tv Cuomo Prime Time CNN February 8, 2019 6:00pm-7:00pm PST
we cover. watch it at 6:25 p.m. eastern. i apologize for my voice tonight. i have a little bit of a cold. the news continues. i want to hand it over to chris cuomo for primetime. >> i am chris cuomo, welcome to primetime. we have new information on a major story and we have one of the players on that ugly show down with the acting ag today before congress. do they believe what matthew whitaker told them? if not, what's next. we're going to ask a key democrat that got snapped at while questioning whitaker today. then new twists, did the president's favorite tabloid try to blackmail the richest man in the world and did the saudis have anything to do with it? our court will deliberate. and the president tells us they're criminals, rapists, and we have to keep them out, but he has no problem putting the same people on his payroll. the president reportedly hired an entire town abroad to build
his summer white house. more proof of the farce tonight. facts first on a friday. what do you say in let's get after it. all right, today was the first big show down where democrats tried to get answers from the trump administration and it got ugly early. the man overseeing the mueller probe took them on during the questioning. but they weren't able to get him to cough this up, and it's important. >> i have not interfered in anyway with the special counsel's investigation. i have not denied any funds to the special counsel's investigation. i have not attempted to use any intermediaries to get information for the president. i have not talked to the president of the united states about the special counsel's investigation. >> democrat eric swalwell was among the committee members to field whitaker's fire. he joins us. welcome to primetime. >> good evening, chris.
thanks for having me back. >> so first question, did you believe all of the answers given to you by the acting ag? >> well, we're going to have to test those answers with other witnesses and other evidence. so i'm not going to draw that conclusion now. but i don't think these guys are worth being taken at their word. they have proven in the past the trump campaign, the trump family and the trump businesses and the trump administration that we're just now being there. >> a question on that. do you think that there's a chance that an acting attorney general might lie to congress? >> i asked him about an account that the new york times reported which is that before he became chief of staff to sessions, he was auditioning and interviewing to be the president's lawyer in the white house to respond to the mueller investigation. so i asked him about that. he said no, that never happened.
that's inconsistent with a very reputable publication reporting so we'll have to go back and see what's going on there. >> another interesting aspect today that could be a key takeaway. was he telling the truth? great. he was asked a question you were tended to ask around the mueller probe, whether they defended, supported, this and that, he would talk about the fact that mueller has integrity and mueller doesn't have a conflict. he does not say he will defend the probe. he said it was an on going investigation. what would you make of that? >> he also would say it's not a witch hunt. william barr said that and others have said that and i think that he knew the most important person watching that hearing for his sake was donald trump and he wasn't going to go that far. but i did get him to say he believed bob mueller to be honest and despite the president's tweets, bob mueller is not conflicted but i tried to say are you willing to say that to the president right now. and again he wouldn't go that
far. so you can see the fear. >> he said, he hasn't been involved in any discussions about pardons and yet in the manafort filing it's worth pointing out for the first time a special counsel prosecutor suggested that a person, in this case, manafort was not forth coming because he was angling for a pardon. we believe a lot of these witnesses just from the evidence that's out there -- i'm sorry, a lot of these defendants or indicted or even people that pled guilty like manafort that they are seeking pardons. so that's why i wanted to get to the bottom of that. so i'm going to take him again at his word that he's being straight with us but i'm not going to just let that be the last word. we're going to look at other witnesses at the department to see if pardons are being explored. he also, chris, what was interesting, he said, well, you know congressman that the department has a process for
pardons, which of course has always been the case until donald trump came along and sheriff joe was pardoned without that process being honored. >> so, you know, i guess it was at the point where he was being asked about whether or not the report would be made public. and he sounded a lot the way william barr was reportedly sounding to senator durbin. well, i don't know. we have to see what the rules and regulations allow. i thought to myself in that moment, why are they doing this? why are the democrats holding this hearing. you know he's not going to give you straight answers on this kind of stuff. why waste the time? or is that a fair thing to say, to suggest it was a waste of time? >> no, this was a damage assessment to the rule of law. it's had a wrecking ball taken to it for the last two years and he has been presiding over the department for the last few months. this was the first time we have been able to take that damage
assess. me me ment. so we wanted to see does it have the freedom of movement it needs and he's a potential obstruction witness. it was fishy in the way that it came into being the acting attorney general and it was fishy in the way that he said the investigation was nearly complete when he said that last week and when i asked him if bob mueller was sitting here right now would he agree with you that it's nearly complete? and he said no. >> this first big show down here is a little bit of a window into our future. i want to play a back and forth between you and another committee member as telescoping where we may be heading. >> i'm outgunned over here. this is not part of the call of the hearing. there's plenty of things to do. >> you can go sit down there but you're not his lawyer. >> neither are you mr. chair. >> the questions that are part of this instead of running for president down there we could get this done. >> now, that's ugly, right?
