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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Rep. Steve King Interviewed; Discussion of Lack of Civility in Political Discourse; Sen. Ron Johnson Interviewed. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 26, 2018 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: All right. Thank you, Anderson.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

It is on now. The battle of us versus them that the President Trump hits at every turn has become a fight for the soul of this country. The latest salvo from the right, the attorney general desperate to stay in President Trump's good-ish graces refers to Democrats as radicalized, as in the terrorism term and cracked jokes about separating kids from their parents.

Congressman Steve King upped the ante, saying America may be headed for another civil war.

The division is so intense, King refuses to delete a tweet even though he says he doesn't agree with the hateful things sponsored by the guy he tweeted. Why? He's here to tell you in a second.

The battle may come down to immigration. Those who are melting pot were dealt a blow today. Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court authorized the president's travel ban as good law, but left whether it is a good policy up to you, the voters. It's watered down from the original, but the message is still clear: all are not welcome.

So, who are we? What are we about in America? They are big questions that must be answered. That's why we've all gathered tonight.

So, let's get after it.

(MUSIC)

CUOMO: We didn't start the fire. No, we didn't light it, but we tried to fight it.

You remember those words from Billy Joel's 1989 song? Well, it's an anthem once again for what's going on right now right here.

But President Trump has changed the lyrics. He isn't trying to fight it. He is a flamethrower, turbo-charging fears, concerns about America being changed for the worst by others.

There is a fundamental battle afoot. Is our future as a nation one of inclusion or exclusion?

Now, our first guest is a leader of the part of the Republican Party that the president needs most, the hard-liners on immigration, Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King.

Welcome to PRIME TIME, sir.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Good to be back, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So, Congressman, help me understand this thing with the tweet, the guy that you retweeted. I'll put it on the screen for people.

You've said, look, I was looking to retweet an article about people becoming more suspicious of who comes into their country. That's what I was trying to get at. I don't agree with Collett. I'm not in a neo- Nazi. I don't embrace what he's about.

That's all true, right?

KING: Well, it's generally true. I don't know if that's an exact quote. But what I'm trying to say is here's a story that says at 65 percent of the Italians --

CUOMO: Right.

KING: -- under 35 have had enough with immigration.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: And I said, when will America wake up on this? Will we see it the same way?

CUOMO: But the guy has espoused ugly, neo-Nazi type principles, and you do not agree with those. Is that true, sir?

KING: Well, obviously not, but that's what you all say. I have no idea who he is. I don't know why we're giving him a world famous name now into the news. I'm not obligated to do a full background check on anybody.

CUOMO: Well, it's pretty obvious what he's about. I'm not saying you knew. I'm not saying you knew.

KING: Absolutely. You know I didn't, Chris. You know I didn't.

CUOMO: And that's what the part is that I don't understand. I don't believe that you recognize his values as your own, but you say, but I won't delete the tweet.

KING: Right.

CUOMO: I don't get it.

KING: It's pretty simple.

CUOMO: Why?

KING: It's pretty simple.

CUOMO: Why?

KING: I tweeted a "Breitbart" story. I didn't tweet a message from him. I tweeted a "Breitbart" story. I recognized the screen shot is "Breitbart" and I tweeted it.

And I went back a little bit later when some folks pointed this out, and I went and got the tiny URL and I tweeted the "Breitbart" story off their Website. And I said, this is what I intended to send.

I'm not -- I'm not deleting that because then you all pile on me and say King had to apologize. He was wrong. He knows he's guilty.

I'm not. I don't feel guilty one bit. I'm human.

CUOMO: Right, right, but I don't get it. It's human to error, right?

KING: Yes.

CUOMO: But --

KING: That's why I corrected it. You saw me correct it.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You said don't give the guy a platform, but you won't take down the retweet, so you're giving him a platform.

KING: I don't have him on CNN bringing him up as the most important story.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: But the reason I'm talking about it is because you won't pull back from the position and it seems because --

KING: That's not why.

CUOMO: No, no, not because you believe in what he's saying. I'm giving you that. I give you that. I'm not here to say you are a neo- Nazi, OK? That you know me better than that.

I'm here to say you're so caught up in this "us versus them" thing with the left and right that you don't want to give ground on even something that you acknowledge is wrong. How nuts is that?

KING: No, no. I retweeted a "Breitbart" story. That wasn't wrong.

He was an anonymous individual until you and others highlighted his name. Let's let him ride into the rearview mirror and not get all wrapped around the axle about this. It's a nothing story, Chris. It's a nothing story. There's business (ph) to talk about.

CUOMO: But here's the thing. When you gave him a platform, and when you have refused to take it down, you have given license to people who share his thoughts. I'm sure your staffers have pointed out to you that on social media you got a lot of ugly people using your name, waving it as a flag of someone who accepts what they are about and getting into all their ideas because you retweeted this guy.

KING: Chris, I'm not aware of any of that. But I am aware of leftists that are attacking me, trying to get me to take this down. I'm not taking it down. It was simply a "Breitbart" story that I tweeted. It had a guy's name on it that I'd never heard of.

Now, a lot of people have heard of his name. It's going to stay on my Website as long as it takes. It's going to go into the rearview mirror.

CUOMO: Even though he's about ugly ideas. Even Paul Ryan who is in the mode of getting into fights said there's no place for this in the dialogue.

KING: Paul Ryan didn't say anything. His spokesperson made a general comment that didn't have my name in it. So, that really isn't a story either.

But you cannot assign someone, and I surely didn't at this point. You say I don't abide into those values, and I don't. I reject them. My ancestors fought Nazism.

I'm about freedom. I'm about God-given liberty. This is a great country we stand in and I'm standing in Statuary Hall today. You stood in here before.

CUOMO: Yes, I have.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) look at you.

I believe in this country. I believe in the pillars of American exceptionalism. I want to restore them. I don't want to tear them down.

