Return to Transcripts main page
CUOMO PRIME TIME
Trump Administration Reimposes Sanctions on Iran; Interview With Brent Welder Kansas Congressional Candidate. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 6, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Happy to use our time to get the record straight, Anderson. Always good to see you. I'm brushing my hair just like you. That's what you get for wearing my suit.
I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.
Rosie O'Donnell has reportedly gathered hundreds at the White House for a musical protest. But this ain't smiles and show tunes. She is spoiling for a fight. Her history with Trump is as long as it is ugly, and she is here to make her case to you.
The president is not in the White House, but he may once again be watching PRIME TIME, and if so, the invitation stands. Listen to Rosie or not and come on to this show and make your case to this smart and concerned audience, sir.
And it would be good for the president to explain his latest apparent admission by tweet. Now Trump says that Trump Tower meeting with a Russian operative was about getting dirt on Clinton. Remember, that's not what he wrote about that meeting. What will it mean to investigators?
And the White House says it is reimposing sanctions on Iran. Why now? What changed? What are the risks?
We have all the factors laid out for you, and I have a new do. It's Monday. Let's get after it.
CUOMO: Did you know that there has been a nightly protest at the White House every day since Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki? Well, there is, and you're going to hear about it now because longtime actress and longtime thorn in Donald Trump's side Rosie O'Donnell joined the mix and brought all of these stars from Broadway with her.
Why? Let's find out.
CUOMO: Rosie O'Donnell, thank you for being on CUOMO PRIME TIME.
ROSIE O'DONNELL, ACTRESS: Thanks for having me, Chris.
CUOMO: So, you're down there in the nation's capitol. It's being billed as a party with a purpose. What is the purpose?
O'DONNELL: The purpose is to remind people of the truth that lives inside them. So when they're so confused and lied to by our president and this administration, they're able to find that thing about America that they love and that's true and that's real.
And remember that feeling and hold on to that feeling as we go through these next very tumultuous weeks as we lead up to the election and the Mueller report finally coming out. That it's going to be very loud and it's going to be very crazy. And we all have to remain focused and - - and centered on the truth.
CUOMO: Is it just good vibes that you're spreading there? Or do you have a message of what you want to happen with this president?
O'DONNELL: Well, I think most of America wants him to be out. Although you can't tell that from reading some of the -- you know, watching FOX News or whatnot, which is just like state-run TV in Russia at this point.
So, all we have to do is encourage people to show up, to protest, to use their voice to save democracy. We've got just a couple months until November and until then, we have to fight with everything we've got because if somehow they're able to rig the elections again as I believe they did in 2016, then we're going to all be in trouble as democracy dies right here on our watch.
CUOMO: Well, one step at a time. The Russian interference is a known fact. The impact on the election is not a known fact. You believe the actual outcome --
O'DONNELL: Well --
CUOMO: -- was rigged or just that there were efforts?
O'DONNELL: Yes. Yes. No, I do believe it was rigged. I don't believe it was efforts. And if you listen to all of our mainstream intelligence people, they believe it too. I think that it's up to the mainstream media --
CUOMO: Well, they don't believe votes were changed.
O'DONNELL: Well, I do believe they were exact. Well you know the facts, right?
O'DONNELL: What do I think? Did they come in there and make Trump win when every single exit poll and every person in America knew for sure that Hillary Clinton was going to win. Do you think there was anything to do with Russia? Or just a real big swirl for Donald Trump in these specific areas with the same exact votes that were needed?
I don't know. It looks very hanky to me.
CUOMO: Here's why I ask you about what this is about. Because let's say you win. Let's say the Democrats win. You get the House, probably not the Senate, but you get the House. There's a call for impeachment among progressives like yourself.
CUOMO: Two things happen - -
O'DONNELL: Well, I don't think it's just progressives, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. But --
O'DONNELL: There will be a call for impeachment from all those not heard who are the majority in America.
CUOMO: OK. I give you that fact. I'll stipulate to it for the point of this argument.
[20:05:00] CUOMO: So, everybody calls out. You don't have the votes. It doesn't happen. You galvanize support for the president and we are torn more apart in this country.
Are you worried about that outcome?
O'DONNELL: No. I am not. I am believing in the American people. I believe in this country. I believe in what it was founded on. I believe in the Constitution.
I think that on Election Day, we're going to show up in a huge way, in a way that we haven't ever seen before in the United States and people have just really had enough. They've had enough of a President who separates families and puts babies in cages.
You know all of the catch phrases. Everyday he does something worse than the day before and he tops it and tops it and tops it.
I believe that Trump is loathed in America. That people are embarrassed and ashamed of who he his and that come election day we're going to stand up at the polls and let him know. And unless he goes in and has the Russians, kind of, fix it like he did last time in 2016, you know, we're going to see him gone. And that's what I'm waiting and hoping for and hoping that people across the country are inspired to use their own voice in whatever way to get people to know that this country is worth fighting for.
