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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Interview with Kris Kobach; Puerto Rico Update; Latest on Mueller Probe; Interview with D.L. Hughley. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 9, 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, Anderson.
I am Chris Cuomo, and welcome to PRIME TIME.
The GOP primary for governor in Kansas should have been a ho-hum race, that is until President Trump got involved and went against the GOP incumbent in favor of Kris Kobach. Yes, that state official who helped Trump with that fugazi voter fraud panel.
Well, the race is now a hotbed of controversy. It is too close to call. Then, Kobach declared victory. Then his lead was cut, and an official is blaming the secretary of state for getting it wrong in favor of Kobach. The secretary of state is Kris Kobach, and his office would oversee what seems like a certain recount.
So, everyone is talking about what he will do. We are talking to Kris Kobach. He'll be live in a moment.
Also, the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico just soared. It is now more than 20 times what the government told us it was in December. Why is the truth only coming out now, almost a year after the storm? And why isn't the president saying anything about it? Those are Americans down there.
Also, a state of emergency declared in Charlottesville ahead of the first anniversary of that deadly unite the right rally. How are we doing 12 months later? D.L. Hugley joins us with a message he says you won't like, but you need to hear.
It's my birthday. Not bad for 61. Let's get after it.
CUOMO: All right. So, we're talking about an election that pits a Trump loyalist against the sitting governor, the same party, and the margin is razor-thin. Ninety-one votes currently separate the two.
So either way, you're looking at a recount under the law there very likely. But there's one thing. One of the candidates will be in charge of that recount. That candidate is Kansas's current Secretary of State Kris Kobach as I told you in the open.
His opponent is the sitting governor. He is asking Kobach to recuse himself. Will Secretary Kobach accede to the governor's wish?
We have him right now. Welcome to PRIME TIME.
KRIS KOBACH (R), KANSAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be with you.
CUOMO: So, the obvious question is, are you going to recuse yourself?
KOBACH: Yes, I actually -- I think I gave him the idea. I said to the press a day or two ago, I said there's really no point in doing it because the secretary of state doesn't actually have any role in the counting of provisional ballots or in any recount. It's purely sort of a titular role. You're head of the state election process, but all of the work is done at the county level. The counties do the counting of ballots.
So, it's -- there's really no point to it, but I said if my opponent wishes me to, I'd be happy to. But it's purely symbolic. I don't think he understands the process.
CUOMO: So, is that a yes?
KOBACH: Yes, we'll be formally answering his request tomorrow. But I'll give you a heads-up. Yes, we'll be -- I'll be happy to recuse myself. But as I say, it really doesn't make any difference.
CUOMO: All right.
KOBACH: My office doesn't count the votes. The counties do.
CUOMO: I got you. Let me ask you something: is the process of oversight in a recount by your office different than it is in the main count?
KOBACH: Not -- well, not necessarily. I mean, what our office does is it communicates the standards set by Kansas law to the counties.
KOBACH: So we give them the official guidelines. For the provisional ballot counting that's going to occur next week, we just send them the same thing we send them every two years, which is a list of all of the legal standards. These are the provisionals you should count.
KOBACH: These are provisionals you shouldn't count.
So, we give the standards and then they do the counting and we receive the results.
KOBACH: That's the best way to summarize it.
CUOMO: So, it's the same as it was during the regular vote. That's what would happen during the recount?
KOBACH: Yes, but, of course, the recount does have some peculiarities defined by law and those --
CUOMO: Right, like setting a bond. Whoever asks for the recount has to post bond.
KOBACH: Right, right.
CUOMO: The secretary of state gets to set the bond.
KOBACH: That's right.
CUOMO: There's going to be an ethical question about whether or not you're being fair with what bond is set. Why deal with that in an election, especially intraparty? You might as well just step away, right?
CUOMO: All right. Let me ask you something, though, and here's why I asked you --
KOBACH: That's what I'm going to do, yes.
CUOMO: Let me ask you why I'm asking you about the recount --
KOBACH: And, by the way -- and by the way, the bond is --
CUOMO: Go ahead. What about the bond?
KOBACH: The bond would be -- yes, the bond set by the election officials lower down in the agency anyway. They just estimate the cost to the counties of the man hours it would take to do all of the labor. So, it's not something I get involved in anyway.
CUOMO: Right, but it's your -- you know, look, here's the game that we're playing here is that it's not about whether there's a law that says you have to step away or whether or not you have direct control over it. It's the semblance of impropriety. You know, it's what seems fishy, and that's really the standard that public officials should adhere to.