he's out there, he's the republican. he's taking care of whitaker, you call him out for it. he comes at you for wanting to run for 2020. is this the way it's going to be going forward? >> i have a lot of respects for mr. collins. he and i came in together. this is our process but as the son of a cop that busted his back for me to be the first in the family to go to college, it's not an insult to say to me you're running for president. yeah, we did it. >> so what does that mean? are you thinking about running? >> i'm considering it. we're getting close. i'm offering right now, i'm going to iowa and new hampshire, south carolina. i think i have a vision of going big, being bold, and doing good. being connected by being the first to go to college and having student loan debt and two kids under two. i think you need a candidate that understands the american struggle of grit and want and then also coming from a place in the country, silicon valley where we believe that, you know, being inventive and resilient
can solve problems and not the way this washington wall just kills optimism and opportunity. i see opportunity there. i'm still sorting it out with my family but i'm excited to even be considering it. >> that's some polished response you just gave me there, congressman. i do believe you are seriously considering this. i'll give you a minute more of the show here because this matters. let's say you decide to run. you're going to have to fight your way through the field. the party has to figure out where it's soul is. let's say you make it through. and you now face to face with donald trump, how do you deal with the president when he starts coming at you with the nicknames and all the things he says and all the things that back in the day, you know, your father would have put a baton over the top of his head for even saying it, how would you respond in that dynamic? what is going to be your approach? >> the same way i did for seven years in an oakland courtroom. i would present the evidence and the case i would make would be to the american people that donald trump was right when he told americans that many of them
were disconnected and that hair hard work wasn't adding up to anything but the problem is is he has just not delivered for them. >> can you go toe to toe with trump? >> absolutely. i'm looking forward to that. and it's not about donald trump. it's about the people that are counting on him to deliver for them. >> please, let me know. you would be an important entry into the race. appreciate your perspective. >> thank you. >> eric swalwell. i thought that was a throw away question. now we may have a new entrant in the race. he represents things we don't have in the race right now. very interesting. so from the big hearing to the big hypocrite. the people this president wants you to hate. he hires. and even more than we knew. an astounding discovery that leads from this property all the way to central america, next.
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i just had a lawyer on, had him on before that as the trump organization is now purging dozens of its undocumented workers. now there's new reporting from the washington post describing a pipeline of undocumented workers used to build the president's crown jewel. >> i said where do you work? he said well i work at the trump golf course in bedminister. i said how is that possible? he said they fixed my papers. i said what do you mean they fixed your papers? i almost fell over. he said oh, yeah, nobody up there has papers. >> the post details how immigrants travelled north to work as grounds keepers, housekeepers, dishwashers. the workers provided paystubbs as proof as a local immigration lawyer describes the use of undocumented labor as open secret and said all they needed
was a phony green card and fake social security number to land a job. now keep in mind, when you hear this president talk about what i call the fictional brown menace, the trappings of the presidency to sell you stuff like this. >> we will follow two simple rules. buy american and hire american. >> yeah, except he doesn't follow them. that's what you have to remember. he has the gal to make himself an agent of those standing in opposition of the political class and dismiss the problem. >> no issue illustrates the divide between america's working class and america's political class than illegal immigration. >> and he said the political class lives behind their walls. so do you except the undocumented workers are on the inside of your walls because you hire them. for the same reason that many do
is because they need these people to fill some of the 6.9 million unfilled jobs in this country. food services and hospitality. in other words, the types of jobs at golf courses. this is not like it's a new contradiction for the president. during the campaign, he was asked again and again about his company's use of undocumented workers. he insisted that they did all they could to make this right. >> i went with the e-verify system. i have the e-verify system. >> have all sorts of e-verify and everything that you can think of. >> the president did call for making the e-verify program mandatory. he just didn't follow through. also huge financial penalties for companies that hire undocumented workers. he just didn't follow through. it's all just talk. there's no effort to go after employers the way he relishes
chasing after the workers. as for e-verify, out of trump's 12 golf courses, guess how many use e-verify? three. three are currently enrolled. all right. facts first. he lied about the problems that migrants pose. he's lied about the wall as a solution to this crisis and he has lied to you about his role in the problem that he can't seem to get enough of. and that is the truth. so, what do you think? height of hypocracy or some other information? let's put it up for a great debate on a friday night. next. (danny) let me get this straight.
