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Don Lemon Tonight
Major Developments In Russia Investigation; President Lashes Out After New Russia Revelations; President's Leaked Conversations With World Leaders. Aired 11-Midnight ET
Aired August 03, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:39] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN TONIGHT NEWS GUEST HOST: We have major developments in the Russia investigation. This is CNN tonight. I'm Chris Cuomo in for Don Lemon. Here is what's happening tonight, CNN has learned Special Counsel Robert Mueller is crossing the President's red line. Remember when the President said, don't mess with his money, it's going too far if the special counsel looks into his finances. Well that is where the Russia investigation is headed. The FBI is reviewing financial records related to President Trump, his family and the Trump organization. CNN also learning that Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas for documents and testimony for people involved in the Donald Trump Jr. meeting at Trump tower. The President's White House attorney Ty Cob issuing a statement saying quotes the White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Listen to what President Trump said about all of this tonight in West Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That is all it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Interesting little bit of a pivot from the President. Usually he bashes us, the free media about this but not this time. He is going with the Democrats. Interesting a little political pivot there, but let's discuss what these developments mean to the investigation specifically. We have John Flannery former federal prosecutor for the southern district of New York and CNN legal commentator Matthew Whitaker, former United States attorney, and gentleman thank you for being with us tonight.
MATTHEW WHITAKER, LEGAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Good to be here.
CUOMO: So Mr. Flanner let me start with you. All this developments tonight, how would you prioritize? What is impressive to you? JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF
NEW YORK: There are two things. I prioritize them as equal though. Follow the money and take the meeting that is so critical in which there is a meeting about Russia with Russians and the second meeting in which they're deciding how to cover it up and the President writes the letter for Trump Jr. Those are really important things to focus on and going backing to when I was a puppy prosecutor and thought I wanted to work for Herbert Stern who won these cases, because he followed the money trail and this is a man, Trump, money and rep. That is it. Getting elected and those two seem key to this fellow and I think that way they can have information that they can prove and demonstrate for the whole public as well as the jury.
CUOMO: The big push back that we keep hearing Matthew, while premature at this point of investigation is none of this is a crime. Nothing that you guys are talking about is a crime. There's no proof there's any criminal transactions of a financial nature, even if the President had a heavy hand in drafting and arguably misleading statement about the Don Trump Jr. meeting. Not a crime.
WHITAKER: Right. I think one of the developments today is the fact it's been leaked that grand jury subpoenas have been issued from the grand jury. But we still haven't had any evidence or proof of any crime and I guess I would like the go to the one point that needs to be made here and that is if Bob Mueller and his small U.S. Attorney's office does go beyond the 2016 election and get into Trump organization finances unrelated to the 2016 election and really unrelated to Russian coordination, if it exists. I think that would be crossing a red line. I think that is when the deputy Attorney General, the acting Attorney General for the purpose of this investigation Rod Rosenstein, who I served with in the Bush administration, he needs to step in and pull the reigns back on Bob Mueller if he starts to go outside of the bounds of his delegation of authority.
CUOMO: John Flannery both eyes are moving east to west in a negative fashion.
FLANNERY: I like Matt. But I disagree strongly.
WHITAKER: You never agree with me, John.
CUOMO: We two great mind on this, so what's your take?
FLANNERY: The fact he would rewrite his son's note at that age is consciousness of guilt. It's a piece of evidence that shows he wants to conceal the whole thing and as for the money, the money is part of the quid pro quo. The interrelationship of these people and the money and I think it's critical that they're looking at things when he is quote a civilian before he was president which opens up the possibility of prosecuting him by indictment as one of the opinions supported when Ken Starr was an independent counsel. So I think there are lots of dangers --
[23:05:23] CUOMO: Go ahead, Matthew. WHITAKER: If you were the Judge and this was a trial I would
immediately object to assuming facts not in evidence to what John's saying.
FLANNERY: These facts are in evidence. Before I make a ruling, which facts are we discussing?
CUOMO: I feel like I'm in court.
WHITAKER: The single dollar.
FLANNERY: A single dollar, the talk about money laundering and why would have a prosecutor in New York step down from an investigation involving vast sums of money that crossed from Russia into the United States and them talking about what their exchange is and to believe that the sanctions are not about money, which is exactly what Putin was upset about some of the sanctions, because his money was off shore and it was affecting him personally. And as for Trump, there are questions about what were his holdings in Russia that were bragged about by Erick years ago. So to say you don't talk about money in this case is to ignore the obvious thing given the personalities of the people what motivates the people that are involved.