We've made crimes like the new bar for public officials. It should be a little better than that.
But the reason I ask you about whether or not your office's role is the same in the main count versus the recount is because Shelly Harms, the Thomas County clerk, she says that they counted 522 votes for your opponent and that she showed a scan "The Kansas City Star" of the form that showed 522 votes. And yet somehow when it got to your office, it became communicated as 422 votes.
That smells bad, does it not, Mr. Secretary of State? KOBACH: Well, if you put it in context, it smells normal. Every
year, there are at least a dozen clerical errors that happen in the transcribing. So, we do this the old-school way, and most states do it the old-school way to avoid putting things uploaded to an Internet site which can be hacked. So, you're literally communicating vote tallies by phone and people are typing them in. There are be key stroke errors all the time.
In fact, this is one of more than a dozen errors we've already discovered. And that's why they're called unofficial results on election night and every state has this. Kansas has this every year. There will be multiple --
CUOMO: But you get why it raises a question of propriety?
KOBACH: Well, if you know the context, it's not just this race, but there are all kinds of races where someone -- you're talking about thousands of numbers being communicated.
CUOMO: Oh, I get it.
KOBACH: And individual human beings taking those numbers.
CUOMO: I get.
KOBACH: It's just human error. I don't even know who typed in the wrong number.
KOBACH: But there will be other errors we will catch. That's why you count over and over and over again, you have multiple unofficial counts, and then you have a certification of official counts many weeks from now. So, this happens all the time.
CUOMO: Right. But I'm just saying when you're the sitting secretary of state and it happens and it happens in your favor versus your opponent, it smells bad. That's why you shouldn't be in the position for the recount.
It just seems like a no-brainer to me. I don't know why you had to wait for Colyer to ask you to recuse yourself. It just seems like a no-brainer.
KOBACH: Again, you -- well, you should think through this, Chris, because the majority of states have elected secretaries of state, and they oversee the elections in which they are running. So by your logic, you should never have elected secretaries of state because they are overseeing their own elections.
And I understand that --
(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: You have to add a fact, though. The fact is this race is razor-thin in its margin and it's going to go to a recount. You know, it doesn't matter if you wind up winning by eight, nine points.
CUOMO: Right? So, you got to factor that into the context also. I don't think that it's an endemic problem where all secretaries of state must somehow, you know, be sanctioned for -- when they run a race. This is special.
KOBACH: No. My point is your suggestion of your argument is that whenever a secretary of state -- that there's something inherently wrong with a secretary of state overseeing --
CUOMO: No, just in this case.
KOBACH: -- an election in which he himself is on the ballot.
CUOMO: Just in this case because of how close it is and you're going to be over the recount. That's why.
KOBACH: Like I said, it's purely symbolic because I don't have any involvement in the recount anyway. But I said, of course, if he wants me to, I would.
CUOMO: All right.
KOBACH: And he said, OK, I do want you to, so I will.
CUOMO: Now, we go to the bigger issue of what made this race interesting in the beginning which was the president weighing in and saying, I think it should be Secretary of State Kobach, not the sitting governor in party. I want him. And they say by all accounts, it helped you, that it boosted your fate within the primary. Have you now really on the precipice of victory.
Do you believe the president was paying you back for loyalty?
KOBACH: No, I don't think so. I think the president was looking at the race, and he was saying, look, we've got an establishment, more traditional insider who's in the office right now, and we have Kris Kobach, someone I've worked with. I know him well.
I've advised him on immigration issues both during the campaign and during the presidency, so he knows my advice. He knows my policies. And I think they line up more closely with his. So I think that's what drove him.
CUOMO: What does it mean to you that the Democrats do see it as a loyalty play and they believe you're someone they could beat in a race that ordinarily they would run away from? They thought that, you know, your opponent would beat them in state. He has a registration advance. He has the incumbency effect.
But now because of you and everything that happened with that fraud, voter fraud commission that went nowhere, they believe you're vulnerable.
KOBACH: Well, they can think that. I don't -- I don't think that's correct.
I mean, if you -- you know, there are many people who have tried to armchair quarterback this one and say which candidate, Colyer or Kobach, would be better for the Democrats. Who would be easier for the Democrats to beat?
