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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Reuters: Trump Says He Has Power To "Run" Mueller Probe; Reuters: Trump Wary Of Perjury Trap In Mueller Trap. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 20, 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. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

President Trump is attacking the special counsel like never before, including a declaration today that he could be running the probe himself if he really wanted to. Really?

Former A.G. Michael Mukasey is here. What he sees as the reality of what Trump has to worry about and when the probe should end and how.

We're going to zero in on why Trump is so panicked about ducking the Mueller interview. This notion of a perjury trap, is it real? One of his close confidants will be here with some insight into why Trump is so newly panicked.

And the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told me last week facts are in the eye of the beholder. I told him that's not true. He then went on another show and doubled down, saying the truth is not the truth. Is that just misspeaking or part of a campaign of deception?

It's time to go deep. Let's get after it.

(MUSIC)

CUOMO: In an on-the-record interview with "Reuters", the president says that he could run the probe himself if he wanted. All this coming after his biggest tweet storm yet about Mueller and word that his White House counsel cooperated with Mueller's probe more than Trump might have known.

Here to discuss that and much more, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Judge, good to have you as always.

MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: So if you were to hear that the president has decided, I'm taking over this probe. I'm taking it over. What would your reaction be?

MUKASEY: I would shake myself and wake up.

CUOMO: Just a dream? MUKASEY: Yes.

CUOMO: Can he, or should he not?

MUKASEY: I -- I have no idea whether he can. I can't believe that he can. He'd have to fire Mueller in the process. Of course not. It's ridiculous.

CUOMO: He says he can.

MUKASEY: He says a lot of things.

CUOMO: You're here to defend that proposition, by the way. I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

MUKASEY: Which proposition? That he could run the probe?

CUOMO: Yes.

MUKASEY: Come on.

CUOMO: Absolutely not? Wrong move? Illegal? Unconstitutional? Unpresidential? All? Some?

MUKASEY: Not -- not necessarily. I mean, look, he has the executive power. The executive power includes running the Justice Department, I guess. The attorney general is not provided for in the Constitution. That's a statute that creates the Justice Department.

But it would be zany. We'd be living in an even more unreal world than we're living in now, so I can't imagine it.

CUOMO: So you dismiss it as bluster.

MUKASEY: I do.

CUOMO: The idea about the White House counsel cooperating with the Mueller probe, Chris Christie says huge mistake for Trump's lawyers to let him do that.

One, did they have a choice? And, two, do you agree?

MUKASEY: They had a choice, and I don't agree with Chris, not with withstanding he's a very insightful guy. From the president's standpoint, I agree institutionally that it's a bad thing because it interferes with the prerogatives of the president, including executive privilege. He has I think an obligation to successors to defend that. But given the fact that he waived and let him go in, I think it's helpful to him.

CUOMO: When he found out it was 30 hours, does that sound like a long time to you?

MUKASEY: Yes, it sounds like a long time to me.

CUOMO: In this context, I'm saying.

MUKASEY: Look, I don't know what they were talking about, 30 hours for an interview is a long time. On the other hand, buried in "The New York Times" story about that was the statement that so far as everybody understands, the -- it was McGahn's position that he never saw the president do anything outside his authority.

CUOMO: His attorney told the president's legal team that McGahn does not believe he incriminated the president in any way to Mueller.

MUKASEY: OK. And add to that the fact that when McGahn was told to play some role in the firing of Mueller, was told that he might play some role, and that the president said he himself would fire Mueller, McGahn's response and reaction was, you do that and I'm out of here. And it didn't happen.

So what does that tell you about McGahn? It tells you that if he saw anything criminal, he wouldn't still be working at the White House.

CUOMO: The idea that the president wants to sit for an interview but is concerned that Mueller is out to launch a perjury trap, what do you think of that?

MUKASEY: Not entirely unreasonable. And there is, in fact, I think, a museum quality specimen of a perjury trap in this case.

CUOMO: How so?

MUKASEY: It's the Flynn prosecution. Flynn was interviewed at the White House by Peter Strzok, their principal investigator, at a time when the FBI had him on tape with Kislyak, the Russian -- the Russian ambassador. They went to interview him about that conversation.

Now, they didn't have to interview him about that conversation. The only reason to interview him was to get him to make a misstatement so that he could then be prosecuted.

CUOMO: There is a cynicism if not a jaundice attached to the idea of a perjury trap. It is a form of entrapment, and it is arguably prosecutorial misconduct. It means that you brought somebody in with no fact-finding purpose, that you did it just to try to trap them with their own words.

Do you think Mueller would do that to the president?

MUKASEY: Look, I think the predicate for that investigation, as I understand it, was a Logan Act violation by Flynn.