CUOMO: Amen on that. The more people get involved, the higher the voter percentages. The more people will get what they want.
It will reduce the effects of money on politics. It will make everything better, not perfect, but better. So I'm all with you. The more people go out and vote their conscience the better, whatever their conscience is.
Here's my other concern.
CUOMO: There is reason to criticize the president. I'm not going to fight you on that point.
However, for the Democrats to come into mainstream power, so that means that they have what the Republicans have right now, the House, the Senate, the White House, I think history suggests you have to be more than anti. You have to be pro things. You have to give people a reason to believe. You have to give them some type of sense --
CUOMO: -- that captures their imagination and gives them hope.
What is that for Democrats --
CUOMO: -- where they can say, not just he's a liar, he's a bad guy, but here's how we'll make the economy even better which is hard given the numbers, that we'll be even safer than we are? Because that's what people will be looking to.
O'DONNELL: Well, when you report the economy, you report how it affects the top 1 percent? Or do you report how it affects everyone?
CUOMO: I --
O'DONNELL: The economy is doing good if you're a multi-billionaire. It's not doing good and the tax cuts didn't do good for the average American. So, I don't believe that the economy is thriving with the metrics that you guys are using.
But the fact of the matter is, he's not only bad because he's a liar. He's bad because he doesn't know how to inspire people or evoke that emotion in them of truth and of knowing.
CUOMO: What about his rallies?
O'DONNELL: And -- first of all, people are paid, Chris. You know that. People were paid since he went down on the escalator. He pays people to show up at those rallies.
CUOMO: Right. But I don't know that that's -- but I don't know that that's why he gets tens of thousands at the rallies. I think he captures a lot of emotion for people.
O'DONNELL: But he doesn't get tens of thousands -- when did he get tens of thousands at the last rallies? Tell me one.
CUOMO: A lot of these rallies -- no, no. Not at the Tampa, I think they only had 9,000 seats and they were people outside.
But, Rosie, I've seen them. He gets big groups of people who come out. He gives themes that resonate.
O'DONNELL: And are those people saying, Chris --
CUOMO: Whether they're positive or not, that's up to other people to decide. Maybe some are, I don't know, I can't --
O'DONNELL: But, Chris, are those people paid?
CUOMO: I don't have the facts that his crowds are bought off.
O'DONNELL: But you can look on -- you can look at -- well, you can look at all of the requests for extras to some and cheer with signs for him. You can find those tangible pieces of evidence.
He -- those are not real rallies. You know, when he went down on that escalator, he paid all those people there calling rapists and Mexicans rapists. This is not real what he's doing. Even though he keeps screaming that you guys are not real. But --
CUOMO: Yes. Look, I know he does that. I know he does that Rosie.
But, listen, I mean, look, I've known you a long time. You've known my family a long time. I don't judge what --
[20:10:00]O'DONNELL: Yes, with your mom.
CUOMO: I just -- and look -- and mom would be the first one to say. Let him say what he's going to say. You say what you know is true. You always keep your dignity. You always fight the good fight.
So that's what we do. When he came down that escalator, did I see the reporting that there were paid people there? Yes, I did. Did I believe it? Yes, I did.
Have I seen it at all of these rallies? No. So I'm not going to do what the president does. I'm not going to say, they're all bought off. They're all fake, because I think that's BS. I don't think it's true and I'm not going to play to it just because it's satisfying.
O'DONNELL: But you could do the evidence to find out whether or not it's true --
CUOMO: Sure. We do it all the time.
O'DONNELL: -- and then lead with that -- lead with that story before you play his rally.
CUOMO: Listen, I don't play his rallies.
O'DONNELL: To play his rallies to me is just falling into his hands.
CUOMO: I don't play his rallies.
CUOMO: I do truth check every night. We do fact checks every night.
O'DONNELL: Good. CUOMO: I do magic wall. They find all these different devices
because I want people to know what's real and then they can act on it. And that's why I'm talking to you, Rosie --
CUOMO: -- because people need to know what you're doing, know where people's voices are and then they can make their own decisions about which side to join. And hopefully, there's common ground that gets here sooner rather than later.
O'DONNELL: I hope. I hope there is common ground.
You know, people ask me all the time. Your son's a marine. How can you have a son who's a Marine when you're such a leftist, pacifist kind of a person? Well, I love and respect my son, and I can hold two opposing thoughts in my head at one time. One is that I'm terrified that something horrible is going to happen to him. And the other is that --
CUOMO: God forbid.
O'DONNELL: -- I'm so mentally proud of the commitment that he has given to this country because he believes in this country the same way that I do.
I believe in America and what it stands for in the Constitution. And this president and administration has done everything they can to undermine it and it's not OK.
CUOMO: Well, listen --
O'DONNELL: It's not all right in any way and we have to use our voices and fight.
CUOMO: You do exactly that. That's why good men and women like your son are fighting for our freedoms.
CUOMO: And when somebody serves in a family, the whole family feels it. The whole family sacrifices. So, thank you to your entire clan for the dedication to the country --
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
CUOMO: -- and the service of your son.
