Buckle Up: Chris Cuomo, Kellyanne Conway Come to Blows in Latest Duel on Jim Comey, Russia

For the umpteenth time, Counselor to President Trump Kellyanne Conway battled CNN host Chris Cuomo during Monday’s New Day in a marathon shoutfest (almost 30 minutes in length) with the topics du jour being James Comey’s book tour and the Russia investigation.

There were countless noteworthy moments that touched on CNN’s obsessions with Comey and Russia, but it began with Conway astutely pointing out that “Jim Comey loves to be in the center of power” even if that means having to “divert the spotlight to himself and be in the center of power.”

 

 

Conway was initially given comparatively long stretches to emphasize Comey’s self-centered nature and even invoke the IG report from last week pertaining to former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s issues with telling the truth.

When Cuomo began interrupting her after she mocked assertions that the Comey letter may have swung the 2016 election, Conway snapped back: “Don't just throw out these sound bytes and — to go viral without letting me finish the sentence.”

“Listen, you're the one who goes viral. What I'm saying is, when Comey came forward and said that they were looking into the e-mail investigation, it was undoubtedly damaging to Hillary Clinton,” Cuomo responded.

Later, Cuomo played a clip of Comey hammering the President for his supposed coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Conway found Comey’s claim “completely ridiculous” and slammed CNN for “hav[ing] these screaming graphics that cost you tons of money about Russian collusion, Russia, Russia” and there’s been zero proof of it thus far.

The interview then grew heated with Conway invoking CNN’s chest-thumping “Facts First” slogan (click “expand” to see more with bold emphasis being mine):

CONWAY: Comey is basing that on a meeting that he — one small meeting he had last February. This man has been in the presence of the President of the United States less than five times. A handful of times. He's basing it — he had three — it sounds like he had three or four engagements with the President, two alone very briefly, in the span of six weeks and we have a book over — about 15 months later that's supposed to be compelling about what this President thinks about Russia and Putin. You know what he thinks about Putin, and here's why. He expelled 60 Russian diplomats last month. On April 5th, we put sanctions on Russia that have hurt them financially more than almost anybody anticipated and just this weekend —

CUOMO: It took you a long time to put the sanctions in place, but you did. 

CONWAY: Excuse me — no, it has taken you a long time to prove Russian collusion. I know that's very disappointing to your network.

CUOMO: It's not my job.

CONWAY: But let me tell you something, Christopher and, in addition, this weekend, this President did precise, decisive strikes — effective strikes against Syria. And that puts Russia and Iran on notice, also. Russia tried to embarrass the United States. I think, which you and I both are citizens of, Christopher, tried to embarrass our country this weekend and it blew up in his face. He only had Bolivia and China agree with them in their — in this ridiculous vote. The U.S. had everybody else standing with them, and the U.K. and France. 

CUOMO: The criticism stands that the President rarely mentions Vladimir Putin by name and almost never in a negative way. 

CONWAY: No, no, no, he's expelling — excuse me, he's expelling Russian diplomats. He's sanctioning their finances. 

CUOMO: That's a fair point.

CONWAY: It's not a fair point, it's a fact. You want facts first? 

CUOMO: Yes, the fact is —

CONWAY: That's a fact.

CUOMO: — that he talks about Putin in the negative by name very, very infrequently. 

CONWAY: I thought we were talking about Comey.

CUOMO: That was what Jim Comey was echoing. 

CONWAY: And I'll talk — and — and can you talk negatively about Jim Comey like you did in tweets right after October? 

CUOMO: I'm not the President of the United States. Let's stick to who matters. 

CONWAY: The President —

CUOMO: I'm just -- I'm just a -- I'm just asking questions. 

However, the 9:00 a.m. Eastern mark provided the most intense exchange pertaining to whether the President will fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (or Special Counsel Robert Mueller) and when Cuomo refused to accept any of Conway’s answers, she mocked him: “You want to say, ‘Ah, Kellyanne struggles to answer the question. She will not deny X. She will not deny Y.’”

But when Conway asked whether Cuomo can safely vouch for his job security, the battle was on. 

Click “expand” to check out the transcript and jousting in this excerpt, including Cuomo pathetically lecturing Conway to not “poison people's minds” and that she (not, you know, the liberal media) must seek “common ground and not division.” He also fiercely defended CNN’s Russia probe obsession (again, emphasis mine):

CUOMO: We never promised anything like that, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Oh come on. You’re obsessed over — you know — you gave —

CUOMO: I don't try to poison people's minds like that, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Excuse me. Excuse me.