CUOMO: Go ahead, Matthew, finish your point.
WHITAKER: That is the great thing about having a grand jury.
FLANNERY: The grand jury is a tool of the prosecutor. It's not like it really stops anything that a prosecutor wants to do.
CUOMO: Matthew, respond.
WHITAKER: You're right. But the grand jury is a very effective means to get these bank records to get the transaction details and to also bring people in front of them that cannot claim the fifth and have to testify in front of the grand jury. It's a big deal investigation- wise and I think it is going to get to the bottom of all these allegations that I keep hearing John lay out.
FLANNERY: That is an important distinction.
CUOMO: Gentleman for a moment, just for the audience that didn't have the insanity to go to law school. Just because you hear scary words like grand jury and subpoena, the process should not be mistaken for the productivity. We don't know what will come from the requests for information and testimony. We'll have to see. I understand the special counsel has criminal jurisdiction here.
But there is a parallel, at least co concern of a political nature and you mentioned earlier Matthew, Rosenstein may have to step in and pull back the reins if Mueller goes too far. But imagine if that were happen. Imagine if the president word to make good on his threat, a hyperbolic as it may have been intended, don't go after my money. That is too far, and then what would happen in this situation? Not legally but the optics and the politics and the realities of Rosenstein saying to Mueller stop doing that or the President saying Mueller's gone too far, step in. What would that mean?
WHITAKER: It would be a complete political conniption in Washington D.C. But it would also I think be consistent with the constitution. We cannot have unaccountable prosecutor that pursues whatever they want to pursue without any relationship to the people ultimately --
FLANNERY: I hear somewhere in Chappaqua, New York a man named Bill Clinton going amen, brother, amen.
CUOMO: Mr. Flannery what is the other side of that note in terms of, you know what Matthew is saying this would be abusive of the constitution if they were over reaching. And I bring up President Clinton and who knows that better than him. We got Monica Lewinsky we started with a land transaction, what would you make with the implications of the president saying that special counsel is gone too far or Rod Rosenstein saying the same?
FLANNERY: I know Bob Mueller and I was on the judiciary committee when Ken Starr was testifying. And I don't think they're the same number one. Number two, we have a real question here about how Rosenstein -- he is in a very particular position. He wrote the memo that justified the firing of Comey, because of how the Clinton investigation was handled ironically. And I think that he thought after the President said no, no I fired him because he was investigating the Russian matter and so I think he is in a very peculiar position and conflicted himself and I suspect if they said fire Comey, he would probably end up being resigned or fined or fired himself. And that pride can only happen if we change the Attorney General and I think it would be an American catastrophe, a failure of the system and people like Senator Lindsey Graham already put down their marker. That is not going to happen. There will be hell to pay if that is what happens.
[23:10:22] CUOMO: the most loaded words in the business. We will see. John Flannery, Matthew Whitaker thank you very much for your perspective.
WHITAKER: Bless you.
FLANNERY: Thank you.
CUOMO: Let's take another quick break. When we come back, follow the money. You always hear that about special prosecutions and sure enough the special prosecutor is on the Trump money trail. What CNN has learned about financial documents related to the Trump organization, the Trump family and the President.