We do have freedom of speech in this country.

CUOMO: Sure.

KING: I'm watching that be suppressed around the country with intimidation, attacks on my colleagues. I think they waited about a year for the anniversary of the shooting of Steve Scalise and others, and now, they're starting to challenge the members of this administration out in the restaurants and around the streets of America.

That is something we should be concerned about, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, look, we've been talking about it on the show. I don't think this hostility helps anybody on either side. It's getting worse and worse, congressman, and you're part of the mix on this.

It seems so clear to me that immigration has become the ultimate battleground of all these competing ideas, and you seem to represent one very specific school of thought which is -- this is going to be a shuttered nation. You'll say it's about the rule of law, but it's about only wanting certain kinds of people here, whether it's the travel ban, whether it's what we see with separating families.

It's a very "us versus them" mentally right now, Congressman. And you're part of it.

KING: But you see what you're doing it? You're assigning me a belief system. Those things never came out of my mouth.

I'm about people that want to become Americans. I do say that. I got an op-ed out there today that says so.

I want to welcome people who look at America and say, I'd like to achieve the American Dream, too, I want to and help the country I'm coming to, and American values do count. And we are a Judeo-Christian country and believe in free enterprise, freedom of speech, religion, and the press, the Second Amendment, the list goes on and on.

We know what made America great. And, by the way, there's another piece of this we don't talk about, Chris. I think it's important. I think we'd agree on this.

There's been a self-selecting vigor that's come into America. The people that decided to immigrate from the United States of America were the ones that had the ambition. The ones that wanted to achieve their vision of success, and so, if there were 10 children in a family anywhere in the world, in any donor country that's there, the ones that came to America were self-selected with more vigor than those that didn't select to come here. And that's one of the reasons why this is a great country as well.

CUOMO: But I don't say -- why do you say we don't talk about that? It seems to be an endemic part of the conversation.

KING: I never heard anybody else say it --

CUOMO: Right now, it's about whether or not the people will still get the chance, because really, the battle with you guys isn't so much on illegal immigration. And we can talk if you'd like about, you know, the insistence of saying that the left is about open borders.

Now, I talk to these people all the time, trying to get one of them to admit that they're about open borders. They gave you the wall. Chuck Schumer said I'll give you the wall for DACA. They're clearly not about open borders or lawlessness. So, why push into philosophy?

KING: It doesn't look to me like they're ready to give us the wall for DACA.

CUOMO: Have you ever had a Democrat say to you, I want open borders, no laws, and everybody people to come in whenever they want?

KING: I don't know that I can quote any here that have actually said, but I've never either said that --

CUOMO: But then why do you say they're for open borders?

KING: But the policy that they're (INAUDIBLE), we served it up to them. It's been in this Congress, it was voted on last week. The Goodlatte bill went down that had wall money in it, had enforcement in it. And they rejected it.

CUOMO: Right, but that doesn't mean they're for open borders. Look, and here's the proof, Steve. I have proof.

I interviewed Chuck Schumer about it. I don't know if I even used this in the interview. But it goes right to this point. Just listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: I put that deal on the table in the Oval Office, in a sincere effort at compromise. I put the wall on the table in exchange for strong DACA protections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Right. Now, this is in January, because he said it in the interview and he said, go back and look. And we did and he had said it.

So, the idea of saying they want open borders every time they don't accept what you want, you know what that does, it feeds the "us versus them". It makes them a punitive enemy to the Republican base that they're about something different than you are. Why do that? Why sow division?

KING: I think they are about something different.

CUOMO: But they're not about open borders and lawlessness. It's about how we invite people to this country. It's fundamentally different.

KING: Look, Chris, they're defending MS-13.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: They're not defending MS-13. Nancy Pelosi never defended MS- 13.

KING: When President -- when President Trump referred to them as animals, there was a hyperventilation going on among the left that you couldn't talk about people in terms and call them animals. That was defending MS-13 by about anybody's standard, and by the way --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: No. It's what you made -- it's what you made it about. But go ahead. What's your point about Chuck Schumer?

KING: I didn't actually get involved in that dialogue myself. But I believe I recall President Trump saying Chuck Schumer withdraw that offer, and --

CUOMO: No. He rejected -- he rejected the offer. They put the wall on the table. Then it became about money. Schumer says, you guys, not you, you're in the House, but Republicans in the Senate wouldn't give him more money to earmark for the wall than the $25 billion over those years.

KING: OK.

CUOMO: That was there.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Whether it's true or not, to say they're for open borders is just selling a line that is untrue and made them to look like an enemy to you.

KING: You can define open borders probably a little bit differently and maybe we do that. But they're promising citizenship to nearly everybody that can get into America, unless they're the kind of criminals that cause them to be politically vulnerable.

I stood here in this Capitol building in about -- or near this Capitol building in about 2005 or so when Teddy Kennedy went out here just to the right of where I am right now, to the west lawn, stood at the podium. The lawn was full of bussed in -- many of them were self- professed illegal.

And he said to them and he had an interpreter. But I heard him say it in English. He said, some say report to be deported. I say report to become an American citizen.

CUOMO: But even that wouldn't be an open borders and a lot of members of your own party want Dreamers to be part of this.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: When I heard that, the hair stood up on the back of my neck because I knew he uttered the axiom that was going to lead that party into the next generation. That was the promise.

CUOMO: But, look --

KING: And not only that, Hillary Clinton made that promise over and over again during the campaign.

CUOMO: But many members of your party in both houses of Congress believe that the Dreamers should have a pathway to citizenship. I know you don't. And it's a legitimate policy debate, but it's how you define the debate that I wanted to bring you on for tonight.

You say while it's just about the law, law enforcement, I'm not seeing it, because you say I'm not part of the MS-13 mess. I'm just pointing out what the Democrats did, which is an unfair reckoning of it. But you have.

