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Trump Back In U.S. Amid Questions About Possible Obstruction; Top GOP Senator 'Open' To Bipartisan Bill Protecting Mueller; Nikki Haley Denies "Disgusting" Trump Affair Rumors; WSJ: Casino Mogul GOP Finance Chair Accused Of Sexual Misconduct; Sources: Hillary Clinton Kept 2008 Adviser Accused Of Harassment; GOP Conspiracy Theories About FBI Unravel. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 26, 2018 - 21:00   ET


[21:01:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thank you, Anderson. Have a good weekend.

So everybody, keep an eye on your Twitter feed. POTUS just landed from his Davos trip, and you know he's going to want to throw some shade on the new reporting about his efforts to oust the special counsel. More than ever, he may want to listen to advisers who are going to beg him to put down the phone.

So what are we going to do tonight? We're going to give you what you need to know about the case against the president. The pluses and minuses, and we're going to test them with one of his former counsels, a man who was there when this happened.

It's Friday night. Let's get after it. I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time".

New questions, no doubt about that, into possible obstruction of justice fueled by reports that Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller. We're going to go one-on-one, like I said, with a lawyer who worked in the White House with McGahn when this happened.

Good to see you, Counselor Schultz. I'll be with you in a second.

But this show has a mandate, so let's start with facts first.

What is obstruction of justice? Simple, to influence, obstruct, or impede the due administration of justice. You want to learn a little law? Here's a quick lesson. There are two parts to a crime, the criminal act and then, just as important, the intent component. That will be the trick here for prosecutors. They have to show that President Trump did whatever he did with corrupt intent. What does that mean? That he was doing it to mess with the investigation and its goals. The president has flatly denied that specific crime, so there's going to be no easy route to knowing why he did what he did until perhaps this latest reporting about his order to fire Mueller and the timing thereof.

Let's start with the first in a series of actions that investigators may consider. Last January, that's when then FBI Director Jim Comey says the president told him, "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty."

Then Comey says in February, Mr. Trump told Comey, I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn go. He's a good guy. I hope you can let this go.

In March, the president reportedly asked the White House counsel to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, which of course Sessions ultimately did.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have quite simply picked somebody else.


CUOMO: All right. So then there is some reporting that the president was saying who's got my back? Where is my Roy Cohn? And in May, the president fires FBI Director Jim Comey and gave a possibly incriminating reason.


TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


CUOMO: Now, for many of you when you hear that and then you hear me say possibly incriminating, you get upset. But you have to understand that's not corrupt intent that the president doesn't like the Russia investigation.

For all of these facts, all of these acts, not facts, Trump could well explain his intentions in ways that have nothing to do with corrupt intent. He likes loyal people, so he asked for loyalty. He likes Flynn, and he didn't think that he should prosecute him. He didn't think Sessions needed to recuse himself, and it made him angry. He wants someone who has his back. Comey had to go because this was a pointless investigation into collusion. The president doesn't think it's worth the tax dollars. But ordering the firing of Mueller could be different. Why? Because it came right after the special counsel, the word came out that he was looking into the president for obstruction of justice. That may signal something different to investigators.

And then there's the big "x" factor. If the president doesn't tell the truth to these investigators, federal agents, about ordering the firing or anything else, they may never need to get to obstruction of justice.

All right, so there are the facts and those are the questions. Let's take this on with -- you couldn't have a better guest, CNN Legal Commentator James Schultz. He was in the White House counsel's office when this was going on. And just so you understand, Jim believes that his work in the White House counsel's office -- he's got an ethical obligation not to talk about what he knew or didn't know, and that's fine because we have plenty to chew on with just the facts as they are here.

[21:05:16] So, Jim, one point that you want to make is a fair point and a true point, so let's get it out of the way. Those who are saying he tried to -- he ordered the firing of Mueller? That's obstruction of justice. Can't be because he never fired Mueller? So let's put that to the side. What do you make of what I just said? Where am I wrong?

JAMES SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think first off, we've got to look at the facts. And the facts in "The New York Times" are starting to evolve. It really came down to -- and if you believe "The New York Times" that he gave an order, well, "The New York Times" has now changed its story somewhat, and it was about conflicts of ijt interest. And he was asking his lawyer about conflicts of interest according to "The New York Times" reports and some of the other reports out there. If he wanted an evaluation of his lawyer on conflicts of interest as it related to Mueller, that's certainly something Don McGahn could do and according to the reports he did do and according to the reports he gave advice. It was pretty good advice.

CUOMO: All right, now look, I would quibble with the fact that the "Times" has changed its reporting. Remember, this isn't just about "The New York Times" anymore. CNN, other outlets have matched the reporting and, in fact, advanced it in different regards. But the point of, well, there was also this conflict going on that Kasowitz and others were bringing up, one, he had chances to bring this up all along when Mueller was brought up and all these incidents earlier. None of these conflicts came up later they're all old news. They never came up.

