Cenk Uygur told CNN conservative commentator Davis Urban that saying nobody, including then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, wanted to give Jeffrey Epstein a lenient sentence in 2008 is "the worst excuse I've ever heard."
From their debate on Wednesday's edition of 'Chris Cuomo Tonight' on CNN:
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: When asked if he would step down today, Secretary Alex Acosta said, quote, "I serve at the pleasure of the President." Tonight, he is still serving. So, if there were a miscarriage of justice that Acosta should own with the Epstein deal, does President Trump now own that too? Let's use that as the start of tonight's Great Debate with Cenk Uygur and Dave Urban.
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TEXT: THE GREAT DEBATE.
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CUOMO: Hey, good to have you both on. Dave, nice to see you.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP 2016 CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Chris, thanks for having me tonight.
CUOMO: Let me start with you. Dave, what's the - the argument for him owning it?
Well, Acosta, not to blame the President for what Acosta did back then. That's not fair. I don't care how good of friends or not, the President was with Epstein. I don't think that's fair either. Cenk will disagree. That's fine. That's his role.
My question is this. He is in charge of human trafficking, OK? His reputation in that area is at best sullied. Should this be a concern for the President?
URBAN: Now, look Chris, I - I think in this instance, look, if you - if you go back and look at media accounts from when this case was prosecuted in 2000 - in 2006, 2008, you know, Secretary Acosta was praised by many in the media for doing something that wasn't going to - going to take place, getting a real conviction against a guy who was being let off on state charges. This is, I mean you can say--
CUOMO: He didn't get a conviction. He took a plea.
URBAN: Well he took a - took a plea. And if you look at the affidavits by the career prosecutors involved here, look, this - he was the U.S. Attorney.
He was not all the - as you know Chris, you're a smart guy, you're a lawyer, Cenk's a lawyer, lots of AUSAs involved in this, lots of folks involved in this. You know, the Secretary didn't make the decision on this alone. He didn't overturn.
CUOMO: But he did cut the deal.
URBAN: Look, Chris, Chris--
CUOMO: He's the name on the deal.
URBAN: --Chris, he didn't overturn anybody. He - he went according with all the people in his office, all the career prosecutors, FBI. What - what he got was a deal that - that no one else was getting at the time.
So I think, look, it's a terrible thing. I'm glad that the Southern District of New York is prosecuting this - this - this guy who's by - by all accounts a really bad individual. And - and, in retrospect, look, maybe the state could have done something differently.
[21:25:00] The evidence must not have been there at the time because I promise you, Chris, that the good men and women of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office back then, in the Southern District of Miami were doing their jobs. They were trying their best.
Do you think anybody there wanted to let this creep go? I promise you they didn't.
CUOMO: I think--
CENK UYGUR, CEO & HOST, THE YOUNG TURKS: Yes.
CUOMO: --it's a legitimate - I think it's a legitimate question. Cenk?
URBAN: Because I promise you, they didn't, Cenk.
CUOMO: But I'm going to - hold on a second.
URBAN: You think that--
CUOMO: Let's be very clear.
URBAN: --you think that the - you think that the--
CUOMO: Hold on, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave--
URBAN: --career prosecutors want to let this guy go, Cenk? That's--
CUOMO: --hold on a second. David--
CUOMO: --hold on. The--
CUOMO: I like the reversal. You know how many times I've had to say that to you when we're talking about the Mueller probe? You know, do you think the FBI would really go after somebody politically? Now, you're using that one me.
URBAN: But - but - but Chris, it - but, Chris, because it's a legitimate--
CUOMO: I respect - I--
URBAN: --because it's a legitimate question.
CUOMO: I - I thought it was legitimate back then too. I don't believe in casting aspersions on the investigators because you don't like the outcome. But let me--
URBAN: I'm not casting aspersions. I'm-- CUOMO: I know. But you just you had a different perspective back.
UYGUR: Dave, let's go.
URBAN: No, no, Chris, I'm saying--
CUOMO: I'm just pointing that out.
URBAN: I'm asking, do you believe that the fine men--
CUOMO: No, I don't. I don't.
URBAN: --and women there want to let this creep go?
CUOMO: I don't think this was about investigators.
UYGUR: Can I add something?
