Chris Cuomo: Pointing Out the Lack of Evidence in Russia Investigation Is Sabotage

Chris Cuomo spent the entirety of Thursday’s New Day on a crusade to push the Democratic Party’s narrative on the Trump-Russia situation.

He proclaimed that President Trump has shown “clear intent to influence this Russia investigation, even after the appointment of a special counsel.”

If you were thinking, “how did Trump demonstrate this intent?” Well, apparently Donald Trump’s tweets are “clear” enough evidence for Cuomo to assume that Trump is trying to shut down the investigation.

How this is “clear” evidence of obstructing justice is hard to understand.

When interviewing Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cuomo stated: “There has been debate even with Rod Rosenstein about whether or not special counsel was necessary. I guess these tweets kind of make that need all the more clear.”

The double-standard he displayed when interviewing Republicans versus Democrats was striking.

Cuomo tossed softballs at Senator Durbin that were laced with attacks on Republicans:

What is your response to the President calling this the greatest “witch hunt” ever and saying that all the illegal acts by Hillary Clinton during the campaign and in the Obama administration did not warrant the same? Do you agree? What do you say to the President?

(…)

He just fired the FBI Director, the White House tried to pass it off as being about a memo from Rosenstein. We now know that was basically B.S. Do you have any confidence at all you can keep the most powerful man in our government from influencing this investigation?

Senator Durbin stressed that he now has confidence in the investigation with Bob Mueller at its head. Cuomo then decided to challenge Durbin’s answer because that wasn’t enough for the self-important host:

But you’ve never really lived through this. I mean you're a man of great experience, Senator, don’t get me wrong, but the idea of the sitting president saying, what's happening here is bogus and I am going to say it every chance I can and more importantly, I am going to do anything I can, witness him getting rid of the FBI director punitively because he didn't like this investigation. How can you have such confidence that he won't be able to influence it?

(…)

Where did that confidence come from, Senator? The GOP has been ghost for days about this. Ryan putting out, you know, mealy mouth statements about it, more than the majority of these who needed to speak were quiet until today, and that was before the tweets.

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In the real world, the vast majority of Republican members of Congress has been supportive of an investigation and some did even call for an independent one. A simple Google search could tell you that. Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (MN) were among those who directly called for an independent investigation.

That being said, allowing Congress to investigate without a special counsel would have been perfectly appropriate. There was no evidence to suggest that Trump was effectively interfering with any investigation. Cuomo apparently doesn’t share this view, as exhibited by this quote from a separate interview with Congressman Peter King (R-NY):

CUOMO: These tweets from the President, Congressman, you said you didn’t think you need a special prosecutor this morning, you did-you didn't think you needed a special counsel. After these tweets, after him getting rid of Jim Comey and saying he did it because he didn't like this Russia situation, you still think having a special counsel was a bad idea?

King pointed out that there are often downsides to appointing a special counsel:

I saw the damage that Lawrence Walsh did to people like Elliot Abrams, lives were ruined. I saw what happened during the Ken Star investigation. I opposed impeachment in the end. I saw how many people really driven to financial ruin who had no really involvement whatsoever. Special counsels, people like the fact they are independent; that also means they're not responsible to anybody. And in a democratic society, you should always be responsible to someone. Unfortunately, past experience has shown that special counsels often go off on their own.

Unlike the friendly questioning Durbin received, King was repeatedly pestered:

CUOMO: This was a good move, Peter King. You had said that. Special counsel, you could debate whether it was needed or not. But Bob Mueller, hard to assail, brought Democrats and Republicans onto the same page. And then the President this morning blows it all up. Calls it a “witch hunt.” Basically implicates all of you, on the right who agreed with this move as being part of a witch hunt. Basically denigrates Rod Rosenstein, the man he only recently wanted us to believe was so influential, such great credentials that he relied on his assessment in getting rid of James Comey. We now know that was a line of B.S. But for him to tweet this way, what is your message to the President of the United States, as a member of his party?

