Politics

CNN’s Cuomo Shocked by Claim ‘No Basis’ for Mueller Probe

'New Day' co-host defended the special counsel when New York congressman insisted 'there's more suspicion' in Clinton campaign than Trump organization

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) shocked CNN “New Day” co-host Chris Cuomo on Thursday by insisting there was never “any basis … in the first place” for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian interests.

Cuomo, who will begin hosting CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” on weekday evenings in June, engaged in a tense back-and-forth spat with King about the controversies plaguing the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI investigation into those allegations.

King, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House Committee on Homeland Security, told Cuomo that Democrats “stonewalled every attempt we’ve made” to “try to get the truth out of the Justice Department and the FBI.”

When King argued that there wasn’t a sufficient reason to begin the Mueller probe at all, Cuomo appeared dumbstruck.

“I think they’ve been certainly not telling the truth throughout this, that’s for sure. I don’t think there was ever any basis for this investigation, in the first place,” King said, claiming that “this whole investigation should never have been started from the start.”

Cuomo asked, “You don’t think that there was good reason for suspicion about Russian interference in the election and whether or not they were trying to make inroads in the Trump campaign?”

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“Absolutely not,” King replied, noting that the investigation “was based on, as far as we know so far” on former low-level Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

The New York Times reported deep in a May 17 story that the FBI placed an “informant” inside Trump’s campaign, who “met several times with Mr. [Carter] Page and [George] Papadopoulos.” As a result, Trump demanded Sunday that the DOJ investigate whether the Obama administration “infiltrated or surveilled” his presidential campaign for “political purposes.” The DOJ referred the matter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

“To use that as the basis to investigate a presidential campaign and possibly put an informant into that campaign — Chris, you as a civil libertarian should be shouting from the rooftops against this,” King said. “If this turns out what it appears to be now, this was a terrible abuse of power by the FBI and the Justice Department.”

Cuomo was flabbergasted.

“I can’t believe you’re saying that,” Cuomo said. “With everything that we know about the actions that Mueller has taken to date — and again, I believe there’s a lot more that we don’t know, because he, unlike a lot of people down there, has been good about keeping his mouth shut — you have had so many points of contact, so many bad choices made by people in and around [the Trump] campaign about what to say and what do to.”

Cuomo referred to events such as the meeting the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., took in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner were also in the meeting, which was devoted almost entirely to lobby for relaxation of U.S. sanctions.

“It seems there was clearly grounds of suspicion to look,” Cuomo insisted.

But King told Cuomo that if he wanted “to go into suspicion,” the CNN host should recognize that “there’s more suspicion in the Hillary Clinton campaign” than within the Trump campaign.

Cuomo scoffed, demanding, “How so?”

King reviewed how the Clinton campaign “relied on” the salacious, anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, who had dealings with Russian agents.

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“So the input that Russia had into the campaign was far more through … Steele and the dossier than anything with Donald Trump,” King said. “And we also know that the Clinton campaign went to a foreign agent to get dirt on Trump. And so that to me — then why wasn’t there a full investigation by the FBI of the Clinton campaign for what was going on?”

When King noted that the FBI’s use of the dossier to renew its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Page was “faulty,” Cuomo did not believe him.

“How have they been found to be faulty?” Cuomo demanded.

King emphasized that the FISA warrant renewal mostly was “based on the dossier, which was obtained by a foreign agent working with Russian agents.”

“There should be nothing to hide here among people of that meeting,” King said. “Let’s see what the evidence shows.”

“That’s what that was based on. And to use that as an excuse to penetrate a presidential campaign … this is just wrong. It really is,” King concluded.

Top GOP and Democratic lawmakers were scheduled to receive classified briefings with DOJ and FBI officials Thursday regarding Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe and Trump’s claims that his campaign was infiltrated by an FBI-placed spy.

“There should be nothing to hide here among people of that meeting,” King said. “Let’s see what the evidence shows.”

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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