During a Thursday morning interview with Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Donald Trump, Chris Cuomo -- a co-host of the Cable News Network's New Day program -- clashed several times with her about whether the president-elect should accept the conclusion of the intelligence community that hacking by Russians took place during last November's election.
The most volatile moment during the segment came when Cuomo accused Trump of “sheltering Russia,” and Conway slammed back: “He's not sheltering Russia, and don’t you say that again.”
The CNN host began the interview by asking: “Will the president-elect finally accept what seems so clear to so many?”
After introducing Conway, he stated:
So new year, but the same problem you faced at the end of the year.
You are in this bad situation in which the president is an outlier, not accepting the proof that Russia is behind the hacks during the election. Why does he continue the fight?
“The idea that somehow conclusive evidence is out there in the public domain … is simply not true,” she responded.
“The other thing that's going on here that's very disappointing to us," the Republican guest noted, "is how much people are conflating alleged Russian hacking with the actual outcome of the election.”
Conway charged that this activity is “just nonsense. The idea that Team Clinton is still running around doing it, people are doing it, your network is doing it constantly, and that's what we need to push back on.”
“We're against any foreign government interfering in our cybersecurity,” she added, which “is woefully underserved because big problems have not been tackled sufficiently in the last eight years.”
Cuomo then noted: “The intelligence agency also said that disparagement is not the best way to bolster our cybersecurity. That's not something that the president-elect should be putting first in his priorities."
“There are those out there who are trying to de-legitimize his presidency,” Conway stated.
“So shame on them,” the co-host said, “but why can't you divorce who's responsible for the hacks from the implications on the election?”
“Because it's not being divorced by the media,” Conway answered.
“Chris, I see you’re very passionate about this,” she added.
“Sure I am,” Cuomo shot back. “Russia trying to hack during our election, being ignored by our president-elect? That’s troubling.”
Conway later asserted: “You just want to argue with me.”
“Not at all,” Cuomo replied. “I'm trying to put the facts out there because you’re ducking the obvious,” he said, “and I don’t know why.”
“Not ducking a thing,” she responded because that's “not my style. All the [Democratic National Committee] had to do was turn over the information the FBI requested, according to a CNN report that I read, and they refused to do that.”
Cuomo again went on the offensive by noting: “You didn't even say the word 'Russia' in the last minute and a half.”
Conway then stated:
I'll talk about Russia. In the last couple of days of Obama's eight years in office, all of a sudden he's being tough on Russia.
Seriously? Can you say that without laughing? That's why I'm not saying 'Russia.' I'm trying to be respectful.
“You expel 35 Russian operatives after months before of saying 'Knock it off, Vlad,'” she noted. “That's all he said on our behalf. We've been so weak about Russia for the past eight years.”
“OK. that's a fair criticism,” Cuomo replied, but Trump “has had every reason to know. He could have gotten a briefing anytime he wanted one on this issue.”
“Why is this so important to you?” Conway inquired after answering similar questions several times.
“Because cybersecurity is a big deal,” the lCNN co-anchor said. “Russia intervening in this election and getting away with it is a big deal.”
“All of a sudden, we're all frothing about Russia,” the Trump advisor asserted before noting:
The Russians didn't want [Trump] elected. You know why?
Because he has said very clearly during the campaign and now as president-elect that he is going to modernize our nuclear capability, that he is going to call for an increase in the defense budget, that he is going to have oil and gas exploration, all of which goes against Russia's economic and military interests.
“Donald Trump got elected in part because people want a tough leader in the White House and as the commander-in-chief,” she added.
In a bizarre statement, Cuomo called not mentioning Russia “an interesting political calculation. If you want to keep re-litigating the election, that's on you. If you want to entertain your critics that you beat in the election, that's on you. But what I'm saying is that the price of doing that is to ignore something that really matters.”
“We won, and that says a lot,” Conway responded. “That finishes many sentences.”