CUOMO: So you're suggesting that Flynn was set up by the FBI?

MUKASEY: Yes.

CUOMO: But that seems to suggest that he did nothing wrong and that but for the FBI's actions, he would have never been in any trouble.

MUKASEY: Look, it was Strzok's initial impression, as related to his superiors, that Flynn did not lie. He said that initially. They later reversed themselves and Flynn was indicted for making a false statement to an FBI agent.

CUOMO: But as point of fact, Judge, he's told them things that were not true and things that he should have known and recollected in real time.

MUKASEY: Right. Maybe he did. And maybe he did it because he thought there was some impropriety about having the conversation with Kislyak.

CUOMO: And that's why Sally Yates, then at the A.G.'s office, then went to Don McGahn and said you better figure out what's going on with this.

MUKASEY: I don't think there was any impropriety in that conversation at all. In fact I think that Flynn would have been committing malpractice if he had not had the conversation with Kislyak. He was the guy who was going to be the national security --

CUOMO: Then why did he lie about it?

MUKASEY: Beats me.

CUOMO: That's a good question, no?

MUKASEY: But -- it's an excellent question, but I don't know the extent to which he lied, whether he said the conversation took place or what. I do know that it was Strzok's initial reaction that Flynn was being truthful.

CUOMO: Here's my problem with it in the context of the president. One, I could think off the top of my head of ten fact finding questions that not only would be appropriate to ask the question to the president, but he's the only one who can answer them. So, you have a legitimate fact-finding purpose in interviewing the president if you're conducting the Mueller probe, yes?

MUKASEY: They're all questions about his state of mind. They're not questions about what he did. And the questions about his --

CUOMO: Why not?

MUKASEY: Because we know what he did, and we even know what he says about his state of mind.

CUOMO: Well, do we know? Rudy Giuliani right now is disagreeing with what I thought was an established fact, that the president had a conversation with Jim Comey, then the head of the FBI, about what to do with the Mueller probe. He's saying the conversation never happened. There's a question of fact.

MUKASEY: Whether it happened or not, I think what he was saying initially was that even if it happened, the account that Comey gave of it is not incriminating of the president. I agree with that. CUOMO: Well, now, he's taking another step and saying it never

happens, which means Jim Comey is one of the biggest liars we've ever seen in our life.

MUKASEY: Well, that's what the president said, that it didn't happen. Comey apparently may very well have had a memo to the file saying it happened. People write memos to the file to serve their own interest. Comey is not above that.

CUOMO: Isn't what they're worried about is putting someone that we know has a problem with abusing the truth, who has a problem with freelancing, who has a problem with sticking to what he is told to do and putting him across from people who would be uniquely motivated to point that out?

MUKASEY: I think what they're concerned about is the ultimate fact here, which is that this is not going to end in a trial. It's not going to end in charges. It's going to end in the House of Representatives with an argument in favor or against impeachment.

And the only thing he would be doing is providing grist for that particular mill. There's no legitimate criminal investigation going on here.

CUOMO: Well, that's an opinion. But the idea that he does nothing but add grist to the mill, I would suggest --

MUKASEY: No. There is this legitimate investigation of people other than him, but there's no possibility of bringing a charge against him.

CUOMO: There is no possibility because the DOJ guidance. It doesn't mean that Mueller's main probe responsibility is to get the facts and find out what happened, the president's part of that. And you say, well, why would he do it except to give grist to that mill? That mill being something nefarious in your perspective. I'm saying --

MUKASEY: No, not nefarious. It's for inclusion in a report --

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: -- to the House --

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: -- that can then be used to consider impeachment. Why would the president walk into that?

CUOMO: Because of the truth. He says he wants to tell the truth. If he doesn't sit down with Mueller and we have some type of objective body, which I hold out hope that's what Mueller is. Everybody loved him until this probe didn't start going the way the president likes. Now, all of a sudden he's suspect.

But if he doesn't sit down, it will always be an open question of whether or not he was hiding anything from the American people. Fair point? MUKASEY: Fair point. But I would -- sitting in the president's

place, I would rather have an open question than have somebody who went to Hillary Clinton's party and cried when she lost make the decision about whether I'm telling the truth or not.

CUOMO: That's highly prejudicial, though. If you were going to say that he were lying even if it's just in a report, you've got a standard of proof. That's a crime, perjury. It's not just we believe Comey, we like Comey, we don't like you, so we're going to believe him and not you.

MUKASEY: You give reasons why, but ultimately it's a credibility decision, and I wouldn't want the credibility decision made by the people who are staffing that investigation.

