Monday night on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN political commentators Steve Cortes and Kirsten Powers debated the president's characterization that there was an "attempted coup" against his presidency. Trump retweeted this from Jerry Falwell Monday morning:
After the best week ever for @realDonaldTrump - no obstruction, no collusion, NYT admits @BarackObama did spy on his campaign, & the economy is soaring. I now support reparations-Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) May 5, 2019
"When the national security apparatuses... are weaponized for political purposes, I define that as a coup," Cortes argued. "When you have the absolute top echelon of the Obama DOJ and FBI using national security to spy on a campaign and incoming president to delegitimize him, that is absolutely a coup."
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Steve, the president already claims that there were millions of illegal votes cast by illegal immigrants of California and that's why Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in California. Is it farfetched thinking the president might challenge 2020 results if, in fact, he lost?
STEVE CORTES: Look, it's incredibly farfetched. I can't believe we're talking about this quite frankly. I saw this a lot on MSNBC over the weekend. People like Donny Deutsch that claim every single Trump voter is a Nazi, something he said about 63 million Americans and pushing this conspiracy out there. To me, it's absurd we're talking about he would, he might, he shall. It's all supposition. It's possible the president will do this. What is really going on? This is about character assassination. It is the same as calling him a racist. Let's say he's an authoritarian.
COOPER: You have Jerry Falwell Junior talking about the president should get two more years because of an attempted coup. The president has said there was an attempted coup against him.
CORTES: Well, there was --
KIRSTEN POWERS: Oh my god.
CORTES: There absolutely was an attempted coup against him. By the way --
CORTES: This is part of the paradox.
CORTES: You know, you and many on the left are accusing the president of having these authoritarian.
COOPER: I am not on the left. But, go ahead.
CORTES: Of having authoritarian tendencies, when in fact if there are actually state -- the supposition of the question is that he has authoritarian tendencies if he's willing --
COOPER: No, I'm just wondering -- If he says millions of illegal votes were cast in California and there is no evidence. He formed a commission about it that had to disband because they couldn't find anything, so it's not like made out of whole cloth, he's talking about a coup and I'm surprised you're talking about a coup, as well.
CORTES: When the national security apparatus of the United States are weaponized for political purposes, I define that as a coup. When you have the absolute top echelon of the Obama DOJ and FBI using national security to spy on a campaign and incoming president to delegitimize him, that is absolutely a coup.
POWERS: First of all, Webster's Dictionary would disagree with you. Nothing that occurred is anywhere near being a coup. Let talk about the president thinking he's been robbed of two years. Bill Clinton was under investigation for what started as Whitewater and ended up into this crazy, you know, situation going through his sex life, was for five years, okay? So please spare us this idea that somehow he's been "robbed" of something. Bill Clinton managed to work with Congress, you know, pass legislation, be a president during all of that and didn't act like anybody was owed something. The second problem is invoking reparations. Reparations is to repay black people who were kidnapped and enslaved brought to the shores and built literally our entire economy and our entire country. To invoke reparations over something like that is literally, that is the biggest outrage of what has happened today and I don't know how you could defend that.
CORTES: What you're doing there, Kirsten, you're actually combining the two smears. So not only is the president a racist, but he's also authoritarian. Obviously --
POWERS: You're the only person that's mentioned authoritarianism -- I'm talking about the fact that he's retweeting something saying he could get an extra two years as reparations --
CORTES: It's a joke. It a joke.
POWERS: So slavery is funny? Funny?
CORTES: Who mentioned slavery? You're injecting slavery into it. The word reparation has meaning outside of only slavery --
CORTES: There could be reparations for all kinds of things.
COOPER: You said it was a joke which means -- you're saying it was a joke -- it's actually referring to slavery reparations and that's what the joke, I guess, is.
CORTES: No, no, no, no, don't put words in my mouth, Anderson. I'm not saying that at all.
COOPER: How is it a joke then?
CORTES: I'm saying it's a joke that he deserves those years back. It clearly an exaggeration that he deserves the years back as reparation for having to deal with the Mueller probe. It has nothing to do with slave slavery and race. What you all are doing is exactly what I'm talking about.
POWERS: Steve, Steve, he says not tweet now I support reparations. He is clearly referring to the conversation that's going on in this country right now about whether or not there should be reparations. and the conversation that's happening right now is about slavery. Okay? So don't try to act like that's not what it was in reference to.