O'DONNELL: Thank you, Chris Cuomo.
CUOMO: Peace. Let's see.
We'll be following what happens at the White House, and we'll see what the impact of this party with a purpose is all about tonight.
Now, back to another big story for you. They told us that the meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian operative was about adoption. You remember that? The whole statement that they wrote, the president had no role in. Well, we know that's not true, and now we have the president apparently admitting something that's even more important.
"Cuomo's Court" is in session, and you need to weigh in. There are the counselors, next.
[20:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: All right. "Cuomo's Court" is in session. Here is the new fact. There seems to be another admission by tweet by Trump.
He now concedes -- put the tweet up -- that Trump tower -- that that Trump Tower meeting was about obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president says it is totally legal. Is that a fact? No.
Let's bring in Asha Rangappa and Professor Alan Dershowitz.
Now, the statute at play that people are going to hear discussed, I want to put it up on the screen for them so all the legalese doesn't go over everybody's head. This would be the concern. You keep hearing lawyers tell you all the time and experts and some not so experts saying, you can't get help from a foreign inimical power.
Here's the law. It shall be unlawful for a person to solicit, which means to try to get, accept, or receive a contribution or donation prescribed in these different places from a foreign national.
Asha Rangappa, former FBI agent, law degree, make the case. Is this tweet a problem?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This tweet is a problem because it's acknowledging that the purpose of that meeting was to obtain information that would benefit the campaign from foreign nationals. Now, there are a few legal issues here. The first is whether what was being offered was a thing of value. This is something you'll hear lawyers arguing about.
And a big clue here is in the recent indictment that Robert Mueller just filed against the GRU officers, and in that indictment, the charges for hacking which he brings against those 12 GRU officers alleges that the stolen e-mails were worth over $5,000, which makes them a thing of value. I think you could argue that they are valuable in many other ways, but he's essentially laying the groundwork that this was a thing of value.
The question here is, did they accept or receive it? I think that here you do have the other party, the Russian crown prosecutor friend or whoever these people were reaching out. They weren't soliciting, but they did go to the meeting.
And the question is, what happened afterwards? And there are some strange coincidences when you look at the indictment, the dates that are in there and other things that we know happened subsequent to that meeting. But I'll let my colleague make his case and then respond. CUOMO: Well, he's smiling wide. But add this to the mix for
yourself, Professor. One step farther than Asha wants to go. If it's illegal to solicit and you find out that someone has dirt for you and you know what kind of person it is, and you go there to get it, why isn't that soliciting? And then what do you make of this in context?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR EMERITUS: Well, first of all, it may very well be soliciting, and it may very well be a thing of value. The problem is it would be unconstitutional for a statute to prohibit a candidate from obtaining information from any source whatsoever.
Just like "The New York Times" can't be prohibited from obtaining information or Chris Cuomo can't be prohibited from obtaining information, even if the information you have was stolen, even if you know it was given to you by Manning or Snowden, or Daniel Ellsberg. The Constitution requires an open marketplace of ideas.
And you cannot construe a statute that was intended to prevent financial contributions largely to apply to information, to apply to facts, to apply to news. That would be unconstitutional. So, even if you can see --
CUOMO: So you're hitting her with the Pentagon Papers defense. You're saying that opposition research --
DERSHOWITZ: I'm hitting her with -- right.
CUOMO: -- dirt on Clinton, is information just like if it came to me, Asha, and therefore, it doesn't qualify under this statute.
RANGAPPA: This is a false analogy, Chris. First of all, political campaigns are not news organizations, and here the key word in what Professor Dershowitz just said is the open marketplace of ideas. When you have something happening surreptitiously, under the table, secretly, that is not an open marketplace of ideas.
Now, if the Trump campaign went on TV and said, hey, the Russian government just gave us all this stolen information and told the voters that, that would be one thing. I still think it would be a crime, but at least they're being transparent. When they are concealing the source of that, that is exactly what our open society is meant to prevent. We want people to evaluate information in context.
And just to bring this back to the framers of the Constitution, they were worried about two things, Chris. They were worried about foreign influence and self-dealing.
This is why we have a natural born citizen requirement. We want, you know, loyalty. We don't want influence from outside. This is the Federalist Papers 68 where Hamilton warns of foreign
governments trying to infiltrate our elections. So I completely disagree that this is permissible as some kind of First Amendment right.
[20:20:00] DERSHOWITZ: Well, the statute itself clearly is intended to cover financial contributions. It's always been applied that way. It has never been construed or interpreted --
CUOMO: Then why didn't they say that?
DERSHOWITZ: Why didn't they say what?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, they did. They said something of value. But you may have to construe a statute --
CUOMO: Right. But why didn't they say money?
DERSHOWITZ: But you have to construe a -- even -- let me be even more specific. Even if they intended to cover this, they can't cover it because it could be unconstitutional.