And he could have brought those up as the reason for doing that, and he didn't. He never brought them up. Ordering the firing right after word comes out that Mueller is looking into obstruction of justice by the president, that's some coincidental timing there, don't you think? And doesn't that mean something potentially to investigators?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think the idea that there was an order given is something that's certainly in dispute, and it's something that you've seen sources starting to dispute in the stories as they become -- as they've evolved.

So whether it was an order, whether he had questions can certainly go to his White House counsel and ask for advice. So to the extent that ever happened, that's an appropriate question to ask of your White House counsel, and he gave an appropriate answer if you believe what you read in the news. CUOMO: If he asks, what can I do, what can I not do, that's one thing. But there's nothing to suggest right now that that's happened. It's reported as he ordered it and it's reported as McGahn threatened to quit if he made him go through with it, and then the president relented.

So, again, we will stipulate this can't be obstruction of justice on its face because there was no actual firing. But why isn't that evidence of something investigators could look at and say, wow, so he heard that the special counsel was looking at him, and he wanted to move on Mueller. Maybe that is also the intentionality that motivated his other actions in this pattern of conduct.

SCHULTZ: Let's think about the timing here. You're talking about something that allegedly occurred back in June.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHULTZ: And now we're here. Now we're at a time where it's getting close to a point where Mueller may want to talk to the president. Now all of a sudden this what folks are characterizing as a bombshell, basically a conversation between the president and his White House counsel, becomes some type of a bombshell as to what the president can and can't do.

CUOMO: Because you're calling it a conversation. We have no reason to believe it was a conversation unless you want to tell us something that you know about what happened at the time. But unless you want to do that --

SCHULTZ: No, no, no. I'm talking about --

CUOMO: We've never heard about it as a conversation. We heard about it as this is what I want to do, and you're going to do it. McGahn said, don't do this. It will really push this question of obstruction of justice. I'll resign. Then he said, fine, I won't do it. That's not a conversation. That's different. And the timing is very relevant because it came out just when word that the obstruction of justice case revolving around the president was going to be a focus of this.

SCHULTZ: Well, first off, I don't have any non-public information about this issue. That's why I come on the show and talk about it tonight.

CUOMO: I thought you liked me.

SCHULTZ: So I wasn't in the room. I wasn't there. Of course I came on the show because I like you, Chris. But I do want to say that the facts are certainly in dispute depending upon the articles you're looking at. And that's something that has to be taken into consideration, and I think people have to be -- have to take a step back before you automatically draw conclusions. The person and the group will figure this out is likely Mueller. They probably already asked the questions related to those conversations. We just don't know about it. CUOMO: Well, we do know.

SCHULTZ: -- because we're not part of the investigation.

[21:09:58] CUOMO: True. True. And look, that's a good point to make because so many people say, boy, that Mueller investigation has been leaking. I know leaks. This is not a leaky investigation. There's plenty more leaky things than this.

But we do understand from the reporting that Mueller does know about this scenario already from White House staffers, and that is an intriguing prospect because what do they remember about why it happened at the time? What do they remember about what the president was saying and thinking that was motivating this body of activity? That's very relevant.

Now another point you were trying to make about timing, just to bring it back to that is, why are we learning about this if it happened back in June? That doesn't wash with me. It takes time for people to want to come forward and talk about things. And the idea that, well, it's only coming out now because the investigation's winding up and the media wants to keep it going or they wanted to rain on his parade in Davos, I think that that's only -- that's not only unsubstantiated, but it's silly. It's silly. Why would that be the motivation? You go with the story when you get it.

SCHULTZ: I didn't blame the news media on that, Chris. I'm just saying these are all coming to light now, and there are folks that may have information that are bringing this to light and talking when they shouldn't be talking and leaking information when they shouldn't be leaking information to the extent any of this is true to begin with.

CUOMO: That's beside the point. How it --

SCHULTZ: Now it's becoming public at a time, and it's becoming public at a time as this whole thing's winding down, and everybody wants to portray it as a bombshell. I'm certain to the extent that any of this is true, any of this is true at all, it's not a bombshell to Mueller.

SCHULTZ: Well, fine. But if is to us and our understanding of it. And would you agree with this statement. That from everything we've learned so far, this is the best evidence we've seen -- and I'm using evidence colloquially here, not as something that's material and competent in court. This is the best sense we've gotten so far of where his head was when he was going to do something that was involved with this investigation, that this is the closest we've gotten to understanding the timing and the intentionality of him making a move. Now, he didn't do it, but he did order it according to the reporter.

SCHULTZ: Right. You're talking about a characterization of what one man said relative to an issue. So the folks that are going to sort all that out is Mueller. It's not us on this show, Chris. It's fun to talk about, but it's not us on this show. Mueller is the one that's going to parse this. Mueller is the one that's going to ask the appropriate questions. Probably has asked the appropriate questions relative to it. And as we get closer and closer to the request for a discussion with the president, we'll see the facts continue to play out.

CUOMO: If somebody tries to do something to impede an investigation into them and a criminal act, would you see that as obstruction of justice?

SCHULTZ: Well, they have to have criminal intent. You talked about -- you said it succinctly earlier, Chris.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHULTZ: They have to have criminal intent.