CUOMO: You don't have any concerns if you were representing the president that he would be able to tell the truth in the chair?

MUKASEY: I would have his concerns about his tendency, as you put it, to improvise. Of course I would have concerns about that. I'm rational.

CUOMO: Judge, thank you for your perspective. As we go through this process, I will call on you time and time again.

MUKASEY: Love to come back.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

All right. In a new attempt to discredit Mueller, the president says study the late Joe McCarthy. Does he really want to be making comparisons to McCarthy now? The truth is the truth -- something that we actually have to say these days, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: To borrow a phrase from "The Bard," Shakespeare, Trump doth tweet too much.

This latest set of salvos against Mueller is the best proof yet that Trump really thinks he has something to worry about. Here is our latest raft of proof, 14 tweets. Clearly these tweets were not guided by any steady hand. Why do I say that?

Well, no one caught the repeated misspellings of the word counsel, and no one helped him avoid self-harm. The proof of that, McCarthyism at its worst, he wrote, right? Here's the tweet.

Study the late Joseph McCarthy because we're now in a period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby. Rigged witch hunt. If anyone in politics can claim the mantle of McCarthyism, it is President Trump.

Let us remind ourselves with the men side by side, Senator McCarthy was a demagogue. He relied on conspiracy theories and xenophobia to motivate baseless allegations and generate fear. Sound familiar? Not to mention, do you know who McCarthy's lawyer was? Roy Cohn. You

know whose personal lawyer he became? Donald Trump's.

Now, some more proof. Just listen to how desperate the efforts are. It reminds me of Groucho Marx. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

Listen to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani this weekend on "Meet the Press".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I'm not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry, well, that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth.

He didn't have a conversation --

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Truth is truth. I don't mean to go like --

GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right. So what was that? Was that a one-off, a misstatement, or is it part of a pattern of distortion and fabrication?

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: You're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary gave alternative facts.

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: In a situation like this, you have, over time, facts develop.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

CUOMO: If fact-counting is anything, we've never had any anybody with the level of mendacity that he has, not even close. But we'll leave it there --

(LAUGHTER)

GIULIANI: It's in the eye of the beholder.

CUOMO: No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder.

GIULIANI: Yes, it is.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

CUOMO: I said it then. I'll say it again. Facts are not in the eye of the beholder. The truth is the truth.

And look, I'll tell you, each one of those, you take them in isolation, and could you explain them as something kind of innocent? Yes, of course you could. I could do that very easily.

But taken together, what do we see? The same mistake keeps being made. What does that mean?

It's not a mistake. It's part of a narrative to put out there, and it's one of deception. The president saying what's being seen and written about is not what's happening.

Listen. It all matters. There is no other reality than the one that we know because of what we can show.

And if Trump really wants to put an end to this, he can do it very easily. He could do it by demanding of himself what he has always demanded of others. Sit down and state your case. No hiding. No pleading the Fifth.

In other words, let's get after it.

All right. The president now says he can run the Mueller investigation. Can he? And what if he tried?

What is behind the truth in this situation? Is it the real truth or Orwellian poppycock? That is the making of a great debate, next. I said it, poppycock.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: You know, back in his Comedy Central days when Colbert used to being character and say truthiness, I used to laugh at the ridiculousness of that idea. And now, we are living that exact carnival of the absurd.

So, what do you say? Let's hash out the sides here. Let's get to the great debate. We got Bakari Sellers and Ken Cuccinelli.

Let's start with this proposition from the president. Here is why I won't testify, perjury trap. Even if I'm telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That's no good.

The president's statement echoes his attorney Rudy Giuliani's claim that truth ain't truth, Bakari Sellers. Are you buying?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's just say, first, Donald Trump has had an allergy to the truth since as long as we've known him, a businessman, a candidate. We can go back to his inauguration, where he had the largest inauguration in the history of the planet. We can talk about the fact that the best speech given at the RNC was actually Michelle Obama's speech performed by Melania Trump. We can go step by step and just show where this president has lied.

And so, sitting down with Mueller is not something he shouldn't want to do. However, this is not a perjury trap. That's similar to my wife asking me, where were you last night? I can't say, I'm not answering that because that's a perjury trap. Either you tell the truth or you cannot tell the truth.

I'm not sure this president is equipped to actually function with just Mueller and a few investigators because what he will do is lie, what he will do is deceive. What he will do is mislead the investigators like he misled the American public.

CUOMO: All right.

SELLERS: And he is going to find himself with criminal charges.

CUOMO: Where were you last night? Too slow, you're a liar.

Ken, let me ask you this, the idea --

SELLERS: I was on the grill. I was on the grill.

CUOMO: Too late, too late, you had to think about it.

