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Trump Says He'd 'Love' To Talk To Mueller, Would Do It Under Oath; White House Layer Walking Back Trump's Remarks; Sources: Mueller Gives Trump's Lawyers Possible Topics For Interview; Trump: McCabe Got 'More Than $500,000 From Essentially Hillary Clinton'; Trump Pushes Back On Reports Of Tension With Chief Of Staff; Justice Dept: 'Reckless' To Release Nunes Memo Without DOJ Review; Source: Missing Texts Glitch Affected Thousands Of FBI Phones; Trump Open To Path To Citizenship For DACA Recipients. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 24, 2018 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: -- for "Cuomo Prime Time". Chris.

[21:00:03] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Anderson, my friend, thank you very much.

Breaking tonight, it is on. In a surprise statement to the media, Trump just said he wants to meet with Bob Mueller under oath. Then in his next answer, he gave us a perfect example of what peril he might face in that chair. You need to have people who have done these types of interrogations and defended against them to get where this is all headed. And guess what? We have them for you tonight. Let's get after it.

I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time".

Our breaking news tonight, President Trump saying he does want to speak to Special Counsel Bob Mueller about the Russia investigation. In fact, he says he'd, "love to" and that he would do it under oath. But don't get too excited. He gave himself an escape hatch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking forward to it actually.


TRUMP: Yes, here's the story, just so you understand. There's been no collusion whatsoever. There's no obstruction whatsoever and I'm looking forward to it. I do worry, when I look at all of the things that you people don't report about with what's happening. If you take a look at you know, the five months worth of missing texts. That's a lot of missing texts and as I said yesterday, that's prime time. So you do sort of look at that and say 'What's going on?' You do look at certain texts when they talk about insurance policies, or insurance, or they say the kinds of things they're saying, you've got to be concern. But I would love to do that and I'd like to do it as soon as possible. Good luck, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a date set?

TRUMP: So here's the story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a date set Mr. President?

TRUMP: I don't know. No. I guess they're talking about two or three weeks, but I would love to do it. Again, I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all that but I would love to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you do it under oath, Mr. President?

TRUMP: You mean like Hillary did it under -- who said that?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you do it under oath?

TRUMP: Oh you did say it. You did say it. You say a lot. Did Hillary do it under oath?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no idea and I'm not asking you that.

TRUMP: I think you have an idea. Don't you have an idea? Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait. Do you not have an idea? Do you really not have an idea?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't remember.

TRUMP: I'll give you an idea. She didn't do it under oath, but I would do it under oath. Listen. But I would do it and you know she didn't do it under oath right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She would do it under oath.

TRUMP: If you didn't do it, if you didn't know about Hillary then you're not much of a reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to do it under oath?

TRUMP: Say it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To reach a higher standard you would do it under oath, correct?

TRUMP: Oh, I would do it under oath. Yes, absolutely.


CUOMO: All right. This comes amid news that the special counsel has given Trump's lawyers a range of topics to discuss. The good news is there's little chance that Trump can completely avoid the special counsel. And you know what? The president should want to take on his questions, specifically questions about the firings of Comey and Flynn. Why? Because if he doesn't, you know the expression the truth will set you free? When he is, in the event, ultimately cleared in this investigation and he has sat down, and he has faced the questions, that's what will give the president the opportunity to wave his success and his exoneration in the face of all his critics.

But there is a big "if" in there because the president said something else today that is a prime example of what he does not want to happen when Bob Mueller is sitting across from him.

Now, there's a lot of political spin out there, I know. Two sides are going after it about what 24 means. That is just political BS and punditry. This is about facts, law, and strategy. We have people who have played this game. They know the rules and the pitfalls. We have CNN Contributor Norman Eisen, former Obama White House Ethics Czar. We have CNN Counterterrorism Analyst Philip Mudd, a former FBI senior intelligence adviser, and New York University Law School professor Anne Milgram, a former Federal Prosecutor. This, I couldn't ask for better guests. Let's talk about first the headline, OK?

So professor, the idea that the president wants to be with Mueller, wants to be under oath, if he does an interview, is being under oath negotiable? Does it matter because he's with FBI agents? What are the rules?

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So as a prosecutor, the way it would work is that -- if you sit down with the FBI and the prosecutor, which is the normal course in something like this, before you would go into a Grand jury, there is no oath. It's just -- it's required that you tell the truth and if you don't call the truth, can you charged with the crime of 18 --

CUOMO: So you don't need to be under oath?

MILGRAM: If you're in a Grand jury, you're always under oath.

CUOMO: Right.

MILGRAM: But if you just do the interview, for example, Michael Flynn just did the interview. George Papadopoulos just did the interview. They have been charged with lying to the FBI. So it is a federal crime to sit across from the FBI and a prosecutor and not be truthful. And so whether the interview -- if it's under oath in the Grand jury, you have the opportunity to also charge perjury if a lie is told. And so there are a lot of reasons why sometimes people will want to put a subject of an investigation into the Grand jury.

[21:05:05] But, again, in the normal course, you would first reach out to a subject's lawyer, to Donald Trump's lawyer, to Ty Cobb and say, will you please come in for this interview, and you would do the sit- down interview.