CUOMO: They have to be doing it --

SCHULTZ: They have to corrupt intentions.

CUOMO: Right. They'd have to be doing it to disrupt that effort to bring them to justice, right?

SCHULTZ: Correct. Correct.

CUOMO: And that will be the question, and it is only one man's reckoning that we get of it, but it is the man. It's the president that we're talking about.

James Schultz, I appreciate your mind on this matter, especially on a Friday night. Thank you for doing it.

SCHULTZ: Thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

So some lawmakers say Mueller now especially needs to be protected from the president, that there should be a bill blocking Mr. Trump from firing the special counsel. Is that constitutional? Is it legal? Is it necessary? Will Republicans allow it? We're going to discuss next.


[21:17:15] CUOMO: All right. It has been 24 hours since we learned that President Trump tried at least once to fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Now some lawmakers are working on a bill hopefully that would become a law in their estimation to block Trump's ability to fire Mueller.

Tonight a top Senate Republican Chuck Grassley is urging Trump to let Mueller's investigation work its course. That's very different than him saying he would back a bill to stop the president legally from moving on the special counsel. It brings us to the great debate, and man, we have two good minds for you tonight. Former Federal Prosecutor and Former Independent Counsel for the Whitewater investigation, Mr. Robert Ray, and Former Federal Prosecutor and NYU Law professor, Anne Milgram.

It is very good to have you both. And let's do this the easy way. We'll do it pro-con in terms of this situation, OK?


CUOMO: Make a case to me, professor, that it would be OK to pass a law to stop the president of the United States from acting on his responsibilities over law enforcement.

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, remember, there used to be an independent counsel act which Bob could probably speak to at length that did sort of set forth what independent counsels could and could not do. That bill lapsed. It wasn't renewed.

CUOMO: Did it allow that the president could not fire a special counsel?

MILGRAM: I'm going to have to turn to my --

CUOMO: Robert Ray?

RAY: The president could fire, but then there was recourse.

CUOMO: All right. So the idea of pro-scribing, not allowing him to fire him, why is that OK?

MILGRAM: Remember also that for the president to fire -- for anyone to fire Bob Mueller now, there would have to be a report to the House Judiciary Committee, and there would have to be cause that Mueller had done something wrong. So just to be clear, it's not like you can just say --

CUOMO: Can't do it on a whim.

MILGRAM: Exactly. You have to be able to make a case, and that case could arguably be made public as well.

CUOMO: Why don't we want this kind of law?

RAY: I think there's some real serious question about whether it's constitutional. I'm not even sure first of all that it's other than an academic exercise because I don't think the votes are there to actually enact that legislation.

CUOMO: And this is a political process, so that's what matters.

RAY: I guess that right. I'm sort of a bottom line practical person. I think we're talking about something I don't think is likely to happen. You know, look, also things have changed. You know, both parties lived through independent counsel world, --

CUOMO: Right.

RAY: -- and they came away if they didn't agree on anything, the one thing that they agreed on a bipartisan basis is that they've both been victims of it and they didn't want it.

CUOMO: They didn't like it. All right so --

RAY: So I think that's a practical answer to the question. There's wisdom in that. The second thing is a constitutional matter is that, you know, the constitutionality of the independent counsel statute was endorsed by the Supreme Court eight to one.

[21:20:01] CUOMO: Right.

RAY: The person who was the one, though, is somebody that people paid a lot of attention to given the history of this. It turned out a lot of what he said was right, and that person was Justice Scalia.

CUOMO: Right.

RAY: So, you know, lessons were learned.

CUOMO: All right. Well, may he rest in peace, but his thinking is still in the mind of this stuff.

Let's get to the substance of the matter, all right? The notion that, that ordering of his special counsel to fire Bob Mueller, if true, that is the best window we've had into what investigators may look at as some suggestion of corrupt intent because the timing came out. Mueller's looking at the president for obstruction, and all of a sudden, he says, that's it. This guy's got to go. Do you accept that, that it could be something that investigators look at differently?

MILGRAM: So I think it's a critically important fact. And I think, again, you know, Mueller is looking at everything, and this is one of many facts. What I think is really important about it is that we had the information about Comey being fired, the conversations with Comey. We had a series of conversations in pieces but they all generally related to sort of this first piece.

And now I think we see more of a pattern of an interest in really trying to stop the investigation. Mueller still would need to prove corruptly intends, persuades is. Intent is in someone's head. But the more pieces you have, the easier it becomes for a prosecutor to prove what someone's intent is. And so, I do think it's an important piece of evidence.

And, again, to me, this obstruction question will be a series of different facts. It's not going to be -- there is no one smoking gun, but there are a number of pieces that I think come together to make me believe that Mueller is making a case or pulling together evidence that goes in this exact direction, and this is an important piece of that if the witnesses are confirming what we've seen publicly reported.

CUOMO: Rob, do you smell what the professor is cooking or not?

RAY: Well, yes, I mean respectfully yes and no. I mean I think it's important to uncover those facts and for Bob Mueller to consider them. I expect at the end of this process, no matter what happens, whether there's a prosecution or not, he'll deliver up a report to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, that will likely be released to Congress, and Congress once it gets it will probably release it to the public. So it's not like these things aren't important.