You cannot regulate ideas. The federal government simply doesn't have the power under the First Amendment to prohibit a candidate -- remember, a candidate is also expressing First Amendment views. He has exactly the same status as "The New York Times" and as you do. He has the right or she has the right to use any information from any source, and it doesn't matter whether it's a foreign or domestic source --
CUOMO: Now --
DERSHOWITZ: -- and that's why to construe an ambiguous statute that way would violate the First Amendment. And the first rule of constitutional construction is if you have a statute that's capable of being construed in two different ways, you must always construe it constitutionally consistent with the First Amendment.
CUOMO: All right. I hear the legal arguments on other side.
DERSHOWITZ: And under such a construction -- yes.
CUOMO: I hear the arguments on either side. But, Asha, there's something else going on here. Lying, OK?
There is lying going on here, Professor. There was lying going on about what we were told about this meeting -- the statement that was done about it, the president's role in it. And then even when that statement was written, it was deceptive about what actually happened in the meeting, and that seems to be clear on the face of this tweet, Asha. So, even if it isn't illegal, what does this mean to investigators in
terms of looking at a pattern of behavior of how this then-candidate, now-president treated these types of issues?
RANGAPPA: It means that they believe that they were doing something wrong, period. That is why people lie. I mean, you know that from being a parent and watching your 5-year-old.
You know, one thing, let's just assume, arguendo, as we would say in legalese, that these are crimes and that, you know, they did agree, and there is, say, a conspiracy. There's an affirmative defense in conspiracy where if you renounce the conspiracy, you say actually, I don't want to do this anymore or this is -- I don't want to have anything to do with this, that can be your defense.
And, Chris, I think it's important for viewers to remember that in August of 2016, the FBI went and warned the Trump campaign that Russia was trying to infiltrate their campaigns and influence the elections. And at that point, that was the time for every single person who had these sketchy contacts to come forward and say, you know what, that's kind of funny because, you know, two random Russians showed up in Trump Tower.
That could have been a defense, and yet at every turn, they have chosen to lie, conceal, deflect, and cover up every contact that they've had, not just these three people in the meeting, but everyone else associated with the campaign.
DERSHOWITZ: So, what you're doing --
CUOMO: Final quick word, Professor.
DERSHOWITZ: What you're doing is what so many people do. You're conflating bad conduct with criminal conduct.
This may be bad conduct. Lying is not a good thing if there was lying here. But to turn this into a crime, imagine if Hillary Clinton were elected president, and she were being investigated, and these were the charges. Every civil libertarian would be up in arms talking about the First Amendment, talking about the right of association, talking about all of these rights.
But a double standard is being applied depending on which shoe the foot is on.
CUOMO: Well, look --
DERSHOWITZ: And that's very inconsistent with the due process of law and equal protection of the law.
CUOMO: I know, but there's the thing, we're dealing with the cards that are in front of us right now. As we all know --
DERSHOWITZ: That's right.
CUOMO: -- lying is a problem. The Latin, falsus in toto, falsus in omnibus as they teach you in big schools in Yale and Harvard.
DERSHOWITZ: It is a political problem. But it is not a legal problem.
[20:25:00] CUOMO: Maybe so, but it's a problem nonetheless.
DERSHOWITZ: You cannot turn tweets -- it's a problem. I'm not here to defend anybody's problem.
RANGAPPA: It's a problem.
DERSHOWITZ: That's my problem.
CUOMO: Not every problem has to be a crime in order to matter. That's the flip side of your argument. But I got to go, Professor.
DERSHOWITZ: That's what I've been saying for two years, that not every problem is a crime. That's all I'm saying.
CUOMO: Right. But it doesn't have to be a crime to be a problem. That's the flip.
Asha, thank you.
DERSHOWITZ: That's exactly right.
CUOMO: Professor, as always.
All right. Got to go.
Tough sanctions on Iran are about to go into effect tonight at midnight. That's how urgent it is. Why?
Is your spidey sense going off here? Why now? This seems a little strange.
I agree with you. I feel you on this. Why is it happening right now?
I'm going to tell you what the administration says. We're going to look at whether or not it's true that allies may be in with us on this. Is that all true? Facts, next.
[20:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: All right. At midnight Eastern tonight, the Trump administration is going to restore sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord.
Why now? OK?
2015 deal, May 8th is when the president stepped away from this. That's 90 days. Ninety days.
Why now? That's how long he had to do this. He could have put these sanctions back in at any point. Now, what they're telling us is that's because Iran has been using the
money that had got released when the sanctions were relaxed to sow chaos in the region. It doesn't smell right. You know why? They've been doing that all along. In fact, that was a big point for Trump in nixing the original deal.
Remember? It doesn't do anything with all the menacing that they're doing. However, remember back in 2015, all the countries involved said the deal was just about nukes, not all the other bad stuff that Iran was doing. Just for context.
All right. Then they say, well, there's new violations of what they were supposed to do under the deal even though they walked away from the deal, which you would think would relieve Iran of those types of considerations.