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hire american, that's what the president always tells me, right? great instruction. he just doesn't follow it, okay? and he also says, and if you don't, if you break the rules, you should be punished. >> what should be the punishment for really -- >> well, you're collaborating with -- >> sure, you can be very, very strong. it can be a huge financial penalty. >> one of these guys in your party. >> unless it's about him.
>> the president will answer for the latest, or is this somehow okay? i great starting point for the great debate. a bunch of heavyweights, angela rye and steve cortes. thank you for being with me. i appreciate it. now to set the table, i just want to make it very clear the trump position on what they know. here is trump's son eric on exactly this issue. >> people think of trump as being just a face, just a brand. there is not one element of these club houses which we don't know about. you name it, we're involved. >> does that include the hiring of the undocumented immigrants? brother cortes. >> i don't think so. look i'm very glad and heartened that the president as president wants to be the driver of the solution of this problem but i won't minutce words his organization was part of the problem. >> is. >> there's no way around that.
>> well, no they're cleaning it upright now, so i don't think you can say in the presentence. >> is part of the problem. >> as long as they have undocumented workers, he can't be out there out ttouting the f of the brown menace. >> i'm conceding to you that they're problem of the problem and in this regard, to their discredit as an organization they were little different from business in america. business in america has loved illegal immigration. why? because they want endless flow of cheap labor in this country. it works great for big business, but it's terrible for american workers. the president has recognized that and has been the voice of the forgotten workers who want wages to rise because they shouldn't have to compete in the market against an endless flow of millions upon millions of illegal workers. >> why would you vote for him on that basis when you know he is doing the exact thing he says should -- i didn't say you voted
for him, i'm saying why would someone vote for president trump about this to be your protector from a problem that he is preferring over american workers? >> i think it's clear that the trump voter voted their dreams and not necessarily their interests. i think what is abundantly telling is what steve just talked about is the rhetoric that it's supposed to be for the american workers but there's a piece in this article that talks about the fact that there were, you know, laborers working for $10 an hour where a licensed professional will be charging 50 to $55 an hour. so it's clear that he wasn't doing this in the best interest of either worker, right? because some of these workers couldn't afford to make ends meet and trying to get home and trying to help support folks at home. i think the other thing that's really interesting and i can't wait for the trump tweet on this. he said that we would hire american. well, now we know that he has expanded the definition. to hire american includes central and south america.