Ken, the idea of it's not about Mueller needing to trap the president. It's about the president trapping himself. That his guys are worried if you put him in the chair, you can't control what he'll say. He'll freelance, he'll abuse the truth, and when he does it in this context, it might be a crime.

I know they're not going to charge him. I get all the DOJ guidance about indicting the president and all that stuff. But it's still bad.

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's actually not. Those aren't exclusive, Chris. It can be both. And I think from a legal advice perspective, it is both.

And, look, a lot of discussion about truth we're hearing reminds me of the old saying, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. They are, and that's the defensive mentality that certainly Trump's lawyers have taken and will continue.

And I think Bakari alluded to it, if I were on the Trump legal team, I'd be advising him not to sit down with Mueller for both of the reasons you started out with, Chris. Again, they're not exclusive of each other.

And Rudy Giuliani, very inartfully, talked about, who do you believe? Is it -- in his example, is it Comey's truth or is it Trump's truth? And it's only one or the other. And to your earlier point in the show --

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: You still have to prove it, though, Ken.

CUCCINELLI: You are correct. You are correct that there is an objective truth. Something happened. And the American people as a general matter would like to know what hose things are, as they -- when it relates to their government.

But let's not forget that people decide who's telling the truth. We don't get -- we don't get the god's eye view of who's telling the truth.

CUOMO: Well, that's not always true.

CUCCINELLI: And that's what they're concerned about.

CUOMO: That's not always true. Sometimes it's beyond a reasonable doubt, which by the way is a damn high standard.

But, Bakari, sometimes you will say one thing, I say another, one of us is right, and one of us is wrong.

SELLERS: Yes, I don't understand where, all of a sudden, we don't know the definition of the truth any more. I think that Ken is not quite portraying what this investigation actually is. And I think Giuliani, although he's really shown himself to be an inartful and poorly disciplined attorney who has no idea what the facts of his client's case are, what we're seeing is that this president, not just -- not only does he have trouble telling the truth, but he has trouble defining what truth is.

I mean, we're living in a realm where we're talking about alternative facts. But in this case, it's not just Comey versus Trump. I think that's where Ken and the president and Rudy get it wrong.

It's not just Comey versus Trump. It's the words of Cohen, it's the words of McGahn. It's these investigators who have been out doing their due diligence nor over a year now, it's not just one statement, they're taking a totality of statements, putting them together.

And if five people say one thing, odds are that is the truth. Versus Donald Trump, you would take those five. So, it's not just Comey saying something, it's his presidential attorney saying those things. It's Cohen saying those things when he has an opportunity to sit down with the investigators.

It's not one or the other. We don't have to make that choice. And truth is truth. I don't understand why this is such a difficult task that we're putting ourself under.

CUOMO: Well, Ken, you know, one of the things I'd love your take on is the Mueller probe -- to the extent this is true, OK, the Mueller probe made it somewhat clear to Trump's guys, the legal team, that he's not a target of the investigation. He's not a target of the investigation.

They've interviewed dozens and dozens of people as far as we know. Only a handful have they wound up catching lying and things, because I think that's an important context for people because, you know, the Trump team is making this supposition that anybody who goes in there, they're looking to get you and they're going to trip you up in your own words. They've had dozens of people go in there and come out and they didn't get charged with perjury.

You know, the idea that if he goes in there they're going to get him, that's I think more on him than it is on them. Fair point?

CUCCINELLI: Yes, I don't think the assumption is that if he goes in there, they're going to get them. Certainly, the president --

CUOMO: That's all they say all the time, Ken.

CUCCINELLI: But -- well, that's certainly, if you're a lawyer advising the president. Your job is playing defense frankly, and that would be as I said earlier, that would be my concern if I was advising the president. And, you know, you look at Michael Flynn, there's serious questions about whether he actually lied to the FBI, as we heard earlier in your show.

CUOMO: Why did he take a plea?

CUCCINELLI: Strzok himself -- for the same reasons that people like Pat Nolan and many others take a plea, they don't want to confront the potential alternative, because the truth may not come out, and they know it, and they --

CUOMO: No, wait, I don't understand. Let's take one more bead on that.

CUCCINELLI: And so, they cut their losses.

CUOMO: Let's take one more bead on that.

CUCCINELLI: Well, in the Michael Flynn's case --

CUOMO: I get that argument in certain criminal situations, where you know they're going to get you on something, so you try to cut yourself a good deal. But the argument keeps being made on behalf of Michael Flynn, General Flynn that you know what, he does nothing inappropriate, he should have had that conversation with Kislyak. There's nothing wrong with it.

