoid those personal attacks. But you're right, Chris. And I owe an apology for having to maintain that necessary misdirection for that period of time in order for that argument to work. But look, I'm here now to talk about it. And I've been out there talking about this for four months.
CUOMO: Why not come out when you wrote the book, and avoid the idea of a mysterious money grab?
TAYLOR: Yes. No. I think it's a really good point. But I want to start on the point of money grab.
To be clear, this was never about eminence, right? That's why it was written without attribution. It was never about money. That's why I pledged the proceeds of the book, almost entirely, to charity.
And it wasn't about a score-settling tell-all memoire, which I have grown sick of in Washington, D.C. It's a character study of one man, the President of the United States. And it wasn't me throwing other colleagues under the bus. The point was to focus on him and his record.
And if you go back in time, Chris, our Founding Fathers did this. When they wrote "The Federalist Papers" to defend the passage of the Constitution, did they do it in their own names?
They did it under pseudonyms and they did it for a reason, is Madison and the other authors didn't want it to be about them and their own personalities. They wanted the people to debate the ideas. And I wrote this, Chris, because I wanted people to debate the ideas and Donald Trump's character and record.
But again, I want to point out to you, I had no fear about putting my own name on the line here, and that's why I did it months ago, so people could come out and challenge me. They could pick apart my record. They could pick apart my stories.
I'll just say this--
CUOMO: Well but not as "Anonymous!" That's all I'm saying.
TAYLOR: Well no but--
CUOMO: As Miles Taylor, you did.
TAYLOR: Unquestionably. And now, they can. And I welcome it.
CUOMO: All right.
TAYLOR: And Chris, it's not like this hasn't come out without a cost. But I'm happy to walk through that as we chat. CUOMO: So, let's do this. Talk to you about your accountability here, now, the President's.
Here is his response to the news of who "Anonymous" is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Everybody was looking for "Anonymous," turned out to be a low-level staffer, a sleazebag.
"Anonymous" was a nobody, a disgruntled employee, who was quickly removed from his job a long time ago for, they tell me, incompetence. I don't know what for. But they tell me "Incompetence."
I'll tell you what, this guy, in my opinion, he should be prosecuted. He should be prosecuted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Facts first. Were you terminated for incompetence?
TAYLOR: No, absolutely not, Chris. And everything the President just said is so extraordinary because I think every single line he just used in there was a lie, and we've gotten so numb to it.
So, to your first question, no, I wasn't fired from the Administration. I could show you guys my resignation letter.
TAYLOR: When I left the Administration, on my own accord and, in fact, at the time, the White House and other agencies were basically begging me, to stay in, and take other jobs in the Administration. So, false, I was not fired.
TAYLOR: Trump is incorrect.
CUOMO: The idea that he didn't know--
TAYLOR: And no one's questioned my reputation.
CUOMO: --who you were that--
TAYLOR: Also ridiculous.
CUOMO: --"I never heard of him." Didn't you brief him?
CUOMO: Weren't you around him on a semi-regular basis, in your capacity with Secretary Nielsen? TAYLOR: Well--
CUOMO: There you are, in a picture, right next to him. He takes pictures with a lot of people. What's your answer?
TAYLOR: He sure does. He sure does. Takes pictures with a lot of people, except, Chris, I was with this man, on a regular basis, in the Oval Office, in the White House Situation Room, on Air Force One, and in other public events and settings. It's ridiculous for the President to deny this.
But what's even better is earlier this year, he told the press, he said, "Don't worry, I know who "Anonymous" is."
And then, when I spoke out against the President, this summer, in my own name, the President responded, and he said, "You know, this guy is a low life and a real stiff," and he demonstrated awareness of who I was.
And then, again today, the President reverted and showed amnesia, and he said, "I don't know who this guy is." But then he went to the podium, and again, he walks through my resume and background.
So, I think the bigger concern here is the President maybe needs to have a memory check done by one of his doctors. He's seen me on a semi-regular basis.
But Chris, I want to be fair. I wasn't the President's best friend. We didn't do dinners in the residence together. But I was a "Senior Official" in this Administration who watched him up close and personal in the most important Department, in his eyes, in his Administration.
CUOMO: Side point about journalism, and then I want to get to his assertion that you should be prosecuted.
The side point is "The New York Times" described you as a "Senior Official." You were Deputy Chief of Staff when you wrote it. Do you believe they properly categorized you as a "Senior Official" when you were still Deputy Chief of Staff and not yet Chief of Staff?
TAYLOR: Yes. I'm going to leave it to the media to make those determinations.
But when I was in the role of Deputy Chief of Staff, before I became Chief of Staff, almost every major outlet, in America, characterized me as a "Senior Administration Official," including the network that we're on now, CNN, would characterize me, at that time, in that job, as a "Senior Administration Official."
ABC, CBC, you know, CBS, NBC, you name it because we talked a lot to the press, as an Administration, to talk about the President's policies, and in various capacities. So, I'll leave that to the media to decide. But that was a widespread practice for a position at that level.