that's what he meant. >> well, he hasn't responded yet, steven. that tells us something. ordinarily you take a shot across the bow at the president, here comes the cannon fire. not a word about this. >> no and because again this is a problem. i'm not trying to sugar coat it or shine the sneaker. this is really problematic. however where do we go from here? that's the question. >> i was thinking about this today. why doesn't he take on his own reality as the test case and say, here's what i'm going to do. here's the penalty i'm going to pay because here's what i did. i'm going to set the standard. i'm not going to duck it and pretend this didn't happen and call fake news or some other bs. whatever he decides to do. i did it. it was wrong. i lied about it and here's what i'm going to pay as a penalty. >> he didn't lie. that's where i'll disagree with you. he didn't lie about it. do you think that donald trump
himself -- do you think that he was hiring greenskeepers and maids. >> it's still on his watch. >> in the wall we call it -- >> excuse me. >> okay. >> hold on, let me take it. >> it's still his organization. >> it's your business, you have to own what it does. and he has told the american people time and time again that it shouldn't be done and that's a lie by omission. it's a lie by omission. because he was doing the exact thing he said should not be done and he did not disclose that is a lie by omission. >> it's deception. it's deception. >> i am very confident -- i am very confident that he didn't know this was going on. >> it is a lie by omission. i have to go. i have to finish the show. >> that's how you deal with a phone call during the show. so angela, look, here's the problem for the president on
this. here's what it is. let's just tee it up and then you have to tell me how the democrats deal with this. everybody is in a hole on this issue right now. he has painted a picture of a threat that doesn't really exist. and even if it did exist, a wall would not be the best solution for it. it could be part of the solution but not the best. so what is the counter for democrats in light of this story and of the context? >> well, there's two anecdotal pieces or facts from this particular story. one was the man who scaled the ten foot wall to get into this country. so that demonstrates that the physical barrier is not sufficient, right? the other piece is there was a just that wo gentleman that worked on the cruise line and got off the cruise ship and got papers to go to work there. that's another example of a port of entry he's not talking about.
we have to pay attention to it. we talked about e-verify. only three out of the 12 are using the e-verify system. you cannot preach to the prior to do something that you're not willing to do on your own businesses. you tacked about him paying penalties. he won't even pay his taxes. he's not paying you penalties. >> he could. he could use himself as an example. it could be a teachable moment. >> it's disingenuous when you say the wall is not at least part of the solution. >> i said it could be part. >> but nobody has argued -- nobody has argued that it's that alone. >> the president has. >> he says a wall will solve the problem. that's what he says all the time. >> he says it will solve the problem at the southern border. >> yeah. >> and i disagree with that. >> he never said it would solve the entirety of the border. >> never said the wall was the top priority. never. never has anybody in charge there said we need the wall.
>> that doesn't mean it's not a crucial priority. they have many reforms that they need to do their job. >> the president made it top and we know why, steve. you didn't tell him to say it during the campaign. i'm not blaming you but this was his line and it really worked and mexico was supposed to pay for it and now he's making it too personal. he's making this about his promise and protecting him with the base and he's got you guys in a tough spot because you know you can't argue on the merits that anybody wants the wall more than anything else. nobody says that. the people who are polled say it. the politicians that are on the border don't say it. dhs and cdp don't say we're a wall away. only he does. that's your fix. >> no, he has not said we're a wall away from the fix. that's not true. it's a vital tool in getting rid of the illegal immigration system in this country along many other tools and e-verify the most important of all. i agree that should be nationwide. it should be trump organization
wide. that's important. >> steve i just have one question, how tall -- i don't even have a last statement, it's a last question, how tall must the wall be to prevent anyone scaling it? >> as tall and as well built as custom and border protection tell us and by the way, we're talking about -- >> is 10 feet high enough. >> we're talking about something with antitunnelling technology underneath. something that's very tall, extremely hard to climb with technology. >> like fbi net. >> something like they have in israel which has proven to be 99% effective. >> how tall is that wall. >> that wall is armed so it's a little bit of a different situation. >> right. they don't like to say these things. >> so it's a little different. >> i thank you for this. i can't have my phone ringing all show long. steve, angela, be well and thank you. have a good weekend. >> thank you. >> all right. so let's go from this politics into some dark intrigue.