Then, why did he lie about it, and why wouldn't you go to trial and let that come out?

CUCCINELLI: Well, I don't know that that was the decisive factor. I think remember in Flynn's case, you had his son involved, and they were holding threats over his son over his head. That's a pretty common tactic.

We'll drop all this stuff on all the people you care about if you just take the bullet. And, you know, that kind of tactic is not appropriate prosecution, but it is used. And from a prosecutor's standpoint, I worked with prosecutors, I've managed prosecutors. Sometimes they think that looks appropriate.

And the way this has all unfolded, there's at least some basis to be paranoid. Look, Paul Manafort is finishing -- his jury is in the third day of deliberation. If there was going to be a colluder within the Trump campaign, it was going to be the guy who for years worked with the pro-Russian Ukrainians, Paul Manafort.

They've gone all the way through. They've threatened him with everything they had. And there are no charges related in anyway to the election. Nothing.

And Papadopoulos who we just saw the sentencing documents, you know, that are -- that came out from the prosecutor. Again, he's a big nothingburger. And you might ask the same question, then why did he lie? Why did he lie?

CUOMO: Right. No, listen, I get you. That's not -- that's a lie.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: That's never been my bar, though, as you know, Ken. It's never been my bar, if you can't catch Trump, then this probe is a waste. That's never been my bar.

I'm just saying, that, Bakari, we're dealing with a guy, the man of President Trump who's said so many times over the years, you never plead the Fifth. You never run and hide. If you've got something to say, you go and say it. And now he's not following his own advice.

SELLERS: Well, I think that's absurd. I think that sometimes it's in your client's best interest to plead the Fifth. I think lawyers are giving Donald Trump -- not Rudy Giuliani, but lawyers giving Donald Trump sound advice not to sit down with Mueller because they know their client.

But to simply just say these are one-offs, I mean Papadopoulos, let's talk about all of the liars that they have from the president of the United States, Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Jeff Sessions, Melania Trump and her plagiarism. I mean, the list goes on and on and on.

So, this isn't a one-off. This is a culture in the White House. And so, right now, that culture is meeting the rule of law.

And all Donald Trump has is his bully pulpit where he's going to stand up and say I'm going to take over the investigation. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that.

But the rule of law in this country wins. And so, we can have these asinine or absurd debates about what truth is. And to quote our good friend South -- my fellow South Carolinian Stephen Colbert, truthiness. We can have all of these fickle debates.

But the point is the truth is what it is. And Donald Trump and his White House have a culture of not telling the truth. And when you sit down across -- because I've been in this room many times before -- across from a federal investigator, I remind my clients all the time, Martha Stewart did not go to jail for insider trading. Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to federal investigators.

Every single one of them who have been charged with lying, they are liars. And most times, you go to jail for a year and a day for that.

CUOMO: Well, look, we'll end it there. And I'll end it with one little note. I covered that Martha Stewart trial just about every day and there's another rule to that. When the prosecutors come to you and they want to make a deal and they want to talk to you, think twice before you tell them to get out and you're not nice.

And that's another thing that's in play here too. What has he said about these prosecutors? What does that mean to the process?

Ken Cuccinelli, Bakari Sellers, when we get more facts, come back and we'll go at it again.

My next guest can go even deeper. He talks to the president regularly, travels with him still as well. What is going on in the president's mind right now? Wouldn't we all like to know?

That handsome man on your screen, he's got the answer. Is he going to give it up? He better, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: I mean, hopefully life brought you something better so you didn't have to monitor Twitter all weekend, but I have to tell you this was extraordinary. The president went after the special counsel with literally well over a dozen tweets. He then said he could run the probe himself, which is just, to quote former Attorney General Mukasey, zany.

And he now seems to really be dug in about ducking the interview. But, wow, does he seem freaked out?

So, let's figure out why. Let's get after it with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Welcome back to PRIME TIME.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thank you, Chris. Great to be here.

CUOMO: Why so freaked out all of a sudden?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, I don't think it's freaked out. What I think it is, is the president and by and large the American people are tired of an investigation which has proven nothing of collusion, cooperation, or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russians or anybody else for that matter and it's time to bring this witch hunt to a close.

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: But then wouldn't you ignore it, Corey? If it doesn't matter, if nothing's really coming out, ignore it. Focus on all the great things you're doing.

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, the president has done amazing things since he's been in office for the first 20 months. If you look at the unemployment rate, you look at the economy, you look at African- American unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, women unemployment, young people unemployment, all at the lowest in recorded history.

But this is something that's hanging over the administration, which should never have been launched, should come to a close. And, look, we've spent tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on an investigation --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: We spend tens of millions of dollars watching him play golf every weekend. The money is not the issue, Corey.