CUOMO: Now, Norm Eisen, Ty Cobb walked this back a little bit saying he's ready to meet with him but he'll be guided by the advice of his personal counsel. He said arrangements were being worked out between Mueller's team and the president's personal lawyers. Of course we saw President Clinton before a Grand jury and on tape that then got released. What do you anticipate in this type of scenario? What deal do you think they'll make with his lawyers?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, to agree with Anne, from the prosecutor's perspective, it would be -- and this is what Ken Starr wanted in the Clinton investigation. They were very insistent on it, Chris. They wanted it to be under oath and before the Grand jury. That was non-negotiable.

However, because of 18 USC 1001, false statements are punishable. It's better for Trump if he can do it as a statement. It will be done in the White House. Mueller will be there. Mueller probably won't do the questioning just as Ken Starr didn't do the questioning. The big fight, the very competitive prosecutors, everybody will want to question the president. It will be one of the senior prosecutors on the team, and Mueller will be sitting there watching and studying and gauging. Is the president telling the truth or not? If he tells the truth, he may walk into an obstruction case. If he lies, it's a false statements case. What a terrible dilemma.

CUOMO: Philip, do you think that they cut the president a deal where he gets to do it all in writing? Do you think he gets away from having to do it in front of the Grand jury under oath or do you think he winds up in person with the investigators and probably Mueller?

PHILIP MUDD, COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: He's got to be in person with the prosecutors. I completely agree with the comments made about Mueller's role in this. I doubt he'll do the questioning. He's not an ego guy. Furthermore, he's not the expert on every single minute detail in this case.

I think the couple of points I'd be watching on this, there is no way, no way that Mueller will agree to anything but an in-person interview. You can give factual responses on paper to things like financial transactions questions, but you've got to get into a back and forth if the president gives an answer for example a time line of your campaigns engagement with the Russians that doesn't agree with what General Flynn said. You can't do that on paper. You've got to say, Mr. President, we've got other information.

The one thing people aren't talking about that I think is really fascinating here in terms of a potential negotiation, Chris, what's the duration? They can't go for an hour or two. The president can filibuster for an hour or two. He can talk through it. It's got to be a half day, a day long, and the challenge you get in if the president allows that much time is with his lack of discipline in facts and in answering questions, he's going to open himself up to saying things that are fundamentally different than what the team learned else where. That duration of the interview is really important.

CUOMO: Philip, your answer has been shockingly helpful. It actually tees up the next thing that the president said that I think is highly instructive. We'll call it exhibit a of what the risk and the potential reward is in an interview like this. Do we have the sound ready of what he said about McCabe? Listen to this.


TRUMP: I would do it under oath, yes. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you trust the FBI? Do you trust the FBI?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to see, I mean, I am very disturbed as is the general -- as is everybody else that is intelligent. When you look at five months this is a late great Rosemary Woods, right? With a step, right? This is a large scale version.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighteen minutes.

TRUMP: That was 18 minutes. This is five months. They say it's 50,000 texts and it's prime time. That's disturbing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should McCabe go? Should McCabe go, Mr. President? Should McCabe go?

TRUMP: Well, McCabe got more than $500,000 from essentially Hillary Clinton, and is he investigating Hillary Clinton?


TRUMP: Do you remember, did anybody hear many of my speeches where I talked about McCabe? He was the star of my speech. This isn't now. And I said a man who was more or less in charge of her got -- the wife got $500,000 from Terry. Terry is Hillary. And, yes, I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you regret having him as your acting FBI director, then?

TRUMP: You know what, I keep out of it. You'd find that hard to believe. I keep out of it. That's the way it fell.


CUOMO: Now, he said there, I don't think I asked him about whom he voted for, and they kept asking about it. I don't think so, and I don't know why it's such a big deal. Now, it's one thing when he's talking about a group of reporters who don't know any better, but let's take a look at this. Let's start with you, professor.

That answer, now that we know that the White House has said, yes, he did ask McCabe. All right, so now we're in a different setting, and it's a subject he doesn't like, and he's sitting with one of investigators and his counsel. And they ask him about one of these things, did you say this, and he says, I don't think I said it. I don't think I said it. And I don't know what the big deal is. How does that play in that setting in?

[21:10:08] MILGRAM: So as a prosecutor, and I think Phil is 100 percent right that you need a lot of time because I expect this would happen. You will have every single record of every conversation, every e-mail, whatever is relevant to the conversation you're having, and you will then bring it out and you will go painstakingly through prior comments that were made by the president, prior things that other witnesses have said, and you will painstakingly go through it to basically show someone -- you know, it could be on this date, you said something else. Why are you saying something different now? And it is a very rigorous and detail-oriented interview with someone like the president, who does seem to change -- to say different things and not always be detailed and specific. And this is where the prosecutors will pin him down and want him to be specific. And so that's why Phil's point is so important. It could take an hour to get one answer.

CUOMO: Right. But if he did give an answer like this in pretty short course, Norm, I mean, what would this mean in the context of this investigation, where if this interview is under oath or whatever, you know, he's got exposure to telling the truth, what would this McCabe answer mean?

EISEN: Well, if he does something like this, say it's a very similar scenario -- the McCabe issues are beside the point of the interview that's going to happen in the White House, Chris. Of course that will be focused on Mueller. It will be focused on the firing of Comey. It will be focused on the Flynn issues.