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all right. first up, the hearing with the acting ag. note that matthew whitaker was clear about not having discussed the mueller probe with president trump. listen to this. >> i have not talked to the president of the united states about the special counsel's investigation. >> now this was seen as a big deal although i have to tell you, i don't know why the president hasn't asked. if he's not a target, that's
what he keeps saying he told his lawyers, wouldn't he want facts to back his feelings? when it came to getting answers about the southern district of new york probe, that was a different story with whitaker. >> i'm not going to discuss my private conversations with the president of the united states. >> all right. we have two great guests to sort this out. we have mike who is in the room today and mike roger. thank you, especially on a friday night. let's deal with whitaker first. mike rogers, do you think this was a worth while hearing? and if so, what popped out to you? >> just welcome to the 2020 presidential cycle. i thought this was demeaning to the committee all the way around. they brought somebody before the committee and basically they didn't have any allegations that there might be wrong doing. they just said we think you did wrong doing. now tell me why you didn't. i just think this is a terrible way to run an investigation on a committee, number one.
and then when the ag was -- clearly didn't understand the protocols of the house, he was rude. i don't know if anybody over there didn't walk him through you would never do that. the chairman can take as much time as he wants even under the 5 minute rule. so for me it was a poor performance on how democracy works in the united states today. i was frustrated for everybody. >> what came across the you? >> i don't disagree with the congressman. this was more political circus and theater than fact gathering. clearly they had a lot of anger they wanted to vent about the mere fact that matthew whitaker had been acting attorney general at all. a guy that didn't have any real qualifications for the job. was not confirmed by the senate. whose main, you know, part of his resume was he had been
defending president trump and the mueller investigation. but that said, they didn't really get much out of him. t you know, asked the direct question had he spoken to the president about the mueller investigation? he said flatly no. he also indicated he had not in other lines of questioning, said he had not discussed other investigations so that would encompass the southern district as well. so i don't know that anybody gained from this hearing. >> now mike, are you feeling me on what i was saying in the introduction that i don't know that there's anything wrong with the president asking the acting ag. why wouldn't the president say, what's the best thing he's got on collusion? what's the best evidence. if he's not a target, if you're not a subject of the investigation? >> in this environment? >> at least he'd have a fact basis. >> you can't even say that -- i think your phone is ringing. you can't say that with a straight face. there's no way. there's no way that the
president, if there were anybody around him, if i were anywhere near the president i'd say do not talk about it. listen, this thing has risen to a level that you should not have a discussion. you may or may not be a target eventually. you may or may not be engaged in the mueller probe even though there's no indictment, all of that can be possible. you could be absolutely exonerated in the mueller report, too. that's also a possibility. so just don't talk about it. go be president. i'd highly recommend it. if the people at doj are smart, sounds like they are, they're counseling their interim and attorney general about don't talk to this until the report comes out. >> on the topic, the saudi connection aspect of the allegation from jeff bezos. just quickly, bezos is laying crumbs in the statement that he put out that you had mr. pecker
go to the white house with a saudi guy he's trying to raise money from. the reporting bother the saudis. they give pecker the money. pecker is going after bezos that owns the washington post. maybe this has something to do with the saudis. maybe even the president. is there anything to the suggestion? >> you have to place the saudis as persons of interest in this case. i remember watching post reporters last night who had been investigating this said that the bezos team had suggested that they believe that it was a government entity that had hacked bezos phone and gotten these pictures. now someone like bezos, you would expect to have pretty sophisticated cyber security on his devices, so that would
suggest that some really sophisticated actors had gotten into his phone or where ever these pictures were and hacked them and we look at foreign governments as likely suspects. and certainly, all the circumstances that you mentioned would point to the saudis as people you would want to look at right after the bat. >> any reason to have the president in the conversation about this other than the fact that he doesn't like bezos which puts him on a very long list? >> it's too early for that. >> i mean, like ever. >> you mean in this -- >> why would this have anything to do with the president. he may not like bezos but why does he care about any of this? >> unless there was something to do with the saudis and some suggestions about helping out ami. i think we should be careful about that. when i look at it, by the way, i looked at both california