So I agree with you that this is important evidence to be considered by the country, not just by Bob Mueller. We'll stipulate to that. But, you know, if you're asking me about the legal question --


RAY: -- as a prosecutor, in other words, Bob Mueller principally is not a fact gatherer for his health.

CUOMO: Right.

RAY: He's a fact gatherer for purposes of determining whether or not prosecutions are warranted.

CUOMO: Right.

RAY: Now, we've got a number of problems there. First we've got the unresolved question, you know, I don't think that a sitting president can be indicted.

CUOMO: So let's move past it.

RAY: So we'll move past that. Then the process would be a fact- gathering process that might provide grounds that would warrant a consideration by the Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings.

But, you know, if you're asking the legal question, I really don't think given the fact that the president's prerogative as the head of the executive branch and the constitutional officer that he is, you know, if he wants to fire Jim Comey, he has absolutely every right to do that for a good reason, for a bad reason, or for no reason at all. Some people have suggested, you know, of course he couldn't fire an FBI director for racially motivated reasons, the reason being is because there are statutes in Congress that prevent that. Could he be indicted for that while he's president? Probably not. You could remove him from office and then charge him with a violation, for example, the civil rights act, right? But the notion that you would be able to show whether by proof or frankly just think about it conceptually that a president carries corrupt intent in firing someone that he's absolutely entitled to fire, whether it's --

CUOMO: But that's the question. Is it absolute, professor?

MILGRAM: So I would sort of go back and forth with Bob on a couple of points. I think the first point is that there's nothing in the constitution that gives the president immunity from prosecution for felonies. So I think, you know, this is a conversation we don't have to stay on, but --

CUOMO: This is a big brain conversation.

MILGRAM: -- but the constitution doesn't say that the president cannot be prosecuted, and I think that's very important because if it intended that, I think it would have said it.

The second thing is to say that the chief law enforcement officer is not liable under the law because they are the chief law enforcement officer strikes me as incredible. I was the chief law enforcement for the state of New Jersey when I was attorney general. I could take over any criminal case. I could supersede any police department. I ran the Camden Police Department. There is no way in my mind that I could have fired chiefs of police. You know, I did take actions when I needed to, but the idea that I could have done that because they were investigating me, it just to me goes against the rule of law.

RAY: I hear that. There are a number of Americans and a number of, I think legal experts and you're reflecting that view too that it really rubs in the craw because it suggests that, you know, if you make the argument that I'm making, that you're making an argument that the president is above the law. I got to tell you, I spent, you know, an entire investigation trying to validate the principle that Bill Clinton was not above the law.

[21:25:02] CUOMO: Right.

RAY: But I will say, though, with regard to this, you know, as an example, even Richard Nixon, no one claimed during Watergate that Richard Nixon was committing a crime by firing Archibald Cox. He had every right to do that, including the right to do that because he didn't like the fact that Archibald Cox was getting close to, you know, showing that Richard Nixon engaged in criminal misconduct.

Now, you can charge -- once he's removed from office, Richard Nixon for a whole bunch of things, including orchestrating a conspiracy to obstruct justice by having a slush fund to pay off witnesses. But what you can't do, I don't think, after you remove him from office, is charge Richard Nixon or Donald Trump with a crime of obstruction of justice because he removed somebody from office which he had every right to do.

MILGRAM: But even though someone has a right to remove him from office I think this is why the question of obstruction is what his intent was.

RAY: Right.

MILGRAM: Because, yes, if he thought that there was terrible conduct, racial discrimination, or he though, he just didn't like Comey, OK, right? I think we would all agree on that. But here I think the real question is going beyond that, did he do it because he intended to stop an investigation into his campaign?

RAY: -- we're bumping up on unusual constitutional officer. And you made the point about your role as attorney general --

MILGRAM: But not --

RAY: -- New Jersey. Correct. But the president is a unique constitutional officer. He's the only person other than the vice president who is elected by all of the people in the country, and the second thing is that he has the authority as the executive branch and as the chief executive to, you know, in effect, remove all -- you say, you think that he can be charged.

CUOMO: Right.

RAY: He can remove the attorney general. He can remove the special counsel. He can remove every --

CUOMO: Let's leave it here because I have to go. I get what you're saying. At the end of the day I think winds up being moot and here's why. I don't expect -- I don't think anybody does that the special counsel is going to indict the president.

MILGRAM: I agree.

CUOMO: But when he does pass along this report, if he says the facts show that not only did he do these things because he could, he did them because he wanted to, because he didn't like that it was about him.

RAY: Right.

CUOMO: That could mean something to Congress that it wouldn't have meant otherwise. However, where do we wind up? It's a political process, and if they don't have the votes, it doesn't matter what the basis is. High crimes and misdemeanors means whatever they want it to, and if they don't have the votes --


RAY: -- to be high crimes and misdemeanor, but it's ultimately --

CUOMO: It's all about --

RAY: -- to decide what they want.