CUOMO: That’s — it’s not helpful. 

CONWAY: You put more — no, you put more emphasis —

CUOMO: We need common ground and not division. Don’t poison people.

CONWAY: — no kidding. So, let's be honest. How much air time did your network give to Russia collusion last year compared to —

CUOMO: I don’t know, but I hope it’s a lot.

CONWAY: — ObamaCare, immi — oh, I know.

CUOMO: I hope it’s a real lot —

CONWAY: Oh, you hope it’s a lot. Why you hope it’s a lot?

CUOMO: — because it really matters because they are trying to tear us — 

CONWAY: It matters — it matter that you’re trying to prove something that’s not that.

CUOMO: — asunder and they are being effective at it and they are still doing it and the President has been slow to respond. You guys don't have a real plan on how to combat it

CONWAY: The President is not slow to respond.

CUOMO: — because the President conflates it with his own personal —

CONWAY: So, if it was really on the mind of — if it was really on the mind — 

CUOMO: — his own personal prospects.

CONWAY: — of FBI Director Jim Comey —

CUOMO: You won't tell me he won't make a move on special counsel. 

CONWAY: No, no, I didn't say that. I told you —

CUOMO: You won't say anything. That's the point. 

CONWAY: — excuse me — 

CUOMO: Please.

CONWAY: — and I told you that he makes the personnel decisions around here.

CUOMO: I know it.

CONWAY: So, I'm not playing that game. 

To see the relevant portions of the transcript from CNN’s New Day on April 16, click “expand.”

CNN’s New Day
April 16, 2018
8:47 a.m. Eastern

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Jim Comey loves to be in the center of power. He loves to divert the spotlight to himself and be in the center of power. So the President is correcting the record because there were two people involved in these conversations and he's right, Chris, you can't — you can't say that McCabe is a credible person when we just realizing [sic] — we just learned in the IG's report from Friday that he lied four times, three times under oath. They were running an FBI of honorable men and women in the rank and file, but at the tippy top, people who were in charge of the Clinton investigation were --

CHRIS CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: They were Clinton people. Strzok and Page sexting each other about how much they didn't like our now President. Peter Orr and his wife. McCabe himself. This was a hot mess —

CUOMO: Well, McCabe's a Republican. His wife's a Democrat.

CONWAY: And Jim Comey was too busy running out to the cameras on July 5th, on October 28th and you agreed with it. You were tweeting pretty heavily last fall after October 28th that Jim Comey has made himself more politically relevant than any FBI director has ever done, that he has created controversy —

CUOMO: Sure.

CONWAY: — with apparently no good cause. So I saw a man last night very shaky and unsure to answer questions, not even under oath, but we know when Comey was under oath, that he had a very difficult time telling the truth. The FBI had to clean up the big mess, the big lie about how many confidential e-mails were on the Huma Abedin/Anthony Weiner --

CUOMO: Well, it wasn't a lie. He was wrong.

CONWAY: Oh, come on. He was wrong by hundreds of thousands.

CUOMO: The President has that in his tweet, also. He corrected it and he was wrong.

CONWAY: Oh, Comey math is really fascinating.

CUOMO: It was less. 

CONWAY: It was a handful. 

CUOMO: Well, I just think it's interesting that you and the President call that a lie, which, one, it obviously isn't, but also that it benefitted Hillary Clinton, that fix. 

CONWAY: It's not a lie?

CUOMO: So the President's upset that Jim Comey had to change testimony in a way that helped Hillary Clinton? Is that what it is?

CONWAY: No, no, we're putting on the -- the president -- we are pointing out, and I have on your network and other places over the course of a year, pointing out that when he testified, the FBI immediately had to correct the record, that it wasn't hundreds of thousands, it was a handful. 

CUOMO: Right, it was wrong. Right, because it wasn't that big a deal, which is why when you guys —

CONWAY: Oh, right. Well, it depends who you are.

CUOMO: When you guys made such a big deal about it during the campaign saying, oh, these new e-mails will change everything —

CONWAY: No, let's —

CUOMO: — and it amounts to nothing,

CONWAY: — let's boil it down to the interview last night.

CUOMO: — that's why the Democrats are mad at Comey. 