(…)

Alright, two points of push back. First, isn't it a little deceptive to say you don't know of any proof of anything? Why would you? The investigation isn't concluded. It seems to fuel a sense of sabotage, a sense of illegitimacy when you say, “well, we haven't seen any proof.” But isn't it true to say, and you should not have seen any proof at this point. The only stuff coming out are leaks. There is supposedly a very small circle of people doing the main investigating and holding that information inviolate as the FBI is also one to do now in the form of Mueller and his special counsel position. So not knowing, do you believe that not knowing is proof that there will be nothing to know?

(…)

But do you really believe there is no reason to look into questions of collusion?

(…)

But I'm just saying, usually let the process play out, right? I mean that's the way we usually do it and it seems like some of you aren't doing it here and it smacks of political cover. Go ahead, please respond.

Waiting for the facts is not cowardly. Congressman King called out the media:

I came out of a meeting the other day, closed door meeting, and the story had broken in the New York Times about the meeting with Comey. Reporters were like a wolf pack should the President be impeached. Is there obstruction of justice? Is this a crime? This is before anyone has even seen the memo, before they have analyzed it. Before asking if it was so important, why didn't Comey report it to the Justice Department? Why didn't he tell Andy McCabe, his own deputy director? Where is the memo? No one has seen it. I accept the fact the memo was there. I’ve always gotten along with Jim Comey, so I'm not anti-Comey. All I'm saying is when you have this hysteria from one side --

The media is not at all justified in their reaction to this situation. Their bias is blatant. Where was all of this investigative reporting the previous eight years?

Here is a more complete view of the transcript:

CNN's New Day

05/18/17

8:27 AM [8:27:01 - 8:27:24, 23 sec]

CHRIS CUOMO: Thank you very much. We are living a very big moment right now. How will lawmakers respond to the president's clear intent to influence this Russia investigation, even after the appointment of a special counsel? We have lawmakers from both sides ahead who are players. And it is time to play. Next.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

(…)

8:31 AM [8:31:17 - 8:34:28, 3 min 11 sec]

CHRIS CUOMO: A special counsel is now in place on the Russia investigation, and the President calls it part of the greatest witch hunt in history. This morning he's tweeting exactly that. Joining us now, Democratic Whip Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the Russian meddling in the U.S. election.  There has been debate even with Rod Rosenstein about whether or not special counsel was necessary. I guess these tweets kind of make that need all the more clear. What is your response to the President calling this the greatest witch hunt ever and saying that all the illegal acts by Hillary Clinton during the campaign and in the Obama administration did not warrant the same? Do you agree? What do you say to the President?                                                                            

DICK DURBIN:  I'd say to the President he should get to know Bob Mueller as I did over 12 years when he was director of the FBI. He's smart. He's principled. There is no doubt in my mind that he will put country first when it comes to this investigation. This won’t be a witch hunt. He’s going to follow the facts and evidence where ever they lead and I trust he will come to the right conclusion, whatever it may be. This president has no one to blame but himself for the mess that he's in. Things that he has done. Things he’s said, tweets that he continues to incessantly release have just made his life much more complicated.

CUOMO: He just fired the FBI Director, the White House tried to pass it off as being about a memo from Rosenstein. We now know that was basically B.S. Do you have any confidence at all you can keep the most powerful man in our government from influencing this investigation?

DURBIN: Well, I certainly had doubts until last night, when Bob Mueller was named. I don't have any question about his principles, nor his strength, his moral strength when it comes to this assignment. I know him. I know how he served our country in the military as well as a federal judge, how he was re-upped if you will, as director of the FBI because of the bipartisan confidence we had in his performance. He's the right person for this job.

CUOMO: But you’ve never really lived through this. I mean you're a man of great experience, Senator, don’t get me wrong, but the idea of the sitting president saying, what's happening here is bogus and I am going to say it every chance I can and more importantly, I am going to do anything I can, witness him getting rid of the FBI director punitively because he didn't like this investigation. How can you have such confidence that he won't be able to influence it?