LEWANDOWSKI: Yes, but Chris, the issue is this. This Mueller investigation has had the opportunity now to interview everybody, to talk to everybody.

CUOMO: Except him, except the man in the middle.

LEWANDOWSKI: The president -- but the president didn't do anything, Chris.

CUOMO: I'm not saying he did, but then why wouldn't he talk to Mueller? How many times have you heard the president say --

LEWANDOWSKI: Why would he talk to Mueller?

CUOMO: How many times have you heard the president say, you see that guy plead the Fifth? That means he's guilty. If you've got nothing to hide, you talk. How many times has he said, I want to sit down with Mueller, I want to tell him?

So do it. Man up and do it.

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, I'll tell you this, you know, I -- I've spoken to the president on numerous occasions where he's told me he has wanted to sit down with Mueller.

CUOMO: Do it.

LEWANDOWSKI: But he's listening to his attorney.

CUOMO: Since when?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, Chris, you know this --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You don't think his attorneys tell him, don't tweet? You don't think his legal counsel is telling him to do things all the time that he doesn't listen? Come on, Corey.

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't -- I don't actually think his attorneys tell him not to tweet. I think the American people love the way he works through Twitter and his ability to go directly to them. But from a legal -- and look, I'm not an attorney. I'm a political operative who doesn't --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I am. The tweets hurt.

LEWANDOWSKI: But what I know is, if somebody asks me, if somebody asks me, should Donald Trump sit down with Robert Mueller, my answer is absolutely not.

CUOMO: Why?

LEWANDOWSKI: There's no value to it. There's no reason -- well --

CUOMO: Truth.

LEWANDOWSKI: Because there's nothing to sit down for.

CUOMO: Truth. Truth, my brother. Sit down and tell the truth.

LEWANDOWSKI: What are we trying to get to? Chris, Chris, what is it that we think that the president needs to answer that's going to demonstrate that there was some type of collusion when we know it didn't exist?

CUOMO: Why does that have to be the bar? Why can't he talk about what happened surrounding the instances of what they want to construe perhaps as obstruction? Why can't he sit down and ask questions about what he knew about the meetings that his son and son-in-law took.

LEWANDOWSKI: Chris, Chris, I can't remember ever Barack Obama sitting down and having a conversation or George W. Bush ever sitting down and having a conversation about private matters or with a special prosecutor.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Context. Context. We didn't have the Russians knee-deep in our election and dozens and dozens of meetings between Obama's guy or Bush's guy, pick any guy, the way we've seen with this administration.

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, it took a federal court order for Bill Clinton to be required to sit down and have a conversation with Ken Starr and his team. They refused to do it without a federal court order. That's a fact.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: No. He was subpoenaed, and it went away. Clinton never required a subpoena to do it.

LEWANDOWSKI: Of course, he required it. They had to go to court to require the president to do this.

CUOMO: No. The subpoena wound up going away. He wound up complying. And, look, now everybody is saying that was a mistake according to your legal reckoning. He should have never done it. So which is it?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, Bill -- look, what -- look, Bill Clinton was the former attorney general of Arkansas, the governor, a Yale-educated attorney --

CUOMO: Right.

LEWANDOWSKI: -- and he gets stuck on the word "is". He gets stuck on the word "is". Bill Clinton ultimately lost his law license for lying to the special prosecutor --

CUOMO: So?

LEWANDOWSKI: -- under oath and was disbarred --

CUOMO: Right.

LEWANDOWSKI: -- on the word "is". Why -- if you are an attorney, why would you ever recommend to your client that you sit down and have a conversation that you're not required to have with a member of the opposite side?

CUOMO: Corey, the argument that you're forwarding is no one should ever sit down with anybody and ever answer any questions because they may lie and they may get caught lying so they should never do it?

LEWANDOWSKI: No, no, no, no --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Is that a standard for the president of the United States, our highest elected official, a man who is supposed to be the paragon of integrity for his people. Now, he ducks and hides like a common (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

LEWANDOWSKI: Chris, the standard is very clear. You listen to legal counsel who has expertise in the field that you don't. Donald Trump is not an attorney. He's listening to his legal counsel.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: He says he knows better than the generals. He knows better than the intelligence community. But now all of a sudden --

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I think his instincts said don't do those things.

CUOMO: -- some lawyers tell him, don't talk to Mueller, and he forgets everything he's ever said about candor and truth before.

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, with all due respect, the think the president has been a little busy denuclearizing the Korean peninsula against the advice --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: How are we doing with that by the way? I thought the threat was over.

LEWANDOWSKI: Chris, you know what just happened? You know just happened?