CUOMO: We're back with more breaking news on the Russia investigation. Sources telling CNN that special counsel, Robert Mueller is looking into potential financial ties between President Trump and his associates and Russia. That is something the President told The New York Times that he would consider it going too far, crossing a red line. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller was looking at your finances, your family's finances, unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line? Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
[23:15:02] TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Red line is a buzz word, right? It is a loaded term so is that a real threat or is it just political hyperbole? What we asked Kellyanne Conway about what the implications would be in this development in this investigation. What would the President do about it? Here is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: There's a second layer, which is that the special counsel is looking and asking for financial documents related to the President's holdings and to people who may have had had business dealings with the President that may be relevant to the investigation. The president had said looking at his finances may be a red line not to cross for the special counsel.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The President has said that Jim Comey, the former FBI Director assured him on three separate occasions that he is not personally a target of any investigations. We know that these types of endeavors end up being fishing expeditions. They were very broadly cast net and I would remind everybody that in terms of President Trump he said he has no financial dealings with Russia whatsoever. The miss universe pageant which was an annual event happened to make its way to Russia. Eight or nine years ago he was there for that and his son have also repeated. The businesses have no financial dealings with Russia. And in this case, again I think people are just talking about an investigation that exists but looking for collusion and conclusions that don't exist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Well, what you didn't hear Kellyanne do is say here's what the President will do, because this crosses that line. So we're in a pause mode there. Let us figure out what we know right now. We have two of our reporters who broke this story. CNN Justice Correspondent Pamela Brown and Crime and Justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz, it is good to have you both here, let me start with you Shimon, what have you learned about Mr. Mueller ceasing on Trump and his associate's financial ties to Russia?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER, CNN: The FBI Mueller has reviewed records related to the Trump organization. We're told investigators have come through the list of shell companies and buyers of Trump brand real estate properties and found interesting connections to Russians. They've also, the FBI and investigators examined background of Russian business associates connected to Trump dating as far back as the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. All of this is part of their ongoing look at sort of years that Trump and his associates have had connections to the Russians.
CUOMO: All right so that is one piece, so Pamela, for another piece now it's not just about the Trump organization. It's about associates like former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. What do we know on that front?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, so we've learned, Chris, what peeked investigators interest early on this investigation last July when it started. We learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. Intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives that were discussing their efforts. To coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects and these U.S. Officials say that these operatives you suspected operatives re-laid what they claimed were the conversations they were having with Manafort encouraging help from the Russians. The Russians could have been exaggerating, even lying. And Manafort Spokesperson has denied he colluded with Russians.
But just to take a step back here Chris, that is where this began a year ago. Now investigators, as this investigation enters its second year are focused on whether he was involved with money laundering, or tax violations in his business dealings with the pro Russia Party in Ukraine. That gives you a sense of how this investigation has expanded just with this one person.
CUOMO: Shimon, Pamela's raising good point there. It's not about where it begins. It's about where it leads and where it ends. So in terms of context of timing here and where it could go, this is what they call the Ken Starr problem, right? You start with a land deal and end with Monica Lewinsky. The question is from when? Is it just during the campaign? Does it precede the campaign? Is it open ended and if so does that open a window to charges about things that may have nothing to do with the campaign?
PROKUPECZ: Absolutely. And not only has to do with the President, has to do with family members perhaps and other people close to him and people who have worked on his campaign and this is going back all the way to 2013 and this is all part of what the FBI and others, these investigators and special counsel are trying to figure out and sort of take a deep dive in the people who worked for the organization with Donald Trump and they also want to look at some of the financial ties to see sort of what were these loans? What were other connections perhaps of some of the Russians that may have been buying up properties, who may have been renting space at Trump tower or leasing office space or whatever it may be? It is all sort of to try to figure out whether they have been spending time, building a relationship with the people around Donald Trump.
[23:20:42] CUOMO: We keep saying Mueller. And he is the special counsel. He is the main man. But the team also matters. And Pamela, other than hearing about exaggerations and allegations about who they donated money to, there's not much known about the team. But there have been ads and their biographies are relevant, their backgrounds are relevant. How so? BROWN: That is right. You can look at how many people have been
compiled, how he is running this investigation and who's been picked to be part of it and have a better understanding of where it's going and so many of their backgrounds, the attorneys and investigators, their backgrounds are in fraud and financial crimes. He is compiled more than three dozen attorneys, investigators and other staff in an office here in Washington D.C. And officials we've spoken with describe it as a small U.S. Attorney's office with the investigators assigned to separate groups, looking into different categories, various aspects of this investigation. These include groups of investigators of Mueller focused on Russia collusion and separately obstruction of justice as well as these investigations focused on Manafort and former national security advisor, Michael Flynn and many of this people as you knows Chris, these are lawyers who are coming from kucushy law firm jobs to work in this special probe. Even California are coming here to Washington to be part of this and as it stands there are 16 attorneys assigned to this probe, not including all the other investigates from FBI and support staff.
