Wednesday on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway and host Chris Cuomo sparred over the merits of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and debated how that may stem the flow of illegal drugs.
At one point during the exchange, Conway told Cuomo to be an apple, not a banana — an apparent reference to CNN’s “Fact First” marketing effort.
Partial transcript as follows:
CONWAY: The whole reason that the President wants to have a wall, and he will build that wall is in part to stop the flow of illegal immigration, but in large part, also to stop the flow of illicit drugs.
CUOMO: You know how drugs get into this country?
CONWAY: It’s poisoning our community. It’s killing in many ways through the southern border, through the U.S. Postal Service. In many different ways, drugs coming into this country and had to stop.
CUOMO: Do you know how the majority of it gets into this country?
CONWAY: Educate me, please.
CUOMO: Well, you know the answer. You know that the wall, which — we don’t even know that’s another topic for tonight. I don’t even know what you mean when you say a wall anymore. The president said a very different thing.
CONWAY: You want to know? I’ll answer it right now.
CUOMO: But, no, hold on.
CONWAY: No, we didn’t.
CUOMO: No, because I don’t want to run away from this because this is an important point. Putting up the wall —
CONWAY: Wait. I’m sorry.
CUOMO: — isn’t going to stop illegal drugs coming into this country and you know that.
CONWAY: Oh that’s not — it’s ridiculous.
CUOMO: They come by air and they come in tunnels. I’ve been in them. I’ve been in those tunnels.
CONWAY: They come all different ways. Are you saying —
CUOMO: Very scary.
CONWAY: I’m sorry, Christopher. Are you telling the viewers —
CONWAY: — that no drugs come through the southern border? Did you just say that?
CUOMO: No. I’m saying the idea that a wall —
CONWAY: That’s first.
CUOMO: — is going to be the difference.
CONWAY: Be an apple, don’t be a banana.
CUOMO: The wall is going to be a difference is a joke saying that a wall will keep fentanyl out of this country —
CONWAY: It’s a joke.
CUOMO: — which the President said today is a joke because —
CONWAY: No, no. The drug is out of the country.
CUOMO: — it comes by cargo ship and cargo plane. This is high-grade pharmaceutical.
CONWAY: And he said that to the U.S. Postal Service.
CUOMO: Not something strapped on someone’s back that one of your friends said —
CONWAY: Actually, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid.
CUOMO: — someone walking them across with cantaloupe gas, it’s not true. It’s a fiction. Not a fact.
CONWAY: Hold on, Chris. The fact is, you know what percentage of — you don’t think any heroin comes through the southern border?
CUOMO: I said if —
CONWAY: You don’t think any drugs come through?
CUOMO: — it will make a real difference, putting up a wall.
CONWAY: OK. You know who you should tell that too?
CUOMO: Why did he bring it up today? He muddied the water of another wise, good and positive event. Why?
CONWAY: Muddied the water. Chris, listen, he’s going to build the wall, and the wall will help to stop the flow of illicit drugs coming over our borders. You know how we know that?
CONWAY: Because he and our Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen and her predecessor, our now chief of staff, John Kelly, had asked the people whose job it is to be at the border, what they need, what they think, and they have told them what they need.
And part of what they need is better security, tighter security. They need the ability when somebody crosses the border illegally, they need the ability to remove that person, not have a 10 or 12-year wait period for the disposition of that individual who’s now in the interior of the country. This President wants to put up a wall and you and others want to put a slip and slide, just let everybody in.
Is that really — do you think that should be the policy of a sovereign nation that has a border?
CUOMO: Nobody — I’ve never heard that suggestion. And you had the President walk into that meeting and say, well, the wall can mean different things in different places. I’m open. I’ll agree to whatever you guys come up with. That’s not what he promised.
CONWAY: You realized that part of this is would now on his — some of it is —
CUOMO: No, no. Not do I realize. You realize.
CONWAY: Excuse me. There’s a physical wall, there’s technology, there’s fencing.
CUOMO: When the President was promising, it’s going to be a big new wall all the way across. I’ll build it in a year. People said exactly what you’re saying now. And he shook his head in defiance and said, no, not me. That’s these other guys. They’re saying they’re going to compromise. Not me, big brand-new wall, that’s what he said. It’s not a metaphor. It doesn’t mean offense. It doesn’t mean sensors. It’s a wall.
CONWAY: Not a metaphor. It’s a physical structure and you know it.
CUOMO: He changed, he changed in the meeting, Republicans say it, Democrats say it.
CONWAY: He confers it with the people. But you know what’s changed? You what’s changed? That he has said that in order to do a deal on DACA, it includes the wall and it includes an anti-chain migration and includes an end to the visa lottery system.
And what bothers a lot of folks out there, it sounds like, including you, is that you’re going to get your main tool against him out of the way if he surprises you and actually does a deal on DACA. He promised transparency and accountability. Even people at CNN and other places have said they can’t — they never witnessed anything like that yesterday.
CUOMO: Are these the letters?
CONWAY: Your colleague Wolf — no. Your colleague Wolf Blitzer —
CUOMO: Are these the letters, the anchor letters?
CONWAY: — said yesterday that he really appreciated the transparency. I hope you do too as somebody who wants transparency and accountability.
CUOMO: Yes, I did too because it gave you an opportunity to see where the Democrats are and their rigidity —
CONWAY: We see every day.
CUOMO: — the Republicans in their rigidity, and a president who agreed — [21:15:00] CONWAY: We’re not rigid.
CUOMO: — with the Democrats and then agreed with the Republicans and then said he’ll sign whatever they bring to him. That’s what I saw.
CONWAY: We’re not rigid. The President had said —
CUOMO: Well, you’re certainly not rigid, that’s true.
CONWAY: — all along what has happened, what you just said, the President said all along that he is going to tackle immigration in a way that nobody else has. It helped him get elected, that includes now, the DACA, the wall —
CUOMO: What helped him get elected was being a hardliner on it. Not saying he wanted the bill as well. That’s what people questioned.
CONWAY: — and ending chain migration, ending the visa system. No, no. I think people are just nervous that he’s actually going to continue to get things done.
You know, Christopher, he is trying to unify —
CUOMO: Why would they be nervous about that? Hold on, Kellyanne. That’s the right word.
CONWAY: — because everything is a political issue to them.
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