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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Interview with Tom Donilon; Discussion of Possible Putin White House Visit; Interview with Anthony Scaramucci. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 19, 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 HOST: Thank you, brother Cooper.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

So what do you do when your biggest adversary attacks your election? President Trump is inviting him home for the holidays.

Yes, Trump says a second sit-down is coming and soon. It sounds like a movie, like a drama that plays like a comedy until it is revealed to be a horror flick.

Welcome to Washington, Comrade Vlad. Let's get some perspective. Tom Donilon, he's met with Putin before. He knows exactly what is at stake, and the former national security adviser will pass along his wisdom to you tonight.

So, you know who was stunned by the news of the invite? The head of U.S. intelligence, Dan Coats. He didn't know about it. He was informed on the stage by a journalist. You will not want to miss his reaction.

And with all the concerns raised by the red menace that is Russia, Trump had the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to say the real enemy to America is a free press. Attacking a signature American freedom? Not on our watch.

What do you say? Let's get after it.

(MUSIC)

CUOMO: All right. So, President Trump and the White House once again walking back something he said in the aftermath of Helsinki, the third reversal this week. Now, he finally agrees that handing over American diplomats to Russia is a bad idea, and apparently, the summit went so well, the White House is planning round two, even if nobody told the director of national intelligence.

This is where we are tonight.

Joining us to talk about this, former national security adviser to President Obama, Tom Donilon.

Welcome to PRIME TIME, sir.

TOM DONILON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Chris, thanks for having me on. Nice to see you.

CUOMO: All right. So, let's back up a little bit.

DONILON: Yes.

CUOMO: Helsinki.

DONILON: Yes.

CUOMO: Trump comes out of a meeting. It was one-on-one. Nobody else was in there but the translator.

He stands next to Vladimir Putin and says Coats says Russia did it. I don't know why they would. Putin was really strong in his denial. That's good enough for me, and I think both sides did lots of things wrong.

Your reaction?

DONILON: Well, a couple things. First of all, it was the first time that I know of in the history of the United States where a United States president stood next to an adversary and took the side of the adversary against the unanimous view of his intelligence services and his law enforcement services. He did this by the way, as you know, on the Monday after the Friday that our law enforcement services indicted 12 Russian military intelligence agents for hacking, attacking the United States election in 2016.

CUOMO: An indictment that he was OK having come out.

DONILON: Right.

CUOMO: We now know that Rosenstein went to him right before Helsinki and said, we have this. Do you want me to hold it? He said no.

Why would he say no and then do what he did in Helsinki?

DONILON: Well, you know, a lot of policies with respect to Russia are inexplicable, but what you have here, though, Chris, I think is quite important from a structural and really deep perspective, which is a real disconnect between the United States president and his intelligence services and his law enforcement services and a disconnect on a fundamental matter as to what happened in 2016. And more broadly, as to who the Russians are and what they're up to.

You know, this is much more than about the elections in 2016. That's really important and we can talk about what to do about that, an attack on our democracy.

And, by the way, we use this phrase meddling. I wouldn't use that phrase.

CUOMO: We don't.

DONILON: Yes, OK.

CUOMO: We say attack, interference, act of war.

DONILON: That's exactly -- I think that's much closer and more precise as to what happened in 2016.

CUOMO: All right. So here's Trump's theory of the case. I'm being good to Russia because it is good for America, because we need Russia to help with all of our main security concerns. The Obama administration did not get that.

Here is him expressing the sentiment, making the case to CNBC today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at all of the things that I've done. Nobody else did what I've done. Obama didn't do it. Obama was a patsy for Russia. He was a total patsy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: He says, I've been tougher. I've done more, and I know I need them. And I can get Putin to help me with nukes in Syria, to hold down ISIS, to tame Iran, and to help with North Korea, and that's why I'm treating him the way I am.

Do you accept the argument?

DONILON: I think all laudable goals. I think -- I think it misrepresents the Obama administration approach.

There was no denial of Russian adverse and hostile activities to the United States. President Obama didn't deny that, in fact, the Russians were trying to hack the election and took a number of steps during the course of the campaign and afterwards.

But what it also does is I think it underscores and underestimates that you have to go with this one position of strength, Chris. It also misses the fact just how broad-based the hostile activities by Russians are against the West and the United States. It's not just the elections that I was saying earlier.

It's Crimea, they're taking over of territory for the first time since World War II.

CUOMO: Yes.

DONILON: It's Ukraine, where 10,000 people have been killed.

CUOMO: Right.

DONILON: It's siding with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and it's hacking our forces.

CUOMO: He says --

DONILON: It's aiding and abetting war crimes in Syria. It's nerve attacks. CUOMO: And in the U.K. by the way.

DONILON: In the U.K. --

CUOMO: And in the U.K. with Skripal. You know, just today they identified that they believe from videotape the two suspects they have left the U.K. to return to Russia.