CUOMO: That is a big team, but the question is what have they come up with? Pamela, Shimon thank you very much for advancing the reporting, we appreciate it. We are going to take a break here on CNN tonight. When we come back, transcripts of President Trump's calls with world leaders have been leaked. And it does sound like the President is contradicting himself on one of his biggest campaign promises. We'll give it to you next.
[23:26:22] CUOMO: So transcripts of President Trump's phone calls with world leaders revealed by the Washington Post today. One, the President contradicts himself in one of the biggest campaign promises he made. Joining me now, two men who have the ear of the people across this country, they are syndicated talk radio host, John Fredericks and Sirius XM host Joe Madison. Gentlemen thank you for being with me.
JOHN FREDERICKS, HOST, SYNDICATED TALK RADIO: Thank you.
JOE MADISON, SIRIUS XM: Thanks Chris.
CUOMO: All right John, I want to get your reaction to the Washington Post released of the transcripts from President Trump's phone calls with Mexican President and the Australian P.M. in January. As we mentioned earlier, the President had heated exchanges with both leaders and said some unorthodox things to say the least. I want to read out a part and you guys can discuss it, ok? In the phone call with the Mexican President, President Trump said we cannot say that anymore because if you're going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I don't want to meet with you guys anymore, because I can't live with that. I'm willing to say we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is ok. But you can't say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I'm just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not this is the least important thing that we're talking about but politically it might be the most important to talk about. What's your take on that?
FREDERICKS: Chris let me start, obviously there are two issues. The first one is the big one which is the leaks. These can't continue. Whoever did this, better pack a toothbrush because General Kelly's going to get to the bottom of this and they're going to jail. You can't run a government with having these leaks. You have to be able to have confidential classified information without it ending up on CNN, The New York Times or The Washington Post or whatever. I think we can all agree on that. But the bigger issue is style and substance. Everybody's upset about these comments because they bristle at President Trump's style of communication.
I look at the substance. Now many people have said they've gone with the talking points, which is these haven't been authenticated. I read them. I think there are about as authentic as you're going to find. This is vintage Donald Trump. He is talking to leaders. He is doing exactly what he said in the campaign that he would do, that he would stand up for America. He is not the President of Australia or Mexico. He is standing up for American interests and Americans and he is fighting back and his frankness and candor, quite frankly, Chris, is refreshing to Americans that elected him to stand up for us.
As far as the world is concerned, nobody ever thought that the Mexican government was going to send a check to the U.S. Treasury. Ever everybody that understands this issue understands the Mexicans have a massive trade surplus with the U.S., that we ship our jobs to Mexico, factories there to play -- to take advantage of the chief slave trade labor network and then get the products back to the U.S. without a tariff and the President has said I'm going to put up to a 30 or 35 percent tariff on these goods coming back to save the American worker and U.S. jobs and that is going to help pay for the wall. So this is a matter of style over substance. Everything, the substance of what he said is 100 percent accurate. You look at his conversation with Australian Prime Minister --
FREDERICKS: Turnbull, he said wait a minute. Why are we taking 1250 refugees that your country has rejected and they're in jail? It doesn't make any sense for us.
CUOMO: One subject at time. Because there's another take on what he was doing with Pena Nieto, he was saying the wall was basically a political device and that we had to get our stories straight so we could move on to things that mattered more. What's your take?
JOE MADISON, SIRIUS XM: John, I'm trying to deal with a list of things. First of all no |e is going to go to jail for leaking this information, because you said something John that is not true. This was not classified information. These were staff people who were listening and deliberately listening, asked to listen as all presidents have people who do that and they were making notes of the conversation. So you don't go to jail, because you have these memos. So let's get that straight for the American people. So nobody is going to jail and if that was the case, then you might as well empty the White House, because you won't know where it came from. Number two, you can talk about a 35 percent tariff, if you want to
throw that at Mexico. And what do you think the Mexican President will do? You'll start a trade war, because for every action there's an opposite and equal reaction.
Number three the reason that the Australian President said -- the Prime Minister said that he can't take these people in is, because they have laws and they were trying to prevent smugglers. Remember, it's an island and they were trying to prevent people using boats to smuggle in people.
Number three or four these were not a bad hombres or bad people. These were economic refugees and Trump did not say 1200. Trump said 2,000. And so he exaggerated on that matter and the other thing that the Australian President said which was true is that we had a deal. And when America make as deal, when it's a previous President or not, America is supposed to live up to its deal. And finally you're absolutely right. This was a political issue. Rally after rally and you can go back in your archives from everywhere from Fox to CNN to MSNBC to every network where he said Mexico is going to pay for this wall.