CUOMO: All right, side point. Main point, the President says you should be prosecuted. Did you anticipate this? Are you concerned about this?
TAYLOR: Chris, I have no fear of that. But what I'll say that's more alarming is this President has created a culture of intimidation, where people who speak out against him, he threatens to use the powers of his office to punish them.
When I put out my Op-Ed, do you know what his first response was? He tweeted out "Treason." To the President of the United States, criticism of him is treacherous and subversive. That's not what our Founding Fathers said about criticizing the President of the United States.
But what's worse, when people like the Intelligence Community whistleblower, came out against him, the President made comments like, "Well, you know, back in the day, we used to hang people for things like this."
It is chilling to me, and it's one of the reasons I'm speaking out that we have a Commander-in-Chief who silences dissent, not just with bullying, but with physical threats, with legal threats to abuse his power.
And we just saw it the other day, in Michigan, with Governor Whitmer, the President downplaying the threats against her life, and in some ways, inciting violence against his political opponents.
CUOMO: He's still doing it.
TAYLOR: This is - he's still doing it.
CUOMO: He's still doing it in Michigan.
TAYLOR: This is the why the man can't be--
CUOMO: Especially with Whitmer.
I did a little cross-referencing of how you characterize other people, who shared your concerns in-house, and people who have left in the last year or so, and there aren't many of them, except in some circumstances that don't seem to follow, which leads to the question, how many people who shared your concerns, do you believe, are still on the job?
TAYLOR: This is how I portrayed it to other people. I think there was an 80/20 split in the Administration.
When the Administration started, 80 percent of people, I think, were qualified for their jobs, and there were 20 percent campaign lackeys that were brought in for jobs they weren't qualified for.
Of that 80 percent, the vast majority of senior lieutenants, in the Administration, for the first two years, shared the sentiments that I expressed in my book, the "Warning." I mean that sincerely and not facetiously.
And since then, Chris, you have seen the President's former Chief of Staff, National Security Advisor, Communications Director, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence, and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all come out and say similar things to me. And I'm so glad they did.
But Chris, you've got to give me a second to put in a plug for the people who, unlike those folks, who were at the end of their careers, people who are mid-career, and had everything to lose by doing this.
People like Elizabeth Neumann, Olivia Troye, John Mitnick, Bob Shanks, Josh Venable, Alex Vindman, Fiona Hill, these people weren't household names. These people were similar to being at my level in the Administration. They have literally put their lives, their families, and their reputations on the line, to speak candidly about this President. That's what's important here. That's what I want to draw attention to.
Who the hell cares who Miles Taylor is, OK? I'm going to tell my piece of the story. The big story here is an unprecedented number of officials, in this Administration, shared the same sentiments I laid out, in that Op-Ed, two years ago. They continue to share them, and many more, who were still inside the Administration.
Even though that 80/20 equation is flipped, and it's down to about 20 percent competent people, those people in there still view this as important. They still view the President as unfit.
And some of them, I don't blame them for not resigning. I don't blame them for not resigning because some of them need to be in those jobs.
CUOMO: Well you could flip it, Miles.
TAYLOR: Protecting the American people.
CUOMO: You could say "All of you should have stayed in," especially you, because if you weren't going to come out by name, and say it, then you might as well have stayed in and kept helping the country stave off whatever you were concerned about.
TAYLOR: Chris, it's a very fair point.
In fact, people ask me all the time, "If it was so bad, Miles, why did you stay?" And my answer is "Because it was so bad, on a daily basis, the things the President want us - wanted us to do were unethical, immoral, un-American and, in some cases, blatantly illegal."
Now, for a time period, I think we did a pretty damn good job, in year one, putting the bad ideas back in the box. That's not to say we didn't failure - fail. My God, there were failures, in the first few years of this Administration.
CUOMO: What did you stop from happening, Miles?
TAYLOR: But that access-- CUOMO: Put some meat on the bones for us.
TAYLOR: That's a great question.
So, the President of the United States - the one I always go back to is the "Border." And I was never an Immigration guy. I came in to the Administration as a National Security guy. And as I became the Deputy Chief of Staff, I had to take over Immigration and, of course, Chief of Staff.
The President, at one point, wanted us to gas, electrify, and shoot migrants at the border. What we're talking about, Chris, is innocent women and children who are seeking a better life in the United States, fleeing violence and persecution. And the Commander-in-Chief is telling us he wants to gas them?
CUOMO: He literally said it?
TAYLOR: He wants to electrify the fence?
CUOMO: Was it ever put in writing?
TAYLOR: Swear on my life--
CUOMO: Or was it passed on by somebody else?
TAYLOR: Swear on my life, verbatim, Oval Office of the White House, of the President of the United States that he mused about shooting them.
And then, when there was clear shock, on the faces of the people in the room, the President said, "Well, maybe you could just shoot them in the legs to slow them down, so they couldn't get to the border."