CUOMO: And the GOP would have to move against the president, and we haven't seen any kind of resolve to do that at all. This was very helpful, and I appreciate it. Thanks to you both.

RAY: Thank you.

MILGRAM: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, p next, something very different. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she's been forced to deny whether or not she's having an affair with President Trump. Nikki Haley calls the rumor "offensive" and "disgusting," and you know what? She's right. Tonight we'll show you how this got started and why it needs to stop. Next.


[21:31:47] CUOMO: All right. I don't know if you heard about this but you should have. In a stunning interview, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, took on a rumor that she's having an affair with President Trump. Just when we have some momentum going to confront the disrespect and disenfranchisement of women in this society, even the vaguest suggestion that a woman's success may be tied to sex catches fire, spawned by that book, "Fire & Fury", specifically an interview about the book with the comedian and the author, Michael Wolff. Here's a part of the conversation.


MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR "FIRE & FURY": You just have to read between the lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What lines? Tell us the lines. You say it's in the book.

WOLFF: It's toward the end of the book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Well it's in the book. Then we --

WOLFF: You just have to -- you'll know it.


WOLFF: Now that I've told you, when you hit that paragraph, you're going to say, bingo.


CUOMO: One, you're not going to hear a lot of journalists talk that way about their reporting. But the clue pointed to a line in Wolff's book in which he alleges Trump has been, "spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One." People took Haley to be Nikki Haley. And that's all he has -- and more sad, that's all it took to give a whiff of credibility to an otherwise baseless rumor.

Let's go one-on-one with POLITICO White House Reporter, Eliana Johnson. She spoke to Ambassador Nikki Haley for the political podcast, Women Rule. And, you know what, Nikki Haley is among those numbers, I mean she's been tremendously successful. She was a standout governor. And now she's the U.S. ambassador, and she had to deal with this. And she wanted to, didn't she?

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think so, Chris. I have to say right off the top that I agree with you. I think it's unfortunate that she had to address this. She didn't have to, but she did address this when I asked her about it. And I should say that her office was pretty open with me about the fact that they haven't fielded a lot of inquiries from journalists about this rumor, so it didn't take up. Nonetheless, Michael Wolff did go out there, and he's got a runaway best selling book and then floated this rumor on nationally syndicated television show. And the podcast is intended to address women's issues.

CUOMO: Right.

JOHNSON: And I did want to give her the opportunity to address this rumor. And I think it falls into a category of rumors, you know, about successful women who sleep their way to the top. So in the context of talking about issues that successful women face, I wanted to give her the opportunity to address the rumor. But I do think it's important to note that her office did say they haven't gotten a lot of inquiries from credible journalists about this. And she did address it head-on.

CUOMO: Well, let's listen to what she said.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR: TO THE U.N.: It is absolutely not true. It is highly offensive, and it's disgusting. You know, if you look at what my -- and I've said this before. It amazes me what people will do and the lies they will say for money and power. In politics, it's rampant.

But here you have a man who is basically saying, I've been spending a lot of time on Air Force One. I have literally been on Air Force One once, and there were several people in the room when I was there. He says that I'm talking a lot with the president in the Oval about my political future. I've never talked once to the president about my future, and I am never alone with him. So the idea that these things come out, that's a problem. It goes to a bigger issue that we need to always be conscious of.

[21:35:20] At every point in my life, I've noticed that if you speak your mind and you're strong about it and you say what you believe, there is a small percentage of people that resent that. And the way they deal with it is to try and throw arrows, lies or not, to diminish you. And I think women have dealt with this a long time. I don't think it's just in politics. I think it's in corporate, and I think it's in all aspects.

But there is that -- for the most part, most men respect women. But there is a small group of men that if you just do your job and you try and do it well and you're outspoken about it, they resent it, and they think the only option is to bring you down.


CUOMO: And you know, this isn't the first time Eliana, as you know that she's had to deal with this. When she was running for governor, there was another rumor about this that amounted to nothing. What do you hope comes out of this?

JOHNSON: I do hope, I think, that people listen to the entire interview because we had a wide-ranging 40-minute conversation, and I do think it's illuminating that this is the part that everybody honed in on because she did talk for probably 35 minutes about foreign policy, and I think that's pretty telling, addressed, you know, how she got into politics, and said that Henry Kissinger has really schooled her on these things, talked about a lot of interesting things.

But I do hope that people take away from the fact that how damaging these rumors are even if real journalists aren't floating them. Just that one person can have a real insidious effect on highly successful women, people who are far more successful than they.

CUOMO: Eliana Johnson, appreciate it. Thank you for asking and thanks for coming on here.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, sex and politics go together like ugly and the gorilla. Don't get angry. I love gorillas too. There is more. There are two more of these stories actually that deserve attention. Perfect fodder for the great debate.

First, the report that Hillary Clinton refused to fire a senior adviser on her 2008 presidential campaign who had been accused of sexual harassment. That's according to two sources who worked on that campaign.

And there are reports that the finance chair for the RNC, Vegas mogul, Steve Wynn has a slew of sexual misconduct accusers against him, so why isn't the RNC moving on him, especially after they sounded the alarm about Democrats' ties to Harvey Weinstein.