You know, my personal view is that my opponent would be easier to beat because he is the successor to Sam Brownback, who's popularity numbers are very, very low, and the Democrats for the last cycles have run the same playbook every year which is the Republican is Sam Brownback 2.0. This congressman is just like Sam Brownback. This state rep -- they try to link everybody to him.
With Governor Colyer, that's obviously easier to do because he was Brownback's lieutenant governor.
CUOMO: Right, but you have this big issue --
KOBACH: So, I don't think that that --
CUOMO: You have a big issue on your side, which is what happened with that voter fraud thing, which really seemed to have been a complete witch hunt from the outside. Not only did your commission never deliver anything substantive in terms of finding voter fraud, but it seemed to be a fool's errand that the president wanted out there to forward his notion of millions of illegal votes that was never true.
KOBACH: Yes, I couldn't disagree with you more. The commission was shut down because of more than a dozen lawsuits filed by groups from the left that didn't want the commission to do its work, and it became so hobbled by lawsuits that it had to shut down.
But in the time that the commission was in existence, the commission pointed out more than a thousand cases of convictions for voter fraud, almost all of them since the year 2000. These are convictions, which are the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Most are not convictions -- don't result in convictions.
And on top of that, looking at 21 states saw 8,400 cases of double voting --
CUOMO: Right, you know, but those numbers --
KOBACH: -- just among the 21 states looked -- if you extrapolate to all 50 states, if you extrapolate to all 50, it increases exponentially.
CUOMO: Right, but you can't. You can't do that. And one of the keywords --
KOBACH: Well, you can. You can do the same analysis.
CUOMO: No, because it's not math. Every state's different. You say --
KOBACH: OK. Let's --
CUOMO: I just want to make one point for clarity for the audience. You were presented with evidence. You didn't find evidence. You didn't do investigating.
And we looked into your numbers obviously in preparing for the interview when it came in. And the 1,000 convictions, first of all, you want to talk about context. You had a billion votes, right, since 2000. So you're talking about 1,000 convictions.
When you look inside that number, I believe you got it from the Heritage Foundation. And that report includes misconduct by election officials and other insiders. It's not about voters who are not legal or double voting.
That's about this whole thing, every type of basket of conviction you could get within the voting system. That's not what you were supposed to be looking for.
KOBACH: The total of the thousand or so convictions, yes, it includes some misconduct, but that is a tiny, tiny slice of it.
CUOMO: But it's just from the Heritage Foundation. You didn't find it. The panel didn't investigate and find. You were given this by the Heritage Foundation.
KOBACH: These are facts. These are --
KOBACH: -- the commission was assembling.
CUOMO: It's fact as far as the Heritage Foundation is included. And the 8,400 instances come from the Government Accountability Institute.
KOBACH: Let's talk about that.
CUOMO: I'm just saying, you know.
KOBACH: Right, now let's talk about that.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
KOBACH: What the commission would have done if we had continued and not been hobbled by the lawsuits is that you would take the same type of analysis that the Government Accountability Institute did and you would apply that to all 50 states. You'd do the same analysis for 50 states that they had done for 21 and then you get a picture of the total number of double voting, which by the way is a huge crime, 8,400 cases in those alone.
My office has the authority to prosecute voter fraud. We've prosecuted about 13 cases of voter fraud in the last 2 1/2 years or so, three years now. And in that time, we have 11 cases of double voting and two cases of aliens registering and/or voting.
CUOMO: Kris, the president put you up to this commission to prove his theory that millions of people voted illegally in his election.
KOBACH: No. Actually, that was not the commission --
CUOMO: There was never any proof of that, and you know of it. You might be governor of a state soon. Shouldn't you own something like that so it doesn't just stay as a cloud over your head forever?
KOBACH: OK. First of all, the commission was never charged with investigating how many votes were cast illegitimately in the presidential election. It was looking more broadly at the issue of voter fraud. And secondly, the total number of votes cast illegally in the 2016 election is certainly a very large number. One of the things the commission might have --
CUOMO: We don't know what it is.
KOBACH: -- had we continued.
Can I continue?
CUOMO: Please. Go ahead.
KOBACH: One of the things we might have looked at is the number of -- is the number of non-citizens who vote in the elections. That is a very substantial number.
Now, in states like Kansas, the number may be in the hundreds or thousands voting in any given election. But in a state like California, the number is going to be much, much larger. In a state like Texas, much, much larger.
CUOMO: That's a guess.
KOBACH: So those are some of the things -- well, the commission would have actually done the research and used government resources to actually look and get some actual data on the table.