DONILON: Yes.

CUOMO: Small coincidence there. Those are their two suspects.

But Trump says that's all on you, Donilon. All that happened on your watch.

DONILON: Well, it didn't.

CUOMO: And you can't expect him to own that. He's looking to make a better tomorrow.

DONILON: Yes, he's the president of the United States, and he needs to deal with this from a position of strength.

And given -- and what happened, I think, in Helsinki, Chris, kind of a bottom line analysis here, is that Putin sought and received a concept that you and I would understand -- absolution without any penance, without any cost, which was what he sought and it's kind of extraordinary that we would do that.

And we did that by the way and so many things happened during the course of this week that we missed some things, right, or forget some things. He went to Helsinki after going through Europe and relentlessly leaning into and attacking our allies and then the contrast of embracing Putin is really stunning.

For us to succeed with Russia and, in fact, it is in our interest ultimately to have a set of relationships among great powers, we're going to have to do it from a position of strength. And giving Putin absolution with respect to this conduct and this actively hostile conduct against the United States and the West is not going to get -- is not going to get us where we want to go.

The other thing that's really important to keep in mind here is the undermining of the West by Putin more generally. The undermining of Western institutions, NATO and the European Union, and the president playing a part in that either willingly or unwillingly. The president really aiding and abetting what had been longtime Russian strategic goals and before that, Soviet strategic goals to separate the United States from Europe, to sow discontent in Europe, and to undermine the confidence of democracies.

That's the long game that's under way here and one we have to resist and will only be resisted with leadership from the United States. I'm sorry to interrupt you.

CUOMO: Interrupt? The interview is all about you. I don't know anything. I'm asking the questions of somebody who has lived this job and dealt with Putin.

So, if we are to believe that there is a strategy at play here and that they are playing as you uses the term long ball in America's interest, how do you explain the piece of sound that I'm about to play right now with Dan Coats at the Aspen Forum with Andrea Mitchell today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: We have some breaking news. The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Say that again?

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to --

COATS: Did I hear you -- did I hear --

MITCHELL: Yes, yes.

COATS: OK.

MITCHELL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

COATS: That's going to be special.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Holy smokes. I mean, unless he's a great actor and doing a little Dana Carvey bit there as the church lady, that will be special.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, didn't know that they were going to invite Putin to the United States? Is that possible?

DONILON: Yes, a couple -- it's evidently possible because it happened today. But, again, and I try exceedingly hard not to be partisan about these things because my devotion is to U.S. security in a nonpartisan way, but these are some observations, I think.

Number one, the disconnect we talked about at the beginning between the president and his team. Number two, really poor coordination here and process. It doesn't look like there was any process under way in which at least the head of national intelligence participated in and deciding to do this --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: No. This is Trump saying, you think I did the wrong thing with Putin? I'll double down. That's what he's doing. You just think he would tell his guys.

DONILON: Yes, and you could have terrible outcomes from a lack of process.

Dwight Eisenhower once said that good process won't guarantee you a good outcome, but bad process will always ensure you make a mistake. And so, the job of a national security adviser is to ensure this doesn't happen. The job of the national security advisor is to ensure that the team is acting in coordination with the president.

CUOMO: Well, what can they do?

DONILON: And that the country presents to the world a coherent story. And so --

CUOMO: What do you do, Tom? I mean, if you go to the president, he's like, I got it. I didn't tell you. Yes, what are you going to do about it? What do you do?

He doesn't want to resign because he thinks the president needs him. He needs calm heads. He needs people who know the job. But he's getting kind of, you know, thrown under the bus, which is a little bit of a common experience these days.

DONILON: It's a severe breakdown, and it really does damage to the United States, I think. And you end up with things like Helsinki.

The Helsinki summit should not have happened. It wasn't well prepared. We didn't really have a set of goals. Most importantly, we didn't really work with our allies in getting agreement on the goals.

And we certainly should have looked very closely at canceling it after the indictments last Friday came out. I would encourage your viewers if they get the opportunity, because you really understand just how incredible our intelligence and law enforcement services are. Look at that indictment from last Friday.

CUOMO: Mm-hmm.

DONILON: Look at the precision with which we are able to see what our adversaries are doing. And for the president to look at that and not be impressed by it and not support it really is -- is quite troubling.

So, yes, we have this disconnect. We have breakdown in process, and you will have bad outcomes as a result. It's very difficult for the U.S. to achieve its strategic goals unless every element of government is kind of pulling in the same direction, don't you think?

CUOMO: So you either have no coordination, or when you have it, it's negative coordination like the Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen saying today that she didn't see any proof that Russia was trying to help Trump. We laid out the indictment. The proof is all in there.

And please, Tom, when we get closer, if this actually happens, this home for the holidays with Vlad and President Trump, please, we need to have you back. We need to go through the considerations of what needs to be in place.