All right, so who do we have? Great, great, great matchup here. National Review Editor, Rich Lowry, and Joan Walsh, National Affairs Correspondent for "The Nation". They're here to debate.

All right, let's start with you, Joan. You're closer to me so you get the first whack with the stick.


CUOMO: Hillary Clinton, champion of the movement.


CUOMO: They come to her. They say this guy has demonstrable problems with someone in the office. He's got to go. She says no. She keeps him on. How can you support that?

WALSH: I don't support it. I want to know more about it. Look --

CUOMO: What more do you need to know?

WALSH: I need to know the exact conversation she had. Look, it's not like he didn't get punished. I'm not defending this. I want you to know my thought process. It's not like he didn't get punished. He got docked pay. He got sent to counseling.

I mean the thing that I'm focused on is that, in 2016, he wound up working for a Democratic group, correct the record, when he has this history. He's been accused and actually found some sort of guilty of sexual harassment.

CUOMO: And suggested Clinton knew that as well.

WALSH: I guess so. I find that the most disturbing. I do think, Chris, that she's going to have to come out and talk about this. It's not like he was (INAUDIBLE) punished at all, but if Patti Solis Doyle, and that is -- who people are talking about our colleague here, made this recommendation to her and she said no, why did she say no? I do think she's going to have to say more about this. The times have changed. It wasn't a great decision then, but the times have changed in 2018. It needs more elaboration.

CUOMO: Matter to you or is it low on your list of things that you want to attack about Hillary Clinton?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think it's telling, and I think she's always had a certain element of hypocrisy on these sort of issues because she was joined at the hip to Bill Clinton.

CUOMO: She's married to him.

LOWRY: Yes and also a political partner who had real issues that she helped cover for in instances and helped discredit his accusers. So I've never --

WALSH: I just won't buy that she helped discredit.

LOWRY: She did.

WALSH: No, she didn't.

CUOMO: So, wait, let's do it. Why do you think she discredited, and then Joan will counter.

LOWRY: Well, all during the campaign when he was first running for president, these things were erupting, and they had to be beaten back. And it was either by discrediting the women, intimidating them, or, you know, going out and saying they're white trash. And she could have said, no, I don't want to be any part of that.

WALSH: She called someone white trash?

LOWRY: No. Well, James Carville did.

WALSH: That's not Hillary Clinton.

LOWRY: Right.

CUOMO: Are they the same person, Lowry? Is that your contention here? All right, so things came out --


[21:40:03] LOWRY: She could have said, no, why are we calling Paula Jones names? Don't do that, not on my watch. But she was --

WALSH: We don't know what she said.

LOWRY: But she was an aggressive defender. And all these case -- did she come out at any point and say, please don't attack these women? WALSH: No, she didn't but we don't know she was part of attacking this woman. I mean people say this time and again, and the only thing anyone ever comes up with that she said about Monica Lewinsky, she did have some choice words for Monica Lewinsky, but if you sleep with my husband, you will have some choice words from me.

CUOMO: What do you expect to do when --


CUOMO: Either she leaves the husband or she decides to support the husband and that's fair point. The context she was talking to a friend, we found out about it and now --


LOWRY: She can stay and married to him, but she doesn't have to enable his political career. Not every husband has to run for president. That was the compromising choice she made. She was like, I'm all in on this, and you have done these things that were wrong --

WALSH: If every man that --

LOWRY: -- that were embarrassing to both of us, and as a political operation, we have to defeat them. I mean it's --

WALSH: If every man that cheated -- this is such an old story. But if every man that cheated could not run for president, we'd have a lot fewer presidents.


CUOMO: We'd have had a woman president a lot sooner if that were the standard.

All right, so I'm glad that you're on your high horse because now you can get to defend this next proposition.

When Harvey Weinstein came out, he never held any big time position within the DNC, the Democratic Committee, but he gave a lot of money to Democrats, period. You guys were on -- boom, right away the GOP came out on Twitter and elsewhere saying you better give that money back. These things that he's accused of, these things that have been acknowledged, you better give that money back.

Now Steve Wynn has this slew of accusations, a lot of stuff even I won't even talk on and this is just a limited series. I could probably get away with it, but not worth it, not worth discoloring people's Friday night. And the RNC, silent. This guy holds a position for them. He's the chairman. You talk about hypocrisy. What's going on with your people?

LOWRY: Yes. So there's a "Wall Street Journal" article that is extensively sourced. I think they say they talked to 150 people. You can never know whether any specific allegation is correct and true, but usually we've learned -- CUOMO: Let's say one of them is true.

LOWRY: Right.

CUOMO: Just one out of all 150.

LOWRY: Very bad. And usually when there's a pattern, it means that there's something there. So I think it's unsustainable that he'll continue to be a finance chairman of the RNC, and the Weinstein stuff will be thrown back at the RNC and at Republican candidates and a lot of them will probably end up giving back the money.