Say he tries to dance like that on the Comey firing. We have the Comey memos. We have Comey's reputation for telling the truth. We have independent witnesses who Comey talked to. And if the president distorts the truth, if he denies it and if he again and again lies, we know he's a liar, Chris. Two thousand lies in his first year in office. I counted 15 1/2 lies in his first short snippet, talking about no collusion, no obstruction.

CUOMO: You do too much lie counting. Phil, let me ask you a question. The reason I think you beautifully teed up that sound bite is because lack of discipline, you said. Rosemary Woods. A lot of people say who is that? That was Nixon's secretary and it's talking about the gap in the tapes, right?

So, you know, he is constantly trying to play to advantage, right? That's what he's doing. With McCabe, he's grossly out of context about the money that his wife got. McCabe never got any money. His wife who is running as a Democrat got money from McAuliffe and some Democratic organizations. It happened over a year before he was even in the position, let alone involved with Clinton. But that's where his head is. I'm really worried about the FBI. It looks really bad. So is the general. How do those types of tactics introduce risk for him as an interview subject in this type of setting?

MUDD: There's no way you can divert this conversation by throwing out chaff on things like Andy McCabe. Let me lay out some of you. I'd be interested in the other panelist's view on this. I don't think anybody, including Director Mueller, my former boss, is going to use the word "collusion." They won't ask the president about collusion. They will not give him an opportunity to say there's no collusion here. That's all a myth.

CUOMO: He'll say it anyway, Mudd. I'll bet you lunch on that. MUDD: I agree. I agree. But my point is the questions as we were just talking about will be, what happened during the Don Junior last year, and where you -- did you discuss that with any members of the team? And there's going to be a thousand questions like that. Behind that is going to be interviews with people around that conversation with that Russian lawyer and, further, e-mails, text messages. If anybody in those text messages or e-mails ever said, I talked to Don Trump Sr., that is the president, about this and the president says never heard of the meeting, he's in trouble. The questions will be detailed and fact-based. He can try to divert by saying there's no collusion. The team will not let that happen. That's why the time is so significant. If he riffs for 15 minutes, they're going to come back and say, Mr. President, that wasn't the question. The question was, did anybody ever discuss with you the meeting with the Russian lawyer last June? Yes or no?

CUOMO: All right. I'm out of time but just quick show of hands. Who thinks we'll ever get to see a transcript or any video of this interview?

EISEN: One hundred percent you will.

MILGRAM: I think transcript, not video.

CUOMO: Philip?

MUDD: I would say transcript, no video.

CUOMO: No show of hands. You guys can't follow rules. Thank you very much. This is very good.

Professor, it's great to meet you. Thanks for having. Norm, Philip, thank you very much. I told you, you need people who are experts in these types of situations. They're different. It's not just about an opinion. You have to know the game and the rules.

Now, remember, all of this came out of a surprise appearance by the president. But, you know, here's my guess. I don't know that this was a surprise at all. Donald Trump is a master at messaging when it comes to the media. He likes these kinds of opportunities. We'll look at why this may have happened coming up with two reporters who were in the room where it happened. "Hamilton" reference. Now the song's in your head.


[21:18:35] CUOMO: More now on the breaking news out of the White House tonight. President Trump pushing back against reports of tension with chief of staff John Kelly, who was expected to travel with the president to Switzerland for the world economic forum but stayed behind tonight for unknown reasons.

Now, earlier Kelly was meeting with reporters in the White House when the president drops in and starts being asked about alleged acrimony with his chief of staff, which the president denied.


TRUMP: He's doing great.


TRUMP: He's doing great. Fake news yesterday or two days ago. I rarely put out a tweet praising somebody, but only when they get a false story. So I put out, I don't even know if he saw that story, but I put it out.


CUOMO: I don't even know what he's talking about. But the point is the president just comes out of nowhere, but was this something that he thought about? Was this as an opportunity he wanted to take? Why do we make that suggestion? Because he wound up answering so many questions when he's been ducking interviews for some 300, 400, 500 days.

Now, two reporters who were in the room with the president join us now. Our own Senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown and Associated Press White House Reporter Jill Colvin.

Pamela, you love to say I'm wrong. Am I wrong on this one? I don't believe that the president just opened the wrong door or moved the wrong curtain and wound up with all of you. I think he wanted to come out. He wanted to address Kelly and more. What was your sense?

[21:20:01] PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, I can tell you this, Chris. The White House aides that were there in the room were taken aback and just as surprised as we were.

Now, I didn't ask the president directly, hey, did you plan this? Certainly, though, we were sitting there during this background briefing, which is common in the White House when there's a big policy roll-out. In this case it was about immigration and just a few minutes in, the president walked into the room.

Now, you would think, Chris, that he did know that all these reporters were in there meeting with his chief of staff. So in that sense, he knew what he was walking into. And from there, there was, you know, look, 10 to 15 minutes of an exchange with the reporters, and it was interesting because a couple times he acted like he was going to walk away. Then as soon as another reporter lobbed a question at him, he'd stay and answer it for another few minutes. You know, he was clearly enjoying standing there talking to the reporters, answering questions on a range of issues from immigration to his chief of staff to possible interview with Robert Mueller.