DONILON: I'm happy to do that. On the homeland security, that's exactly right. This was set forth in January 2017 very clearly that Putin sought to aid the Trump campaign and diminish the Clinton campaign. That's just precisely what they said.

It was reaffirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee just two weeks ago, and then President Putin stood next to President Trump and said last Monday that he supported Trump, favored Trump in the election.

CUOMO: Yes.

DONILON: And the final thing is if anybody makes the argument, well, Putin wasn't really responsible for this, that, in fact, he's responsible in kind of a general way as the president said for what the country does -- my experience with Putin and studying the Russian system for some time is it's inconceivable that a comprehensive effort to undermine the United States election in 2016, to sow distrust in the democracies generally in the West, could have gone forward without the approval of President Putin. Not possible.

CUOMO: Well, Tom Donilon, you have the experience. Appreciate your perspective. Thank you for joining us. And we'll see you soon.

DONILON: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right.

So after days of condemnations from his own party, including some of his staunchest supporters, even members of his own administration contradicting him, President Trump's response is to double down and say, round two. Me and Vlad.

What does it mean? Facts first, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. So after the Helsinki horror show, President Trump should have reversed course, but he sees that as weakness. So, instead, he's doubling down and inviting Putin back to his house literally, bringing him to Washington, D.C. this fall.

This is like a bad movie. When he told his family, his new boyfriend was the town creep who broke into their house. He responded to their outrage by inviting Vlad home for the holidays. That's what's going on.

This is the Sarah Sanders tweet. Take a look at it. The discussions are already under way. The director of national intelligence hadn't even been told about this.

This is the, "mom, he already bought his ticket" part of this melodrama movie. So, what are they going to do when they're here? That's the plot.

And Trump says, well, he's changed. Putin wants to help on terrorism. He wants to help secure Israel and nuclear proliferation, stop cyberattacks, Middle East peace, North Korea, and even something about Ukraine. It's all in the tweets but vague.

But there's also conflict here, right, because there's nothing that's going to be on the table that Russia doesn't like about its malevolence around the world. Stopping cyberattacks? You're going to be partners with the person who victimized you.

No Ukraine? No mass murder in Ukraine with MH-17? I will never forget how I saw Russian separatists treat the dead there.

Nothing about Syrian violence against innocents? How about what Trump is ignoring this week? That's going to be the subplot in this movie, that Trump is blind to the signs. Just this week, accused Russian spy working the NRA, different righty groups, allegedly trying to get close to Trump by exchanging sex for access.

And today, British authorities identified the suspects in the U.K. poisoning case, and guess what they saw via surveillance footage? They say the two suspects left the U.K. for Russia after the poisoning. Coincidence? Maybe to Trump.

Not the time to invite Putin into our house. And there's just one chance that could make this all okay. The climax as Trump sees it is that everything that he's doing, all the kid gloves, the molly coddling and everything else is to work with Putin to save the world from nuclear proliferation.

Now, if that's the tradeoff for all of this curious weakness and submissiveness to an autocrat, that might be OK. But there are two pieces of video that make a mushroom cloud of that mission at this point. The first was when Putin sent missiles to Florida. You remember that?

In the Chris Wallace interview, he says, well, it doesn't say Florida on it. We don't know. It's a land mass that looks just like Florida. He was punking Trump, and it worked. Trump said nothing about it.

Then just this week, they want to talk about strategic limitation of arms? Well, then why did they do this? Why did they show some of their munitions that should be stopped under those kinds of talks?

So, the only way that this is OK is if Trump makes it an open house. There have to be tons of voices in the room. Sounds reasonable, but here's the problem -- to Trump, it's going to sound weak again. He wants to be the big man in the room, the same way he felt in Helsinki.

So, there you have it -- the plot, the conflict, the subplot, the climax, the anticlimax. The only question is how does it end? We will see.

We do know this: Putin is still up to no good, and now it looks like he's coming to your home for the holidays. Will Trump really be his worst enemy if it doesn't work out?

Do either of these two believe that? That is the making of a great debate. Those smiles, let's see if they stay.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. We got Nina Turner and Jason Miller for a great debate.

It's good to see you all.

We're going to start off with the main arguments that each of you have to take on.

Nina, we'll start with you. Trump's main argument is this: Obama was weak and got Russia to help on nothing. ISIS got worse. The Middle East got worse. Nukes got worse.

Russia is the key. That's why I'm being nice to him, because we need him to fix everything, and that's why I'm inviting him home for the holidays.

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To the people's house, Chris.

You know, it just doesn't make sense to me. This president has never followed the lead of President Obama before, and it's just quite telling that he wants to blame everything on President Obama.

President Donald J. Trump, news flash, is the president right now, and he has an obligation to protect this country and to stand up to President Putin.