I mean, it surprises me that people on the left are always simply saying nothing to see here, nothing to see here, don't look at voter fraud and we know it does exist.
CUOMO: You keep bashing it as the left was coming after you. And meanwhile an e-mail comes out that one of the people on your staff was looking for someone to help out who was conservative and Christian. It says right in the e-mail.
So, don't make it like it was some fool's errand on the political side, like the left was coming after you. Your own commission was looking for someone pretty confident that he's conservative and Christian too because that's what you want in a bean counter, right?
KOBACH: That wasn't --
CUOMO: A conservative and a Christian.
KOBACH: That wasn't commission -- that e-mail wasn't a staff of the commission.
CUOMO: Who was she?
KOBACH: But the point is we were talking about the larger context.
CUOMO: Who was she?
KOBACH: The larger context is people on the left -- I can't even remember the person's name who said that.
CUOMO: I do.
KOBACH: The larger context is that the people on the left -- people who don't think voter fraud is a problem. Let's use those terms, Chris, OK?
CUOMO: People who don't think 2 million people voted in California and there was no need for tax dollars to go out there and try to prove that we have a problem with voter fraud and we don't. That was the supposition.
But, listen, Secretary of State, I don't want to go down a rabbit hole.
KOBACH: A thousand is not a lot?
CUOMO: I don't know what the number is. I could pull out a number, 15,000, 18,000.
KOBACH: Is a thousand cases a large number?
CUOMO: You don't have any proof. What difference does the number make? You don't have any proof of it. You got presented with studies by --
KOBACH: These are convictions. No, no, I'm talking about a thousand convictions.
CUOMO: But, listen, Secretary of State --
KOBACH: I'm asking you, is a thousand a big number?
CUOMO: Obviously, it's going to be about the context. I'd want to know the cases. And I'll tell you what, if I had my own commission, I wouldn't take the Heritage Foundation as my proof of investigating. I do it myself. That's what the charge was.
KOBACH: These are documented cases, documented in the court records.
CUOMO: Right, and they also include all types of election workers, not the kind of stuff that you said you were going to find.
But, listen, Secretary of State, you're always welcome on this show to talk about what you find, and I want to talk to you when we find out what happens with your election as well. You're always welcome to make the case.
KOBACH: All right. Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. Good luck to you.
All right. Devin Nunes in the news. It's no question that he's been a loyalist for the president, but the chairman -- Devin Nunes is the chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee. He was just caught on tape actually trying to undermine the Mueller investigation. Remember what his job is, his oversight job.
You're going to hear the recording ahead.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Facts first here on this show.
How many died in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria? Sixty-four? No. The new number is 20 times that, and that number is about 400 lives short of who we lost in Hurricane Katrina.
You remember what Trump said about that in the aftermath of the hurricane? Here it is. I want you to hear it again because it matters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody has ever seen anything like this, what is your -- what is your death count as of this moment? Seventeen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixteen certified.
TRUMP: Sixteen people certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So in the thousands would be a disaster, different order of magnitude. So what is he going to say now? We'll get to that in a second.
Sixteen never made sense. Neither did 64, not if you were on the ground like we were and so many at CNN and other outlets.
So much of Puerto Rico was shut down. Medical care was compromised. Medications were in short supply. Basic water was spotty. There was power almost nowhere.
So we were skeptical, and we pressed and tested power. And Trump and his folk fought back calling it -- well, you know what they called it. Fake news. Despite the fake news media in conjunction with the Democrats, an amazing job is being done in Puerto Rico, Trump tweeted.
The fake news networks are working overtime in Puerto Rico doing their best to take the spirit away from our soldiers and first Rs, responders. Shame.
Shame is right. Shame on him, especially as reporting and studies started to show what we all suspected. The death toll was way, way wrong and underreported. In November, CNN surveyed 112 funeral homes finding that funeral home directors and staff had identified at least 499 deaths.
Then what happens? In May, you get a team from Harvard University and researchers. They published a study, and they said in the "New England Journal of Medicine" that their estimate was about 4,645 deaths.
Now, we know the current estimate from the government, and it is over 1,400. And as for the journalists who weathered the storm there and spent weeks covering what was obviously an inadequate government response, called out by Trump as liars, then what do we learn?
Well, FEMA puts out a statement just now in July. It says it was understaffed and underprepared for last year's hurricane season. The agency said, quote, FEMA leadership acknowledged that the agency could have better anticipated the severity of hurricanes Irma and Maria, and that they would cause long-term, significant damage to the territory's infrastructure.