CUOMO: What was your take, Jill?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, I mean my sense of it was, look, the president doesn't just barge into the chief of staff's office when reporters are happen to be in there. My sense was that he very purposefully wanted to come into the office to talk up John Kelly, to try to push back on some rumors that the president is unhappy with his chief of staff. And then as he often does, he sees a gaggle of reporters. He recognizes some people that he knows, and he just wants to answer questions. Also the White House has really kept the president away from reporters for the last couple of days, and it really seemed like the president had some things he wanted to get off his chest here.

CUOMO: So, Pamela, back to you. What was most impressive out of the president to you tonight? What do you think were the points he wanted to get out there?

BROWN: It was clear to me he wanted to say, I will sit down with Robert Mueller and do a face to face interview with him. You know --

CUOMO: He gave himself an escape hatch, though, Pamela. He said, but I do have to listen to counsel, and you saw Ty Cobb came out and backed it off.

BROWN: OK, so let me -- yes, exactly. So I know from talking to sources that his lawyers do not want him to have a face to face interview with Robert Mueller. It very well may not happen. So in a sense this could be the president coming out and saying, look, I've got nothing to hide. I'll sit down with Robert Mueller when in reality it may never happen and he very well knows that. But to me it seemed like he wanted to make that point that, I have nothing to hide. There was no obstruction, no collusion. I'll sit down and tell Robert Mueller myself under oath when just a few weeks ago he sort of hedged and wouldn't really answer whether or not, in fact, he would do an interview. Today was a different story. It seemed like he really wanted to send that message, Chris.

CUOMO: Let's scratch at that a little bit, Jill, what are you hearing in terms of what those around him think about the idea that he can avoid the Russia investigation altogether? It would be improbable for him to not be exposed at all to questioning in this probe.

COLVIN: I mean, look, it's very clear that Mueller is getting very close now. The president said that he heard that maybe the interview would happen sometime in the next two to three weeks. The fact the president is already setting down a time line there, I think it's very significant that he's really kind of wrapped his head around the potential of this happening. Mueller has been through such a long list of White House and campaign officials. He spent hours with Jeff Sessions most recently. It just seems like he's getting closer and closer to Mueller.

I just also wanted to follow up on one point that Pamela made there too about this really interesting dynamic where you have the president saying things and then folks around him going, wait, wait, wait. I don't know if you're talking too fast. The exact same thing happened on the topic of immigration. That was the topic that reporters were being briefed on in that room. The president went out there and said, I am open to a pathway to citizenship for these Dreamers that we've all been talking about. And then after the president left the room, you had a senior administration official saying, well, wait, you know, that's something that we're considering. It's something maybe out there, but this is not a plan that we've all just accepted. CUOMO: You know, it's interesting when Joe Manchin said that to me this morning, Pamela, U.S. senator from West Virginia, obviously, Democrat, he said we're looking at this, and he actually echoed almost the same time frame that the president did tonight. I made phone calls then to people who were on more of the right of the GOP in the House. None of them said that that was even on the table or in the office. Imagine their reaction tonight. Make your final point, and then we'll go.

BROWN: Right. I just thought it was interesting to her point, you know, Sarah Sanders today was asked during the press briefing about the details of this immigration roll-out. And she said you'll just have to wait until Monday, and then, what, hours later the president walks in and tells us, you know, some of the finer points of what he wants in this immigration plan. It just shows you sort of the dynamic within this White House, Chris.

CUOMO: It's one thing, you know, it puts a little bit of a smile on the face of reporters when they know what they're hearing may be adjusted. But imagine what it will mean to investigators in a room with the president of the United States if he winds up saying things and there's no one there to walk it back in that setting. Thank you very much to both of you for helping us understand in the room where it happened. "Hamilton" reference. My kids will love it.

[21:25:00] More breaking news, President Trump pressed on whether or not he trusts the FBI. The same question I want to ask Congressman Matt Gaetz. He has compared the Mueller investigation to a coup. Let's test it.


CUOMO: President Trump breaking news tonight. He literally walked in on a room of White House reporters, and it was no accident. It was unannounced, and he started taking questions. He started off by saying everything is good between him and General John Kelly, his chief of staff. There's speculation that there's been some distance between them since Kelly came out and said that the president was uninformed on his immigration position. And then he was supposed to go to Davos for the world economic forum with the president, but then that changed. So he came out and talked about that and a lot more, including the FBI, which is increasingly the target of attacks by conservatives angry with the Russia investigation.

Congressional Republicans are now investigating the investigators, openly suggesting an anti-Trump secret society within the FBI. They keep pointing to text messages critical of then-candidate Trump between two top FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who both worked for a time on the Mueller investigation and were also romantically involved. And some Republicans believe there may be even more damning evidence in an unknown number of missing texts between the two.

[21:30:22] Now, this also could just be political warfare to distract from the Russia investigation with the by-product of undermining confidence in our democracy. So let's take this one-on-one with Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman, thank you for being here.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Always a pleasure. Love "Cuomo Prime Time".

CUOMO: Oh, you're very kind, but that won't distract me. Make the case. What is your concern and on what basis?

GAETZ: Well, I wish I could share with you all of the bases for my concern, Chris, but many of them are found in the intelligence memo that Democrats are trying to block the American people from seeing. Every Republican on the Intelligence Committee voted for more transparency. Every Democrat voted against it. So unfortunately I can't even discuss the issues around that.