Talking to your adversary is one thing, but being totally rolled by your adversary is another thing and insulting the intelligence community on foreign soil is not cute. It's not nice. And the president absolutely went a bridge too far, or in the words of my grandmother, he wrote a check that his behind could not cash, even though she would have said the other word, Chris.

And it's just funny that the president could be --

CUOMO: Asset.

TURNER: Asset, yes. It's funny that he can be tough when it comes to women leaders right here, our national leaders like congresswoman -- like Senator Elizabeth Warren or Congresswoman Maxine Waters. He's always got smack to talk, or to our international leaders like Merkel or May.

But when he stood next to President Putin, he melted like butter.

CUOMO: Well, whatever it was --

TURNER: So, this president has a problem.

CUOMO: Whether it was gender, whatever it was, Jason, it looked bad, and it led to this moment on the floor of Congress today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: We have sworn an oath to defend our constitution --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman's time has expired.

HOYER: -- against all enemies foreign and domestic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman's time has expired.

HOYER: You have the opportunity to do that today!

DEMOCRATS: USA! USA! USA! USA!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The Democrats chanting "USA."

Very interesting, Jason Miller, if not telling, they all take an oath to protect America against enemies foreign and domestic. The president does not. He takes an oath to the Constitution and uphold its laws.

However, be that as it may, how weak a position is Trump in right now after Helsinki?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he's in a good position right now, and I think today's move to go and invite Putin --

CUOMO: When you say good, how do you mean that word?

MILLER: Well, I think good in the fact that now that the president has gotten together with Vladimir Putin and they've started to develop that relationship, frequently in these meetings, at least the first one, you're not going to get a heck of a lot done. You're going to kind of feel out the other person, talk a little bit about the issues, but as we look at the broader --

CUOMO: Adopt all his own positions and throw your own intel people under the bus? You can't leave that part out, Jason.

MILLER: Hold on. As we look at the global chess board, whether we're talking Lebanon, whether we're talking Syria, whether we're talking Iran, whether we're talking Ukraine, whether we're talking North Korea --

CUOMO: Right.

MILLER: -- Russia is a critical player --

CUOMO: True.

MILLER: -- in all of these places.

CUOMO: True.

MILLER: And we have to have their buy (ph), in effect. These things are getting so crisscrossed up. I mean, the fact of the matter is that Hezbollah right now --

CUOMO: Right.

MILLER: -- is using arms that they got from Assad that they got from Russia.

CUOMO: True.

MILLER: So, of course, Russia is going to be a major player in this.

CUOMO: So how does forgiving them for their malevolence make it more likely they will help you?

MILLER: I don't think he forgave them for their -- for anything at all. I mean, he had --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: He adopted his position on Russian interference and betrayed his own intelligence community.

MILLER: But, Chris, prior to the press conference, and I do think that the president could have been stronger in the press conference --

CUOMO: Stronger assumes he was strong.

MILLER: -- because he's come out and he has criticized Russia. He said Russia was behind the meddling a number of times before. He's absolutely said that.

When Putin came out, he even said that Trump was challenging him on a number of these fronts that I discussed just a moment ago. And you need that first meeting. You kind of feel each other out, kind of see what the situation is.

And then it's that second meeting where I think we're going to get down to the details and that's where Trump can get it accomplished.

CUOMO: So, that's --

MILLER: Here's -- and I think that's part of the reason --

CUOMO: All right. So --

MILLER: -- they got out in front of it and said the invite is there.

CUOMO: All right.

MILLER: Let's make Putin come here. Le let's press him.

Now, here's the one word of caution that I would say, Chris, is that for a second meeting, the second meeting is where we need to know where we have real results, that we know that we've gone beyond the talk from Putin. I know this from working for the president for seven months and even said this today in his CNBC interview, where he'll go with the trust factor but if he gets double crossed or if he doesn't think he's getting a good deal, he'll become someone's worst enemy and he won't have no problem to do that.

CUOMO: I know, he said that today.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: But working for him, I've seen that before.

Just the final -- just final quick thing is that it's critical in a second meeting that we do get the concrete results.

CUOMO: Of course you're going to set all these expectations for the second meeting. You blew the first one.

Nina, they want a second bite at the apple. You think they should get one?

TURNER: I mean, that's -- part of the problem is it is about whether the president thinks he's getting a good deal.

What about the American people? He keeps linking this Russia situation with his legitimacy as being the president of the United States of America. He just can't get over. And that's one of the reasons why he will not go hard or ham, as the millennials will say it, on President Putin. He cannot allow, and to know that they did this, to let President Putin off in this way.

Again, having conversations -- I don't disagree with Jason in terms of, yes, should we have a conversation with our adversaries? Absolutely. But should we let our adversaries take advantage of us? Absolutely not.