So now we know. It's not 16. It was never 16 or 64. It's 20 times that.
So what does the president say now? Nothing. He doubled down when he thought he was right. But now he won't man up now that we know he was wrong.
He won't even show respect to Americans who lost loved ones. Instead, he had a White House deputy put out this statement. There's only one official count, and the actual counting of disaster-related fatalities is the local responsibility of Puerto Rico. The whole of government remains focused on ongoing recovery and preparedness for the current hurricane season.
You know what that sounds like? Fake news. Information that's not complete, and it's done to distort and to deceive. And they're not going to come on here and defend their position. Why?
Because I'm too tough? Shame on them. It's not about tough. It's about truth.
Trump owes the truth. The truth he denied to the people who paid with their lives and those who were left in horrible conditions in Puerto Rico until today. We will not let it go. We will not forget.
All right. Our next story. You hear what Trump pal Devin Nunes admitted to on tape, right? He is the chairman of the House Intel Committee, who seems to think oversight means something very unusual and potentially dangerous.
We have the secret recording that exposes Trump's bodyguard on the hill, and we're going to take it up in the great debate for you right after this.
CUOMO: So, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, confirmed what many have suspected to be true -- that his real mission is to protect the president from the Mueller investigation.
Don't listen to me. Listen to him.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: If Sessions won't un-recuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones -- which is really the danger. That's why I keep, and thank you for saying it, by the way -- I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CUOMO: You hear the forks and knives. I wonder why the people weren't saying to him, what did you just say?
Anyway, is that what he's supposed to be doing as an oversight position? Oversight over the executive branch?
This is the making of a great debate. We have Nina Turner and Mike Shields.
Nina Turner, do you believe --
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Chris.
CUOMO: -- that what Devin Nunes was saying there is worthy of censure?
TURNER: Well, Chris, it's certainly no surprise what he was saying. Nunes has had the propensity for telling the truth about how he really feels about this president from, you know, giving him information when they were doing the Russia probe right in his own committee. You know, he served on the transition team, and he also advised the Trump campaign.
So I'm not surprised at all that we caught the congressman telling the truth about how he feels it is his duty and the duty of all members of the GOP to protect the president versus keeping his oath of office and standing up for the American people and, as Congressman Lieu said, looking to see where the information takes us.
CUOMO: Right. I'm surprised. Mike, I'm surprised -- not about the "we need to keep the majority so we can protect the president". That's politics. I totally get it. He was at a GOP fund-raiser.
But it's the first part. It's that it's just about us. No, no, no, my friend. You are in an oversight position. As the chairman of a committee, you're supposed to be overseeing, not protecting.
What do you make of that?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, these are things that Devin has said publicly, and, in fact, some of the things he said, Paul Ryan has said and no one even paid attention to it. But now we have a secret recording, so it looks sinister to put a secret recording on television exactly the same stuff.
CUOMO: Mike, who said --
SHIELDS: He said it publicly.
CUOMO: Who said the job of the committee is to protect the president from any bad information or any bad action?
SHIELDS: Well, the job of the committee is to stop people like Adam Schiff, whose mission is to get the president. So when you have someone as partisan as Adam Schiff, who literally walks out of hearings to go talk to reporters and tell them what's going on, who does fund-raisers all over the country saying the opposite thing. We've got to get the president. I have evidence of collusion.
He won't tell us what it is, but he's basically saying I have evidence of collusion of the president in a very partisan way, ridiculing the entire committee, turning it into a partisan circus so --
TURNER: Devin Nunes --
CUOMO: So, Devin Nunes wants to fight back, but, Nina, isn't he the one who went to the White House and gave them house?
TURNER: Yes. Absolutely, Chris. You stole my thunder. Absolutely, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, him, had a press conference. Then he snuck over and went to the White House to tell all the information that he had in violation of the duties that he holds as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Come on. Who does that? Devin Nunes does that. And it is wrong.
SHIELDS: Who walks out of a hearing, an intelligence hearing, who walks out of an intelligence hearing -- if you want the American people to believe credibly that there's actual, real oversight in Congress, who walks out of an intelligence hearing to report what's going on in the hearing, portions of it, that will be damaging partisan rhetoric for the Democrats and goes back into the hearing as the ranking member, who would by the chairman if the Democrats --
TURNER: The onus is on the chairman of that committee not to go over to the White House, not to go over to the White House to tell the White House all the information that they had just gotten from that investigation.