You put out a picture of kids saying they look like perfect recruits for MS-13. You don't know anything about these kids. You don't know if they're anything to do with that gang. (CROSSTALK)

KING: I can see a picture. I can see a picture. They were declared to be young boys by let's see, Stormy Daniels' attorney. He put that out and said they're young boys.

CUOMO: Yes.

KING: And I look at that and say, no, these boys are, as I said, they're old enough to be tried as adults. They're old enough to serve in the military. They could be prime gang recruitment age.

CUOMO: Yes, but why? Why paint them with that brush? The first two are factually true. The first one is a little suggestive of mal- intent with where their behavior in the public.

KING: I didn't suggest any intent. I said they're prime gang age recruitment --

CUOMO: But you're making it sound like they are would be gang members. When you talked about Muslims working in your pork plants and say I don't want Muslims working in my pork plant because they need extra explanation --

KING: But I didn't say that.

CUOMO: What did you say?

KING: You got to have -- Chris, you got to have a sense of humor here.

CUOMO: Here's the sound bite. Let the audience hear it, and then you judge it.

KING: Please do that and I hope they have a sense of humor.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Their rationale is that if infidels are eating this pork, they're not eating it, so as long as they're preparing this pork for infidels, it helps send 'em to hell and it must make Allah happy.

REPORTER: Jeez.

KING: I don't want people doing my pork that won't eat it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Fair enough.

CUOMO: Fair enough? You're saying they're trying to kill us.

KING: Would you want somebody running a winery that wouldn't taste the wine? Would you want somebody preparing your food that says if you eat, you're going to go to hell?

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I wouldn't think they're trying to kill me. Is that what you think?

KING: I didn't say they were trying to kill me.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I want people preparing --

CUOMO: Which, by the way (INAUDIBLE) infidel, you're talking about terrorists, OK, who think that?

KING: No, I didn't say terrorists.

CUOMO: You said infidels, Muslims who believe Steve King is an infidel are terrorist types. They are radicalized people who believe a perversion of their own faith.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Preparing pork for infidels to eat. That is an exact quote from an authority.

CUOMO: So, what if you have vegetarians working in your meat plant, Steve King. Do you want them out too?

KING: I'd be a little worried about that, yes.

CUOMO: You'd rather say anything about it --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- a vegan lobby, I'm always --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: But that's my point, is that this "us versus them" thing, you're picking on these people and trying to point out to their constituents that they're different. And I think it's dangerous because that's how I got here. You know, I was one of these subgroups, as you call them. You know, that's who we are, Steve King. It's who we are in this country.

KING: Let's go to the subgroup piece. Nobody has ever answered that question I asked. It was rhetorical in a way. But they --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Obviously not if you want it answered. But go ahead, what's the question?

KING: I mean, the point that when you said subgroups that I discussed before, I said what subgroup has contributed more than Western civilization?

CUOMO: No. You said white civilization.

KING: I didn't. I did not say that.

CUOMO: I have it in front of my face from "The Daily Beast".

KING: Roll the tape.

CUOMO: It's an old article, but it's not an old idea for you.

KING: Well, in print means nothing these days. I read a lot of that stuff in print, even your own print.

CUOMO: Steve King --

KING: If it's videotape, I'll listen to it.

CUOMO: Steve King, do you think I take you out of context? Do you think I get your words wrong? Do you think I'm unfair?

KING: I'm saying if there's something in print you say it's a quote from me, that doesn't mean it's a quote from me. If you've got a video, run the video. I know what I said and I've had a video. I can -- I'll post it tomorrow.

CUOMO: I'm saying this -- why keep painting -- why keep painting people who are others as somehow suspicious? If they work in a meat plant, you got to be careful?

KING: Why do they attack somebody (INAUDIBLE) in western civilization?

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Why do that?

KING: And the greatness of America is Western civilization. We wouldn't be the country if we were not a country. Why are we attacking anybody that defends it?

CUOMO: No, no, no --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Chris, do you embrace western civilization? You recognized its contribution to you, your life, the society?

CUOMO: I just see people like me as part of it. I see people who come --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Would you say to people who come here, you should take a look at this and embrace these pillars of American exceptionalism?

CUOMO: But I think we do that. And that's why the assimilation of all these different people into America as Americans has been our strength and greatness. The Chinese who worked on the railroads, the mass of melting pot of immigrants that built our tunnels and bridges and thought up our technology, and the rules for our civilization. They're not all white. They're not all white.

KING: But they came here to embrace Americanism. And today, the left is teaching them to reject assimilation. And that's been going on for 20 to 30 (ph) years.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: That's not true.

KING: It is true.

CUOMO: What's teaching them to reject assimilation is people who call their --

KING: I know that's true.

CUOMO: Hold on, you need to hear this. What's making people think about the value of assimilation is when their kids get called would be gang members and when they hear themselves being hinted at as maybe wanting to hurt the rest of us and we shouldn't -- they shouldn't work in places if they won't eat the food.

That's what makes people think that they're not being accepted. Laws like a travel ban. Watching kids get separated from parents in the name of enforcing the law. That's what makes people think they don't belong, Steve King.

KING: Never thought that out of the tweet that I sent, Chris, and that is that these young men certainly come from one of the top ten most violent countries in the world.

CUOMO: America is one of the top ten most violent countries in the world, Steve King.

KING: No, it's not.

CUOMO: That doesn't make us all bad people.

KING: Our violent death rate here is 5.56 per 100,000. They come from places where it's 92, 94 violent deaths per 100,000. And that's not even Mexico --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I'm talking about countries with fully formed economies and opportunity who should be doing better.

KING: I'm talking about these boys in the airport.

CUOMO: We have our own struggles as the president of the United States likes to say all the time, North Korea, like other people haven't done bad things? Russia, like we haven't killed some people. He's so ready to admit the fault of America when it serves him. You should admit it now. We're not a perfect place.