CUOMO: You told him that it was mostly--
TAYLOR: "And that would send a message."
CUOMO: --women and children, and he said that they should be shot or gassed, seriously?
TAYLOR: Correct. Correct, Chris. And if that's not gut-wrenching to you, then you are not human.
And we would talk about these things behind the scenes. Those are moments where you would have to ask the tough question, "Wow! Do we resign now or do we stay and say, "Mr. President, that's illegal and we refuse to do it," and we chose the latter.
And that wasn't always the easiest or right choice. But we got to a point where saying "No" to those things stopped working, Chris, because he would just go around us, and do them anyway.
CUOMO: What else?
TAYLOR: And that's when (OFF-MIKE) time's up, the President offering to exchange presidential pardons, at the border, for illegal behavior, and telling us to seal the border and to close off all migrants. That's against U.S. law. We said it was against U.S. law. The President said "Do it anyway. And if you go to jail, I'll pardon you."
Where on other occasions, we told the President we needed important, and I can't get it too far into details on this one, but we needed important National Security authorities from Congress to address a very sensitive threat.
And the President said to us over the phone, "I don't care what you need. Just break the law and do it." And we said, "Mr. President, we can't break the law to do it. We need Congress to pass these important authorities," and he would tell us to go down that route.
He wanted, as I said, torching guys before, to bust illegal immigrants into sanctuary cities, so that those cities would become more violent. We told the White House this would be illegal. The President consistently brought it back up.
The President consistently told us he wanted to resume family separation, another sickening policy, and a big mistake of this Administration.
The President would regularly suggest ideas that were so beyond the pale that we wouldn't consider them, and we would push back. But it came to a point, Chris, where he did stop listening to us, and he just started doing things anyway.
CUOMO: Well I want to talk to you about that point.
Now, just to remind people, in the Op-Ed, you wrote, "Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office. The root of the problem is the President's amorality."
Now, that resonates with what you said about how to treat people approaching the fence. But what I don't get is how did you guys allow for the separation policy that we've seen paperwork?
I mean, I think we were some of the first to report it on "NEW DAY" here at CNN that officials came to the conclusion that separating kids from their parents would be the harshest instruction, and the biggest deterrent, and that that was what was smiled upon by the Administration. How did you let that happen?
TAYLOR: That's a--
CUOMO: How was that moral ground for you?
TAYLOR: That's - it's not. It's not, nor is it a policy that I embrace, support or standby.
And, in fact, in year one of this - in fact, before I even get to the story, Chris, this is what I want to say. Family separation was one of the most disgusting, abhorrent policies of this Administration and it was emblematic of how terrible ideas got rushed through the policy process before the consequences could be considered.
And now, let's look at the consequences. The consequences are small children that were unnecessarily separated, from their parents, for extended periods of time, many of them will never see their parents again. I don't know how it gets more inhumane than that.
CUOMO: Then why was it defended?
TAYLOR: And what we did inside the Administration--
CUOMO: Why was it defended--
TAYLOR: That's a great--
CUOMO: --even by the Secretary at that time?
TAYLOR: Well - well look--
CUOMO: I mean I noticed recently with these--
CUOMO: --545 kids, you deleted the tweet, to your credit.
CUOMO: But you had put up there saying, "Hey, look, it's horrible, but a lot of them, very sadly, it's because the parents didn't want to claim them, because they wanted to leave them for a better life in the U.S."
TAYLOR: Yes, yes.
CUOMO: Look, I know the situation down there well. I checked with them.
CUOMO: This was not the situation of parents basically sacrificing themselves at the border to go through the process to get the kids in here. It's really just an extension of not giving a damn about where the parents are, in respect to the kids, and it's because of an overflow--
CUOMO: --of a policy of harshness. Why even justify it the way you did there. It seems like you guys had something--
CUOMO: --about this policy that you liked.
TAYLOR: No, false. And I'll tell you why. We fought our asses off, behind the scenes, to make sure this didn't go into effect. What few people know is that Kirstjen Nielsen, and agree with her or not, and I'm not out here, to defend her record.
But behind the scenes, as soon as Jeff Sessions, and the White House, said they were going to ram this policy down America's throat, without consulting us, by the way, we delayed, for months, and said "There aren't the resources to do this. And if you guys actually put this into effect, there will be a massive backlog of children at the border.
You need to wait months. There needs to be more people to do this. And we need to message it so that people coming to the border know there is a safe way to come in and a way that might put you at risk of losing your children. You can't do it."
You know what the White House did? They said "We're doing it anyway. They outvoted the Secretary." She was the only one to say that we weren't ready. And then they stuck her as the "Fall-girl." This is how screwed up this Administration actually is.
Now, when it comes to that tweet, Chris, I didn't delete it because I was ashamed of that tweet. I deleted it because it lacked context.
The new story about those 545 children said exactly what my tweet said. I was merely quoting the news story. But what the news story said is that many of those children will never see their parents again.