CUOMO: Why can't both of you have a point by the way?
Hold on a second. Why can't both of you have a point that you don't like that Schiff goes out and talks to the media. Nobody should be talking. You should keep it quiet to yourselves, although he would argue I have to because these guys are lying to you. And that Nina has a point, Mike, that the chairman shouldn't be playing favorites with the White House when they're trying to oversee the White House, which he did overtly and now made clear that that's been his mission?
SHIELDS: Yes, Chris, what I would -- and what I would say is you're right. The House Intelligence Committee has turned into a partisan circus. I don't deny that.
I believe Democrats play two games here. On one hand, they say the president colluded with Russia. We have to take this investigation seriously. There was clearly Russian interference in the election.
Then they turn it into such a partisan fund-raising apparatus, doing media hits, hitting the president --
CUOMO: So have you guys. I get the emails all the time.
SHIELDS: The Republicans fight back. That's what's going to happen.
CUOMO: Mike, Nina, quick last word.
TURNER: I mean, we have -- this is so -- this partisanship has gone too far, so much so that --
SHIELDS: I agree.
TURNER: -- there's no more loyalty to --
SHIELDS: Get rid of Adam Schiff. We'll end the partisanship.
CUOMO: But not Nunes.
TURNER: But get rid of Devin Nunes. That's not --
CUOMO: And that's the problem. Nina, Mike, you laid out the arguments. You obviously -- we have a partisan rift. There is problems on both sides. Only one of them is the chairman, though.
I leave it to you at home. Get on Twitter. Let's continue the conversation. You can find both of these good people, and you can find me. I'll moderate.
Thank you to both of you for making the cases.
All right. As you may know, we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a really, really ugly day in our history. White nationalists are now planning new protests to mark this anniversary, the one since the Charlottesville horror show. The city is bracing for unrest once again.
Comedian and political commentator D.L. Hughley says you need to hear the truth from him, next.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, is on high alert for what may come this weekend. God forbid it does. But it is the first anniversary of the deadly "unite the right" rally.
On Wednesday, states of emergency were declared for the commonwealth of Virginia and Charlottesville in the event that unrest breaks out at events in and around Charlottesville and outside Washington where this "unite the right 2" rally is set to occur.
Let's bring in D.L. Hughley, host of "The Hughley Truth" podcast.
Welcome to PRIME TIME.
You're a comedian, but we're not here to joke. This is serious stuff.
D.L. HUGHLEY, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: No, we're not going to --
CUOMO: No, look, I wish we could have a sense of humor about it, but I get nervous with occasions like this coming --
CUOMO: Because I don't have a sense that this will be better this time. So I worry.
HUGHLEY: It was weird to me to see white supremacists walk ago round with tiki torches because those are the very torches that black people use to keep bugs out of our backyard.
CUOMO: I used those two.
HUGHLEY: I didn't know they work on us too.
But I think now we have a situation where we don't have even truth is suffering. There can't be a moral equivalence. Either it's wrong to be hateful and to promote violence and apathy and to be angry and to believe in the supremacy of one race over another, or it's not.
And I think now, we have people quibbling about it. Well, they're just as bad as those guys, and these are just as bad. So, if somebody oppresses me and I fight back, then I'm just as bad as the guy who was determined to take all my rights away? That's where we are in America right now.
CUOMO: You see that in Charlottesville how, by when the president said two things? When he said, not all of them are bad people, and when he said you have problems on the left and problems on the right, call them both out?
HUGHLEY: Not only just Charlottesville, but just the entire tone of the country. We have -- I just watched Kobach, who was on, who is running for governor. And he talked about how, you know, he did the commission on voter fraud. Isn't it funny how he said there were thousands of people -- maybe a thousand people who fraudulently voted?
We'll investigate a problem like voter fraud, but not how many people get killed by handguns in this country. We know it's 30,000 people. So, a thousand people who fraudulently vote is a problem, but 30,000 people who get killed by guns is not.
So even now, we contort to make what we want truthful. We contort around all -- either there's a truth or there isn't. The bottom line in this country, it is wrong to be hateful and to lead people in hate and try to subvert other people's rights and voices and to be brutal to them, or it isn't.
CUOMO: Do you believe the president doesn't believe that?