CUOMO: What happened?

LEWANDOWSKI: U.S. soldiers' bodies were returned from North Korea. That took place during the Korean conflict. We finally get those soldiers back. That is a win for the American people.

CUOMO: Thank God for their families. Thank God for the dignity of those men who served this country. It has nothing to do with denuclearization and don't do that.

Don't hold out their memories --

LEWANDOWSKI: If Donald Trump didn't go to North Korea, that never would have happened.

CUOMO: Don't hold out their memories and their integrity of service and their families as a proxy for progress on what he was supposed to get done. It's about nukes, Corey.

LEWANDOWSKI: A direct result of Donald Trump meeting --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: And he's nowhere. He went and he hugged that guy who is an oppressive despot, who held those same bodies for years and called him a good guy. His people love him. Come on.

LEWANDOWSKI: One family member being returned home was a direct result of this president having a conversation with Kim Jong-un. Fact. You cannot deny that. That is a fact. Those bodies would never have been returned.

CUOMO: What is a fact?

Oh, no, look, it's good that he got the bodies back. Of course, it's good. That wasn't the purpose of the summit. Give me a break, Corey. It's about denuclearization.

LEWANDOWSKI: Chris --

CUOMO: Come on.

LEWANDOWSKI: -- don't you think that's an important step?

CUOMO: Of course, it is but I don't think it should be used as an excuse for getting nothing done with nukes.

LEWANDOWSKI: We're further along.

CUOMO: And calling a guy who is a despot a good guy. Come on.

LEWANDOWSKI: We are further along in denuclearization of the Korean peninsula today than we have been in 30 years.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: The North Koreans just called our proposals gangster proposals. That's good news?

LEWANDOWSKI: And look where North Korea is. North Korea is basically falling apart. They know the maximum harm campaign that we have put on them has hurt them economically. They have not tested a nuclear weapon or a test-fired a missile in nine months because this president has said if you do, there will be recourse.

And the world is standing with us. Great Britain is with us. France is with us. Other nations of the U.N. are with us to make sure that we keep North Korea in check because of the leadership of this president.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what, it is good to hear someone close to the president recognize that you do need your allies abroad to help you get things done. I'm going to end the interview on that, Corey.

LEWANDOWSKI: Of course.

CUOMO: Because it's a ray of light on a cloudy day. Thank you very much for joining me on the show.

LEWANDOWSKI: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: I appreciate it.

All right. Melania Trump, why is she pushing a message about bullying behavior and that it has to stop? She must know how hypocritical that sounds, not because of her, but because of who her husband is. He's the troll in chief.

So what's going on with this mixed message out of the White House? D. Lemon has a theory, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The First Lady Melania Trump, offered some wisdom today on the dangers of cyber bullying. She reminded us all of its, quote, destructive and harmful toll. She said, most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults.

Don Lemon, is she talking about her husband?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I guess so. You know who is in my office when you said my name, I had to run. I just blasted here on the set.

CUOMO: I gave you a heads-up. LEMON: You gave -- I was like, whoa, I guess I better get to the set.

It sounds like she's talking about her husband, especially coming after a week where her husband -- what did he call Omarosa? Crazed, crying, low life and a dog.

It sounds like she's talking about him because she said the Internet can be used or social media can be used in positive ways but can also be used in destructive ways. But it does sound like she's talking about her husband.

CUOMO: It does, right? Look, I don't know how else to take it. It doesn't make sense. I mean, I get boggled by a lot of things that happen in this White House, but you would never have her pick this.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: As a position with the president being the troll in chief the way he is. But then she wore that jacket on the way down -- and then that threw me for a loop because how could she wear that jacket? They said, well, she never saw the back of it. Who sees the back of their jacket?

That doesn't make any sense. In a world where everything is micro managed, how do they take these positions?

LEMON: All right. So, Chris, look, you and I don't have Secret Service protection. We have producers who help us out. A lot of people help us out.

Don't you think if I had a jacket on like that or you had a jacket on like that, someone would say to you, hey, Chris, what do you mean by that jacket? What's going on with the back of your jacket? Someone would say something.

So, that --

CUOMO: Usually they're just telling me to put a shirt on.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: That part is true. When you think about it, you know, she -- when you talk to her people, her people will say she's an independent first lady and we should be happy to have a first lady who's independent. The West Wing and East Wings are different and it seems different messages are coming out.

Especially and I just want to tell you what's on the show tonight, the president called John Dean a rat today, right? John Dean is on the show and he's going to have a message for this president. I just want to tell you that.

But she's -- maybe she's independent, but I don't think the message is going across well. I think it's contradictory and I think she lost the moral high ground when she wore that jacket.