CUOMO: I think if about anything, it was about influence on the outside. Cenk, your take.
UYGUR: OK. So, now there's a number of issues here. First of all, Acosta comes out today and says it was a different time. What was it? 1908? It was 2008. That's not that long ago.
Well in 2008, did you let child molesters get away? Was that the - the time that we were living in? No. That is the worst excuse I have ever heard. Then he blames it on state prosecutor. State prosecutors came out today and said, "Absolute lie, not remotely true."
And we're not talking about the FBI here, Dave. I know you Republicans hate the FBI. You hate the rule of law these days.
URBAN: Cenk, I don't hate the FBI.
UYGUR: OK. So--
URBAN: Don't - don't - don't - don't mischaracterize anything I say.
UYGUR: --OK. So, hold on, hold on.
So then, the FBI did their job, and they got amazing evidence, about 30 women, a 53-page indictment - indictment, and then what does Acosta do? He lets him off the hook. He let him get out of jail for six out of the seven days.
Why? Because he's rich, and he's connected, and he was represented by Kirkland & Ellis, a law firm that, hey look at that, Acosta used to work for.
So, a bunch of rich people get together, and go, "Hey, should we let our buddy off?" "Well you guys are representing him, so OK, so fine, let's let him off." And on Donald Trump--
URBAN: Cenk, it's such a joke.
UYGUR: --are you--
URBAN: You know what? People are way smarter. Make an--
UYGUR: Hold on.
URBAN: --argument that actually holds water, buddy.
UYGUR: OK. Yes, all right.
CUOMO: What doesn't hold water?
UYGUR: Hey, hey, listen, listen--
URBAN: Chris, you really believe--
CUOMO: Hold on, hold on, guys, guys, let me reset.
URBAN: Chris, you're a smart guy.
URBAN: Chris, you're a smart guy.
CUOMO: Cenk, Dave? Let me reset.
URBAN: Do you really believe that there's a--
CUOMO: Let me reset.
URBAN: --conspiracy with that, Chris?
CUOMO: Let me reset.
URBAN: It's a joke.
CUOMO: --other than the fact that Acosta didn't do the work release part, that came after him, but the leniency was certainly part of his negotiation, Dave. What I'm not getting from you in response to Cenk is what made the deal OK, when the witnesses were available then, and they weren't even told about the deal?
URBAN: Chris, listen, I'm not - I can't litigate each part, piece and portion of that thing, OK? I'm not going to say--
CUOMO: Then what doesn't make sense?
URBAN: Well, no, Chris, I - I can't - I can't give you an answer on that part of that, right?
CUOMO: But you're saying it doesn't make sense. URBAN: I'm just saying--
CUOMO: What doesn't make sense?
URBAN: No, I'm not saying it doesn't make sense. I'm just saying I can't--
CUOMO: You just said it doesn't make sense what he's saying.
URBAN: No, I'm not saying - I'm saying, Cenk, what he's saying about is this giant collusion between, you know - I worked at this law firm, worked at this law firm, wink, nod, wink, we're going to let this really bad guy go. It's - it's not - doesn't even make sense.
CUOMO: Well Acosta says that--
UYGUR: But that's a fact.
CUOMO: Acosta says--
UYGUR: But that's a fact.
CUOMO: --that the pressure from the defense counsel was--
URBAN: Not a fact, Cenk.
CUOMO: Acosta says things I've never heard from a federal prosecutor before.
"These defense attorneys, they were so good, Dave. They just kept coming, and like there was so much pressure, they kept messing with our process, and making us redo the deal, and saying we didn't like this deal, so we have to do it over," when have you ever heard a federal prosecutor--
URBAN: Chris, Chris--
CUOMO: --talk about defense counsel that way?
URBAN: Chris, you know what? I - I'm not here to defend the words of the - Secretary Acosta today. What I'm saying to you is, I look back, and you're a lawyer, Cenk's a lawyer.
UYGUR: You kind of are.
URBAN: We know how the offices work. We know - listen, Asha (ph) was just down here earlier, right? She was the AUSA for many years. You know, I - I promise you that each one of those people in those offices wanted to put this creep behind bars for as long as they could. They did the best job they could. You don't think--
CUOMO: It's not about the integrity of the FBI.
UYGUR: Not true. CUOMO: It's not about the integrity about the FBI.