HUGHLEY: I believe the president is a wanton racist, and I believe that America is not uncomfortable with it. When you tell me 89 percent of Republicans support him no matter what he does, I'll say this -- I can't say all his supporters are racist, but I can say this: for them, being a racist is not a disqualifier.
CUOMO: Well, but I think that's a -- I think that's a high bar. Look, I said to you on your podcast today, do I see that white extremists and white power people and the QAnon and the conspiracy crazies, that they have cottoned to Trump? Yes. Is that a problem? Yes.
But you have those --
HUGHLEY: Not even just them.
CUOMO: You have those -- what if they don't believe that he is a racist. They don't consider themselves racist as well.
HUGHLEY: White men don't get to decide what racism is. White people don't get to decide what racism is.
They were so bad at judging it every time it happened. They were bad at judging it during slavery. They were bad at judging it during Jim Crow.
White people don't get to play this game. You don't get to decide what the rules are here.
The bottom line is this: we have watched children being put in cages.
HUGHLEY: And the very scriptures that they quoted to put black men in chains, they used to put immigrants in cages.
CUOMO: Fair point.
HUGHLEY: Either it's wrong or it isn't. Either we're in American where everybody is the same or we're not.
You have Laura Ingraham on talking about even legal immigration.
HUGHLEY: So let's not -- listen, I don't have a dog in this race except to say this: now, we've seen what side people have chosen. I can say this unequivocally. If Barack Obama were doing what Donald Trump is doing, then two things would happen. The nation would call for him to be impeached, and I would be his loudest opponent.
You can't do to people what Trump and the Republicans are doing to this country.
CUOMO: You would have called out Barack Obama if --
CUOMO: -- was saying what Donald Trump is?
HUGHLEY: Not only would I call him out, I would do it loudly and every day.
HUGHLEY: Because right is right and wrong is wrong. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Our country is being torn apart. There is a spirit in this country that is so foul, I don't even know if America -- I don't think we can come back from this.
CUOMO: I know we disagree on this, not because I'm some Pollyanna. I believe what do you see at the same time that you see a Kris Kobach saying what's not true? You see the media stepping up, checking him saying, this is what's true. You're wrong.
The president, we do it all the time. He creates a fight. He does all this fake news B.S., but we do it because there is right. There is wrong. The truth is a side too.
You've got the left, you've got the right, and you've got reasonable.
HUGHLEY: We get to make our own truths up in this country. We get to hear what we want to hear.
CUOMO: But that doesn't mean there isn't truth.
HUGHLEY: No, no. But it also means that we get to decide what we want to hear. We're very evocative. We want to hear what we want to hear these days.
And I'll say this. I can tell you this, and I've gone all around this country. I've played places every where. Now, we get to make our own truth up. We get to decide -- like I watch people contort and say, well, even if he did meet with people, there was nothing wrong with it because people do it every day. That's a lie.
When you say that the media is the enemy of the American people, that's a lie. I watched somebody on CNN last night say, I would believe Trump over Jesus. If truth dies, how can democracy live?
CUOMO: Well, listen, I'm going to end it on that because I can't -- if you heard somebody say I believe Trump or Jesus --
HUGHLEY: I'll show when we leave here.
CUOMO: -- then I'm going to concede the point for this night only, because that's --
HUGHLEY: Wait a minute. My book, "How Not to Get Shot and Other Advice from White People". You need to get that.
CUOMO: Wait, say it slower. What's the name of the book?
HUGHLEY: "How Not to Get Shot and Other Advice from White People", now it's a "New York Times" best-seller. So, you got to buy it.
CUOMO: Will you sign one for me? It's my birthday.
HUGHLEY: Not only that, we'll do some other stuff for you, my friend.
CUOMO: Fifty-eight years old. I look good, don't I?
HUGHLEY: You got to have some black in you, I'm telling you. You ain't cracking (ph).
CUOMO: Thank you to D.L. Hughley.
It is one of the four pillars of his immigration plan. Do you remember this chant from Trump?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to end chain migration. We have to end chain migration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Is the president really about to add his in-laws to the list of undesirable immigrants, and maybe his wife too? He may have to if he wants to own his own words. Facts, next.
CUOMO: All right. Let's check in with Don Lemon. A preview of "CNN TONIGHT" just minutes.
Don, what do you got?
It's like a metaphor -- ah, I was about to take a shot at you. Is that a birthday cake?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": Happy birthday to you --
CUOMO: Thank you very much.