CONWAY: — let's boil it down to the interview last night. No, the Democrats are mad at Comey for lots of reasons. I mean they — they blame him for her loss. I look — I saw — I saw Jim Comey last night and I said, this guy swung an election? I don't think so. I mean, it definitely took away from that. He struggled to even answer basic questions. He also admitted that he, as FBI director, injected partisan politics and — and his belief that that person who lost the election should have won, Chris. That he believed that she would win and he was operating under that premise. He also had people in his own household who wanted her to win.

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: And then he tells George Stephanopoulos he didn't vote —

CUOMO: But he wound up hurting her.

CONWAY: But he didn't vote --

CUOMO: Badly.

CONWAY: No, he didn't, she hurt herself. 

CUOMO: What?

CONWAY: She was not — Christopher, she was never at 50 percent in any of the polls in those swing states. 

CUOMO: It's certainly higher than Trump was, but that's not the point. 

CONWAY: I said it to you, to Anderson Cooper.

CUOMO: Comey wound up disclosing the existence of the —

CONWAY: No, no, no, no, don't — don't interrupt me. Don't do that. 

CUOMO: I'm interrupting —

CONWAY: Don't just throw out these sound bytes and — to go viral without letting me finish the sentence. 

CUOMO: Listen, you're the one who goes viral. What I'm saying is, when Comey came forward and said that they were looking into the e-mail investigation, it was undoubtedly damaging to Hillary Clinton.

(....)

CONWAY: Oh, who's trying to re-litigate the 2016 election now, Christopher?

CUOMO: I'm not. You brought it up.

CONWAY: I'm not going to stand in the White House Briefing Room talking about the 2016 election. 

CUOMO: I'm just stating what it was.

CONWAY: Here's what I'm going to talk about. That while this man is President, The FBI director took two months to go visit the President-elect at Trump Tower. If you're that concerned about alleged Russian interference, if you're that concerned about counterterrorism, you need to meet the new president, you can't like get on the shuttle or walk to New York? It took him two months to — 

CUOMO: What's the relevance? 

CONWAY: — it's relevant because he's the sitting FBI director. He wanted to keep his job. Go and brief the President-elect before that. It took him two months. Then it took him —

CUOMO: But he did brief him and usually you come when called. 

CONWAY: And then it took him — it took two months, come on.

CUOMO: You come when called. 

CONWAY: And then it took a year — it took a year for him to say that he's clearing his conscience. If you have vital information in the national — in the national interest, then you come forward before your book and your media tour start and you know that. This man had no political instincts whatsoever. He was wrong about the election, as were many people, but then last night he tells George Stephanopoulos, I didn't vote because the FBI director should be independent. You can't cast a private ballot in the mail or in a ballot box? That's so ridiculous. 

CUOMO: But so —

CONWAY: He didn't vote because he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win and didn't need his help. 

CUOMO: That doesn't matter.

CONWAY: Yes, it does matter because last night at the end he gave a free political commercial.

CUOMO: Look, what he did to Hillary Clinton —

CONWAY: Look, no, the President shouldn't be impeached but people should know.

CUOMO: — was by no one's measure helpful to her. Had he done the same thing to Donald Trump, you would have been going nuts about it. 

CONWAY: Christopher, she was on her way to losing already. She had no message. She had no message. 

(....)

JAMES COMEY: At least in my experience, he won't criticize Vladimir Putin, even in private, even in a meeting with three people in the Oval Office he is arguing that he gave a good answer when he said essentially we are the same kind of killers that Putin's thugs are. And that struck me.

CUOMO: So this is from a different interview with USA Today.

CONWAY: I have no idea what he's talking about.

CUOMO: Jim Comey is making the point that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has a built in resistance to saying anything negative about Vladimir Putin, even if that winds up meaning that he will put the United States on even footing with Russia when it comes to being killers. 

CONWAY: Completely ridiculous. I'm not even going to let you finish that, it's so ridiculous.

CUOMO: I'm finished. 

CONWAY: I know you guys have these screaming graphics that cost you tons of money about Russian collusion, Russia, Russia —

CUOMO: Well, that's Comey saying it.

CONWAY: And — and that's turned out to be non — excuse me, Comey is basing that on a meeting that he — one small meeting he had last February. This man has been in the presence of the President of the United States less than five times. A handful of times. He's basing it — he had three — it sounds like he had three or four engagements with the President, two alone very briefly, in the span of six weeks and we have a book over — about 15 months later that's supposed to be compelling about what this President thinks about Russia and Putin. You know what he thinks about Putin, and here's why. He expelled 60 Russian diplomats last month. On April 5th, we put sanctions on Russia that have hurt them financially more than almost anybody anticipated and just this weekend —

CUOMO: It took you a long time to put the sanctions in place, but you did. 