Now we all know that. And the reality is that they estimate that wall's going to cost something like $21 billion and Trump said I'm good at building things on the cheap and so you have congress that is put aside 1.6 billion, which is a hell of a long way from the 21 billion that is going to cost. The other factor, and I'll close with this is these are Presidents and leaders of their own country and you simply can't go around bullying Presidents. If the President of Mexico said we're not going to pay for the wall, he is got to get reelected in the country nit America and the same things goes to Australian president.
CUOMO: John let get your take on a different issue I just spoke to Kellyanne Conway about the administration's propose to cutback maybe by 50 percent. And there's this new merit based criteria standard, their thinking of introducing. Here is what she said about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: We talked about our ancestors Kellyanne and I know how proud you are of your family and of you and what you did with opportunity in this country. They broke their backs to provide for you and for me and that promise, at the pedestal of the statue of liberty are not words just added later, as Steven Miller suggested at the press conference. They matter. Those were the solemn promise of this country to the world. Not just that we take the best of the best. We take those yearning to be free. You know those words from the poem better than I do.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Look, you're giving some sweeping statement about America and patriotism and I totally agree with American patriotism, that is why I'm here serving in the White House. But let's be honest. Did you ever get this exercise about the illegal immigrants who were deported many times and killed people like Kate Steinle? Have you ever felt this impassioned about it? [23:35:00] because you act like everyone is the same and that is not
true. And what the Senator and the President were saying yesterday is. A merit-based immigration system should be considered as a way to make sure that we are keeping wages higher and remaining competitive as America -- an American work force, people looking for work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: John what do you hear from listeners about this, because to me it seems to be a little bit of a strained argument. Forget about the Kate Steinle part of it. It deserves attention. It's gotten plenty. But this idea that there's an economic basis for this new standard, do people buy that and as a value judgment, it's time to change or rethink how we consider the promise of this country.
FREDERICKS: Chris the real value judgment is to protect middle and low income wage workers in the United States who have been screwed over and over by this government who has had had policies of shipping jobs overseas to take advantage of slave cheap labor and bringing immigrants in through student visas or anything else to take jobs from Americans. The real compassionate issue here is for American workers trying to make ends meet whose wages haven't gone up and who can't make it and these policies of immigration that we have is driven by two things.
Democrats desire to get cheap votes and Republicans and the chamber of commerce desire to get cheap labor. That is screwing the American worker. I don't know how much blunt to say it. The policy of Donald Trump here, which by the way is the same almost that Australia has, the country that all of the sudden Joe Madison is holding up as the lighting image, same policy as they have. What he is saying is look, for the first time in 40 years we're going to prioritize Americans and the American worker. That is the difference.
MADISON: Hey, real quick. Let me tell you something. Let me talk about my ancestors. You don't give a dam what language they spoke when you grabbed them from West Africa and East Africa and brought them here. You brought them here for cheap labor. If you really want to talk about labor, let's talk about what's happening in Canton, Mississippi where they won't allow workers to even have union representation. So if it you really want to put Americans to work, pay them a livable wage. Let's see what Donald Trump thinks about a $15 an hour job and I guarantee you pay people a livable wage, they will do the work and you won't have to worry about it. But here is the other thing, what do you say that people who come from countries where there are civil wars? You have to tell a child, a mother, somebody who's leaving a civil war or living starvation, you can't come to America because you can't speak English that is not the America that I live in.
CUOMO: All right John and Joe I appreciate this. This was a robust conversation. You made CNN tonight better, thank you fellows. We're going to take a break, when we come back there's a lawsuit over a false Fox News story. The White House is in that suit's cross hairs. The Fox contributor behind the suit joins us.
[23:47:25] CUOMO: We have a follow-up report for you tonight on the shocking lawsuit that alleges that Fox News, Republican donor and maybe even the White House all conspired to co concoct a phony story about a murder of a young staffer from the DNC, all of it is done as a way to discredit the conclusion by U.S. intelligence that Russia hacked the election. I want to bring in our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, always good to see you.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you.