TAYLOR: Because those parents made a difficult and a horrible choice that they should have never had to be put into a situation (OFF-MIKE) demanded, get back to a country that you feel like it's too dangerous to raise them, or you can leave your child in the United States for a better life, but we're going to deport you anyway.
That's not a decision we should ever have to give parents that show up at our border, and it's a damning indictment, of this President's failure, to actually resolve the crisis, at the source, and instead, resolve it with poor policies down to our Southern border. I stand it against it firmly.
And Chris, the last thing I want to add on that--
CUOMO: Go ahead.
TAYLOR: --is every single month, after we got him to end the family separation policy, every single month, before I left that Administration, Donald Trump said "I want to resume it, and I want to make it harsher, and I want to rip every kid apart from their parents."
That's why I resigned from this Administration. It's how sickening that demand was. And we said "No" every time. But I believe, in a second term, Donald Trump is going to bring this back. That's not wild speculation. Donald Trump will bring this policy back, and that's why we have to vote him out of office.
CUOMO: You have tied what you saw in his demeanor, disposition and policy preferences, what you saw as a direct link to how he has treated the pandemic. How so?
TAYLOR: Yes. I mean, look, the President is wildly unfocussed in any meeting. You've heard that not just from me but half the Cabinet Secretaries that seem to have left this Administration.
But more importantly, when he approaches any policy decision, Chris, he approaches it through the lens of his personal self-interest and his ego. Why was that a problem when it came to the Coronavirus pandemic? Well because we had plans on the shelf for how to deal with the pandemic at homeland Security. That was the job.
CUOMO: Because this is a national security issue.
CUOMO: Pandemic falls under that umbrella.
TAYLOR: It's just like think of it like a war. And when we have a war, the Secretary of Defense is accountable to the President, and he talks to the Combatant Commanders, in the field, and there is a chain of accountability to run that war.
We designed the same system for Homeland Security threats. Guess who didn't use it? Donald Trump. He said "I don't want to pull those plans off the shelf where I report down to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and he addresses the crisis."
Instead, the President of the United States said "I want it to be about me, my press conferences every night, and I want it to be run by a Task Force of people in the White House."
When has any national security crisis or war ever been decided by Committee and won decisively? None. And neither was this one.
CUOMO: I understand that. But I'll tell you something. That's not my concern.
CUOMO: You're right.
CUOMO: But, to me, it's a smaller point, and here's why, Miles.
If he had - no matter how he wanted to do it, if he had just decided to do it, given it a name, "Operation No Pandemic" or whatever, and put his arms around it, not only would the country be in a better position, he would. What was your understanding in-house or, now, from people who are still in-house, for why he has never realized that ignoring the virus was never going to work, and the obvious choice that was better for him--
CUOMO: --and us, was to put his arms around it and go all in, why not?
TAYLOR: The answer is very simple, and I could not be prouder of my former colleague, Olivia Troye, who was in the Vice President's office, as his Homeland Security, who left, and who has shined a light on this decision.
And Olivia's answer has been very simple. Because, for Donald Trump, he was afraid that by talking about this pandemic and telling Americans how bad it really was, it would cost him his re-election.
And you know what that's turned out to be, Chris? A self-fulfilling prophecy, because by ignoring it, and downplaying it, the President has made it so bad, and so many thousands of Americans have died unnecessarily that he's ultimately, I believe, going to cost himself the presidency, by not taking ownership.
CUOMO: Couple more things.
One, in terms of what has happened since, what you've seen with Chad Wolf, in the Agency, and the extension of his policies, and the harshness, is he to be blamed or is he somebody who is being overrun by the President?
TAYLOR: Well, I've promised, since the beginning here, to try to stick to my rule of focusing my attention on the President, and not people by name. I know a lot of these folks.
But what I will say is this. Chris, the President has horribly and almost irrevocably politicized the Department of Homeland Security.
Keep in mind, this was a Department built out of the rubble of 9/11, so that we didn't have to watch stories again, in the future, of Americans jumping out of burning buildings, and phone calls to loved ones, just before they died. That's why DHS was built. The President has so heavily politicized that Department.
And now, when you look at something like the COVID-19 response, we are now again, hearing stories at a 9/11 scale of family members calling each other for last goodbyes from hospital rooms that they'll never get to see again.
The President, by politicizing this Department failed to let it do its mission. If I had to put - if I described Homeland Security as an apple pie, and one slice was Border and Immigration, and one was Counterterrorism, and one was Cyber-Security--
TAYLOR: --yada, yada, yada, to the President, that whole pie is just Border and Immigration.
When the crumbs fall off of his lips, what's left on the ground is a little bit of Counterterrorism and Cyber-Security and Pandemics. He doesn't care about those other issues. And, as a result, American lives are actually in danger.
CUOMO: But the guy's got power.
TAYLOR: This President has made--
CUOMO: Just like Nielsen did. And this is the part that I think rubs people the wrong way, OK?