DURBIN:  First I trust our constitution. Second, I believe elected officials like myself are in the position where we’ve taken an oath to preserve and protect that constitution and our form of government. I believe that my fellow colleagues in the Democratic Party, my colleagues in the Republican Party will rise above party if necessary to preserve that constitution and our form of government --

CUOMO: [INTERRUPTS] Where did that confidence come from, Senator? The GOP has been ghost for days about this. Ryan putting out, you know, mealy mouth statements about it, more than the majority of these who needed to speak were quiet until today, and that was before the tweets. Where is the confidence that people will stand up and own the mandate of the people and speak truth to power?

(...)

8:44 AM [8:44:54  - 8:52:00. 7 min 6 sec]

CHRIS CUOMO: Okay. Now, to the political side. This was a good move, Peter king. You had said that. Special counsel, you could debate whether it was needed or not. But Bob Mueller, hard to assail, brought Democrats and Republicans onto the same page. And then the President this morning blows it all up. Calls it a “witch hunt.” Basically implicates all of you, on the right who agreed with this move as being part of a witch hunt. Basically denigrates Rod Rosenstein, the man he only recently wanted us to believe was so influential, such great credentials that he relied on his assessment in getting rid of James Comey. We now know that was a line of B.S. But for him to tweet this way, what is your message to the President of the United States, as a member of his party?

PETER KING: First, Chris, let me tell you one thing. You’ve been implying all morning that Republicans are coming out of the wood work and then you showed my picture, saying finally coming out. I was on your show two weeks ago, discussing this issue. I agreed to come do the show yesterday, long before the special counsel.. So I'm not hiding from anyone. I have appeared on television continually on this and I have strong views on it. So I don't appreciate the implications that somehow until now I am suddenly appearing.

CUOMO: Fair point. We know you wanted you to be on yesterday. Also true that I couldn't get anybody on, when we were trying to first discuss the implications on these things. I don't have to sell you on the proposition that your leadership had been quiet on it. That was my point..

KING: Okay, I'm talking about myself. I was on your show and I followed Carter page, which is no easy thing to do.

CUOMO: True

KING: You know, put that all aside. I was opposed to the appointment of a special counsel. I think it’s a bad precedent, however, if you are going to have a special counsel, you cannot have a better man than Bob Mueller. I worked with him when I was on the intelligence committee and he was the FBI Director, also on the Homeland Security Committee. He's universally respected, and I am convinced he will do a fair and impartial investigation. As for the president, again, this is an unforced error. I am, I have said from the start and I continue to say I see no evidence of any crime, no evidence of any collusion, but the investigation has to go forward. I think the President should let it go forward and it will basically get out of the headlines, it’ll let him do his job as president, let us do our job in Congress.

CUOMO: Alright, two points of push back. First, isn't it a little deceptive to say you don't know of any proof of anything? Why would you? The investigation isn't concluded. It seems to fuel a sense of sabotage, a sense of illegitimacy when you say, “well, we haven't seen any proof.” But isn't it true to say, and you should not have seen any proof at this point. The only stuff coming out are leaks. There is supposedly a very small circle of people doing the main investigating and holding that information inviolate as the FBI is also one to do now in the form of Mueller and his special counsel position. So not knowing, do you believe that not knowing is proof that there will be nothing to know?

KING: I am not aware. I have contacted a number of people. Also you don't know and we have an investigation going forward. If there is an investigation going forward, there should be some basis for it. And I am saying, I have not seen a basis for it and for anything I have seen and heard and even going back to general Clapper, who said when he was ahead of the DNI, he was not aware of anything at all.

CUOMO: [Interrupting] He said he wasn't aware of anything because he wasn't aware of the investigation. He hadn’t been told.

KING: Right.

CUOMO: He hadn't talked about it. He hadn't reviewed the record. That's different than saying I have looked at everything and I see no basis.

