Cuomo Dismisses 'Distraction' of GOP Rep. Discussing Real Reasons Dems Lost

On CNN's New Day Thursday, co-host Chris Cuomo grilled Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole regarding the unfolding news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions interacted with the Russians during the Trump presidential campaign, depsite then-Senator Sessions testifying during his confirmation hearing that although he served as a campaign "surrogate," he "did not have any communications with the Russians." The interview comes in the midst of calls for Sessions to recuse himself or resign. Cole brushed off the calls as "hysteria" and said that the Democrats are still upset over losing the last presidential election.

"I think the hysteria, the desperation on the part of Democrats is almost laughable. The idea that somehow Jeff Sessions was conspiring with the Russians to impact the election is simply an unbelievable fiction," Cole said. "So, yeah, I think it's pretty much a tempest in a teapot."

Cuomo replied, "Let's not get ahead of the implications. Sometimes that makes it easier to dismiss the shorter questions, which is, he was asked a question about whether he had any contact with Russian officials and he said no twice. That's not true. That means nothing to you?"

Cuomo also stated, "I think it's as much a defense mechanism as it is a justification by the Democrats. Any time a question comes up about telling the truth, you guys say the election is over. I think everyone should accept that at this point. But you do have that other context. If you want to talk politics, lying under oath was sure a big interest for you when it involved Hillary Clinton."

After mentioning that members of Congress frequently meet with ambassadors, Cole said: "What strikes me as unusual is the manner in which Democrats seize on this. If they want to figure out why they lost the election, they need to look in the mirror. They nominated a flawed candidate who ran a bad campaign. That's pretty much why you lose most elections in America."

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"I think that's a little bit of a distraction at this point, don't you? This is about what happened during his confirmation process. I think if you want to go broader context, I don't know that you want to go to the election unless you want to go to the hacking. That's the concern," Cuomo replied.

Cuomo added, "You have the intelligence committee conclusion that your party does seem to want to run away from as quickly as it can. Doesn't matter to you that you know the extent of any contacts between our government and whatever Russian activities led to the hacking?"

The congressman then responded that Russian hacking did not impact the election. "No. Do we want to know what the Russians are up to? Of course we do," Cole said. "To suggest that somehow Senator Sessions was involved in the manipulating the election or in some way, some inappropriate contact with Russia, I'd have to see a lot more than what we've seen."

Additionally, Cuomo read a tweet from Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (which has since been debunked).

Cole dismissed McCaskill's tweet. "She's also a minority party. Maybe you'd like to talk to somebody in the majority. Who they meet with -- the real question here, was there any impact on the election, did Senator Sessions do anything improper? No, he didn't."

On Tuesday afternoon Sessions recused himself from investigations related to contact between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Here is the March 2nd exchange:

New Day

03/2/2017

8:07:50 AM – 8:16:18 AM [8 min., 28 sec.]

JEFF SESSIONS: I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign, and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. I don't have anything else to say about that. 

CHRIS CUOMO: It's not saying he never had contact. That’s what he said to senator Franken. He's saying specifically that the context was driving his answer, it wasn't about the campaign. Will that hold up. Let's discuss with Republican congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Does that put it to bed for you, what you heard from Jeff sessions? 

TOM COLE: It absolutely does. I think the hysteria, the desperation on the part of Democrats is almost laughable. The idea that somehow Jeff sessions was conspiring with the Russians to impact the election is simply an unbelievable fiction. So, yeah, I think it's pretty much a tempest in a teapot. 

CUOMO: Let's not get ahead of the implications. Sometimes that makes it easier to dismiss the shorter questions, which is, he was asked a question about whether he had any contact with Russian officials and he said no twice. That's not true. That means nothing to you? 

COLE: No, it wasn't. Frankly, I think he understood that question to be did you talk to somebody about the campaign. Look, it's not unusual for a United States senator or even lowly congressmen to meet with ambassadors. I do it all the time. We don't usually talk about anything to deal with campaigns. We usually talk about relations between our respected countries or some request they have. So I don't find this unusual in any way. What strikes me as unusual is the manner in which Democrats seize on this. If they want to figure out why they lost the election, they need to look in the mirror. They nominated a flawed candidate who ran a bad campaign. That's pretty much why you lose most elections in America. 

CUOMO: I think that's a little bit of a distraction at this point, don't you? This is about what happened during his confirmation process. I think if you want to go broader context, I don't know that you want to go to the election unless you want to go to the hacking. That's the concern. You have the intelligence committee conclusion that your party does seem to want to run away from as quickly as it can. Doesn't matter to you that you know the extent of any contacts between our government and whatever Russian activities led to the hacking? 