CUOMO: Well, that's the problem is that it's good message. It's just is the messenger the right one in the context of who she's married to.

Don Lemon, we'll be watching.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Great for you to have tonight. See you, pal.

LEMON: All right.

CUOMO: All right. So we just got this memo that was written by the man Trump wants to be our next Supreme Court justice. He wrote questions to ask a president as part of an independent counsel, kind of what Mueller was, he's working for Ken Starr.

The questions will make you blush and wretch. But I will argue they'll make Trump a lot more uncomfortable than you. Why? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right, a closing argument. I want you to keep two things really clear in your mind, OK?

A perjury trap is what the counsel to the president, Rudy Giuliani, and the president himself keeps saying that's what they're worried about, that's what's waiting for the president if he testifies.

We have no reason to know that. A perjury trap is a form of arguable prosecutorial misconduct. This is form of entrapment. You're not supposed to do this. They're not supposed to bring you into an interview just to try to get you to lie.

And the precedent is -- well, did they bring you in for fact finding purposes or was it just to get you? That's the argument they're making about Flynn now, that he was trapped. They'd trap the president, too.

We have no reason to believe they want to do that. There are plenty of question this president could ask and you could argue that only he can answer it.

Perjury is what they're really worried about, a material misrepresentation of fact for the purposes of deception. It's a crime. So, the idea, well, if they believe Comey instead of Trump and that's it, that's not it. It's a crime. They would have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

OK, now, I argue that Rudy uses this phrase because it's part of their narrative that the president is being victimized. But what they're really worried about is perjury, that the president is going to do something to himself, he's going to freelance, he's going to go off script, he's going to embellish in a reckless way that will be abusive of the truth and in that context, it could be a crime.

The scenario they want you to accept is this one about Comey and Trump. Different stories, prosecutors like Comey, doesn't like Trump -- remember the narrative that Trump is a victim, right? And then they're going to get him for perjury.

Again, it's not how it works, but that's why the president blurted out today that even if I'm telling the truth, that makes me a liar.

No, that's not the truth, OK? And when Rudy said the truth is not the truth, that's another rift on the same rubbish. That's not the way it works and Rudy knows it. Perjury is a crime, not a preference. You have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now, did you see the memo that Judge Kavanaugh -- now Judge Kavanaugh wrote when he was working for Ken Starr for a different president, the questions that he wrote?

The salacious and disgusting questions, that's what's going to be the headline. A lot of people are going to avoid them. Not me, but not for the reason that you think.

What came before this page, this is so meaningful. Why? Because Kavanaugh was working for Starr, and he was under attack by then President Clinton. And they came to really resent what was being done and created and hardness and a harshness on the team.

That's what Rudy has reason to worry about, that a memo like this is sitting on Mueller's desk right now. Look at some of the things that Kavanaugh, remember, this is the man the president wants to be our next Supreme Court justice, OK? This is what's coming out of him.

We're not going to give him any break unless he resigns or confesses to perjury when he comes in. In the end, I'm convinced that there really is no reason to give him any slack. The idea of going easy on him is abhorrent to me.

Listen to the reasoning. What he's especially convinced me of, the appropriateness of obtaining his full and complete testimony. Why? He goes onto talk about how because he's lied, he's lied to the American people, he's lied to his aides and he has disgraced this office, the independent counsel, the special counsel with the case of Mueller. A sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush.

This is what they're worried about.

Now you get to juicy bits. The seven out of ten questions he came up with for President Clinton are the most vulgar -- I'm actually going to block them a bit in case kids are watching. Vulgar nature that he could muster.

There's all kinds of raunchy stuff in these questions, what Clinton did to Monica, what he did to himself. But here's the point -- before you get upset at me for putting these questions up here and say that's offensive, many of you who would find that sexual language offensive are the same people who think Kavanaugh should be our next Supreme Court pick. He wrote all of these.

This is what -- it's his -- what's in his head when he thought was right to ask the president of the United States. And why I'm them because I want you to look at the form of the question, because again, it's a window into what Trump's team is worried about. If Monica Lewinsky says, that was (INAUDIBLE), if Monica Lewinsky says this, would she be lying?

That's a specific way to ask a question, and here's why -- it's laying it out to a guy that you already know what happened. So, don't try to control the narrative. And if you deny what we know what happened, you may be lying. And if you don't agree with it, you may be materially misrepresenting.

That's tough to handle especially for someone like Trump, and that's what his folks are worried ability. Not what will be done to Trump but what will -- he will do to himself when he's confronted by smarter people who are motivated to show that he's lied and falsely disparaged the special counsel.

That's my closing argument. Thank you for watching.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.