KING: I don't want to admit the faults of America. I want to embrace the greatness of America.

CUOMO: Greatness is our diversity.

KING: And I want people to understand what it is.

CUOMO: Let's end the interview on that.

KING: And we have people over on your side of the aisle that are doing citizenship --

(CROSSTALK)

COUMO: Don't say my side of the aisle. I sit in the middle. I look to the left, jokers to the left of me. What's the rest of the song?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: All right. We were going to get to humor. You're not on the left, no, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Jokers to the right. Here I am, as Smerconish says on his radio --

KING: Literally positioned someplace in the middle, that's --

CUOMO: Steve King, let me get us to see if we can agree on one thing when we end this interview. The strength of this country has been found in its composition which has always been about diversity, especially in times of need, the waves of immigrants who have come into this country have helped America be her greatest. Will you acknowledge that?

KING: It's not diversity that is our strength. It's the assimilation that binds the diversity together that is our strength. And we have people that come from all donor countries in the world that have added to this culture and civilization, many of them in very vigorous ways as I described earlier and the reasons for that.

But if we don't have assimilation, we are not going to have the strengths of diversity. Diversity will divide us.

CUOMO: And if we want people to assimilate, you've got to embrace them for who they are and what they're about as long as they're not hurting anybody else.

KING: They need to embrace America for who we are as well.

CUOMO: Right. And we need to embrace -- and you need to embrace America for what it is as well. It's a two-way street.

KING: I do that every day and I thank God for our liberties.

CUOMO: The words -0- and the Statue of Liberty has words on the bottom of it we don't want to forget as well.

Steve King --

KING: We never voted on that, Chris. That's --

CUOMO: I hope you don't -- you don't reject the words of "The New Colossus", do you?

KING: I don't reject those words. I think they're actually inspiring, but it's not a national policy.

CUOMO: That's a sad statement. We'll end the interview on it.

KING: It's just true.

CUOMO: It can be sad and true at the same time. We'll see what the policy is as this war over immigration is settled.

Thank you for being part of the conversation on the show.

KING: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So, look, I know there are parts of you out there who say I don't want to hear from Steve king. I get it. I get why you feel that way, but it's not a good way to feel. You have to hear the part of the Republican Party that King represents is vibrant and a big part of what Trump is lobbying on the immigration battle right now.

So, tweet me @ChrisCuomo. Disagree with decency, tell me what you didn't like and we're going to read some of the responses later in the program and see if we can bridge where people are on this.

OK. So, what do we know about the Trump administration? It's demanding civility, but it reminds me of a line from the movie "The Princess Bride". Do you remember when they kept saying with the word inconceivable? They keep on using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

The proof: the flame throwing by the attorney general in the name of civility? More troubling than what he said is why he said it. And it sets up the great debate.

Look at these two handsome men. Van Jones, Jason Miller, next.

Own your prettiness, Van Jones.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. It's a battle of us versus them. And here, I have them as an acronym, all right? Them, T, the tariffs, the bad hombres that Trump talks about, the law of exclusion. We'll explain in a second. And M for Muslims. We see it playing out. What happened with the kids? It's a message

of harshness. That was the point all along. Come at your own risk.

The proof? He didn't even prepare for his own productivity. The administration knew they were going to explode the population, but no provisions for accommodations? No provisions for due process.

Why? Because Trump wasn't about the practicality. He was about the animus. And that's why it's an ongoing nightmare. It's not over. For some reason, we're just not talking about it enough.

They're still not being reunited. They're still not exactly sure what they're going to do. Why? Because that's what they wanted.

Now, what did we see? Well, with the ban today, can we do this? Yes, the Supreme Court said the law does allow a president to limit immigration, even if he wants to do it from places with people he doesn't like, the travel ban is in effect.

Trump's reaction? The wall comes next. Why would he step on the headline about the ban by talking about the wall? Because it's all part of his plan.

The key phrase: the law of exclusion. This is about enforcing the law. We do have to be a nation of laws. But his main rule is a law of exclusion, OK? Us versus them, and "them" are not just brown skinned people or Muslims, it's about ideas.

Hence, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, calling the rhetoric of opponents from -- of taking kids from parents radicalized.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The rhetoric we hear from the other side on this issue as on many others has become radicalized. We hear views on television today that are on the lunatic fringe, frankly, and what is perhaps more galling is the hypocrisy. I liked the little security around themselves, and if you try to scale the fence, believe me, they'll be even too happy to have you arrested and separated from your children.

(END VIDEO CLIPO)

CUOMO: So, you saw the joke there at the end. That's for his discretion. But you saw that he read the word radicalized.

What does that mean? It's intentional. And yes, it is the kind of word that we reserve for terrorism. It was used on purpose, "us versus them".

And also, there's another kicker in there. Sessions is hungry for approval, but he's also an example of the capitulation of a party, OK? What did we see with the GOP? McConnell, shortened there for white board reasons, smiling with the justice that helped the travel ban through, Gorsuch, and the justices that they are -- the judges that they're getting through are an untold part of the story of reinforcing the "us versus them" cultural priorities. We will take that on in this show over time.

We also saw Paul Ryan, once a moral standard who called out Barack Obama for unpresidential rhetoric but never once has told Trump to apologize for any of his ugliness as president. And then he gave a soft stance on one of his own members, Steve King, who was just on, retweeting a neo-Nazi saying, yes, that shouldn't be part of the dialogue.

But Maxine Waters, the Democrat, she should apologize, he says in full voice. Why? Well, telling people to protest the administration, we don't need that. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: That's dangerous for our society. It's dangerous for our democracy. She should apologize and there's just no place for that in our public discourse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I could play you a dozen examples of the president saying things that are so much more inflammatory, and Ryan -- crickets.

So, now, Trump is getting what he's been asking for, a fight. Maxine Waters calling for a shame campaign, people harassing administration officials in public, and private.