CONWAY: Excuse me — no, it has taken you a long time to prove Russian collusion. I know that's very disappointing to your network.

CUOMO: It's not my job.

CONWAY: But let me tell you something, Christopher and, in addition, this weekend, this President did precise, decisive strikes — effective strikes against Syria. And that puts Russia and Iran on notice, also. Russia tried to embarrass the United States. I think, which you and I both are citizens of, Christopher, tried to embarrass our country this weekend and it blew up in his face. He only had Bolivia and China agree with them in their — in this ridiculous vote. The U.S. had everybody else standing with them, and the U.K. and France. 

CUOMO: The criticism stands that the President rarely mentions Vladimir Putin by name and almost never in a negative way. 

CONWAY: No, no, no, he's expelling — excuse me, he's expelling Russian diplomats. He's sanctioning their finances. 

CUOMO: That's a fair point.

CONWAY: It's not a fair point, it's a fact. You want facts first? 

CUOMO: Yes, the fact is —

CONWAY: That's a fact.

CUOMO: — that he talks about Putin in the negative by name very, very infrequently. 

CONWAY: I thought we were talking about Comey.

CUOMO: That was what Jim Comey was echoing. 

CONWAY: And I'll talk — and — and can you talk negatively about Jim Comey like you did in tweets right after October? 

CUOMO: I'm not the President of the United States. Let's stick to who matters. 

CONWAY: The President —

CUOMO: I'm just -- I'm just a -- I'm just asking questions. 

CONWAY: The President is a busy guy. We're not worried about Jim Comey. I — honestly, there were parts last night where I was trying to grasp his essential relevance. He had limited interaction. I'm in the Oval Office more in a day than this guy was in his limited career as FBI director under President Trump. 

CUOMO: Right, but he was conducting an investigation that gave him a lot of insight into a lot of different things. 

(....)

CUOMO: He was asked by the President to go to dinner. What, are you supposed to say no? 

CONWAY: No, but you could have said, who else will be there? Should I bring my wife? Should I bring my deputy, Andrew McCabe? That would have been fun. Should I — should I bring Page and Strzok? They like to spend time together. Should I bring Peter Orr and his wife? Should I bring all these people who are at the highest level of the FBI who are investigating Hillary Clinton and were for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump? Maybe they could have come to dinner.

CUOMO: They were so for her that they announced an investigation against her twice, once in the last two weeks of the campaign. Yes, they were really trying to help her out. I understand that.

CONWAY: And, so what and then he closed the investigation. She was already was losing, and you know that. 

(....)

CONWAY: Let me ask you a question — let me ask you a question, as a reporter, as a good person, as a father of three children, let me ask you if you're comfortable with the FBI director headed right — directly into the gutter when it comes to what he was looking for in his first meeting with the President, what he wants to reflect in his book, the length of his tie, the size of his hand sizes. Are you comfortable with that? Because I'm very uncomfortable with that. I think that's a disgrace. 

CUOMO: No, I think it's tawdry stuff that the American people don't need to hear.

CONWAY: And I agree with Rod Rosenstein and what he said in May 9th last year, the Deputy Attorney General, when he said very clearly that Jim Comey, quote, “has violated the obligation to preserve, protect and defend the traditions of the department of the FBI.” Agreed to by former attorneys general and deputies attorney general, right, left and center. And he recommended the removal of Jim Comey because he said he broke every FBI and DOJ protocol when it came to how to respond. Why didn't — George Stephanopoulos asked the right question, Comey, why didn't you just say, we declined to prosecute Hillary Clinton? You had to go out there. You had the pipe and flags behind you. 

CUOMO: Tortured language that made it really deceptive in terms of whether they should have prosecuted or not. 

CONWAY: Well, he shouldn't have done that, but he's very skilled at one thing. Jim Comey's very skilled at diverting the spotlight on to himself and it's unfortunate that people think he's got a big story to tell. He had very limited interaction with the President. He admitted he was nervous to meet the President.

CUOMO: Right, but he was doing the investigation. It's not about his face-to-faces. It's about what he knew about the investigation. 

CONWAY: Oh, no, come on, he's the FBI director.

(....)

CONWAY: You want to say, “Ah, Kellyanne struggles to answer the question — 

CUOMO: You are struggling to answer the question.