LEMON: Happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear my ugly friend, Chris Cuomo. Happy birthday to you. I love you, bro.
So, listen. I wanted to show that video of you that I have of you playing ping-pong --
LEMON: With your shirt off.
It was not approved by the big guys. But everyone knows you have a complete man crush on me. We have a bromance going on. And I have evidence.
Can we put up the evidence of that? So that's Chris and I hanging out. That's Chris and I hanging out in the summer. I think that's Kate behind us. That's Kate --
CUOMO: Yes, she's appalled by what you're saying.
LEMON: So, we're hanging out and then I was like, Chris, come on, stop, then -- boom, you planted one on me.
CUOMO: You had a little bit of chocolate on the side of your face. You have always been good to me. You have a good man and you have a friend. And this is very nice.
One of the beautiful things about being here at night is to have Anderson then you to be working with friends like this, what could be better? That's a better gift.
LEMON: It's a sandwich. A sandwich.
Listen, this is about you. This isn't about me. You are one of the kindest people I know. And you love to hear yourself talk.
And nobody loves Chris more than Chris, and if you don't believe me, ask Chris.
CUOMO: With friends like this --
LEMON: No, but seriously, you -- and you have an amazing family. You're a great dad. He takes me out on his boat. He teaches me how to fish like I've never fished. I grew up in Louisiana.
CUOMO: I know. I know. I know.
LEMON: But you're a really good guy. There's not a bad bone in your body.
And, you know, you were just on with D.L. talking about race. This man right here, everybody's got a lot to learn from him when it comes to race and diversity and having friends of all different backgrounds. And that says a lot about you.
I got Spike Lee coming up. And the mayor of Charlottesville.
CUOMO: Very important conversations.
LEMON: Happy birthday, brother. I love you. What are you, 62?
CUOMO: Yes, 62. But I haven't had the work done like you. This is all natural.
LEMON: Your forehead --
CUOMO: All natural. He's got a girdle on and all this stuff.
CUOMO: We're going to take a quick break.
When come back, something happened on Fox last night that demands a response. In fact, I responded to it before it even happened. But now, there's a point it be made. Closing, next.
CUOMO: So, Laura Ingraham said something that you need to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and there are changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don't like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Legal immigration, too? Did you catch the video in the box next to her? Farm workers. Subtle. About as subtle as her shut up and dribble comment about NBA players.
Listen, I didn't plan, but I responded to this last night. I told you the story of my family.
I would not be here if Trump had his way. And there are millions like me. My story is common. Not uncommon. We stand on the shoulders of giants.
Ingraham talks of changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don't like. Wrong. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed in June called legal immigration a good thing. And you know what, that number should be higher.
And you know who agrees with me? Trump's in-laws. Viktor and Amalija Knavs. Better known as the parents of Melania Trump from Slovenia.
They stood alongside their attorney today who announced that their days of living in this country on green cards are over. They're now U.S. citizens. Bravo for them.
Now, what the White House won't officially explain is how did those people get their green cards? We found out what the White House doesn't want you to know. That's our job.
A source with direct knowledge told CNN the first lady sponsored her parents. Good for her. That's a practice that critics, including her husband, call chain migration. Something that he tweeted less than a year ago must end now, suggesting that some who come in can be truly evil.
So, now, his in-laws are outlaws? His mother? His people where he grew up? His kids' mothers? All immigrants. All got in here in ways or with potential that he now calls u undeserving.
I argue this is beyond partisan. This is beyond politics. This is objectively ugly and I will be damned if I'm going to just listen to the idea that people like my grandparents and waves of people like them, millions in this country, are going to be discounted as some abhorrent aspect of a pure place.
Be clear. Illegal entry is a problem. I know it, you know it. It has to be mitigated. We need secure borders. Of course. Of course.
But they're saying something different. They're saying something more. They're saying the people are a problem, not just the entry. Distinguish, it's the who for them, not just the how.
This is a land founded, funded, fabricated, and fought for by others. And that's America at her best. Diversity is our strength. You cannot argue otherwise if you enlist the truth.
Immigrants of all colors and creeds willingly and unwillingly built her, paid for her, enriched her, and fought for her. I said that twice because we have to remember that sacrifice.
Immigrants are here to stay because that's all we are. To turn a phrase back on our "us versus them" friends, if you don't like what America is, you leave. America does not need to become great again. She will only become greater by being more of what she already is.
Thank you for watching the show and getting after it with me again on my birthday.
"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.