KING: It is not that different. Because as Director of National Intelligence, he has access to intelligence from all around the world. Somewhere along the line, if there was collusion going on between the Trump campaign and Russia, the Director of National Intelligence would have picked it up from someone. Doesn't have to be part of a criminal investigation. A criminal investigation has a different scope and focus. Now, again, I want the investigation to go forward. But I'm just saying that so far I haven’t seen any concrete evidence. Watergate we had evidence all along the way that a crime had been committed. We’re not even aware if a crime has been committed here.

CUOMO: But I don't know that a crime -- this is different than Watergate. You had the burglary. So ab initio, you had a crime. And I don't know that having a crime is the bar of having something that warrants our attention. I mean Reuters is reporting this morning that you have 18 different points of contact that need to be reviewed. You know what has come out already about Flynn. You know about the other questions that have arised. You know James Comey took great lengths to come out and say, look, this is real. We've got to look at this stuff. Not saying that he would predict a certain conclusion and that's fine, it shouldn’t happen. But do you really believe there is no reason to look into questions of collusion?

KING: I’m saying it should be looked into. But again, if we are talking about the overall issue of Russia interfering in the election, it's dangerous if you just deal with it from a criminal perspective because that's a very narrow perspective. I think there is a real issue of Russia interference in our election, French election, German election. All that should be done, but when you start criminalizing the process, it becomes dangerous. I think the criminal focus should be, again, narrowed and not have this broad criminal net. But again, I am not aware from talking to anyone involved that there is any evidence yet of any collusion having come up.

CUOMO: But I'm just saying, usually let the process play out, right? I mean that's the way we usually do it and it seems like some of you aren't doing it here and it smacks of political cover. Go ahead, please respond.

KING: But how about all the politics with people saying the President should be impeached.  I came out of a closed door meeting the other day --

CUOMO: Yeah, but that could be B.S. Also. It doesn’t make going to the extreme the other way better.

KING: And I think many in the media are guilty of that. I came out of a meeting the other day, closed door meeting, and the story had broken in the New York Times about the meeting with Comey. Reporters were like a wolf pack should the President be impeached. Is there obstruction of justice? Is this a crime? This is before anyone has even seen the memo, before they have analyzed it. Before asking if it was so important, why didn't Comey report it to the Justice Department? Why didn't he tell Andy McCabe, his own deputy director? Where is the memo? No one has seen it. I accept the fact the memo was there. I’ve always gotten along with Jim Comey, so I'm not anti-Comey. All I'm saying is when you have this hysteria from one side,--

CUOMO: True

KING: It’s almost natural to push back and I’m saying wait, let’s wait and see. I’m not stopping the investigation.

CUOMO: Well, true.

KING: I have no desire in stopping it.

CUOMO: True, I think wait and see is the natural push back. I don’t see, I don’t think, “there’s no proof of anything, there won’t be any proof,” is a natural push back, but you don’t like be lumped in. I don’t like being lumped in either. We have never forwarded the idea that this must be impeachment or anything like that. We’ve been asking the questions that are the same that you were just asking right there. Last question: These tweets from the President, Congressman, you said you didn’t think you need a special prosecutor this morning, you did you didn't think you needed a special counsel. After these tweets, after him getting rid of Jim Comey and saying he did it because he didn't like this Russia situation, you still think having a special counsel was a bad idea?

KING: I think politically it was probably the right thing to do, I am just saying, I have philosophical opposition to special counsel. I saw the damage that Lawrence Walsh did to people like Elliot Abrams, lives were ruined. I saw what happened during the Ken Star investigation. I opposed impeachment in the end. I saw how many people really driven to financial ruin who had no really involvement whatsoever. Special counsels, people like the fact they are independent; that also means they're not responsible to anybody. And in a democratic society, you should always be responsible to someone. Unfortunately, past experience has shown that special counsels often go off on their own. I am convinced Bob Mueller will not, let me make that clear.

CUOMO: Thank you very much for taking the opportunity. You're always welcome on new day.

KING: Thank you, Chris.

Alex Xenos
Alex Xenos
Alex Xenos is an Intern in the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division.