CUOMO: What do we know? We know that Fox News retracted the story. But what else has happened? Usually in a situation like this if it really isn't true, if anything in this lawsuit is true, you'd see a lot of action by a news organization. What are we seeing here?
STELTER: That is right. That was in mid May. Since then there has not been a lot from Fox at least not publicly. No suspension or disciplinary action that we know of against any staffers who are involved in the story. However, we do know Fox has retained outside councils, they have brought in outside lawyers to handle this case from Rod Wheeler. We know Rod Wheeler is an attorney. They're looking forward to the discovery process. They would like to depose people like Sean Spicer who was the White House Press Secretary back in April when Spicer had a meeting with Wheeler and this GOP donor Butowsky at the White House where they talked about this. The conspiracy theory, this theory that has hurt the slain DNC staffer's family so much, because we know of the White House meeting, it creates a sense that maybe there's more to the story. But there's lot we don't know. And we don't know how much evidence he has to back up his assertion.
CUOMO: Well that is one of the good things about litigation. So there will be that eventuality, but the only thing we do know for sure at this point is that the family is devastated by this controversy and conspiracy theories. Their statement is hopefully this lawsuit will bring to an end to the investigation of our son and his death. There's no proof that rich was connected to the WikiLeaks that has come from police as far as I understand.
STELTER: That is absolutely right. The police believe this was an armed robbery attempt gone wrong, late at night one summer night a year ago in Washington. Out of that one fact, there's been a mountain of lies and mistruths and conspiracies all designed to show it wasn't Russia that hacked the DNC. It wasn't designed to help Trump. It was actually maybe this kid who did it and sent the information to WikiLeaks. As you said the family has been devastated by the claims. There is no evidence of it and they wish these conspiracy theorists would go away. Fox gave this theory a lot of credibility for a week in May, partly thanks to Rod Wheeler but now Wheeler says he was misquoted.
[23:45:06] CUOMO: Fox is all over it. They put out the story. It was their reporter, Wheeler worked for them as a contributor. The donor was one of their contributors. So the allegations about the White House much softer ground and much luckily for us we have a man that can put some meat on that bones for us, first of all Brian thank you.
STELTER: Thank you.
CUOMO: We appreciate it. Joining us now is the man that filed the lawsuit. Fox News Contributor Rod Wheeler, former Washington D.C. Homicide detective. He also has one of his Attorney Jeanne Christensen. Thank you to both of you for being with us tonight.
JEANNE CHRISTENSEN, ATTORNEY FOR ROD WHEELER: Thank you.
ROD WHEELER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be with you, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Let's get some of the allegations. And we interviewed Ed Butowsky and he had had stiff responses. I want to get your response to his argument. The main allegation in the lawsuit is that they used you to forward a lie, essentially, that they misquoted you. Is that your argument here?
WHEELER: that is exactly my argument. Let me start out by saying that my hearts and prayers go out to the Rich family. They always have. I really tried hard to find a murder, not to debunk a Russian narrative or to support a Russian narrative. To find the murderer, and while I was in the process to find that murderer, behind the scenes what I did not know is that this reporter and this Rich guy Ed Butowsky had another plan in mind and that is why they brought me into this thing and I realized that now - unfortunately I realized that too late.
CUOMO: Ed Butowsky said you are lying, you are aware of this. . One of the things he points to is an appearance by you on Fox News on May 16th. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHEELER: There was a federal investigator that was involved on the inside of the case, a person that is very credible. He said he laid eyes on the computer and he laid eyes on the case file and he came across very credible. When you look at that with the totality of everything else I've found in this case, it's very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think perhaps there were email communications between Seth and WikiLeaks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: How do you reconcile that with the Rod Wheeler with the Rod Wheeler before us tonight who is saying I never wanted anything to do with this conspiracy?
WHEELER: Absolutely, during the investigation, when I'm going through information and interviewing people, I get the information. This is important. I get the information about this federal investigator from who? Melilla Zimmerman and Ed Butowsky, that was my source from that and as a matter of fact when I asked them about this federal investigator, I also asked is this guy credible. The response was yes. Now after the story broke and this is so important and real quickly here, after the story broke I immediately -- I didn't waste any time, challenged Melilla about those quote that she put in the story and I also asked her let me contact this federal investigator to talk to him and get his information to the D.C. Police and I was told I could not talk to this guy.