CUOMO: Why hasn't the GOP said what you just said, which is that there are a lot of allegations. We got to look at it. If we hat find this is substantiated, he's gone, nothing.

LOWRY: Imagine like all these organizations you go into a little bit of a huddle at first when these things come out.

CUOMO: After you were on your high horse just a moment ago.

LOWRY: No -- I just say, you heard what I said.

CUOMO: No, I'm saying the RNC, not you.

LOWRY: Right.

CUOMO: I'm double using my metaphor but --

LOWRY: But I imagine eventually they'll come out.

CUOMO: But is eventually OK, Joan?

WALSH: But after the Weinstein attacks -- if it's tomorrow, I guess it's OK. I think they're going to have to get rid of him. I do.

LOWRY: See, you're trying to get a debate and --


LOWRY: -- on the debate, maybe on Hillary.

WALSH: On Hillary, we can go. But I think we can agree on this. I think they will have to get rid of him. And I'm saying, Rich were saying, they have to get rid of him because it is disgusting.

CUOMO: Right.

WALSH: I'm not going to talk about -- I just want to give you a family friendly anecdote, that he had German shepherds in his offices that only responded to commands in German.

CUOMO: -- it's called.

WALSH: That just chilled me to the bone. The stories about the women, we don't have to go into. But there was just an atmosphere of intimidation that these women must have felt.

CUOMO: Right.

WALSH: Some of them came to his office to perform these --

CUOMO: Yes, I would quibble with you about that. If he wants to be a bad ass with some trained dogs, that's his ego trip. I'm saying once you start putting your hands on women in a way --


WALSH: If he's a stand-up guy and he has some great trained German shepherds, that's different.

LOWRY: The dogs are of much higher character than Steve Wynn if these stories --

WALSH: I agree. If these stories are correct. See, we agree again.

CUOMO: There's a lot of stories, although, fair point. All of these accusations need to be vetted but "The Wall Street Journal" did that before they came out with it we presume, but we haven't heard otherwise. This was good. I don't need you guys to fight. I want great ideas. It's false friction, waste everybody's time.


CUOMO: It's great to have you both. Thank you very much.

LOWRY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so the unraveling of a conspiracy theory. It's very rare that we get to really look inside the anatomy and see where something came from and why it should have never come there from the first place. This talk of the secret society in the FBI and these efforts to say we can't trust our Justice Department by a lot of high- ranking Republicans, where are they now? Now that the facts have come out. We got distracted by this "New York Times" piece about whether or not the president ordered Mueller fired. I didn't forget. We're going to debate what was said and why it was wrong, next.


[21:48:32] CUOMO: All right, so here's the question for you, my friends. Should Republicans come out and condemn the efforts to tar the FBI that were largely disproven (ph) this week? "The New York Times" rumor report really about Trump trying to fire Mueller. Like I said, it distracted from this but we got to get back to it. And it brings us to round two of the great debate with National Review Editor, Richard Lowery, and Joan Walsh, National Affairs Correspondent for "The Nation".

Lowy, tell me I'm wrong --

LOWRY: Yes, sir. CUOMO: -- that it hasn't been disproven, that what's been going on is good even in the face of all the facts that seemed to blow up the secret society --

LOWRY: You're completely wrong.

CUOMO: How so?

LOWRY: Well, the secret society thing was obviously absurd. And Ron Johnson got overly --


CUOMO: Matt Gates.

WALSH: Yes, so they shouldn't have gone there. But if the shoe were on the other foot and it was President Hillary Clinton being investigated and there were top FBI agents who clearly hated her and that were on the record expressing their hate and fear for her, it would be a huge scandal among Democrats.

CUOMO: OK, hold on. So there's your first point, fine. Joan.


CUOMO: You take up that point and just -- a little bit of sense of irony, I heard exactly that argument from Hillary Clinton's people when they were doing the e-mail investigation, that these people are out to get her. They didn't want Comey to clear her even though he felt there was --

WALSH: Right.

CUOMO: -- case. And that was -- so they say the same thing.

WALSH: Right.

CUOMO: But this idea --

WALSH: They're right.

CUOMO: This idea that, the secret society -- yes, they shouldn't have said that. But there are other issues. Do you think we should let it go that way?

[21:49:58] WALSH: Look, there are other issues. But he -- Strzok was reassigned. He was taken off the investigation. There were consequences. So it's not as though James Comey just said, this is fine, we've got this going on. I think there was a private relationship between the two people. I think there were complicating factors. But he got moved. I think we did see on the other hand -- I will say, that there seemed to be some kind of bias within the FBI, some people say within the New York office, against Hillary Clinton, that did tie James Comey's hands and did kind of force him into that late October 28th revelation.

CUOMO: And look, you got to root it out. People have opinions.

WALSH: Sure.

CUOMO: We've always known this. The idea that the FBI sets up as a lefty organization I find a little hard to believe with my dealings with the FBI. But that's neither here nor there. But if we look at just the context here, OK, secret society, one text, those guys went crazy. They learned the context. They were embarrassed. The missing texts, much better mystery, much better unknown, where did they go? How did they go?