COLE: First of all, on the hacking issue, I'm quite content to have any investigation anybody wants to have. Other countries try to impact what happens in the united States. Quite frankly, we try to impact what happens in other countries. That's not unusual. The first interference in the American elections was in the 1790s by the French government. That's sort of Normal. The real question here, did it have any impact on the elections, yes? No. Do we want to know what the Russians are up to? Of course we do. To suggest that somehow Senator Sessions was involved in the manipulating the election or in some way, some inappropriate contact with Russia, I'd have to see a lot more than what we've seen. Frankly, this is an old political guy, I would tell my friends on the other side of the aisle, we want to figure out about the election, again, start looking at your own campaign, your own campaign and candidate. You'll figure out why you lost pretty quickly. 

CUOMO: You think there's no curiosity in why he didn't answer this. You say a lot of people met with the Russian ambassador. Have you? 

COLE: I met with him in a green room once, yeah. 

CUOMO: So no, not really. 

COLE: But in my office, no. Do I meet with ambassadors on a regular basis? Absolutely. 

CUOMO: But not the Russian ambassador. The reason I ask is that Claire McCaskill who is on that same committee with Sessions also says she never met with the Russian ambassador, let alone, alone in her office. 

COLE: She's also a minority party. Maybe you'd like to talk to somebody in the majority. Who they meet with -- the real question here, was there any impact on the election, did Senator Sessions do anything improper? No, he didn't. If he misspoke, he should issue a clarification. Frankly I think he took the question to mean have you talked to the Russians about the campaign and I think he probably responded appropriately when he said no. There's some confusion here, I think that's all there is is confusion. I don't see anything sinister. 

CUOMO: There's certainly confusion. I don't think that's speculative at all he gave an answer that was fundamentally inaccurate. To your question and your suggestion, if the Attorney General knew that there was a meaningful distinction between a meeting he might have had at a senator on a certain committee and as a Trump surrogate, don't you think he would have pointed that out? Don't you think he would have said, yes, I did meet with this person twice, but it was in this capacity, not in this capacity? 

COLE: I think he probably in retrospect would like to have said that. The real question here, you do lots of meetings. The schedule is pretty packed. I just don't see this as that significant. Again, if the implication is this is why the Democrats lost the election, it's not. 

CUOMO: I think it's as much a defense mechanism as it is a justification by the Democrats. Any time a question comes up about telling the truth, you guys say the election is over. I think everyone should accept that at this point. But you do have that other context. If you want to talk politics, lying under oath was sure a big interest for you when it involved Hillary Clinton. 

COLE: I don't think he lies under oath. I think he probably wasn't as clear in his answer as he should have been, particularly given the fact that we have this sort of hysteria on the part of our friends on the other side of the aisle. 

CUOMO: You think all questions about Russian intervention are hysteria? 

COLE: No. I actually said earlier, if you go back and rerun the tape, I think an investigation is appropriate. Do I think they had any impact on the election? Absolutely not. 

CUOMO: That’s your conclusion. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask the questions.

COLE: That’s fine to ask the question.

CUOMO: What's the hysteria? 

COLE: The hysteria is here is a lot of friends believe the Russians managed to manipulate the election and somehow president trump is sort of a Manchurian candidate. It's just not -- 

CUOMO: What does that have to do with what happened with Sessions? We had Sessions not answer questions accurately. That's the extent of the inquiry right now. 

COLE: If this is the biggest inaccuracy they can find in hours of testimony under oath, I think it's laughable. I think the guy probably sits there for eight or nine hours, answers multiple questions, maybe made a mistake here, either didn't recall or wasn't clear. I just don't see a plot here. I don't think this is very sinister. Again, in my friends want to chase this particular rabbit, so be it and that's fine. I don't think it's going to get them any closer to the truth as to why they lost the election. I think when they begin to think about that, it will actually help them if they're analytical as opposed to hysterical. 

CUOMO: I think it's so interesting that you say you see a legitimate interest if finding out the extent of Russian hacking efforts. And yet every time I'm trying to ask you about whether or not any of this is relevant to that discussion, you go to the election. I just want to draw your attention to one more thing. The second conversation between Sessions, according to The Washington Post and this Russian official, happened in September in private in Jeff Sessions' office. Both meetings, one, which you could execution as just coincidence at the convention, happened after the U.S. Intel officials disclosed Russia was attempting to interfere in the election. Why wouldn't Sessions have seen that as relevant to disclose? 

COLE: I can't speak for Jeff Sessions and what he recalled or what he thought was relevant and what he thought wasn't. What I'm suggesting here is I don't see anything serious here. I think that does or that this has some impact on the election is badly mistaken. I'm happy to have that debate or argument with anybody. In terms of Russian activity or count believe me, every country in the world tries to influence sections. The press, President Obama went they'd go to the back of the line. A blatant interference in a democratic country's elections. I don't think it had any impact one way or the other. I would suggest the same thing is probably true here. 

CUOMO: I appreciate your conclusions, congressman. Hopefully, we'll get the investigations to get the proof for them soon enough. Appreciate you being on the show as always. 

COLE: Thanks for the invitation. 

CUOMO: Always.

NB Daily 2016 Presidential Congress Russia Media Bias Debate Trump-Russia probe New Day Government & Press Jeff Sessions Chris Cuomo Tom Cole
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