statute, the florida statute, the new york statute, this is extortion at least by state statute. >> you do? >> i do. because you can say that any positive press at a time when you're working a contract would be something of value. i think it's going to be easy to prove the thing of value is -- >> i get that. >> that was the one piece of the extortion that wasn't there. they said if you do this, i won't do this. and by the way, that happens all across america. sexting cases. there's a precedent on this. >> and usually as part of a legal negotiation that has lawyers on both sides trying to deal with each other in a settlement. it just seems like a pretty naked attempt to do something like this with all of these people being apart of it. >> and here's the thing on the saudis real quick. it looked like to me that ami was in the money hunt and who better to hunt money from the saudis? that's why they did it. so that's why i'm saying i
wouldn't drag the president to it. that visit to the white house is them saying i'm going to the white house, why don't you come with me. i'm really important. wouldn't it be great if you're invested in this company. i see more of that happening than i do any grander conspiracy about the president getting the saudis to invest in ami to go after the washington post. that part is just a bridge too far. >> yeah, chris, can i point something out. everybody is applauding bezos for going public with this and he probably did do a public service, but there was a way he could have nailed ami even better and that is he could have gone to the fbi and the fbi would have instantly investigated this case. they could have wired bezos of one of his agents, a meeting with dylan howard, the contact officer making the threatening e-mails and they could have arrested them on the spot. remember the david letterman case in 2009 when he was being extorted. >> but there weren't teams of people on either side. >> there were specific people
sending these e-mails and they on their face presented a case of extortion and had him take it a step forward and go to the fbi and have them wired for a one-on-one meeting. they could have made a much stronger case in real time. >> look at you, spy hunter. mike rogers, you guys are the best. thank you for helping my audience on a friday night. i appreciate it. it's too thhat time of the year again. president trump was once called the healthiest man in the world by his doctor. remember all of that? so how is the burger king cholesterol now? we'll find out, next. introducing e*trade personalized investments professionally managed portfolios customized to help meet your financial goals. you'll know what you're invested in
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nearly a dozen white house sources and others close to the president are telling us this, they don't believe he set foot in the fitness room in the white house residence maintaining his view that exercise would be a waste of energy. that is not a joke. that is what he actually thinks and really should be a story in itself. but the good news is, the president's own physician reported today he's in very good health and anticipates he will remain so for the duration of his presidency and beyond. let's bring in d. lemon. he is healthy, wealthy, and likes fries. >> what happened to wise? >> what? >> healthy, wealthy, and wise? >> i didn't know that was part of the saying. >> he has a common form of heart disease as well as high cholesterol. so a lot of americans have that.
but the thing that you talked about, he hasn't stepped foot in the fitness room. you know why he hasn't done that? >> yeah and people think we're kidding. >> no he thinks and it has been documented through interviews that energy is -- we're like batteries. that we have a finite amount of energy. >> it's true. he really believes that. he says how many guys have you known in their 40s or 50s and they run all the time and then they just drop dead of a heart attack. they ran out of energy. he really believes that. and i have to tell you, there's nothing to that idea but maybe people put too much emphasis on physical greatness and lifting huge weights and being jacked and being super healthy. >> are you talking about yourself? >> no, no. i'm just saying maybe we shouldn't have these kind of impractical standards where people lift small cars, you know? the equivalent over their head like it was nothing. maybe, you know, we shouldn't
ask that of people. >> have you no shame? >> and guess what, those -- people know that those are empty right? those are like plastic things that are empty? >> literally the average man would crumble and lose all of his energy if he tried to lift all of that weight. i got you working out too. put up the picture of don. there you are. look at you. there's you getting after it. see. >> i am living my best life. that was in santa barbara, california and my dog was serving me tennis balls. >> you have some cankles on you. >> those are fine, you know what legs. >> you got like no cuts on you at all. you're all smooth. >> i'm beautiful. what's wrong with perfection? >> that's what i'm saying. you don't have to lift all of these heavy weights and sweat and work and be jacked. >> i do workout with a trainer. but listen -- >> there he is.
88, 89, 90. >> 100. no, you're like anchorman. heres the thing. i am a man of a certain age. i have nothing to prove. i don't have to do marathons. i work out for myself, for my health, for my well being, for mief mental health. i love life. i will never have a six-pack. you know why? because i also love food. and i also love to sleep. and there is no shame in -- >> your game. >> -- my game. i got to tell you one more thing. i got one more thing. i was on an entertainment show today, and they asked me about our relationship. and they asks me about you. and you know what i said? what i always say to you. >> best looking man you ever met in your life except for yourself. >> i told them first of all, your hair was not real. by the way, you got a smaller toupee today. >> you know how much it costs to get this thing trimmed? >> secondl, i said no one loves chris more than chris.