And that is what the president displayed, and that is what got the 98 senators to vote, to say that, Mr. President, how dare you agree at the time that he was there that it would be a good idea to allow the Russian government to interrogate American citizens? What U.S. president does that?

This president does it because he only looks out for himself and his image, and he doesn't care about what happens to this country in totality. It's about his ego.

CUOMO: It's the second time he's brought --

MILLER: I have to respectfully disagree with the senator here.

CUOMO: It's the second time he brought the Senate together, left and right, right? You got a lot of ice locking those two apart. Both times it's been over Russia, Jason.

MILLER: Chris, I got to respectfully disagree with the senators here.

TURNER: I hope he can bring them together on other issues too.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You can respectfully disagree but it's 98 -- MILLER: OK, let's talk about specifics here. When the president shut

down these Russian consulates, was he being weak? When he kicked out these businesses and business leaders --

CUOMO: A lot of that was extending what the Obama administration had put in place.

MILLER: When he said he was going to send additional arms and energy to Ukraine, when he talked about --

CUOMO: But there are odd conditions on how they can be used. There are odd conditions on how those arms can be used in Ukraine.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: So you're saying he shouldn't have done that? So, Chris, you're saying he shouldn't have done that.

CUOMO: Here's what I'm saying. I'm saying what he shouldn't have done was thrown his country under the bus in Helsinki. I watched it.

TURNER: Amen.

CUOMO: It was embarrassing as an American. For you to call that strong, Jason, is crazy talk.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Respectfully speaking, you're talking out of both sides of your mouth.

CUOMO: How so?

MILLER: Because you're saying the president is not being tough. Then I talk about very specific actions that he's taking --

CUOMO: And I qualified each of them as not really that tough. One is extending Obama and his administration. He gave arms to Ukraine but they can't really use them against the Russians.

MILLER: But, Chris, intelligence and military leaders have been on this channel and other channels this entire week saying, well, yeah, actually Trump has done quite a bit with regard to Russia. I mean, that is almost across the board.

CUOMO: Not on my show, they haven't. That's not what I've been hearing. I'll tell you something else.

And, Nina, I'm going to bounce it to you. You say they have a plan. You say there's a reason they want the second meeting, that it's this two-phase effect. How come Dan Coats doesn't know about it?

MILLER: Well, OK, this is on Dan Coats. This is on Dan Coats and --

CUOMO: This is on him?

MILLER: This is absolutely on Dan Coats.

TURNER: Seriously?

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Pompeo knew about it. Bolton knew about it. If Dan Coats didn't know about, that is on him.

CUOMO: How is it on him?

MILLER: What is he doing out in Aspen? What is he doing in Aspen at this conference with a bunch of Trump haters? I don't understand that at all.

Here's the fact is when you work for the president --

CUOMO: Throwing Dan Coats under the bus.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: I'm saying, when you work for the president --

CUOMO: Your new nickname is MTA.

MILLER: And you're doing a big interview or you're doing some event, you know to go and check in with the president about what's going on. If Dan Coats hasn't gone and checked in with the president at this point, that's on him. I mean, what, did they change the White House phone number this week, Chris? Did they change the phone number and he lost it?

CUOMO: Is it on Dan Coats, Nina?

TURNER: This is not the first time he didn't know what the president is up to, Jason. Come on now.

MILLER: Obviously, the president has discussed this with the rest of his team and they're dialed in.

TURNER: The president should have discussed it with his director of intelligence.

MILLER: He discussed with Bolton, with --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: How do you know that, Jason? These guys have been talking to me all week telling me they didn't know what was going to happen in Helsinki. They were blindsided. They don't know why he said it. They've been trying to get him to correct it.

You've got poor Bill Shine, his first week on the job, trying to figure out how to correct message on that. And now you're saying it's all part of a concerted plan that Dan Coats is wrong to not know about? That's crazy talk.

MILLER: Now you want to say Dan Coats is in charge of everything?

CUOMO: He's the director of national intelligence.

MILLER: And the president's obviously much closer with Bolton and Pompeo, and I'm absolutely confident that they're dialed in on everything going on here. And I think the president has a good plan. It's good to do it this week while everybody on the political left is completely triggered and whipped up on this thing.

CUOMO: Yes, that's what happens when you betray your country on the world stage.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Oh, he's not betrayed the country. Chris, I made too many good points.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You made the points you needed to make. But I got to tell you -- Nina, he gave me the vapors when he started talking about having a plan that nobody knows about.

All right. Thanks, both, for making the case. Nina Turner, you win.

All right. So in Trump world, Russia is our friend. I'll tell you what the real enemy is -- us. Really? An American signature freedom is what the president wants to identify as the true enemy of the masses. I got to tell you just when you thought you couldn't be more embarrassed, Mao said it, Stalin said it. And now Trump says it -- calling a free press the enemy of the people.