CUOMO: All right one quick thing for you Jeanne I know the lawyer gets ignored in these interviews. Not tonight. Proof that he was misquoted, I know that is a little tricky, I know you could look at that as a demonstration of a nonexistent fact. But is there anything you can show in this lawsuit that would demonstrate that your client was misquoted?
CHRISTENSEN: Sure. I mean aside from the fact that we have a 33-page complaint that is full of quotes from audio, from text messages, from emails, not just allegations about Rod saying what happened. We thoroughly check everything, we listened to these audios, we read the emails, we read the texts and we only included information in that complaint that we had verified in fact had taken place and contrary to what Mr. Butowsky told you on Tuesday night. I believe he said to you that he has lots of documents, lots of text messages and he is going to hand them to you personally, I think he said and he was going to come down and give them to you.
CHRISTENSEN: And he is done that. I doubt it because those other text messages, those other emails don't exist.
CUOMO: I have not seen or heard from the man since we interviewed him but the invitation stands to take any proof that he has and that is a good segway for us here. One of the text messages that are in question here, we will put it up on the screen please, not to add anymore pressure but the President just read to article. He wants it out immediately it's now all up to you but don't feel the pressure. Butowsky says this was a joke. Here's his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED BUTOWSKY, NAMED IN LAWSUIT OVER FOX NEWS STORY: Rod Wheeler has been asking me for a long time. I said when I get this case settled, the President is going to hire me and he was always saying this to me. So this was tongue and cheek talking just texting, wasn't serious, because Rod Wheeler is always looking for job and he has no money and by the way this lawsuit is all about Rod Wheeler trying to get money, because he messed up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:50:10] CUOMO: Two buddies joking and you're broke, Rod Wheeler, your response?
WHEELER: Here's what I say to that. I want to be clear about this. And I hope Mr. Butowsky is watching. Just because I don't have $3 million laying around the house like he does, that doesn't make me left of a person, just because I don't get my shirts custom-made, that doesn't make me less of a person. So Mr. Butowsky, he can take all his money bags and stuff it. Because as far as I am concern this man knew he was lying. He is been lying the entire time. And one last thing, real quickly, I'm sure my attorney is saying, Rod, that is enough. Here's the thing. If, in fact, I'm so broke, why haven't I invoiced Mr. Butowsky one time for any money? I have an invoiced that he set me a few thousand when I first started, never invoiced him at all, Chris, for any of the work that I've done.
WHEELER: I wasn't pressed to invoice him. I didn't know where this case would go. Halfway through this case, when he started taking me to the White House and things, I started thinking to myself, this guy has an ulterior motive. His goal wasn't to solve a murder. He has something else in mind. That is when they reeled me in. And he admitted it. The guy admitted it. He said, Rod, one day you're going to get an award for the things you did not say. I said, Ed, keep the award. Just tell the truth.
CUOMO: He says there's more to that tape, where he was doubting the notion that you had said things that weren't true and that he was playing with your suggestion, because it was silly. He was playing with the silly suggestion because you both knew what you said.
CHRISTENSEN: Where is that tape? Where is that Butowsky claims will right what he claims is people saying, that he has lied and that his political motivations --
CUOMO: You could have it, counselor. Are there earlier portions of that recording that give a different context of that conversation?
CHRISTENSEN: Absolutely not. And we wouldn't have -- you know, this is a case unlike your commentator previously, where we actually had to be selective. There was so much material, there was so many facts that we had to choose from. At some point, we don't just put everything into a complaint. If it comes to a point after discovery and we need to amend the complaint, then that is what we'll do.
CUOMO: 33 pages, you don't leave a lot out, either, counselor. That is a healthy complaint.
CHRISTENSEN: There's plenty more information. And I assure you that. And it will come out. And Rod can attest to that.
CUOMO: Rod, you said something earlier. You talked about your shirts. It is a nice shirt, objectively stated.
WHEELER: I got it at Macy's.
CUOMO: Ed Butowsky said that is what the meeting with Sean Spicer was about. Are we ready with that sound? All right here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTOWSKY: My conversation with Sean about these recordings lasted about one minute. He said, Ed, I don't know anything about it. I don't want to know anything about it. I can't do anything. And we ended up talking about many other things, believe it or not, including, we both get our shirts at the same place. And we talked about the cotton material on these shirts. That is the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Is it?