>> that's not true. i happen to be highly self-loathing. that's why i'm so pushed for achievement. i'm not as comfortable with myself as you are. someone suggests too comfortable. >> so we were talking about one of your former colleagues. remember sam donaldson was on. >> great mentor. >> another one of your former colleagues is going to join me and talked about ami screwed up their immunity deal and what it means legally. mr. dan abrams is here. >> beautiful guy. great booking. i'll see you in a second. >> she's in grate shaeat shape . he's ripped. >> he is. he's not playing tennis with a dog. i'll see you in a second. come on. you know that was good, the picture of him with the big -- all right. so, i just read -- this is very serious and poignant and so perfectly timed. the best leadership message that i've read from a democrat in a long time. a clarion call to action and acceptance of a responsibility
that seems all but forgotten. it came from the longest-serving congressman in u.s. history. there he is, john dingell, democrat, michigan. he passed away yesterday, and he left us a message written in some of his last hours, and it is a gift. i'm going to give it to you next. let's see, aleve is proven better on pain than tylenol extra strength. and last longer with fewer pills. so why am i still thinking about this?
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half-staff tonight, an order from the president in recognition of the late congressman john dingell, who represented michigan for an incredible 59 years. a respectful gesture from the president considering especially how often the congressman was critical of him. but the president should also pay attention to dingell's message. we all should. so he retired in 2014, not out of fatigue but out of frustration, saying he no longer recognized the institution he loved. he passed yesterday and was lucid until the end. in fact, he saw our present politics more clearly than most. he left us a letter to remind us where we need to be in this country. it is not left nor right but reasonable and focused on progress and the process of compromise, disagreement with decency, a call to something bigger than what our electeds are about today. in the letter, which he dictated to his wife, current
congresswoman debbie dingell, on the day he died, he says in part, in our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition. my personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. we observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that fortunately we see much less of today. and by being that way, he listed all the fights. as he said, bitter, savage fights that congress took on and found solutions for. medicare, civil rights, the clean air and water acts and more. big, big tasks. he reinforces this reality of congress being so much more than the mucked up works, the mockery it is now, by saying this. all of these challenges were
addressed by congress, maybe not as fast as we wanted or as perfectly as we hoped. the work is certainly not finished, but we've made progress. and in every case from the passage of medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of democrats and republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be americans. and that point, that we should be about country before party and people before party, is reinforced by another reality, which he articulates so well. in my life and career, i've often heard it said that so and so has real power, as in, quote, the powerful wile e., coyote, chairman of the capture the roadrunner committee. it's an expression that has always grated on me, and democratic government, elected officials, do not have power. they hold power in trust for the people who elected them. if they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite
properly revoked, the quicker the better. too many of you in office are playing a game you were never asked to play. too many of you are there too long and for the wrong reasons. the culture of opposition in place of progress has engendered such disaffection that an outsider of questionable credentials and even more suspect character became president largely on the promise to disrupt the rest of you in your insider intrigue. now, while it's hard to argue that this president is bringing purely positive change, the need for change is real. and dingell, the dean of the house, knew this to be true until the day he left us. a message from a dying man that could breathe life into an ailing political process. thank you. our respects to congresswoman debbie dingell and their family. may he rest in peace, and may his message live on. thank you for watching. "cnn tonight with don lemon"
starts right now. >> i've heard so many people talk about him and nothing but good things. sheila jackson lee was on speaking about him. i've heard other people on this network and others talk about his commitment to the public and public work and for doing good things. we could use a whole lot of that these days. you know, i think it's interesting that you talk about, you know, why this particular person was attractive to enough people to have him elected as president of the united states. yes, that's part of it. people wanted change. but we also have to look at the facts, chris. if you look at the facts and if you look at studies, the biggest thing -- it wasn't economic anxiety. it wasn't change. it was because people were afraid of losing their status in this culture, in this society.