What has Trump done? He exaggerated Waters' intentions, saying that she was calling for harm. She never said that. It's not true. But why did he do it? Because he traffics in the anger that comes from either side.

And so, here we are ugly and ugly on both sides. There will be no winning. But there is a battle. And it all comes down to immigration.

How this policy battle goes, so goes our country. So, there is a lot to debate. Let's get into it with Van Jones and Jason Miller.

It's good to have you both.

Van Jones, I start with you. The battle of us versus them -- is it real? Is it in effect? And what is the intention by the administration?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, it's clearly real and the president of the United States has found a formula to kind of keep this conflict going. He throws punches, and if anybody throws a punch back at him he says, oh, we're being victimized.

I was especially disappointed to see Paul Ryan. You're correct. Paul Ryan had the chance to be a moral leader and a moral giant. His big hero Jack Kemp who always stood up to bigotry, Paul Ryan started out doing that during the campaign of Donald Trump, but then he backed down from it.

So, he brought the taxes down, which Jack Kemp would like, but he did not bring the moral rhetoric up, Paul Ryan, when he had the opportunity. So, if anybody should apologize, Paul Ryan should apologize to the country. He should apologize to Jack Kemp for not doing his job to hold everybody to a high standard.

One of the big, big disasters in this country is that there's nobody on the right that's been able to hold that moral standard high and Paul Ryan had that opportunity and failed?

CUOMO: But, listen, Jason, that's over, that fight, right? We know what the party is now. The party is the party of Trump. Separating families, that's not Reaganesque Republicanism. We know what their immigration policy was for the party back then.

Nobody is saying anything because they're not going against Trump. Isn't it over?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think people are definitely embracing the policies of President Trump. I mean, that's the reason why he got 306 electoral votes in 2016 and won over a number of states that Republicans traditionally don't win, whether it's Pennsylvania, or Michigan, or Wisconsin.

But I think there's something that's going on here over the last week, really even over the last week where I think things have gotten way too inflammatory and way too heated that --

CUOMO: What did you expect, Jason? What did you expect?

MILLER: Hold on. But, Chris -- but, Chris, people can have -- you know, Van and I can have very civil debates --

CUOMO: Sure you can.

MILLER: -- on issues back and forth. And I appreciate the opportunity to come on this show and do such. But you look at the comments that Congresswoman Maxine Waters made over the weekend, where it might not have been inciting mob violence. It might have been just a threshold below. It may have been inciting mob harassment.

But encouraging people to form a crowd, she actually said create a crowd and confront them at restaurants, at department stores --

CUOMO: Right.

MILLER: -- at gas stations and say, you're not welcome here, we're going to -- and I'm paraphrasing slightly --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I hear you. Let's compare it because I want to see -- I want to see if your emotion stays equal. Let's play something from somebody else I think you may be impressed by and what they say.

MILLER: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Get them out. Try not to hurt him. If you do, I'll defend you in court. Don't worry about it.

If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.

I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you.

I don't know if I would have done well, but I would have been out there fighting, folks. I don't know if I would have done well, but I would have boom, boom, boom, beat the --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Where is your high dodging now, my brother?

MILLER: Well, I think that they're apples and oranges here. I think the president was joking around.

CUOMO: Really?

MILLER: Yes, I do and, in fact, don't just take it from me. "PolitiFact" even did a write up on this this evening where they had a lawyer from the ACLU --

CUOMO: You're citing "PolitiFact"? Every time I use it with you, you've said that they're a lefty organization. You can't --

MILLER: Pull the tape on that one. I don't remember that conversation.

CUOMO: Yes, OK, I will.

MILLER: But "PolitiFact" even had a lawyer from the ACLU saying that did not rise to the level of inciting things the same way. That another lawyer said that it was with Maxine Waters.

But again, but it's not even just Maxine Waters who were saying get in the face of people. I mean, the fact that we're targeting now staff, that we're targeting members of administration --

CUOMO: Look, I don't like it. I don't think it's productive. I don't think it's good.

MILLER: And, Chris, to be clear, I don't like it when they do it. I don't like it when you --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: But hold on. Let's bring Van back in, because, Van, here, look, I dealt with this last night also. I have Jason on the show. I have Rick Santorum I want a lot of different kinds of voices. I believe it's important for people. Don't shut out everybody, even if you don't agree with everything.

But, Van, they're never full throated about what the president says. It's always qualified. It's always OK. There's always an escape hatch, and then Maxine Waters says something and it's civility time.

JONES: Yes, I mean, I have a problem with it because I don't like double standards. I wrote a whole book chastising both liberals and conservatives for this type of stuff. So, if I want to challenge the president or anybody else on it, I've got a clear record.

My problem is, is that people who don't have a clear record on their own side. Bobby Kennedy, you know, who died 50 years ago this year said moral courage is not standing up to your enemies. Anybody is going to stand up to their enemies. Moral courage is when you stand up to your friends.

And the problem that we have right now is all these people who are jumping up and down on Maxine Waters have never ever had remotely the same level of passion challenging a president on their own party. And I disagree. I don't care if it's "PolitiFact" or anybody else. If any grown man stands up in front of a crowd of people or grown woman and said the stuff that Donald Trump said at those rallies, that person is horrifically irresponsible.

If it was your kid, if it was your husband, if it was your employee --

CUOMO: Right.

JONES: -- they would be in deep dodo, and yet we apologize for the president doing it, and it's wrong.

CUOMO: And, Jason, it was last night. You know, he pointed to the back of the room, fake media. You see the way they treat the media? Why? Because they're being encouraged. It's being reinforced. It's ugly. That's why I said to you, what did you expect?

Not because I think it's right. As soon as Maxine Waters put out those cause and saw how they were being manifest, they said, be careful. If you've had enough of Trump, why would you use the same tactics as Trump? I don't know how that's making us better, sweeter, smarter or more productive.