CONWAY: — She will not deny X. She will not deny Y.” Is your job safe at CNN? How do you know that? Because you showed up this morning?

CUOMO: It's very safe. I have a contract. 

CONWAY: How do you know that?

CUOMO: Very safe.

CONWAY: How do you know they have confidence in you at CNN? 

CUOMO: Very safe. My boss says he has confidence.

CONWAY: That’s such a ridiculous question.

CUOMO: Very safe, he says I am. 

CONWAY: Yes, everybody in the media is safe because everybody got the election wrong together.

CUOMO: Hold on. He’s talking to me right now — he says I’m very safe.

CONWAY: So nobody wanted to go first and get fired.

CUOMO: The President —

CONWAY: But let me say something — let me say something. 

CUOMO: The President has control. 

CONWAY: You want to talk about Rosenstein?

CUOMO: Wait, hold on. I don't want you to duck this question if you don’t mean to. 

CONWAY: I’m not ducking any question.

CUOMO: Do you think there’s a chance —

CONWAY: But you seem a little hot about the Comey book.

CUOMO: — do you think there’s a chance that the President will remove Rod Rosenstein and/or Bob Mueller? 

CONWAY: The President has done everything that he and his team have been asked to do to comply with this investigation and you know it. He makes the personnel decisions around here.

CUOMO: Why aren't you answering this question? 

CONWAY: Oh, by the way, in case there’s any doubt too, he has confidence in me. So, don't ask me why I'm still here. Ask the people who got fired.

CUOMO: I haven't asked you anything about that. It’s like you’re having a different conversation. All I want to hear is an answer to whether or not the president is considering moving on the man that you -- 

CONWAY: Sarah Sanders has answered that. I just answered that. The President alone makes the personnel decisions. There is no plans to do that at the moment.

CUOMO: I know who makes it. Is he safe? Yes or no.

CONWAY: And you want this to be — and you want this to be about something other than what the whole day is about here, which is whether or not this President has complied with the investigation that your network and others promised would lead to evidence of collusion between the campaign. Does it matter to you at all?

CUOMO: We never promised anything like that, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Oh come on. You’re obsessed over — you know — you gave —

CUOMO: I don't try to poison people's minds like that, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Excuse me. Excuse me.

CUOMO: That’s — it’s not helpful. 

CONWAY: You put more — no, you put more emphasis —

CUOMO: We need common ground and not division. Don’t poison people.

CONWAY: — no kidding. So, let's be honest. How much air time did your network give to Russia collusion last year compared to —

CUOMO: I don’t know, but I hope it’s a lot.

CONWAY: — ObamaCare, immi — oh, I know.

CUOMO: I hope it’s a real lot —

CONWAY: Oh, you hope it’s a lot. Why you hope it’s a lot?

CUOMO: — because it really matters because they are trying to tear us — 

CONWAY: It matters — it matter that you’re trying to prove something that’s not that.

CUOMO: asunder and they are being effective at it and they are still doing it and the President has been slow to respond. You guys don't have a real plan on how to combat it

CONWAY: The President is not slow to respond.

CUOMO: — because the President conflates it with his own personal —

CONWAY: So, if it was really on the mind of — if it was really on the mind — 

CUOMO: — his own personal prospects.

CONWAY: — of FBI Director Jim Comey —

CUOMO: You won't tell me he won't make a move on special counsel. 

CONWAY: No, no, I didn't say that. I told you —

CUOMO: You won't say anything. That's the point. 

CONWAY: — excuse me — 

CUOMO: Please.

CONWAY: — and I told you that he makes the personnel decisions around here.

CUOMO: I know it.

CONWAY: So, I'm not playing that game. 

(....)

CONWAY: I’m constantly on your network. I'm one of the few willing to come on. You’re welcome. 

CUOMO: We appreciate it.

CONWAY: Christopher, I come on and I tell you every single time that you want to talk about everything except the issues. So, you can't have it both ways. You and I have hardly even talked about Syria if at all. We’ve hardly even talked about —

CUOMO: Well, this is the preponderance of the news of the day. Let’s be honest. I’m happy to talk about that.

CONWAY: Okay, well because you’re making the preponderance of the news of the day

CUOMO: I’m happy to talk about a lot of aspects of the day.

CONWAY: But if Comey’s going to be the news of the day as you just said, he’s going to be the preponderance of the news of the day, then we have every right beginning with the President of the United States to respond. Why should it just go — 

CUOMO: You have every right to respond. Who responds and how responds, I think, is legitimate.


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