You think Anthony Scaramucci will say it and then get knocked out? He's up on deck and hopefully not about to get decked, next on CUOMO PRIME TIME.

Good to see you, Anthony.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. So when the media criticizes the president, people say, if they're sympathetic to the president, we have Trump derangement syndrome. But back here in reality, it's derangement when the president of the United States says that Putin is the enemy?

No. This is what's happened here, thoughts straight in reality. The president says Putin is not the enemy. A free press is the enemy. That kind of statement makes the Manchurian candidate seem like Citizen Kane, and it raises the concern of what is going on in his head.

Anthony Scaramucci says he knows, and he's here with us on PRIME TIME.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I don't know if I said I know, but I'm going to give -- CUOMO: You said, I know. I'll tell you what this is about.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm going to do the best I can here.

CUOMO: Why would he call a signature American freedom the enemy of the people and Putin is not?

SCARAMUCCI: So, he means surgically and selectively, he thinks he's been treated badly by certain members of the press.

I don't like the rhetoric at all, OK? I don't like the war declaration on the media. I don't like the calling out of individual journalists. I don't like this specific tweet attacks on the journalists.

It's just not for me, OK? And I would tell him that directly. Look, I was only there for 11 days. I said it three or four times.

You know, at the end of the day, it doesn't help him, OK? He's a television star. I like the fact he's out on these other networks. Hopefully, he'll come on your show or shows here on CNN at some point.

He has to have the opportunity to have a free and fair hearing, and he has to knock off the attacks on the press because it's not helping him.

CUOMO: He believes it is helping him.

SCARAMUCCI: He does. He believes it's helping him.

CUOMO: And in fact, they're going in the other direction. They're not going in the direction you're saying they should move. They only go on the mother ship at Fox. They don't let people out.

Pompeo is coming out tonight. He's only going to talk to Fox tonight. Putin and him both on Fox.

SCARAMUCCI: He went on CNBC. He went on CBS.

CUOMO: He does.

SCARAMUCCI: He's trying -- the president is trying to expand his television --

CUOMO: Do you think so?

SCARAMUCCI: I do.

CUOMO: Or do you think they're one-offs to justify the fact he's been on Fox 50 times as often?

SCARAMUCCI: No, no, I don't. Listen, I think Bill Shine is in place, and I think Bill Shine is a very logical, smart, thoughtful guy, and he's giving him honest advice.

CUOMO: Tough first week for him to start his job. SCARAMUCCI: Listen, he's a tough guy. He helped build that network

over there from scratch. He knows what he's doing. He's a very competent person.

But here's the thing: the best people -- you know this, and I know this. If an employee of mine walks in and tells me I am tall and right, I know I'm going to have a problem with the employee. If they tell me I'm short and wrong, now I know I've got a relationship with the employee, that they're going to be speaking truthfully to me, and they're going to tell me what's going on in the business to make the business better.

CUOMO: He doesn't have that around him.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, he's got to get that around him, OK? I think Pompeo is like that. I think Bolton's like that. I think Bill Shine is like that. He's got to get those people --

CUOMO: Then how did Helsinki happen?

SCARAMUCCI: I think Kellyanne is like that, by the way. And now, the problem is, I made the biggest mistake, I mentioned four people that I like. And so, that will probably hurt those four people with the people that don't like me. But --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I just want to get your sense what's going on. If they have people around him that speak truth to power and tell him what to do, how did Helsinki happen?

SCARAMUCCI: Lack of preparation was one of the big issues there. And you're going to be sore at me for saying the following thing. You have to sort of work around the president and the president's personality.

I'll give you a brilliant example, not my idea but someone like Kellyanne. During debate when he didn't want to prep for the debates, she figured out a way to have lunches. And she figured out a way to insert research and topical talking points for him so he didn't feel the frustration of going through a debate prep sitting there at a mock podium.

CUOMO: But a debate is politics. It's B.S.

SCARAMUCCI: I agree.

CUOMO: This is geopolitical intensity.

SCARAMUCCI: This is even more indictment of certain people on his staff where they should have said, OK, over the weekend we'll right around on the golf cart with him. We'll sit with him in the study or the suite or wherever he's staying at his beautiful hotel over there and let's talk a little bit about the issues.

And, by the way, you're going to be on the world stage with Vladimir Putin, who you're calling a competitor, but many people in our country view as an adversary. And so, what we have to do --

CUOMO: He is an adversary. You know that, right?

SCARAMUCCI: He is an adversary, but let me tell you something --

CUOMO: He attacked our democracy.

SCARAMUCCI: OK, but let me tell you something about Vladimir Putin and Russia and our history with the Russian governments for 1917. We have to figure out a way to collaborate with them. We have to.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Right. But both are true. You have to be about honest about what they are, and then you find your strategic coordinations. But you don't say they didn't attack our elections. You don't say he's right and your intelligence is wrong.