What I can say is that the text messages between Strzok and Page, which you just mentioned in the intro to this segment, are very damning. It's not Republicans who created the theory of a secret society. That was Lisa Page's text message to her boyfriend, Peter Strzok. It wasn't Republicans that deleted five months of text messages. I mean Strzok and Page were texting each other more than a high school cheerleading squad, but somehow it's a five month black hole.

CUOMO: They were romantically involved.

GAETZ: They were, but you don't find it a bit interesting that the black hole starts right when Obama launches the counterintelligence investigation in August, and then it magically ends like the day Mueller is appointed? That's like a really conspicuous time for that to occur.

CUOMO: Well, let's look at these one by one, OK? First, the idea of the memo that Nunes and his people put together on FISA and their concerns, OK? I have something that you should probably know by now. The Democrats can't stop you from making it public. I don't know why this has taken so long. The president of the United States has power to classify and declassify. Is there a process? Yes. Does he have to follow it? No. Is he someone who seems uniquely suited to ignoring that process? Yes. And if a motivated member of Congress such as someone whose name rhymes with, I don't know, Matt Gets (ph), wanted to make this public, you could do so because you have immunity for anything you say in speech or debate on the floor of Congress. You could go out there. You could read the memo, and you could put anything you want into the Congressional record. So it ain't the Democrats, my friend. You could put this, if you wanted to do more than just hype it.

GAETZ: No, no, no. Chris, the Democrats actually voted no. The Republicans voted yes. There's a few reasons the things you mentioned would not be beneficial for our national security.

First, if we accept as a premise that members of Congress ought to take top-secret documents and go start reading them on the floor of the House of Representatives, it will irreparableably (ph) damage the sharing of intelligence and information --

CUOMO: You could read parts of the memo. You don't have to read everything. You could read certain things.

GAETZ: Yes, but -- it's not going to come to that. OK. So there's another reason why it may take another week or two to get this into the public square and that is that we don't want to simply release a conclusory memo. These are facts, but there's intelligence information that buttresses those facts. The letter that I sent to Devin Nunes signed by 65 Republicans does not merely request the release of the memo. We are requesting the release of the supporting, documenting evidence that illuminates the claims and facts that are made in the memo.

CUOMO: Well, good. It should come out because we can't discuss it until we see it. So let's put that to the side.

GAETZ: Good. You deserve credit for calling for the release of that memo. I appreciate that.

CUOMO: Now, the texts between these two people. You say, well, the secret society comes from Lisa Page. You have no idea what the context was for that statement, and you have no real proof that any such secret society exists.

GAETZ: Well, Chris --

CUOMO: So the question becomes why would you hang something out there that damages the FBI that way when you don't know that it's true?

GAETZ: Well, I know what Lisa Page texted. Again, this wasn't a Republican idea. It was her text message.

CUOMO: You don't know the context.

GAETZ: OK. Well, how about this, Chris? Why don't you walk me through the appropriate context for members of the FBI having a secret society and meeting to discuss the presidential election? Walk me through what the good context for that would be.

CUOMO: I reject the premise. I will offer you one, though, if you want because you asked.

GAETZ: Sure.

CUOMO: I'm talking to someone who's an intimate of mine. I don't like Trump. I think he's a buffoon. So I say to them, as she did, because we're assuming her pre-disposition. She's anti the president, right? And I'm granting that for the purpose of this. She then says, well, I guess it's time for the secret society to meet. It could be off the cuff. It could mean a million things. The problem is if I don't know what it really means, I should not impugn the reputation of the FBI. We need our Democratic institutions intact. They're taking a beating. Why add to that without proof?

[21:35:07] GAETZ: Of course we do. Of course we do. You're right. No, no, no. The way that we solve the problem with our Democratic institutions, degrading before our very eyes, is to pass better legislation for more oversight, more transparency, more report so that this never happens again. We shouldn't have a circumstance where you get an HQ special where you depart from the normal investigative procedures. That's why it's so important that the current Uranium One investigation is happening at the Little Rock field office and not at the head shed in Washington, D.C. but the notion that a secret society is just an off the cuff comment is laughable. I can't even believe you would make that with a straight face. A secret society is a group of people that get together in secret to plan.

CUOMO: -- the existence of something as pernicious and nefarious --

GAETZ: They said it.

CUOMO: No. She said it. You don't know what the context is. Have you even picked up the phone and asked?

GAETZ: I'm sure you've seen Ron Johnson's statements. I'm sure you've seen Ron Johnson's statements where --

CUOMO: And he backed off. And he backed off.


CUOMO: He backed off.

GAETZ: He said that there's an informant.

CUOMO: He backed off. He said, well, we have an informant who talked about private meetings that were off site. We don't even know if it's related to the same thing. We don't know it the informant --

GAETZ: You have a text message talking about secret --

CUOMO: I'll tell you what's got me. I'll tell you, Matt, whether it's you, whether it's Johnson or any of you. You switch the R and the D and you switch the context from this discussion about these text messages to what we know about Russia and any collusion or activity, and boy, oh boy, you guys all sound the same. When it's about Russia, you don't care what the basis is. You don't believe it. You don't want it investigate it. You think it's silly. But when you're talking about this, you have a phrase between lovers. You don't know the context. You don't dig into it, but you're ready to say there's a shadow organization at the FBI. And the irony that the only reason you know about these texts, Matt, is not because you looked it up. It's not because Republicans figured it out. You didn't even have a source on it. This was done internally by the same institution you want to say you can't trust.