You're in there. You raise your hand. You take the oath. You are there for the Constitution. You are there for the people. "Oh, but he's making it hard. Oh, but he's hard to convince." But you have been given power. Nielsen never spoke out--
CUOMO: --about the policies at the border the way you have since. Wolf says nothing about what is being ignored in states that are desperate for more help than they get right now, and that's his job.
Why should people be OK with dereliction of duty on the basis of, "Well, Trump makes it really hard?"
TAYLOR: Chris, people shouldn't be OK with it. And I'll still try to avoid naming names, but I got to say, I got former colleagues, in that Administration, who stand by every word I wrote in that book "A Warning."
And now I see some of those same colleagues, refusing to speak truth to power, refusing to stand up to the President, and pretending like they also didn't say every day in private that they felt like the man was unfit for office.
There is going to be a moral reckoning, after this Administration, and those people are going to have to do some soul-searching. But I really hope I'm wrong. And I hope, behind the scenes, they're standing up to the guy, but I'm not seeing that in what's coming out of this White House.
CUOMO: What is your biggest fear about what happens if the President has a second term?
TAYLOR: I think the President will feel completely emboldened to pursue not just these almost Nazi-like immigration policies.
I don't say that lightly. That's pretty harsh term to levy against the President. But that's really where they want to go, is turn it - this country into "Fortress America" rather than a "Shining city on a hill." But worse still for me, as a lifelong National Security professional, is I believe the President is going to sellout our allies, and befriend our enemies, and put this country in danger.
And he's already shown a proclivity for friendships with despots and dictators around the world, and he's kicked our best friends to the curb. That kind of thing is going to put this country in danger for the long run.
The President will want to do things like pull out of NATO, pull out of our international agreements, put our troops and - pull our troops back from places where they're fighting forward, so Americans don't have to fight bad guys, here at home, on our city streets. That's what he's going to do.
I think if the guardrails come off, which they have, but even more in a second term, the President will feel unimpeded. And then finally, Chris, I think the damage he's done to our democratic institutions, he will double down on that, damaging the courts, damaging the oversight power of Congress, and expanding the power of the Executive, so far that it's unreasonable.
This is not a Conservative President. You know why, Chris, because Conservatives always believed in small government. Donald Trump's government is so big and expansive that it invades our lives and our minds every single day. To me, that's not a small government conservative.
CUOMO: Couple more things. One, why now?
TAYLOR: That's a good question. Why now speaking out?
CUOMO: Mm hmm.
TAYLOR: Well, look, I consider myself having been speaking out for the past two years against that President, of course, at first, anonymously. But the reason I attach my own name to these criticisms, throughout the general election, is this. The American people are paying attention right now.
I'll guarantee you, Chris, if last summer, as soon as I left my job, I came out with a bullhorn, and said this is who Donald Trump is, within 48 hours, the news story would be over. No one would pay attention, and they wouldn't care.
Right now, Americans are reviewing the President's resume, his record, and his character. And it is mission-critical that people like me, but others, come out now, when the voters are listening, and tell them who this man really is.
And I have to say again, I could not be more proud of the courage of other people who've joined me in doing this, and taken great sacrifice, around the same time, people who also could have spoken out sooner, but recognize that now America is paying attention, and this is the time we have to talk.
But look there's--
CUOMO: Do you think more will come out?
TAYLOR: I hope so. Look, I'm doing this because I hope, one, yes, that more former officials will find their consciences when they wake up tomorrow morning, and hopefully do the same thing. But I've almost given up on that, Chris, because the people who had the courage to speak out, they have done it.
What I want people to do now is if I'm taking off the mask, I want Americans to take off their masks, in their communities, the people who are too scared to talk to their neighbor, or their brother, or sister, about Donald Trump and the damage the four years have done, and what another four years could do, they need to take off their masks.
They need to speak. And the loudest voice they can have is their vote. And the next best thing they can do is persuade other people with their voice. All Americans need to step out of the shadows.
That's why forget "Anonymous." "Anonymous" is over. Let's stop talking about it. And let's all stop being anonymous in our criticisms of America's politics and the discord in our discourse. It's time for Americans to speak up, to vote, to repudiate this man, and vote him out of office.
CUOMO: You wish you had taken your own advice and come out by name initially?
TAYLOR: What I wish I did, Chris, my regret is I wish I had left this Administration sooner. I do. I genuinely think I should have resigned about a year earlier.
And I'll let you know this. Behind the scenes, at the time, there were a lot of discussions. At one point (OFF-MIKE) masks and we talk about it. And frankly, most of the people--
CUOMO: Say it again, Miles. I lost your transmission for a second.
TAYLOR: --Donald Trump will get over this - sorry. You got me now, Chris?
CUOMO: Yes, Sir.
TAYLOR: What I was saying is I wish I had resigned a year earlier. We talked about it. There was a group of us that were going to resign en masse. The fear was that Donald Trump would replace us with sycophants almost immediately, and we would have had no impact.