SCARAMUCCI: He could have handled that differently but he did walk it back. And you, I hope, are wanting to give him some credit because let's be fair with him. Going to meet with Vladimir Putin, setting up extra meetings with Vladimir Putin are very good things for the world.

If we can de-escalate the tension between the West and the Russian government, the federation, I think that's very good for the world. I think you think it's very good for the world.

CUOMO: But here's the flaw in the argument -- you're saying if we can reduce the tensions. I don't know -- and speaking to experts in those arenas, they don't understand how you get a better situation out of Putin by forgiving what he does, seeming weak, and seeming supple to him.

SCARAMUCCI: Listen, it wasn't handled well, OK?

CUOMO: And now they're inviting him for a second one and saying that was the strategy.

SCARAMUCCI: But here's the problem now is that, like, there's fraidy cats inside the administration. They're not going to tell the president straight up, hey, man, it wasn't handled well. OK? Not a big deal. We all love you. Let's get to work.

CUOMO: I have second --

SCARAMUCCI: Well, let's handle it better the second time. Let's commit to the following. You may not agree with me, but I know Jason agrees with me.

The president is a very good guy. He does not want war. He wants to de-escalate the situation globally. He's for peace and global prosperity.

He wants to reduce tariffs, Chris. He wants to create more trade and more trade parity.

CUOMO: He's raising tariffs.

SCARAMUCCI: He's raising tariffs but he's told everybody, the only reason I'm raising the tariffs is your tariffs are up here. Our tariffs are down here. I'd like you to bring your tariffs down here.

CUOMO: No, but now, they're raising their tariffs and stuff's going to cost us more.

SCARAMUCCI: They're doing that, and I wrote about this in the "F.T." last week. They're doing that because they're getting hit.

CUOMO: I get it.

SCARAMUCCI: And they got no choice because --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: That doesn't speak well of his strategy. That's not even my point. Trade is what it is. That's a political policy.

SCARAMUCCI: Time out a second. The instincts are great. He's doing a phenomenal job --

CUOMO: No, the instincts are not great. That's what I'm telling you. Being forgiving of Putin is not great.

SCARAMUCCI: No, that's a tactic and a strategy, that was bad.

CUOMO: But that's an instinct --

SCARAMUCCI: But the instinct -- no, the instincts are --

CUOMO: Calling the free press the enemy of the American people -- Mao did that. Stalin did that. It was done during the French Revolution to kill off opposition. That's not what an American president says. Come on, Anthony.

SCARAMUCCI: We could be agreeing on one thing.

CUOMO: It speaks to his instinct, what's in his head and his heart.

SCARAMUCCI: That's a strategy, OK?

CUOMO: To attack a free press?

SCARAMUCCI: His instincts are peace, global prosperity, better alliances, protect the United States, put a hurt on our adversaries. But when adversaries -- us and our adversaries control 90 percent of the nuclear arsenal, let's figure out a way to get along, let's figure out a way to de-escalate it. That will be very good for the world.

The tactics and how they went about it last week in Helsinki, they got to get a do-over.

CUOMO: How do you know they do it better?

SCARAMUCCI: Because I know this guy.

CUOMO: Dan Coats doesn't even know it's happening.

SCARAMUCCI: This guy didn't do -- his best debate was when he was under a lot of pressure --

CUOMO: Debate is a B.S. game. That's jazz. That's performance.

SCARAMUCCI: You think so? I don't know --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Yes, I grew up in it. I know it very well.

SCARAMUCCI: Pretty high stakes stuff, though, when you're running for president. But I --

CUOMO: It is. He's a great performer. With KGB agents, it ain't a game.

SCARAMUCCI: OK and I understand that. But I like what he's doing around the world. And you got to go.

CUOMO: I hear you.

SCARAMUCCI: But he's going to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. He's going to have a better relationship with the Russian government than the past couple of presidents. And we're going to get a trade deal done, Chris. Hopefully you'll invite me back when we get the trade deal done.

CUOMO: Done.

SCARAMUCCI: So we can discuss that.

CUOMO: You're always welcome. I got a list of things I pray for also, but you got to do the actions to make them happen. Let's see what happens with president.

SCARAMUCCI: All right. Good to see you. And thank you for raising my seat on behalf of my family members.

CUOMO: My pleasure. You got the special pillow just for you.

SCARAMUCCI: Finally, I'm at eye parity with you.

CUOMO: Special pillow just for you.

SCARAMUCCI: Actually, I'm intellectually way over you but I'm at eye parity with you.

CUOMO: Of course. Two people believe that, you and your mom.

All right. So, there is something stunning about the alleged Russian spy who tried to infiltrate Washington that you may not have heard. We have news that is being neglected, and we will tell you it next. Maybe not even your mom to be honest.