So, I see the shortness of it.

MILLER: Chris --

CUOMO: But when I say to you, "what did you expect?" this is what you invite.

MILLER: Well, no, I disagree on that. I feel like, Chris, we're going to a bit of kind of the ultimate game of what-aboutism here. Look, President Trump has obviously said that he's a counterpuncher. When people swing at him verbally, he's going to punch back.

If people want to go and criticize people, that's fine. That's your free speech. You have the right to do so. But it's completely different what Maxine Waters was doing, where she

was saying create a crowd --

CUOMO: She never told anybody to harm anybody. When the president says she wants to harm --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: She said create a crowd and tell them they're not welcome here.

Well, then, Chris, what about the wanted poster with Stephen Miller? And the wanted poster, I don't care what the fine print says in two point font down at the bottom. When you're making wanted posters for someone who works in the White House, the very clear message that you're sending is it is a call to action that you want some harm to happen to that person.

The fact that Sarah Sanders --

CUOMO: And you know what? And I don't like it. And I don't like what-aboutism.

MILLER: I'm glad you say that.

CUOMO: But I've got to tell you something -- Van Jones, when the president of the United States, then a citizen is trying his damnedest to convince people that the president is a Muslim who wasn't born in this country, who some kind of Manchurian candidate, that was pretty damn dangerous too. And you didn't hear Jason Miller or anybody else opposing it.

JONES: Yes. Look, I can't -- I disagree with that. I mean, part of the thing I just want to take a step back here. Why are you seeing people like Maxine Waters and others getting to this level of exasperation?

The president has done this act with regard to the children at the border and other things and people are starting to feel helpless. They're starting to feel that Congress isn't doing anything. The Supreme Court seems to be going against them.

And when people feel helpless, they have a choice to make. Now, I would say moral witness on behalf of your views is a good thing. But it has to be done in a nonviolent way. It has to be done on a constructive way. It has to be done in a way where nobody can accuse you of putting somebody else at risk. That's the Dr. King standard.

So, I don't want to be in a world where people say, you can't bear moral witness. If you see somebody, you can't sing, you can't pray, you can't do -- you can't sit-in, you can't do anything because we want to be so civil that we can't bear moral witness. But at the same time, you've got to do it the right way.

And I will be tough on my liberal and progressive friends to say, our standard has to be the Dr. King standard. We're not going to lower our standard for Donald Trump or anybody else. I don't care how upset we are. We have to do it the right way.

MILLER: And so, by that definition, Van, you would agree that Maxine Waters did not reach that threshold. And I would just be curious by your definition what you think about Sarah Sanders being kicked out of a restaurant?

JONES: Listen, I -- look, I'm a civil rights guy. And so, for me, you know, open accommodations -- public accommodations is something that my grandparents fought for, my parents fought for and I fought for. So, the idea of anybody being asked to leave any restaurant, a gay person not being able to access a wedding cake, those things really, really bother me.

At the same time, I'm consistent about that. My concern is when you have people saying it's OK to throw somebody out of a restaurant if they're gay, but then you can't ask somebody to leave a restaurant if their politics are, you know, frankly, very, very troubling from a human rights perspective.

Let's just be consistent. You know, I try to be consistent. My problem is a double standard. My problem is the hypocrisy. At a certain point, I think people on your side of the aisle, sir, you have the House. You have the Senate. You have the White House. And now you have the Supreme Court.

Would you please take responsibility for the conduct of people on your side and quit worrying about every little thing every little Democrat does? It is beneath you and beneath your party.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: I'm going to take a little bit of a different perspective, Van, and say that I think ultimately everybody needs to watch their own actions and their own behavior. It's up to each individual person to make sure they're treating others with respect and so, I would say that whether -- I mean, nobody should be kicked out of a restaurant for any reason. I think that's ridiculous.

Nobody, whether you're a political opponent or someone on the other side, should be harassed in public or yelled at or screamed, you shouldn't do wanted posters --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Do you feel the same way about -- do you feel the same way about lesbians and gays trying to get a wedding cake?

MILLER: Look, Supreme Court has already gone in --

CUOMO: Here we go.

MILLER: -- and decided that. And so, that's --

JONES: No, but you personally? Just personally.

MILLER: I think as long as it's not absolutely tearing up someone's values, that you shouldn't be going denying people's services.

CUOMO: Look, it's always easy to criticize the other side.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: That's what I believe.

CUOMO: People are holding onto their own and that's why we are stuck.

But you know what? All conversation that is decent helps. And this one goes in the books as that.

Van Jones, Jason Miller, thanks to you both.

All right. We were talking here about today's Supreme Court ruling. Look, you can go Google lots of different types of thoughts, it is not surprising on the law, OK? They never said it is a good policy.

To be sure, politically, it throws more fuel on the fire of an already explosive debate. We have a lawmaker who is actively trying to overhaul our immigration system here, and his name is Senator Ron Johnson. He's also fighting to keep migrant families together. He is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He is there.

Good to see you, sir. I'll get to you in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The president is claiming a tremendous victory after the Supreme Court upheld his travel ban.

He originally called for a total ban of Muslims entering the country during the campaign. It later morphed into what he called a watered down and politically correct version. But he is still celebrating. Why? Because it still feeds the "us versus them" culture war that he very much relished.

Is it a win for you? That's a good question.

Let's ask it to the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Republican Ron Johnson.

Senator, thank you for coming on the show.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, Chris, how are you doing?

CUOMO: Well.

So, the travel ban, you had said that you saw this as a reasonable accommodation from the first version of it. Are you OK with the court's finding today?

JOHNSON: I think the court's finding is correct. We have given the president a great deal of latitude in terms of running our refugee system and our immigration laws. Now, from the standpoint of national security, this was a very clear

cut court decision. I was kind of surprised at the lower court's decision. So, it doesn't surprise me the Supreme Court ruled in the president's favor.