But I still think it would have been worthwhile to consider it. And that's partly my regret is not leaving a little bit sooner. CUOMO: Last thing, the tape that just came out from - from the Woodward tapes, about Jared Kushner, does it square with your understanding of the moves in-house at the time?
Jared Kushner's suggestion that the President played the pandemic to political advantage, he didn't want to own the fight, leave that to the governors, but he wanted to own reopening, so he would get the upside but none of the downside.
TAYLOR: Completely. And you know what? That was validated by people I was speaking to in the White House at the time. That was their strategy. They told me, Chris, their strategy. I talk to these people still.
They told me their strategy was "Get the President as far away from it as possible. Get the responsibility off the federal government, and stick it on the governors. And then, when things start going better again, claim it for the re-election."
That's not even like hyperbole or my cliff notes. This is what people were telling me over the phone. This is--
CUOMO: It's what Jared Kushner said on tape. That's why I asked you.
And Miles Taylor, I know some of these questions are uneasy. But you know how this show is. Thank you for coming on and answering the questions. I appreciate you taking the opportunity.
TAYLOR: Chris, thanks for having me.
CUOMO: All right. "Anonymous," no more. Miles Taylor. Forget about it. A lot of this plays into the intrigue about Kushner that I mentioned, last.
Miles Taylor word about what the President's ambitions and motivations are, are no more telling than what his own son-in-law said, about why they ignored the pandemic, and what they wanted to own. His father-in- law, the President, played us on the pandemic. Feel what you want about Miles Taylor.
We're going to have a reflection on what Taylor means, what Kushner's representation of the reality means, and where this leaves us, less than a week, from the biggest election of our lifetime, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. We just had our exclusive interview with Miles Taylor, once known as "Anonymous," about why he stayed quiet, why he lied to us about it, and what he wants you to believe about him, now and going forward.
Let's get some thoughts on how what he says squares with the reality of others, who were inside, and understand national security policy, and what the impact could mean on this election. And also, we've got to talk about Kushner and the politics of this pandemic. They are all coming together in the last week of this election.
Michael Steele, former Lieutenant Governor, down in Maryland, and also of course, the Head of the Republican National Committee, the GOP.
And Elizabeth Neumann, one of the women who worked in-house that you just heard Miles Taylor say is to be rewarded as a champion of our National Security efforts, that she had the bravery to put her name to what she saw, and what she thought.
And he is right to celebrate what you did, and the way you did it. It is not easy. And thank you for doing it. It is the highest duty of a citizen. You told truth when power wouldn't like it. Not easy, so thank you.
Thank you, all, three.
Let's talk with you first, Elizabeth. Is what Miles has to offer about what was fought against, what battles were won and lost, and why, including on the pandemic, does it square with your notion of what happened in-house?
ELIZABETH NEUMANN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: It does. And, look, I think historians will have the luxury of looking back and picking apart the decisions that all of us made when we were serving.
We - many of us that came in, in 2017 were discovering and have been criticized by those on who particularly are from New York that we should have known better, when we came in in 2017, what the detriments of character and incompetence Trump had that, you know, I'm not from New York. I hadn't paid attention to Donald Trump for the decades that many have been exposed to him.
And so, in 2017, many of us thought he would rise to the occasion that he would listen to his advisers. And, over the course of that first year, it started to become dreadfully clear that he was not learning. He was not interested in learning. He was not listening to his
advisers. And while there were adults in the room, at that time, that kind of constrained him, over time, he rejected those constraints, and pushed them out.
And, over the course of four years, you have seen the consequences of that. Fewer and fewer people willing to stand up to the President, and tell him "No," and more and more people that will tell him whatever he wants to hear to the point where we are now in a devastating, once-in- a-century pandemic.
And it's not entirely clear to me that his advisers are actually telling him the truth. I mean it is possible he may actually think that we're rounding the corner because that might be what his advisers are telling him because he is so - reacts so poorly to hearing ground truth. And quite frankly, he just doesn't want to do the job.
NEUMANN: He wants to be about himself. He doesn't care about government.
CUOMO: I would believe you--
NEUMANN: And that's what we discovered when--
CUOMO: --if we didn't have the reporting that we have, or at least I have, about how he was when he got sick. And you put it together with the Woodward information he knows damn well what this country is dealing with because when his ass got sick, he wanted a whole different set of understandings about his potential reality.
And he didn't go to Walter Reed for any kind of noblesse oblige reason. He went there because he was scared and he wanted the treatments and the urgency that he denies everybody else.
But I respect your proposition about how you guys came into it. Everybody had every reason to believe it was an act, and that he would pivot, and he said that to many of you, and I know that.