But that's not true. International inspectors say that they are complying with the deal. What does that leave? I wonder if this tweet -- put this tweet back on the screen for people, the one the president put out there.
I wonder if the tweet with the president admitting that he knew what that meeting was about -- not that he knew, but that the meeting in Trump Tower with the Russians was about getting information on Clinton. That's not what they wrote about it. I wonder if the timing of that has anything to do with this abrupt turn to Iran, especially when the real sanctions on Iran aren't scheduled right now. They're in November.
So why do it now? However, in fairness, the new sanctions are going to be imposed, and we do have 90 to 100 days after he walked away as a transition period that the administration gave companies to wind down contracts with Iran in order to avoid penalties. So, we are within that window, so maybe that's why they're doing this now just to be fair.
However, so now that Trump has decided this is what's going to happen, the timing aside, what does it mean?
All right. Here are the pluses to the move. Here's the first big plus. Are you ready?
Money is power, right? A paucity of money, when you cut money, you cut it, that creates what? Pressure, OK? That's what this is about, pressure -- a big ugly word because I can't write because I'm a lefty.
And this is what the key is here. Take away the money, you apply pressure. A U.S. official says that nearly 100 international firms have announced their intent to leave the Iranian market.
Now, that's going to hurt. You combine that with more squeezing by the government, these renewed sanctions, there could be civil unrest. In fact, National Security Adviser Bolton pointed to riots on Sunday as proof of desired pressure.
So, what's the hope? That unrest equals a deal, OK? That's what you're hoping is that they'll come back to the table and say we want to make a better deal.
Here's the flip, though. Rouhani, the Iranian leader, says the opposite is true. You sanction us like that, we're less likely to deal.
Bolton suggested that our European allies are considering joining the U.S. move. Here's the problem. There is no proof of that.
Here are the facts. The E.U., Russia, China, they're all sticking with the accord. They put out a statement on Monday. What did they say? The E.U., the U.K., and France all said -- and Germany -- we deeply regret that the U.S. is doing what they're doing right now.
The E.U. announced it was going to take legal steps to protect E.U. companies doing legitimate business in Iran that gives them back their money, OK?
And one more point for you. Let's be very clear. Iran is not China. It is not even North Korea. It's not Russia.
How? They're driven by religion. They are zealots there. Religion, ethnic conflict. Those are the driving forces, not just economics or mere land grabs.
So, if a tougher round of sanctions that is going to happen tonight is going to then give an extra step to what's supposed to happen in November with these even more biting sanctions, those are on Iran's sale of crude oil and transactions with its central bank. Those are big.
What happens? The markets, the military, resulting mayhem are all potential negative outcomes from this kind of move. So, it is a gamble. Those are the factors here on the white board of everything at play with the somewhat random decision. What about this strategy or lack thereof?
We have an expert. Phil Mudd is here. He knows the problems. He knows the potential solutions. Where does this fit? Next.
CUOMO: All right. We just laid out all the factors for you on the white board. We'll put it on online, on my Twitter feed and the show's feed if you didn't get it.
Now, how about the strategy in play? For that, we've got as good a guest as we can have, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
Always a pleasure. Thank you for being on the show.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Thanks, good to see you.
CUOMO: Let's make three quick points. First of all, you say don't get too deep in the weeds of strategy. Look at the president first, why?
MUDD: I love these strategy conversations.
Can we look at the personality of the president? Repeatedly he's told us how he thinks. He's told us, and he said this publicly, I'm the only policymaker in public office. Forget about State Department. I'm the man who makes policy. And he's told us repeatedly, I'm a genius.
What has he done in every circumstance? North Korea, U-turn. Russia, U-turn. G7, he goes to Canada and embarrasses them, U-turn.
NATO, U-turn. They're not our friends. They need to pay more.
What I'm saying is he comes in and says, I'm smarter than Bush. I'm smarter than Obama. In every one of these circumstances, I'm U- turning because my solution is a better solution.
Same thing we're seeing with Iran, U-turn.
CUOMO: So, the U-turn here would be him actually, to me, it looks like stepping on the gas and saying, I'm going to sanction them. The timing is a little curious, but let's take the tactic.
CUOMO: I'm going to sanction you to come to the table and say, I want a better deal, Mr. Trump because my people are rioting and I'm squeezed. I'm poor.
MUDD: Good luck. If you're going to sanction somebody that way, one of the lessons of history is you've got to make sure they don't have too many pressure valves where they can turn off the pressure someplace else.
Let me give you three pressure valves that are going to help the Iranians. Number one, the Europeans, big business interest in Iran, are already coming out saying, we're not with you on this one.
Number two, people who aren't exactly side by side with the president so far on this time, that is longtime of friends with Iran for decades. That's the Russians and the Chinese potentially not only buying oil but thinking of things like defense contracts with the Iranians who have got a lot of oil money.