URBAN: I'm not talking about the FBI, Chris.
CUOMO: It's about the outcome.
URBAN: I'm not talking--
CUOMO: And who manipulated it.
URBAN: Chris, I'm not talking about the - these are complex cases, Chris.
UYGUR: Hey, Dave.
URBAN: There are - there are lots of - lots of prosecutors involved here. And at the time, I promise you, they made the best case--
URBAN: --they could at that time.
CUOMO: Final point to Cenk, go ahead.
UYGUR: OK. There was not a lot of prosecutors involved. It was Acosta. He made the decision. I don't know why you keep--
URBAN: Really? Cenk?
UYGUR: --sitting up for a guy who was so lenient on a child molester.
URBAN: He was - he was the U.S. Attorney. He did all the work.
UYGUR: No, Dave.
URBAN: He worked it all up.
UYGUR: It's my turn, OK? So, now, Acosta's best case scenario is, "Hey, I was such a terrible prosecutor that I - I was overwhelmed by the defense attorneys who are so good, I'm such a terrible prosecutor and - and lawyer." So then why are you the Labor Secretary?
His worst case scenario is "Hey, a lot of connected people wanted this guy off." His middle-case scenario is, "Come on, he was rich. I was - I couldn't put away a rich guy like this."
Imagine if a poor or middle-class average American had been accused of molesting dozens of kids, do you think they would have let him walk like this?
URBAN: Hey, hey, hey, Cenk, get--
[21:30:00] UYGUR: No way because Epstein was connected.
URBAN: --get your facts checked. So, Cenk, Chris--
CUOMO: All right, Dave, last button.
URBAN: You're - you're - you - you care about the facts.
CUOMO: Yes, what's the fact?
URBAN: Chris, you care about the facts here. You care about the facts.
CUOMO: What's the fact?
URBAN: The facts were there's an affidavit on file, go look it up, from the career prosecutor, female-type, who was in charge of this case, not Secretary Acosta, OK? Look at that. Go read it.
CUOMO: Yes, but he did the negotiation - he did the negotiating of the deal.
URBAN: I - I recommend - I--
CUOMO: He owns that.
URBAN: No, Chris, Chris, Chris--
CUOMO: He owns that.
URBAN: --admit it, Chris. Admit it, Chris.
UYGUR: And Trump. How about Trump?
URBAN: Admit it, "David, you're right. There was a female career prosecutor."
CUOMO: But - well then Acosta's lying? Acosta's a liar?
UYGUR: How about Trump?
URBAN: No, no, Chris, admit it. There was a female career prosecutor as a lead on the case.
CUOMO: Acosta says he did the deal.
UYGUR: Don't try to blame women, Dave.
URBAN: Chris, I - I'm not blame--
UYGUR: Don't try to blame women.
URBAN: Cenk, I'm not blaming women. You're so lame.
UYGUR: That's disgusting. That's disgusting.
URBAN: Cenk, you're lame.
URBAN: Cenk, stick to the facts.
UYGUR: No. Acosta was accountable.
URBAN: Stick to the fact, Cenk.
UYGUR: Acosta was in charge.
URBAN: Facts are - the facts are--
CUOMO: The - the - let's - listen, this discussion--
UYGUR: Your facts are disgusting (ph).
CUOMO: --this discussion has ended its utility for tonight.
CUOMO: Were there - were there multiple people on the deal? Yes.
CUOMO: Does Acosta own that he negotiated the deal? Yes. Nothing else is relevant. We will learn more.
URBAN: No, Chris. There are - lots of other things are relevant.
CUOMO: We will discuss more.
URBAN: Lots of other things are relevant here, Chris. They were relevant. There were lots of other prosecutors who wanted to put this guy away for a long time.
CUOMO: He did the deal.
UYGUR: What did Trump know and when did he know it?
CUOMO: I got to leave it there.
UYGUR: What did Trump know? And when did he know it?
CUOMO: No, that's - that's--
CUOMO: --not an interest for me at this point.
URBAN: You're still trying to do (ph) Cenk.
CUOMO: But we'll see how it goes as we go forward.
URBAN: Not in factual.
CUOMO: Cenk Uygur, Dave Urban, I respect the passion. I'll talk to you again.