GAETZ: No, this was subpoenaed by Devin Nunes.

CUOMO: The inspector general's report had them. That's where he got them from. The inspector general's report.

GAETZ: Right, right, but the inspector's general's report, but we were demanding --

CUOMO: And when Mueller was told -- what happened? When Mueller was told about these texts that the IG found inappropriate, he moved on them. He took them off -- Strzok. Lisa Page was already gone, so he couldn't. So you didn't figure this out. Nunes didn't figure this out. This was in the IG's report, an independent agent. It shows accountability. It shows transparency, and yet you want to impugn the entire institution.

GAETZ: Well, let's talk about that IG since you mentioned it, Chris. On December 13th, the IG sent a letter to Ron Johnson saying that he had all of the text messages through the month of June. And then it turns out there's a five-month hole. So how do you explain that inconsistency if the IG's word is to be taken --

CUOMO: You know there's an explanation, and you're ignoring it.

GAETZ: Hold on. Hold on. No, no, no. I want to be able to make this point. How can you say that it's consistent to say we have all the text messages through June and then only later when Congress is demanding answers, as we should under our oversight authority, you say, oops, there's a five-month black hole that just happens to coincide with the period where the Robert Mueller investigation was getting launched. He was appointed at the end of that black hole, and at the beginning you have Barack Obama siccing the Intelligence Community on the Donald Trump transition team. It is outrageous, and I really hope we play back that segment when we get this memo released.

CUOMO: Hold on. I've said to you before --

GAETZ: -- for the FBI they lose five months of text messages.

CUOMO: I want the memo released. I want the memo released.

GAETZ: Good, I love it.

CUOMO: I want to know more because politicians have politics in their mind, and I do not trust any of you as ultimate arbiters of fact, and I don't know why you're investigating any of this stuff because you're too --

GAETZ: I don't trust CNN anchors but that doesn't mean we can't have a debate about the context --

CUOMO: But I'll tell you what, and as --

GAETZ: CNN calling someone a partisan?

CUOMO: As long as you want to stay to the facts, you tell me what I say that's partisan in this interview. I'm banging you on the premise for your assumptions.

GAETZ: OK, I will.

CUOMO: That's what I'm doing. And I'm doing it on this too.

GAETZ: You said that Lisa Page saying something as a secret society isn't really a secret society. CUOMO: I don't know --


CUOMO: -- and neither do you.

GAETZ: Well, how about given the point that you're a lawyer, you understand the plain meaning doctrine. How about we accept things at their plain meaning? And you know what? You also understand the adverse inference doctrine and the fact that there's five months of missing text messages --

CUOMO: There is no adverse inference doctrine at play here. I don't know where you got that --

GAETZ: There would be if there was a criminal prosecution.

CUOMO: -- exist in this context. There is no basis for a criminal prosecution. And the reason that you know that there is an explanation for where these texts went is how huge would this conspiracy have to be that in order to hide these texts between these two people, which were already allowed to be discovered by the IG and move the on by Mueller, who is a lifetime Republican, who has talked to Trump about getting a job in the administration -- all of these other phones, maybe one in 10, maybe thousands of FBI field agents and other administrative employees have the same problem with a hole in their texts. How could it be that such a big conspiracy was undertaken just to hide what these two people were saying from you?

[21:40:09] GAETZ: Chris, you're talking about undermining the president of the United States. Of course it's one hell of a conspiracy, and people at the top levels of our government were involved in it. That's why this is so treacherous. That's why we've got to find out and -- you made mention of Trump interviewing Mueller. I think that's one heck of a point.

CUOMO: Mueller interviewing Trump. I know that's what you're dreaming about, but that ain't what's happening, my friend.

GAETZ: No. It was Trump interviewing Mueller for the FBI position. So it's one heck of a note that he interviews Mueller for the position, decides he doesn't want to hire Mueller, and within 24 hours, Rosenstein has appointed Mueller to investigate the president. I don't know a single American --

CUOMO: Rosenstein was the president's choice who he relied on for the assessment of Jim Comey. Now he can't trust him about Mueller.

GAETZ: Hey, look, that's my --

CUOMO: You guys celebrated him.

GAETZ: -- single American that would ever -- there's not a single American that would want to be investigated by someone that they passed over for their old job back within the last 24 hours --

CUOMO: There was never any hint of animus.

GAETZ: By the way, that very that was in the black hole --

CUOMO: The president, who is not shy, never said anything about it. One other thing and then I got to let you go. You say that this is the biggest coincidence since the Immaculate Conception. What are you talking about?

GAETZ: Well, look, the notion -- and, again, this will really be illuminated by the memo. But the notion that this five months, not any five months, but this particular five months is where the black hole is, I mean that is one hell of a coincidence because it's precisely the time that someone would be hatching a conspiracy, meeting with their secret society, building out their insurance policy to deprive the American people --

CUOMO: Now you have the meeting with the secret society. You don't even know that one exists, but what do you mean by the --

GAETZ: No, that was Lisa Page's text. She said that we need to be able to get together and have our secret society meeting.