What I'm saying is when we think we can squeeze the Iranians unilaterally, they're looking around saying, OK, I've got the Europeans, the Chinese and the Russians. Ain't going to work.
CUOMO: And in terms of getting that unrest going, getting the progressives such as they might exist inside the Iranian government and larger society to work with the United States to create change there, you say a move like this doesn't necessarily help.
MUDD: Well, careful. There's traditionally over the course of decades two camps in Iran.
You have the reformists. Let's not call them moderates. Let's call them reformists. People who want to move forward.
And you have the conservatives. So, the conservatives would have said be careful with this deal with the Americans. Be careful.
CUOMO: In 2015.
MUDD: That's right.
Since the revolution in 1979, they've been our enemy. They like the Saudis. We hate the Saudis. Big American military presence in the Persian Gulf. We don't like them there.
If you were a conservative wanting to attack the people who made the deal with the Americans this time, you're going to step back and say, I told you. You signed the deal in 2015, and they screwed you again. You cannot trust the Americans. This is more evidence of it.
CUOMO: Phil Mudd, thank you very much.
MUDD: Thank you.
CUOMO: Three solid points. Appreciate it.
All right. So, it is the eve of a big election night in America. Why? Tomorrow, four states are holding key contests that could ultimately alter the balance of power in Congress. One of the candidates in play is in Kansas, and he's being hailed as the next big thing by progressives.
Introducing Brent Welder and big news of a very powerful new friend in his corner. Who is it? What does it mean? Next.
CUOMO: All right. A key factor in how the midterms are going to go down may be what happens this week in Kansas. This is a state that hasn't sent a Democrat to Congress in over a decade.
But there is this crowded field in tomorrow's primary that features a choice between a more centrist approach and the more liberal policies, aggressively so, backed by people like Bernie Sanders and his acolyte and the big winner in New York, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. They have both thrown their support behind my next guest, congressional candidate Brent Welder.
Good to have you on, sir.
BRENT WELDER (D), KANSAS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Hey, Chris, great to be here. Thank you so much.
CUOMO: So, boy, oh, boy, is this some mix of what you have going on in the primary there. I was just trying in the break to figure it out. I can't give you a sense of what we think is going to happen. What do you think happens tomorrow night, and more importantly, why?
WELDER: Well, we are up in the polls right now both in the general election. We're beating Congressman Yoder by seven points, which is the largest lead of any Democratic challenger in the country. We're also up in the primary polls for tomorrow quite a bit.
Now, obviously I am not taking anything for granted. We're working hard for every single last vote, and we're going to keep working hard until we beat Congressman Yoder in November because obviously this is an extremely important election.
CUOMO: You know, I had Rosie O'Donnell on earlier. Tonight, she's got people who are Broadway performers down in front of the White House. I don't know if you had a chance. I know you're campaigning.
But the conversation for her is Trump's got to go. He's a bad guy. He does bad things. The Democrats have to win.
My point back is anti is not enough. When you look at big turns, whoever wins in midterms does it because they are offering something for, not just against.
And when I was looking at your site and looking at some of the messages, where do you think the Democrats come out on that? How do you make the point that you're better for the economy with all those robust index numbers that we've seen, that you're better for national security when we're in a relatively safe state? How do you make a better case?
WELDER: Well, you know, I was one of the first staffers on Barack Obama's campaign. I was the national field director for the Teamsters. I've been around organizing for a long time.
And what I've seen unfortunately for so many years now is that the Democrats keep losing and losing and losing. We've lost the White House. We've lost the House, the Senate, state legislators, the governorship, and we've doing it generally the same way, trying to run candidates that are running on a corporatist message, on a center- right message, and it wasn't worked.
I'm a labor lawyer. I spent my -- you know, the last decade in labor halls, Teamster labor halls around the country. And what I find is that, you know, these people that voted for Barack Obama and then Donald Trump will come back to the Democratic Party, but you have to tell them exactly what you're going to do for them. You have to talk to them about these bold, populist progressive economic ideas. And that's how we're going to win them back.
And I think that's why I'm beating Congressman Yoder by seven points right now, the largest lead in the country even though I'm right here in Kansas because, you know, that's -- these economic ideas are resonating so well with people in my district.
CUOMO: The third district includes Kansas City, am I right? I'm right about that, right? All right. So --
WELDER: Yes, that's where I live, in fact. So, I hope it does.
CUOMO: So that's helping you in terms of a message that will go to a more diverse and base and a biggest -- a bigger population, because when you say about winning Trump voters back, a lot of them are voting for him on cultural dynamics. They're not the blue collar, pocketbook economics that I grew up with a father who was in the Democratic Party as a governor, and he talked to that a lot.
That's not the dialogue anymore. And it seems to be that you have two layers of conflict and challenge to deal with, that one that they're talking culture, not just commerce. And, two, that the left has a divide, which is guys like you and the criticism will be, Mr. Welder, you're free everything.
You're free everything for everybody. Free, free, free. Can't have enough tax money injected into people's lives versus a more centrist approach.