CUOMO: Well, they were playing on policy, the lower courts, right? They're saying, we don't like this policy because it is offensive --

JOHNSON: It was judicial activism.

CUOMO: It is offensive -- you know, but everybody says that when they don't like the decision, right? You're going to get plenty of judicial activism now in your favor, so you will like, right? That's the way the game works.

JOHNSON: No, no, no.

CUOMO: Yes, yes, yes.

JOHNSON: We're trying to confirm judges that apply the law and don't alter it. That's a famous quote by Neil Gorsuch and I agree with that.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Yes, and Gorsuch who said he would be his own man and he has voted not only in consistency with Scalia but with Clarence Thomas. So, he is farther to the right than he ever suggested he was possible of being. And that's OK, because elections have consequences. But let's not make it like there's one standard that's more purer than the other.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: What we ought to do, Chris, what we ought to do, Chris, is trying to find areas of agreement.

CUOMO: Right.

JOHNSON: And I really came to talk about the immigration.

CUOMO: Yes.

JOHNSON: Let's agree on the facts. We don't want to separate families.

CUOMO: Well, hold on a second.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: We want to have a legal immigration system that works. We want to have secure border.

CUOMO: Senator, one at a time. You said we don't want to separate families.

JOHNSON: No.

CUOMO: OK, because I just heard you on Fox saying, you know, when Trump tries to enforce the law, everybody gets upset. So if you don't want to separate families, then you should be upset by the way that he was enforcing the law. I know it's a different audience now.

JOHNSON: But first, I don't --

CUOMO: But is it OK or is it not OK?

JOHNSON: I don't think that's a quote, Chris.

CUOMO: It is. I heard it. I watched you.

JOHNSON: What I'm talking about is the fact that we have laws and legal precedent --

CUOMO: Right.

JOHNSON: -- and legal loopholes that incentivize people to come to this country illegally. There's nothing humane about incentivizing young girls in Central America to ride the train they called the Beast get actually assaulted or other people did end up dying in the desert. I've seen the pictures of the desiccated bodies. That's not a humane treatment.

So, what we need is a legal immigration system.

CUOMO: True.

JOHNSON: Ours right now is horribly broken. We need to end the incentives for illegal immigration and get control of the system.

And I think people of good faith can work together and try to solve the problem. I come from the private sector, Chris.

CUOMO: I know.

JOHNSON: Where to succeed in the private sector, you have to tenaciously pursue areas of agreement. What I found in politics, people exploit divisions.

I don't like it. I don't like rhetoric. I don't like demagoguery in either side of the political spectrum.

CUOMO: But you have to own --

JOHNSON: I really came here to try to solve problems, stop mortgaging our kids' future.

CUOMO: I know, but you can't solve problems, Senator, if you don't own what the problems are sometimes. You say I don't want to separate families. But what you don't say is Trump was wrong to separate the families.

He was wrong to do it this way and it was calculated to be done this way, because they didn't even prepare for their own productivity. They didn't put procedures in place. They didn't have accommodations in place.

What does that tell us? It tells us the message, the animus was more important than the policy. But you don't say that. You don't call that out. Why?

JOHNSON: Again, I'm trying to positively influence the process and I'm trying to solve the problem, Chris. So, the way you have to do is you have to recognize reality.

You have to recognize that since 2012, with unaccompanied children and family units about 900,000 people minimum have flooded our borders, and we don't have the capacity. We haven't prepared for it. Neither the previous administration or this administration has the capacity to deal with this flood.

Now, what we also do know is from 2005 when the DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff faced a smaller flood from Brazil.

CUOMO: Right.

JOHNSON: Of 31,000 Brazilians came in this country.

CUOMO: Right.

JOHNSON: He instituted a policy to called Texas Hold 'Em. He apprehended these people, processed them, and those that didn't have valid asylum claims he sent back to Brazil.

CUOMO: He set up procedures first, though. He set up the procedures first, you know what, right? Go back and look. Look how much time he put into the procedures.

JOHNSON: It was 31,000. Under a current system in 2014 alone, we had 52,000 unaccompanied children.

CUOMO: I know, but the scale.

JOHNSON: The last two years, we've had 77,000 family units per year. That's at least 140,000 people.

CUOMO: I know.

JOHNSON: So, the scale isn't even close.

CUOMO: I know. But the scale only makes the point more, Senator. If you knew you were going to be dealing with more people and more volume, you would have prepared more in advance if that's what you cared about the way Chertoff did when he set up his policies and procedures.

They didn't do it here. My suggestion is because they wanted the message of harshness, not the practicality of the policy. You said also on Fox, hey, you know, the problem is here, we let them in. They come in and they never show for their hearings. JOHNSON: That is just a statement of fact.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Seventy-five percent do show. They got it up to 90 percent with programs that you were OK with Trump administration cancelling.

JOHNSON: If they're detained. If they're not detained, they don't show up. And the fact of the matter is those -- more than 200,000 unaccompanied children, Chris, 96-1/2 percent are still in this country. We haven't deported then.

And so, we haven't, you know, reduced that incentive for illegal immigration, because those children are still in this country. They're using social media. And they're acting as an incentive --

CUOMO: Hold on. The 75 percent shows up for hearings, are those who where it is volitional, if they were detained, you'd get 100 percent, because obviously, they're detained. So they're going to show up for the hearing.

What I'm saying is it's not none of them. It's 75 percent. The number is too low. I agree. You have programs to get you over 90 percent. You cancelled them.

JOHNSON: We look the stats on that. So --

CUOMO: Well, look, I don't know how people who were in detention don't show up for a hearing. What do you mean? I get lost? Do people get them a break?

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: No, the ones in detention show up. The ones that have been caught and released, they don't show up and they're still in the interior and they haven't been deported.

And again, that just creates a greater incentive, which is why we've seen a surge of families.