CUOMO: The IG said, here are the texts. You guys didn't find them. Nunes didn't find them. It was an internal investigation. The FBI said to you, the DOJ rather said to you, the texts aren't just missing for Strzok and Page. They're missing for one of every 10 phones. You ignored. You ignored it, why, because it was inconvenient. Then they find the texts. And the text have come out and they show 100 different things that lead us to nowhere --

LOWRY: Right.

CUOMO: Ignoring facts for your own convenience to make people say -- and the president of the United States, Rich, do you respect the FBI? I don't know. We'll have to see. Very disturbing. The president of the United States is not an automatic answer of yes?

WALSH: And that predated -- that predated the texts.

CUOMO: A law and order party of the GOP. No disrespect to the Democrats. But who protects blue? Who's got law enforcement's back?

LOWRY: I'd say couple of things. One, on the secret society and the missing texts, it just shows, don't jump to conclusions. Everyone should wait a little bit. And this is my attitude this entire investigation. I'm willing to believe anything about FBI corruption. I'm willing to believe anything about Donald Trump corruption. Show me the evidence. And that's why we have had a big debate, you know, going two weeks now about the Nunes memo. Let's make sure there are no sources or methods revealed. But let's see it. And if it's really alarming it's good to know --

CUOMO: Not a little smelly to you that it hasn't leaked?

LOWRY: That it hasn't leaked?

CUOMO: It's so explosive.

LOWRY: Well, I mean, people have seen it. But it hasn't -- why it would be smelly to have --

CUOMO: Because a #releasethememo and this is so -- wait until you see it. There's a lot more effective as hype than maybe it would be --

LOWRY: No, I think -- CUOMO: -- in reality.

LOWRY: -- genuinely wants it out there. And I think it should be out there. No, I just -- generally, the more information, the more facts --

CUOMO: Why doesn't he read it on the floor of Congress? Where he's given immunity --

LOWRY: Well, I think he would rather go through an established process to do it.

CUOMO: Since when? The guy who runs to the White House to talk about information during an investigation --


CUOMO: Because he's investigating --

LOWRY: You're not curious about this memo. You don't want to see it?

CUOMO: Oh, absolutely. I'm just more curious about the hype around it, Joan.

WALSH: Right.

CUOMO: The president of the United States controls classification and declassification. If anybody would like to, you know, subvert a process and just do something it would be Trump, nothing.

WALSH: And I'm sorry, Devin Nunes at this point is not a credible person in this investigation. He had to recuse himself, you referred to. He ran to the White House to get intelligence allegedly that showed Susan Rice was unmasking people. That was shown to be completely ridiculous and she did not do those things or if she did, she was perfectly justified in doing them. He had to recuse himself. He hasn't actually recused himself. He's playing a role in which folks get called as witnesses. So he is not a reliable actor in this.

LOWRY: Let's see the memo.

WALSH: I'm fine with seeing the memo.

LOWRY: And if everything you say about Nunes is true and it's all made up, we'll know.

CUOMO: No, no, no. I didn't say it's all made up. I'm saying if they wanted it out it would be out already. I'm saying they are playing it both ways here.

WALSH: Right.

LOWRY: I guarantee you he wants it out.

CUOMO: Again, he could read it on the floor of Congress if he's so convicted about it. LOWRY: He wants to go through the process.

CUOMO: But, and I'm saying, it's an odd thing to hear about him. Do you think Republicans should come out and say what Lowry is saying about the efforts to tar the FBI?

LOWRY: Look, the FBI in general is an important organization and we should support it. I don't think the president of the United States should be calling out and criticizing specific FBI agents by name. That's just wrong. But there are legitimate questions about how this investigation started, about top agents on the investigation having a political bias. So let's see as much evidence as possible.

CUOMO: Facts first. Less feels, that's what the kids say. It's good to have you. Mr. Lowry, Joan, thanks to both of you.

WALSH: Thanks.

LOWRY: Have a good night.

CUOMO: All right, stick around, we got a little bit more of "Cuomo Prime Time" for you. What is "The Final Fact" on a Friday night? That's three S. Next.


[21:58:55] CUOMO: All right, here's our final fact for tonight. There are 35,000 men and women who work for the FBI and they're all around the world. A hundred and ten years that agency has been charged with protecting you and me, upholding the constitution of the United States. You know, there's a hall of honor at the FBI headquarters. Seventy agents and staff have died in the line of duty. I worked with them for a long time. They care. Are there exceptions? Yep. Could there be bias and prejudice? Could we have seen politics bleeding to Clinton and e-mails and maybe now with Trump? Maybe. But here's the thing. We only know what you show and making things up to tar the FBI for political expediency, no good. The Republican leadership should not have stayed silent about these efforts when they got blown up by the facts.

They, these people who work at the FBI, they deserve better from our lawmakers and the president who couldn't just say yes when asked if he trusts the FBI. Casting aspersions on the bureau has to stop without proof. So that's "The Final Fact".

You can catch me and Alisyn every weekday morning on "New Day". And thank you so much for all the support of this special series. It's time for "CNN Tonight" with Don Lemon, the man, it start right now.