How do you deal with both of those burdens?
WELDER: Well, you know, one thing you didn't mention that I think is actually extremely important to these working class folks that we need to win back is finally ending the corrupting influence of big money in politics. That's something that I've been working for myself throughout my life. I actually, when I started running 14 months ago, pledged that I was never going to accept one penny of corporate PAC money.
I've been involved in politics long enough to see how that affects things and how it causes these politicians like my opponent, Kevin Yoder, who has taken more money from the payday loan sharks than any member of the House or U.S. Senate to side with giant banks and giant corporations instead of people. And that is the thing I think is resonating most with people is they're ready to send someone to Congress who is not corrupted and who rejects this kind of corporate spending.
CUOMO: That's fine. You're still going to have to deal with the free, free, free. I mean, look, I interview Bernie all the time about it. I saw how Ocasio-Cortez, how that worked in her district. But there were very specific people that were open to that idea of needing more from government. A lot of people won't, especially in the third district where you are, because you get outside that city, you get a different viewpoint.
I want to talk to you about money, though -- what is going on with ending spending? You have a conservative group. Do you believe they're trying to help you by all the -- people have to go on. You have to Google it for yourself because I don't have the time tonight.
But they put a ton of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars into this seat, and they're running ads that some of your opponents say are helpful to you. What is going on? Why is a conservative PAC doing ads that some say are helpful to you, and how do you see it?
WELDER: Those are the strangest ads I've ever seen in my entire life. I have no idea what their motivation is. What I do know is that I'm beating Kevin Yoder by seven points, 49-42 --
CUOMO: You do know that because you've said that three times. Why are they putting this money in the race?
WELDER: I'm proud of it. I'm proud of it. I mean, it's the largest lead of any Democratic challenger in the country, and it's right here in Kansas. I think that pretty much kind of speaks for itself as far as the policies I'm running on. I'm fighting against the corruption.
You know, Kevin Yoder votes with Donald Trump virtually ever single time, and people are sick of it, and that's why I feel really confident that we're going to be able to flip this seat in Kansas. And, you know, 25,000 people have gone to BrentWilder.com to give small dollar donations or volunteer in this campaign, 25,000. And that's how we're building a people-fueled campaign, even though I'm rejecting corporate PAC money.
CUOMO: Brent Welder, it is an interesting race. I'd never think that the biggest dollar amount of ads going into your campaign would come from ending spending, a group that gave a million dollars to Donald Trump.
We're going to follow the race very carefully. When we see the results, please come back and make the case if you wind up on top.
WELDER: Hey. Thank you so much. Can't wait.
CUOMO: All right. So, Donald Trump's atactics as I call them are well-known. If you criticize him he will attack you brutally. And what happens? His base generally -- a little bit about what he said about LeBron James and Don.
D. Lemon is here with the reaction you've been waiting for, looking good and smart -- next.
[20:40:00] CUOMO: Don Lemon is going to join me right now. As you know "CNN TONIGHIT" follows CUOMO PRIME TIME. And as you all know, Don and I are friends.
But objectively, D. Lemon, you have a following and you have fans for a reason. And it ain't because they think you're dumb. And you showed just how subtle and deep your intelligence is this weekend.
Now, here's what the president tweeted: LeBron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made LeBron look smart which isn't easy to do. I like Mike. He's talking about Michael Jordan.
This was Don's clever response the next morning. Who's the real dummy? A man who puts kids in classrooms or one who puts kids in cages. #bebest -- of course, the first lady's campaign for better character.
What was the point you want people to take from this? DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": Who's the real dummy? I want
people to take the truth from this. Who's the real dummy?
LeBron James is -- OK, Chris, listen, you're sitting at home, watching the report -- he's not even working. He's on vacation, right? He's at Bedminster.
You're watching a report on someone who happens to be black and athlete, a professional athlete who calls son of bitches, and they're doing something really great for their community and not only changing kids' lives but their families as well, right? Changing the trajectory of their future, trajectories of their future. And then you call me dumb and him dumb by default on top of it to criticize him?
If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all. Why did he feel the need to say that about LeBron James? That's the question.
So, I was aiming to do exactly what I said there, who is the real dummy? Somebody who sits down and sees this when someone is doing good, or -- and who puts kids in cages, by the way, or someone who's putting someone in classrooms?
CUOMO: Now, you often on your show point out material misstatements and lies by the president and his administration --
CUOMO: -- and he hates it, so I've prepared something for you tonight.
CUOMO: Listen to what was written about the president lying and the damage, OK?
LEMON: All right.
CUOMO: And I'll tell you who wrote it afterwards.
If you and I fall into bad moral habits we could harm our families our employer and our friends. The president of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the chief executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous.
And then he went onto this, for those around the president: Our leaders must either act to restore the lust s and dignity of the institution of the presidency or we can be certain that this is only the beginning of an even more difficult time for our land. For the nation to move on, the president must move out.
You know who said that?