CUOMO: Understood. Understood.

But, look, what I see is this -- I see impasse based on completely different theories of America. And it is "us versus them". You have a president who is pushing that the people who want to get into this country should be -- you should be suspicious of them.

Steve King was just on. He echoed it 150 percent. He actually said the words on the Statue of Liberty were never voted on. They are not a policy of this country.

Do you believe that the words of "The New Colossus" of what's on the foot of the Statue of Liberty, do you believe that that's just some add-on that never really mattered in terms of what this country is about? JOHNSON: No, I believe we are a nation of immigrants and every wave of immigrant in the history of this nation who come here seeking the opportunity that America uniquely offers. And they come and they work incredibly hard and it needs to be legal process rather than illegal process.

So, that's what I'm trying to accomplish. I would -- I really don't think we probably have enough legal immigration, but we need to have a legal immigration system that's really focused on economic opportunity and jobs as opposed to --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- and I've never heard you oppose it.

JOHNSON: Chris, I'm trying to be as influential as possible in terms of getting the right types of policies. Listen, I tried to work with President Obama and get him to succeed in accomplishing the goals of making this a safe, secure and prosperous nation.

I'm trying to do the same thing with President Trump. I don't agree with anybody 100 percent of the time. What I'm trying to do is find the areas of agreement and work in a positive way --

CUOMO: Ron, I hear you.

JOHNSON: -- to accomplish your objective.

CUOMO: I --

JOHNSON: I'm a business guy. You know, I just want to solve problems.

CUOMO: I get you, but who had you on to work the magic board and talk different economic realities?

JOHNSON: No, appreciate it.

CUOMO: I did.

JOHNSON: That's what I'm back on here at 9:45 at night.

CUOMO: Who is waiting for you to get a vote on tariffs and see what's going on, because I know you oppose them and when that vote is about to happen, I don't think they're going to give you one. But if they do, who will have you on to discuss it? I will.

But what I'm saying is, when I hear you talk about the other side here, you say you want to find an accommodation. I hear you say, hey, I didn't see any meaningful legislation because really they're for open borders. Chuck Schumer offered the president the wall in exchange for DACA. I'd never had a Democrat say they want open borders.

Why would you describe them that way if you're trying to look for accommodative ways to find solutions? JOHNSON: No, I mean, the catch and release policy, by and large, is a

very open border type of policy. It results in people being dispersed all over the country. We've gotten very good -- particularly with accompanied children of apprehending, processing and dispersing.

And the fact of the matter is, we've actually dispersed self-admitted MS-13 gang members. And when we round up those MS-13 gang members, somewhere between a quarter and a third of those gang members were brought into this country and dispersed as an unaccompanied child.

CUOMO: Yes, and that's a problem and you guys should be able to fix it.

JOHNSON: It's a problem.

CUOMO: Because everybody should be able to agree on that.

JOHNSON: That's why we have -- that's why we have to secure our border and we haven't secured our border. We haven't done it for decades.

You know, administrations of both parties did not secure the border. This administration is trying to do it, but it's babbling legal precedent law that makes it difficult to do so.

CUOMO: It's more than law. It's about who you want to be and how you want to be. And it's a meaningful debate. Let's see how it goes. You're always welcome here to discuss the arguments that matter --

JOHNSON: I appreciate that. Have a great night.

CUOMO: Senator, I'll see you son.

All right. Don Lemon is standing by. He's got a preview of "CNN TONIGHT" just minutes away.

Don, you're keeping an eye on what could be a big deal for the Democrats, an upset in a New York primary tonight.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": Ten term incumbent, maybe upset, it looks like it's heading that way, by a liberal progressive woman. Last time that the incumbent faced a challenge, this woman was a teenager. So, it's going to be a good night for the progressives, we believe.

That looks like the way it's going. What does that mean for the midterm elections and so on and so forth? We'll figure that out. But we've got a big night of election here.

Also, we're going to talk in some of the topics that you're talking about. Do you know what we were doing three years ago, what happened three years ago? Today, on this very day, the Supreme Court voted in favor of the same sex marriage. Then you have the president of the United States eulogizing the nine people who were killed in Charleston. And now today, you have the Supreme Court and the travel ban. As I

always say to you, we have to figure out what kind of country we're going to become after this or in this moment. So, just give you some perspective on where we were and where we are right now and what the hell is going on.

CUOMO: And the big question is, what will be? We'll see.

Good show, I'll be watching. Thank you, Don.

LEMON: See you.

CUOMO: Let's take a break. Hit me on Twitter, tell me what you like and what you didn't. What's wrong? I'm going to write some right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to CUOMO PRIME TIME.

Some of you guys are trying to hurt my feelings, but my ability to feel hot and cold.

All right. It's your turn to tell me where I'm wrong. Here's what Peter tweets: Demonstrating to rip Steve king that words are important. King is skilled at mastering a dangerous ethos, but good to test his message on CNN. I haven't heard a full interview with King before. Kind of hoping not have to do so. Again, #letsgetafterit.

Peter, remember, you got to be open. Listen to other side. It hones your own argument. Silo effect, good for no one.

Gina tweeted: I don't like kids being separated from their parents but illegal entry into the U.S. has to stop. Last administration talked tough but accomplished nothing. It may have been harsh, but the parents put themselves in that position. Come up with a better solution.

You are making a strong point, one that must be dealt with in a system that is inefficient at a minimum. However, not all people are coming for the same reason, remember that, some are running for their lives.

And Adam tweeted: Feigning the high road is not reasonable. It's like playing poker with chess pieces. It just won't work. Civility's for another day when we are dealing with civil people. There's a time to be ideal and there's a time to be real. And now is a time to be real. #callthemout.

I think you always have to appeal to what is best in yourself. That's your guide.

Thank you for your comments as always and thank you for being with us here on CUOMO PRIME TIME.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.