CUOMO: What do you mean by the Immaculate Conception?

GAETZ: Look, I was making a point that this is an absurd coincidence.

CUOMO: By what? What do you think happened with the Immaculate Conception?

GAETZ: The Immaculate Conception, it's obviously a religious doctrine that deals with the Christian faith.

CUOMO: I know. But I'm saying like, where is the analogy? That's what I don't understand. What do you think happened with the Immaculate Conception?

GAETZ: Look, did you really bring me on to discuss my religious views, Chris?

CUOMO: No, I'm saying you made the analogy.

GAETZ: Jesus was born.

CUOMO: I don't understand. The Immaculate Conception is not how Jesus was born.

GAETZ: It was the conception.


GAETZ: That's the nature of the --

CUOMO: No, it wasn't. It was Mary's conception. It was the mother's conception without original sin. It was not the conception of Jesus.

Facts matter, Congressman. If you're going to make an analogy, at least know what you're talking about because you've got to have a basis for these things. You only know what you show. You've got to release that memo. It's got to have the facts and you better figure out what this secret society is before you say that there's a shadow organization within the FBI.

GAETZ: We intend to. We intend to, absolutely. We intend to find out what it is. And we're going to get the answers. That's why the American people have been learning more and more about the intractable bias in this investigation.

CUOMO: They're learning a lot of suggestions from you but they need some facts to back it up and when they get them, you know where you're welcome to come on and make the case. Right here. Congress Gaetz.

GAETZ: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Appreciate you taking the opportunity.

GAETZ: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, more breaking news tonight. For you religious people out there who are Christians, you know that I'm right. And for those of you who don't, go Google it. See what the Immaculate Conception is. Shouldn't say it if you don't know what it means.

President Trump contradicts himself on immigration again. Or to be fair, he seems to be articulating a different position. What he's saying now about citizenship for Dreamers. We've got a "Great Debate" about it, Navarro versus Schlapp, next.


[21:47:12] CUOMO: Breaking news, the subject of tonight's "Great Debate". So President Trump freewheeling exchange, he came out there to defend his relationship with Kelly. He wanted to impress on people, how he feels about meeting with the special counsel and a lot of other stuff. And then, and then he talked about what he would want to do with DACA and Dreamers. And he said he's open to a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. People brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you're going to get a deal on immigration, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I think so, yes. I think so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think it's going to look like?

TRUMP: We're going to get the wall. We're going to get great border security. In fact, I just wrote something out, and you might talk about it chief, if you want, otherwise we'll do it for tomorrow, but I just wrote something out, what we're looking. We want great border security. We want to do a great job with DACA, I think it's our issue, I think it's a better issue for the Republicans than for the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want citizenship for Dreamers?

TRUMP: We're going to -- we're going to morph into it. It's going to happen at some point in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does that mean? What is morph into it? What does that mean?

TRUMP: Over a period, over a period of 10 to 12 years, somebody does a great job, they've worked hard. It gives incentive to do a great job, that they've worked hard, they've done terrifically. Whether they have a little company or whether they work, or whatever they're doing. If they do a great job, I think it's a nice thing to have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many years, Mr. President?

TRUMP: We're looking at 10 or 12.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's no agreement by March 5th, are you going to protect them? Are you going to extend the deadline?

TRUMP: Yes, I might do that. I might do that. I'm not guaranteeing it because I don't want to do, I want to put a little bit of a -- but I certainly have the right to do that if I want.


CUOMO: He certainly has the right to do it. He created the deadline, so it's only as good as he wants it to be. But let's get to the bigger question about what he's saying about citizenship. I'll tell you, everybody's devices are going to be hot with all of the drama going on in on the political right. Somewhere, Steve King, wherever he is, and Jim Jordan and men and women on the right of the GOP are screaming about this. Let's get going, CNN Political Commentator Ana Navarro and Matt Schlapp, the Former Political Director for President George W. Bush. Path to citizenship? How will that play, brother Schlapp?

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER POLITICAL DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: This is all very dicey. As we know, we've been trying to get an immigration bill or a lot of people have been trying to get an immigration reform bill through Congress for decades. And the fact that President Trump, who ran aggressively against illegal immigration and illegal immigrants being in the country, for him to bring up DACA and for him to be talking to Democrats and Republicans about this, I think you ought to give him some credit. It takes a certain amount of political courage for a Republican to talk about this because you're right. Any kind of amnesty to anyone is controversial with a lot of Republicans and a lot of conservatives.

[21:50:05] CUOMO: Amnesty is a dirty word for them, Ana, even though I don't know why it applies to kids, I have to be honest with you, because amnesty goes to somebody's commission of a crime. Kids can't commit crimes. They can't even form criminal --

SCHLAPP: But most of these population they aren't kids though, there's a lot of adults in this --

CUOMO: -- not now. There are adults.


ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- that they came as kids and didn't have the intent. You can't have the intents to break the law when you're five and six years old. They may not be kids now but they came here as --

CUOMO: Right. Do you think the president will stick to this, Ana?