CUOMO: Vice President Mike Pence wrote it in the '90s about Bill Clinton. Now, he is apparently immune to hypocrisy.
But what does that tell you about what you're up against?
LEMON: That was then, this is now. We're up against tribalism. We're up against people who will lie, steal, and cheat, lie to their own mother, lie to themselves about what's right of this country, about truth and about facts.
If they will ignore any misgiving, any terrible deed, any awful saying, they will just ignore it for their own political purpose. They will ignore the bigotry and the pettiness and the childishness about what Donald Trump said about me and LeBron James and others just because they want to gain sort of political clout or they want a few more dollars and tax money. At what cost?
CUOMO: I'll tell you, as much as it would usually make me jealous and angry towards you to be mentioned in the same sentence with LeBron James, because really I'm a ball player, it is warranted here because you both were bringing about the best in what that situation was supposed to be.
So, to the point that you always make, let's fact check right now.
LEMON: OK, let's do it.
CUOMO: Here's what the president tweeted about us.
[20:50:00] The fake news hates me saying they're the enemy of the people only because they know it's true. I'm providing a great service by explaining this to the American people. They purposely cause great division and distrust. They can also cause war. They are very dangerous and sick.
Now, this is an example of the lie. How? It's a material misstatement of the fact to deceive. We've pushed back on enemy of the state because it's toxic propaganda used by despots and murderers in the past.
And the president is the only person who can start a war, not the press. And it's exactly his vast power, that's why people like Don Lemon hold him to account. Lies are dangerous.
LEMON: You know -- you know what projection is, right, and I say Chris, you're projecting.
CUOMO: Yes, you actually do say that.
LEMON: Yes, if you will listen -- if you listen to this president, what he says, what he tweets, what he writes, it's always projection. Whatever he says about someone else is usually true about him. Whatever he's trying to hide, he usually puts that out.
Now, I don't know what that says about him. I'm not a psychologist, but I know the meaning (ph) -- what projection is, and I think we all know what that is, because -- and we know it's true because time and time, it's come to be true after the president says something. CUOMO: Well, then, riddle me this, smart guy.
CUOMO: What was he projecting when he was projecting when he decided to tweet that that meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian operative was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton? Why would he tweet something --
LEMON: Because he's projecting the truth.
CUOMO: -- that completely contradicts the statement that they wrote saying it wasn't about that and that they lied to us about saying he had nothing to do with it. Why did he tweet that?
LEMON: I rest my case. Good evening, everyone. Have a great night.
I mean, come on. That's -- he's saying exactly what is happening and he's saying exactly what is true about him. He cannot help himself.
Listen, you know, Chris, we don't take this lightly. When this president -- when this man was on the campaign trail, we tried every -- with every bone in our being to be objective and to report him in a fair, equitable manner. And then when he became president of the United States, the same thing.
It always gets me when people say this 90 percent study shows that 90 percent of the reports about this president are negative, but they don't talk about the things that come out of his mouth and the policies that he proposes and what he does and says to people. How are we as media to report positively on something that's negative?
The president called countries S-hole countries. Oh, well, that's great. He should be calling -- we don't do that. You don't call countries S-hole countries. You don't do things like that. You don't talk about people in the way that this president does -- at least if you're a president of the United States, you're not supposed to.
So that whole thing about the media is biased and that 90 percent of what we report about Donald Trump is negative, if that is indeed true, then you need to counter-balance that and weigh it against what comes out of this president's mouth and what he's doing.
CUOMO: My concern is more what we're almost forced to let go by the flood of activity that I believe, again, is one of Trump's signature traits. He knows he floods the zone, some of it's going to make it through.
CUOMO: I'm worried about what we ignore, we empower. I remember all the way back at the convention with Paul Manafort, with that silly speech that Ivanka gave very confidently that wound up being plagiarized from Michelle Obama and Manafort came on TV --
LEMON: Melania, Melania. CUOMO: I'm sorry. Melania came on -- not Melania -- Melania gave a
speech, she did a great job. Michelle, though, had had that speech written, it was her speech.
CUOMO: Manafort comes on and says, can we move on, this isn't a big deal. You keep saying yourself Melania gave a good speech. I said, I know, but I can't move on because you keep lying about the plagiarism.
CUOMO: And he was so taken back, but it doesn't matter as much as other things. It does matter. If you ignore it, you empower it and there's more and here we are.
[20:55:00] LEMON: We should have known. Remember Spicer said, it was my sparkle pony, he blamed to something like that. That was said, my sparkle pony, whatever the saying was. We should -- we should have known from then.
I'm fired up, and by the way, before I let you go, I saw a screening last night of "BlacKkKlansman".
CUOMO: Oh, did you?
LEMON: You got to see it.
CUOMO: I will.
LEMON: It brings everything into perspective. Everything into perspective, what's going on now as opposed to what happened back in the '60s and '70s. Make sure everyone watch it.
CUOMO: I will and we'll be watching you right now.
"CNN TONIGHT", take it away.