SCARAMUCCI: That was a very good burn. I got to give you credit for that. I'm going to let --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Little something different for you tonight in response for something you've been asking for. I get there's a lot of noise and we can be hyper-focused on things. I do that because I think it matters and this show is about doing deep.

But certain things get neglected. So, I have two for you that I want you to keep on your radar.

Here's number one. A Trump nominee for the all-powerful Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals abruptly derailed today, but the real story is why? It wasn't just about Democrats going after Republican choice. GOP senators sunk the nomination.

His name was Ryan Bounds, just minutes before a final confirmation vote. Why? Because the White House, after Tim Scott, the lone African-American Republican senator, indicated he wouldn't back him because of concerns about racially insensitive writings from his past. Other Republicans followed suit.

A blow to the president, but also insight. How can they care about the college writings of this guy, but not the writings when he was working for Ken Starr of nominee Kavanaugh? It's going to come back to them. That's why it should be on your radar.

Then there's this, by now you've heard the name, Maria Butina. She's the alleged Russian spy now indicted on conspiracy charges. Her name apparently was not new to the White House Intelligence Committee. The ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, tells CNN, Democrats tried to question Butina earlier this year, but he says the Republican majority shut their efforts down because they were worried about tarnishing the NRA or President Trump.

Now, if that's true, that needs to be explored much further and we are on it. If no other reason than list of allegations against Butina reads like a plot from an international crime thriller.

So, we're going to stay on those. And so should you.

Let's bring in Don Lemon, talk about what he has coming up on the show.

I'm trying that. We get hyper-focused. You talk to me about this a lot when I talk about moving to the nighttime, you said don't get too tight, don't get too tight on what you talk about. So, I'm trying to introduce stories that we have to care about even if we're not covering them as much right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": There's so much we don't talk about. I think there's so much that the audience is missing out on because of what's happening in Washington. And I should -- rightfully so, maybe that's not the right way to put it.

But these are unprecedented times when it comes to what's happening in the White House and especially what has happened, Chris, over the last coupe of days. I heard you and Anthony Scaramucci, the Mooch, talking moments ago. This is the second time this president has met with a dictator, and come back, and instead of saying horrible bad things about them and putting them in their place when he's in the world stage with them, he comes back, and guess who the enemy of the people are? Or the enemies or the enemy is? And that's the fake news media as he calls it, which is very interesting.

He said -- this was after the Kim summit, he said: Our country's biggest enemy is the fake news so easily promulgated by fools.

Well, he was played by both those people. Who's the real fool here? We're going to discuss that. Frank Bruni is going to join us as well as Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame.

CUOMO: And, look, and those are great guys to have on about it because he didn't create the phrase, enemy of the people.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: People who used it in the past, bad guys. You don't want to be identified with them.

Don Lemon, I'll be watching.

LEMON: Yes, see you, sir.

CUOMO: All right. Let's take a quick break. When I come back, we have a few final thoughts on what we were just talking about, the president's un-American new attack on the free press. Why is it un- American? Why does it matter?

Closing argument, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. Here's my closing argument. This tweet was bad for you, Mr. President.

Here it is: The summit with Russia was a great success. Nobody thinks that. Except with the real enemy of the people, the fake news media.

This is ugly and it is unoriginal. But most importantly, it is an admission that you hate your country. How so?

Here's the case. You know this phrase was an operative threat to murder opposition in the French Revolution, right? You know Khrushchev, identified the phrase as part of a campaign to annihilate individuals literally who disagreed with the supreme leader. His predecessor, Stalin, used it specifically with artists and thinkers that threatened his narrow views of humanity. Did you know that Mao used it during his murderous campaigns? America, the country you lead, was formed in defiance of strongmen,

bullies and the idea that might makes right. A free press is a metaphor for what makes America great. So, you have now admitted that you are against what we are all about.

And the real problem now is for you to convince people that you don't hate what makes America truly great. I know in the past, you've tried to play that you respect the media, and that you know we're important, you know, like you said that when a bunch of us got murdered, but it didn't take long to come back to this.

I knew you didn't lower those flags after the Maryland newspaper shooting right away for a reason. Just like you won't really own how Russia did the U.S. dirty in the election. Why? Because you see things through the lens of what is good for you in these matters.

So right now, you want people to hate us. But as the old expression goes, you point a finger at someone else, and there are three pointing back at you and a thumb that's kind of nowhere defending where you put it but that's not the point.

The point is to say Putin isn't the enemy, the free press is, doesn't worry me. I know the truth. I've traveled the world and I know our media is envied and, perhaps, the best check against the abuse of power that can lead to a Stalin or a Mao. The real worry should be for you. Do you really think people will keep a president who hates what their country is all about?

That's the closing argument for us. Thank you for watching.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts now.

Do you agree with my argument or no? Good, I'll take a slow clap. Appreciate it.