NAVARRO: Who the hell knows? Look, after the last two weeks that we've just been through. Do you think anybody can answer this? Not even the best fortuneteller can answer this. Look, two weeks ago I was out here and my heart was going pitter patter and I had also -- optimism and hope after that meeting in the White House where he talked about a "bill of love" and where he talked about wanting to do DACA and Dreamers and immigration reform. We can do this. We can step further. And then we saw that only 48 hours later, everything had gone to hell in a hand basket.

So, you know, I think as of the last two weeks we realize that Donald Trump negotiating with Donald Trump, dealing with Donald Trump is dealing with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One day he's Dr. Jekyll. One day he's Mr. Hyde. God knows what triggers him. You know, look, I think that if I was a dreamer and my entire life and future was in limbo, I would only believe this, ones that --

SCHLAPP: Actually, if you were --

NAVARRO: -- on a bill.

SCHLAPP: If you were a Dreamer you'd be happy that a Republican president is saying I want to find a solution to this. And as far as him changing his position when it came to the shutdown, he actually was the one that stood in one place and the Democrats moved to where he, which hi though was a great victory for him. And I think when it comes to this question of immigration he's actually saying the same thing over and over and over again. We got to find something that will get through the Senate on DACA in combination with significant while funding and combination with ending chain migration outside the nuclear family and then getting rid of this diversity visa lottery systems. We keep saying the same things and these Democrats or Republicans I know, because I have a lot of contacts up there, they're doing these negotiations right now. And I actually think there's a chance they can get something done. I don't think in three weeks, but I think there's a chance they can get something done.

NAVARRO: Look, they can't -- I agree with you, I believe (ph) that the Senate can certainly get something done. I don't know how much of it can pass through the House. But I do think that we need presidential leadership, and it's been sorely lacking. It's been impossible to decide --

SCHLAPP: But you're getting it. Well, give him some credit. You're getting it on this.

NAVARRO: I gave him credit two weeks ago.

CUOMO: Consistency breeds confidence.

NAVARRO: And then two days later he's talking about Haiti and Africa shithole --


CUOMO: Come on, we can do it.

NAVARRO: I gave him credit two weeks ago.

CUOMO: Right --

NAVARRO: You know, I did give him credit two weeks ago.

CUOMO: So Matt, the point is this --

NAVARRO: An then --

CUOMO: Hold on, guys. Let's refocus --

NAVARRO: They completely throw it out the window.

CUOMO: Let's refocus the conversation. Ana is making a good point that you should respond to. Confidence comes from consistency when it comes to leadership. He had the meeting, "bill of love", then it goes away. Mick Mulvaney is on the show just a couple days ago. I don't even know what time it is any more, let alone what day. But he says, he'll be as good on DACA as the Democrats are on security and other issues.


CUOMO: That's not compassion. There's no sense --


CUOMO: But now he's saying, citizenship. Can we take him at his words, Matt?

SCHLAPP: Chris, you've been up all day. You're working early in the morning. You're working late at night. Let me try to give you some my perspective on this.

CUOMO: Please.

SCHLAPP: Which is, he did not reject a compromise from the group that was around the table in the (INAUDIBLE). As we all know, Lindsey Graham who is a able legislator ran in there with Dick Durbin for a whole other set of issues. And the president made it clear that he's not going to go to those other issues. So, --

CUOMO: -- they checked every box for him but not to his satisfaction. They didn't --

SCHLAPP: Chris, I want to make two points on that. Number one, I do not agree with you on that. We've already had this conversation.

But the second thing is that it's a negotiation. Guess what, both sides are going to get to say what's acceptable and not acceptable.

CUOMO: True.

SCHLAPP: And they're going to have to count the --

CUOMO: I don't disagree with that.

SCHLAPP: So, Ana is right that there is a real question with conservatives, like myself, about what this final package looks like. I think it is a live wire. This very easily might not happen, because they don't strike the right balance, and by the way, on immigration it's almost impossible to find that balance. But I give the president great credit. He is trying. He's trying to reach out.

CUOMO: -- and moral position not just the policy one, but your final point Ana.

NAVARRO: We have seen in the last 10 days with the case of Jorge Rodriguez and then the case of the doctor in Kalamazoo. Neither of whom were Dreamers. But they were very similar situations we were brought here as children. And we've seen the separation of families. We have seen the grief in the community. Republican can't afford to see that scene played out 800,000 times all over the country.

CUOMO: All right, we'll see what happens. And I'll tell you what, Matt Schlapp, a bottle of what you like if you can show me that the Graham-Durbin bill didn't check all four boxes, not to his satisfaction, but that they addressed it.

SCHLAPP: I'm worried that you've been drinking a bottle that you like because you're not right.

[21:55:00] CUOMO: I got to go. See you later guys.

Up next, our "Final Fact", stick around.


CUOMO: The mandate for this show is pretty simple. It's to help you all get a better appreciation for the facts. So here is our "Final Fact".

You know, in politics, perception is reality. But in the law and in real life, you only know what you can show. The FBI deserves respect. Does it have flaws? Of course it does. All things with humans in control do. And there are real questions and that should be investigated. But show the proof, release the facts. Let us find the truth, not just make accusations to drive division. Let's be honest, there is too much of that already on all fronts, and that is a fact.

Don't forget, you can catch me and Alisyn every weekday morning on "New Day" starting at 6:00 A.M. But right now, "CNN Tonight" with Don Lemon, the man, starts right now.