Michael Steele, the only reason to look at the past, as a lesson, when people in your Party, real Republicans, real Conservatives, take a look at what Miles, what Neumann, and others say, about what motivates his prescriptions, why aren't there more of you? Why are you more unicorn than wildebeests in the jungle of politics?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN, SENIOR ADVISER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT, HOST, "THE MICHAEL STEELE PODCAST": Yes. That's a good question, you know, and a lot of it is tied to factors that everybody gets to make a personal choice over. You heard some of that from Miles. We've heard it from others that it is a difficult decision. Look, these men and women come into this with this intent of service to the country, and they try as hard as they can, to make every president successful, whether they agree with the policy, or don't agree with the policy, whether it's up or down, their job is to make it successful, on behalf of the American people.
And there is always that thing, Chris. And I know you have been there. I have been there. We've all been there where you're like, "OK, I'll just give it another five minutes. All right, if I give it just another week. All right, if I give it another - another month," you are always - you are always hopeful about the opportunity around the corner.
STEELE: And that's what keeps them in. That's what keeps them in for as long as they're there, because that sense of service, I mean, they, you know, they're not coming into these jobs to become millionaires and have lobster and steak every night that this is hard work. This is the people's work.
And so, the expectation, particularly in the National Security area in the, you know, the human services, the healthcare area, those public servants do a great, great work. So, it is frustrating for a lot of folks on the outside to say, "Why don't you just get the hell out of there?"
And you think about it, and you've heard. You've heard from everybody, "Look, yes, I thought about it, but I wanted to continue to serve because I had the hope that I could get it to a space where it's better."
And then you realize you can't, and that's when you have to make your move, when that moment comes, when you go it's enough, and everybody has go to now at the ballot box.
STEELE: I mean how many people were with Trump until two weeks ago, until whatever that, trigger was for them.
CUOMO: Well, we'll see.
STEELE: So this is--
CUOMO: We'll see.
STEELE: --it's a difficulty.
CUOMO: We'll see what happens on Election Day. For Michael Steele--
CUOMO: --his moment, you know, you are going to be a little new to the audience. But Michael Steele, the reason I went through his pedigree the way I did is because he is a true-minted Republican and Conservative.
And, yes, that is why his moment became what is now known as "The Lincoln Project," and he is one of the Founders of "The Lincoln Project," and I know that the President wants you to see them at RINOs or whatever.
But let me tell you, in that game, it is not easy to do what these men and women are doing, and putting themselves against Party. In the sake of Party, it's not easy. It's a game that doesn't look at anything--
CUOMO: --as bravery, when it could be seen as disloyalty. But I wanted you to speak first, and then remind people about "The Lincoln Project."
D. Gregory, I heard that little COVID cough. I know you were trying to curry favor, and get me to you a little quicker, and it worked, my brother, although I'm still jealous how fast you beat the virus compared to me.
Politically, how does this play? Miles Taylor, coming out, on the Wednesday, before the Tuesday of the election, in the shadow, or I guess, sharing the spotlight with, better metaphor, Jared Kushner admitting on tape exactly the ugliest portrayal of the politics of the pandemic. "Leave it on the governors. Let them be the losers. When they open up, we step in, so we are the winners."
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "HOW'S YOUR FAITH?": Look, Miles is compelling to listen to.
I don't think there is a lot new there. I frankly think he comes off as a guy who doesn't like Trump, who has endorsed Biden, and who is a little attention-seeking, frankly, at this point.
I mean I thought he sounded a little cute about being - just the whole thing, being anonymous, writing the book, and then hanging in. People are going to make their judgment. But we know where he's coming from. We also know what these judgments are about the President, and about the policy.
What's compelling is it reveals an administration policy and a president, when it came to immigration, and we know this about other things, no limits, no boundaries, no real policy. That's what's important because you related it to Kushner and the approach on Coronavirus, and this is what I think is similar.
No limits, no boundary, no real policy that the calculation is simply about the kind of reality TV aspect of it. "How do we win it? What do we own? What do we win? And who gets the credit? And how do we avoid getting the blame?"
That's not what you do in a crisis. You have to lead. You have to steel the American people for what's hard. You have to guide people emotionally. You got to be there for people. There was much more manipulation involved. And all the stuff that Miles is talking about is what was at most
charitably such a heavy-handed and inhumane approach to border security that was all about toughness, all about building a wall, keeping immigrants out, creating scapegoats, creating enemies that Trump could say "I'm here to protect you from."
We have known this. I think people have made their judgments about it. Whether you are pro-Trump, based on his hardline immigration policies or you are against him, I think, all of that has been kind of baked in at this point.
And honestly, I think, Miles, you know, now telling us that he's "Anonymous," I don't think is a huge deal at this point in the game.
CUOMO: David Gregory, respect the candor.
Michael Steele, thank you for coming here to CNN, and on our show.
STEELE: Thank you.
CUOMO: Appreciate you.
And Elizabeth Neumann, again, you are better than these other guys. You came out. You put your name and your reputation--
STEELE: She is.
CUOMO: --on the line. And you did it for reasons that were never going to make you rich in anything other than the confidence that you said the right thing at the right time.