CHRISTENSEN: I have something to say about that, Chris. If that were true, why do we have a text message the day before, April 19th, Ed is texting Rod, to say, make sure your investigative report is up to date and finalized and PDF's so we can bring it with us to the meetings with Sean.
WHEELER: That is exactly what we did. We had this meeting. We met about 10 to 15 minutes. I'll tell you real quickly how the meeting ended. Sean Spicer said I'm not sure how I can help with the investigation. He said Rod if you want to talk more about this or I can put you in touch with somebody at the Justice Department. He gave me his business card. And he gave me his personal cell phone number. I kind a wiped it out the last four digits. He said if you need help, give me a call. I never called Sean Spicer after that. That is the truth. That is what happened.
CUOMO: You went into that meeting to discuss this case. Do you think Sean Spicer knew that is what the meeting was about?
WHEELER: I don't know. But if you listen to what Ed Butowsky says, then Sean Spicer knew about it.
CUOMO: Ed Butowsky said he didn't know. He took the meeting as a friendly gesture because he knew him.
CHRISTENSEN: There was nothing else going on that day in the White House for Mr. Spicer.
[23:55:03] CUOMO: I mean look, there's room for speculation. This is not the first time we heard about a White House official in this current administration taking a meeting they said they didn't know anything about but went to anyway. But this is not a court of public opinion. In the court of law, you have to show it. If you're going to include the White House in a concocted story scheme, you have to show they wanted something and wanted to advance it and that there's merit that the President wanted it advanced. Do you have any of that?
CHRISTENSEN: We just filed the lawsuit, on the 1st. And the defendants are entitled to answer. And then, we'll proceed to discovery. And then, we will obtain that information that we believe is out there. And will prove Rod's story.
CUOMO: Rod, do you believe the President of the United States is aware of that?
WHEELER: I have no idea. All I can tell you is what Butowsky told me. And that is the White House is all over this. The President wants this out. As a matter of fact in regards to the quotes, he said the quotes were left in there. This is what he said. We got this on tape. I'm not just saying this. He said the quotes were left in there, in the story, because that is the way the President wanted it. I never heard the President say that. That is Butowsky talking. Take it for what it's worth. The main thing here Chris, I know we don't have a lot of time is that my goal is to clear my name. I don't have the millions that Butowsky has. But I have a good name. I worked hard for it. And that is I want to do and clear my name and I want Fox to do the right thing.
CUOMO: Rod Wheeler, Jeanne Christensen, thank you very much. As we learn more, please come back so we can test it.
CHRISTENSEN: Thank you.
WHEELER: Thank you Chris.
CUOMO: Let's take a quick break, stay with CNN.
CUOMO: Anthony Scaramucci's tenure as White House communications Director was short. It was about 11 days. But he made quite an impression. So much so, that he became the subject of parody done in beautiful form by a man named Mario Canton. Here's a taste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIO CANTONE, AS ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I'm going to fire so many people. I don't know who it's going to be, Reince. But I'm going to get to the bottom of the leakage in the White House. You hear me, Reince.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Joining us now --
CANTONE: It is great to see you Chris. After two hours of hard, hard -- you said it's Mario Cantone.
CUOMO: I want to build you up. Actor, performer, mime --
CANTONE: We don't have time, I am not a mime.
CUOMO: You were a mime.
CANTONE: I push mimes over on the grass. I'm not a mime. First of all, thanks for saving two minutes for me. I'm in bed this time watching Turner classic movies. I don't need to be here with you.
CUOMO: We have breaking news.
CANTONE: What's breaking?
CUOMO: Believe me, you don't want to know.
CANTONE: Doesn't your head want to blow off at this point after two hours of that.
CUOMO: No, I paid too much for this hair. Mario let me ask you something you have done so much, why did you want to do this?
CANTONE: Why did I want to do Anthony Scaramucci?
CANTONE: Because it was a calling. It was a calling from above. I heard the lord say, you must do this. This is your calling. Go. Go, now. Go to the studios of the comedy central.
CUOMO: It's not just that you guys resemble each other. You do. You're both very handsome, however your background goes right to the projected image of who Anthony Scaramucci is pretended to be by some people. Because that is not who he is, he is not a thug. You know that world so well from your own life.