CUOMO: So, thank you for doing it. You have my appreciation, and I'm sure, many others. Each and all of you, thank you. God bless your families. Stay healthy.
CUOMO: We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT. (END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Refusal of the Trump Administration to recognize the reality we're living through, at a time when almost a 1,000 Americans a day are dying, every single day, is an insult to every single person, suffering from COVID-19, and every family who's lost a loved one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: The former Vice President is all in on message and metaphor about this pandemic, that directly it is the crisis that is affecting everything, and that this President has done everything he can to get out of way of any kind of leadership. That is Biden's bet for this election that that is what will matter most from Arizona to Maine.
Trump held yet another potential super-spreader event in the State of Arizona that matters so much. Look at the people. This is the man who is supposed to give the message of what we need to do to be safe.
His friends and allies are more comfortable going after me for what I do than what the President is doing for all of these people. What does that tell you about where we are?
He's keeping up the lie that we're rounding the corner. If you want to play with that analogy, if we're rounding the corner, the next stop is a cliff. Look at the numbers. The question is will it work in the states he needs? I think the pandemic and the election are coming together into a big problem for this President.
Let's bring in the man with the numbers, Wizards of Odds, Harry Enten. What do you see?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER & ANALYST: I mean, look, I'm a guy of numbers, right? And what we can do is we can look at the 10 closest states that Donald Trump won four years ago, and look at the Coronavirus cases in those states. They are climbing in all 10 of them.
You said it. From Arizona, you can go down to Wisconsin it's climbing in all of them. So, the idea that you can just ignore this, or voters are just going to ignore it, it just doesn't make sense to me from a political angle, Christopher.
CUOMO: Now, what you'll be banking on is a disconnect that Trump voters aren't afraid of Coronavirus. They don't care.
But we're seeing different things in the states where they live. We see it in schools and how many parents are sending their kids into school. People are afraid no matter what kind of fearlessness they display in their political allegiance.
So, let's go into a State that absolutely matters as a swing, probably must-win for both guys, Wisconsin.
ENTEN: Yes, I think--
CUOMO: Take us through it.
ENTEN: Yes, I think Wisconsin really tells the story, right? This is a state Trump won barely four years ago. It's a state he probably needs to win.
And look at this. Look at the polling average in Wisconsin, Biden up by 9 percentage points. And then look at the COVID-19 cases, look at that, it's up 21 percent from last week, averaging 4,000 new cases per day. This is a huge connection.
And you know what? I'd be honest with you, I am surprised that Biden is doing as well in Wisconsin as he's doing all right - I'm not surprised he's leading, giving he's leading nationally.
But the fact that his margin is nearly matching his national margin, to me, indicates, as do other studies that voters are clearly making this connection between Coronavirus cases, in their backyard, and their voting patterns as well.
CUOMO: Fourth highest new case average in the United States. The positivity rate is at 28 percent. Record cases and deaths reported on Tuesday. How can that not resonate with people? It is real. Politics is often about feel. These are all facts that will make you feel.
COVID, top issue for voters, is that becoming more true or less true?
ENTEN: Yes, I think it's becoming - it's as true as it's been, and you know that Joe Biden is the one that voters favor on that issue, right? They trust him more to handle the Coronavirus than President Trump. And they have thought that throughout this process.
In every CNN poll that we've taken, more voters trust Biden on the Coronavirus than Trump, and it has been the case, over the last six months, seven months, basically since April, March, when the Coronavirus cases really started to explode nationwide that it has been listed as the most important problem according to Gallup.
And what is so important about that, Chris, what's so important, and why I don't want to get lost is, when you look at Gallup's history, the most important problem, and you ask "Which Party do you trust more to handle that issue?" look at this, this slide tells you everything you need to know.
Since 1948, the Party that is trusted most on the important - most important problem has won the presidency in every election, except for 1948, where they lost that, and in 1980, when it was tied, and they've won pretty much every single year.
So, voters are making the connection. And historically, when voters make that connection, it is a big problem for the Party that is losing on that most important problem. CUOMO: A lot of times campaigns is about - are about what politicians want you to think is a problem. This one is about what we know is a problem.
Harry Enten, thank you brother.
ENTEN: Thank you, Sir.
CUOMO: We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prepare for collision, bro.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: I know there is a lot going on, on election week, but we've got to stay in touch with people in need.
Scary moments off the Gulf Coast, that barge broke loose, from its port, in the fury of Hurricane Zeta, slamming Louisiana, and Mississippi right now. This is seventh big storm to come through that area.
You see how close the barge came to hitting a boat and it crew, man. Imagine being stuck on there.
The Cat 2 storm made landfall less than four hours ago, more than 700,000 already without power. D. Lemon is also watching this. He has family, as you know, in Louisiana.
Hopefully, everybody is safe, so far tonight, my brother. Come on in.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Yes. Imagine--
CUOMO: "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.
LEMON: You got - you can hear me, right?
CUOMO: Mm hmm. LEMON: Imagine it being my friends or family there.